Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Breakthrough! - Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Racing close to home with no camping is such a great feeling for a big event.  My friends even did me a HUGE favor when they bought a little "fixer upper" getaway house in the woods in Monte Rio because it has made Vineman my new favorite event.  This race turned into a "B" race for me after a bit of training turmoil from post IM problems from Texas, and a sub-par performance at Treasure Island last weekend.  There have been some personal life decisions to be made as well, that I am quite happy about, but training took a back seat for a bit too.  After slamming my body for a few days, a two day taper, I felt good going into the weekend, but unsure if I was ready for the distance or the fact I'm carrying 5 pounds extra right now.

Race morning came along, Dan and I got up early fixed our breakfast, caught some of the Tour de France, did our final preparations and off we went to the race start.  We had a short 4 mile ride to Guerneville from Monte Rio which was perfect to keep my nerves at bay.  Getting into T1 and its just chaos.  The good and bad thing about Vineman is that they keep transition open for everyone because it is a very tight area and so people don't have to just sit there for hours waiting for their start time.  The drawback is that people are coming and going non-stop and there is pandemonium.  Getting my bike racked, transition set up and off to do my "business" and down to the river.

The water was a few degrees cold enough for a wetsuit swim, but easily warm enough to go without.  Waves go off every 8 minutes which is nice so you aren't running over too many people ahead if you are a fast swimmer.  The speakers weren't set up towards the water so you could hardly hear the countdown, but all the other athletes were helping out by calling out the time left.  3, 2, 1 and we're off!

Sprinting out to keep away from any major bludgeoning, I have a good line and not much traffic.  Holding a fast pace for the first few hundred, I pull back a little to find a draft and settle in.  Unfortunately, the water got shallow just as I found a good swim buddy, and he was forcing me into even less water.  Having to swim with bent arms for a bit, we finally get to the turn and people are walking!  Swimming by people walking is interesting in such shallow water, but I was not risking a penalty.  Heading back to the beach and more shallow water, but manageable.  Cruise into the finish and an "average" time of 31:26 and its time to do some work on the bike!

They have you pack up your bag at Vineman so they can transport it to Windsor for you, so a little extra time in T1, but everyone has to do the same.  Up a short hill that many are just walking because they didn't put their bike in the small chain ring ahead of time.  Onto River Road and time to fly!  Trying to control myself a bit, but stressing as always to make up for a lackluster swim I'm flying by the earlier waves.  There is a HUGE shoulder to the road and most everyone was riding there, allowing faster riders to go by, but a few people had to get a "ON THE LEFT" yelled their way as there were cars on the road.  Only one guy took offense, so all in all a good bunch of racers out today.  Very sharp turn to get to Westside Road, and the major efforts begin.

Rollers make up most of the next 20 miles to the major climb over Canyon Rd.  Its such a fun ride too except for the rough patches of roads.  Pretty much the original concrete slabs with asphalt patching over the last 40 years.  Finding the best line was a chore at times, but hitting a pot-hole and flatting was not an option.  Getting through Healdsburg and onto the big sustained climb of the day.  Canyon Rd. isn't steep, but it does test your pacing.  If you aren't careful you can slow down too much, or try to power over and die.  This is where the Power Meter came in handy as I just pushed 10% higher for the climb as planned.  Cresting the top, some real fun comes along with a BIG descent into Geyeserville with speeds topping 45 MPH!.  Unfortunately there's a 90 degree turn a half mile after the bottom, but still got a good run at it.  Finished my Perpetuum bottle and switch over to Gatorade and water from the course along with a GU Rocktane.

Cruising through the second half of the course you get some flat-ish sections through the river valley with nice scenery, but all the sudden it starts to rain!?  This was definitely a weird Vineman.  Pretty happy with the rain drops cooling me off, and the roads stayed dry enough to hold speed when cornering.  Traffic was increasing on miles 30-40 and you could tell people were a bit agitated getting through.  I don't know what one care was doing tailgating two cyclists, but I had a head of steam near 30 MPH on a slight downhill and was forced to make a pass.  Not one of the brightest moves of my life (very stupid to be honest), but I didn't cross the double yellow;)

Coming into Chalk Hill the legs still felt good, but all day I'd been having 10 minute bursts of over 300 watts, then 260.  Not on purpose as I was trying to hold a 300 average for the race.  Hitting the hill, I knew it was short, but steep, so taking a controlled push over was the objective.  Cranking out 330-370 watts over the climb worked great, and left me with enough pop to push over and gain some good speed into the three mile downhill.  Relaxing and resting the legs for the final six miles to transition.  The course is a gradual decline back home, so spinning high cadence and getting my legs ready to run was my only thought along with finishing any Gatorade still on the bike.

Bike - 2:24:01

Into transition, legs feeling good, change the shirt, got my shoes on, visor, and I'm out on the course like I was shot from a cannon.  I had the same sensation in Texas after overcoming my cramping issues, and with the cloud cover and only 70 degrees there was a confidence to go for it and not have the life sucked out of me like in the 90 degree heat.  After a mile I settled into a good pace and was happy with the effort.  Such great support at this race with well stocked aid stations and a great course.  Rolling hills, with a few short steeps that bite the legs.  Getting to my club's aid station, I could hear them before I even crested the hill between us.  Rocking out and loving the energy from them, pushed me to a near sprint on a downhill and off to the winery a mile away.

The loop around La Crema was good to get some change of scenery and running surface as you were running through their vineyard.  The dirt service roads were a much needed respite for the feet, and a nice mental break from asphalt.  Heading back on the course I was charged up for some "Pain Cave" time as I could see an even split would land me easily under 4:30!

Blowing through the SF Tri aid station, getting some needed adrenaline from them, as well as Golden Gate's, with Buzz Lightyear, my pace kept steady and getting ready for a final 2 mile charge.  I had no idea where I was in the race and with a split start for my Age Group, it didn't matter as someone could have beat me and not even know it from the earlier start.  There were a few from my start I passed in the beginning of the run, but I didn't see anyone for a long time.  Finally after I crossed the 11 mile marker, and starting my kick, I see at 34 on a calf!  Yes!  Finally get to catch someone, and he is hurting.  I fly by and try to offer some encouragement to bring it in strong, but no response.  Some others from other age groups are walking and I yell to get them going as well, but they respond as there is only a mile left.  Felt good and was feeding off their energy as well.  Finally see the school and all out sprint through the chicane to the finish line and Eric Gilsenan see me and gives me a great finish line memory over the loud speaker where I finally got to use the finish line tape!

Run - 1:27:24
Race - 4:28:41 5th AG - 22nd Amateur

Hanging out at the finish I got to see some good friends set some great overall and personal race goals too!  Its a big race for old friends to escape the heat in Scottsdale, and its great to see the random friends pop in.
Dwight and Eric


This was a great day out and a comfort that I was finally coming back to form.  Looking forward to another "fun" face in two weeks in Pittsburgh, a hard few weeks training, then off to Canada with a surprise new race kit to unveil:)