Vineman 70.3 Race Report

SPOILER ALERT: I beat Jason!  Want the details?  

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!

Finishing together.
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:
Christopher Creek.

Sonoma County

Played tacky tourist and drove the 101 coming home.

Women For Tri

Earlier this year, I applied for the Women For Tri advisory board (a board under the World Triathlon Corporation umbrella - the company who operates the Ironman brand globally), as they opened up a couple of spots to replace outgoing board members.  I didn't get chosen, but they reached out to me and asked me if I would consider being an ambassador for them, and specifically be the ambassador for the World Championships in Kona!  How could I say no to that?

To see the list of W4T Ambassadors, click here.

The main goal of the Women for Tri program is to develop new female triathletes.  Running races are seeing a majority of women as participants, but we are not yet close to 50% participation in triathlon. Yet!  As part of my role as an ambassador, I will be encouraging and supporting women to try out this crazy sport we love, create networks to support female triathletes, and to engage experience female triathletes to encourage and mentor women beginners.  Lofty goals, but important for our sport to move forward.

In my role as the Ambassador for Kona, I will be involved in planning race week events on the big island - look for more information as we get closer to the big show!

For more information on the Women For Tri program, click here.  To join the W4T Facebook community, click here.

Shawnigan Lake Triathlon

This was my fourth or fifth or sixth or something-th time racing here... and first time at the top of the podium!  I've been 3rd in my age group, 8th, 2nd, and now 1st!  Best part wasn't really being first, it was that Jason said I looked waaaaayy younger than the other two women on the 45-49 podium with me!  Don't worry, I'm not getting any better at running; I had the fast swim & fastest bike in my AG.

Racked and ready to race.
I love my bike - it is hot! And fast!
My Betty teammate Kathy and her husband Jon
were visiting the island from Phoenix for the weekend.
Jason winning his AG and 4th overall in the
Standard-distance event.

Finishing up the sprint race;
clearly I need some pointers on run form from Jason.

Relaxing post-race with the dog.
She is always invading my personal space.

Osoyoos Training Camp

Last week, my coaches Sean and Tara-Lee were putting on a training camp in Osoyoos, so I decided to tag along.  It was Friday-Saturday-Sunday but I couldn't arrive until late Friday night; still I packed a lot into two days!

Getting off the rock

Have bike, will travel

Saturday morning we did an open-water swim in Oliver - my first OWS of the year.  It's always good to know that the wetsuit still fits and I still know how to sight in a lake.  I led the group around the lake, which was a nice way to start the camp for me!

Woke up to a cool, raining morning... not
typical conditions for that part of BC!
Next up was a long run on the Kettle Valley Trail.  Yep, I got dropped by most of the group pretty darn quickly... but the KVT is a pretty nice place to run without company.

Long run selfie on the Kettle Valley Trail

Back to my hotel, I had a bit of time to have a nap (yay!), then it was meeting the group for a ride over the Oliver half iron course.  Sean had me hang on to his wheel for as long as I could... and I lasted about 20km at his furious pace.  It was really fun riding that fast but I couldn't keep it going, so ended up doing the rest of the 60km at my own pace, spinning through vineyards and rolling hills.

Group social time that evening was a BBQ, and it's always fun to connect with like-minded athletes hungry after some hard workouts!  Needless to say, I slept well that night and was up early for the next day's sessions.

Sunday started with another swim - this time in Osoyoos lake which was colder, but a nice easy short swim.  Then onto bikes for a crazy "double summit day".  We rolled out of town and up to the summit of Richter Pass, which I had always thought of as a hard climb on it's on.  Not any longer... as we descended Richter only to ride through town and start climbing Anarchist Mountain on the other side of the valley!

The long & windy climb up Anarchist

Looking down at Osoyoos from about 1/3 of the way up

Double summit day - Richter and Anarchist.
Richter looks like a mole hill... I'll never complain
about it again!

Most of the group ended up bailing before the halfway point - boo!  I made it to the 20km turnaround, while Sean and Alex went on to 25km before they turned around.  It was a screaming fast and fun descent to close off a couple of hard days of training.  Then I drove back over the coastal mountains and onto the ferry back to the island!  Whirlwind but packed in a lot of good training!

As Seen On My Ride

Yesterday's ride was the first really tough one since Ironman training last fall.  In fact, it felt more like IM training than half training... over 4.5 hours of slugging it out in some pretty brutal winds.  Lucky I had a good friend to share the no-fun fun with!

Field full of tiny daisies!

Trying to stay on Coco's wheel.

Gas station junk food tastes soooo good in
the middle of a long ride!

Low tide.

Lots of hills.

Victoria 70.3 New Bike Course

A couple of weeks ago I decided to ride the new Victoria 70.3 bike course.  I had ridden, driven, swept, delivered flyers & info, and more all along the old course back in the days my friend Norm & I ran the race.  This year, WTC (who runs it now) changed the course to one loop and I wanted to check it out.  It wasn't exactly new for me, but stringing the roads together in that order was.  It was a fun ride, and the "Coles Notes" version is that I think it is faster than the old course.  Read on for details.

Instead of two loops through Central & North Saanich, the new bike course winds through Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Sidney - I can't imagine what a permitting nightmare it was to deal with all those municipalities.  It was hard enough for us dealing with only a couple!   Another note from my race director brain... there are some left-hand turns and crossings of West Saanich Road, and a couple of major intersections - I wish the traffic crew all the best of luck managing those!  That would be a major headache from an organization point of view.  Anyway, I guess that's not important to the athlete experience.   So as far as actually riding the course - here goes.

The swim is now in Beaver Lake (which remains to be seen how that goes - it's fairly gross, but word on the street is that they will be working on removing the weeds), so the transition will be at the other end of Elk/Beaver than in the past.  It's a good spot for transition, there's a large, flat area, more parking, and easier access.  The bike heads out onto West Saanich Road where it turns left, then another left onto Royal Oak.  After that, it's fairly flat for the first 10km until the left onto Mount Doug X Rd.  The climb up Mt. Doug is pretty gradual, and early enough in the race that everyone will blast up it, no problem.  

After that, it rolls a bit, but mainly a net downhill to Sidney.  Hopefully because it's early Sunday morning, traffic on Cordova Bay Rd will be light, as it's narrow and the drivers can be kind of oblivious to cyclists there.  Lochside Rd is one of my favourite spots to spin along, flat, with nice views of the ocean.  Cyclists will wind through Sidney, and then at about 40km some more rollers, but they're pretty gradual.

View of the ocean next to Lochside Rd.  You can
kind of see Mt. Baker on the mainland in the distance.

The course heads farther north on the peninsula than it used to, and goes along Lands End Rd, which has virtually no traffic, ever, and rolls in a pretty fun way.  After about the halfway mark, the rollers pick up a bit, and the last half of the course is definitely harder than the first.  This bike course will reward the patient rider who doesn't go out too hard (the net downhill for the first 35km will make that hard to do!) and leaves a lot in the tank for later in the ride.  The terrain gets harder as the mileage adds up.

Heading south on West Saanich Rd is pretty similar to heading north, which the old course used to do.  It's rolling, but the rollers are long so it's not exactly coast up after spinning down.  You will be on the gas a lot.  There will be a bit of a reprieve for a few kms once you turn onto Wallace, but not long after you'll hit the toughest climb of the day - up Willis Point Rd (and then back down for an out-and-back, I'm guessing to make up the needed mileage).

Still lots of rural roads like the old course.  So pretty.

Then it's back onto West Saanich Rd, but northwards this time, basically following the old course.  Right turn onto Keating X Rd, then a right onto Oldfield which everyone will recognize as the end of the old loop.  The last 20 km will be hard!  Pace appropriately!

My advice for riding the course: enjoy some of the nicest views on the peninsula.  But be careful... you will pay if you go out too hard, as all the difficulty is in the last 50km, and in particular the final 20.  Be smart with your pacing!

(If you got here from a link on the post about the whole Victoria 70.3 race, click HERE to go back!)

Spring Training: The Run

I don't spend nearly as much time seeking out cool places to run as I do to ride.  We usually just run from wherever we are staying, but if I hear of a nice route I'll try to check it out.  I also don't run as often as I swim and ride, so don't necessarily have that much to report.  But while we were in Vegas I did hear about the tunnel run - an old rail route near Lake Mead that goes through six tunnels.  It was only 6 kms long so I was in.  The day we ran there, it was crazy windy so the sand blowing sideways felt like we got exfoliated, and the tunnels were a nice reprieve.  The run ends at the Hoover Dam, and you can turn around and run the 6 km back, or run one way and get Jason to pick you up.  He's a lot faster than I am (understatement of the year) so I wasn't waiting too long for my pick-up as he did the return trip.

Watching surfers when I should
have been running in Oceanside.