Vineman Monte Rio 2015

The Russian River has played a big part in my journey as an athlete and holds a special place in my heart so I was excited to add Monte Rio to my calendar this year. I earned my professional license at Vineman 70.3 originally and the Vineman family has been so supportive of me over the years.

This year, in keeping with my push to try to focus on enjoying events more rather than putting stress and pressure on myself, I didn't plan a place to stay for Monte Rio and just researched campgrounds nearby to explore when I got there. One great thing is that they let you set up everything the night before so you aren't as hurried in the morning! I dropped off my stuff, caught up with some friends, met some new fun people and even helped a couple of people with mechanical and technical issues with their gear. It was really fun to hang around and chat with people and provide advice and encouragement in transition the day before. Once I was all set I headed down the river to the coast and headed south to find a campground. Bodega Doons state park still had spaces available so I parked my car and set up my tent then went for a walk around the doons and the beach, took some pictures and just spent some time decompressing.

Without having made many plans I didn't have much to do so when I got hungry around seven I ate my diner and just crawled into my tent. I listened to music and dozed for a while. I woke up at 9:45 or so and listened to people laugh and tell stories around their campfires for a while then fell back asleep. I woke up again around 3:45 to the sound of light rain on my tent and then fell back asleep. Even though I didn't sleep straight through the night I felt rested from the accumulative relaxation and I think that this ended up being a good strategy for pre-race rest. In the morning I stuffed everything in my car and had some breakfast and coffee before heading out.

With everything set up already I didn't have to be there too early, when I got there I went for a quick warm up jog and was surprised my legs feeling pretty good! The light fog actually kept the temperature from dropping too much so it was cool but not too cold which was great. I got my wetsuit on and went down to the river to loosen up and check out the sight-lines. The water was very comfortable and the river valley is so beautiful you feel like you are swimming in a forested paradise! There were a couple of guys I knew starting the race and we chatted before the start about how training has been going and goals for the season. I lined up right next to Ted Simpkins who I know is a strong swimmer and we shook hands before the start.

When the horn went off we got a really clear start and I was glad not to get caught up with other people in the beginning.  Ted and I went stroke for stroke pretty much the whole way to the turn around which was nice and I think definitely helps keep you swimming straight and on a good pace. There were a couple of spots where you could dolphin dive and I would usually get a little advantage there then we would come back together. At the turn around I went through first and got the line going on the way back before Ted came by. He was swimming strong so I slotted in behind him and took the opportunity to glance back and see if anyone was chasing. It looked like a big gap to the next person. I was happy about this because I had not done much intensity this year and wasn't sure how I would fair throughout the day. Ted was pushing hard on the way back and I had trouble staying with hi at some points and had to dolphin dive hard on a couple of shallower sections to get back up to him. He had a body length lead on me coming out of the water and we had over a minute on the chasing group.

I passed Ted in transition and I got on my bike and moving as quickly as possible to try and preserve the gap that we had developed. I didn't feel like I was flying on the bike but I didn't feel as flat as I had been the last couple of weeks so I was happy for that. Ted re-passed me around mile 4 on the bike and I resolved to stay with him no matter how bad it hurt. The river road section is perfect pavement that rolls just slightly and heads down towards the coast which is perfect for time-trialing. Through the Austin Creek section Ted had the throttle on full blast and I was really digging deep to make sure he wasn't pulling away. Once we were back onto river road the speed picked up and around mile 10 I started gaining on Ted and passed him with a nod and told him we were strong and to keep it up. I went to the front and brought the speed up setting the best tempo I could. When we hit Hwy 1 I had started to pull away from Ted a little and I figured that might be a sign that I was on a good day so I dropped in and went for it. At the turnaround in Jenner, an absolutely beautiful little coastal town I had around 30 seconds on Ted and then I saw Yu Hsiao at around a minute back. I knew Yu was on good form from how fast he blew by me at Wildflower and I figured I would have to maintain that gap to the start of the run if I was going to have a chance to hold him off. I kept the pace hot on the way back to transition and only let up a little at the end to catch my breath and get out of my shoes.

I entered T2 first and to my surprise Yu had caught and passed Ted and they were both within 30 secconds of me. I rushed through transition and got out on the run as quickly as hope was that the chase on the bike had left Yu tired and that if I could hold the gap he might not be able to chase me down on the run. The Monte Rio run course is on a small two lane road that skirts the south side of the river and is almost entirely enclosed in a beautiful Redwood canopy and I kept thinking to myself 'This has to be the most beautiful course I have ever done!' Then of course the pain in my lungs would bring me back to reality. I went hard the first two miles and around then I heard Yu coming up on he went by I gave him a pat on the back and some encouragement. At first he was gaining slowly on me and by the turn around it was maybe a thirty second gap. I tried my best to keep my effort up in hopes that he would fade and I could make a late push to catch up but he never did and around mile five my cache of top end effort was all used up. I let my stride shorten and kept the turnover going for the last mile and came in just under two hours which I realized I told someone before the race that if I did that I would be stoked...and I was!

It was great to have a fun, positive, strong group to race with and I am glad to see that I haven't lost my ability to go hard at the shorter distances. I don't know what my favorite part of the race was, the incredibly beautiful and fun course or the awesome pancake breakfast they served for all the participants afterward but Monte Rio has made it on my list of favorite all time events and I hope that I can come back in future years to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and race with friends and some of the really awesome new people I met this year!

Thank you to my sponsors and everyone for supporting me over the years and continuing to believe in me!

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