Greg and I raced the inaugural Vineman Monte Rio olympic distance triathlon on June 2. We had visited the Russian River area of Sonoma County a couple of weeks prior to that and rode part of the bike and run courses, just to see what it was like. The roads were flat, newly paved, and shady. Sign me up!
The nice thing about competing in a difficult half Ironman race so early in the season is that then you’re basically ready for anything after that. In fact, we’re racing again this weekend! The olympic distance is so fun and relatively painless after the Wildflower Long Course.
Vineman Monte Rio makes the sixth multi-sport event these race organizers host each summer. Since this was the first running of the event, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but these folks know what they’re doing and it went very smoothly.
Packet pickup was quick and painless. There were just a handful of sponsors since it’s the first year of the event, so we were in and out of there quickly. Monte Rio is a small community with limited parking, so they were encouraging participants to park three miles away at the rodeo grounds and take shuttle buses in on race morning. This meant leaving bikes in the transition area overnight. Greg and I were staying at a campground adjacent to the rodeo grounds, so we chose to just ride our bikes the ~3 miles in. This worked very well for us.
The Van really does make things easy on race morning, the MVP being the in-house toilet. This was a low-pressure race for both of us, so I was able to take care of breakfast, getting dressed, and all necessary “business” before Greg was back from trotting Miles around the campground. I had built in the necessary time that would allow us to run behind schedule (as is always the case) and arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare.
SWIM — 30:37 (2:03/100)
The water was warm (~72*F) compared to the outside temperature (~60*F), so it felt good getting in. I made the mistake of not being in the front of my age group and started behind 3-4 rows of women bobbing around in the river. It took several minutes to finally swim around everyone and get in a groove. While I am not swimming as strongly as I was last year, I start fast and finding “clean water” makes a big difference in getting into a rhythm.
The water was shallow and a lot of people were standing up to walk, especially in one section on the way back in. For anyone with open water anxiety, the Vineman races are very good for this reason. I was able to swim through it all, which was great. I’m much faster while swimming than while walking in knee-deep water. I assumed I’d end up somewhere around 30 minutes and was really pushing myself at the end. Just as I stood up in the water, my Garmin beeped at me that it had been 30 minutes (I keep it in my swim cap in a Ziploc bag and have it set to beep every 10 minutes, just to give me an idea of how I’m doing). I was disappointed that I couldn’t break the self-inflicted time barrier, but also feel better knowing that the race directors said the course ran ~150 meters long. At my 2:03/100m pace, I would have finished sub-30 if the course had been accurate.
I swam into three other age groups in my mile-long trip up and down the river and had no idea where I was in my own age group. There were no other orange caps around me at the time I exited the water and felt pretty good about things.
T1 — 4:18
I say this all the time – I am not fast in transition. This course made it difficult for everyone because of the long distance from the water’s edge up to the transition area and because that run was on small pebbles. We were all hobbling down to the race start, lamenting our transition times before it even began. Some people left their flip flops at the water’s edge and found theirs in a sea of other flip flops for the trip back up…but most gutted it out.
BIKE — 1:16:10 (19.5 mph)
This was a fantastic bike ride! Greg and I rode a section of the course a couple of weeks ago and then drove another section of it Saturday on our way to the campsite. The main road out to the coast was recently repaved and was pristine – perfect for racing! The course took us on a bit of a detour on a less-traveled road that had a little bit of elevation gain and was in poor condition. Other than that 7 mile section, this bike course was a dream.
I saw Greg just before I made the turn onto Highway 1 into Jenner; he was on his way back in. I had a race plan to eat my Larabar at the turnaround. I got it out of my bento box and promptly dropped it as I tried to open it. Now I know why people over-pack for short events… I tend to not eat very much while training/racing anyway, so I wasn’t totally concerned, but I knew I didn’t have much in my race belt for the run and I’d have to take advantage of the aid stations on the run.
This bike ride ends up being a PR for me in an olympic distance race. I passed 7 people in my age group on the course and was passed by one woman who was flying.
T2 — 2:27
I was in the run transition area with another woman from my age group. She was chatting with her husband, saying that this run was going to take her a long time. Of course, “a long time” is all relative to how fast someone’s normal running pace is, but I did feel a bit confident coming off a great bike ride and feeling good for the run.
Spoiler: that woman got the 3rd place podium spot.
RUN — 52:19 (8:27/mile)
I think I’ve mentioned that my running training has focused on hills and consistency rather than speed this year. That was all due to the sufferfest that the Wildflower run is. I signed up for this race kind of on a whim, just because it is a beautiful venue, the distance is [relatively] easy, and it would be a fun weekend getaway.
I hit the 1 mile marker and was delighted to see my pace at 8:17. That is fast for me! And yet, everything felt good. I kept on with it, not paying attention to my pace, only with feeling good while running. The run course is absolutely flat and 99% shaded. The only sun is between mile 3.0 and 3.1 at the turnaround. It was blissful!
I saw Greg at my Mile 2 and he looked good heading into his last two miles. I was chatting with people and otherwise feeling good about life. I had a half package of Clif Shot Bloks as I started the run and decided to take a gel from the aid station at Mile 4. I don’t usually use these for training because they upset my stomach, but I knew I needed an extra shot of energy because I’d lost my food on the bike. Despite everyone saying it’s “just like frosting,” I don’t often eat frosting (!!) and it was hard to suck it down. It did seem to work as prescribed and did not give me any stomach distress, so that was a win and I plan to employ that this weekend as well.
I felt good all through the run. I didn’t explode. I never had the desire to walk. No stomach/bathroom issues. I was passing a lot of people and not being passed by anyone in my age group, so that led me to speculate on where I was in the field. I rounded the last corner across the bridge and saw Greg cheering for me. I turned into the finish area, which included winding around the transition area and up a steep hill to the finish line. This bit of terrain led me to ask aloud, ”Who puts a fucking hill at the finish line?!” and several spectators laughed.
I was so proud of my finish! I thought it was a PR for me, but it turns out the olympic distance I did last year (the one I am doing tomorrow, in fact!!) was a 2:41:32. I did better in the swim, run, and transitions at that race last year, causing a little bit of anxiety this afternoon…
FINISH — 2:45:51
Greg and I hung around for 30 minutes or so, waiting for them to post the final results. The post-race food was pancakes and sausage, so I made-do with drinking half a Dr. Pepper and waiting to eat until we got back to The Van. As proud as I am of my finish, I was totally bummed to get fourth place in my age group AGAIN. I think this is the fourth time I’ve missed the podium by one spot! Even so, it was a fun morning and I was glad to be part of the inaugural running of the race.
We rode back to our campsite to rescue Miles and spend a couple of hours river-side before taking a leisurely trip down the coast. This delicious concoction includes Stoli Chocolate Coconut Vodka, chocolate almond milk, and coconut milk. The latter two items are known for their recovery properties, so I feel like it’s all good…
And almost nothing is better than watching our sweet boy fetch his ball up and down the river.
We’re headed to Morgan Hill this evening to camp somewhere (hopefully) and race the Reservoir Triathlon tomorrow.
Enjoy your weekend!