Race Report: Vineman 70.3

Note: I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this post. All products listed below were purchased with my hard-earned money and are provided for informational purposes only.

I bought the damn race photos so I may as well write a recap so you can enjoy way too many photos of my spandex-clad self :).

Similar to my Oceanside recap, I’ll try to limit the personal narrative/internal monologue and focus on preparation, strategy, and other helpful tidbits. This won’t be a literary masterpiece but hopefully it will be useful!

Pre-Race

I have a fairly standard set of gear I pack for races now. To make sure I don’t forget anything, I start packing a couple days beforehand and mentally simulate all the gear changes I’ll make during the race.

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So. Much. Shit.

I drove to Windsor early Saturday morning to get the mandatory pre-race briefing and packet pick-up out of the way. If you haven’t raced Vineman before, plan on spending a couple hours at the high school. Their packet pick-up process is more time-consuming than most other races. Oh yeah, parking can also be a nightmare.

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I love waiting in lines!!! (Photo credit: Isa Hashim)

After packet pickup-up, I rode the run course to make sure my bike was working properly. The road quality is still very poor in that part of town, so be careful. I saw a few people dealing with flats out there. Fortunately, The White Knight survived the short ride unscathed.

Although I had many friends racing that weekend, I opted to be anti-social for my pre-race dinner. Since I’m vegan, my options can be very limited depending on the restaurant of choice for the group and I’ve had some spectacularly bad races in the past as a result. I went to town at the Whole Foods in Santa Rosa then headed to the hotel to put my feet up and stuff my face. I had no GI issues on race day thanks to my dinner of sushi (one tofu roll and one avocado roll), potato bolani, vegetable soup, and bananas with nut butter. Before bed, I drank a bottle with 2 scoops of osmo preload.

Race Morning

This year, my age group was the last wave, starting at 8:42 am (FYI the pro men start at 6:25). To avoid any parking issues or potential race morning panic, I chose to arrive in Guerneville when transition opened at 5:30. This worked out really well for me. Parking was easy, I snagged a great spot in transition, and saw most of my friends before they started their races.

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Even the camera thinks it’s too early  (Photo credit: Kathy Harris)

After watching the pros head out on the bike, I literally sat on my ass in transition for the next hour and a half to save my legs/feet for the race. The late start time also allowed me to eat much more than I normally would on race morning. (I consumed about 700 calories)

During my swim warmup, my goggles started leaking. Fortunately, I brought a spare pair and had time to swap them out and continue my warmup.

Tip: Always bring extra goggles!

Swim

As a former way-back-of-the-pack swimmer, the constant contact of swimming in a pack is a relatively new experience for me. Basically, I was kicked and punched for 1.2 miles but didn’t have any moments of panic. I spent a lot time swimming in open water during this training cycle (1-2 times per week) which has helped me overcome my swimming anxiety.

Photo credit: Finisher Pix

Photo credit: Finisher Pix

Swim time: 39:04

Bike

On the bike, I focus on safety (there are a couple sketchy bit on the course), hydration, nutrition, and having fun.

To keep my hydration and nutrition on track, I have an alarm set on my bike computer that goes off every 10 minutes. I aim to consume at least one 24 oz bottle of green tea Skratch and a smooth caffeinator Picky Bar every hour. Before the race, I put 4 oz tick marks on each of my 3 water bottles and cut each picky bar into 6 pieces so I knew exactly how much food and drink to take at each alarm.

**TMI alert** I lost a bit of time on the first half of the bike slowing down and trying to relax enough to pee while riding but it didn’t work. Once I hit the aid station in Geyserville, I decided to make a pit stop so I could ride the rest of the course properly. Please feel free to share any advice on how to pee on the bike! 🙂

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Photo credit: Finisher Pix

Just before the high school, I saw my training partners/super cheerleaders, Allison and Jenesse and got a big boost of energy from them.

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This is where I yelled “what’s up bitches!!!” at my friends. Hopefully, there weren’t any kids around… (Photo credit: Dennis Mellican)

This year, T2 was longer than usual so I opted to remove my bike shoes at the dismount line and run to the bike racks barefoot.

Bike time: 3:03:14

Run

Although the weather was mild by Vineman standards, it still felt effing hot by the time I started running. The plan was to drink a bottle of Skratch every hour on the run, stuff ice in my bra and shorts at each aid station, and shamelessly expose my jiggly bits to stay cool.

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When I don’t know my photo is being taken… (Photo credit: Dennis Mellican)

I stuck to the plan… except for the running part. Between miles 3 and 11, I gave myself too many excuses to walk. Still need to work on that whole mental toughness thing…

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Most forced smile ever (Photo credit: Finisher Pix)

Run time: 2:35:14

Finish

Total time: 6:26:00

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Photo credit: Finisher Pix

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So happy to be done (Photo credit: Finisher Pix)

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Jenesse, me, Coach Muddy, and Allison (Photo credit: Dennis Mellican)

Race Report: IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene

 

Related post: IMCdA Pre-Race Preparation

Almost a month has passed since I completed IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and it still feels like it was just a dream. No matter how many times I see my medal, pictures from the day, or the obscene amount of race merchandise I purchased, I can’t convince myself that it actually happened. My suffer level never exceeded “mild discomfort”, which seems unfathomable and is probably the reason that it doesn’t feel real.

Training for an Ironman means investing a year of time, energy, and emotion for just one day. You get one shot to achieve a goal that seems impossible when attempting it for the first time. Considering I DNF’ed both my last marathon and century ride, taking on an Ironman seemed like a tall order.

Goals

Since this was my first attempt at the iron distance, I approached it like a science experiment and used the race to collect data that I will use to set my goals for future races. These were my modest goals for IMCdA:

  1. Finish, and in a minimal amount of pain
  2. Avoid shitting my pants
  3. Thank as many volunteers as possible
  4. Have fun

I didn’t set any specific time goals for the day. I just wanted to be strong enough going in that I could take it easy the whole day without having to worry about missing any of the cutoffs.

Pre-Race

At 3:30 am, I woke up to my the sound of my Ironman theme song, “Best Day of my Life” by American Authors. I planned to consume about 800 calories for breakfast but my nerves made it difficult to eat. I managed to choke down a picky bar and a banana with peanut butter, roughly 600 calories. I got my BF and mom out of bed around 4:00 and then we made our way downtown. I popped in the transition area to pump up my tires, mount my bike computer (powered up and ready to go), and put two bottles of Skratch on my bike. After a quick pep talk from my coach and a trip to the bathroom, I squeezed into my wetsuit, drank a bottle of Osmo Preload (~3,000mg of sodium), took a dip in the lake, then seeded myself in the 1:31-1:45 corral for the swim start.

My mom requested a "KIm Kardashian pose" shot

My mom requested a “Kim Kardashian pose” shot

My friends, Carin and Ryan, generously made the trip to Coeur d’Alene to support and cheer for me. It was great to hang out with them for a few minutes while I waited to enter the water. I needed all the distractions I could get to keep from psyching myself out before the swim.

I'm about to do an Ironman, but first, let me take a selfie

I’m about to do an Ironman, but first, let me take a selfie

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Standard pre-race double thumbs-up

Finally, it was time for us slower swimmers to get in the water. As luck would have it, the speakers were blasting “Best Day of my Life” as I crossed the timing mat. It was the perfect way to start the race!

Swim

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My sighting skills still need some work. Can you tell that the second turn buoy tried to run away on the second loop?

The wind was very strong from the start and made for a very choppy swim. Despite choking on a lot of water and repeatedly getting punched in the head by the same guy, I managed to stay calm. The first few paddle boards were surrounded by swimmers needing a break but I kept moving forward, focusing only on making it to the next buoy.

The second lap was even choppier than the first, but by then I had figured out how to deal with the waves. I could feel when a wave was about to break over my head and waited for it to pass before breathing and this kept me from inhaling any water on the second lap. Once I learned how to handle the challenge of the waves, I fully embraced it and entered a mental state I never experienced before. It was like I discovered some badass alter ego I never knew I had and the chop was no match for her. (Now I have to come up with a good name for her!)

Swim time – 1:40:22. A very slow split for most people, but very good for me. I had a lot of doubts before the race, but coming out of the water, I knew I was going to finish.

HOLY SHIT, I DIDN'T DIE!!!!

HOLY SHIT, I DIDN’T DIE!!!!

T1

After a quick visit with the wetsuit strippers, I grabbed my T1 bag and headed to the changing tent to prepare for the bike. As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I packed clothing for every possible weather scenario. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining and I didn’t get cold during the swim so I didn’t need any of the contingency clothes I packed. Doing a full change when you’re wet is challenging because everything sticks to your skin. Next time, I’ll follow the advice of a volunteer and sprinkle baby powder in all my clothes before packing them in my gear bags. After changing, I stuffed my food and emergency numbers in my bra pockets, applied some chammy butter, and made a stop at the restroom before grabbing my bike and running to the mount line.

T1 time – 17:42. For me, it was worthwhile to sacrifice a few minutes in transition to have the comfort of dry clothes on the bike.

Bike

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Bike Course Map

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Bike course elevation

I was so excited to be on the bike. The people around me must’ve thought I was crazy because I was either giggling or crying (tears of joy, of course) the whole time. The course is challenging but it brings you through town four times so you never have to go too long without getting some love from the crowds. The first 14 miles is an out-and-back that follows the run course and is mostly flat. The rest of the loop is 42 miles of hills and wind. Then you have to ride both sections a second time.

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A little breezy on race day

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During the bike, I focused on eating, drinking, going easy, and enjoying the scenery. It’s easy to forget about nutrition while getting wrapped up in the excitement of the day. To keep myself on track, I set an alarm on my bike computer to remind me to eat and drink every 10 minutes.

When faced with headwinds and hills, I just slowed down and kept spinning in an easy gear. I did most of my training on hilly roads with strong winds so I was well prepared, mentally and physically, for this course. There were some tense moments when the crosswinds would gust and throw my bike around but I was in my happy place the rest of the time.

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“Blue Steel” or “I just hit a pothole and destroyed my lady bits”?

Bike time – 7:53:17. I was stopped for about 20 minutes total between a pit stop at one of the aid stations and bike special needs. Total moving time ~7:35.

T2

I opted to run in my tri kit so T2 was slightly faster than T1. After exiting the change tent, I stopped to chat with the BF for a few minutes, said “I guess I’m going to run a marathon now”, then ran out of T2.

T2 time – 9:29

Run

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Run course map

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Run course elevation

Just like the swim and bike, the run course is two loops. It’s mostly flat except for one big hill that you have to run up and over before turning around and running back up and over in the other direction.

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Starting the run

I was amazed at how fresh my legs felt coming off the bike. The first few miles ticked away in a flash and I didn’t have any signs of leg cramping or GI distress, issues that plagued me in the past. I decided to be conservative and walk the uphill sections of the first loop. 10 miles into the run, I was still feeling great, nothing hurt and my stomach was calm. I was running better off the bike than I had in any Olympic or 70.3. No matter what happened later in the race, I already reached a huge accomplishment that I could be proud of.

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Synchronized shuffling

After about 11 miles, I started to feel a little nauseous. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of vomiting, so walked the next couple miles to settle my stomach. The rest of my body still felt great and I kept my spirits high despite having to slow down. Coming back through town at the end of the first loop, I saw all of my supporters and let them know it was probably going to be a long night.

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13 miles to go. Let’s take another selfie.

One of the highlights of the day was getting to run special needs. My mom was volunteering there and delivered my bag with a big hug. Even at age 31, nothing beats a hug and kiss from mommy.

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The most special of special needs

As many people were finishing their race, I headed out on the second lap of the run. My stomach felt fine when I walked, but I couldn’t eat anything and even struggled to drink water. I had enough time to walk the rest of the way and still make the cutoff so I planned to walk most of the second lap.

You would think that walking the last 13 miles of an Ironman would be miserable experience, but I found the opposite to be true. Slowing down gave me more time to take in the beauty of Coeur d’Alene. The view of the lake at sunset is an image I’ll always remember. I started chatting with some other people that were walking. It’s amazing what people will discuss with complete strangers at the end of a long day of racing. Chafing of the lady bits appeared to be a common ailment among the ladies at Coeur d’Alene 🙂 My favorite quote of the day came from a woman that was running in the opposite direction and randomly exclaimed “MY VAGINA HURTS SO MUCH!”

Even when walking, the miles seemed to fly by. I found Carin and Ryan waiting for me about half a mile from the finish. They took the stuff I didn’t want to have in my finish photos and ran the last few blocks before the chute with me. As we turned on Sherman Ave., I completely lost my shit and started crying like a baby. I tried my hardest to recompose myself, but it’s obvious from the following pictures that I failed 🙂

Run time – 6:00:50

Finish

The culmination of a long, amazing day!

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Finish time – 16:02:02
Finishing around 11:00pm is a great experience. You fall into this sweet spot where you’re fast enough that you’re never alone and not in danger of missing cutoffs but late enough that the crowds are huge at the finish. Eventually, I’d love to be fast enough to finish before sunset, but there’s something magical about emerging from the darkness at the end of the run to see the bright lights of the finish waiting for you.

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IMCdA Pre-Race Preparation

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies listed in this post. Brand/product names are provided for strictly informational purposes. 

The days leading up to an Ironman are very busy. With proper preparation and a strong support system, it can be a fun and stress-free experience.

I planned every detail of the trip with comfort in mind.

Air travel makes me cranky so the BF and I road-tripped from San Jose to Coeur d’Alene. By driving, I didn’t have to worry about bike transport, baggage restrictions, or flight delays. We split the 17 hour drive up over two days and spent a night in Bend, OR. The drive would’ve been a bit shorter if I wasn’t trying so hard to stay hydrated. I needed to use the bathroom every hundred miles 🙂

Instead of staying at a hotel in Coeur d’Alene, we rented a house from airbnb. This turned out to be a great decision. I had a fully stocked kitchen to prepare meals and didn’t have to deal with carrying my gear from a parking lot to a hotel room.  The house was about 4 miles from the Ironman Village; close enough to be convenient yet far enough to be removed from the commotion.

My favorite Coeur d'Alene landmark

My favorite Coeur d’Alene landmark

Being an Ironman rookie, I was very fortunate to have a teammate, Amy, with me that had completed IMCdA in the past. She guided me through everything on race weekend.  Friday, we met up early for a practice swim and shakeout run before getting in line for packet pickup. My to-do list for the day was complete by 10:30 and I had the rest of the day to relax back at the house.

Preparing of takeoff!

Preparing for takeoff!

Saturday morning, Amy and I rode our bikes on the run course before meeting up with our coach to drive the bike course. Then we checked in our bikes and gear bags and waited for the race to start the next day.

Bidding farewell to the White Knight

Bidding farewell to the White Knight


You may have noticed that I love to make lists of everything. Here’s the breakdown of what I packed in my gear/special needs bags for the race. My goal was to be comfortable as possible so I did a full change in T1 and I packed my bags for a variety of contingencies.

Double-bag everything, especially if rain is possible the night before the race.

The volunteer helping me in the changing tent gave me a good piece of advice that I’ll use for my next Ironman.   Sprinkle powder inside all your clothes before packing them in your bike gear bag.  This will make it easier to put on tight clothes when your skin is wet.

Bike Gear Bag

Bike Special Needs

Run Gear Bag

Run Special Needs

  • Headlamp
  • Plantain chips
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich  *didn’t use