2016 Ironman 140.6 Vineman Race Report
Ironman Vineman: A Legacy Of Tradition And Now The Future Of Ironman Events
Over the last couple years I have heard more and more people talking about the Vineman race in Sonoma county and now since Ironman took it over and bought the rights to the race in 2016 I decided to be one of the first athletes to sign up. Ironically this would be my first full Ironman race on U.S. soil as the previous six Ironmans I competed in took part overseas and in Mexico.
First Time in Sonoma
Logistically, this was the easiest race to get ready and prepare for as I could drive up to Sonoma very early in the morning on Thursday and make it in time to check in and register while also spending a little time in the Ironman village.
This race was yet another point to point race and as I don’t necessarily enjoy the logistics of dropping your bike and run gear off at different area of the race course. However, it does offer a bit more scenery when you are racing such a long distance. Being a Cal Berkeley grad in 2001 and living in the Bay Area for nearly five years it was ironically also my first time in Sonoma as I had been to visit Napa a handful of times for wine tasting I had yet to visit the beautiful and more mellow part of Sonoma county.
On Saturday I had to drop off my bike at T1 staged at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville which is about a 30 minute drive from T2 at the start of the run course at Windsor High School. I made sure to make it to the last athlete orientation meeting at 3pm at the auditorium at the High School after dropping off my bike.
I always tell all my athletes I train and coach to never miss the meeting as they give you some much needed information about the course and things to watch out for. I also had a chance to drive the course and ride the course a few months before the race so that was an incredible advantage as you are a bit more familiar and know what to watch out for and how to pace better for the longest part of the Ironman: the 112 mile bike!
I woke up refreshed on Saturday the day before my race after having a few days rest and travel recovery time. Leading up to the race I had put in about six hours of cycling and rowing training in order to keep my cardio in check with the ‘taper week’ as they call it upon you. Saturday night I got to sleep around 8pm. One huge advantage I had was that I stayed at the West Sonoma Inn And Spa less than a mile away from the swim start at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville.
After setting up transition I made sure I had my bike gear put on the easy chain ring as it is a steep grade coming right out of the transition for the swim and then I dropped off the morning clothes bag and was ready to go. I made sure to have a couple of shots of Red Ace Beets as they are now a new sponsor and very effective with endurance training along with some granola and GU Roctane with bananas in the morning before the race. The water temperature was about 72 degrees as they mentioned Ironman Vineman has been mostly always wetsuit legal in the past.
The Russian River
The Russian River is not that wide so it makes for a interesting swim as you want to swim with groups around you in order to draft but you have to be careful not to stop or get hit the entire time. There are several points in the swim where you can stand up and walk, so being 6’3 tall I took the opportunity to walk and adjust my googles along the way and sight out the rest of the course as there was a hazy fog just above the water that made it hard to see the buoys.
Standing up made it easier to see and plot out a swim course. The water was a perfect temperature and I started to get a rhythm after the turnaround buoy and knew that the way back to the swim finish it would go quicker because there would be a little river flow to help you coast on the way down. I had a decent start and overall a good time for me at 1:16.
I had a slow bike transition as the tent was completely full I had to stand outside of the tent and manage to do everything standing up which made for an unusual challenge and for a bad transition time but I got everything situated and picked up my bike. There were also too many athletes at the mount line of the bike so a group of riders decided to just run up the hill so I followed and noticed it was definitely the right thing to do. I stayed relatively conservative on the first 20-30 miles of the bike trying to get into a rhythm and taking a different approach as I would try and speed up on the second lap of the bike.
A Surprisingly Difficult Finish
I knew the bike would be pretty fast and this was my time to catch up and show my strength on the bike leg to make up some lost time in the swim and transition. The bike leg consisted of two loops around the beautiful wine country of Sonoma. I actually noticed being quite cold in the first hour of the bike, but I pressed on making sure I stayed hydrated and fueled along the way knowing of course that it would heat up big time towards the middle and end of the day into the mid to high 80’s.
I made sure to hydrate every 20 minutes or so and hit the salt stick caps with Roctane GU Energy gels. You have to make sure you stay on top of your hydration and your nutrition. It really can make or break your race!
I made sure I was staying hydrated and taking in calories. I was having a great bike leg on first lap and decided to take up the tempo and speed on the second lap, but as I got to mile 90 my legs felt lethargic and slow. My average speed plummeted from 23 mph to just over 20 mph. One word to describe the bike course: deceiving! Some people would say chalk hill got you, but it didn’t… the rolling undulated hills for 112 miles got me and being over 220lbs didn’t help my situation on the bike either.
I did not get passed on the bike during the entire bike leg; however, I knew the run would hit me hard as I could now start feeling the heat upon me. My run transition was average and was able to recharge a bit in the tent before moving along to the marathon. At mile two I remember telling myself ‘uh oh’ and that pretty much sums up the rest of the marathon. It was a careful balance between moving, injury, staying cool, and hydration.
I have to say that the volunteers and assistance during the entire race was perfect and the best I had ever experienced out of all my seven Full Ironman races. They run course was three laps and it was well plotted out with just a couple of light hills and a tremendous cheering section near the finish line. I ended with my second worst Full Ironman finish time of 12:02.. far off my best time of 11:06 which was done in the cool rain temperatures of Cairns, Australia back in 2014.
All in all it was a good race and great learning experience. Now I’m off to put in some solid training in for the next couple of weeks before heading out to Europe and competing in two more Full Ironmans about a week apart in Kalmar, Sweden and Vichy, France. I’m going for my legacy spot in Kona, Hawaii as these will hopefully be #8 and #9 Ironmans on my way to that magical 12!
Thanks again to everyone for the support, to Red Ace Organics, Rudy Project, Tri Lab, Normatec Recovery, Juice Plus, and of course my fitness center in Long Beach with all my amazing members at Roworx Fitness!
To receive a special discount off of all Rudy Project Gear, use the code “TRIWORX”.
To receive a special discount on Red Ace Beets, contact me at PowerHouseFit@gmail.com