Let me begin by saying how special this race is to me! I raced Vineman and won it in 2008 and 2009, before I got my pro license. My parents live in Ukiah, California, an hour north of Sonoma County where Vineman takes place. The scenery is beautiful, and I love the rolling hills. The course is challenging! Road surfaces have improved with re-paving over the years, but there are still sections of uneven chip-seal and potholes which don’t help bike speeds. The run is usually very hot with some major hills and stretches without any shade.
Saturday morning, July 26: I had slept poorly, which is common the night before a race. Two nights before is when you want to get your best sleep because you can’t count on the one right before the race. Got up at 4:30am (6:30 race start). Coffee. Two packets Instant oatmeal made with hot water from the coffee maker, and almond butter. Sipped electrolytes in water till start. Half banana about 15 min before start.
Morning temp low 60s, no fog. It was supposed to be a hot day. Often there is a misty fog in the air for a few hours in the early morning but today it was already clear and fairly warm by 6am.
I used a new sleeveless wetsuit from TYR (Thank you to my sponsor!), which was perfect for water temp (around 74 degrees). The river’s water level was low; it usually is this time of year but maybe lower this year due to drought. Some areas you could easily walk, and my hands grazed the bottom and I kicked the bottom at a couple points on the far end of the course. Two loops. My swim time was slow but I hadn’t felt slow! I felt strong and I enjoyed the swim (1:03:14). I came out of water 2nd, about 3-4 min behind 1st girl. The next woman, Sarah Jarvis, was right on my heels getting out of water; she and I had swum close together the whole time. I tried to draft her but I was slightly faster so I think she drafted me most of the way. I picked up pace last few minutes to make sure to gap her a little into T1.
T1 was awkward – as per my usual – hard to get my feet out of tight ankles of suit, get slightly flustered and don’t go smoothly. Got gear on and headed out but Sarah had beat me out of Transition. I slowly made it up the short steep hill out of T1 in not-quite-the-right gear (I should have run the bike up; most people do). T1 time: 2:16
Caught her about 10 min up the road, though she was biking at a good pace. I felt great and was excited and determined to get ahead. I passed Fast Swimmer around 47 minutes in. It was heating up fast, and I knew I had to stay on my hydration and nutrition. I was very diligent about taking 2 Salt Stick capsules (25mg sodium)/hour and 300 cals/hour (mostly liquid cals). When I quickly finished my first bottle just under the first hour, I realized I should have put a 3rd bottle on my bike for this hot race. I stopped at a total of 3 Aid Stations during the bike to pour ice water into my own water bottle instead of throwing it away and taking the plastic bottles at the Aid Stations. I knew those would rattle around in my bottle cage and I might lose them and I really needed to drink a lot of water. Sarah would pass me each time I stopped at an A.S but I would always catch her pretty quickly and stay in front. I knew stopping was detrimental (typically I, and most athletes, ride through the Aid Stations and are handed bottles or food – without stopping) but I felt strongly that I should fill my bottles with ice water and not lose them on the uneven road surfaces. Most of the roads in this race are really bumpy; there are pot holes and sections that are kinda sketchy due to old paving or chip-seal. Several sections have been re-paved and are so much better than they used to be, but there are plenty of places where water bottles can easily get jarred out.
On the 2nd loop I began feeling parched, my stomach was bothering me, and I had the worst dry mouth I’ve ever experienced. I would take a mouthful of water to swish around & then spit it out, just to wet my mouth but not drink it because my stomach was feeling bloated and uncomfy. I stopped taking the salt capsules around mile 85 because I wondered if I was holding in too much water or if the salt was upsetting my stomach. I knew I needed to keep getting calories in, so I would rinse my mouth with water and then I’d sip the calories. Twice I made myself choke down a Gu that I really didn’t want to.
Sarah passed me at the Special Needs stop (about mile 58) because she didn’t stop at all. I was hoping that because she wasn’t stopping she wouldn’t have enough calories or water to keep her going faster than me! I got my pre-mixed bottles and more Gu’s and headed back out, picking up the pace to catch her. I kept her in sight for miles, but she seemed strong and I felt like I was fading in the heat and maybe dehydrated. I figured I really didn’t have the top-end bike fitness that I have had in the past, but tried to not give up and just keep pushing because you never know how things will turn out later. Even if I was no longer going as fast as I wanted to, it’s a hot ironman race and you never know how those in front of you are going to fade maybe more than you at a later time. Don’t give in!!
I really thought my stomach issues were not going to go away. I thought maybe I needed to go to the bathroom but I didn’t want to stop and it didn’t seem URGENT. My dry mouth was terrible! I stopped the salt tabs and just sipped calories as regularly as I could.
I came in off the bike in 2nd, about 5 min behind Sarah – yikes! I had a quick transition but then I went into a port-o-potty to see if I could get some relief and much to my surprise I had to pee – A LOT. And some gas. (TMI? Sorry, this is the nitty-gritty and UN-glamorous side of triathlon!!) I had a 4+ min T2 and it was because I went to the bathroom. My stomach felt better, though, and I felt like I could actually run so I think it was worth it. A while before, I had no idea how I was going to stand up straight and run! T2 time: 4:15!
From my transition spot, I grabbed my prepared disposable bottle with 200 calories CarboPro (powdered caloric mix) and drank it within the first four 4 miles as I ran, still being a little careful with the stomach because it was still a little iffy. I knew if I could get the calories in early on, it would help my later race a ton. Sarah was quite a bit ahead of me, but at least by mile 10 spectators and even other racers were telling me she looked like she was weakening. I was amazed and impressed by how much support and cheering I got from the other racers. This happens somewhat in Ironman (brand) races but not nearly as much. This race is so…friendly! I gained a lot of energy from the participants, and tried to encourage and thank as many as I could. Sometimes I could only nod or give a weak smile, but I think everyone understands this.
The run course is 3 loops and it’s hilly and HOT. I think it got to 94 on race day. There is some shade but parts are totally in the sun. I took 2 cups of cold water at every Aid Station – one to drink and one for my head, and a cup of ice to hold in both hands and sometimes put down the side of my shorts or front of my top. This method helped keep me at a fairly reasonable temperature, and also gave me something to “look forward to” and concentrate on getting to at each mile.
I was gaining on her; she was fading. Some spectators and even a couple racers were giving me splits (not always accurate, but nice of them). Though I appreciated their intentions of telling me how far back from her I was, in the pain of the race it can be kind of annoying. You just want to keep running and when people say “Go get her! You’re close!” and things like that, I wanted to say back to them “YOU go get her. I’m busy running and trying not to pass out!”
But, I did catch her around mile 15 or 16 which was on the way in on the 2nd loop. (Each loop goes RIGHT by the Finish Line and you pick up a rubber bracelet to help you (and officials) keep track of your loops. How hard is it to count to three, you ask? In a marathon which has been preceded by 2.4 miles of river swimming and 112 miles of hot cycling on hilly bumpy roads, it can present quite a mental challenge, Thank You very much!)
The spectators, and Lucas, my family were so excited cheering like crazy; and I kept getting stats for how far ahead of her I was pulling. I had drank my 2nd bottle of 200 calories CarboPro on the way our for the 2nd loop (so, I drank it between mile 8.5-12.5), and had kept putting in water and 1-2 Gu’s (energy gels)per lap so I knew I had enough calories to stay on track as long as Sarah didn’t get a huge second wind which she did not.
I felt like I ran the last lap fastest, but I didn’t really, I was just feeling more confident and my stomach wasn’t hurting anymore. The heat was getting to everyone, though. The first-place guy who was way ahead of the others ended up dropping out at mile 24! Poor guy. I didn’t (couldn’t?) pick up the pace but I was determined to keep it steady and a bit faster than I wanted to. ‘Don’t slow down because there is a girl behind you! Don’t give in and lose this opportunity!’, I kept telling myself. Also, I was on track to break the course record. When the announcer said that on my way out onto the 3rd lap, I put my hands to my head indicating – ;Oh No I don’t want that pressure!’ But I did make it in to re-set the record (last set in 1997!), almost 7 minutes faster. I was THRILLED! The last 3 miles of the run were especially painful and I kept asking my bike escort (1st – 3rd place get a bike escort) to check for Sarah behind me because I knew I was slowing and just trying to maintain and NOT WALK! I had put plenty of time into her, though, and she was far behind me. She came in at 10:13:07, just seconds under the previous course record as well.
Crossing that finish line was AMAZING! I felt like the biggest super-star and it was SO meaningful to me because Lucas, my parents, one of my very best friends Vanessa and her father and her daughter were all there to see it. Hanging in there for yet another ironman-distance finish, with all the head-games and physical and mental angst that happens, PLUS winning, PLUS breaking a course record for the women…I feel so grateful to have accomplished this., especially this year because of all that I’ve had on my plate!
In 2008 (Race time: 10:44:42) and again in 2009 (Race time: 10:21:54) , winning the Vineman showed me that I could probably compete at a higher level. It made me ask myself if I wanted to pursue resources to help me see what I was made of. I got a coach (Curt Chesney, in Boulder) and I signed up for a bigger (in number of participants) ironman-distance race (Louisville, KY in August 2010), where I qualified for Kona. I raced the Ironman Championships in Kona in October 2010 and there I placed in the top 10 overall women “Age-Groupers” (not pro). This result qualified me to apply for my professional triathlete license through the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), which owns all of the Ironman-branded races which are the most numerous and largest around the world. They draw the highest caliber of triathletes.
I continued with my coach, Curt Chesney, I acquired a handful of sponsors, and I raced “pro” for four years (this is my fourth). I’ve had some very good results, bests being 3rd place in multiple Ironman races such a Wisconsin, Coer d’Alene, and Louisville Kentucky.
Winning Vineman this year, coming in 4th overall including the men, and breaking the women’s course record (with a time of 10:06:38) that was set back in 1997 (10:13:41, by Janet Christiansen of San Diego, CA) is a very satisfying way for my pro racing career to come full-circle. At the Vineman awards ceremony, they discussed the “legend of the Vineman”, and it wasn’t a big fancy “legendary” story of any kind, it was the fact that it’s a darn good race that good and great athletes have participated in and LOVED for the past 25 years. I am SO HONORED to have been a part of the “legend of the Vineman”. As I hang up my pro card at the end of this year, I will have no regrets. I feel great about my pursuits and accomplishments. They’ve come with sacrifice, for sure. I’ve learned a lot and there are things I might have like to do differently, but not given back. My racing and professional racing journey has taught me a ton, and has opened (and closed, which sometimes is a blessing) many different doors.
THANK YOU once again to my sponsors and all my family, friends, my workplace and co-workers and the residents that live at Frasier Meadows who are my biggest Fan-Club, and to my husband Lucas.
I will be forever grateful for the support and for the memories of my triathlon story.
Even when the next gal breaks my Vineman course record. I’ve had my time in the sun. Literally. I hope my skin holds up in the future
Ps -One more race to go, Ironman Chattanooga in Tennessee at the end of September. I’m looking forward to doing it, but Vineman was my A-race and really the crown of this year!