Finally sitting down to write my race report for the past weekend's Barb's race, aka Vineman, I struggle to put into words how I feel about the race. While in total the race was a very very slight PR for the distance, I can't help but feel a bit bummed about a few things. At the same time as feeling a little less than complete about it all, I also know there wasn't much more I could of done out there….
I'll start off by saying that the venue is STUNNING. What better way to do what you love surrounded by stuff you love. WINE!!!! Even swimming in the super shallow Russian River surrounded by lush green trees isn't so bad :)
I have always wanted to do this race. Swim, bike, run, wine…. yup - pretty much made for me. At first I just thought the big 70.3 race was the way to go, but then I found out about Barb's race. Basically the same course, but all women and for a great charity; cancer research.
Smaller race, all women; I'm in!
Unfortunately this is kinda where things also went wrong. Smaller race = maybe a bit less serious organization. Smaller race PLUS full distance Ironman, full distance aquabike & half aquabike leads to a bit of chaos. I don't want to down talk the race directors, or the race itself in any way, so I'll guess I'll just share my story…
All my friends were racing the aquabike so they had to head down to the race a couple hours before I did. It was actually nice and relaxing to just hang out in the morning a bit and not be rushed. I still got to the race start WAY early, but luck would have it I ran into my BSC teammate Mary while walking my bike into T-1. We got to rack our bikes together and sit and chit chat for a couple hours. It was great! We may or may not have had a few giggles about all the "gear" (suitcases? really?) in T-1 and the last minute checkins like 10mins before the race started…
Example 1 of bad signage. Example 1 of how athletes (including my self) need to study transition areas.
About 10mins later it was time to get in the water. I was pretty stoked after seeing my friends. No nerves, which is shockingly never the case! I have been working my ass off swimming the past several months and I really wanted it to show in my time today.
I lined up front row and was OFF. I darted right out in front of my wave and immediately had a few girls on my far right side (not buoy line) get ahead of me. I thought about trying to find their feet, but I felt like it was wasted effort to go outside my direct buoy line so I just kept swimming. Within a couple of minutes I was swimming with another color swim cap. A couple more it was yet another wave…. I looked around and could see only a few of my wave caps in the distance but everyone else around me was from an earlier start. I felt strong, had a great path along the buoys so I just kept going. Unfortunately the further out I got, the more crowded. I would be swimming along and suddenly have my hand on someone's ASS. People standing, walking, NOT MOVING everywhere. I remember at one point thinking to myself all those times I complained at masters for having to do swim head out of water drill…. well, it sure was coming in handy here.
I glanced at my watch at the turnaround and saw 17:45ish… Pretty frustrated with that, but not much I could do but keep swimming. I continued to run into people (apologies for anyone I grabbed - but really, I can't SEE you when you aren't KICKING) and did my best to get around them and not freak them out. Finally after I headed under the last bridge I had the best last 100m ever! The water was completely empty and I just sprinted to the finish. I shot passed all the lollygaggers and headed straight to the wetsuit strippers!
Swim split: 33:02 ~1.5 mins swim split PR, but still not where I feel like I should be!!
Heading out of transition was complete chaos. People not ready for the short steep hill and almost falling over trying to clip in. I had my bike in my 28 and while I was ready to spin up it, I was dogging people trying not to get hit!
As soon as I was out on the main road I realized that indeed this was going to be a long day. The narrow winding wine roads were open to traffic both ways…. I was riding as well as I could until I would suddenly have to come to almost a complete stop to avoid being hit by a car. There was no room to get around the slower bikers (really people - we are maybe 5-10miles in and we are going like 12mph??). It was maddening to say the least…but I just did my best to sty safe and get around the cyclists when traffic cleared…
The middle section of the bike was much better, on less busy roads. I continued to pass cyclists, more than I ever had in the past so I felt like I was having a great day. The effort never felt hard… but I knew there were some hills coming up so I was being a bit conservative. I wasn't passed until about mile 30 by anyone, and when a couple of girls came flying by me I tried to stay with them….. only to watch them pull ahead and draft off each other. I made up my mind to ride fair but keep them in my sights. That was until the traffic through another little town got backed up and I was once again…. slowed to almost a stop by cars and slower cyclists. I didn't see those girls again until the last 10miles….
Once I got past the only really big climb at about mile 45 I knew it was a good flat to down section into finish. I was a bit behind on my goal time of 2:45-2:50 so I dropped my gear (thank you all those big gear intervals!) and pushed HARD. I was flying at about 22-26 mph for the final bit passing a lot of people. Excited about how much I had left in the tank…I started to wonder if I sandbagged a bit too much in the first part of the bike??
Final bike time 2:47:xx. Not a bike PR, but within my goal range.
The dismount line came pretty quick so I wasn't ready to hop out of my shoes and ended up running in my bike shoes for the VERY long transition. I would guess maybe .25mile through the HS campus. As I entered transition I looked for the balloon and tree someone pointed out to me the day before by my row. I was up and down the rows searching for my shoes.. but all I could see were what seemed like endless towels and hats and shoes, that weren't mine. Frustrated as all get out I started looking up and down the rows looking for my age group. When I found the sign for 35-39 I darted down the row only to STILL not find my shoes??? I yelled to a volunteer for help and she very snotty said "READ THE SIGN."
I can't begin to tell you my frustration at this point…. After what seemed like forever I finally found my shoes… in a completely different section (there was a very small print of the race; barb's, vineman…next to the AG). I threw on my hat and shoes and was on my way….
I was passed exiting transition from a girl who I had gone back and forth with on the bike for miles and miles until I finally passed her for good in the last 5 miles. She apparently knew what she was doing in transition. She was BOOKIN' so as much as I wanted to stay with her, I just knew that wasn't my pace.
I hit the first mile marker at 7:37. DEF too fast for me. I really really really had to pee, so at the second mile and aid station I darted into a porta potty. As I exited I realized I had been passed by another one of the girls I passed on the bike… I made it my mission to stay with her. I slowly was catching her and just began plugging away digging, but not too deep that I was going to bonk. I have to say all those half marathons I did this winter really helped me learn my pacing on the run. I knew when I could dig, what I needed and when and when I was pushing too hard...
It was such a different feeling being out on these secluded roads with just one girl in front of my to see. Just before the turnaround I could see the handful of lead girls heading back. I was super excited to be so close to the front and made it my goal to just try to stay in my same position. I finally passed the girl I had been following at about mile and just kept plugging away.
On the way back it finally started to feel like a race… Lots more women heading out on the run. I also have to thank all of them for all the encouraging cheers along the way! Heading back towards the first loop it was complete chaos! Runners both directions on a very small section of the road, bikers coming in and also heading out on a second loop across the run course (runners had to yield??). I was running hard to what seemed like the finish wondering where the heck the turnaround was and asking everyone until I finally saw the finish line…. and just shy of it was a woman standing and handing out bracelets and telling you to turn around.
I grabbed my bracelet and was on my way. I tried to keep my pace the same knowing that it wasn't time to dig because there were 1.5 more hills before the next turnaround. As I started to head up the second hill I'm wondering where the turn around was??? No cone, no timing mat… I asked a volunteer and she said "2 miles up the road." WTF???
Finally I saw an older lady sitting on the side of the road under an umbrella. About 10ft before her was some chalk saying turnaround and about 10ft AFTER her was a sign. (or maybe it was vice versa, but you get the picture). With no one in front of me to follow I was shouting, "where do I turn????" The nice lady was all, "Right HERE!!!." I'm all "Well, here (pointed to the chalk) or HeRe (pointed to HER) or HERE (pointed to the furthest marker/sign). I just decided to play it safe and went to the furthest point… gained my composure and started booking down the hill.
I had lost some time off my pace on the couple of hills so grabbed my last gel, around my 10 or so, then coke at the last 2 aid stations and ran as hard as I could for the last bit. I saw one girl gaining time on me just before the last turnaround and I made it my mission to NOT get passed.
Run time 1:47:08. Half IM run PR, just shy of my overall goal of 1:45, but with my potty break I'll take it!!
My overall time was 5:15:33 ~:45 distance PR. 4thAG (88total) and 10thOA (495 total).
Like I said I'm torn about the results. While the placing is definitely great, I just feel a bit less than satisfied. I'm not really sure how to explain it other than a bit frustrated with the bike chaos, mad at myself for the crazy slow transition and thinking maybe based on my hammer fest of the last 10miles I sandbagged a bit on the bike?
While I love the course itself, I think I would like to go back and do the bigger 70.3 race next time! I would be a bit more aggressive on the bike and most importantly…. study my transitions!!