View Full Version : Vineman 1/2 IM Race Report
08-03-2005, 08:59 PM
Vineman ½ Ironman Race Report
I ended up signing up for this race kind of by accident. I’d gotten a bit bored with bike racing, but needed something to focus on to find motivation for training. We had a MS150 party at our house and a few folks were talking about training for the Vineman ½ IM. The distances sounded reasonable and the event sounded fun, so I decided to sign up and start training.
I approached this event with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. Anticipation because I had a good training program and followed it almost religiously. I’d improved dramatically on the swim and run, and was riding the bike well. I was also just looking forward to the event being over as I’d never spent so much time training for just one event.
The trepidation came from all the doubts and uncertainty. I’d followed my training program, but my overall volume was about the absolute minimum I could do and hope to finish. I’d started at zero on the swim – not being able to swim a single lap in the pool, and near zero on the run – having never ran more than 6 miles. This event would mark both my longest run and longest swim outside of training. It was also only my 3rd triathlon, so there were plenty of places for things to go bad. And then there’s that whole one event thing – I spent the last month being nervous that one bad germ or one twisted ankle could put an end to everything.
I set my goals conservatively. I wanted to survive the swim, keep a strong, but controlled pace on the bike to hit the run fresh, then run the entire 13.1 mile run. My goal time was 6 hours, with a stretch goal of 5:30.
My wave was scheduled to start at 7:58 am. I woke up around 5:30 am and ate a bagel and some yogurt, finished packing all my stuff and headed over to the start. I wheeled my bike into the transition area, found the bike racks for my age group and set everything up. I put on my wetsuit and spent the next few minutes chatting with Michelle, my mom and Mike Carter. Finally, my wave was up so I walked down the beach and into the water. It was finally time to race.
The swim was a 1.2 mile out and back swim in the Russian River. The river is dammed during the summer, so there’s not much of a current. The river is pretty shallow, too. Water temps were around 71d – but felt much warmer as the air temps were in the 50’s. I’m a poor swimmer, so I picked a spot near the back of the pack. There was some nervous chatter and then the horn blew and we were off. It was then that I realized I was about 20 yards behind the official start line – not the smartest thing for someone who swims so slow – but at least I managed to avoid the chaos and got into my rhythm quickly. I felt good and it was so nice to finally be done with all the waiting and all the training and all the nervousness and be moving. I focused on swimming in a straight line and keeping my pace steady. The course went under a couple of bridges and it was cool to hear the spectators cheer you on as you swam underneath. I reached the turn-around point and checked my watch – about 22 minutes. Slow, but well on pace for what I expected. I started back and was pleasantly surprised to see other ‘blue hats’ still coming up the river. I wasn’t as far back in the pack as I though… I kept swimming – back under the bridges and before I knew it, it was time to get out of the water. Total swim time 0:41:45 – slow compared to most, but faster than the 45 minutes I expected.
I hopped out of the water and stripped off my goggles and swim cap. I unzipped the top half of my wet suit on the run into T1. I ran up to the bike racks and quickly realized there were no age group markings on the side of the racks I was on! There were probably 30 racks and I had no idea where my bike was. Thoughts of trying to explain how I DNF’d because I couldn’t find my bike were racing through my mind… (I’d find out later I’d actually went the wrong way in the transition – I should have went to the other side and I would have seen the age group markers. Rookie mistake.) I spent what felt like minutes running in circles, desperately looking for my bike. Being a slow swimmer and having a penchant for bright yellow bikes does have its benefits, though – and I finally spotted my stuff. I quickly ran over, stripped off the rest of my wetsuit, and put on my shoes, jersey and helmet. I tried to put on arm warmers, but couldn’t get them on my wet arms. (It had warmed up enough that I didn’t need them anyway.) I grabbed my bike and took off running. There was a steep hill at the end of transition that a lot of people were trying, most unsuccessfully, to ride up. I’d learned my lesson about that in the Rookie Tri, so I just ran past all the chaos and mounted the bike at the top of the hill. Time to ride… Total time in T1 – 0:04:25
08-03-2005, 09:00 PM
The bike course was a 56 mile route through some of the beautiful rolling terrain around Sonoma. The first few miles were flat along the main road in town. I settled in on the bike, focusing on getting my heart rate down and getting into my groove. After a few minutes, we turned off the main road and started to hit some of the rolling hills. I’d take it easy on the climbs and keep a steady pace everywhere else. I was feeling good – passing a lot of folks and only getting passed by guys that really looked like they should be passing me. My heart rate was right in the range that it needed to be and I was doing good getting all of my food and drink down. The only thing that hurt was my neck – and having to constantly crane up to see up the little rollers wasn’t helping at all. I got stuck behind one big truck for quite a while – breathing diesel fumes isn’t a fun thing to do in a race – but otherwise the event was pretty traffic free. There was one notable climb around the 45 mile mark – Chalk Hill - nothing too bad, but it did provide a good opportunity to get out of the saddle and stretch a bit. By mile 50, my neck was killing me. I don’t know if my handle bars were too low, or if I was cranking too much on the little rollers – but I was in a lot of pain. The last 5 miles had me sitting straight upright on the bike to rest my neck – the worst possible position to be from an aerodynamic standpoint – and this was the flattest, windiest (and should have been fastest) part of the course where aerodynamics were most important. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to getting of the bike and onto the run before – but that’s exactly what I was thinking during the last few miles. Finally, I made the turn into the high school, dismounted and ran into T2. Total time on the bike – 2:45:33 – pretty good given my moderate level of output and my neck troubles in the last few miles.
The Vineman is unusual in that T1 and T2 are 15 miles apart. We’d dropped our shoes off at T2 the day before. I knew which rack my stuff was at and had memorized the location. Things look a lot different when there are 1200 bikes hanging off the racks, though. Luckily, I didn’t spend too long looking. I found my stuff, racked my bike, put on my shoes and took off my helmet. Time to run… Total time in T2 0:03:17. I’d finished the bike and run in 3.5 hours - well ahead of both my goal time and my stretch goal time. All I had to do was run the 13 miles in 2 hours and I’d be golden. Piece of cake – or so I thought… My long run pace I training was around an 8:00 minute mile, which would have been a 1:45 run. Dreams of Kona danced in my head (well, not really, but I was pumped to think I could finish in 5:15 if I just ran the way I’ve been running).
The run was a 13.1 mile out and back course through some rolling hills that included a nice trip through the La’Crema winery. I’d planned to mentally do the run as 4 5k’s. The first would be spent settling down and getting my legs back underneath me. The second would be where I picked up the pace a bit. The third would be maintaining the pace and ensuring I had plenty of food and fluids in me, and the 4th would be giving it everything I had left and enjoying the finish.
The first 5k went about as expected. My legs were bad coming off the bike, but began to wake up after the first mile. The ‘rolling’ hills were a bit steeper than expected, but I got up them just fine. I was passing a lot of people and felt not at all bad. My pace was around 8:15/mile and my heart rate was settling right were it needed to be. I did some quick calculations and realized if I could maintain this pace, I could finish in under 5:20. Then reality hit…
I hit the rest station at mile 3 and grabbed some Gatorade. I drank it and within a few steps I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. Not a fun feeling. I got past the nausea and kept running. I stuck with water at the next rest stop – which luckily went down fine - and tried Gatorade again at mile 5. Same nauseous reaction. My pace was slowing and my legs were beginning to feel like wood. I took a few gu shots, which helped a bit – but I was hurting. I got to the halfway point and the start of my 3rd 5k and it just all fell apart. I think it was part mental (that 5k thing gave me too many opportunities to compartmentalize things – I’d ‘finished’ the 2nd 5k and it was too easy to see that as an accomplishment and feel the pain) and part physical (not enough carbs, stomach doing all kinds of nasty things) and I just cracked. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t walk and I did. I was cussing myself and watching all these folks go by – watching a 5:20 time turn to a 6:30 – doing exactly what I’d set out not to do…
I walked to the next rest stop and took another few gu shots and some water. I ran a ¼ mile or so and started walking again. I saw Mike Carter who was heading out towards the turn around and felt like just going and hiding somewhere – we’d spent months talking about running the whole distance. After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to try and salvage as best as I could and started running again.
It became a game of mental tricks. I’d tell myself I could walk up the next hill as long as I ran down the one I was currently on – or that I could walk to the next telephone pole so long as I ran past the two after it.
You find strange company out on the race course when you’re in these modes – people who are suffering through the same stuff. You pass them when you could run and they are walking, and they’d pass you back when you were walking. It becomes a game of sorts – if that person is running – why can’t I? One of my suffer mates cracked going up a hill in front of me and it made me mad. I didn’t want to see him walking – he’d been my pacing inspiration for the last mile. I tried to motivate him on but it just didn’t work.
I kept checking my watch, trying to see how I was doing. Somewhere along the way, I’d screwed up my math on the distance remaining and thought all hope for making 6 hours had gone away. That took a lot of the motivation I had away and I found myself walking a lot more, and a lot slower than before. This continued until I came to a rest stop and heard someone say ‘Only 4 miles to go’. I didn’t realize the finish was so close. I checked my watch – I had 45 minutes to do 4 miles. If I ran 75% of it, I could still finish in 6 hours. I started running again – slowly – but I was running.
Next rest stop – 3 miles to go. My legs were dying and I couldn’t stand another gu shot. I tried my luck with Gatorade again – my stomach still didn’t like it. Walked my way through the nausea. Can’t do that again or I won’t make the time.
Next rest stop – 2 miles to go. Man these hills are bigger than I remember. No more gu, no more Gatorade – just water. I’m still running – very slowly – but I’m running.
Next rest stop – 1.1 miles to go. I had 14 minutes to cover that distance. Typically, I could walk that fast blind folded, uphill in a headwind. Right now, though – I was running as fast as I could and I didn’t know if I’d make it. There were tons of people on the side of the road cheering me on. “Half a mile to go!”… “It’s just around the corner!”… I kept moving, kept checking my watch. Curbs suck. 8 minutes remaining… We turn into the school parking lot. 6 minutes to go… Who’d ever though that speed bumps could be hard to run over? 4 minutes to go - I turn off the asphalt and onto the grass. I hear the announcer call my name – “Kyle Poole from Austin TX”. Where’s the freaking finish line!?!? Finally, I see it. I cross the line in 5:56.11 – breaking my 6 hour goal despite “running” a miserable 2:21:10 half marathon. I got some water, my finisher’s medal, and then collapsed on the grass. It was over. I’d finished!
All in all, it was a great event. One of the most scenic routes I could imagine, well organized, challenging and fun. I definitely want to do it again next year.
I’m pleased overall with my performance. My swim needs a lot of work, but that’s no surprise. I just have to dedicate the time and energy needed to improve it. I wish I could have ran the whole run segment, but it just wasn’t happening. I know more volume of training on the run and a better nutrition plan will get me there, though. I also need to tweak my position on the bike to keep my neck happy, and improve my transition times. Overall, though – I met my original goal time despite a horrible run and I can’t complain about that.
Special thanks to:
-My wife Michelle for supporting me throughout this (and all my other) obsession.
-Mike Carter for helping me so much with training and being such a positive coach.
-Marla Wilen for talking me into to doing this event and sharing her training tips.
-Jake North for providing the voice of experience and allowing me to look like I was working at work when I was really talking about tris.
-My mom, for braving airplanes, the Golden Gate Bridge and US 1 to come out and see me race
08-03-2005, 09:56 PM
Nice writeup Kyle. Was wondering how you did out there. Congrats on making your goal!
08-03-2005, 10:19 PM
08-04-2005, 10:34 AM
08-06-2005, 07:31 PM
Thanks for that write-up, kyle. I've been reading SLOW FAT TRiATHLETE by Jayne Williams this past week and you're story's just as good as some of her's. It's giving me good insight into what to expect...pain, frustration, fear. Not sure I'll ever be able to do what you just did, but I'll be looking forward to Jacks Generic Tri next month, which is a WHOLE lot shorter than 1/2 Ironman. Congratulations on the finish!
08-07-2005, 09:48 PM
I may end up doing the Generic Tri as well. Jack and Adam put on a good race and the venue is pretty cool, too.
I've enjoyed the tri's I've done so far. They are challenging and a good mental test. The only bad thing about them is they tend to be an exercise in medocrity. You end up being at best average at all 3 sports -not a fast swimmer compared to swimmers, not a fast biker compared to bikers and not a fast runner compared to runners. It is nice to have 3 seperate things to focus on, though.
08-07-2005, 10:48 PM
I'm looking forward to testing myself at each. Right now, I'm not terribly great at any but I"m slowly improving, at least, at running and swimming..heh. Unfortunately, it's going to tri on a budget (very low budget). I'll more than likely swim in my bike shorts (I have a lightweight set that should work ok) and run in some inexpensive trail running shoes. I need to get swim goggles NOW though and also need either a cheap hrm/watch/timer or at least the watch/timer. I've been looking at the timex ones but it will have to wait a while. I would just like to see how well I can improve if I focus on doing so. I couldn't care less about competing against others.
08-07-2005, 11:00 PM
I always swim in bike shorts. I even did the Vineman in bib shorts, though I did wear a wetsuit over it. Goggles are $10 at Jack & Adams.
Good shoes are worth the investment. Trail shoes are fine, but you want to make sure they're good and not worn out. Your knees will thank you. Run Tex is awesome in helping you pick shoes that'll work well for you. Just take your old ones in and they'll take a look.
I train with a HRM, but don't use any of the GPS stuff. I've just measured out some courses around my house, ranging from 400 meters up to 7 miles. Then I just run whatever pace I need over whatever distance - cheap way of calculating pace. I also have an extra HRM if you need to borrow one - just let me know.
Tri's are definitely not cheap. I thought mtb racing was expensive until I saw people dropping $1500 on wheels like it was nothing. I don't think the majority of that stuff makes an appreciable difference, but it's definitely an elitist sport - a higher rich white guy percentage than golf...
08-07-2005, 11:11 PM
I might take you up on borrowing the hrm...still need one (should've got one years ago..oh well) permanently. I saw on citysports (I think?) a good writeup of trail running shoes. I'll definately be heading to runtex as soon as I can, but that too will have to wait a bit. Sadly, my apt fitness center was vandalized and they've closed it for now; I was running on the treadmill there. I'll probably go to the highschool track nearby, now...I really don't want to run on the street if I can help it (at least not for training). Heh...I've got an old steel, early 90's road bike with shifters on down tube (at least it's all Ultegra 600!)...NOT light at all, compared to modern standards; but it's in good shape and serves it's purpose.
08-08-2005, 12:11 PM
All this talk over here has me thinking about taking up tri's again. Oh the pain :)
08-16-2005, 05:33 PM
Great report, Kyle.
And props on finishing under 6 hours. That's a great accomplishment.
08-17-2005, 11:29 AM
In case you do not know this but whenever you are looking to buy something use the search engine Froogle.
It is part of the google search engine but it only searches sites that have items for sale. You can tell it to sort by price (low to high). I also like the grid view better. Maybe you can find some better deals on HRM and shoes.
Great write up. Maybe on the next one you can take a micro cassette recording and do some dictation. Could be a best seller or it would at least keep your mind off of your pain
Congratulations Kyle! You beat me to the 1/2 i.m.
I've enjoyed following your journey this summer. It's kept me inspired to move my goal to next year instead of just giving up on it. Anything worth doing isn't easy right? Keep it up. Signing up for florida i.m. at the end of this month. Maybe we can have a mojo contingent there.
08-17-2005, 10:17 PM
I have no desire at this time to do a full IM. The 1/2 distance is good for me - the training required is reasonable and something I can maintain while still having a career and family life. To do anything other than 'just complete' a full (which is a hell of an accomplishment, but I'd want to try and go fast), I'd have to at a minimum double my current training hours. Plus, the 1/2 was painful enough. I thought about it crossing the finish line - that I'd only be 1/2 way through with a full IM, and pretty much decided I wasn't interested in doing one. Maybe I'll change my mind later, but for now, 1/2's and shorter are what I want to focus on.
Good luck in FL!
08-23-2005, 06:50 PM
great story. congratulations on hitting your goal. it's cool to see that a person that you respect athletically can still feel the same type of agony you can, albiet at a higher performance level. we're all human, I guess.
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