, , , , ,

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.

photo (2)

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

All hopped up on Gu Roctane and ready to crush

All hopped up on Gu Roctane and ready to crush

Au revoir!

Au revoir!

The Swim

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.

Taking a dip before my wave

Taking a dip before my wave


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)

Just a morning stroll through T1

Just a morning stroll through T1

The Bike

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.

Enjoying a pre-race spin on Saturday.

Enjoying a pre-race spin on Saturday.

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

All checked in bright and early on Saturday

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.

bike leg

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)

The Run

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.

run leg

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!