I flew from Calgary to San Francisco on the Thursday before the race. The plane was delayed out of Calgary because of air restrictions in SF due to the recent plane crash on that runway. Needless to say, it was a little strange to see the burned out wreckage of the plane as we landed in SF – and I’m not even a nervous flier!
I headed straight up to Lake Tahoe, about a 4 hour drive, so I could do some course recon in preparation for Ironman Lake Tahoe, coming up in September. I have only been to Lake Tahoe once, a few years ago, to go snowboarding at Heavenly. So this was my first time up there in the summer. When I woke up the next morning, the air was crisp and clean, the sky was blue, and I was giddy with excitement. I had registered to meet a group of swimmers with Boost Swimming at Kings Beach, in North Lake Tahoe. The swim clinic was great, the coach, Jeff, gave us lots of great tips and we swam basically on the Ironman course for about 45 minutes. The water was about 65F and clear blue. Absolutely beautiful!
I have been reading a lot on the interwebs about swimming and racing at altitude and quite a few people have said they could hardly breathe when they went swimming in Lake Tahoe. So maybe I was just expecting the worse but I had no problems at all breathing. It also helps that Calgary is about 3400ft elevation so the gain isn’t as dramatic as coming from sea level, and I’m very comfortable in the water. I met a really nice local girl who’s doing IMLT for her first IM so maybe I’ll be able to meet up with her before the race. After the swim I had a typical organic/local/California lunch and took the long way through Napa and Sonoma over to Santa Rosa.
Saturday was a busy day catching up with a friend I met at the race last year and completing the necessary pre-race checklist like package pickup, mandatory race meeting (it actually IS mandatory at Vineman), T2 setup, making sure the bike works, hydrating, eating… you know how it goes! I was a little worried about being hydrated enough in the hot California sun so I was drinking (water, and coconut juice) like a fish! The logistics of Vineman are a little complicated because there are separate T1 and T2 areas, by about 15-20 miles. The race organizers have done their best to make it as easy as possible to travel between the two sites, especially on race day, but it still helps to understand what needs to be done when and where.
This was my first triathlon I’ve done since training with a coach (Jack) starting in Jan 2013. I ran the LA marathon in March, which was my first race with Jack’s training methods. In LA, I sort of thought in my head I could try to qualify for Boston (3:35) but I didn’t really believe I could do it. Previously, I had only run one open marathon and it was slow, no where near BQ territory, and I have never thought Boston was something I could achieve. In the end, I finished at 3:36:01 which is a little heartbreaking, but I think that 61 seconds is entirely because I didn’t fully commit to the idea of a BQ and I didn’t believe in myself. Well, now I do believe in myself, and the next marathon I run, I WILL qualify for Boston. Mark my words!! 🙂 Back to Vineman…
The mornings in Guerneville are frequently overcast with marine layer and on the cooler side, and that was true again this year. One of the things I am most proud of from this race is that I lined up at the front, directly in the race line. For the last 10 years doing triathlon, I’ve always lined up at the back and to the side and fought my way forward. I’ve always been nervous to start up front (I have a bad left shoulder from 15 or 20 dislocations when I was a teenager and the mayhem of mass swim starts makes me nervous for my shoulder). But I just have to admit to myself that although I am not the best swimmer out there, I am a pretty good, strong swimmer and capable of more. So I started at the front for the first time and I liked it! I didn’t think there were that many girls ahead of me in my wave, and turns out there weren’t – I exited about 11th in my wave – so I was expecting a faster time, maybe 32-something but ended up with 34:58. I felt strong the whole swim, I didn’t hit the shallow area at the turn-around, and I felt I was swimming fast but that was a minute slower than last year. You win some, you lose some.
Muddy. And a little slow as I was trying to stuff my wetsuit into the plastic bag already taken up by my transition bag. And there’s a hill right out of T1 that’s a little tough to negotiate. I just run up with my bike and mount at the top. Especially during the AG race with lots of athletes, it’s a little dicey to mount at the bottom and ride up.
I’m happy with my cycling this year! One of the major reasons I decided on hiring a coach is because of my poor cycling. It has taken me 10 years of triathlon to realize that I should be running a lot faster that I do (triathlon run times should be very similar to open run times when the athlete has appropriate bike fitness). I’ve definitely improved since January and I KNOW I have more room for improvement. But this was my first time under 3 hours for 70.3 – 2:55!! (my 8th half ironman) I followed power ranges given to me by Jack. I spent a long time (40 miles or so) in one range and I was looking forward to bumping that up in the last 10 or so miles. The Vineman course is fairly technical, with lots of curvy, bumpy roads, rollers, and fast descents. There were so many lost water bottles, nutrition, tool bags, cages – I’ve never seen so many dropped items before. It seemed worse this year than normal. There were also 2 accidents I came across. One involving 3 or 4 guys being tended to by the paramedics, and another where the rumour is an athlete went over the side of a small bridge. I hope everyone is ok. This was the first race I’ve ever had a nutrition plan so I really tried to stay on top of that and force myself to eat on schedule.
Another long transition, long run with the bike to the racks. Marine layer was gone by now and the temperature was rising.
PR run for me – 1:55. Still have a way to go to get closer to my open half mary time (1:41) but I’ll get there. As it got hotter, I became obsessed with keeping ice in my hat at every aid station. I ate more than I’ve ever eaten on the run – just about 4 gels, plus water and gatorade at each aid station. It seemed to work well until about mile 12.75 when I was absolutely certain I was going to puke. The feeling hit me like a ton of bricks and I was looking for a place to vomit amidst the spectators but I just sucked it up and told myself to make it to the finish and puke there. Turns out I didn’t hurl. And maybe most exciting – no medical tent for me! My last 2 big races, Ironman Canada and LA marathon, I ended up in medical for 2 hours. I don’t remember having a low point during the run, I felt strong the whole way, especially during the last 3 miles which were my fastest mile splits (8:30-ish min/mile). I think I must have passed 100 people in those last 3 miles. Finally, I had a TON of compliments on my Betty Designs kit which always helps me try a little bit harder!
Overall, this was a 70.3 PR (5:33) and I’m very pleased with my performance. I had no ill effects after the race, aside from a pretty wicked sunburn, but no muscle soreness at all. I think I was too conservative on the run and I could have pushed it harder, focused more, but there’s always next time. Now it’s time for the final push and lots of hills, leading up to Ironman Lake Tahoe. 🙂