Vineman 70.3 - Race Report

This is my second of what I hope to be three successful trips to wine country this year and I was hoping for another great day where I really enjoyed myself as I did at Monte Rio back in May. I was not feeling very well in the week leading up to the race as I had been fighting something off but I stuck to the routine for race prep and actually felt ok race morning. Having taken it easy in the week prior to the race and with two weeks until the Full Vineman my plan was to race strong but controlled and try to keep my energy normalized throughout.

Race morning went smoothly and I ran into a bunch of old friends, some I had not seen in years who had come out to race or support others that were racing and with my mom out to support me too it was a very special morning. I went for a short jog to warm my body up and as always the cool morning air amongst the redwood forests was so refreshing and energizing.  The sun was just coming up inland and treated the river valley to sun-kissed cloud cover welcoming the days adventure.

P.C. Tracey Matthews

The field was stacked this year and large too which is always great because you know that you won't be alone and having other people around makes the day much more enjoyable. The water was warm but comfortable and it felt good to get in and loosen up with long time friends and shake out any last pre-race jitters. We all lined up and I realized that Craig Alexander was on one side of me and Matty Reed was on the other and I though to myself 'This is really cool that I get to do this!' With the highly competitive field a lot of guys hit the throttle right from the start. Sticking with my plan of staying within myself I took my time accelerating up to a comfortable pace and watched a sizable group get away. I knew there were strong swimmers in the field so I wasn't worried but I did end up leading the chase group which takes a bit more energy but it is also nice to pick your own line and not get kicked in the fingers constantly. The swim went well, and I knew that I had been on the right pace because about two thirds of the way in I was ready to be done swimming. There were a couple of people that had tailed off the lead group not too far ahead and a few people just behind me so I felt good about having people to race with.

P.C. Jeff Kapic -
I came out of the water with Chris McDonald just ahead of me and we swarmed though T1 quickly to get out on the bike course. 

P.C. Jeff Kapic -

I let myself keep a solid pace right from the start of the bike and told myself that I would let off if my body needed it. Chris got out of sight after about 5 miles but then a couple of guys started coming back and I passed two or three by mile ten and felt really good about that. Around that point a group came up from behind me that included Yu Hsiao, Matty Reed, Dylan Bridges and several others that I knew would put in solid bike splits. I slotted into the back of this group as it came up and we went through the first aid station together. Miles 20-30 the pace went way up and I could not hold on to the group. I got split off with one other rider and we traded off making pace for about the next ten miles until we hit the Chalk Hill area and he left me behind. I honestly don't know if I could have stayed with group, or with him afterwards, what price I would have paid for that later or why I often feel like I am riding with the breaks on when I time trial but I kept my eye on the clock and was making good time for me on that course so I let it go. I missed one turn on the way back to town but made a quick course correction and cam into T2 under 2:20 which I was very happy with given that I have ridden slower on that course when I was in better shape!

T2 was longer this year than in the past but there was a nice strip of grass along the sidewalk to run on and it was nice to get a little jog before the transition itself to loosen up my legs before starting the run. I had made the decision to put on socks in T2 to prevent any blistering or discomfort in my feet with the short turnaround before the Full Vineman in mind. If you have trouble with those kinds of issues I definitely recommend talcing up some socks and spending the extra 5-10 seconds in transition to get that extra comfort. I left transition with one guy just ahead of me. He was running a solid pace but faster than I wanted to go. It was nice to have him up the road for a while though to keep focused on and I stayed mindful of my watch and respiration to keep within my own limits and controlled as we began to hit some of the rolling hills on the course. A few other people passed me on the way out to La Crema Winery where the turn around is as well but I felt good and was keeping a pace I was happy with while maintaining my energy and recovery levels. The loop out through the vineyard was the toughest part of the day and I felt really beat for that section but came out and realized that I still had not been passed by anyone in the women's field! This was actually one of my goals for the day was to not get blown out of the water by the women's race. I was on a good day and by the time I made the half way point I was already satisfied with how I was performing at this time of year. 

There is a short out-and-back section after exiting the winery and on the way back I got a look at where the women's race was. Meredith Kessler was within two minutes of me with Magali Tisseyre only a couple of minutes behind her and Mirinda Carfrae a few more behind her. With 6 miles to go I figured a couple of them would catch my but I was doing better than I had expected so I was totally ok with that. Meredith caught me just before mile 9 and was really working hard...I could tell that she was at her limit and the gap she had wouldn't hold if she faded as Magali looked like she was running strong. When she came up along side me I gave her some encouragement and picked up my pace to match hers and run with her for a while. When you are suffering that hard it is a lot better to have company and I knew Meredith from the Bay Area triathlon community so to be able to offer support of any kind, even if it was only mental or emotional, was an honor for me. We were keeping up a good clip and I think the energy of the moment had renewed my strength as I felt like I was breezing along at a pace that I had not been able to run all day. Meredith thanked me and I gave her encouragement when I could...I looked back to make sure the gap was good and let her know that she we doing great and holding Magali off, that the pace was solid and she was running strong. I went up ahead to the aid station  at mile 11 so I would be out of her way and got some water then dropped back and settled in for to hold on as long as I could. We continued along at a strong pace until about mile 12 and one last roller did me in...I began to unravel and I told her to keep it up, that she was still good on the gap and doing great.

I backed off to a comfortable jog knowing there was only a mile to go and I had accomplished everything I wanted to for the day. I watched Meredith forge ahead and turn up to Windsor high school alone and got passed by Magali with about a half mile to go. When I turned into the finishing shoot I saw my mom and took a moment to stop and give her a hug and thank her for being there...Dave Latourette gave me some encouragement as I came in and a wink acknowledging in two weeks time I was going to have to do it all again just twice and then I was done. I was pretty exhausted at the finish line and stood with my head down for a minute just to regain some equilibrium. Meredith came over and gave me a big hug and a thank you and I told her that it had been such an honor for me and it really was.

I sat in the shade and got several cups of water to drink and pour over my head to cool off and chatted with the other athletes about their day and their goals for the season. All in all it was a good day and given how I felt the week before and my amount of preparation and fitness this year I am very happy with the result! I may never be competitive amongst the best in the world, I think that I just don't have that gift, but as that expectation has fallen away I have gained a much greater appreciation for the awesome experiences and incredible moments I have been gotten to go though in the races I have done and this race was no exception! With the 70.3 under my belt I am looking forward to the Full Vineman on July 25th and I can't wait to see what that adventure has to offer!

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