Good Day race fans!!! Well, here’s another race report from a regular AG triathlete.
The morning was wonderful at a cool 63 degrees and everyone is happy and mellow. I got my favorite spot in transition. LOL, yes I’m one of those, I like to be on the end of the rack so I can spread out.
Let the games begin!! Got into the water for a pre warm up swim, test the water release race anxiety. “Two min”, Bill announces. I got to the front of the group for the swim start, and they’re off! I was swimming stroke for stroke with someone and feeling pretty good. We were leading and getting into position, couldn’t hold her though, she started slipping away. That’s ok I thought, I still need to bike and run. I got out of the swim 16:24 rank 4 in AG. I’m feeling good, ready to bike.
T1 had my Fav salted watermelon Gu Roctane (thank you Folsom Bike for carrying the latest and greatest in nutrition). Word of advice, never forget to hit the button on your Garmin!!!! I didn’t realize it till I was over the last speed bump heading out the park on the bike. I felt good on the bike except I had a song stuck in my head that some people were singing “Age of Aquarius”, I really don’t know the words, only what they sang and it was on repeat. So, the bike which was a 1:19:4 (6) in AG. It was a psychedelic blur.
T2 2:40 what was I doing? lol, I think I was on a lunch break.
Run- 44:13(4) in AG. . It was nice running weather at 66 degrees and sunny. I love the run portion of the Rancho races. Rolling hills, coach Karyn says hills are our friend, today, I was actually believing that statement.
Finish! Yay! I love coming across the line 2:20:22 4th place in A.G. Awesome! Podium for Folsom Bike!
We selected this event almost a year ago and I had not planned to be coming off of a full IM event 3 weeks earlier. Nor had I realized this would be my 12th Full Ironman since 2009. I always had heard this was a beautiful and challenging course. Last years extreme heat was more of an exception so I was not overly concerned.
We arrived a few days early and were the houseguests of our IM Athlete Services friends. Despite a very long travel day of delays we felt right at home once we arrived and were greeted by 3 super cool dogs. We got dialed in with a great bike shop Vertical Earth and they quickly made some adjustments that were compliments of the sloppy TSA. Did our check in and got a nice feel of the start, finish and transition areas.
Then it was time to get wet. The lake looked awesome and several athletes were getting some yards in. Having heard the water temp was 71-72 degrees I was starting to rethink my full wetsuit. However, with a 6am start I felt I would be more comfortable in long sleeves. The water was super clear and fresh, as it reminded me a lot of Lake Tahoe or Donner and it was amazingly, silky smooth. I did about 1100 yards and my time seemed pretty fast. That gave me a boost of confidence.
We drove the 2-loop bike course and then the reality check occurred. It was stated to be 7,000ft of climbing. Nothing though seemed to steep, nothing like our Beatty Hill. However there were some long climbs but that also meant there would be some long down hills. The roads seemed okay and a good segment was on a 4-lane highway, which would have two lanes for the event.
Transition bags were gathered and dropped on Saturday along with the bikes. Eyed the swim course, which was a two-loop swim and it required you to exit and re enter. Saturday afternoon was the pre race pizza, which is the fuel that has worked, so not time to deviate. Do what works, right?
3:30 alarm came quick. Our friends dialed us in with great logistics for parking race morning reducing some stress. This was the earliest start for an IM race I have had at 6am. All buoys were in and the outline of the swim looked pretty clear. Buoys were located on the left and that is my breathing side!
Swim: I lined up with the 1:16-1:30 start group. Being self seeded you really don’t know how it will play out. However I know that anything faster may be trouble with getting swallowed up. Scott had already lined up with a group ahead. So as I waited with my friend Heather, trying to stay relaxed. Dusk turned to dawn and the cannon fired and the race was on! It took about 10 minutes to get in; having not warmed up I was off dolphin diving in. Trying to stay straight kept eyes down and followed feet. But you need to hope those feet are going straight. It was a choppy start. Bodies, boats and currents were ever present and I was trying to avoid mouthfuls of water. It seemed like I was moving but really had to pull to get over the waves. Made the 1st turn which felt wide and lost site of the 200 meter buoy with the waves. Got aligned and then made that second turn to count down 8 buoys. It seemed like forever to get back to the start and I could see the black arch, hear the announcer, but I was not yet there. Finally got out and ran about 15 yards and dove back in without looking at my watch. Not sure if that was purposeful or being very focused. Much less crowded upon re-entry. More chop and just worked to stay straight keeping tight to the buoy line. Made the 1st turn lap 2 and then the second. Again the last 400 meters seemed forever, getting whacked to the head from a big guy who actually stopped and apologized. WTH? Determined to get done I landed on shore.
Time 1:28:44. 32nd AG/53
Transition included changing into my Folsom Bike Tri shorts and managing my time. Volunteers were great, stripping my wet suit and helping with my T1 needs. I’m ready and time to fly.
Bike: It was already warm and I was sprayed with sun block to avoid the burn. Crowds were all over. Sends chills down my neck! Cheers and screams! Got in areos and off for the 1st 20, which was along the lakeshore. It was gorgeous and serene. Need to focus and stay away from trouble. Got a good cadence and was about 18.5 mph. Made the turn and headed back to town. Closed to car traffic it was great to stay in drops, had some early climbing but not gets out of saddle climbs. Back to town and hearing the crowds I am motivated. Had my friend Jim on the sideline who got my picture and noticed the thumbs up! Ride Happy, Ride Like a Girl! Left town and now headed to the Idaho plateau. All seemed good. Climbing, sweating, downhills, uphills and staying around 18+ mph. Race leaders are already speeding back down. Craze! A couple no pass zones and then freedom. I pushed saw Scott and I was happy as he was to see me. I made the turn around at about 40 miles and headed back to town. Some screaming downs hills in which I was 37-38mph. Back to town and ready for lap two. I was still strong, and about 3:10 ish into the 56 mile point. I was thinking about 6:30 or faster finish, I proceeded, but it was a tale of two loops. The second was compared to sinking in quick sand. The winds were 20-25 mph that is no joke when your climbs were 8-10%. My fitness should be able to endure that but I was slowly reduced down to an average 15.5, not good. I was passed by a gal f in a Green Bay WI tri kit. Seriously there are no hills in GB. I was mentally breaking. Heat was getting to me and I made the turn around hoping that the downhill would get me back to at least 18 mph avg. While peddling hard I almost got taken out by a RWB athlete, who made a bad move to stop dead in his tracks. 30 miles to go and press forward still could be under 7 hours if I could maintain. Did I say 7 hours? That was not the plan but all I could do is manage what I had. Raced back in town and crowds disbursed, was I that late? I am bummed. I passed a lot in my AG and hoped that I was in the mix for top 5 but no idea. Got to transition and they took my bike and I headed to a long transition to get my run gear.
7:05:56 bike—terribly disappointing. 16th AG/53
Run: Stay positive, despite some cramps I need to muster out this run. Not so fast, my GPS watch died again, second race in a row…so discouraged. But who needs a watch, I just need to run. The run was rollers and a little short hills. Flat along the lakeshore at the golf course. It was 3 loops and mentally that is always tough. I then started getting passed by my AG…. not good. I had smileys on my calves so I did get some guy chatter and that helped. I finally saw Scott for the 1st time…. a got a hug and kiss. He was hurting some. The thought of let’s finish together would mean 7 min miles to catch him and he would be walking. Not happening. Made my turn around and back thru some fun neighborhoods of the rich and famous. Great support.
Lap 2 is underway and a lot like lap one but slower. Just stay focused…number 12 finish is in reach and you have 6 hours. No problem. It seemed forever but I saw Scott again and it was comforting. The sky once sunny was now covered in a big dark cloud and it smelled smokey. A big fire had erupted and it seemed close. Some ash sprinkled down. Wow, is this IMLT Pt 2? No one said anything but AQI was changing. Keep running. It was relief the sun was covered and now it was past 12hours…so much for that. I still had 10 + miles. And my thought of a podium had diminished and now it was about finish. Back to town a 2nd loop completed and I heard a guy say Dairy Queen closes at 9pm I still have 2 hours. So I knew it was around 7pm and 13 hours in…let’s get this done. I made the turn around and hung with some local SF young guys…then I passed them. Less than 4 miles to go. Run walk repeat. Then Mile 24 and I said let’s run. And what felt like an 8 min pace, and hearing in the distance you are an IM kept me moving. The spectators, volunteers really kept me moving. Mile 25 placard and I got to get this done and Scott has been waiting. Running hard, and passing a couple in the last mile and the finish shoot was mine, some hand slapping and a big smile and hearing my name. I thought to myself you have come a long way, hating swimming, and doing your 1st IM in 2009 with friends to 7 years later and sharing this journey with my soul mate and my 12 th finish. Crossing that line and standing upright and then the exhaustion.
Run 5:22:26 14th AG/53
Final time 14:12:56 14th/53 AG
The silver lining was having FolsomBikeTriathlon Team getting 3rd place in Tri Club Division V that had many in group!
Thank you Folsom Bike for the support and Proud to Ride Like a Girl!
I’ve been racing long course triathlon for the past 2 1/2 years. Vineman was my second full IM, my first was IMAZ ’14. I’ve also done two 70.3’s. Training started out slowly in 2016. It wasn’t until my coach switched to a short course plan, and eventually a 12 week IM Advanced plan that I started to see my form finally come around. When it did, it was fantastic though. Eventually, only one or two of my regular ride buddies could hang and I started consistently dropping guys who were even with me just a year ago.
Priority one was the bike where I have the most room to improve, then running and last of course swimming. I made sure to hit my volume goals in the camp/ RR weeks and to really push myself on those Wednesday & ABP rides Solid race rehearsals and knowing what to expect this time compared to the great unknown of my first IM gave me confidence that I could beat my first IM time of 11:58, despite hillier bike and run profiles
So that’s the background, now about the race.
The Vineman swim takes place in the shallow and relatively narrow Russian River, making navigation straightforward. Based on RR times, I went between the 1:00 and 1:05 groups in the self-seeded start. I mowed over some slow guys early, was kicked once or twice by guys passing me, but otherwise just held position. It was shallow enough in some spots to stand and walk but once I figured out that a super-high elbow technique had me passing the walkers I went with that. The turn around seemed to come up quickly and I still felt good and in control so I just kept pulling long and strong all the way home. Noteworthy; the new sleeveless wetsuit really helped free up my stroke since I have more muscular arms and shoulders. My wife was pumped at the swim exit so I figured the time was solid.
Swim time – 1:02:36. Six minutes faster than IMAZ ‘14 despite averaging just 2 swims and 8k yards/ week. Solid ROI
T1 the volunteers were great at stripping wetsuits and clearing the way. I sat down in the changing tent just long enough to put shoes on, the remaining admin was done on the move. From recon, II know there’s a steep hill right at the mount line and predictably tons of guys fighting their machines struggling to mount and start climbing that quickly. As planned, I ran clear up the first hill and past a couple riders before mounting. A spectator yelled, “smart, very smart” as I was clipping in and I almost crashed turning to say “thanks”!
T1 time – 3:05
My weakness! As mentioned earlier, I put in a ton of seat time getting faster on the bike. As the bike leg unfolded, predictably rider after rider passed me. VM is a rolling course with a few bigger hills where everyone seemed intent on dancing on the pedals and racing each other uphill in the middle of nowhere. At times, I was going so easy that I happily whistled a tune as folks whizzed by me. If they were more experienced and faster, then I had no business chasing them, if they were overcooking the bike then I would run them down.
By mile 90 I was still doing well, still staying aero and even starting to catch people. so different from IM #1, where I had lower back problems all day long and sat up for most of the bike. The regular strength and core training really paid off.
With 7 miles to go, just as things were looking good and I was sure I would break 6 hrs, disaster struck. I punctured my rear tire on a nasty little tack. I sprang into action quickly but try as I might I could not get the tire changed. Everything that could go wrong in that moment did. First I couldn’t get the spare tube out of the aero bottle where I had crammed it for the first time ever (never try new stuff on race day, I know). Then I couldn’t remount the tire on the rim. Each time it was almost on, it popped off again and again four, then five times? I lost count then I lost it. I freaked out I admit it. Seven agonizing minutes later the wheels were finally rolling again.
Officials reported that multiple athletes flatted in same area. Allegedly some clown intentionally spread tacks on the road. If that’s true, words fail me especially since it happened at other IM’s this year.
As I finally got back up to speed, I glanced at my HR which had hung around 140 bpm all day and it had spiked to over 170 just standing there wresting that freaking tire! Those last five bike miles gave me just enough time to slow my pulse and get my head back in the game.
Bike time – 6:06 all in. 13 min improvement. (Did I mention 7min tire change?)
As I finally handed off my bike and ran to the changing tent I kept repeating my mantra; “get your sh#*t together, it’s an Ironman.” I had a zip lock go-bag inside the main bag with my visor, race number, salt tabs and the Coach Patrick run-saver bag. Once the shoes were on, I was out and moving quickly, doing the admin as I went.
It was a hot day my friends; 85 degrees, no shade and borderline muggy. The course consists of 3 out and backs with one significant half-mile hill in the middle, meaning we climbed that sucker 6 times total, and yeah that got old quick. Lap one felt ok but seemed to take forever. Only 4 miles in I got my feet wet aggressively dumping water on myself. Then the special needs guys missed me twice and I never got to the dry socks or those skittles I was dreaming about. But after that nightmare flat, I figured if some blisters where my second biggest problem, then it was still going to be a good day.
As the miles ticked by, my wet left foot really started hurting and I knew I was tearing up my sole but I just didn’t care about anything but the finish. Keeping the run-saver bag full of ice and staying wet at all times were crucial to surviving the heat. That, and knowing that I had followed the bike plan almost exactly.
By lap two I really found my rhythm and focus. Coming through the bottom of the course again I yelled to my cheering section “I’ll be right back!” In that moment, I knew I had it in the bag even with 8 miles to go because I was winning the mental game. It was highly satisfying passing so many familiar tri kits from the bike leg as they shuffled or worse, walked slowly along. Failure to plan is preparation for failure.
Run time: 3:56:48 – 23 min improvement
Total Time: 11:11:38. Hoped for a 10:XX but I will take the 45 min improvement.
All day long I was so fortunate to have my family cheering me on and to share the day with so many peeps from Endurance Nation and Folsom Bike Tri Team all supporting each other. That support and camaraderie meant the world. I won’t pretend to have this IM thing figured out, I know better. But that’s the beauty of it, so much left to learn, so much room to get faster and smarter. Now I do know I’m not a “one and done guy”. 2x Ironman sounds so much better.
Thanks for reading. Exorcise with Exercise.
Having done this event several times I keep trying to raise the bar in time performance and AG placement.
The race logistics are a bit challenging since this is a point-to-point event with 19 miles between swim start and T2- T3. This year was the new bike check in the day before. So that involved 1st checking into Windsor HS and then driving down to the start in Guerneville’s getting parked and the walk to the river. It kind of makes sense as the race logistics and single lane entry and exits from this area backs traffic up. We both got racked and then put our toes in the water, which felt nicely cool considering warm temps. 3 weeks ago they dammed up the swim start so the hot temps had not heated up the water temps yet. It was likely wetsuit legal but no confirming till AM. We checked out the pro racks and saw our friend Jim Lubinski and Robin Pomeroy spots. So back to the hotel and the fueled up with some amazing wood fired pizza at a local joint.
Race morning comes quick and another drive to Guerneville in the dark and a long walk to transition from parking. We wanted to connect with our fellow teammates Robert Peterson and Brian Skehan pre race. We were all pretty spread out in swim waves with birthday boy Scott Williams super early and Brian and Robert in the middle and I was more than an hour after Scott. So plenty of time to have stray thoughts and watch the Pro’s exit from Swim and hop on bikes. This is the latest start and also facing the heat of the day could really change my day. Thank Marnie Skehan for cheering us on and taking pictures!
The F50-54 AG was now getting close to the waters edge and with 3 min in-between waves we swam in to the line up and off we went. This is a fairly “easy swim” but swimming is never that easy for me. I felt like I was moving until I felt the next group starting to pass me…stay focused. Counting buoys and I knew I was close to turn around. The sun was rising and I felt it in my sleeveless suit. I could hear the cheers at the shore and tried to beeline straight there. Exited the water and glanced at time clock…41:34 came as a surprise as I felt faster. 3:24 Transition
Quickly transitioned and hopped on the bike. I know the course pretty well but riding it 1x a year there is always something you don’t remember. My goal is to try to be less than 3 hours. The temp was already warm as I rode and started to pass people in the first few miles. I was conscious of the calves looking for F50-54’s. That’s the hunter in me. I tried for a good portion of the race to stay aero. Watching my speed and cadence. Came to the notorious chalk hill which is now nice paved and is a bump considering we ride Costco Hill and just because. 10 miles to go and I was projecting to be under the 3 hr. time.
Bike 2:54:43 3:12 Transition
Now to get in and out of transition and off to the half marathon. I like this run as it does have hills and dirt path thru a vineyard. It is exposed but there are patches of shade. All I need to keep under 2hrs to make my sub 6hr finish.
Saw several friends running as this is a loop course and it helps to keep each other motivated. This is a very competitive race so you were seeing some very fast athletes late in the race as they had the later starts.
I doused with water and continued to hydrate, trying to smile. I did see Brian Skehan as he was trying to work out his hamstring. I encouraged him and continued forward.
Made my second loop start and tried to maintain my pace. Doing the math it looked like a 5:45 finish. I focused and ran and headed back to the finish. Making that turn into the final turn into the high school and into the finish shoot. Hearing my name over the PA and pushed across the line. Exhausted and spent, the volunteers kept me upright and then I saw both Scott and Robert. Relieved. Got me out of the hot sun and doused with water. The guys seemed happy. 3 of 4 of us were finished. And Brian was not too far behind.
Run time 2:00:05 Final time 5:42:58 8/89 AG and 587/1996 OA
Happy for another opportunity to race and complete this great event. It was great to be here participating as a group representing Folsom Bike Triathlon Team. The four of house combined scored enough points to be 2nd in Division V for Tri Teams! Way to rock it!
Thank you Folsom Bike and the fabulous service staff that again had my bike dialed in!