Sharing thoughts of my heart and courage at IM Vineman. That 140.6 race I completed on July 30, 2016, my “A” race of this year.
Here’s how it all went down.
Ever feel like you want something so badly that you can almost taste it? I believed I could do well at IM Vineman and have a PR and get on the podium. I had never been in better condition to do this distance, mentally and physically. SO prepared.
Cue Race morning.
It was chilly, foggy morning in Guerneville. At the race start, temps were reading in the high 50’s. We were staying a 10 minute walk from the swim start at Johnson’s Beach and it made logistics so much easier. It’s a point to point race and we did not have to worry about driving and getting to the start like so many people did. sweet! I highly recommend staying near Guerneville if you do this race, parking is kind of a nightmare on race morning.
The 2.4 mile swim was in the Russian River, which was beautiful. The backdrop on race morning was something I will will not soon forget… the redwood trees lining the river.. breathtaking.
There aren’t many IM races where you can watch the swim from a bridge.
The amateur race start was at 6:45 AM, a rolling start. let me just say, I am a HUGE fan of the Ironman rolling start (thank you Ironman!). I started with the wave that was 1:00-1:10 estimated swim finish, which was perfect. It was the first time I’ve done an Ironman swim that was not chaotic. It was what seemed like a ‘casual” entry, with me and thousands of my friends. I was not scared at all, no punches, no kicks, just SUPER calm. It was an out an back and also very shallow and some spots, where I had to adjust my stroke not to scrape the rocks at the bottoms. This was by far the most calm IM swim I’ve ever had. The algae was a little gross.. chunks of it floating in the water, but I had to just get over it. At times, a lot of people were actually walking, I just kept swimming, despite how awkwardly shallow it was. I did a steady effort and felt comfortable and within my limits the entire time. When I got out of the water, I looked at my watch and was like holy s*it, 1:03!! I planned to do a 1:06, so I was so pumped! A 3:00 minute IM Swim PR!
Being an AWA racer definitely has it’s perks. My bike bag was set up right after the pros, and it was easy to find exiting the water. I grabbed it quickly and ran into the changing tent. I still need to get faster at T2, ugh! I just find it’s hard to get my stuff together after swimming… one day!
I ran out of the changing tent, grabbed my bike in the 1st row (sweet!). The bike mount was at the bottom of the hill, some people were walking their bikes , I chose to ride up the hill, making sure I was in a low gear for that ! It was there when I saw Brian cheering for me.
As I started the bike ride, my first thought was “it’s COLD!” The air was still in the low 60’s and it felt really cold. I opted not to wear my arm warmers for aero reasons, but as a result I was very chilly for the first hour or so. The sun was not out in the beginning and there were some hills, going down them was freezing! After a mile or so, I noticed my power meter wasn’t working. I thought it might have something to do with the area (bad service, in the woods) but no…. the battery was dead. *note to self* check power meter battery before racing an ironman.. lo and behold. they don’t last forever. Mine decided that July 30th, the day of my biggest race of the year, it was going to die on me.
I had a choice, I could get pissed off about the power meter not working, I could freak out and get all worried, or I could accept it and move on. I chose the later. This is where mental toughness and race experience comes into play. I knew what level I was supposed to be working at, I knew the watts, my legs knew what these watts felt like, so I went by feel and perceived rate of exertion. I was supposed to ride at 70-75% effort, and I tried my best to accomplish that. I also looked at heart rate and made sure it was staying steady and not spiking on the hills. I made sure not to go out too hard in that first loop, I was ok with a few girls passing me, knowing that I might have a chance on the run. Brian had told me I was 6th after the swim, and this gave me the confidence in knowing if I had a strong bike, I could run some of the girls down in the Marathon later…
The bike ride was GORGEOUS. Albeit, I couldn’t enjoy most of it since I had to stay tucked in aero- turtle turtle turtle:) The Vineman bike is very undulating, lots of rollers and some sharp turns. It’s not like other races I’ve had where there’s long screaming downhills (think IMMT). It was challenging, but fair. There was one significant climb at mile 45 and again at mile 95 ish, Chalk Hill (the one hill of the course everyone talks about. Well it couldn’t even compare to what I’ve been training on in VT and NH, it was really no problem at all. Plus I LOVE climbing. I rode through hundreds of vineyards and enjoyed the sights on the climbs. People were out cheering in some of the sections, which was so fun! For most of the bike ride, I was riding alone, it was quite empty out there. I think with the rolling swim start, it really spreads people out – not complaining! There were a few mishaps on the bike besides the power meter malfunction: I dropped my chain once and I took a wrong turn late in the race. I had my head down and missed a turn off – oops! I also hit something with my rear wheel at mile 107, later to find out that it was a nail in my tire. It decided to hang on until after the race (are you kidding me?!) and I didn’t get a flat during the ride. I heard a noise had had no idea what it was… thought I might have a flat but it never happened… until later.. Wow was I lucky.
Bike time: 5:39 (goal was to break 5:35, so it was a bit of a let down, but I’ll take it give I did not have a power meter to work with)
After the bike, I moved quickly to T2. I was almost the only female in the changing tent (a good sign?) and the volunteers were incredible. I swear I had four women helping me all at once, it was awesome.
By the time the Marathon started it was hot and the sun was out. I had no idea what to expect on the run course, since I had not driven it (like I did the bike course). It was unexpectedly hilly and three loops. I loved the three loop course because you could really figure out where your competition was. Run a steady marathon was the name of the game. Ironman races are won in the last 10 miles, this is where you are either hurting or thriving. I have been in the hurt before during those last 10-13 miles, when I’ve gone out way too fast in the beginning. I did not want to make this mistake again and I would not do anything but “run easy” during those first 10 miles. I followed my heart rate, focused on drinking what I could pouring water all over my head and back.
I had worn the Coeur Zele top for the bike and also wore it on the run., wow what a game changer!! It was a hot day and I felt cool, amazing! The fabric makes you stay extra cool on the run when you pour cold water on yourself, like magic.
“Steady Eddy” was the name of the game. I felt super smooth the entire run and some fellow racers even commented on how good I looked “you’re making this look easy” this one guy said. Brian was back at the “hot corner” tracking me and the leaders of my AG. By lap 1 he told me I was in 4-5th place, by lap 2 I knew I was in 5th place, by the start of lap 3 I was 4th place.. and gaining on the 3rd place girl. I kept calm and focused step by step on what I was doing. I started to think I would be “ok” with 4th or 5th place, but who was I kidding, I really wanted top 3. During the third lap I was getting tired, but still was able to crank up the pace a bit, telling myself, I have waited all year for this day, I have worked too hard for this, I have busted my ass for this race, it’s supposed to hurt, it’s supposed to really hurt, everyone is hurting.. I have trained on hills just like this… I knew I was about to make something happen, it was just a matter of “when.” Mile 22 was the final turn around, I had 4.2 to go and I could tell the 3rd place girl was slowing down when saw her before I turned and I was gaining. I continued up and down the hills I wasn’t seeing her anywhere. There was one really big hill at the last mile of every loop, wow that burned! After the hill it was a nice downhill towards the high school, where the finish line was. I ran through “hot corner” and people were cheering loudly. I knew I was in 4th place and I had begun to accept it… sort of..
After I rounded the corner into the finish area, I could see a pink tri kit, the one of the girl I knew was in 3rd place. I figured I could catch her, I knew I could. I sprinted my ass off to catch her.. I caught her.. and I kept on going… running as fast as I could, I ran my heart out… I passed her and she wasn’t hanging on… down the finish chute I went, so proud!
3rd Place Age Group: 30-34
4thh Place Amateur Female
8th Place Overall Female (including pros)
18 minute IM PR for me!
At the awards ceremony the next day, I could have gotten the first roll down to Kona (#1 took her slot and #2 was already going). I decided to pass it up (so hard!) since we had plans to go to Australia for 70.3 Worlds. I will get back to Kona one day, I just know it!
**A VERY Special thank you to Coeur Sports andE3 Triathlon Coaching for all that you did to get me to this podium at Vineman! **