Nationals!

It was odd coming into a race of this magnitude without having tapered.  I mean there is some TOUGH competition here and I wanted to race well.  But, I also had to keep perspective as the World Championships in October is my main race this season.  Still, it didn’t take away from the desire to do well, really well and I was quite nervous as usual.

The first wave started at 7:30am and my age group didn’t go off until 9am!  Grrr!  I do not like waiting around that long, however, it actually helped me and Betsy, Bruce, and Vachee as we were able to see what not to do.  There were some mighty winds and waves and several swimmers were WAY off course.  Due to the rough water, some had trouble sighting, others just got shoved to the shore as they weren’t sighting enough, many were simply taxed from fighting the waves and rested on the kayaks.  Sadly, one swimmer had a cardiac issue and passed away.  My heart breaks for him and his family.  He wasn’t newer to the sport either, he was rather experienced.  Many condolences…

By the time my age group started, the waves had diminished some, but it was still quite choppy.  I didn’t mind that at all, but with the odd shape of the course and difficultly sighting, as usual, I stopped 4 times to seek out the buoys and I’m glad I did.  My fear was going way off course like so many others.  I did ok there and didn’t do too many extra yards, but certainly could have done better.

I knew I was out of the water in 3rd at 21:46 and did my best to hold that position on the bike, to no avail.  I felt pretty good, but managed to get passed by 4-5 ladies in my age group.  I tried to keep up with each one of them, but I also wanted to stick to my race plan and not blow up too early and die on the run, which often happens to athletes in every race. Overall I had a mediocre bike – 3 minutes slower than last year on the exact same course.

Ugh, the dreaded hill coming out of T2 is nasty!   Actually, I was somewhat looking forward to it as I remembered it well from last year and knew to not push it.  I didn’t, but regardless of pace, even walking, this one would still hurt.  The entire run hurt though.  I tried to embrace the pain and I did, yet my breathing/wheezing didn’t allow me to push as hard as I wanted. I took my inhaler prior to the race, but perhaps I need something stronger!  😉  Regardless, I was content with my run time as it felt so much slower.

All in all, I’m not pleased with my performance.  No, I’m not being hard on myself.  It’s perspective as last year my bike ranked much better and I placed overall better as well. I ended up 13th in my age group versus 10th last year and 7th the year before that. (I did qualify for the World Championships next year so I’m happy about that).  I’m keeping my eye on Worlds though and have faith it will all come together then!

Congrats to Vachee on racing his first Nationals and placing 6th!  That qualifies him for the World Championships in London next fall!  Woohoo!

The best part of the weekend?  Hanging with good friends & clients (Bruce & Betsy Noxon, Mark & Kim Morgan, Stephen Ban, and Vachee Loughran), seeing old friends, fine dining, and going to the amazing swimming hole in Bolton.  We bought some beverages and hung out there for a few hours, it was simply beautiful. (Google Bolten Potholes and you’ll find it).   It was great to see Kari, Jen H, Griff, among others too!

A HUGE shout out and thank you to Filipics, Sangers, and Palmbergs for taking such good care of Sarah and Courtney!  We could not have taken this trip without you!!! (We had some sitting coverage issues arise the day before we left so I was incredibly stressed)!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

To wrap this up, below are a some pics:

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Vineman Race Report – From Coach Scott

Last weekend we traveled out to Sonoma county, California so Mary could compete in the Full Vineman Aquabike. Vineman is a very cool Ironman distance race that has been around 20+ years. They are one of the few last remaining independent non-WTC races, and one of the only ones that runs an Aquabike (swim-bike) version of the race…so 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike. There is also a half-iron distance race run on the same course earlier in the year, and that is now officially a 70.3 WTC race.

We flew out Thursday and drove up from San Francisco. We rented a 1BR cottage in the hills overlooking Windsor, CA. It is right on the bike course and turned out to be a perfect place for us to stay. Friday we did a the usual registration, course recon, chill out, etc.. The race was Saturday. The swim is in the Russian River in Guernville, while T2 and the finish are all in Windsor, so Saturday morning it’s up and at ’em at 4am for the 40 minute drive over to the start.

The whole point of this race was to allow Mary an excuse to do some serious bike mileage that will serve her well at the Olympic distance world championships in New Zealand in October…that course is quite hilly and challenging on the bike and she has always responded favorably to high volume with her bike training.

This was not an ‘A’ race for her, and it has been tricky to weave in that long bike training in amongst her sort course schedule.

It was cool and overcast as Mary setup T1. The water temp was 71 degrees, so wetsuit legal. The river swim is a 2 loop up and back…the river is narrow and shallow…and they send the Aquabike waves of after everyone else…which meant lots of traffic for Mary to swim through. This actually works to her advantage, as she is amazing at working through slower traffic. At 6:45 she was off. She had amazing swim. 56 minutes, and many thought the course 2 minutes long. She was on cruise control and not pushing it one bit. Effortless. Fastest female swim of the day.

She also smoked her transition. Fastest T1 male or female. I know it’s an Ironman and therefore the importance of that time savings is reduced, but most everyone was just waltzing around and taking way too much time, even the pros. It’s free speed, people! Get your sunscreen on and go!

Out on the bike…it’s a 2 loop course that has a little bit of everything…rolling hills, flats, curves, sun, shade, good pavement, shitty pavement, and 2 fairly challenging climbs that you hit twice…the highest being at the top of Chalk Hill Road. We followed Mary around tracking her progress, and she was doing great. The goal was to average 20mph, and nail her nutrition. She definitely did the latter, but at about the 80 mile mark I could tell she was fading a bit, and she ended up averaging 19.1 or so. Nothing to sneeze at on that tough course and still one of the top 10 female times of the day.

We haven’t had good luck with the bike mechanicals this year, and at about mile 107 her right aerobar clamp broke. It was not a fatal breakdown, more an inconvenience, but it definitely cost her 2nd place overall, which she lost by just 13 seconds. Think those transition time don’t matter in Ironman? Think again. She ended up 2:30 behind the Aquabike winner…and won her age group so it was a great race and I was very proud.

Overall, it was a great learning experience, but the expected gains in her bike fitness have not materialized this year, in spite of all that training, it’s the first time that “more is more” has not turned out to be true. So next up is USAT Nationals, which we are also not tapering for at all as we turn our focus for the rest of the year to trying to get that short course speed back in time for NZ.

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Vineman is a great race. It is super-well run, and the area is simply beautiful with great weather. I highly recommend it…and they give wine instead of trophies!