Vineman Aquabike

I've just returned home from Windsor, CA, one of my favourite places.  Of the limited places I've been, there are a few spots I love on this planet and could live: home (Vancouver Island), Whistler BC, Sonoma County CA, Hawaii, and coastal Australia.  That's not a complete list, but those are the top.   Actually I couldn't live in Whistler really as all winter there's snow, but it's close to home so we can go there anytime we want.

Anyway, I digress.  I was in Windsor for the Vineman Aquabike, which I've never done before but have done the Vineman 70.3 multiple times, so I had the gist of it.  I was really looking forward to an aqua bike, because as my friend Candace said: "You're still in a good mood after the bike!".  Hey - those IM marathons are tough!  But yeah, I was stoked to toe the line on Saturday.  I had some goals, sub-34 swim (1.9 km), sub-4 transition, and sub 3:04 ride (90 km).  Not necessarily all PRs, but where I felt I was if I had a good day in my current level of fitness and on that course.

I was a bit bummed that it was a wetsuit swim.  My first Vineman 70.3 (it was actually called Half Vineman back then, in 2001) I did with a fun group of girls (Corinne, Catherine and Kirsty) had really warm water and was a non-wetsuit swim.  So the Russian River had kind of cemented in my head as no wetsuits, which I love.  I was also in the second-last swim wave, and it seemed like right from the gun I was catching swimmers from earlier waves.  It was actually tough swimming through so many people, as I'd come up on them so fast and then have to go around.  I'm sure I swam quite a bit extra having to weave through people, but I figured that was better (for them) than swimming right over them.

The water was REALLY shallow (shallower than normal) nearing the turnaround - perhaps you've heard something about the California drought? - and the vast majority of athletes just started walking.  For a few hundred meters.  There was no way I was walking, so I kept swimming.  I had to change my stroke as my hands were dragging along the river bottom, and again weave through basically walls of people walking together (maybe there should be a separate lane for walkers?), but after a while on the way back the water got deep enough to swim normally again.  I just kept going and soon enough was at the finish.  I heard Candace yell my swim time to me as I ran up the beach, and yay - it was under my goal time.  (33:38, and turns out 2nd fastest in my AG).  

I was kind of surprised by the wetsuit strippers - I missed that memo - and kept running right past them.  My wetsuit was almost off by that point, so I kept running the looooong transition area to my rack, and I'd placed my bike at the end of the row, right by the run out.  I hopped out of the legs of my wetsuit, brushed off my feet (lots of mud from T1 on them), put my bike shoes, sunglasses and helmet on, and I was out of there.  T1: 2:55.  I had my bike in an easy gear for the steep hill out of transition (there they had a separate lane for the walkers), and I found my rhythm pretty quickly on the bike.

Out on the course - Alexander Valley I think.
I love the Vineman bike course.  Lots of corners, lots of rolling hills, lots of vineyards. lots of flat stretches, some hills... it has everything.  Jason had challenged me to stay aero on the rollers - where I would normally sit up and spin, he wanted me to stay in my aero bars and only pop up to power over the top.  I did, and I passed heaps of people on the uphills.  Something that never happens... why did it take me almost 20 years of racing to learn that trick?  

The bike course was going by quickly, and Candace was out cheering (i.e. yelling as loud as she can, which is really loud) in several different spots.  Another girl and I kept going back and forth for probably 60 kilometres, and finally she said: "Where do you live?  We should ride together!"  She was local though, too bad as yeah we were pretty evenly matched!

The temperature was climbing (according to my Garmin) but I wasn't noticing the heat.  One thing I've learned about myself is when I don't feel the heat racing, that means I'm prepared for that race.  My Garmin by the end of the ride was saying it was 37 degrees C (over 98 F), but the only time I was remotely aware of it being hot was on Chalk Hill.  In fact, I lost quite a bit of time on that section of the course.  I was riding easily under 3-hour pace until that climb, and quite frankly there was still a lot of elevation gain afterwards, that I didn't remember, before the finish.  But the good news is, I know what I need to work on for the future - my long rides need a big climb towards the end.  I worked a lot on short climbs this year, not so much on long ones.  Add that to the list for over this winter!

Once I was headed into the airport area of Windsor, I knew I had to kick it up a notch to make my time goal, so I absolutely hammered the last 10 km.  Lucky I wasn't running after!  I came across the finish line with a bike split of 3:03:06 (5th fastest in my AG).  My total time was 3:39, so I stuck around until results were posted as I knew last year that time would get me on the podium.  And the Vineman podium = wine!  But I was fourth (12th overall)... which is awesome of course... but one out of the wine.  No worries, as I bought myself some that I preferred anyway! :)

Coming into the finish.

As a reward for making my goals, I bought myself a new Betty Designs kit.  (As Jason said when I got home: "yeah, you really needed another kit" - picture that being said in the most sarcastic way possible!  Hey, when you're a Betty, you have lots of cool gear!  But this one is particularly cool, as it was a custom kit done for HERevolution bike shop in Solana Beach, and my friend Heidi is a member of their tri team.  I got to meet the owner of the shop, Darcy, and she and I had a good time chatting and laughing all while trying to stay in the shade.

New kit!

Take a look at the Half Vineman Aquabike results... of the top 15, 11 of them are over 40.  I'd say us older chicks are coming into our own!  I had a great time at the aqua bike, and would really like to return next year.  Candace and I spent the next day on a wine tour, and then hit up the Oregon sand dunes for some fun on our way home.  See you next year, Windsor!


  1. Great job Alison! I love that course, just don't love the heat that time of year so good on ya for not letting it phase you!

    1. Thanks Heidi! The heat is definitely less of a factor when you're not running, that's for sure!

  2. Great job! Aqua bike sounds fun. The river was so shallow last year too. So weird to see people walking on the swim.

    1. Yep, that river is always shallow in the summer. This year seemed more so than in the past. I agree, the swim walkers do seem weird. Freaked me out the first time (2001) but now I just expect it!