I love Vineman; it was my 5th time racing on that course. The first time was back in 2001 with the girls (Corinne, Catherine & Kirsty) and that trip started my love affair with Vineman. It's a beautiful area, made even better by some of the best wines I can imagine. Sometimes I think that race is just an excuse to visit wine country. But anyway...
Race morning started really early as we were meeting some of Jason's Every Man Jack teammates at 4:45am for a ride to the swim start in Guerneville (we stay near the finish line in Windsor, about a half-hour's drive away). Six of us crammed into Adam's car - including Betty teammate Rachel Norfleet (it was a weekend of meeting Bettys) who was spectating - and we beat the traffic to end up with pretty much valet service to the beach - thanks Adam for ignoring those "do not enter" barricades! We set up our transition spots, and said hi to Bettys Polly Gill and Christine Gould. I did my usual pre-race routine of waiting around, making small-talk with other athletes, trying to eat, standing in port-pottie line ups, putting on wetsuits... basically everything that makes triathlon seem super-glamorous! I did forget to put on Body Glide, so by the end of the day had some chafe marks on my neck (from my wetsuit) and feet (from my bike shoes). Oops.
Vineman is a wave-start race, and Jason started 6 minutes ahead of me. As I was waiting for my wave to start, I spied Betty teammate Heather Scott on the beach so went to say hi, and then spent the rest of the wait chatting with fellow Betty Jordan Blanco who was in the same wave as me. She and I lined up right at the front once we were in the water, and oddly enough no one else seemed to want the pole position. The horn sounded to start our wave, and we had really clear water with absolutely no contact - nice! One girl swam past us pretty quickly, I pulled ahead of Jordan by a few strokes, and basically just swam tempo for the 1.9km. I came out of the water in 2nd in our wave (ended up being 3rd in my AG as there was another wave of 45-49 as well). I really wanted to swim under 33, and was stoked when I saw my swim time of 31:51 - first time ever under 32 minutes! Jordan flew by me in transition as I struggled to pull my sleeved top on; I decided to wear it as there's not much shade on the run course, so I wanted to start that with at least not being fried by the bike. The only other time I'd raced in it was Ironman Louisville, where a volunteer helped me put it on... way easier to have help when you're wet. Oh well.
I started the bike comfortably but strong, as I really wanted to hold 80-85% FTP as Sean asked me to try. I love the bike course, it starts out flat so you can really get into a rhythm, then rolls, climbs, flat, rolls, climbs, flat... I basically alternate between watching the road in front of me to watching my power screen on my Garmin.
|Racing past 100's of vineyards.|
At around 25km, Betty teammate Polly was about 50 metres up the road from me and crashed hard on a pothole. She was ok, but it was a good reminder for me to not stare at my Garmin too much and watch the road. Then I passed Jason on the side of the road who said he was waiting for mechanical. I figured I couldn't help so rode away, and figured he pass me soon enough. I hit the climb at halfway, then the flat and fast section, then back into the rollers before the last climb - Chalk Hill - which is enough to get your attention, and still Jason hadn't passed me.
I figured he must have dropped out because of a problem with his bike, and I rolled into T2 with 2:56 on the clock for my 90km bike split, not a PR but I wanted to ride under 3 so I was happy. I was in 10th place at that point, and anytime I can be in the top 10 in an ultra-competitive WTC race is a win! I didn't see Jason - thinking he had DNF'd - but thought maybe he was getting his stuff or something. I put socks, running shoes, and my hat on, and cruised out of transition after a quick stop with some volunteers for sunscreen.
Because of a chronic knee injury, I just simply don't do enough run training to run well. Plus, I'm a shitty runner in the first place, so combined means I pretty much suck. But overall I really love long-distance triathlon, so I am content to suffer through the run. Slowly. I knew I needed to take in fluids at every aid station, and just simply enjoy being out there in a gorgeous place, doing what I love.
About 7km had passed, and Jason caught up to me! He ended up spending an hour on the side of the road dealing with a total of 3 flat tires - needing mechanical support as you pretty much only carry one spare tube. He also went into the race with a hamstring injury that meant he couldn't run fast, and a bronchial infection... so decided to stick with me for the rest of the run. It was fun to have him along, although he was definitely chattier than I could be during 21km of running. It was also not that hot (for Vineman - I think it topped out at 25 degrees C and what shade there was felt pretty cool). Just before halfway, we saw Jordan coming back - she won our age group! - then Polly who had shaken off her crash and ran her way to a podium finish. Jason did a great job of cheering for everyone, including all his EMJ teammates who were steamrolling by on their way to top performances.
The run is a loop (used to be a pure out-and-back) but had enough overlapping sections that I could cheer for other teammates like Jen Temperley who was killing it as usual and would podium. I got to wave to Jonya and Yvonne out there on the course running by as well. On the last section on the way in, I got a great slap on the ass - great way to "meet" a teammate - by Audra Adair on her way to another Betty on the podium! With all the Betty and EMJ athletes out on the course, it felt like a home town race!
The only sucky thing about wave starts is
that your finish time is never correct. Boo.
Jason and I came down the finish chute together for the first time since 1995 when we started racing together. And since he started 6 minutes ahead of me, my finish time is actually faster than his - ha ha! One for the history books, for sure.
Of course, no trip to Vineman is complete without some wine tasting, so once the race was over we got on the wine drinking part. See you again, Sonoma wine country!
|It's a long drive down I-5 to get there.|
|One bonus of wine country: lots of outdoor swimming!|
|Our favourite winery: Mercury. It's a must-visit each time.|
|Fun pre-race ride with Jordan & Jen.|
|More wine tasting! This is our new 2nd-favourite winery:|
|Played tacky tourist and drove the 101 coming home.|