Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vineman Aquabike Race Report

I survived! First things first, I got third in my age group! This was really a function of there only being 5 women in my age group, but it was still a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, I thought the age groups were 30-39 (I swear the website said that months ago) and with 20-ish women in that range, I knew I had no chance, so did not bother to even look at the awards. I only found out I got third (among 30-34 year olds) after walking in the door after driving back home and having my parents call to congratulate me on third place. So, there is a lovely bottle of wine in a nice box sitting in Sonoma for me and now who knows what will happen to it. Perhaps I'll find out what kind of wine the prize was and go buy it for myself.

Overall the race was a great experience. I got to test my nutrition plan, which I came up with the day before with the help of my coach. It still needs tweaking. I think my brain function dropped a bit on the second loop of the bike. Maybe I wasn't eating enough and the brain is the first thing to go? I couldn't remember when I'd eaten. My plan to take endurolytes (electrolyte tablets) every 30 min went pretty well, but eating was harder to remember. Sometimes I'd look at my watch and, for example, it'd say 5:32 (hours and minutes into the race), and I couldn't remember if I'd taken the swig of my sports drink, or the Gu Chomps at :30 or not. Maybe I should consider having my watch beep when it's time to eat, and then I don't have to think at all on the ride.

My swim time was 1:19:36.8. Pretty much double my swim from 2 weeks ago of half the distance. I hit the lap button on my watch so also have my swim splits: 19:04, 19:46, 21:49, 18:59. (That last bit is a little shorter than the other three.) Swim felt good overall. I realized I just don't enjoy the first 15-20 min of a swim race, but after that I find my groove and I enjoy it. The distance was not a problem for me even though I have been swimming 1-2 times per week, and almost never more than a mile. My shoulders are a little sore today though. The wetsuit worked well. It gave me something to think about since I don't usually swim with a wetsuit. It's nice to focus on my stroke instead of thinking about what might be lurking below me in the water, which was borderline too murky for me. (I require being able to see my hands, they were a bit blurred with murk.) Water temp was 75ish but I wasn't too hot in the wetsuit. I wore two swim caps again, and I didn't put enough Body Glide on my swim cap line, as they chafed the back of my neck. (90% sure it was the cap and not the wetsuit since it's at my hairline.)

I had a 10 minute transition, which included experiencing my first experience with wetsuit strippers! It was so nice to just run out of the water, pull down the wetsuit off my arms and torso and then sit down on the ground while two people pulled the wetsuit off the rest of me in about 5 seconds. Way faster than if I'd tried to do it on my own! Before the swim I'd decided arm warmers were going on if the sky was still grey, cloudy, and foggy. We had a thick marine layer above us. If the sun came out during the swim, I'd skip the arm warmers.

There was no sign of the sun after the swim, so I put on the arm warmers. I looked for my ear warmers but I'd already put it in the bag I'd tied shut, so too late for that. I was so glad I had arm warmers. As I started riding I realized there was actual mist in the air. My sunglasses got misty and my wet torso was chilled! I kind of wished I'd changed from my wet tri top to a nice dry bike jersey and bigger pockets to stash more stuff. The sun came out around 10:30, which was about 2 hours into the bike. Arm warmers came off a bit later.

The first loop of the bike was fine. I stopped to refill my water bottle at two of the aid stations. I had one water bottle and one sports drink bottle that was 3x concentrate, but I added water to it at the aid stations too, so after 2 hours or so it was regular concentrate. The plastic water bottles that were being handed out were too flimsy and I was afraid I'd lose it on a bumpy section of the road. (One nice thing about being behind lots of riders is that the bottles on the ground give an indication you're about to hit some bumps.) We hit Chalk Hill at mile 45. I timed myself going up it - 6 minutes. I have no idea how long it is, less than a mile. I used my granny gear a bit more than in the 70.3, and was glad I had it since I like to keep a high RPM. Going down Chalk Hill (probably when I hit 36mph), I lost my water bottle. Luckily my sports drink was at regular concentrate by then, and the next aid station was just 12 miles away and it was the special needs station.

My food plan was to eat 300 calories per hour on the bike. 100 in the form of sports drink, 100 in Gu with caffeine and/or CarbBoom gel w/o caffeine, 50 in Gu Chomps w/ caffeine, and 50 in sports bar (I broke up a Larabar and Hammer bar into 50 calorie pieces in my bento box). After the second hour of eating the bar calories, I decided I didn't want them anymore. Maybe it was the fat or the fiber in them that made them unappealing. Either way I decided to up my Chomps calories. I also started taking the banana halves from the aid stations. Mmm real food. so yummy.

At the special needs aid station, I stopped to get my bag. By then it was 5 hours and 8 minutes after I started the swim. So I guess my bike time was about 3:40 for the first 56 mile loop + 1 mile (vs. 3:15 for 56 miles 2 weeks ago). I was at special needs for almost 8 minutes. Refilled my Gu flask with 3 new Gus (sticky!), grabbed my inhaler, the extra bag of Chomps into the bento box, replenished my supply of stale GF pretzels, got my 3x concentrate bottle of sports drink, and the Gu gel that had 2x caffeine. I kind of wished I'd had some Chamois Butt'r in that bag too.

My bike time was 7:27:30.3. Definitely more than twice my bike from the 70.3 race on the same course. I was getting discouraged by my time on the second loop. I could tell it wasn't going to be nearly as fast as two weeks ago. I'd been hoping to do the bike in 7. I was stopped for 23 minutes during the bike, either refilling bottles, using the portapottys, etc. The second loop was definitely different than the first. I mean, the course was the same, but people were a lot more spread out. The friendly hellos and chit chats were no longer. The discussion on the second loops, when there was someone around to talk to, was more about how the roads had somehow gotten longer in the last few hours, and when were these hills going to end.

I had my dark time under a big mental cloud from about mile 90-95. The road had surely been lengthened. I was mad at the race organizers for magically stretching out this second loop. I didn't understand how they'd done it, but I knew they had. I was just mad in general. It was weird. I wasn't mad about signing up for the event. I was disappointed with myself for being so much slower. The rational side of me tried saying stuff like "hey, you ran 8 miles on Thursday. You actually RESTED during the week before 70.3. And you've only done two rides longer than 90 minutes since the month of May, and the longest was only half of what you're doing today. what do you expect when you go out for the longest ride of your life?" Thankfully I didn't go into that really dark place of "why am i doing this? there's no way I can finish an IM". I don't even know that place anymore! (Although it may reappear on my longer runs in the next few months.)

Around mile 95, I could hear the cowbells being rung by the volunteers at the final aid station. It put a smile on my face and I attacked the hill to get to a banana to go with the almond butter package in my bento box. Yum. The end wasn't far now! Just had to get to the top of Chalk Hill and then it was pretty much downhill. Ah there it is. Just 6-8 minutes and I'll be at the top of the hill. Oh wait, that was just 3 minutes. Darnit where is Chalk Hill. Oh THIS is it. I remember this. No... shoot. how many hills are there before Chalk Hill?? OHHH here it is. I think I started the hill in my granny gear. Not really a good sign. It wasn't too terribly awful though. I really enjoyed passing 3 guys who were mumbling about how painful the hill was. Top of the hill in 6 minutes. At least I'm consistent. I wondered if it's okay to think "half way done" when finished the bike portion of the ironman. By this time on the bike, I'd forgotten I even swam in the morning. It seemed like just a nice little warmup!

For the vast majority of the ride, I had my bike computer set to show me RPM. I didn't look at distance very often (which is partially why I didn't know where Chalk Hill was on the second loop). Sometimes it's discouraging how slowly each mile passes by, so I just try not to even think about it. Near the end, awhile after I enjoyed the downhill from Chalk Hill, I figured I probably had about 8 miles left. I also realized I just might be able to beat 9 hours. I decided to just think of it as a bike ride to work. "ok now i'm on airport road... turning up there at the light, then crossing the freeway with the last hill"... "ok on the bike path now.." .. it made it a lot easier. And when I got "downtown", there were people cheering on the sides of the streets, as the finish line was near. I picked up the pace and finished strong. Total time: 8:57:09.3.

I did a short transition run after the bike. I ran 1/2 mile, walked a minute, and ran 1/2 mile. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was kind of nice to be off the bike and doing something different. I think at some point I might be interested in doing the Vineman iron-distance triathlon. It was a pretty low-key event. It's cheaper than the IM trademark events and it's fairly pretty. And there's always wine tasting for the spectators. Almost all the women I spoke to who were doing the full Aquabike were using it as a training event for a later Ironman race. Lots of people had running shoes waiting for them at the finish to run a little bit. It's definitely a good training event! Is it nap time yet?

Bike computer stats: max 36.2, avg 15.7, time 7:06:38, dist 111.57 (i reset it just after I got on the bike because I couldn't remember if I'd reset it before the swim)


  1. First off, you just amaze me and it's so great to read about your rides/marathons etc.

    Second, I have a really dumb question -- when you're naming off all the weird little things you're drinking or eating -- are you doing all of that while you're moving?? I know you have pockets, but.. eh? And i know you say you stop here and there, but.. not for everything right? (warned you it was a dumb question!)

  2. It's not a dumb question! Yes, I eat and drink while riding (and running). Swim - I don't eat or drink (on purpose). Some people bring a pack of Gu and eat it during the swim though, but they'd have to stop and tread water for that I guess. Bike - easy - I'll send you a link that shows the bento box. Grab food out of there and pop in my mouth. I just get up off the aero bars so I have more control to ride with one hand. But the aero bars are handy if I need to tear something open, b/c my hands are close together. Run - I usually eat/drink during my walking breaks (1 min every mile)

    BTW, this race actually made it illegal to NOT use the portapotties. Some people actually pee while riding the bike! I guess you really don't want to be behind them.

  3. Oh here's a good shot of a bento box -

  4. Kendra-Great race report! You did amazing, 7:06:38 is great for a training ride with not much of a taper. We will definitely get your nutrition down but glad it was a lot better! You should be proud!!!

  5. Jamima - Well, the bike computer time of 7:06 ignores the actual time I was out on the course, which included about 20 more minutes (felt like more!).

  6. Thanks for the explanation! And I never thought about the having to pee issue - ew! But I guess 'if you gotta go, you gotta go'?

  7. Thanks for stopping by.

    Your going to IMFL? You know I am anticipating 3 or 4 others from blogland to come to a party I am going to host at the Sunbird condos next to the venue Wed or Thurs nite. You need to come

    I'll link to your blog so I can feed you more info as the time approaches.

  8. ps: Look up Infinit on line. One stop shop for carb, calories, protein, electrolytes, amino acids. I am putting two concentrated bottles on the back of my bike and that's it. Just water in the aero profile up front at aid stations.

    Same for the run.

  9. Thanks I'll check Infinit out! IMFL party sounds fun!