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!
The weather was perfect at 71* for the swim, the water was chilly at first, but quickly warmed up with race adrenaline. I did the swim a little faster this time, at 29:04. I felt good going into Transition 1, changed quickly, lol almost left without my helmet, shoved my GU Roctane into my pockets and took off on the bike. Clipping into my bike I was so happy to get new clips from Folsom Bike a couple of days before. Zero float. My bike was a couple minutes faster at 1:32:38, not fast by any means, but enjoyable, especially hitting the nice smooth pavement of Amador County.
I noticed getting in to T2, that it was getting a little hot out here. I put my shoes on grabbed my hat almost forgot my race belt and number, and left my transition spot to trip on parking block. LOL, no harm, no fall, As I was leaving out on the run I saw Scott Williams from the Folsom Bike Triathlon Team cheering me on, yay, love some cheers! The run was what I’d imagine running through the Sahara would be like, hot dry and the aid stations were the oasis you see, and think is it real? I took off at a good pace 9:40, then 9:10, then 8:40, then the crash started to happen I settled down into a 10:11 min mile and realized that I’m thirsty, not a good sign. I ended up at a 13:47 min mile, not a good run I was 20 min slower than last time. I didn’t give in though; I finished and crossed the line. I ended up in 8th place. I was a little discouraged but happy that I didn’t give up.
Ironman Vineman 2016
Leading up to this race my confidence was broken a bit from Vineman ironman70.3, three weeks prior. That race was supposed to be an “A” race and I was hoping to PR. That particular day turned into a training day. Feeling run down, Tired and mentally not wanting to train leading up to the big day. I consulted a few friends and coaches I’ve had in the past, all recommended to just rest and take it easy. I listen and took all advice to heart and it all paid off. Two days prior to race day I started to get excited and pumped up for the challenge of 140.6 miles. I knew this was a good sign for me, I had enough rest between races, to perform.
Race day Morning
I woke around 0400 to eat my nutrition, and on the road at 0430 hrs to drive to the swim location (Johnson beach in Guerneville) but mainly to be beat the traffic into Guerneville. I like to give myself at least a 1.5 hours of extra time prior to the start of the swim. Believe me it goes fast when you dial the bike in, Mother Nature calls you to the porta Potty, and a short swim to warm up. 30 min prior to swim start I take 3 Clif Shot Block with caffeine for a little jump start.
Ironman had all competitors self-seeded by swim time to finish. I seeded with 1:20-1:30 min time group. Athletes were released in small groups at a time into the river, with over 2000 athletes this worked out pretty good, since the Russian river is narrow throughout the swim course. As I slowly pushed through the crowed and into the water I started off slow, and picked up the pace like I normally would swim. I have to mention, the river was very shallow around ¾ of a mile into the swim, some athletes walked to deeper waters, including myself. The water was dirty and hard to see in front of you most of the time. I finally reached the turnaround or halfway point, and the swimming was a lot easier and it felt like I was moving pretty fast down river. I finally reached the swim finish and looked at my watch and i swam 5100 yards @ 1:22 min.700 yards more than I needed to swim!! I’ll take that any day. My fastest swim ever; and a nice PR heading into T1. I knew today was going to be a good day. Swim time 1:22:48
Smooth transition nothing exciting to report, lots of mud accumulated on the bike cleats heading out of T1- 5:40
My goal on the bike was to ride around 18.5 -19 miles an hour or around 6:00 hours without crushing my legs and blowing up on the run. While exciting transition and starting the course the biggest problem I had was finding a comfortable group of people with the same speed on the bike. The first 20 miles I had to pass a ton of people and thus I pushed pretty hard on the bike to do so. Not part of the game plan. After finding a nice pocket where I could settle into a comfortable speed, I really needed focus on eating as much as I could about every 30 min. I had three Bonk Breaker bars on the bike that I needed to eat to stay on track with my nutrition plan. I executed this plan for first 60 miles. I stopped at the bike special needs to restock and I was off again. Around mile 80 on the bike I was too full to eat any more or drink anything. I managed to eat 5 Bonk breaker Bars and one full Gatorade, along with water. The winds also started to pick up on the course too, this made it difficult to push hard on the bike and maintain the speed I wanted. Also, I started to fade a bit, around mile 90. There is one hill called Chalk Hill, it’s a small hill in my book, not to steep, but it can be a pain after 90-95 miles on the bike. I pushed up Chalk Hill and some downhill relief, as I rested the legs for a few miles coasting downhill. The final 12 miles were tough heading back into town as winds were very persistent. I was happy to see T2 to get off the bike that’s for sure. Bike time 6:15:33
T2- 5:36 : Smooth transition from bike, to run. Took a shot of “Hot Shot” for cramp prevention put the shoes and visor on and off I went.
I felt pretty good getting off the bike in transition; I wasn’t thirsty or hungry at all. That’s a big plus for me. Previous races I haven’t felt that way. My biggest concern on the run was my cramping issues that I have around mile 6 or 7 on the run. I wanted to see if “Hot Shot” would cure this problem. I took one on the bike, one shot in T2 and I had one shot ready to go in my back pocket of my jersey. My game plan for the run was to run the first 6 miles nonstop to see how I felt with cramping issues, stop at every aid station and for water and to cool my head. I started the run around 2 o’clock, it happened to be a warm day but not too hot. The run course was a three loop course that you had to climb the same hill three times. Not a huge hill but long enough to take the wind out of your sails. I had to re-adjust my game plan on mile 8 because my legs were getting pretty tired. The new game was to walk the hills and run the rest as much as I could. This plan worked out perfectly. Also, I started to set goals of finishing before dark and possibly under thirteen hours. 2.5 laps into the run I started to pick up the pace to finish before dark. Last mile into the run I could hear everyone cheer and hear that famous “You are an Ironman” that always gives me the chills. I slowed down on the red carpet to give high fives to the kids and enjoy the moment of hearing my name “Brian, You, are, an, Ironman.” I have to say I had a good day of racing, everything came together and I feel I had a solid race. I finished before dark, missed my goal of finishing under 13 hours though.
Run time 5:25
I really enjoyed every moment of this race; sadly I was disappointed to finish so soon, Good problem to have, I guess. This was my 5th Triathlon of the year meeting my race requirements for my team “Folsom Bike Triathlon Team”. I want to thank Folsom Bike, and Karyn Hoffman for allowing me to represent The Folsom bike name and Folsom Bike Triathlon Team. It’s truly an honor to help represent my favorite bike shop, racing up and down the state of California. Hopefully I’m welcomed back next year to represent Folsom Bike Triathlon Team. I already have my race season planned for 2017. I can say Folsom Bike is very well known! I’m sad my racing season is over but, now it’s time fight fires throughout the state of California.
Swim– Ironman releases swimmers by Age group and it was really nice to be placed in an earlier wave this year, right after the Pro’s.
Mentally I didn’t have to worry about being last. As my swim wave entered the water, the water temp was perfect and my nerves began to calm a bit. Swam to the starting line, roughly 200 yards out from the boat ramp, waited about 2 minutes for the official horn-alert to start…. I settled into my swim, got comfortable and remained calm after a hard fought battle of positioning. At times I felt like a salmon swimming up River. First half of the swim was smooth, water was calm and sighting was perfect. Second half of the swim was a little tricky coming back to the harbor. My sighting was off a bit from the bright sun and glare off the ocean. Once I saw the rocks that protected the harbor I sighted off those and they guided me right into the swim Shute into T1. Not my best swim but I’ll take it. Swim Time 46:05
T1 Swim to Run
Long run into bike racks, collected my thoughts, took a deep breath and made sure I got a bite to eat before jumping on the bike.
T1 transition time 5:56
Bike– I felt really good jumping on the bike. I know this course from previous years so I understand where to hammer down and where to ease off. I had a little glitch while riding, my nutrition bag on the bike, worked itself loose and dangled upside down for a few miles until I was able to gather as much as possible before it fell off. I settled back into a comfortable speed and hammered down until the hills started around mile 30. I felt comfortable on the hills and cruised into mile 40-45 where you head west for the ocean and, like the previous years, became a wind tunnel. No wind tunnel this year…. Thank you Mother Nature. My bike was on target and went as expected and I felt pretty good about it going into T2.
Bike Time 2:50
T2 Bike to Run
Another long transition that took forever it seemed like as expected, no problems.
T2 transition time 3:52
Run – I was a little anxious on how I might perform going into this run. My primary training focus was swim/bike with less time spent on my run leading up to this Oceanside event. I felt pretty good, got comfortable, up until mile 4 that’s when things started to unravel for me. I suffered a bit after mile 5, legs were tired, became hungry and my mental toughness was weak. I stopped at every aid station to eat as much as my stomach could handle. Around mile 9 my hamstrings became tight and felt like they wanted to cramp. I struggled to maintain focus and finish strong. I dug deep and finished the race. As always, it was a joy to see my beautiful wife at the end of the Finish Line waiting for me; that will never get old.
Run Time 2:16
Conclusion– Oceanside Ironman is one of my favorite races. I enjoyed riding through Camp Pendleton and the community support is always very inspiring. My Swim was consistent, my Bike felt good, but I felt my Run could have been a better effort, and not my best work. My Training focus in the next several weeks will focus a lot of time on my Bike/Run to prepare for my next Tri events in July. This event allowed me to show some consistency in key areas, while also showing me places to continually develop and train for. I am really excited to be racing for Folsom Bike!
Overall time 6:05.29