Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Problem Solving in the Vineyards: Vineman 70.3 2014

I think I forgot to write a race review of St. George since I was busy writing a race preview and review of the women's pro race for In fact, this blog might have been forgotten since I was delighted to be asked to write for them again about Vineman ... My dear friend, Meredith Kessler, won both races so the writing came easy!

However, a flurry of race reports from twitter friends (Muncie, Hilo, Vineman) reminded me of the cathartic process of writing about my experience. Besides, I've been in "problem-solving" mode all year and I still haven't quite figured things out so writing about it may help order my own thoughts... and possibly elicit suggestions and ideas from others!

My goals for the year were all focused around 70.3 racing. There's no Ironman on the agenda for a while (October 2015) so I figured by focusing on the 70.3 distance, I could have a breakthrough race at this distance... WRONG! I've been setting almost "personal worsts" on the run at every race.

- Blood tests in January indicated I could stop taking iron supplements, so I did (my doctor said so!)
- I changed triathlon coaches, going from a personalized plan from Chris Hauth to the PurplePatch Virtual Training Squad
- Allergies (that I never had as a kid) have taken hold of me this year and I was diagnosed with asthma in June

Pre-race dinner, we drove by my favorite "J Vineyards"
Vineman race recap

Swim 34:14 - it might be the easiest swim to navigate and safest swim on the 70.3 calendar. You could probably walk the entire thing because the river is pretty shallow in places. But I know from experience, standing up is ALWAYS a time-losing proposition so I resort to dragging my knuckles along the river bed for the 100 meters of the course that is particularly shallow. The awesome part of this year's swim was that Rokasports (swim sponsor) had put numbered flags on every buoy... if only I had known this pre-race so I knew when we could start counting down. For the record, the last buoy was #11 but there were still a few more yards after the 11th buoy to the turnaround.

My age-group was split into two waves and I was in the second wave, 6 minutes after the first. I lined up on the front row on the very left hand side, but no one else was around me. I took off swimming aggressively and waited for swimmers to pass me in the first couple of hundred yards, perhaps coming from the right hand side... except only one person did. Seriously, I'm the second fastest swimmer in the wave? That's unheard of! Another swimmer (fellow PP athlete Sandrine Micoleau?) came up on my side and we did end up swimming relatively close to one another most of the way, though I swam a more direct line to the swim exit and just beat her to the line, for the second fastest swim in my wave! It made me hope that I had swum a 31 or 32... nope; 34:14 was 20 seconds slower than last year. Sigh.

Bike 2:36:50 - I was most confident about the bike at Vineman since I had been able to ride the course a couple of times in the weeks leading up to the race. The first time was with Blanco and a Team EMJ friend, Pierre Billa. It was a pretty quick ride, riding from Windsor HS to Guerneville and then riding the full Vineman course (~72miles) in 3:30. I headed back up to Windsor to repeat the same ride with PP pro Laura Siddall the weekend prior to the race, and it was comforting to feel that I knew the course well... it's quite a roller coaster so you need to be confident about maintaining momentum over the rollers and not lose time. What I had not taken into account on my pre-rides of the course was the volume of race-day traffic. My race had started at 8:18am, the last female wave, and it meant that some 2,000 athletes were already on course, as well as tons of cars. Put together narrow roads, cars (following their athletes???) and lots of cyclists riding at very different speeds and it all feels very cluttered and a little dangerous. I tried to stay on task, remain aero, pass politely and not get too frustrated when stuck behind cars and multiple other cyclists... though my voice may have been slightly hoarse from yelling "on your left" by the end of the bike! Of course, my fellow AG competitors experienced the same challenges, so the conditions are fair, if slightly scary. I was secretly hoping for a 2:35 bike split but I was happy to get off the bike under 2:40 and was curious to see if my newly prescribed inhaler might be my secret weapon on the run!

Run 1:53:41 - It was just after 11:30am when I hit the run and the sun was high in the sky, not a cloud to be seen. A week earlier, Laura and I were running around midday and the temps were in the 90s, it felt about the same when I set off from T2 (after a puff on the inhaler!). I don't have much to say about the run except that it felt like a death march from step one. I have not been running well in training or racing this year and my expectations for today were pretty low, with the exception of finishing, preferably sub 1:50. I clearly missed even that low expectation goal by a margin!

Finish 5:11:08 - 5th place AG - I felt rather disappointed at the finish line but I'll admit to perking up when I discovered that I had snuck onto the Ironman podium (5 deep in my AG), especially since Vineman is one of the few races that gives a prize to the podium finishers. My wooden box contains a bottle of La Crema pinot noir... that has not yet been drunk! I was also ecstatic to hear that MBK had won the women's race and that PP athletes and friends, Ritch Viola and Sarah Cameto had won the amateur races. Congrats to my speedy training buddies!

Awards ceremony, congratulating Betty team-mate, Jen Temperley.

Since I titled this post "problem-solving", you'll be forgiven for thinking there'd be a solution at the end of the post... I'm trying to solve the problem of my run... why am I suddenly 10 minutes slower than last year? Of course, I have some thoughts and ideas that I am going to put into practice ahead of my next two races (Lake Stevens and Mont-Tremblant):

- more race-pace (and longer) tempo running off the bike, as I need to re-find my fast feet

- I think of myself as a “momentum runner”… I just need to get going out of the gate and try not to slow down too much. I’ve never been a strong hill runner but I can gut through things if I am fit enough. I've been working on hill running for strength but it's not having the expected impact

- my best 70.3s have come about when I am training for Ironman. I always think that I’ll race 70.3s better when I am focused on 70.3s but it doesn’t appear to be the case! D'oh! I hate generalizing about things but after 13 years of triathlon, I think I have learned that I respond to volume more so than intensity. I've been trying to inject more intensity this year and it just leaves me exhausted. I respond better to load/big gears with only a dash of speed

- the inhaler is helping... I can once again breathe when I swim and run

- go back to taking an iron pill, B6, B12 and folic acid, as long as my doctor says it won't hurt