Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Vineman

Ok here is the short version;


Read on if you want the long version…


I would normally spare you the pre race blurb, but some of this is good stuff and I summarize my thoughts at the end. I got to Sonoma, which is about 400 miles North of where I live, Thursday afternoon, checked in and unloaded the car etc. The next day, after a slow start shaking off driving legs, was spent driving the course with fellow local Triathlete; Becca who raced here last year and was a font of knowledge. We drove the entire course with the bikes on her minivan and spent some time riding up the two hills, neither of which was steep. It was good to get on the bike and see what they felt like, knowing that on race day I would have more mileage on my legs and I got to see the landmarks, although the unfortunate squirrel that marked the bottom of Chalk Hill had been removed!


Afterwards we donned our wetsuits and went off to the river to get a feel for the water and a look at the swim in and out areas. I was very surprised at the warmth of the water and even more so at the depth, there were parts of it where I could stand up very easily and it would barely reach my waist, other areas were higher but overall there was very little that was deep, it was pretty clear and my comfort level and confidence was significantly boosted. As a side note I think the swim experience at the Desert Tri back in March where the water was shockingly cold somewhat scarred me and at each event my confidence is being boosted…hopefully this is not pride before a fall!

The next day, Saturday, we met up with Sheila, another local and friend from Daily Mile and headed off the Expo for the compulsory briefing and to collect our numbers etc. One error was to forget our shoes as the same location was to be T2; the race is actually a point-to-point, which meant we would have to go back later, not a real drama but something to remember for the future. The briefing was…err brief and I lingered to ask a question about the road closures, of which there was none but was a assured that at the time on a Sunday it was pretty “Sleepy Hollow” but without the headless horseman.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and going over kit etc. followed by an early dinner and early night. Meanwhile down at the beach they were building the Swim out and T1


The morning came soon enough after an on/off night’s sleep as you would expect. If you have been following my training you will know that the last couple of months have been a bit lackluster; a small bout of over-training followed by a couple of injuries had diminished my expectations for this race to one of “complete” rather than compete, along with learn, smile and remember it’s my first and so with those in mind I stood in T1 peeling my wetsuit on not nerve free but significantly less nervous that I have done in the past.

I was in the third wave after the Pro Men and Pro Women so it was an early start with the alarm ringing at 4:30am, ablutioned and out the door by 5:30am, one huge benefit of the hotel was the walk to the start line. I set up my T1 on my newly acquired “prayer transition mat”, wished Becca good luck; she was two rows down from me and even had a chance to meet Ron (PunkRockRunner) and have a chat. At 6:30am I entered the water and started getting wet, sounds silly right but one thing I have learned is to get the water in your suit, down your back in your ears and up your nose. While not as warm as the day before it was fine. And I found a rock to perch on towards the end of the group away from the “washing machine” and waited…3, 2, 1 and we were off and I hit start on my Garmin. The course was a counter clockwise out-and-back, as expected it took a while to get into my stride, my left goggle filled on one side and so I simply stood and emptied it, afterwhich it was fine, I seem to have an issue double capping as that has happened in the past too…something to remember for the future. I was playing an Avril Lavigne song in my head and I stuck to that for a good while. One problem I had was that I am only a one sided breather and a counter clockwise direction means I cannot see the buoys, it does mean I could follow the riverbank which wasn’t so great as when I did look up to sight I had gone off course and was adding unnecessary distance, I course corrected and was off again. My one confession on the swim was at the turn around where it was less than 2 feet deep and so I simply stood and walked. The return leg had me going off course again but again I corrected and without too much time I could see the Swim Exit. With 20 yards to go I stood up and ran out into T1.

T1 was in a dusty parking lot and so adding 200 wet swimmers to the mix it didn’t take to long for it to turn into a dusty/pasty muck fest. There were a lot of folks looking more like trail runners than triatletes at the end of the day! I got my wet suit off and my bike kit on. My transition zone was one of the closest to the swim and therefore almost the longest to the bike mount line, with that in mind I had clipped my shoes onto the pedals and used rubber bands to hold them off the floor this worked great getting to the mount line which was at the exit to the parking lot and at the bottom of a short sharp hill. I ran straight through it and up the 150 yards or so to the top of the hill.

I had never planned to do a flying mount so I swung one leg over to put my foot in the shoe and found that the band was too long and would not break. I reached down and pulled it up till it snapped and with my foot on the other shoe I was off, carefully staying to one side until both feet were in the shoes and I pedaling, it still took another half mile to get fully comfortable but then I was on my way proper.

The ride uses a mix of main and back roads, the most noticeable features are a nasty turn at Mile 5 followed by a short sharp hill, a climb at Mile 24 and a second bigger climb “Chalk Hill” at Mile 44, other than that it is mostly rolling countryside, alongside vineyards. Conscious of the turn at Mile 5 I worked hard to get past a group of riders only to be overtaking by an idiot 10 meters before the turn, he had no idea what was coming up and was going too fast, had to unclip, dab both sides and generally wobble all over the road and get in my way, I just stayed out of his way and passed him later; that was the last I saw of him. I settled into the ride and was very conscious of my knee which has been an issue for a couple of weeks. I started doing mental math. My target was for a 2:45 ride which is 20mph. The first 20 miles clicked my in 2:45:30 so I was within touch but the reality was with the two climbs and tiredness to come my time would trail off which it did. Adding into the mix a lack of saddle time in the new position post refit back in June and my backside was starting to make itself known around the 40 mile mark. The climb gave me some relief as I like to stand and while not as efficient as sitting it just works.

I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable and my right forearm and shoulder was going a bit numb, I think this is due to not having enough time in the refit aero position since having my bike rebuilt in June. I was also feeling hungry and I had not eaten the Bonk Bar that my nutrition plan called for, in addition I know that when I feel hungry it’s not a good sign but it was too late to have solid food and then run. By 50 miles my backside was really kinda done too, another refit issue, and I was counting down the miles on my Garmin looking for that last turn. Within the last mile I started my last Gu which I would start the run with.

I hit the dismount line and in a similar way to the swim had a long way to run to my rack, it was a pseudo flying dismount, one foot out then a quick check to make sure the cranks were level so as to drag my shoes the entire way. I reached my rack and started to change. I had left my CEP sleeves off until now and so I plonked myself down on the floor to pull them on…OMG what a timesuck! Once they were on socks and shoes followed. I grabbed my Fuelbelt and headed out. Critical decision time…to pee or not to, there was one person in line and 4 porta johns. I was 10 yards from them he went in, the odds were in my favor and I really needed to go…and had tried on the bike but clearly I need to practice finding my relaxed place as nothing was forthcoming (FYI it took a couple of years and several bad trys to figure out how to pee and run on the trails at the same time!) I decided to wait as I had no idea when the next opportunity would be before the first mile marker and a minute or so later one came free and I was good to go…so to speak! Of course this all added to my transition time but it had to be added somewhere.

The run was an out and back with a loop around a vineyard, not very scenic and to be honest my head was down most of the way. It was really a case of gutting it out, there was never any thought about not finishing but it was a race against the clock. My running has been pretty crappy and I have not run anything longer than 7 miles in months, but I had been reminded that if I could run 8 I could run 13 so I did. Strategically I walked some of the hills although these breaks became more frequent towards the end. As I was hungry I grabbed half a banana off of each of the first 5 aid stations which were at every mile, from there it was water, ice and appropriately enough grapes!

Despite a gloomy cloudy start the sun had come out about 90 minutes into the bike and while there was a fair amount of shade this was reduced on the run and it was warming up as the clock approached noon. Despite a liberal smear of Factor 50 my shoulders still caught the sun. I was still fighting the clock and my pace was tailing off, I was doing math to get me a sub 6 hour finish and as I ran into the finish chute I saw the clock with 6:0X, then I remembered the clock started with the Pros and I was going to just sneak under my target . With a quickened pace I crossed the finish line, which even had tape across it! I heard my nom de bloge yelled and turned to see a friend Layla from Twitter holding it! While lining up for a finisher photo I met another DM friend Lauren…it was a total DM/Twitter meet up weekend!

So in a nutshell, a great swim, a good bike and a poor run, based on my original goals this came in as a B/B/C race but given my recent training tribulations I am very happy.

The key takeaways:

  • Getting there a day early gives you buffer to decompress and get everything together, including your mind
  • Bike course recon is a must; this is something I am trying to do as much as possible for IMAZ
  • A Pre-race swim is also a must; comfort in the water is a real confidence booster
  • Taping gels to my cross bar; easy to reach but scratch your legs to hell
  • I need to eat per my plan, no surprise there, just do it dummy!
  • If I am going to get to the start of IMAZ strong and flexible, to stop me from breaking in training and to help me be aero for 6 hours, I need to work on my strength and flexibility…go figure!
  • The best news is that it was all injury pain free and so hopefully that is behind me and I can move forward with the next round of training

Some thoughts on new kit etc:

  • The straw on my Torhans aero bottle bounces out which is a pain and I have written to them to see if it is a known issue
  • My new Hammer kits chaffs; but that could be because it’s new and because I do not have the saddle time post refit
  • Disc/Deep Dish wheels are under serious consideration
  • As is another go at finding an aero helmet…I tried one and it did not fit
  • I managed to get a my 910XT to do as it was told and it worked very well for me, you can see all the data below

Finally while this is only one more step closer to IMAZ it’s a good time to say a big thanks to everyone who has helped me get here so far, knowing I am supported far and wide goes a long way to getting me to the start and the finish line!

Some Animoto fun on the bike route;


  1. Solid write up Q and well done on ticking the next box on route to a 140.6 and totally agree on following a fuel plan. Have you tried gel flasks to avoid the bar taping? I use isogels so fill a regular 500ml drinks bottle. Good luck with getting back to racing fit for IMAZ :) BTW did you know there's a firmware upgrade for the 910?

  2. nice review, I am hoping to knock one out soon. we shall see, keep up the solid races. Sorry to see the goals were not the "A" goals but at least you are out there.

  3. So so so proud of you! Can't wait to cheer for you in Arizona!

  4. Well done...its very hard to shift gears and go from racing to participating...you did a great job AND still met your goal!! Fantastic Day!!

  5. Nice job! And it was your first half-ironman, so that makes it even better! I'm glad I happened to hear the annoucer call your name (and that I somehow remembered it) -- I love seeing people I know, even if it is "virtually." Next time, we'll have a proper introduction.
    Meanwhile, congratulations and good luck on the next four months!

  6. Congrats on a successful race! The biggest thing is to get the experience in preparation for IMAZ and you have some good lessons. After years and years of trying, I still can't pee on the bike and ahve mostly just given up on trying. At one Ironman, I had to stop 3 times! Dammit.

  7. nice work! sub-6 on you first half iron is a great test for the full!! keep up the good work (and build that running!)

  8. Congrats on finishing even with your recent injuries! You learned a lot for IMAZ, where I know you'll do excellent :)


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