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.
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!