Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vineman 70.3 Race Report

"If you have the hubris to book the hotel room at the race venue months before actually qualifying for the race, you better deliver."

That was that little nagging thing haunting the back of my mind over the last few months. Vineman 70.3 was to be my qualifying race for the new World Championship in Vegas and being a later season qualifier, I wanted to make sure we had a room at the Lake Las Vegas host hotel as it was convenient and also accepted pets. We would be traveling with our dogs and the "plan" was do the race Sept 11th and then travel to Cambria, CA where we had rented a house on the coast for a weeks vacation. I am not the superstitious type, but it did feel a bit like tempting fate..and not in a good way. There are many things on race day you can't control. There is one thing, however, you can. Preparation.

My season this year has been great. My results have never been better and my times across the board have been improving. My coach, Nick Goodman of DURAPULSE Performance Co. has provided me with a training protocol which has applied the perfect balance of stress, recovery, intensity, and volume and leading into this race I have felt fantastic. No little aches and pains, no overwhelming fatigue, just a sense of confidence of being able to properly execute even the most challenging training days. Nick and I met the day before we left and I think we both knew Sunday could be something special. I told him I had never felt so well prepared for a race...ever. I wanted to try and win the AG.

We flew up to Oakland Friday morning and stayed with my Aunt and Uncle in their lovely home in Santa Rosa, just a few miles from the finish, expo, and T2. I had done this race back in 2008 and had ridden on the bike course and run the run course again in 2009 when we stopped by on our summer vacation, so I was very familiar with the race. I used Tri Team Transport to deliver my bike and gear to Windsor and want to give them a big shout out of thanks, they were awesome, highly recommended.

Friday afternoon we headed over to the Russian River and I did a short swim in my amazing ZOOT Prophet wet suit to see what the temperature felt like and more importantly where the shallow spots were. The river was comfortable, a little warm, and there were a lot of shallow parts which I wanted to avoid race morning. I felt great in the water and knowing how fast this swim can be, I was hoping for good things on Sunday in the water after a disappointing swim at Deuce Man Half last month. On the way home, we also drove on West Rd. and Chalk Hill to see what the surface conditions were like as it can be a little rough.

Saturday I just went for a short ride and run early in the morning. I had recently purchased a visor for my LG aero helmet and wanted to see how it worked, especially in dark, overcast conditions. It was great but there was a lot of mist in the air from the marine layer fog and the visor became opaque when wet, so I had to push it up so I could see. I made a mental note of that. Otherwise, it was an easy day of registration, packet pick up, and setting up my T2. I scored an end spot of my rack and only had to leave my shoes, gel flask, visor, and sunglasses on the ground under a towel.

Sunday morning arrived and we headed out to the swim start in Geyserville, about a 25min drive. My wave start was at 7:02, the second wave of my AG 6min behind the first, so I knew it would be a challenge early to gauge where I was in relation to the field, but Jamie would be able to try an update me later on the bike. Transition at Vineman is very gig and very long. I knew the run out would be far and that the short, steep hill at the mount line would be carnage, so I was hoping for a good rack spot and would leave my shoes clipped into the pedals so I could not only run the length of T1 but also run up the hill away from the mount line crashes, of which there were many, I was told later.

I found my wave's rack and there was a ton of empty spots right at the swim exit. Score! I literally only had to run up from the beach and my bike would be right there and the carpet stretched to the run out. Perfect. We watched the pro starts at 6:30 and then it was time to squeeze into the Prophet and get this show on the road.

Swim- 27:44, 13th in the AG
I lined up on the far inside left as the river bends that way and it would be the deepest part. I swam hard for the first min or so and found open water and clear sighting. There were a few AG men to my right and eventually we all cam together on the buoy line heading up river. i knew there was a current we were going against so I made sure to swim hard early and would get a boost on the way back. One guy slotted ahead of me from my wave and I tried to overtake him a few times but he was going great so I dropped back on to his feet and had a great draft working into the current. It was ideal.

As we approached the turn I could see people standing up in the river. I knew it would be almost too shallow to swim up here and I waited until my draft buddy stood up fisrt. He did and we both began to run a few steps and then dolphin dive. We did this for a good min. at least, the water was so shallow. Eventually we were able to get back to swimming and we swam side by side the whole way back. We hit the finish together and I looked down at my watch to see a 27:xx and it was a great feeling and new PR.

T1- 1:53
Between a good transition strategy and a prime rack spot, I had the fastest T1 in the AG by 13 seconds. My wet suit came off easily and I had my race belt and helmet on and I was off runing with the bike. Being in bare feet I was passing people from the 3 early waves along the way out and ran right past that mount line and up the hill. Jamie and our friends were there on the hill and i gave her a thumbs up and said I had a great swim. At the top of the rise, I was easily able to get on the bike, into the shoes, and up to speed.

Bike- 2:18:46, 1st in the AG
I started the ride feeling like magic. I was flying and it felt effortless. Of course it did, it was 30 degrees cooler then I have been training in for months. My HR was around 152, which I knew this early and in these temps was a bit too high but I also knew that if I wanted to compete for the AG win I would have to use my bike strength and feel confident my run would still be there. I felt very comfortable and the Ridley Dean was sucking up the road ahead. I had a bottle of water on the frame and an aero Fuel Box on the top tube with about 5 gels and half a Cliff Bar. I grabbed a Gatorade at the first aid station and that would be the only hydration I would use, it was too cool to drink more. I did eat the bar and had about 4 of the gels.

Around mile 25 it started to mist and I had to move the visor up out of the way to see. Just before the timing mat at the far end of the course I passed my friend and amazing AG'er Beth Walsh and gave her a quick howdy. I would later see her husband James on the run course on his way to an AG win and 2nd overall amateur position. That's one fast and awesome couple! I wish there was more to say but the rest of the ride was very uneventful, which is a good thing. the rain came and went a few times and the roads got a little slick, but otherwise no drama. I eventually brought my HR down into the high 140 range and attacked all the climbs including Chalk Hill. At mile 50 on Shilo Rd. I passed Jamie who was able to update me that I was 13th out of the water but there were no posted bike updates yet. But I hadn't passed any men in my AG for at least 5+ miles and that was a guy I had started 6min behind, so I knew I was up there somewhere. 1st in the AG and 16th OA including the pro's, I couldn't complain about that...but could I run?

T2- 2:24
It was a fairly long run from the dismount line in the parking lot on the side of the school into the center courtyard where T2 was set up. Once I arrived at my stuff, it was rack, socks, slip on the ZOOT Ultra Speeds, which are like slippers they go on so fast, grab my visor, gel flask and sun glasses and start running. I had the 12th fastest T2 in the AG, likely as I did feel the need to wear socks and sat down to put them on.

Run- 1:26:53, 3rd in the AG
The run. Although I have had two decent Olympic run splits this year, my half up in Show Low wasn't too great and last year I was not happy with any of my run efforts culminating in my wounded limp in Kona. I really felt like my run fitness was much better this year, Deuces not withstanding as it's at elevation and I never perform as well at altitude. Instead of RPE or HR, this time I made the goal of running to average pace, something I have never done before. Surprising as it's the perfect way to feed my OCD. I can just stare at the number and adjust effort accordingly to keep the number pegged. And that number goal was 6:30/mile pace and a 1:25 run split.

I ran the first mile and settled into a good stride. After the first aid station, I checked the pace for the first time and was pleased to see 6:30 on the nose. The course is really nice, with a lot of varied, rolling roads through the vineyards. I felt so great for the first 6 miles, it was almost effortless to sit on my goal pace but I knew coming back it would get a lot harder. After looping through the winery, I passed my 7 and started to not feel as great. My pace began to creep up to 6:35 and I really began to dig a little deeper. I tried to run strong uphills and get some recovery coming down. I also began to hit a little bit of the cola.

As I came back up Star Rd., I knew the end was almost there and at mile 11.5 or so, there was Jamie on the side of the road. She told me I was in 2nd, that first was 4min ahead (!) and that 3rd was running a 6:13 pace. That was all I needed to hear and I really tried to pick it up. The watch was reading 6:39 and I fought through the last mile and a half to bring it back the other way. It was a huge motivator to see that number start ticking back down and knowing I had such a strong runner coming up from behind. And then there it was. I broke the tape, nice little touch they had a tape I haven't seen one at a WTC race since IMAZ 2007, and felt a great sense of relief and accomplishment and a new run and Half IM PR overall time.

Final Time- 4:17:40, 2nd in M40-44, 6th amateur overall

As I walked over to get something to drink, I was approached by a local reporter for the Press Democrat, the publication my Uncle worked as a copy editor for years for! I pointed him out in the crowd to the reporter who knew him, too funny..although I didn't make the morning edition. :). Turns out I got my ass handed to me by Chris Hauth, so I was beaten solidly by an ex Olympic swimmer and pro triathlete so I was severely out classed there. I made my way out, Jamie was back and was able to celebrate with my loved ones...and look at my wife and tell her I was glad we made that hotel reservation after all.