Wow! I’m still on Cloud 9 after reaching the podium at the the Vineman AquaBike on Saturday. I want to first thank everyone for your kind texts/messages/e-mails of support before the event. It really helped motivate and encourage me out there on the course. And to everyone who came to watch/cheer/hold up ridiculously awesome signs… thank YOU! It is unbelievably powerful to see a familiar face cheering you on when the going gets tough. So thank you everyone!!
Also, big thanks and congrats to Jesse and Keith on strong races (#1 and #2 in their age group) and for letting me pick your brain all weekend with tri questions! Finally, congrats to Barbara and Chrissy (friends from Team in Training) for joining me on the Female 25-29 podium!
The AquaBike was a fantastic opportunity to practice my Ironman race-day strategy and also gain the confidence I needed heading into the 140.6 mile event on September 21st. Below is a detailed summary of the day if you’re interested. I also wanted to share a few of the highs/lows/mistakes not only so I can have a record of everything but also to help YOU avoid the same mistakes.
But to summarize as best as I can in case you just want the Cliffs Notes version: The swim was long but pleasant in the river… I felt amazing and fast on the bike until mile 90 when the heat and aches kicked in… I finished really happy and podiumed along with two great triathlon friends… this year has been insanely awesome… bring it on, IRONMAN!!!
- Race: Vineman Full AquaBike
- Distances: 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike. It’s an Ironman without the run.
- Date: Saturday, July 26th, 2014
- Goal: To finish and to learn a thing or two along the way. I was expecting around 8 hours.
- Actual Finish time: 8 hours 16 minutes
- Weather: Cool in the morning (~55) and got up to 95+ degrees (rumors of 105 degree temps at the peak)!!! It was SO hot!
- Nutrition: Osmo Active Hydration, Clif Shot Bloks, Bonk Breakers, Gatorade (out of desperation at the end), Water. Bread, almond butter and banana for breakfast.
- Wake up call: 4:10am
- Start Time: 6:48am
- # of Participants: ~150 for the Full AquaBike. Race also coincides with the full Vineman triathlon and Barb’s race 70.3
- Location: Johnson’s Beach (Russian River) for the swim, and through the vineyards of Sonoma County. Gorgeous scenery!!
- Highlight: First time ever on the podium!! 3rd place in my age group, joining Barbara and Chrissy!!
- Lowlight: Warm Osmo (hydration drink) and miles 90-112.
The Swim — 2.4 Miles
I absolutely LOVE swimming in the Russian River because it’s the least anxiety-inducing open water situation possible. The water is shallow enough to stand almost everywhere. You’re only 5 seconds away from a tree branch, shore or kayaker if you really need to take a break. The current is very pleasant. The water is warm like a pool. And it’s (obviously) not salt water! It’s pretty perfect.
When the gun went off at 6:48am I hung out in the back and let everyone go ahead of me. I do this in almost every triathlon to let the fast people get ahead and to avoid getting kicked around.
Then it was just slow moving and steady stroke counting for 2.4 miles. The water was so shallow at a couple points that most people had to stand up and walk! It was pretty funny and unique to see in a race situation.
This was the first time I’ve swum 2.4 miles in a race situation and I gotta say, it’s long but very do-able. I was always so freaked out by the swim but Vineman gave me a lot of Ironman confidence.
I’m still working on improving my swim form and I’d love to get to a point where I’m in the 1 hour 20 minute ballpark. Anyone want to help a girl out on her swim technique? 🙂
Result: 1 hour 35 minutes.
The Bike — 112 Miles
Before the race I knew I could bike 112 miles. I had done Death Ride, Alta Alpina, and a couple other Century rides. But the question was — could I bike 112 miles at race pace in 100-degree heat and without stopping for a sandwich? I wasn’t so sure…
I started the bike feeling like a total superstar and happy to be out of that swim and in my happy place. I LOVE cycling and find such sheer enjoyment out of the sport so I really looked forward to this beautiful and mostly flat ride.
The first loop of the course was amazing. I felt super strong, I was comfortable, I was very happy, I kept a consistent nutrition strategy, and I wasn’t over-heating. Woohoo!!!
The first part of the 2nd loop was just as strong and I was keeping a steady ~18mph average pace. It was so amazing to see all of the wonderful familiar faces out there cheering. Thank you ALL for being out there! It helped so much.
At around mile 70 or so I passed an older man and he shouted “go girl!” And for some reason that gave me a huge boost of energy and made me smile ear to ear. Most people don’t talk to each other during races, it’s just a bunch of “on your lefts” so I really appreciated the kind words of encouragement.
Then around mile 90 is when things started to get really hard. I started the dreaded ‘countdown’ and tried every mental strategy I knew to get me through the last bit (“22 miles — that’s like biking to work! You can do this!”)
It was extremely hot, my booty was sore, and I had a hard time getting into my aero bars because I was achy all over. My pace slowed down to about 15mph and I just chugged along the best I could. But Wow, that last hour or so was humbling!
The Iron distance is no joke and the AquaBike gave me a preview of what’s to come in Tahoe. The Tahoe bike course is a lot harder than Vineman (altitude effects + more climbing) so I’ll have to adjust my time expectations accordingly. I’ll also be going slower at Tahoe because I need to save a little more gas in the tank for the marathon afterwards.
But all-in-all I’m really happy with the day and elated to celebrate my first podium finish!!
Result: 6 hours 32 minutes
Something New On Race Day
You know that rule of thumb “nothing new on race day?” I’m going to stir the pot a bit and say that I think that should only apply to your “A” race of the year. For other races I consider them supported training days to try new strategies and sometimes products. Call me crazy, but I think this is the best way to hone your “A” race strategy. It’s hard to simulate race day in training in my experience. Here’s what I did “new” this time around:
- Angel Wings. I wore these crazy-looking arm coolers that I like to call Angel Wings. When I got them wet with water on the bike they kept my arms so nice and cool. And they also help block the UVB rays so I didn’t have to worry about re-applying sun block every 90 minutes and inevitably missing a spot anyway. (I still wore sunblock underneath for those pesky UVA rays, though). The coolers are really lightweight and comfortable so it didn’t feel like an extra layer; really glad I wore them. The only issue I had was getting them on in transition because my skin was wet from the swim. I had to have a volunteer help me pull them on my arms! Next time I need to bring an extra towel to dry off so this is easier.
- Race Wheels. I’ve always loved the sound, the look, and the speed bonus of race wheels. Let’s face it, they make your bike look pretty hot. Since I don’t use a triathlon (time trial) bike I figured an extra boost with race wheels might be nice. I decided to go through a local shop called Podium Wheel Rentals. Tony helped me pick out the perfect set (HED Jet 4 in the front, HED Jet 6 in the back) and installed them for me right at the expo! It worked perfectly. And I think I’ll rent another pair for IM Lake Tahoe. And eventually maybe I’ll buy a set to own.
- Bonk Breakers + Osmo. These weren’t totally new as I’ve used them in training, but it’s the first time I’ve had these products in a race. I had 2 Bonk Breakers (PB&J and Espresso Chip for extra caffeine) on the bike ride and 4 bottles of Osmo Active Hydration drink (mango flavor). The Bonk Breaker bars are great because they’re dense, easy to chew, and have quite a bit of protein and fat for sustained energy. The Osmo was OK but I think I might try different products over the next few weeks. It didn’t taste very good when the water got warm and it didn’t have that sugary taste that I was craving in the high heat. Also, it was hard to dump my individual powder packets into the water bottle while pedaling, so had to stop each time. Nuun tablets are probably easier, or just taking what’s on the course. Still trying to figure this one out. Any advice is welcome!
- Changing into bike shorts. I’ve never used a changing tent at a race before so this was a little new to me. I wanted to be comfortable on the bike so I swapped out my tri shorts (minimal padding) for my bike shorts (extra padding). Luckily the women’s changing tent was really low-key with only like 2 people so I didn’t have to wait or bump into people. I think I’ll do this again at Tahoe. I might even think about wearing a bike jersey for larger pockets, but not sure yet.
Learning From Mistakes
Yup, definitely made a few mistakes for this race, but will learn from them so they never happen again!
- Didn’t apply chamois butter. I was so frustrated with the time it took to put on my Angel Wings that I said “forget it” to basically everything else. So I didn’t apply chamois butter. BIG mistake! This is a must-do going forward!
- Didn’t bring an extra towel in transition. I had a towel to lay down on the ground to set up my transition stuff (sunscreen, cleats, body glide, nutrition, water, etc) but I forgot to bring an extra one to use to dry off my arms and feet. I definitely could’ve used this!
- Forgot to bring a light jacket. When I was packing I had “heat, heat, heat” on my brain and forgot that it’s actually pretty chilly outside at 5am. So I didn’t pack a jacket. Luckily I brought “real” clothes so I ended up wearing a button-down Jean shirt from the GAP on race morning. It looked kind of weird but whatever. I’ll be bundled up at Tahoe on race morning for sure!
- Early isn’t early enough to get to the start! We left the hotel at 5am for a 6:48am start and it was barely enough time. Crazy. There are SO many things to do on race morning that you really have to get there extra early. I was in line for the porta-potty for a good 30 minutes but resorted to the bushes because I was going to miss my start!
- Probably started the bike too fast. I biked the first 56 miles in 3 hours and 6 minutes. Once I saw that I thought “that’s too fast to sustain for the long haul” so I backed off a bit. Then mile 90 is when things started to get really hot, really hard, and really achy. I’m so happy I didn’t have to run after that bike ride!
- Get aero!!! Because I didn’t wear chamois butter (see bullet 1) my booty started to get really sore at around mile 80. I was in my aero bar position for almost the whole race so by the time I got towards the end I wanted to sit up and change positions get be more comfortable. But I knew that aero was more efficient, so I actually had to remind myself to push through the aches. I think next time I have to change my position more frequently and obviously wear chamois butter!
- Forgot my Garmin wristband. Also can’t believe I forgot to bring the wristband part of my Garmin. I only brought the face of the watch that mounts to my bike. So I couldn’t use my Garmin for the swim because I didn’t have anywhere to put it. This was fine for AquaBike but I’ll want it for Ironman.
- Eating and drinking a lot and regularly. I had my bento box on my bike filled with 600 calories worth of Shot Blocks as well as 2 Bonk Breakers (250 calories each) cut into bite-sized pieces and my jersey stuffed with even more. I just ate and drank consistently throughout the ride. I don’t know how much I consumed in total but it was about as much as could handle.
- Bike shorts. Loved having the comfort of bike shorts. I wore tri shorts during my practice ride last weekend to see if I thought I could wear them for 112 miles… nope!
- Swim — sticking to the outside of the course. I have one swim pace — slow and steady. I’m working on it, but it is what it is. The men’s AquaBike started 3 minutes after the women so I knew I was going to get trampled by everybody, so I stuck to the outside of the course. That worked well for me and I only got kicked around a couple times.
- Keeping chapstick with SPF with me. My lips got so dry and chapped in the heat so I’m thrilled I thought to bring chapstick along with me.
- Thanking everyone. I thanked as many volunteers and police officers as possible for their incredible support. They were amazing and thanking them also keeps my positivity high. I know that if I don’t have the energy to thank someone, or if I’m too much in a dark place to shout out a simple “thanks!” then that’s a really bad sign.
After the race it was hugs all around when we found out that Barbara, Chrissy and I (friends from the Team in Training LavaFlower season) swept the podium. What a great ending to a tough day! We heard our names at the awards ceremony, accepted our bottle of wine, and snapped some photos.
It was truly amazing. I couldn’t believe I made it on a podium, especially after I declared that I’m just not one of “those” people who podiums. Spoke too soon I guess!
Then I joined the Run Aid station with some Golden Gate Tri Club friends and handed out water and Gatorade to the Full Vineman runners. We also cheered on Katie P, Jen R, Tracy C and AJ J to successful finishes. Amazing job all around everyone!! I seriously can’t imagine running in that heat!! I’m so incredibly proud of everyone who raced the half ironman, the Aquabike and the full Vineman — it was an extremely challenging day and you should all be so happy!
The Day After
On Sunday morning I felt surprisingly good, even though I didn’t foam roll or take an ice bath. I got up early, grabbed my running shoes, did a little running route research online, and headed out to Spring Lake near Santa Rosa to run the trail around the lake. It was absolutely spectacular. I ended up running 13 miles and felt great the whole time. Really happy that I had enough energy left to get this workout in! Bring it on, IRONMAN!!!!
This Week’s Training Log
- 27th. Run. Run in Santa Rosa after Vineman. 13.1 miles.
- 26th. Bike. Vineman AquaBike. 112 miles. 6 hours 35 mins. 3,600 ft of elevation gain.
- 26th. Swim. Vineman AquaBike Race. 2.4 miles. 1 hour 35 mins.
- 23rd. Run. Post-happy hour (bad idea). 5.2 miles. 9:02/mi
- 23rd. Swim. Morning 2,250 yards. 56 mins.
- 22nd. Bike. M2 power cycle class.
Thanks Everyone. Swim. Bike. Run. Eat Plants.