Vineman Half Ironman
By Mike Roberts
Anita and I just returned from Sonoma County, where we went to vacation and race the Half Vineman. Although Anita acted as the support crew this time, she’s now anxious to get back into triathlon, post-children. The trip had difficulties even before it began. Three weeks before the race, I had to go to San Francisco and spend two weeks cooped in a hotel room for work. I managed to get in two five-mile runs and a 20-minute swim in the 10 meter pool (probably 300 laps), but that was it. Then, a few days before the race, I broke the hub on my rear wheel. Fortunately, Juli graciously loaned me her Zipps despite the fact that I had just cracked a $500 wheel that I owned.
The difficulties continued, however, as our planned evening in San Francisco on Friday was nixed after weather, personnel issues, and mechanical problems turned our 10-hour travel day into a 22-hour travel day. Even though we were bumped up to first class, the skies still weren’t all that friendly that day. We arrived Friday night/Saturday morning at 3:30 a.m., relieved to be in California, but not the happiest campers in town. The drive to Santa Rosa on Saturday was nice, highlighted by a jaunt through San Francisco. After registration and the expo, we ran into a high school friend whose wife was racing.
We had a nice dinner Saturday night. Then, the race. Although there were 2000 participants, traffic and parking were pretty easy. With my near-total lack of training (one 10-mile run and one 35-mile bike ride), I planned to stay very aerobic the whole time, hoping to do the 1.2 mile swim in around 30 minutes, the 56-mile bike in 2:45-2:55, and the 13.1 mile run in 1:45-1:50, for a total of 5:15 to 5:30 (with transitions). I was in the 8th or 10th heat, so I got to watch the pros. When Monica Caplan (one of the best swimmers in the sport, male or female) came out of the water in around 26 minutes instead of her usual 22 or 23, I knew the swim was a little long (or the current strong) and that 30 minutes was a pipe dream.
When I saw Paula Newby-Fraser and the other pros coming out after 30 minutes, I re-set my goal to 35 minutes. The water was cool, clear, and perfect, and my heat was relatively non-combative with only 150 men. I have never swam a race in a dammed-up river, but it was the best swim course I’ve ever swam. I took it pretty easy to the turn-around, but nearly panicked when I saw 19:30 on my watch. I decided to pick it up on the way back, so as not to completely embarrass myself. Exited the water in just over 35. So far, so good. Transition 1 sucked, as it was all dirt and small rocks, so my feet turned to mudsicles. After cleaning them off with Gatorade (forgot to bring water), putting on shoes, and bagging up my gear, I took off running with my bike, only to lose a water bottle (now only half-filled with Gatorade) twice on the bumpy run out of T1. Eventually, I got on the damn bike and began peddling.
The weather was overcast and in the 60’s – perfect. The course was truly spectacular. We meandered through one vineyard after another, and although it was technical and relatively hilly, it wasn’t nearly as challenging as I had anticipated. Even the dreaded Chalk Hill at Mile 45 was surprisingly short (385 foot climb), although my 11-23 cassette selection was a poor one (definitely a 12-25 course). Still, I rode comfortably the whole way, finishing in 2:55. I never felt hungry on the bike, so I only ate two gels and one bar on the course. The effects of that mistake would soon reveal themselves. As I entered T2, the fog cleared, the sun took over, and the temperature started climbing fast. Great. Transition was pretty quick and I felt okay. The first half mile of the run was fun, but pleasure turned to pain as I endured a near-cramp struggle to get to Mile 3, dragging myself up and down hills with screaming quads. Not enough food and/or salt on the bike. I tried to replenish on the run, bu