This was the one. The rock and the roll. The We Will Rock You. The Bee Bop and the Rock Steady. All of the Rock. The race where it all came together and showed glimpses of what kind of triathlete I can be. The shift from “coming back” to racing hard.
With this race, I punched my ticket to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Though I’ll be racing the ITU World Championship in Edmonton, Alberta six says earlier, I had to take the qualifying slot. It felt too right after this race and the Tour de Canada will be long, but not impossible.
And what would Vineman be without Pops V. being there for support?! In fact, it was a pretty stellar race weekend all around – Vince’s folks got a place on the river and we stayed with them and AD for a relaxing home base. Nothing like a home cooked meal the night before a race to top off the tanks.
- Dramatic race that involved a catch at mile 10.9 of the run and a 2 mile kick to the finish
- My best Ironman 70.3 result to date:
- 4:15, PR
- 3rd Amateur
- 1st Age Group
- Amateur run prime
- Personal fastest 70.3 bike split
- Swim was passable, but fell off the goal pace after show portion of river zapped energy
- Began the bike feeling wonky, but settled in and worked a very solid split through traffic to set myself up for a good race
- Hit the run with Vinny, and took off to chase down 1st AG, punctuated by a 2 mile kick
My dad and I listened to the National on the way up to the race and it was a really fun drive. So this song was playing in my head during the bike portion especially. The National is awesome, they are from Ohio and this is a good tune for a chill, but uptempo vibe. What else could you ask for?
Russian River is shallow enough to stand in most areas and mild in temperature. This usually means a pretty cohesive wave start, as sighting is as easy as it can get. The gun went off and my goal was to stay on Vince’s feet and come into transition with him. He started to pull away – he’s swimming really well right now – and I fell in with another group.
We made the turn and as we came back, the water bottomed out. I began dolphin diving because I thought that would be quicker than scraping rocks. This used too much energy so went back to the swim.
As we came into the final 200 meters, it really started to get congested with all of the waves ahead of us. This seemed to liven up the guys in my group, as it started to get rough. One guy in particular was straight swimming on top of me. I tried to keep my cool and get away from him, but the heart rate sky rocketed.
Swim Result: 30:57, 19th AG, 142nd OA
I got out essentially gasping for bread and really felt off going to my bike. As I took the bike off the rack and began to run away I began to go dark and had to stop and collect myself. I ran my bike up the hill and slowly got on the bike, not sure what to expect.
After starting timidly, I was able to turn the dial up a bit. Nick Giometti and I cut our way through many, many (many) people from previous waves. Unfortunately, I had my “On your left!” callout on speed dial.
Traffic aside, I was feeling great and keeping the foot on the gas. Half way through, I checked in on the numbers and I felt I was able to get stronger for the second half. Always a beautiful thing when that happens.
M2 had me spend the previous two weeks doing specific extended efforts and detailed long rides, as well as pedaling exercises to increase efficiency. I found myself referencing this – especially the pedaling efficiency drills – to keep power smooth and steady.
My good vibes and quick pace got majorly squashed however as I hit the roughly 1 mile long No Pass Zone coming into Transition 2. I felt the full weight of being in the last wave. It seemed some folks at the end of previous waves were content to sit up and (literally) not pedal as they coasted in. Passing here was grounds for disqualification, so all I could do was “coach” folks (took every ounce of strength to not have a jerkface tone) that the race was not over and we needed to keep it rolling. I knew I was having a great race and had the potential for podium. But here I sat, not pedaling the last mile of the bike.
Bike Result 2:21:26, 4th AG, 32nd OA
After tiptoeing like a running back through the folks getting off their bike, I saw Vince running in with his bike ahead of me. I hit the rack a few seconds after he did and as I put my shoes on, he yelled out for me to pick it up and come with. He was out probably 15 seconds before me and I sprinted out to catch him.
I ran the first mile in 5:34 as I caught up to Vince and he had to tell me to dial it back as I was still in “catch up” mode. And off we ran together, like we had so many times before on the roads, trails and track, picking off people one by one. We kept checking in with each other, “5:43s, cool it;” “6:12s, pick it up;” “hit that shade;” “pace this hill.” It was awesome, and our pipe dream for every race we do together. We were cruising.
It was HOT. We were hitting the aid stations hard – water over head, ice down shorts. We hit the SFTri aid station together and it was nice to see familiar faces as we barked “Water, Coke! Water, Coke!” And then at La Crema Vineyard, as Viva Pink energetically manned (womanned?) the aid station, we again made our preferences very clear.
La Crema is one of my favorite parts of the course, because it reminds me of a cross country race: soft dirt trail around the perimeter of the vineyard, spattered with tree cover. I mentioned something about the pace and got my first lukewarm response from Vince and knew that I was driving at least for the moment.
We made it back onto the road and as we went for the turnaround at mile 8, we saw Bradley from team Every Man Jack coming the opposite way. I knew Brad was a strong athlete and that there couldn’t have been anyone in front of him. I also knew that I was going to catch him, as long as each of us continued running as we were. A major if, because in that heat, who knows when the wheels could come off. But I was feeling great, considering, so I pointed him out to Vince, who at this point was a step behind and I got no response.
This is when I knew I was going to finish the run without Vince. With new energy I surged into the turn around, and saw Vince three seconds behind. I gave him the wave, the same wave he gave to me out of transition, and got the thumbs up in return. Damn it. I wanted to continue crushing this run with Vince, but I knew I was on my own.
I locked in and the chase was on. Again, I bulldozed through the SFTri aid station, “Water, Coke! Water, Coke!” Only Bradley wasn’t the first guy from my age group that I passed. I didn’t realize it, but Ezra Becker (M25-29) was between us. As I passed him, he said “Go get ‘em…” to which I gave a response of agreement, which may or may not have been English.
Ten seconds is how far Bradley was ahead of me at mile 10 and it took some serious self-awareness to not go for it all at once. “Still 5K left, no need to get it all now.” As it turns out, it wasn’t that easy anyways, because though I was running faster, Bradley was still running well. At mile 10.9, I finally settled in behind Bradley. And an internal dialogue occurred over about four seconds:
“If I go now, I have to kick for 2.1 miles… Ouch. Do I have that? Would it be safer to run with him a bit and kick later?”
“But what if he has some crazy 400m kick that I don’t know about and punches me out at the end?”
“At this speed, I’m not convinced we won’t get caught by someone behind us…”
And it was this last one that sealed the deal. I took a breath, stepped aside and punched it. The longest kick of my life was on.
After I made it down the hill and was about a mile away from the finish, I had a moment where I thought, “Move made, settle down and finish.” But I that passed immediately as something told me I had the chance for a special overall result. And so I continued and was fueled by the crowd that lined the return back to the finish.
As I made the turn into the chute, I was up on the toes as there was no pain, there was no exhaustion, only joy and a healthy dose of Heem that comes with a race well run. I zipped up the M2 kit before crossing the line, got a big welcome from the man, Eric Gilsenan, who loves M2, and broke the tape.
Run result 1:19:07, 1st AG, 8th OA
Overall result 4:15:15, 1st AG, 16th OA
What I learned:
I proved to myself that I can push the bike and still run hard. This was a big takeaway. I also now know that I race faster when I’m actually racing – that is, racing with and against others. I’ve always known this, but it really materialized.
It’s important to always be racing against something or someone, even internally, to have your best result.
I feel like I managed hydration and nutrition well with GU Brew, GU gels, Picky Bar and water/coke.
Finally I learned that I have the potential to be a pretty solid triathlete! I’ve always had this as a goal, but this race was affirming for the possibility.
Thanks to my family and friends for the support, it means the world. M2 for his guidance and the M2 community for the training atmosphere. GU for the goods to keep me going. All the volunteers and the Vineman crew for putting on a great race every year.
Onward – rock!