Not quite a week has passed since I crossed the finish line in Windsor, California for my second Iron-distance triathlon event! What a ride it is to train, race, complete and recover from these ultra distance events! I LOVE IT!
*Note that Vineman is not an “Ironman” branded event. It is not owned, nor operated by The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). There is a Vineman 70.3 that is a WTC event, but that occurs earlier in July. Both events are managed by the same AMAZING people who have been bringing together the Vineman Full distance event for the past 24 years!
In a world that has gone CRAZY over Ironman events put on by The World Triathlon Corporation, sometimes an athlete wants to get back to their roots. We don’t want to pay a month’s salary as an entry fee. We don’t really care if we earn an M-Dot tattoo at the end of the event. We just want to race hard on a beautiful course. That’s why I signed up for Vineman 2013! I am no Ironman-hater…..in fact, I’ve paid my dues to WTC time and time again for the past two years and love their events as well. But, having heard so many excellent reports about Vineman, I wanted to give it a try. Kona can wait……I just wanted a great Iron-distance event in 2013!
The full distance Vineman has been racing hard for TWENTY-FOUR years! Second in age only to the Ironman World Championships in Kona. That’s pretty sweet when you think about it! Vineman doesn’t boast a huge pro-field, but the age-group field is strong, yet diverse. As well as hosting an iron-distance event, the venue offers a women’s only half iron race, Barb’s Race (which raises funds for cancer), a USAT-sanctioned Full Aquabike (think Iron distance without the run……PURE BLISS!), and Half Aquabike. Participant caps on these races keeps the entire field on the course under 2000 racers. The iron-distance event was just under 800 participants for 2013.
The Perfect Swim!
In the world of perfect places for a long-distance open water swims, Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville, California may be THE BEST! At Johnson’s beach a series of seasonal dams holds back the waters of the Russian River. With water temps in the mid to upper 70s and the towering Redwood trees along the double out-and-back course, this venue is made for speed. The water is fairly shallow and it is not uncommon to see walkers at the far turn-around point during the race. Annoying for those of us who prefer to swim on our bellies, but a confidence booster for first-timers and those not as friendly with aqueous environments.
Vineman is a wave-start (rather than a traditional Ironman mass start). My wave was comprised of almost all of the women in the competition, sporting silver caps (though the men just the group ahead of us were wearing hot pink……….someone had a good time with that!). I was able to get in the water shortly before the start just below the dam to warm-up. The water was absolutely perfect especially in the 55 degree and foggy morning air. Fearing I was going to freeze to death after the swim, I had a vest and arm warmers waiting for me in T1.
The gun went off and I headed off my traditional line of wide and to the outside. I was clear of any traffic within seconds. It was SWEET! The sighting in the river was simple as they had PLENTY of large red buoys. Plus, it is really hard to get too off course when the river isn’t more than 30 or so feet wide and is lined with some of the tallest pine trees in the world.
The water gets quite shallow towards the far end of the course, but I found that it was easily swimmable……though many other athletes chose to walk for a bit. I must say it is a bit strange to see people standing up in the middle of a river during an event. For swim safety……This venue gets an A++++. You’d be hard pressed to drown
I had no reference as to my pace or my time while I was swimming. I just kept swimming. I felt really good and really strong. I didn’t feel like I was killing myself either. I was just swimming. Of course by the time I was on the way back on my second trip out to the turn around, I was ready for the bike. I swam into the mat as far as I could, jumped up and hit my watch………….1:05!!!!! Did you read that correctly……ONE HOUR AND 5 MINUTES! Are you kidding?!?!?!?!? I just swam that in ONE HOUR AND 5 MINUTES!!!!! Are you taking photos? Call the newspaper! Thank you Vineman for the SWIM OF MY LIFE! I’ve never swam that kind of a split in a half ironman swim, and I just doubled the distance and PR’d BOTH distances. If you can’t tell………..I was and still am elated. I knew I had two coaches who were VERY PROUD
It’s a Dirty Transition
At the top of the short ramp I met a host of volunteers at my service (I’ve never been out of the water that quickly before so I didn’t know they would be bored!) I motioned to my friend and registration partner, Jared Eborn from Utah who was volunteering to strip my wetsuit. It was off and I was running with Jared right by my side.
Transition is in a dirt parking lot and it is what I call a dirty transition. You set up all your stuff just like a traditional Olympic or Sprint distance. All over the ground. In most of the longer distance races I’ve done there is a “bagged” transition where everything must be enclosed in special plastic bag. I’ve come to really like that cleaner method, but dirty is just fine when you have a SUPER volunteer by your side.
I got to my bike and decided that I would be warm enough and didn’t take the time to pull on my extra cloths. I was just going to go for it. I stuffed my nutrition in my pockets and my sodium pill container in my bra. I was nervous about ejecting things from my bike as the bike course has some rough road, so I kept the precious items close to my body where I knew it would stay put. Shoes, sunglasses, helmet and off! Jared was AWESOME and bagged up all of my stuff so I could just head on down the road. I LOVE GOOD VOLUNTEERS!!! Thank you Jared! I came out of the water in 5th place and left transition in 2nd!
Just out of transition there is a very short, but steep driveway. I had been warned about this and seen it the day before. It is steep enough that without any momentum you could easily drop or even jam up your chain. I noticed that the Bike timing mat wasn’t until the top of this little bugger and opted to just run it up and then mount when it flattened out. Such a good idea! There were multiple men cursing and stomping their feet as they tried to mount and climb the “hill”. Running up was a far cleaner and faster option. I was off.
The first few miles of the bike are nice and flat and you have time to get your nutrition started and start to settle in. There is a HARD right-hand turn and descent (more than 90 degrees) at about mile five where you go into a small neighborhood street and then climb out onto a main road. In my opinion, this should be a no pass zone. It is a difficult turn that should not be made with any kind of speed and a very narrow street. I was lucky. I was out in front of the pack and had only one rider ahead of me and one a bit behind me. I wouldn’t have wanted to hit that turn in traffic. You’d be in the blackberry bushes before you knew it!
The first 20 miles or so are on a rougher, rolly-polly road. I was impressed at how well they had marked the major “bumps” and actually didn’t feel like the road was overly rough, as I had feared it may be. There was VERY LITTLE car traffic and I just settled in. My goal on the bike was around a 5:45. Coach M didn’t want faster than that or it would start to eat into my run. I held the pace. I was passed at mile 10 by a women sporting the same kit as I was wearing. She didn’t just pass me…..she blew by. I told her good job and chuckled to myself…..”I’ll see you later.” I don’t think this women knew how true my thought would be
After mile 20, the road conditions improve, but you also get a bit more car traffic as you wind your way through Healsburg and into Geyersville. There is a reason they call this race Vineman. I could never have imagined that there would be a place on this earth with SO MANY grape vines as this bike course. They rolled on and on for MILES! I knew there were a lot of vineyards here in Sonoma County, California, but I didn’t realize that there would be HUNDREDS!!!!! It was a beautiful site!
The course isn’t what I would call epic as far as climbing. The total elevation is just under 4000 feet for 112 miles. What this course is, is a lot of work. What goes up, always comes back down, but there is never anything that long. You are always working. There are some flat portions, but we happen to get a bit of wind on those. It is definitely a course that you could easily blow up if you paced poorly. Riding those rollers hard and fast in the first 50-60 miles would be death come the last 20 miles. I just held my pace and was enjoying the scenery.
Nutrition-wise this was a different kind of race for me. It was foggy, high-humidity and 55-70 degrees for the first 2 and a half hours on the bike (I come from the desert….remember?) I had planned to increase my sodium intake to compensate for the humidity and was going to keep my fluids the same. I HAVE NEVER HAD TO PEE SO BADLY OR SO MUCH IN MY LIFE!!!!! Over the 112 miles I ended up stopping to pee 3 times. It wasn’t just a little pee……..I had an extremely full bladder each time. I was trying to process exactly what was happening. I was taking my salt, but did I need more? Was my body wasting too much of the fluid that I was taking in? Was I taking in too much fluid? My energy and my legs seemed good………so I just kind of went with it thinking that “at least I know I’m hydrated.”
There is only really one significant hill on the course on Chalk Hill Road. It is a steep little bugger than comes at mile 44 and again at mile 100. Chalk Hill is not overly long, maybe a 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile. I just got in my little gears and tried to spin my way up. I was passed by a few ladies at this point on the first loop, but realized they were in the aqua bike category. I believe I was holding my position fairly well, but did not know if I had been passed while I was on one of my three trips to the bathroom. Ugh!
After Chalk Hill you are rewarded with a nice longer descent to recover. In a few miles you are back into town at the finish line and headed out on the second loop. I have to say on the second loop I got a bit tired of the grapevines…..They weren’t as pretty the second time around
On loop two the fog had finally lifted and the temperature was on the rise. I didn’t feel hot at all. I was actually just fine and road on. The wind picked up on the backside of the course and I knew that I was slowing just a bit. (My GPS was not working outside of time on the the bike). I just did my thing.
I was passed right before Chalk Hill again by a female who was part of my race. She had some giddy-up in her legs and I let her hammer the hill. I did my thing and was feeling good. I knew that my 5:45 had slipped a bit, but I was hopeful to be coming in just under 6 hours. With my three potty stops (which were NOT short), I was content with that. As I descended Chalk Hill for the last time and came back into town, I noticed the lady who had passed me way back at Mile 10. She was laying under a tree at about Mile 110 with her husband (he has spoken to me on the bike so I knew who he was) by her side. I never saw her again that day. That’s how ann athlete pays for their poor pacing. I know it shouldn’t make me “happy”, but it is a pick-me up when you know that you road what you needed to ride and were ready for the challenge to come.
Longest Run in Bike Shoes EVER!
The bike was done. I rounded the corner to T2 and dismounted my bike just under 6 hours. My husband Adam and good friend Tony (who came all the way to the race just because!) were there volunteering at the first run aid station out of transition. I ran and ran and ran and ran with my bike! It seemed like I was running FOREVER! I couldn’t believe where I was going. Finally I hit the grass and couldn’t remember for the life of me where I had racked my run shoes Adam was yelling at me that they were by the tree, but the tree is round…..I couldn’t figure out exactly what side of that tree was correct. I finally found my stuff and changed shoes, helmet, race belt and UltrAspire run pack. There were porta potties in transition and I decided to hit them on my way out. Yup! Peeing like crazy again!
I was off on the run. We had driven the run course the day before and it was just as rolly-polly as the bike with at least two significant, biting hills. The run course was a 4+ mile out and back that you would repeat 3 times. I usually like multiple loop courses…….I’m not sure if I really embrace this one.
I turned out of transition/the finish and headed out on the road. I was in 4th place overall and feeling good! I knew I was racing well and just wanted to stick to my plan and bring it home. On the first mile we were pinned into a very small part of the left hand shoulder of the road. I didn’t like it one bit. The return running lane was as wide as a car and I opted to run over in that lane staying to my side of the shoulder. I didn’t want to be dodging trees all the way up the road. There is a left turn at mile 1 and the first aid station. There are no spectators allowed on the course past that point. Volunteers were great and made up for where the spectators lacked!
The run course was busy, which I like. Barb’s Race the women’s only half iron distance race was on the same course (just a bit shorter loops). Though even with lots of people on the course, there wasn’t much chatter. I was on my own and just kind of kept to myself. My lower stomach was starting to feel as if I may need to get myself to the bathroom…….and maybe FAST! Ugh!
I have NEVER in my life had diarrhea while running, but there is always a first time and this would be it. Since I figure you are reading this because you are an athlete or interested in epic-kinds of athletic endeavors, you will get the full report because it is all part of the program. This kind of stuff is so important when figuring out a nutrition and race plan! I hope you enjoy
I hit the porta potty and couldn’t believe it. Full on diarrhea! I felt fine. My stomach wasn’t cramping. My legs were good. I wasn’t nauseous. I didn’t know what was going on. I could only hope that I would get it all out and be done with it. I can’t remember what mile I was at when I went to the bathroom, but all I know is that I was in and out of porta potties the ENTIRE 26 miles. After the “second time” I started to evaluate what was going on. Maybe I had too much salt. I had a similar issue when I had over-salted at Ironman St. George in 2012. I had over-salted on the bike, had a bit of diarrhea on the run, backed off on the salt and I was good to go. One and done. So I stopped taking salt. I had eaten a few GU on the run, which was my plan about every 30 minutes, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of them anymore. I found that I could get down bananas and coke (generally my staple on this distance). Even the coke wasn’t tasting so great. I stuck with bananas and a sip or so of Coke every now and again. I kept up on the water as well. I did not feel dehydrated and my really full bladder had calmed down. I was still peeing, but not like I was on the bike. I didn’t want ANYTHING sugary!
I hesitate to say I was miserable because that really wasn’t how I was feeling. I was MAD! I was mad that I felt like I had to urgently go to the bathroom so much. Sometimes I would go into the bathroom and nothing. Other times……it was clear I was still having a problem. Cutting back on things seemed to help, but didn’t solve the problem. I honestly don’t know if anything helped. I just kept running the best I could in between bathroom trips.
I was definitely starting to get tired and was fighting the mental demons as the miles ticked away……..but the miles did tick away. The porta potties came and went. When you finish a loop of the run you are given a purple rubber bracelet to indicate you are on loop two. Before I knew it, I had two bracelets on my arm and I was fighting through the last long climb to the turn around. I was looking for salty, bready things to eat, but didn’t have too many options. I found a couple of pretzels and that was about it. (Did I need MORE sodium?????) Sweet stuff continued to sound and look TERRIBLE! There were cookies and peaches and grapes and I couldn’t touch any of it. Not that I was sick…..it was just the last thing I wanted in my mouth. Potato chips……Those would have hit the spot I wasn’t hungry, I was just trying to keep the calories going in to keep my energy.
On the way back home, I started to feel as if I may need more sodium (a bit dizzy), so I took one pill to just take the edge off, still fearing that it could make my bathroom stops more frequent. It helped my head and I was ready to be done.
I had been passed a few times on the run, but there was nothing I could do. I HAD to go to the bathroom. I found myself in the final mile and on the final stretch before the turn to the finish. Then……..I got passed! She was in my age group. I couldn’t let it happen. I dug deep and told myself that I wasn’t going to settle being passed that close to the end. I passed her back and we rounded the corner to the finish. She passed me again as we entered the chute…………I was done. It was less than 100 yards to the finish. Killing myself to try to pass her again would have been fruitless and tacky. I don’t like to pass people in the chute. It is a long race. You win it on the course, you don’t win it in the chute. I let her go and have her moment at her finish (she had run one of the fastest run splits on the day at 3:25……she blew me out of the water on that run and deserved her place). I crossed just :10 behind her in 11 hours and 36 minutes. Good enough for 8th place overall and a 3rd place age group finish!
Here are my results and splits throughout the day.
When It’s Over
Long races are so interesting. In the midst of them you swear you will never do one again. You can’t comprehend why in the world you thought this was a good idea. You battle your head. You battle your body. You want to stop, but for some reason you get mad enough to just keep going. And then it ends. You can stop. You don’t have to go anymore. You can sit down. You can eat solid food. You have a medal around your neck and a finisher’s shirt draped on your shoulder. You start planning for the next time
My stomach started to recover quickly after I stopped. I had a few more hours of discomfort, but after a quick trip to CVS (for Adam at least) and an In N Out burger and some fries, I made it to bed and tossed and turned all night long………….You would think you would be tired………Same as last time……I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to, but I laid there very relaxed and very content NOT needing to go to the bathroom.
I will be back to Vineman! I loved it. Great course. Great challenge. Great organization. Special thanks to everyone who made Ironman #2 happen: Adam Rue, the best husband, spectator, friend and SAG wagon a girl could have. Sydney and Jake who I hope one day will join me out on the course. Heath and Mahogani Thurston for being the best coaches and friends I could ever ask for. You guys are my rocks and I couldn’t do any of this without you! Tony Elangovan for enjoying hanging out with the Rue Family on our summer adventures. We LOVE you and can’t wait for next year. To Altra Zerodrop shoes for AMAZING products that keep me running strong and healthier than ever before. To UltrAspire who takes such great care of me with their AMAZING products. I’m a pack-mule and you guys make it convenient and comfortable! To my Southern Utah triathlon friends who make me smile and keep me company. To my HT Training family who I TRULY consider my family and best friends on this earth. And everyone else who sends messages, notes, smiles and waves. I am TREMENDOUSLY blessed in my life and there are so many people who help me reach for the stars!
What’s next……………Rest, recovery, long rides, long runs, long swims. A 70.3 World Championship race and a marathon in the next few weeks, but those are just gravy on top of an AWESOMELY fun year of training and racing!