Monday, July 22, 2013

Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Wow, well I think I've had plenty of time by now to replay Vineman 70.3 over and over in my head, as well as go over this blog a million times. It's one of those where I edit out, add in, and so on. You've been there, you know it ;)

Vineman 70.3 this year was an interesting race for me. I was fairly uncertain going in, as it's been a rocky few months. But by the time we hit the 5 freeway due north I was totally at peace and ready to rock. Mind over matter, baby. Life doesn't always go smoothly, and I coulda woulda shoulda been more prepared for this race, but it wasn't in the cards this year (if you don't read this blog regularly, this includes a broken wrist 2 months before Vineman). Accept it. No matter what went down since Oceanside earlier this year, I know me and I knew I had to go for it. I entered wine country with feelings of pure excitement -- for the race, too, not just the wine (and beer) ;) Experience and my will to persevere would get me to the finish. And it did, as I ended up going 5:10 and change, which was a course PR.

Ya know what I really loved about this race? I stayed honest to letting go of the BS, and just enjoyed the day. Of course, don't let "enjoyment" lead you to believe I took it easy. Hell no! I freakin pushed myself! But, I stopped paying attention to that stupid clock, and I shut off the rest of the world and just focused on my race. Case in point: I was running with a guy through La Crema -- nice guy, even asked if it was ok that he ran with me and of course I said no problem -- and he asked my time goals, if I was I on target, and all that jazz. I said, through the huff and puff, "I honestly have no idea how long I've been racing, what my times are, or how I'm going to finish today. I'm just going for it. And loving it." It was the truth -- that was mile 7ish of the run and not once had I looked at my overall race time on my watch (expect for on the swim, oops). Definitely a first for me to ignore that number. Normally I'm doing math the whole time trying to see how I will finish.

When I finally did cross the finish and saw that I had that course PR and a half-Ironman run PR, it was a fun surprise. And my first thoughts were not the ususal, "How did I do in my AG blah blah...." my first thoughts were more like, "That was rad. How did John and my athlete do, and how soon till Pliny and pizza?!" (However, I did find out at some point I was 6th AG, so a top 10 in this race is always a good thing and keeps my streak of top-10 finishes alive!)

So this is essentially how it went down. I try to keep these things brief, but that gets tough, sorry:

I literally wore my slippers to T1. I had no extra shoes (run shoes were in T2), and I had to keep my little tosies warm! If you know me, you know my feet are chronically cold, and it was a chilly morning. I hate starting a race freezing. I got a few looks for my uber-relaxed morning look, but, hey, I was comfy.

Fast forward through all the pre-race poop and prep, and I still had a lot of spare time before my 7:12 wave. John's wave went off ~20 minutes before mine, and at that point I was all suited up and ready to go, so I just hung out, taking in the environment and energy of those moments before a race. I felt at ease and an overwhelming sense that I was meant to be standing in that exact spot, doing this race. Took 5 MAP* (had also taken 5 when I first woke up), and gathered with the 29 & unders.

Started the swim sans legit warmup (down river was too shallow), and I knew from the first second it was going to be ugly. I felt like I had no power and was just sinking. I was hoping this was not going to be the theme for the day, but tried to just focus on the task at hand. Unfortunately I felt the sensation of calf cramping coming on, too, and this time I think it's because I was too hot combined with lack of swim fitness. That meant my kick resorted to mush to save the legs. The sinking continued.

Just after the turnaround it got really freaking shallow, more than I've ever experienced here. I was trying to swim, but there was almost no room to pull all the way through. I saw 80+ percent or more of the people around me get up to walk/run, and I thought that maybe doing the same would help ease the calf issue, too, so I stood and yogged. Mmm, probably a dumb move, as that pissed off calves more, so less than a minute later I was "swimming" again. When I stood I saw my watch said 25:xx and I laughed, thinking of my last blog and how I said I'd be happy with a sub-40 swim without a wetsuit. Revise that: now I'd be happy with sub-40 WITH a wetsuit haha. Oh well. Terrible swim, but I sneaked in under 40 with 39-something. Yikes. That was a reality check.

I was talking about the swim with my buddy, Mike (gym owner and IMC training partner), and he said to me, "who cares about that time -- it's a triathlon with three sports and you PR'd overall." Point taken.

Oh ya: My Garmin clocked 1.5 miles of swim and John's said 1.7 mi... did anyone else have a long swim? Other folks' times didn't seem to reflect a long swim, so I'm curious. I swam fairly straight it seemed.

I didn't let the swim leave me feeling defeated. I expected it to be bad -- not that bad -- but even a half IM is a long day and I wanted to be in a good mood for it. I could control that. So I focused then on controlling HR, which was ridic. Needed to chilllll. Got my 5 MAP ready to take in as soon as I mounted.

This a very decent ride for me, and probably the best I felt all day. Never had that urge to get off the bike, as can sometimes happen at mile ~50. Went 2:43 and change, which is 4 minutes faster than on this course last year. My average watts were on target (mid-180w average), power never dropped off, and it was always 200w+ on climbs, which felt fine for me. Those long climbs in Big Bear and around home have paid off because the Sonoma hills felt like cake walk.

It helped that the weather was very mild. No sun at all until nearly mile 40, and wind seemed almost non-existent. Although, later I heard others said they felt the headwind was bad. Just a matter of perspective I guess. The only negative of the foggy and chilly morning was that I screwed up and didn't drink enough, only 2 out of 3 bottles. Oops.

John and I drove the course the day prior, and I was thinking about how much of it I didn't remember! On one hand, I think that's acceptable because I do have a tendency to get in the zone. But on the other hand, I think I rush through races too much and forget to appreciate the moment. So I made a point to take it all in this time. I definitely was able to do just that, without sacrificing speed. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Being that this course is not too hilly, there is often a lot of traffic buildup. I didn't see too much drafting, but bigger lines of riders would form, and many times they were going a pace slower than mine. Even though they're slower, it's still hard to pass a big group like that safely and legally. Essentially you have to burn some matches when you release a burst of energy like that and surge ahead. I had quite a few of those situations, and was rarely on my own during the bike -- but that's how it is for us AG'ers, expected. The good thing about racing with others are those friendly riders who give kind shoutouts. I personally made more of an effort to be one of those folks, and was more vocal than usual giving shoutouts to others, especially the volunteers.

My nutrition was good not great. As mentioned, I only drank 2 out of 3 bottles of my Skratch. Thankfully I went into the race extremely well-hydrated so it didn't seem to negatively impact me too much. I often drink ad libitum when training, and my intake always seems to vary based on weather, sweat rate, etc, and I do well with that. However, I don't think I drank enough for a 2:43 ride with a run to follow, regardless of weather.

The good thing about my nutrition was eating nearly 3 Bonk Breakers (each bite with a swig of drink) and the tummy handled that just fine -- and no repercussions on the subsequent run. I pre-cut each bar into 6 pieces and put in baggies. Thank you Bonk Breaker for making a product that I continue to enjoy every time I take a bite, whether training, racing or snacking! Never get sick of those things, and, my system handles them well.

More bike stats: My Garmin got 1,464 ft of elevation gain, and just under 56 miles by a hair. Average speed was 20.5 mph or something. HR average mid 150s.

Long T2 because there's a long way to run once you dismount. Simple concept ;) No biggie. Took another 5 MAP while still within transition land.  Had a bottle of lemon lime Skratch waiting for me, as well as a gel.

Surprise! Run PR of 1:41 and change, and actually the first time I've kept all my mile splits sub-8 in a half-Ironman (7:44 average pace). Still a long way to go to get closer to my open half time, but at least it's going in the right direction.

My run training this year has been mostly all MAF, if you're curious, and very little speedwork. Also, I've done a handful of long runs (longer than I used to do) off the bike, and while those sessions were few and far between, I think they paid off, even if overall training was rather blah. Plus, we got lucky and the weather was ideal on race day. Probably 70s and a light breeze. Not too hot at all. i.e. not those 100+ temps they had just days prior, whew.

The Vineman run has some decent rolling hills, but nothing more than what I have right outside my front door, so I felt fine on those and just took them comfortably hard, and let HR settle down on the downhill that would follow. The "biggest" hill comes at mile 4, but it's not so bad, I think that mile had 50ft of elevation gain?

After that hill, I finally started to feel my feet. Yup -- my feet were literally numb for the first 4+ miles, no joke. I got off that bike feeling warm, but the feet were still suffering, and it literally took almost a half hour to get rid of that feeling of running on bricks at first, and then pins and needles. I'm used to that by now, but that doesn't mean it's normal :/

Overall, I didn't feel that great on the run (to be expected to some degree, right?), but I knew some decent fitness was there because the legs were responding to the task and my pace didn't really drop off too much at any point. I recall at Oceanside this year going through a dark patch -- that didn't happen this race. I ended with a strong finish that was slightly faster than my overall average. That said, the last ~5k I finally started feeling it -- you know, those miles where your effort is increasing like crazy just to hold on to your pace. I held on to a sub-7:50 pace for the most part as I finished, but it was getting tougher by the second... and then, ahhhh. finish line.

Nutrition-wise: I drank that full bottle of Skratch, I think it was a 24oz bottle, had one gel, and water at aid stations after the bottle was gone. Looking back, maybe I could have had more calories on the run, but my stomach felt great and I was afraid to shove too much into and have that change (it's happened) so I played it conservatively. It's a gamble, and yea maybe I could have used more and gone faster... or maybe I could have had more and caused GI issues. Overall, I averaged ~240 calories per hour on the bike and run (more of that, though, on the bike), so that's pretty good.

What can I say? It was a good effort on my part: I was mentally strong, and physically able to execute. While I feel that I'm at a point in my tri career where I want/should be seeing bigger more significant drops in times, I have to look at the bigger picture and keep perspective. Clearly some things will need to change to get to that next level. I'll figure out what I need, and want, to do about all that.

But honestly I didn't feel any disappointment when I finished. Not in the least! My spirits were high as can be, I was smiling at the finish from ear to ear, and I got to share that post-race high with good people... And the laughing and fun continued well into the night over pizza and beer. We also got to celebrate half-Ironman PRs for John and my athlete, yay!
I sorta failed on pictures this trip, but I have the obligatory
post-race beer photo, this time with a fresh Hop Stoopid
straight from the course at Lagunitas. Makin Lucho proud.
What's next is not going to be easy, but I'm giving it my best shot. I have 6 weeks. Go!


I'll finish with a BIG thanks to all those folks who support me; love you all: 110% Play Harder Compression (wore my socks during the race), Bonk Breakers, Skratch, Specialized, Shimano, Betty Designs (will ask you to make you click banner to your right), my family and friends.... xoxo

*MAP- I continue to be a huge believer in this product. Even when "life" doesn't go as planned, this supplement undoubtedly gives me that extra boost and prevents fatigue on race day, training, etc. Try it out, you will see for yourself!


  1. Nice job Tawnee!! Way to "get over" your swim and keep on pushing! Great picture too! :)

  2. My Garmin had 1.22 on the swim. May be the only time it's been that close, though. Usually it reads long on swims for me and my sighting is usually pretty good. Based on my time the course seemed about right.