Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vineman Ironman 70.3 - Go, Fluid Girl!

I did the Vineman Half on Sunday and I had a blast! For the first time in a long time, I made pretty much all my goals. I even ran the Half-Marathon at the end -- at least as much as many better athletes would run it (i.e., I walked the aid stations). My purpose in doing this race was to see what I needed to do in my last training push up to Ironman Canada and that worked too. So, all-in-all, I'm happy.

Packet Pick-up and Expo

Vineman is now doing registration this new way. You have to attend a mandatory meeting the day before and you can't pick up your race packet until you attend the meeting and get your hand stamped. I always go to the mandatory meetings so it wasn't that big a deal, yet I still didn't like it. For one thing, the meetings were only happening once an hour. I get up there in time for the 1:30 pm meeting, but I can't find a parking space. By the time I circled the parking lot twice and then went out on the street to find a spot and walked back, the meeting had already started. So then I had to hang around for a full 45 minutes until the next one started. I did run into a bunch of friends from my tri club and I did get to check out the Expo, but it was still annoying. Plus, the Expo was pretty lame.
Actually, so was the meeting. They did their best, but there really wasn't any information presented that wasn't in the Race Program or the various emails I'd been sent leading up to the race. There must be a reason they made it impossible to skip the meeting but I can't imagine what problem they were trying to solve.

Anyway, having us all attend the race meeting and then all hit registration at once cause that process to take a while. There were tons of volunteers and lines so I thought I'd be in and out but the volunteers went over the packet with each of us and it took forever. Then everyone had to get their chip confirmed and there was only one chip reader so there was actually a line to leave the building. Hey, at least the commemorative t-shirt was nice. (I'm wearing it now, in fact.)

After that, I set up my T2 transition area. I wish I'd done that the second I'd gotten there. I didn't realize I could do it before I registered. I got an "okay" space but not stellar. I then went to check out the bike in set up. It's a good thing I did because then I got totally lost and couldn't find my spot. I eventually figured out I was racked in a row with big trees and it was actually quite distinctive. But, until I knew that, there was nothing to set my spot apart since there were no bikes to look for.

Finally, I got my bar wrappers out of the car and turned them in. It seems I didn't actually follow the rules for how to package the wrappers but they let me enter them anyway. I don't think I will win as I only had around 2000 wrappers and that seemed to be a typical entry. But maybe I'll get a bike jersey or something for entering. (I heard a rumor that might happen.)

Then I went over to my friend Seht's place and played Mario Cart with his son and had a yummy dinner with his family (his wife can cook. I wish Mr. Mac cooked like that). He wasn't actually there. He was back at Vineman helping out with registration. When he got back, he said he registered maybe seven athletes the entire time. I guess maybe getting there early isn't the way to go. He also said that one of the entrants sent the Vineman group eight cases of M+Ms. I had wondered why there were Fun Size packs of M+Ms at the registration desks. Also, there was a 15% no show rate. Wow, that's a lot.

Race Morning

Race morning I got up at 4:20 am. Ugh. As usual I had my "Why am I doing this? Maybe I should just go back to bed and skip it" moment, but it passed pretty quickly. I'd been stoked to do this race for a while now and that feeling showed up pretty quickly. Seht drove me and my bike and swim gear to the start. I was very grateful for that because having to deal with T1 and T2 being in different spots makes the whole race more stressful. Now I wouldn't ever have to go back to Johnson's Beach and that would be one less thing to worry about. Seht brought his bike so he could ride around the course and take pictures and cheer me on. That was nice too. Since I wasn't racing in SVTC gear, but Fluid gear, I knew I'd get less cheering than normal.

I got into transition right at 5:30 am, just as I'd planned. I dropped my bike on the way in but didn't think anything of it. I found the Women 45+ racks and was able to rack pretty close to the path and in the first set of Women 45+ racks coming up from the swim so I figured it would be easy to find my bike. I did check out the Swim In area and came back to find my bike to make sure.

As I was setting things up, I noticed my bike seat was crocked. I figured it was from dropping the bike, but again, didn't think anything of it. I also found out that I was racked right next to one of my IamTri friends. Cary is an awesome athletes, often qualifying for Kona. She twisted my seat back for me and I think I finally tightened the seat post screw enough that this will stop happening.

Our section also had a fair amount of first-timers for this distance and first-timers for this race. We talked to them and answered their questions. I did my warm-up. I went down to watch the pros start. In all, while I'm glad I got there when I did so I could get a good rack position, I was really there too early.

The Swim

For the swim, the water was reported to be 70 F and it felt great. I swam out a bit to warm up and then picked my spot. I was kind of near the front, in the middle. I did try to hang back from the really fast swimmers but there wasn't a lot of space vertically. I never heard the gun go off but a bunch of people in the water started counting down so I went with it.

I immediately got pounded. I think I need to start more off to the side in the future. I don't freak out when I get swum over but it's not fun and it doesn't really help my overall swim time. So I might as well avoid it.

I had the strategy going in to really push it in the swim so that's what I did. Normally, I take it easy in the swim figuring there is a lot more race to do and also people die in the swim. But this time I figured that I might as well go all out in the swim and bike since I can't push the run.

I was keeping track of the buzzes from my Garmin but I think it's also telling me when I swim 1 mile because I had enough buzzes to be over 45 min. and that was disappointing giving how much energy I was expending. But I pushed those thoughts aside and ran up to transition.

T1

This is when I got my first surprise. There was only one bike gone from our racks! (Yes, it was Cary's.) That pretty much never happens to me. I felt my transition was a bit slow and I didn't really note the time when I was pushing the lap button on my Garmin so I still had no real idea of how fast or slow my swim was.

The Bike

I got out on the bike quite easily and had my first bike surprise. My legs were kind of rubbery. Since I normally don't push the swim, I normally don't have to think about this and it's not something I've heard people talk about much. I was a bit worried that I'd given too much up in the swim but by mile four I was fine. I started doing some math and figured that maybe, just maybe, I'd swum in under 40 minutes?! That thought kept me quite chipper as I made my way up from the beach into the vineyards.

The rollers that were a concern last year were gone before I remembered to watch for them. However, on the first steep grade, I got into my easiest gear and ... clank, clank, clank. It seems not just my bike seat got screwed when I dropped my bike. I must have also bent my derailer hanger again. Except this time I was in a race and not about to do much stopping to fix it.

I did stop at the first aid station and I thought I had it fixed but it continued to clank every time I got into the big gear in the back. So I didn't get in that gear very often. That works for most of the course but I did have to clank, clank, clank up Chalk Hill. I also started to have even more problems with slipping gears, probably due to trying to rebend my derailer hanger on the fly. I even dropped a chain at one point, something that hasn't happened to me since last season.

But it wasn't a big deal in the greater scope of things. Going balls-to-the-walls, all-out, pretend it's a Sprint was more of an issue. I was able to average over 15 mph for most of the race and my legs didn't really start to tire out until about mile 30. Which tells me I'm not pushing myself enough in my weekly tempo rides. I never get a moving average of even 15 mph on those and they are only 20-25 miles. So, if I want to go faster on the bike, I need to start doing that.

I did worry a bit that I was going to bonk on the bike with my "leave nothing" strategy so when I got to mile 41, I decided to take it easy on the rollers up to Chalk Hill and up Chalk Hill. This is the hill that challenged me the first time I went up it and defeated me when I did my second loop on the course at last year's AquaBike. But this year it was nothing.

I toddled up and down the rollers and up the hill and was at the top before you knew it. There were people dressed as characters and my friend Seht taking pictures and waving and yelling and then I was swooping down. Not as fast as I wanted to because I got behind a car that was behind a timid descender but fast enough.

After that, I knew it was mostly downhill with some rollers into town and I pushed it as hard as I could. I did have fried legs from about mile 50 on but I made it and was able to keep up my 15+ mph pace. I wasn't able to finish in 3.5 hours but I killed last year's loop one time of 3:45 and I got close to 3.5 hours with a 3:36-ish finish.

T2

I found my transition spot pretty easily but was disappointed to see that the racks were mostly full of bikes. I'm used to it but I had such a good ride that I was hoping I'd made it back faster than a lot in my age group. Again, my transition felt a little slow, particularly as I decided to force myself to apply sunscreen -- something I usually skip even though I regret it later.

The Run

Then I was out on the run and I felt a little dead but not necessarily as lurchy as I normally do. I heard spectators yelling "Go Mac" but couldn't figure out who it was. As I got out on the course, I saw a few people coming back in, but not a lot. Being in wave 8 instead of at the end gives a completely different race and I was able to see a lot of my friends out on the course as it was an out-and-back. It was still somewhat overcast too or at least not particularly hot.

I had planned to run for 15 minutes then do a 2 minute walk/13 minute run pattern. But I got the first aid station and I was hurting. So I stopped for a "medication" break. I took two Advil (my first of the day) and rubbed Rock Sauce all over my calf and hip. It worked and I was able to start running again.

When my watched beeped for the first 15 min. interval, I hadn't been running very long so I kept going. I ended up just walking the aid stations. That worked pretty well. I started out over-hydrating. I was worried about calories and hydration but one cup of water and one chocolate chip cookie at each aid station turned out to be perfect. I was generous in my aid station walking, trying to walk at least a minute each time, but I forgot to walk the 3rd aid station and I had to stop and pee at one point so I started walking a shorter time at each station.

I got to the half-way point and it looked like I was on target to finish in 2:40. I figured that wouldn't hold up as I was running slower and slower, but I figured my dream time of "under 3 hours" was still doable. This made me very happy. I stopped for another medication break at the first aid station after the turn-around loop and did more Rock Sauce and three Advils. I also peed some more, reinforcing my feeling that I had over-hydrated at the start.

At this point, I was determined to finish in under three hours and the Advil had completely kicked in so my aid station walking got shorter and shorter. I would walk while I drank my water so I could get the whole cup in but that was about it. I was worried a bit about gastric distress, but another pee break didn't help with that feeling so I decided I needed to run the last three miles and just see what happened.

Unfortunately, somewhere around mile eight, I took two more Advi but only washed them down with a sip of water in my attempt to stop peeing. Well, my tummy most definitely did not like that and by mile 12 I was in pain and couldn't run at all. I could see I wasn't going to make three hours at this rate and that made me so made that I had some Gatorade and just forced myself to run again. The combination seemed to work and I was able to force myself that last mile faster than I'd been running up to that point.

The Finish

I turned into the finish, saw my friend Seht, slapped a lot of people's hands as they yelled "Go, Fluid Girl" (I heard that a lot during the race, actually, and, for once I wasn't feeling like I was embarrassing Fluid with my performance, so it was cool) and raced across the finish. They had a finish line tape! I had never experienced that before and I ran through the tape with my arms up in victory with 2:57 on my watch. I was so excited! But also nauseous. They asked me at the finish line if I was okay, which had never happened to me before.

But I did recover. I forgot to get my medal and had to go back for it, but I put some food in me and that finished off whatever disco dancing was going on in my tummy and I was back to normal. I hung out a bit with my friends, but was conscious that Seht had spent his day at my disposal so soon sought him out.

I did ask him to stay for the awards segment. I had never seen them give out championship slots and wasn't sure how the roll-down worked. I knew I wasn't going to get a slot to the 70.3 World Championships or Kona but I figured some day I might so it would be good to know how it worked. Plus I wanted to see Cary get her award. (She came in 3rd in our age group.)

But it took a lot longer than I expected so we left after my age group was done and skipped the whole Kona slot part of the ceremony.

At this point I was stinking to high heaven and worrying I'd fall asleep on the way home so we went back to Seht's, I said good bye to everyone and hit the road. I was still very excited. Heck, I'm still very excited today. I've been wearing my Vineman 70.3 tee everywhere, too.

Wrap-up

During the post-race festivities, the timing booth was actually giving out a piece of paper with our times and ranks. Awesome! This is when I found out that I only went 43 minutes in the swim, not under 40. But that's still a great time for me and my original goal was to beat 45 min. so I made it. I ended up 35th in my age group in the swim so right in the middle of the pack.

I didn't do as well on the bike. My 3:36 time put me in 42nd place and my run time put me in 50th for that segment. So 46th out of 56 starters for my overall time. Still in the bottom of the pack but not next to last and I beat my dream time of 7.5 hours for overall time too.

As a result, I now have the following plan to finish up getting ready for Ironman Canada:

Swim - keep doing what I've been doing. I was thinking about cutting back to 2x a week but I'm going to stick with 3x, if I can, and concentrate on making my long swim gradually longer. I'd like to do some three mile swims between now and IMC so I can pound the swim there too and not poop out at 1.5 miles, which what I think would happen if I were to try that today.

Bike - I'm okay on distance, but I need to be faster. Clearly I can do my shorter rides faster, so I'm going to start doing that. I'll cut back on my long rides to the 50-65 mile range and try to push them too. I will do one long "IMC Sim" Ride, probably around Aug. 6th. and then that will be it for long bike stuff until the race. If I get to the point where I can treat 56 miles much like the bike on a Sprint Tri, then I think I will be able to maintain a decent pace for 112 miles, something that will let me finish in 7.5 hours or less.

Run - In spite of everything, I am happy with where my run is. I was able to do the 13.1 miles even though I have only done 6.5 miles at once up until now and I was able to run faster than the 14 minute miles I had predicted when I thought be able to maintain. So I'm in good shape overall considering how hampered my ability to train my run has been.

On the other hand, while nothing really hurt that badly during the race, I aggravated my calf enough that I had to take two days off to recover. So I'm going to stick with my conservative plan of slowly upping my mileage for my long run and not doing any speed or tempo work. I'm going to split the long run into two parts as well so that I don't hurt myself.

I think I can get up to 18 miles in one day (but two runs) by two weeks before IMC and, if I can do that, I think I can do the 26.2 without having to walk much at all, just the aid stations like I did at Vineman. Walking the aid stations is an extremely popular run strategy even among uninjured, well-trained runners, so the fact that I think I can do this makes me extremely happy.

Recovery - I need to keep up with this and not slack off as I get into the home stretch and do longer workouts. This means getting adequate sleep and drinking Fluid Recovery Drink after every workout. I have been doing that all season and it makes such a difference. (This is why I've been racing in Fluid kit and not SVTC this season; because of how much Fluid Recovery Drink has helped me.)
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