Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sip 'N Cycle- Sonoma County: Days 1-4


Don't forget to elevate in the Zoot compression knickers!

Sip 'N Cycle Days 1 to 4

Our trip to Northern California was one part race, six parts super cycle vacation! Seriously, outside of maybe Italy or France, this is a dream vacation for a cycling duo. James and I made this trip a Christmas/Birthday gift to each other. We're all about the "experience" gifts rather than "things" (unless those "things" are carbon fiber, right?) 
Home base was a quaint 1 bedroom cottage 5 blocks from Healdsburg town square. Our location was money! Not the best for the race, but for everything else, it could not have possibly been better... Amazing riding, eating and exploring right out the front door. Only, no Versus, so we had to watch the Tour de France on the laptop. 
The Wattage Cottage (I found it here on VRBO)
Tour watching (squinting). Andy's arms looked like pieces of yarn on our "big scree"

The first couple of days we did things to get ready for and race Vineman 70.3. But afterwards our days were basically this: Coffee, Tour de France, 3 to 5 hour bike ride, explore the town, hit a Winery or 2 for a tasting, eat an amazing dinner. Sleep. Repeat! We ended up riding our bikes every day we were in Healdsburg, so I'm doing a little day-by-day to a) remember it and b) give you some ideas in case you ever make Vineman your own stay-n-traincation post race. We also did a little (very little) running & swimming, but I'm not including those...Basically, if you ever want to do a trip like this, I am planning it out for you! 

Day 1: Warm It Up! 
 (20 miles) : Just a little out and back from Healdsburg town center to Chalk Hill road. Descend into the Alexander Valley and turn around.
The quickie
This is just your warm up for the week to come. Spin out the legs, open 'em up a bit. For us, we also made sure our race bikes were ready to go for Vineman 70.3. Nothin' crazy- don't want to leave your race in the vineyard the day before!
Rolling through the first of thousands of Vineyards we'd see over the week
Passing by Soda Rock Winery

Eat! (There was no "Sip" the night before the race)
We opted to keep it simple and picked up big salads with bbq chicken (with all kinds of deliciousness inside like roasted brussels sprouts & potatoes) from Big John's Gourmet Market. Big John's is a great spot to stock your fridge or stop in for a meal.
Plentiful & Colorful salad from Big John's Gourmet Market

Day 2
 (56 miles): Race Day! So the bike ride was the Vineman 70.3 bike course. Guerneville to Windsor.
This course is fabulous, but I can't imaging actually doing this exact ride for training as it is point to point. but you could make it a nice 65-70 ish miler by starting/ending in Windsor and making River Road an out 'n back
Tearin' it up (or not) on the Vineman course
Vineman 70.3 race map
Sip and Eat
Post race we met up with a big fun crew at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA. It was awesome to spend some quality time with Laura/Steve, Jordan/Rich, Brandy, Heather/Mike, Hailey/Mark, JP, Sarah, Christine, and other fun folks. Beer and pizza all around. They have James' favorite IPAs in the country so this was a must-stop. The only difficult situation was that Sunday happens to be all-day happy hour and live music (which is awesome if you have a small group!) but made it tough to get tables and hear each other.

Day 3
 (30 miles): Recovery Ride- "Fitch the Bitch" (8 miles) and Dry Creek Loop (22 miles).
Ftich the bitch, Flying Goat, Dry Creek Loop

We wanted to explore the town hill- Fitch Mountain- for a nice view and possible running route. We got neither the view or the running. Fitch mountain is windy (as in turn-y not gusty), technical, poorly paved, and offers  no view, just a gate, barring your entry to the top. There was quite a bit of traffic on the tiny road and also several stray animals. Proceed with caution! Still, a nice adventure. After the Fitch Mountain (just 4 miles up & 4 miles back= 8 miles) escapade, we regrouped with an americano & high protein mini ginger muffin at Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg.
American & twitter check at Flying Goat Coffee
From Flying goat, we headed east on Dry Creek Road. Dry Creek Road is peppered with wineries and has some traffic, but offers a nice shoulder for most of the way. The terrain is gently rolling and perfect for a recovery ride or wine tour adventure. On your right, you will pass the Dry Creek General Store, a perfect stop for a picnic lunch (we didn't. it was only a recovery ride after all). Turn left on Yoakim Brigde road after 9 miles. Yoakim has, you guessed it, a bridge! and leads you straight through the grapes to West Dry Creek Road where you hang a left. West Dry Creek is a "must ride" for anyone. It is not technical or hilly, but it is a beautiful, low-traffic, tiny, vineyard road. We had grapes to our right and left and a perfectly fake looking blue sky to our left. Ride West Dry Creek until you hit Westside road. Hang a left, and head back to reality. The Dry Creek loop is one I recommend for ANYONE. Cyclists and non cyclists alike, you'll feel like you went somewhere, but you won't be smashed. Its do-able for all. AND, you could probably stop at more than 20 wineries on the way if you were so inclined.

Sip and Eat! 
Team Small

Me & Miss Fancy Pants! at Ferrari Carano
We opted to go home, shower, and then hit Ferrari Carano and Truett Hurst to meet up with Heather and Mike. Truett Hurst gets a huge double thumbs up from us. Great Zins and great winemakers, and adirondack chairs on the banks of Dry Creek.
Rose by the River at Truett-Hurst

Followed by appetizers & a cocktail at Spoonbar a hip little local hotel restaurant/bar with one of the longest and most intricate cocktail menus I've ever seen.
Spoonbar's indoor/outdoor thing they got going on
Morrocan Salad Plate at Spoonbar
And an interesting, but very tasty vegan meal at Cafe Gratitude in Healdsburg, CA

Day 4 
(49.5 miles) Healdsburg- Alexander Valley Road - Route 128-Calistoga - Petrified Forest Road- Mark West Springs Rd- Old Redwood Highway

We decided on another mellow ride with a climb or two to wake us back up. The first 25 miles of this ride are nice 'n easy as you wind out of the Alexander Valley and then head up to Calistoga. There is a short warm-up climb to get the legs pumping.  But watch out! As soon as you turn onto Petrified Forest Road, you are greeted with a 2-mile climb that gets a bit steep in some sections.After the climb, descend Petrified Forest road. Be careful! There was a lot more traffic on this road than I ancticipated, little or no shoulder, and when there was a shoulder, there was often gravel coating the shoulder. Also, seemed to be a lot of big trucks taking this route. It's not unrideable, but definitely use caution. Once you get back to Mark West Springs, it mellows out a bit and then the Old Redwood Highway is a straight shot back to Healdsburg.

Sip and Eat! 
Bear Republic Brewery for "lunch"
James' lunch of Racer 5 IPA at Bear Republic Brew Co.
Healdsburg Farmers Market
Local blackberries at Healdsburg Farmers Market

Hop Kiln Winery for a tasting
Walking into Hop Kiln
Hawley Tasting Room (on Healdsburg Square)
Tasting at Hawley. We bought the Viognier which I loved
Dinner at Willie's Seafood


That was the first few days and we were just warming up. Stay tuned for part 2 of Sonoma Sip 'N Cycle: Big Rides & Big Reds :) 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vineman 70.3 Race report

(WARNING! I am posting this without pictures! I am going to come back on Tuesday or Wednesay and repost once I get some fun photos. But, it's written, so why not throw it out there. Feel free to return later this week if this is far too boring without a little visual excitement.)

So many things I've been thinking about this race!

First, if you haven't done Vineman 70.3, you need to add it to the list. The swim is calm and straighforward in the Russian River. The rolling/hilly bike takes you through the backroads of wine country and the run is a challenging hilly trot through yes, another winery. The race is simply beautiful and well run.

On to my race.
The swim: 1.2 miles- 29:51 (12th AG/ 1:34/100M)
Athough I was 12th in my age group after the swim, I am very happy to report that I am now part of the sub :30 half ironman swim club! This is a big milestone for me and perhaps the biggest milestone of the day. The fastest swim in my AG (Christine!) was 26 minutes, so 3 minutes back out of the swim. Not bad for me, but I knew that some of the fast girls I know in my age group (Christine, Hailey, Beth S. & Brandy) were ahead of me and I'd need to push it on the bike.
Back to how it played out. I swam hard off the gun, but a group of girls got off ahead of me at a pace I couldn't hold. Everyone else was behind. I swam in no man's land the ENTIRE swim. I couldn't even see a purple cap after the first 500 yards and never saw one again. Looking at my age group's times, there was one other girl in the 29:00s but that's it (for 181 girls in my age group, that's nuts!) ...So no man's land for me it was. But I swam pretty hard and  was super comfortable in my Zoot Prophet. I never took a break since I was alone and not drafting, I just kept going until the finish. I was smiling huge across that timing mat, thinking I just scraped by low side of :30.

T1: 2:50
I sucked a bit in T1 taking off my wetsuit, trying to brush rocks off my Zoot compression socks (I wore them in the swim, bike, & run thanks to tips from Tawnee and I actually loved it! ), and then pack my gear in the swim gear bag that they transport to T2 for you (T1 and T2 are about 15 miles apart- I love a logistical nightmare!). Anyhow, felt like some dilly dallying and a long run out of T1, but I got on the bike with no problems. (My age group also had a little detour/extra running due to non-preferred transition rack location).  There is a short steep hill out of T1 that many people eat it on, and I managed to avoid anything embarrassing, so I was stoked.

The Bike: 56 miles- 2:41:21- (20.8 miles per hour, 6th or 7th AG)
The bike started off well out as we wound down River  Road. I quickly noticed that starting in one of the very first waves at Vineman 70.3 rather than one of the very last waves makes it a very different race. Of course each one has its pro and cons, but I prefer the latter. I am a people person, people! I had little or no company and at times no one to even see in the distance. The bike felt lonely and I realized how the pro girls who are not stellar swimmers must feel in many of their races. It takes a tough girl to race like this! Anyhow, as the bike progressed, I felt fine, nothing went wrong, no excuses. I just didn't have that OOMPH, that push, that leg turnover pounding on the pedals. I totally felt like I was in Ironman and could have biked that pace easily for another 56 miles (looking at my power data looks like I was right. I biked over 20 watts lower than Oceanside 70.3 and similar watts to IM Texas. I also had an avg HR about 6-7 beats lower than Oceanside). I knew I wasn't blazing any new trails through Northern California. At times, I would try to pick up the effort, but it usually only lasted a minute or two and then I'd be unfocused again, staring at the vineyards and forgetting I was "racing". The bike ended uneventfully. I guess the good news from the bike is that it was in fact uneventful and I said silent "thank yous" for no mechanicals AND that my nutrition seemed to be spot on (I drank 1.5 bottles of Powerbar Perform (aaaprrox. 250 cal)  and almost 1 flask of EFS Vanilla liquid shot (350 cal). I kept it simple and took in about 600 calories on the bike.

T2 2:18
nothing special or notable

The Run: 13.1 miles - 1:29:12 (6:48/mile, 1st AG)
The run starts out with a mile flat and then you climb and descend up to La Crema winery. At the winery, there is a 1.5 mile loop on dirt roads and gravel through the vines and then you go back the way you came. I headed out and felt pretty good. I saw Steph on the side of the road and she told me I was in 7th. I knew a few girls were "right there" and I made a few passes in the first mile bringing me to 4th. I knew exactly who was still ahead of me - Hailey, Christine, and Beth S.. I saw Hailey and Christine when I was finishing the bike and they were starting the run, so I knew they were a few minutes ahead, but maybe not out of reach. I didn't see Beth S. at all, so I knew she was further up the road. I settled into a nice pace (high 6:30s) and found a pacer (JOE! My hero!). Joe was clipping off miles at a tough pace for me, but one I could hold. I apologized to him in person, but I'll do it here again.

Joe, I am sorry I sound like I have asthma when I run and was breathing heavy. I am sure you thought I was going to blow up at any minute (and wished I would get off your shoulder), but that is just my regular M.O. Anyway, you were awesome.

Back to miles 2-6. Joe and I were running. Me mostly right behind him and keeping 6:30s/6:40s with the hills. I was feeling pretty good and kept reminding myself to run my race, not rush it, and hope I'd see the girls in due time. Heading into La Crema, about my mile 5.75, I saw Beth S. exiting the winery. That meant she was about 8 minutes ahead. YOWZER!!! I knew then that she was un-catchable. I was excited she was having a great race, and set my sights on the other girls in front of me and beating Tatiana who was running in a different wave. In the winery, I caught up to Christine who was having a tough time and around mile 8 or so, I think I caught up to Hailey. Both had encouraging words as always and I kept moving. I felt like we (Joe & I) were going faster, but in fact we were slowing down. (My average for the 2nd half of the run was 6:56 compared to the first half 6:40). I should have been paying attention to my Garmin, but I swear we were running faster. Guess not! I felt like I was running pretty well and hoped to break 1:30 on the hilly course. I just barely broke 1:30 with a 1:29. I never caught Beth S. (not even close, she beat me by over 6 minutes!) but ran straight to her for a hug at the finish line. I was feeling okay with my race until Tatiana crossed and I realized she had also beaten me by about 5 minutes. Damn, girls! Turnin' it up a notch! As much as I wanted to win my bet (for dinner!) with Tatiana, I was truly very stoked for her race. This was a huge breakthrough race for her, promises great things in the future, and that little one even out ran me by thirty seconds!
After catching up with friends at the finish, we waited for James, who went 4:14 and won his age group! He was the champ of the day!

My Results:
4:45, 2nd AG (of 181), 6th amateur

Okay, going to try not to get too deep over here, but I am going to try to be honest. That means that although I recognize that I had a good time and a great placing and very stiff competition, I am left with many thoughts. I want to take absolutely nothing away from Tatiana and Beth S. and everyone else because they performed beautifully and were true examples of how to smash it out there in the amateur race. But, personally, I am a bit disappointed in myself. Listen, I know you can't have an "A" race all the time. I know I raced and Ironman in May, took a midseason break, a vacation 3 weeks out, and added a mega ride during race week and all that. I know. BUT, I expect myself to step up to the occasion a little better. I really was very blah on the bike and didn't bike near the top AGers who were in the mid 2:30s. I know that I CAN bike closer to that, but just didn't. Or, rather, I didn't have what it took on that day.

I know that I need to realize that you can't win them all and that everyone has an off day. I am not complaining here and I really hope it doesn't come off that way because my goal is to be honest and to NOT just brush everything off with a smile and to let whoever reads this see that I am real and real people  have thoughts and self-doubts too :). For me this race was not about winning, actually.
For me, Vineman 70.3 was just about how far off I was. I am actually very very happy with my placement. I will take 2nd to a stronger athlete any day! I just wished I had been a closer second.

And, very honestly, after California 70.3 and IM Texas (1st amateur overall at both), the pro word had been floating around for next year. I felt like I might be ready to take a step and possibly race the best next year. But, this race put lots of doubts in my mind! Not only was I "off" the winners of the amateur race by 5+ minutes, but I was much further from the pros I had been nipping at in other races. I know I am pretty hard on myself, but If I want to compete with the best, I at least need to be a little better. The good thing is, I think I have it in me to push to be better. Especially for the Ironman distance. I may not ever be truly competitive at the 70.3 distance, but Ironman is my thing. I am not that fast. I just don't slow down as much as others.

Anyhow, as always, regardless of the race, the POST-RACE is always where its at! We have already spent some quality time with lots of the amazing people I have met through this sport and had an absolute blast last night. Can't wait for more adventures with my champ husband this week!

Thank you to all of my sponsors and supporters including James, our families, Coach Dirk, Nytro Women, Zoot Sports, Powerbar, MRM, Dan Selstad ART man to the stars, Rehab UnitedLululemon, Nuttzo, and everyone else who makes my dreams come true, even on an off day!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Make like a grape and CRUSH it!

You know, life really is TOUGH around here, so I need to get away.
exhibit A:

Moonlight Beach afternoon

You know, it's really hard to apply sunscreen absolutely perfectly AND when there are only 4 trashy magazines and 9 ladies lounging on the beach, there are bound to be some cat fights. When, oh when, will life cut me some slack? :)

Taper time is in full effect (even if it's only 3 or 4 days). In regular pre-race ritual fashion, I headed to Best Nails to get my best nails, d'uh! Tatiana is still delusional, thinking she will beat me and trying to steal my Race Day Magic secrets, so she joined me for her first EVER mani/pedi. Too bad for her wallet, she loved it. Between her new mani/pedi habit and the Encinitas Whole Foods, she's in trouble!

Pretty in Pink!

Other than that, I'm off to pack for the big week ahead. It starts with Vineman 70.3 and ends with a few extra days at a Healdsburg, CA cottage so James and I can relax, float in the Russian River, enjoy wine (& beer) country and ride bicycles.
Our little cottage- 3 blocks to Bear Republic Brew Co for James

See you next from Sonoma, CA! Vineman 70.3 is on Sunday and I'm stoked to ride and run through the Vineyards and look for a PR on that course. Also, James & I organized a post-race get-together at Russian River Brewing Company on Sunday eve post-race 'round 6pm. Come one come all! Let me know if you need details. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Carlsbad "Duathlon"- better known as hometown DNF

Well, I started a race on Sunday- the Carlsbad Sprint Triathlon. The waves in the ocean were about 5-7 feet. Which is about 3 feet higher than my comfort zone..

Let me back up a bit. 2 years ago, at Solana Beach triathlon, the waves were so big (to me) that the event crossed the line from being "fun" to being "not fun". After that one, I said to myself, "no big wave/ocean starts for a while". In 2010 I signed up for and completed probably 10 triathlons. ZERO of which had ocean wave starts. I picked my battles and decided waves weren't one of them.

This year, James suggested we do Carlsbad sprint tri. It's one I've never done and it's one of the longer sprints in San Diego county (1k ocean swim, 18 mile ride, 5k run). It was one week before Vineman 70.3 and sounded like a perfect tune-up (and a way to avoid the 20kTT/5krun brick situation that Dirk always gives during taper week) . AND, it's 8 miles from home so we could ride our bikes there (very early)
Pre- 6am ready to roll! 

It WAS an ocean swim, but I thought I had toughened up. Ok, let's cut to the chase. The waves were big, not huge. I started in the elite wave with like 5 girls and 100 big burly dudes.
Swim start- Me, James, Tatiana, Heather Jackson. Photo by Michellie  Jones, yes the Michellie Jones
 I ran out with all my might. Got pummeled by a wave and sucked back to shore 1, 2, 3 times. Then the kicker, some dude flew over "the falls' (that big breaking part of the wave) straight on top of me and I was pushed to the bottom for way too long in my opinion. I couldn't breathe and had a panic-attack esque situation going on. When I got up, fight or flight took full effect (I chose flight) and I flew straight outta that water and onto shore.

Yes, people with less swimming "skill" made it through, but I just didn't have what it took. No excuses. I got scccrrrd.  I can be hard on myself, you can be hard on me, and I had one friend tell me to "eat a spoonfull of cement and harden the F up" (TRUE!!) Haha. But, well. I got over it pretty quickly. My eye is on next weekend.

So I went back to transition, cheered in all of the (tougher than me) elite women from the swim, turned in my timing chip, and then went out and did a workout. Hello! I paid for that race and needed to get a little money's worth. Kristin (who also happens to be wave-shy like me) did the same and we went out and did the bike and run course, cheering along our teammates and friends. It was actually pretty fun. Congratulations to Heather Jackson for the win and to my tough teammates and friends.
Me & Kristin making our rounds :) 
When I hit the run, I ran as if I was "racing" and hit some nice paces. I'm stoked for next weekend!

After the race, we biked home
Biking home, d'uh! 
 and then I ran an hour on my favorite coastal trail to chill out and get over it. My first (and hopefully not recurring anytime soon) DNF. Done. Glad it was here. Moving on. And then I went to Whole Foods and got myself a nice big salad and a coconut water, then sat by the pool and had a margarita. A fine day by me even if it did include a bit of failure. James had a rough go at Carlsbad too and flatted out. Boo for the Walshes!

Today (Monday) I was supposed to recover with a swim and an easy run to start my Vineman 70.3 taper (it's this Sunday!). Somehow I ended up on a six hour ride with a bajillion feet of climbing up Mt. Laguna with Julie and Liz. Whoops. Don't do as I do. I will occasionally post smart training tips and workouts. This is not one of them. Good thing my coach, Dirk, is in Germany (he crushed Challenge Roth!) and busy doing German things so likely not reading this. So, taper starts tomorrow. Instead, I christened today, July 11, as KONA training, DAY 1.
Monday riding buddies!

Me & Liz in Descanso, halfway UP. 

And it was a blast. No regrets! I will buckle down and stick to the plan for the next 3 months starting TOMORROW! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vive July!

Without a doubt, my favorite time of year is the first 3 weeks of July. My father has great taste in sporting events, and I was raised on the Tour de France (and the America's cup). Now that I actually ride a bike, and have time to enjoy le Tour, I am an avid tour follower. I really like the cycling, I love the announcing, and I especially love the less-guilty feeling I have from sitting on my couch between workouts each morning to catch up on the latest stage. Somehow, watching the Tour feels less sloth-like than watching The View or Rachel Ray.
This years the best for last! 

For me, these few weeks are the golden time of year. Three weeks of sunshine, loads of training, Tour watching, cold watermelon, a dip in the pool after a hot run,  and that overwhelming feeling of SUMMER in general. I'm becoming a Thor fan (it's the Tour de Thor!), as he's held onto Yellow all week and finished the top 10 in every stage! I'm also hoping Andy Schleck comes through big time in the mountains, and that at some point Team Radio Shack gets a break. I'd love to see Levi or Chris Horner (who writes an awesome blog after each stage) come through...

In other news, my dwindling paychecks with dwindle even faster now that Whole Foods has opened less than one mile from my front door. James and I are already happy customers...
mmm...i love a fresh white Hanes v-neck

And soon we'll be even happier (and greener) customers when we get these new townie bikes to ride there on summer nights...Flat pedals- woo! We need cruising bikes to properly enjoy our town of Encinitas. I think I can throw a basket on the back.

This Felt (maybe different colors) is a frontrunner right now...

Hope you're enjoying July as much as I am. I started today with a 4500yd masters swim, oat bran & blueberries, Tour Stage 7 (crashfest!), and now off for a coffee ride with James and our neighbors. I'll cap off the afternoon with a beach meetup with my favorite girls and a practice ocean swim for Sunday's sprint tri. The waves are big and I'm nervous. Enjoy the day-  'Tis the season!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

...and we're back

It was a typical Gerdes family vacation...too many similarities to the Griswolds, several last-minute decision paralysis incidents that involved driving the boat in circles, plenty of good times around the dinner table, and happy hour started every day at 3pm.

We set sail from Road Town, Tortola and hit 7 or 8 of the British Virgin Islands in one week...basically a perfect vacation (unless you are 4 months pregnant with twins a la my sister, Erica). Sailboats and pregnant people really don't mix. The boats are a bit precarious in strong wind and have multiple surfaces from which to slip, and fall. Not to mention, the constant rocking and claustrophobia must be really awesome for a nautious pregnant lady. Big props to my sister, Erica, for putting up with it all and acting like she was having fun.

3 weeks out from Vineman 70.3 is not the ideal time to take a week off  my bike and go with the flow (rather than a plan) for running & swimming, but I enjoyed the recovery and even with very minimal training, my family still thinks I'm psycho for even venturing out on the islands during vacation. Truth-be-told, those hours running (slash hiking) the hillier-than-thou islands were my mini vacation from them :) . Just kidding, family, i love you!

And now.....two weeks until Vineman 70.3. Can't wait! I'm going to try to sneak in some solid training over the next week and then have a quick/short & sweet taper for the race. It may not be my best race ever since I've been cooling it off a good deal since IM Texas, but as long as I beat Tatiana, I'll be happy. Because if I do, she has to take James & I to dinner. I'm thinking French Laundry.

Proof I took a vacation:
airplane snacks...the carribean is not close to california! 

Me & my acrylic big toenails. By Thursday, I hit one on a rock and it fell off. 

Dad at the helm. 



The "kids" at The Baths on Virgin Gorda

The Baths

The Cap'n and his crew

Me and Katie

Bitter End Yacht Club

Dan  & pregnant Erica

Jen & Marsha

Katie :)