Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vineman 2015 (My First "Iron" Distance Race) - Race Report

I write these race reports as a memento for myself. They are a way to remember every detail once the race is over and done. Pictures are great, but they don't give you the essence of the day. When I re-read my other race reports I am taken right back to race day. Details I have forgotten are vividly recalled. These race reports are the closest thing I have to a time machine. Warning...this report is going to be a long one...but in my defense, it was a very long race.

Race Plans

Here is what I had planned for the race:
  • Go out easy in the swim. Use it as a warm up for the rest of the day. Shoot for an hour fifteen finish.
  • Take it easy on the bike. Goal was to average 18-18.5 mph.
  • Ride through the aid stations, refilling my bottle on the move. No stopping!
  • Pee while riding. No stopping!
  • Walk the hills on the run. Walk through the aid stations. Average 10:00 to 10:30 pace.
  • Goal for the race 12:00 to 12:30 (revised at the last minute to 12:00 to 13:00)


The day before the race, I was surprisingly calm. We dropped the dogs off at the kennel, went home to pick up the gear and were on our way to Windsor. When we got to Windsor High School I ran into my ex-supervisor. He was there to cheer on his cousin. It was nice to see a familiar face and we chatted a bit until the pre-race meeting started. The meeting was very similar to the Barb's Race meeting. I remarked to HS that there wasn't a lot of the "hard core, super intense triathletes that I've seen at some races.

Waiting for the pre-race meeting.

The most unnerving part of this race is dropping off your running gear.
Hope you're here tomorrow when I get off my bike!

We stayed at the same Guerneville cabin we stayed at last year for Barb's Race. I don't like change or the unknown, so staying in the same place was comforting. This year I decided to pack all the food we needed instead of trying to shop after we got there. I wanted the comfort of knowing that I had everything I needed.

Food from home (The beer is Mike's)

In my jammies before 5pm

My bike was packed with about 1,600-1,700 calories. I had opted to keep things simple and stick with 5 - GU, 5 - Honey Stinger Waffles (one had peanut butter on it), Gatorade in the tank, and several watermelon GU Chomps. I also figured that I would be adding about 300-500 calories in Gatorade at the aid stations. Also packed a couple of doses of Sports Legs and one dose of Hammer Endurolytes.

Post Race Inventory: One waffle, one GU packet, most of the GU Chomps.

I was bored on Thursday so I made a waffle wallet for my bike. It worked great!

I set my alarm for 3:05am so I would have time to eat at least 3 hours prior to the race. I used to have a serious, hard-core pump me up song as my race day wake up call but I changed it. Today I was awakened by Christopher Cross singing "Ride Like the Wind". I laugh every time I use that song for an alarm and that's exactly what I needed today. I needed to lighten up a bit and not take things too seriously. 

My plan for breakfast was to fix my usual race day meal of eggs on toast with some coffee. However, today I didn't feel like cooking and the thought of eggs today made me a little queasy. Instead I fixed a peanut butter sandwich with a banana. I also fixed coffee but was only able to drink about 1/2 a cup. 

HS could tell I was getting nervous and came over to give me a hug. I started crying and I told him that I was scared. He told me that I had nothing to worry about. I knew deep down that he was right, but it felt good to let out a little pent up emotion. After that, we loaded up the truck and made our way to the race start. It was a little after 5:00 am. As we drove, I drank about half of my chia fresca. I wasn't able to finish it, but something is better than nothing.

When we arrived at Johnson’s Beach it was still dark outside and there was a light fog above the river. It was very eerie and I hoped the sun would be up before the start of the swim.

Who's swims when it's dark and foggy?
After racking my bike and getting my body markings the time seemed to fly by, perhaps because I was preoccupied with two late comers that decided to squeeze their bikes onto my rack. They started sliding bikes over and moving gear around. An official came over and started questioning whose stuff was where. One unfortunate lady, who’s bike was on the rack before I even got there, had her stuff slid down the rack. I hoped that she came back before the swim start so she would know where her stuff was.
Why do the guys looks so relaxed and happy?

I thought I would be more nervous walking under the arch to enter the river. I figured I’d be crying and filling up my goggles but I didn’t shed a single tear. I waded into the water and moved to the far side away from the crowd. Next thing I knew, the buzzer sounded and we were off. I stayed to the right, next to the bank of the river and was relatively unmolested. When I reached the bridge, the water got very shallow and I stood up and walked a bit…no sense in trying to swim in water that only comes up to my knees.

As soon as the water got deep again, I started swimming. I concentrated on taking nice long slow strokes and gliding as much as possible. I quickly learned not to follow anyone because nobody seemed to be swimming in a straight line (so much for drafting). I saw one woman almost all the way across the river before the volunteer in the kayak got her pointed in the right direction. The buoys ticked by and I wracked my brain trying to remember how many there were before the turn. At this point I was starting to come up on the wave that started before mine.

After the turn, it seemed like a short time back to the bridge. I was looking forward to standing up again, but apparently this side of the river is deeper so I had to keep swimming. It seemed like an eternity from the bridge to buoy #1 and then to the turn buoy. After the turn to head back for my second loop, I got entangled with a woman intent on beating me into submission…at least that is what it seemed like.

Here I was trying to stay relaxed and take it nice and easy and this woman with man like arms (I know she was a woman because she had the same color cap as mine) continued to pummel my right side. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit about the pummeling, but she had her arms going like a maniac and she kept hitting me. I would try and move over a bit and she would move right with me and the next think I knew smack, smack, smack. QUIT HITTING ME!!!

I finally eased up a bit and let this woman go. I mean, for all her effort, she wasn't swimming past me, so it was my only hope of going back to a peaceful swim. Honestly, I would rather give up a little time than have her continue to whack at me for another mile or so. I continued to swim off to the side but eventually felt my hand make contact with something. What the heck? I looked up. A branch? Crap! I’m too far over. 

I gave a couple quick strong kicks to move away from the side and immediately felt a twinge in my left foot. A wave of panic washed over me. I had been plagued with foot cramps during swim practice for most of my training. I chalked the training cramps up to running right before swim practice and figured it wouldn’t happen in the race.

I slowed down and tried to convince myself to relax and to not panic. I was nearing the shallow part of the river. If I could make it to the shallow area without a full blown cramp, I was fairly certain I could walk it off. When I finally felt the stringy weeds on my fingers I knew I was almost there. By that point, I was only kicking with my right leg so I wouldn’t make matters worse. I stood up as soon as I could and took several deep breaths and told myself everything was OK and that my foot was not going to cramp. Eventually my foot relaxed and the tightness in my arch subsided. Phew! 

The rest of the swim went well. I remember a time, not too long ago, that my goal was not to swim breaststroke or to roll over onto my back! That goal never even crossed my mind this morning. I may not be setting any sort of swim record, but the swim has gotten a lot better for me since 2013.

Still the best part of the swim ;-)

When I came out of the water I looked for the wetsuit strippers but didn’t see any so I just headed to my bike. Typically, when I am wearing my full sleeve wetsuit, I will take off my Garmin 910XT so I can get my arms out. In my excitement, I forgot this step and found my sleeve caught up around the watch. I had to tug and pull on the wetsuit to get it over the watch and I thought that I may have inadvertently pressed a button or two which would have advanced the timing to the next stage of the race.

Managed to get my sleeve over my Garmin
(Check out those guns!)

Other than my Garmin snafu, T1 went smoothly. I washed and wiped my feet, slipped on my socks, calf sleeves and shoes; snapped on my helmet, stuffed everything into my bag and made the handoff over the fence to HS. I grabbed my bike and was off. I jogged the bike through transition and then walked up the short steep hill to the roadway above. I also took a few bikes of my Cliff bar and stuffed the rest into my top for later on.

On my way!
Bike - Loop 1

I mounted my bike and tried to clip in my left foot. Nothing. I tried the other foot. Still unattached. Apparently my cleats were packed with wet sand from transition. I continued pedaling with my foot resting on top of the pedal while I tapped the opposite shoe against the pedal trying to knock the dirt loose. Eventually I was able to get clipped in, although it didn’t feel like it normally does. After getting that sorted out, I turned my attention to my Garmin.

The first part of the ride is fairly flat and smooth

Prior to the race, I took extra care to make sure I had all of my “auto-pause” settings turned off and that I had my desired views for each sport set to display. For the bike, I had my Garmin set up to show my current speed and my average speed. I looked down at the watch and that screen wasn’t showing. Hmmm. Did I forget to press the button?  I hit the lap button hoping to advance the timing from T1 to Bike. I looked down and the screen still didn’t look right? I hit lap again knowing that at this point, if the correct screen didn’t show, I had probably screwed something up taking off my wetsuit.

At least I got the swim right

The screen on the watch still didn’t look right. It was showing the time of day and some other stuff. Ugh! I decided to not worry about it, but that lasted all of 2 minutes before I was screwing with the watch again. I had the idea to reset the watch and just turn on the bike timing. I tried this, but apparently it still had me in multi-sport mode. I kept trying to look at the watch and figure out what sport I was in but it is difficult to do while moving. I eventually made the decision to turn the watch off completely and ride by feel. I figured I was better off doing this instead of fussing with the stupid watch for 112 miles.

There should only be one multi-sport entry on my Garmin for Vineman,
not two multi-sport and two running.
Riding by feel is difficult for me to do. I kept telling myself that I felt great. Did that mean I was going too slow or I was feeling great because it was only the first loop? I traded positions with a 30 something female for a while before she left me behind. What just happened? Did she just speed up or did I just slow down. I really, really, really wanted to have my Garmin working. At this point, I made one last attempt and turned it back on. I immediately got the message that it could not sync to the satellites while moving. Oh well, this is just how it has to be. I turned it back off.

The rest of the first loop was uneventful.  On the quick descent to Geyersville, I tried to keep my hands off the brakes but I got going pretty quick (too bad I didn’t have my Garmin to record my speed). As I neared the bottom of the hill, I could see the CHP at the turn, but there was no one at the off ramp from the freeway. This was a little unnerving and I slowed to look for cars.

Chalk Hill was a pain just like it always is, but I made the climb and enjoyed the ride down the hill. One thing I noticed on Chalk Hill was the lack of spectators. The last two times I raced this course there was always a crowd at the top of Chalk Hill. There would be chalk markings all over the street and as you would near the top you could hear the cow bells and cheers. This year there was only silence and one lone woman at the top.

As I rode back to the high school to complete the first loop, I was amazed that the bike was half over. The first part of the day went by so quickly! 

Bike - Loop 2

The second loop makes a quick little jog out and back and then heads down Eastside Road en route to Westside Road which is about 9-10 miles from the swim start. I have done this portion of the ride numerous times on our training rides. As I headed down Eastside, I passed a male rider. Of course, this never sits well and within minutes he hammered by me to settle in about 100 yards ahead of me. Whatever. I continued riding and was passed by someone in a white Volvo with their hazard lights flashing.

The car seemed to be slowing down, so I slowed down. What’s with the hazard lights? Seriously, if you have a problem, pull over to the side. Is he holding up a cell phone? It was hard to tell what this person was doing. It couldn't be a SAG vehicle, they were traveling the opposite direction of the racers and they definitely wouldn't purposely try to impede someone.

One thing was for sure, he was definitely slowing down forcing me to slow down until I was just a few feet behind him. Unfortunately for me, this section of the road is fairly narrow. My options were to cross the double yellow and pass on the left and hope that a car didn't come in the opposite direction, or try and pass on the right and hope that he didn't move over and force me off the road into the culvert. 

General vicinity of the Volvo incident (no shoulder and a drop-off to the right) 

Since his windows were down, I hollered “Just drive!” and “Move your car!” I was seriously getting irritated. His response was to slow down further and make a “yapping” movement with his hand. What a freakin’ jerk! Eventually he got bored screwing with me and drove up to the rider in front of me and tailed him until the top of the hill. 

Throughout the ride so far, I had been diligent about eating and drinking. One of my plans for the race was to pee on the bike. So, when the urge to go struck me, I tried to go…and tried…and tried. Nothing. Hmmm. Ok, how about if I come up out of my saddle a bit? Nope. Not happening.  Since I knew I was coming up on an aid station, I decided to stop and use the porta-potty as long as there wasn’t a line. Lucky for me, no one was waiting. I pulled off the road, leaned my bike against the fence and opened the door to sheer horror! There was not a flat surface in that plastic box that was not wet! What the heck happened in here???

At that point, I had to go so bad I didn’t care. I grabbed on to the post and hovered above the hole. Let me just say that I am glad I didn’t go on my bike. Once I started going, I could not stop. I was definitely hydrated and I definitely contributed to the wet surface issue. When I emerged from my little rest break I decided to take a minute and get my Garmin back on track.

All show and no "go" LOL

I turned the watch on and waited for it to sync up with the satellites. I then switched it to bike and pressed start. I was relieved that I would be able to check my pace. My problem now was that I was only going to get a partial average pace. I was already 20 something miles through the second loop. What if that was the speedier section? How would I know if my current average was where I needed to be? There was really no way for me to know so I kept riding by feel.

At the aid station in Geyserville I stopped again. (NOTE: I hit 37+ mph coming down the hill!! Wow!) This time I stopped to refill the Gatorade in my tank and to grab a banana. The nice lady manning the station asked if I would like some sun block and I said "Sure". She slathered sun block all over my back and shoulders and I would be lying if I said it didn't feel great! It was like a mini massage. Can you please keep rubbing my back, please? LOL

The wind started to pick up on the back section of the course so I eased up a bit knowing that Chalk Hill was not too far down the road. At the aid station at the start of Chalk Hill Road I pulled off to the side and used my back-up bottle of water to top off my internal storage tank. The thought was to get rid of any unnecessary weight prior to climbing Chalk Hill the second time. Before I knew it, I was headed back up Chalk Hill for the last time. As I made the climb, I passed a few women competing in Barb’s Race. I crested the top and started to speed down to the bottom.

I passed a couple of riders on my way down even though I was riding my brakes (the road has some rough spots in this section). As I reached the bottom and thing started to flatten out, I over took another rider and started approaching female rider. I’m not sure how fast everyone was going. My guess is somewhere around 18-20 mph. Then everything sort of went into slow motion.

The lady in front of me (maybe 15 yards or less at this point), pulled out her water bottle and tipped her head back to drink while hanging on to the handlebars with her other hand. As I just mentioned above, the road is sort of rough though here and the lady hit a bump or pothole obscured in the shadows and lost control. All of a sudden I see her fly up, hit the ground in front of me and start to slide. The bottle she was holding shot to the left and I had a gap of about 3 feet to aim for so I didn’t run over the top of her or the bottle...either of which would have taken me down too. I was closing in  quick!

Chalk Hill Road at the sight of the crash. She hit the bump in the shaded area.

I screamed when I saw her fly up and hit the ground. My thoughts immediately went to “Should I stop?” “How badly is she hurt?” I sped past her,  My next thoughts were more selfish and I am not proud admitting them, but I started thinking about all the time and money I put into training for this race and that if I stopped, it would pretty much be over for me in terms of reaching my goal. God, that is horrible! I eased my conscience by saying that the riders behind me would stop but what if they had the same attitude as me? Ugh.

I was shaken after this incident and it took some time before I was able to collect myself and concentrate on the race again. I said a prayer for the lady that crashed and hoped that she was not badly injured. Since I was nearing the end of the ride, I reached down for my Endurolyte supplements. Coach K suggested that I try taking these towards the end of the ride. Since I really don’t have a lot of experience taking these, the thought was a little shouldn’t hurt. I pulled the baggy out, hit a small bump and watched my only salt tablets go flying out of my hand. Crap!


As I neared the high school I saw the runners going to and from the turnaround. I remember both times I competed in Barb’s Race seeing the Vineman competitors finishing their ride and thinking “Those poor people still have to run a marathon!” This year I was one of “those poor people”. I rode up to the dismount line, unclipped and started to jog towards T2. I slowed to a walk and hit “stop” on my Garmin and switched it to running. At least I would have a full accounting of my run…or as it turns out…my walk. LOL

Bike done!
This year I opted to tie my laces instead of using bungees. I also had a fresh pair of socks waiting for me which I changed into even though I never managed to take a whiz while riding. I also planned ahead and had a backup stash of Sport Legs (which I also lost somewhere on the ride) and Endurolytes. I had even used permanent marker to mark which white capsule was which. I popped three Sport Leg pills and one or two Endurolytes and headed off.

HS was very proud of this action shot. I like it too!

I was so glad to have my Garmin working for the run. I have a tendency to hop off the bike and run just a little too quickly for my own good. As I made my way out of the T2 maze to the race course, I kept checking the watch and tried to maintain a 10:00 pace. My goal for the run was 10:00-10:30 pace. Once I was out on the actual course, my speed was hovering around 9:30 and I knew that was too fast for me. I also knew that my legs weren’t giving me the correct feedback and that if I didn’t slow down I would pay for it. Eventually I started to get into a good rhythm and then the first hill appeared.

Feeling pretty good early on

I slowed to a walk and made my way up the hill. Once I crested the top it was hard to get started running again…walking felt SOOOOO good. Eventually I started jogging down to the bottom but I was seriously looking forward to the next hill so I could walk again. The run continued this way for the first 8+ mile loop…walk up the hill, convince myself to run again. I also looked forward to the aid stations since they were also a planned “walking” destination.

Loop #2 done
While the aid stations offered all sorts of snacks and drinks, I couldn’t bear to have any more GU or any Shot Blocks or cookies for that matter. For the first few aid stations, I opted for either Gatorade or water with a cup of ice down my top to nibble on until the next aid station. Eventually I tired of even Gatorade and switched to cola. Some stations offered warm flat cola other stations had ice in theirs, I enjoyed both variations. I also ate quite a few chunks of banana along the way as well as a few handfuls of grapes. I liked the grapes because they were portable and they didn’t make your hands sticky. Twice I tried eating corn chips just to get some salt, but they just seemed to stick in my mouth.

After the incident in the river with my foot, I was afraid of what would happen on the run. As the miles added up, my calves started to feel tight and my Achilles started to ache but these pains weren't really debilitating. I wondered if my legs would have felt better if I was able to take some Endurolytes (which I didn't have). Throughout the run course, I noticed a lot of white capsules spilled along the road. My first thought was “Hmmm…those look like Sport Legs” and my second thought was “No! Do NOT eat unknown white pills off the road!”

Since my race plan was to walk the hills, I tried my best to stick to that goal. However, as the race went on, my definition of a hill got flatter and flatter.  Is that a slight incline up ahead? Yup! That’s a hill. So, the last eight miles included a LOT of walking. On the last turn around I told the people watching the timing mat that I was going to slow down and get my money’s worth. They laughed and cheered me on.
That doesn't look like a hill to me! LOL

As I made my way past the last aid station, I didn’t stop. I had less than a mile to go. This journey was almost over and I didn’t need one last sip of cola or chunk of banana to get me to the finish line. I wish I could say that I dug deep and powered my way to the finish line, but I didn’t. I just really didn’t have it in me to do that.

Throughout the run I traded spots with a guy wearing a Pearl Izumi kit similar to mine (his was green and blue). We chatted a bit while "running" about how comfortable they were and how much we liked them. He ran past me in the last half mile yelling "Go Zumi! Run team Izumi!" I guess he was just as giddy as I was about finishing this thing :-)

I did run the last quarter mile to the school because there were still spectators lining the street and I thought it would be a little too embarrassing to walk at this point. As I ran past the aid station/special needs pickup at the school they offered me something to drink and I said “No thanks…I’m done!” I got more cheers and that put a little pep in my step to get me the last couple hundred yards to the finish.

And just like was over :-)
Post Race

Now that the race is over and I survived, I ask myself “What were you so worried about?”

Get these shoes off my feet!
For all the miles covered, my only real complaint at the end of the race was sore toes.

WE did it!!!!
(Best picture ever!)
Thankfully, HS had already packed up my stuff so all I had to do after the race was walk to the truck. When we got back to the cabin, HS and Max headed down to the roadhouse to get a couple of pizzas. I was so excited from the day, that I had a hard time unwinding. Even after a warm shower and a glass of wine I was still feeling wired. Lindsey and I ended up staying awake until after 10pm chatting and watching TV. Eventually I started to doze off so we decided to call it a night.

Around 2am I woke up, sick to my stomach. I didn't throw up or anything, I was just extremely nauseous. Even 7-Up and ginger chews didn't seem to help. This general feeling of "yuck" continued throughout Sunday and into Monday.

The Next Day

Early results for my age group showed me in 4th place. I was really bummed even though I was within my goal time. Seriously, just finishing should have been enough. Anyway, as I looked at the results of the 2nd place female, something didn't seem right. She had a extraordinarily fast bike split. Her first 28 mile leg only averaged 13.8 mph.  However, her final bike time was 4 hours and 18 minutes for an average bike speed of 26 mph!! Since I was unable to get ahold of anyone Saturday night after the race, we headed back to Windsor High School prior to the award ceremony on Sunday to try and talk to someone.

As it turned out, the issue with her bike split had already been noted and she had been given a DNF. Apparently, she only did one loop on the bike. I can't say I blame her ;-) This moved me up to 3rd and on to the podium.

Just a little happy LOL
I wish Jonya would teach me to run ;-)

OK, one more pic
I think I must have inspired Ashley and Lindsey a bit with this race. During the award ceremony we made plans to do a Vineman relay next year. Lindsey is going to swim (Yay!), Ashley is going to run (Yay!) and I just get to ride my bike (Yay! Yay! Yay!) The funniest thing during our discussion was listening to the girls. Ashley looked at Lindsey and dead-serious said "You better not swim slow." I think Lindsey didn't appreciate this much because she responded with a sharp "You better not run slow." I think we've got a team!


It took a couple of days for a true assessment of all of the damage I inflicted on myself, but the list is short.

1) Two severely bruised and blistered toes.

Oh, this is why my toe hurt so bad!
2) Worst wetsuit rub burn I have ever had. The morning after my race I told HS "I don't think I washed all the Glide off my neck." HS looked at the back of my neck and remarked "That's not Glide." Oh, great...I've got oozing crusty sores on the back of my neck. I guess the good news is that my hair covers most of them.

3) Raw spots on my inner thighs from the bike. (New saddle has already been ordered).

Other than those three things and my loss of appetite for a couple of days, I felt surprisingly great. In fact, I have felt worse in terms of muscle soreness following a straight marathon. However, that may be because I actually try and run those. LOL

Race Reflection 

After the race I got a nice message from Coach K congratulating me.  He told me to spend a couple of days thinking about ideas for my "next time"...things I need "to do" and "don't do"...ideas about racing and training that I might have done differently.

Overall I am happy with the outcome and my finishing time. I am even happier because I see lots of room for improvement.

While I was OK with my swim performance, I know I could have put a little more effort into it. There was no need for me to treat the entire 2.4 miles as a cool-down set. 
The bike was probably my biggest disappointment. I missed my goal time by 10-15 minutes. Some of that was due to things that were out of my control, but I also think I was just a little too conservative at times. 
While I was probably off the mark the most on the run, it doesn't bother me as much as the bike. On any given day I may run great or I may run like crap. Given my history with calf and ankle problems, any time I can finish a run is a good day...even if I walked a little more than I wanted (and probably needed) to walk. My run has lots and lots and lots of room for improvement. 

Here are the ideas I came up with for Coach K:
  1. Get a bike fit. While the new aerobars felt 10x better, I think there is still something not right with the seat height and position. I knew this going into the race but I didn't want to change anything too close to race day.
  2. If it's going to be a hilly run course, train on hills more.
  3. Find a way to incorporate strength training when appropriate.
  4. Run more.
  5. Find a way to bust my mental hurdles.
  6. Don't be so conservative on race day.
  7. Be 5-8 lbs lighter.
Coach K said he agreed with most of my points but then added that he trained me with the idea of getting me ready to "complete" the event, not "race" it. This excites me and scares me. If all the training I did was just to complete the event, what in the heck does training to race look like? Yikes!!!

This journey has been a lot like child birth. After several months of planning and preparation, the big day finally arrives. You are filled with anticipation and you are a little terrified. You know you are going to cherish the outcome, but you have no idea how long the process is going to take or how you are going to feel. Part of the way through the "big day" you decide "that's enough...I want to go home". Before you know it, it's all over and it's one of the best days of your life. Of course, parts of your body that should never hurt, hurt like hell and you swear to yourself you will never do that again. Next thing you know, "baby" #2 is on the way ;-)