I threw out a bold claim last week. I felt good in the days and weeks leading up to the race, had a solid race day strategy in place, and truly believed that breaking 5:30 was in no way a stretch goal. I’m very pleased to report that I broke 5:30 and finished Vineman 70.3 in 5:26 yesterday. Most importantly, I had a great time during the race and can’t wait to get out there again in 2015.
It was a long, hot day out there and I’ll try to stick to the highlights. For those of you who are interested in a quick breakdown of stats, here’s a quick overview:
- Swim: 34:51 (goal: sub-36)
- Bike: 2:40:37 (goal: sub-2:45)
- Run: 1:59:53 (goal: sub-1:50)
Rank: 25/100 M29 and under, 437/2570 overall
What’s not to like about swimming in the Russian River? It’s a beautiful swim venue and an excellent confidence builder for novice open water swimmers: most stretches range from 4-6 feet and some racers choose to stand up for a breather. The important thing to remember about the shallow river is that the depth is found in the middle of the course – if you veer too far right or left, you’ll likely scrape the bottom with your outside arm.
Although the narrow mass swim start was akin to salmon spawning upstream, I was able to pass many people in my age group in the first 20 minutes, and swam in entirely green water following the turnaround. As planned, I treated the swim as an extended warmup for a big bike leg, kept my heart rate down, sighted a good line and focused on technique; I was very pleased to negative split the swim by almost 5 minutes (19 out, 15:30 back). After a couple cups of water and a hustle through transition, I packed my bag and was ready to roll.
Swim Time: 34:51 (goal: sub-36)
For those of you who are planning to do Vineman 70.3 one day, I’ll give you a piece of advice: scope out the start of the bike course before the race. I say that because T1 is quite muddy, and the bike starts uphill – cleats can accumulate dirt and make it challenging to clip in on the hill. After a brief struggle clipping in, I discovered that the root of my problem was actually my earplugs stuck to the bottom of my cleats! I pulled over, cleaned them out, and was on my way.
My wave (M29 and under) started dead last at 8:36am – almost 2 hours after the pro race kicked off. As a result, there were a ton of people out on the bike course and the early miles were a bit hairy. Once I got in the groove and found some open road, I was gone. I felt incredibly strong and was effortlessly maintaining a 20+ mph pace. After spending the first 20 minutes drinking to settle my stomach, it was time to start fueling; here’s what I put down during the ride:
- 20 minutes in: Picky Bar (with caffeine), 1 serving of Osmo Preload
- 1 hour in: Gu Roctane (with caffeine), 1 serving of Osmo Active Hydration
- 1:30 in: Picky Bar
- 2:00 in: 4 Margarita (3x sodium) Clif Shot Blocks (2x caffeine)
- 2:30 in: 1 Gu Roctane (caffeine free to prepare for the run)
- Total: ~900 calories
I hit the hour mark with roughly 22 miles behind me and knew that I could keep the pace for 56. I made a concerted effort to ride aero amidst sporadic headwinds and tailwinds and focused on keeping a high cadence. When I hit the downhills, I pulled back and took a temporary break from pedaling. There was a point around mile 30 where I had to make a decision: push even harder and go for a sub-5 hour finish (with roughly 1:50 to finish the half marathon) or continue as planned and comfortably finish sub-5:30. I chose the latter knowing that it would only get warmer, and I’m glad I did.
Chalk Hill – the only decent climb on the course pops up around mile 45, and I felt a little thirsty and hungry around mile 40. I rolled through the aid station at mile 40 very slowly and took my time hydrating and eating before the climb. The result: great success – I powered up Chalk Hill and pushed hard for the final 10 miles.
Judging by my Garmin, my time was sub-2:40 – roughly a 20 minute PR. My official split time came in slightly slower – probably from the time I spent removing earplugs from my cleats, but I’m thrilled with the result nonetheless.
Bike Time: 2:40:37 (goal: sub-2:45)
I knew that my 8:36 start time would pose a challenge by the time I was out on the run course. The high was 93 degrees yesterday – by far the hottest day I’ve felt in some time, and quite possibly the warmest temperature I’ve run in since the 100-degree run leg at Boulder 70.3 back in 2011. When I ran my bike into T2, I immediately took off my bike shoes and ran through transition with my bike. This was not to save time, but to gauge how cashed my legs were after a PR bike ride. Fortunately, I felt quite good and decided that I would run a comfortable pace that would allow me to break 5:30.
The first three miles ticked by very quickly – I found a nice pace in the low 8s, and capitalized on the shade. I was running up and downhill pain-free, and knew that I had 5:30 in the bag as long as I stayed smart and didn’t appeal to emotion. The race support was top notch – there were aid stations at every mile marker and a wide variety of nutrients and beverages to choose from. Most importantly, there was ice – my saving grace. I can confidently say that 5:30 would have been in jeopardy without the ice on the course. I stopped for ice at every aid station – a cup in my jersey, a cup in my hat, and a cold water bottle later, I was good to go.
Other than a very steep hill where I walked to drink and take down calories, I only walked through aid stations for ice. My Garmin reflected a 1:55 moving time – good for about a 8:50 pace – one that I was very happy with in the heat. Although I know I could have pushed harder on the run, there was really no reason to – my PR was all but secured, I feel great today, and I want to resume my Ironman Lake Tahoe training ASAP.
I turned the corner into the finish chute, dug deep for one last push, and was thrilled to cross the line in 5:26 – a huge 18 minute PR and an A-goal at my A-race. Mission complete.
Run time: 1:59:53 (goal: sub-1:50)
Overall time: 5:26:27
Taylor and I met a couple friends and grabbed some delicious post race beers at Russian River Brewing Company – famous for “Pliny the Elder”. I broke my 2+ month cheese fast for a piping hot, well-deserved pizza – I earned it. Thank you all for your kind words in the days and weeks leading up to the race, and a huge congratulations to two of our Boston-based readers – Lisa and Mike, who both completed their first 70.3 at Vineman yesterday!