(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.
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.
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!
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 United, Lululemon, Nuttzo, and everyone else who makes my dreams come true, even on an off day!