Vineman Ironman 70.3 - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Guerneville, California
United States
Vineman, Inc.
60F / 16C
Total Time = 5h 36m 41s
Overall Rank = 676/1742
Age Group = M45-49
Age Group Rank = 68/151
Pre-race routine:

(Rated "PB" for Potential Boredom.)

Just saying...


So. The first half iron. What to say, what to say...

As it turns out, way too much. Sorry...


Two years ago, I'd never have dreamed I'd be doing a half iron distance triathlon...hell, two years ago, I'd never thought of doing a triathlon at all. Having made the decision to register for Vineman 70.3 after only two sprints at that point in time (the second of which having been an AG win for me), I decided not to make the mistake of my first attempt at a marathon, where I undertrained and finished, but was miserable the whole time.

I did my 2nd marathon (LA Marathon 2: The Revenge) in early March, leaving a lot of time to transition to HIM training. I was a track/cross-country and swim competitor in high school (30 years ago, but, still), so the bike has always been my limiter. Thus April/May/June became all about relying on prior prep on the run, a modest build on the swim...and a major bike focus.

Digression: How I Got to the Starting Line

1) How I Didn't Get There...
--Formal Training Plan
--Heart Rate Monitor
--Bling Bike

2) How I Did Do It
--Consistency (no excuses, no breaks)
--Patience (it'll all come in time)
--Homework (no training plan doesn't mean I didn't teach myself about training)
--Flexibility (my training was built to coexist with my marriage, my job, and my lifestyle, not the other way around)

But, I, right, "digression"...anyhow...

My wife, Liz, who has done tris herself (recently stepping up to her first Olympic distance race) was consistently supportive throughout. In return, I tried to prepare with as little intrusion into our relationship as possible and with as much warning of big training days as possible. When it came time for my one big brick day, she willingly "sherpa'ed" for me, camped out in a parking lot with Gatorade and my running gear.

We drove up to Guerneville on Friday (for the Sunday race). The 101 north of San Rafael was a parking lot already at 2:00pm, putting us at our lodgings (1 mile from the swim start) an hour later than planned. Nonetheless, we got checked into our nice studio (Russian River Studios) and rested up before heading out on a drive of the bike course, winding up at Windsor HS for the athlete reception. We studied the course and wound up arriving too late to the reception for door prize tickets. We listened to chats with (ultimate winner) Torrenzo Bozzone and Chris Lieto then headed out to buy provisions for a light dinner in our room.

I'd made some minor adjustments to my bike fit (seat height, aerobar tilt, and cleat position) and wanted to check them, so I hopped on my bike at 7:55am Saturday and rode down to the swim site to try a non-wetsuit early AM swim (since there was still the possibility of the race not being wetsuit-legal). Swam about 12 minutes on the course with just jammers and goggles (no cap even)...nice relaxed swim, comfortable temperature. Then hopped on the bike and rode the 5 1/2 miles up to the one technical section we hadn't been able to see when we drove the course...nice 40 minutes on the bike, going out and back...easy adjustments locked in.

Drove over to Windsor HS for checkin and SHOPPING. Liz bought me a TYR mesh backpack/bag for use in T1 of this point-to-point/two TA race. I bought a nice Vineman Ironman 70.3 tech running shirt and a couple "sundries" for the race.

Check-in/chip pickup was quick. T-shirt distribution (at least for the men) was interminable. Oh, well. Got through that, went to the athlete meeting, then a winery stop for gift purchases, then back to our room.

Saturday evening was BT dinner in Windsor arranged by Brian (bhoover10001) at a nice Italian place owned by friends of his. About a dozen folks showed, including participants Geoff, Aaron, Brian, Joe, and Dolores (along with me) and my wife and other supporters, Karen, Eric, Yanti, Stuart, and, gulp, one last guest who arrived late and whose name escapes me...(I was doing so well on the "there'll be a quiz later" quiz)

After dinner, it was time to pack, pump tires, etc. I'm an insomniac, so early-to-bed is rarely an option, but I managed to steal 5 1/2 hours of solid sleep.

Up in the morning, bagel and cream cheese and Nutrigrain bar, bike on the rack, gear in the car, drive 4 minutes to park right around the corner from the TA. The race organizers encouraged people to arrive throughout the morning for later waves, but I wasn't going to be talked into that. We got there right when the TA opened at 5:30 and I grabbed a great rack spot and roughed in my setup. Liz and I took some excess stuff back to the car, then I went through body marking. At this point, the line into the TA was growing by the second...I had to wait to get back in, but I'm so happy we showed up when we did so I had no anxiety about my setup or position.

Looked around TA for BTers...saw Verna (mixie) whom we'd met at the athlete meeting on Saturday and who'd said she was sick. She was doing better. Saw Bryan (bryancd)'s bike, but not Bryan (wanted to meet him, but never managed too all weekend). Anyhow, Liz went off to volunteer at body marking (and, it turned out, later to marshal the intersection of First St. and River Rd in downtown Guerneville for an hour) and I got set for my first HIM.
Event warmup:

Stretched quads, hammies, and lower back in hotel room before leaving for TA. Did a few easy strides on carpeted area in TA after getting setup and body-marked. Didn't bother with swim warmup--no time, really, and had to spend about 5 minutes treading water before the start...set up near the front and to the outside as usual...
  • 34m 45s
  • 2112 yards
  • 01m 39s / 100 yards

Very comfortable and confidence-building swim for me. Water was clean and an agreeable temperature in the mid-70s. Despite the fact that my wave (M 45-49) was the biggest in the race with over 150 starters, I experienced very little contact. Navigation was a snap with a long line of highly visible orange buoys, allowing me to keep my head way down and breathe every fourth stroke the entire swim, only sighting every third or fourth breath.

About 1/4 of the way through the swim, I started to work with upping my kick intensity periodically to give my arms a little respite...great choice...really felt like I was moving well with very relaxed, steady turnover to my stroke.

Caught the back of the W40-44 wave before the turnaround. Started to overhaul some of my wave who were struggling and also began to pick off some of the men's wave that started 16 min. before us with about 300 yds to go. After I passed under the second bridge, I began to up the intensity of my kicks one last time (partly with the idea of loosening up for the bike) and really focused on long reaches with my stroke. Started to stand when I saw others getting up, but realized I was out deeper than them so I laid out for a couple more strokes and then exited the water...right up onto carpet...nice! Looked at my watch and saw a "34"...given that I'd told my wife not to expect me in under 35 minutes, I was stoked.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing much comes to mind. This was my best tri swim to date...I know I'm capable of sub-1:40/100, but didn't think I'd hit it in my first HIM swim. Definitely felt I could have continued for the iron distance, but didn't feel I was sandbagging it, either.
Transition 1
  • 05m 37s

Ran in on carpet (hooray for carpet!) to my rack and saw Liz waiting on the other side of the fence to take my swim gear. She asked my how it went and--I admit it--I said, "I smoked it."

T1, as usual, was another story. Wetsuit hung up on my right ankle a little. Cap of the cheap giveaway "La Crema" winery water bottle I decided to employ to wash the grit off my feet came right off...had to pour the water on each foot. Yes, I wear socks on the those have to go on. And the Garmin 205.

The new decision, though, was to take the time to stick my run nutrition in my tri top/tri shorts pockets here--three GUs and a coin purse with Thermolytes and a couple ibuprofen caps. Wasn't comfortable with gels in pockets under wetsuit with possible contact during swim. Also liked the idea of simplifying T2...and having emergency nutrition on me for the bike if things went way south.

Tossed my wetsuit and towels (in the race-provided bag) and other clothes/gear (in a mesh backpack) to Liz and grabbed my bike and boogied. Made the decision to take advantage of wearing lightweight MTB shoes (and being a strong runner) and ran up the short hill out of the TA. Happy I did that.

T1 stats: 1361/1788 O/A; 116/153 AG
What would you do differently?:

The usual...don't wear socks (unlikely), don't add Garmin (not likely either). Not sure I'd do the run nutrition thing with my pockets wet again, but the reality (see below) is that my T2 was exactly as above average as my T1 was sub-par, so overall it evened out.

  • 3h 04m 42s
  • 56 miles
  • 18.19 mile/hr

The bike is--by far--my weak link in triathlon. I knew I was ready for the distance, but--after driving the course on Friday--I wasn't sure I was ready for the hills and "rollers" and the distance. The course seemed set up to reward a lot of patience on the first 20 miles, with a lot of flats over most of the remainder of the course. On the day, though, there was just enough headwind after the far point of the course (i.e., during the flatter segment) that this was neutralized a least it was for me.

I'd decided to hold my pace to no more than 18 mph for the first 12 miles, with hopes of averaging 20+ over the flatter sections of the last 2/3 of the course. However, with my legs all "warmed up" by my relaxed but vigorous kicking on the swim, I found myself charging out on River Rd through Guerneville at 19-21 mph. I hoped I wouldn't regret that later...

Looking down my rack in the TA, I had by far one of the cheapest road bikes in my AG. I was happy to be on a roadie, though, during the first 28 miles as I'm much more confident with a lot of gearing and handling descents on narrow roads when I can be in the drops. (I love big descents where I can go into the drops and ride way out on the nose of the saddle with my elbows tucked and my chin darn near on the to do that a couple times during this ride.)

Only mishap during the early stages was when I dropped my Gatorade bottle putting it back in the cage after the first time I drank. Oops...I said to the two people riding within earshot, "I think I'm gonna need that," and doubled back to pick it up. Probably lost 30-40 seconds.

Hydration plan was to drink at least 3-4 oz. of fluid every 25 min., alternating Gatorade with water. Nutrition--stashed in bento box--was every 50 min (with every other drink, taking the nutrition with the water)--ate three times during the ride, Espresso Love GU gel 1st and 3rd with a Toasted Nut and Cranberry Luna Bar (less dense than Clif Bar and no frosting on that flavor) in between. I had a packet of Shot Bloks in reserve, but didn't need them. Weather was a little chilly, so no need for additional hydration...never took anything at any aid station and only consumed 45% of my Gatorade and about 60% of my water. I did make the decision to take two Thermolyte caps at 1:40 and two more at 2:55 (anticipating the run) when I had the sense that I could cramp. I don't know if they worked or if it was a placebo effect, but I was happy I did that as the day did get warmer by the end of my run.

There are supposedly two "hills" on the course: Canyon Rd. and Chalk Hill. Now I'm no cyclist, so I have no problem calling something a "hill" that others might want to call a "roller"...there are definitely "hills" on the first 20 miles. I found the climb over the top of Canyon Rd, however, to be not much of a challenge...there's plenty of time to prep for that, even though you are ascending for a good stretch of time.

Coming off Canyon, you turn into Geyserville and hit the second aid station. That was the first time (apart from some descents earlier) that I felt I got to really sit in the aerobars and haul...I was well over 20mph with easy effort and rolled by the volunteers with a "thanks" (as I try to do at every marshalled intersection and aid station all day).

I was disappointed with my pace through much of the fairly flat Alexander Valley. The weather forecasts had called for a 10-11 mph headwind for that direction and that's what we got. Not much of a challenge for most, I'd imagine, but it damped down my speed below 20 mph more often than I'd hoped for. The good news, though, was that I didn't really seem to be paying any penalty for going out faster than planned the first 12 miles and things evened out in the long run.

I was less than impressed with Chalk Hill when we drove the course, but in context, it was a struggle. I only got out of the saddle about 5 times during the bike course (mostly briefly) and mostly stayed in my big ring...but the last two grades of Chalk Hill finally talked me into swallowing any misplaced pride and making the move all the way to the "granny gear". The last quarter mile was out of the saddle one gear away from sorry-no-more-gears. The volunteers and spectators near the top were great...esp. the guys at the very top letting us know we'd reached the summit. Awesome descent afterwards.

After a brief section of crappy pavement and small rollers on Faught Rd., it was a right turn into "town" and six miles to the high school. I tried to balance a decent speed (19-22mph) with limbering up my run legs. Experimented with really moving forward on the saddle and mimicking run mechanics as much as possible, trading stints in the aerobars with a few minutes on the brake hoods. For the last mile, I really worked my ankles, loosening up for the run.

One last bit of excitement was the three speed bumps in the HS parking lot leading to dismount. Whee!
What would you do differently?:

Earn more money so I can afford a lighter, more aero bike than the $900 list-price Scott roadie I'm on (that represents a huge upgrade...and 3 1/2 lbs less weight...vs. my previous ride, a K2 roadie).

Otherwise, hard to say. In general, train more hills...I did some fairly big climbs periodically, but not regularly enough.

My back was achy from about mile 20 on, but nothing like it was on my first (and only) 60+ mile training ride. I took a lot of precautionary steps during the latter stages of the ride to stretch my back and loosen up my legs. Some of that certainly cost me a little time, but also probably set me up better for the run.
Transition 2
  • 03m

Like I mentioned above, my T2 was smokin' vs. the field. Three minutes doesn't necessarily look like great guns, but the run in with the bike was huge...I'd estimate at least 1:45 just for that. But I threw my bike on the rack...swapped shoes...dropped helmet...yanked off gloves...and I'm outta there.

T2 stats: 460/1770 O/A; 33/153 AG
(So...T1 = bottom 24% of field, T2 = top 26% of field...things even out to MOP for transitions for the day...)
What would you do differently?:

Nothing. My AG was saddled by our rack position with long runs with the bike (out of T1, into T2) all day.
  • 1h 48m 35s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 08m 17s  min/mile

I got my answer as to whether I'd "blown anything up" on the ride right away: No. I looked down at my Garmin a couple 100 yds into the run and I was moving comfortably at 7:33/mi. Too fast according to my plans--which called for 8:00-8:05 the first two miles (or more)--but I felt like I was handling that pace with minimal effort (and I'd done 9.5 miles at sub-7:30 in training recently) so I stayed there for a bit.

First two miles were both sub-7:40, but then the hills (oh...sorry..."rollers") started. Mile 3 was around 8:00 and I decided to hold it around there. Most of the rest of the run was between 8:05 and 8:40/mile.

Most of the outbound run trends up, so there are more uphill grades than downhill. However, I noticed one pretty good downhill at around mile 3 and made a BIG mental note that this would be a sucky (technical running term) uphill at mile 10. Much of the remainder of the race was--tactically-speaking--organized around making sure I didn't walk that hill on the way back.

I didn't have a locked-in nutrition/hydration strategy for the run...generally (other than in marathons) I go by feel on supported runs. I took two of the three GU gels I had with me during the run (one outbound, one on the way back). I took a few swigs of Gatorade at two aid stations and water at probably three. Tried Coke for the first time at one station...probably won't do that again. There were cookies, etc., at the aid stations, but I don't walk aid stations ever so I had no trouble resisting them.

Although my pace was generally falling off and my lower back was sore starting at mile 3, the only low point was in the middle of the rollers around 4.5 miles in. But I kept reminding myself of how I handled my 20K trail run in the Santa Monica Mtns in December and soon enough I was sure I had this thing beaten.

There were a couple issues at the turnaround on the La Crema Winery property. First of all, there was a water mister tunnel there and no obvious way around it. Nice gesture, but the weather was chilly, so not really the time for wetting me down. (And you got it again on the way off the property.) Also, this approx. 1 mile loop is the only dirt section of the course and I was a little shocked at how my pace had fallen off running "off road."

Coming off the turnaround, I knew I had no shot at sub-5:30, but could make two of my realistic goals: sub-5:40 for the race and sub-1:50 for the run. My hips were starting to really hurt (almost as much as they did in the latter stages of my first marathon...the one where I walked two miles), but I knew it was just a 10K now. I tried to use the downhills to open up my stride, no matter how much it wasn't comfortable, and got down around--or even under--8:00 pace a couple times. For the last 4 miles I was aiming to stay around 8:30 (or better) and, for the most part, I made it...things were looking solid for the 5:30s and the 1:40s for the run.

Passed a few BTers I recognized during the each case, right about where I expected to see them based on their background and wave starts. Bryan (bryancd)--whom I never got to meet during the weekend--blew past me on his way in as I was about two miles outbound. Verna (mixie) and Dolores (doloresM2) were both to be seen in the "mirror image" perspective: I was about two miles from the finish and they were each heading out.

I always have a kick...comes with being an obstinate SOB...even when I've completely bonked. This time, I wasn't so sure. I tried to make a move with 5K left, but only just settled into a slightly faster pace. Any "kick" was going to be late in the game. So I concentrated on not blowing my goals and with the high school in sight with about 1K left, I finally pressed the issue. Hitting the athletic field alongside the school, I knew I was just about there, so I really hit the gas. No one in my AG ahead I could catch but not looking at my watch or my Garmin, I just tried to kick for the finish. Tried to hold off on stopping my watch til after the photographer had his window of opportunity...but then I hit the button: 5:36...mission accomplished. Stopped the run split on the Garmin 205: 1:48...done and doubly-done. Rare fist-pump seen from tcovert just past the finish and just prior to chip removal and finisher medal handoff.
What would you do differently?:

Well, I should have treated the run course like the bike course and driven it...I had no idea it was as hilly as it is. Not that that would have allowed me to hop in the Way-Back Machine and go train some hills on the run or anything...

The only real deviation from my tactical plan during the race was going out sub-7:40 for the first two miles. Not sure that I didn't gain more from the time savings than I may have lost in the latter miles...I'll never know that, really. I think the hills were as responsible for pace the second half of the run as the early pace.
Post race
Warm down:

Got picture taken, walked around, had a chicken breast sandwich and some fruit...and eventually laid down on picnic blanket and stretched quads, hammies, and lower back. Hydrated--probably too much ultimately.

Hung around with my wife and Yanti (TriAya) at the finish line for a couple hours watching the after 6-hours parade of finishers including several BTers. Went to the age group awards...had slim chance of rolldown for Clearwater slot, but figured it was worth being present in case lightning struck.


Final results:

Swim: 629/1785 (top 35.3%) O/A - 482/1221 (39.5%) men - 62/153 (40.5%) AG
T1: 1361/1788 (top 76.1%) O/A - 945/1223 (77.3%) men - 116/153 (75.8%) AG
Bike: 1029/1762 (top 58.4%) O/A - 839/1209 (69.4%) men - 102/152 (67.1%) AG
T2: 460/1770 (top 26.0%) O/A - 339/1217 (27.9%) men - 33/152 (21.6%) AG
Run: 455/1734 (top 26.2%) O/A - 367/1191 (30.8%) men - 51/150 (34.0%) AG


With some time to reflect, some highlights and impressions I didn't want to neglect:

--I mentioned the high point of the swim finish and the one low moment in the rollers early in the run, but maybe the best moment of the day was at the halfway point on the bike, around the top of Canyon, when I looked at my Garmin for my elapsed time on the ride. After driving the course Friday, I'd settled on a fairly gloomy prediction of about 3:15 for the bike. Looking at my time, I saw "1:32" and realized I actually had a shot at a 3-hour ride. That was the point when I really knew I was having a good day.

--Return on Investment Dept.: I used to swim competitively in high school, lo, those many years ago. Most triathletes, quite honestly, aren't very good swimmers. I like to actually have a life. All that adds up to an average of no more than one swim per week. Making the top 35% of the field in my first HIM swim on that level of preparation felt really great.

--I realize I didn't say much about how I felt at the finish. I mentioned to Liz shortly afterwards that I had a kind of "day at the office" feeling...not that the race wasn't tough (I was in a fair amount of pain for about 2/3 of the run), but just that I felt like I'd set out to do a job and did it the way I wanted to do it. That said, the finish was a mosaic of moments: I remember passing Yanti cheering me in the finish chute, but didn't hear my name announced (it apparently was) and couldn't tell you where Liz was in the crowd (though I remember hearing her voice). I consciously held off on stopping my watch for the photo (for once), but I was unaware that there was--according to the results--a finisher from my AG only about a second ahead of idea who was around me.

--In that same vein, I have the same "walking on air...could bust into a smile at any moment" feeling I had for about a week after I put up my drama-free sub-4 marathon in March.

--Lastly, I can't neglect to really thank my wife, Liz, for all her support (and I'll return the favor if you go for this race next year, honey) and the BT community, including my mentor group. I'm a solitary cuss as a rule and don't look to online communities for social connections, but BT and its members has been a hugely important resource in helping me achieve my goal of a self-coached successful half iron. (And, let's face it, it was great to have a few more friendly faces in my corner on race day!)

What limited your ability to perform faster:

More hills in training on both the bike and the run--probably especially the run. Relatively cold temps early on the bike were a bit of an issue, but, apart from maybe toe warmers, there's not much to be done about that and I don't think it cost me any appreciable time.

Otherwise--other than a few glitches here and there that cost me maybe two minutes--I had the race I planned and came close to my most optimistic result.

Event comments:

As an "Ironman 70.3" branded race, this is a first rate event. Course has challenges, but is definitely not beyond the capacities of first-timers (the swim is especially newbie-friendly). Only quibbles were minor (logistics on the run weren't great, announcers lost computer feed IDing finishers several times, t-shirt distribution line for men on Saturday was ridiculously long), especially compared with details like great door prizes at Friday night reception, high quality participant shirt, decent post-race food (chicken breast or veggie burger sandwich, pasta salad, a variety of fruits, huge chocolate chip cookies). The effort to "go green" was worthy...though the decision to distribute water at the finish in paper cups felt more ungenerous than eco-friendly. But, again, these are minor points: Overall this is a race with strong volunteer support...from volunteers who really seem to support the competitors beyond just handing out drinks.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2007-11-08 12:00 AM
00:34:45 | 2112 yards | 01m 39s / 100yards
Age Group: 62/151
Overall: 629/1742
Performance: Good
18:15 at turnaround point (end of upstream leg); 16:30 for downstream leg + exit from water
Suit: Xterra Vortex 2
Course: Out-and-back in Russian River above the dam at Johnson's Beach. Slight current. Shallow enough in places to touch bottom with hand during pull. Lot of competitors walk momentarily at turnaround.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Waves
Water temp: 75F / 24C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Good
Waves: Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 05:37
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
03:04:42 | 56 miles | 18.19 mile/hr
Age Group: 102/151
Overall: 1029/1742
Performance: Good
1st half = ~1:32:30
Wind: Some with gusts
Course: Relatively flat out of downtown Guerneville. Brief, highly technical, transition to Westside--rollers (some relatively steep) miles 6-12 then again from 15-29 (fairly long climb around mile 28). Miles 30-40 are largely flat and unprotected valley floor. Only steep grade is Chalk Hill at mile 45. Last 6 miles are almost entirely flat "suburban" streets leading to T2 at Windsor HS.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Average Hills: Average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 03:00
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
01:48:35 | 13.1 miles | 08m 17s  min/mile
Age Group: 51/151
Overall: 455/1742
Performance: Average
Course: Out-and-back along mostly rural paved roads on the outskirts of Windsor, with a roughly 1 mile figure-eight loop on dirt service roads on the La Crema Winery grounds at the turnaround. Beginning/finishing mile and turnaround loop are flat; remainder of the course is fairly hilly...rollers (incl. a couple fairly lengthy grades) throughout.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5