*All Race Photos courtesy of Jeff Kapic.*
My husband Andy says I am fairly even keel when it comes to emotion. I don’t really have huge ups and downs. In fact, he often describes me as unemotional or ‘like a dude.’ When I got a flat tire at Escape from Alcatraz it was pretty anti-climatic. I got off my bike, confirmed my front tire was completely flat and then just shrugged my shoulders. There were no tears or Stadler like meltdown; it was what it was. My bike mechanic and friend, Tim Mualchin, said the bike gods “require a sacrifice every so often” and, hopefully, this was mine. I decided to just keep moving forward and starting training the next morning for Vineman 70.3. I told myself I would be extra fit because I did not have to recover from the Alcatraz effort before getting back into hard training.
The training weeks flew by and I was consistent and strong. I rate my fitness level not by what I can do on any given day, but what I can do day after day. To me, that is real fitness. Anyone can crush one day of training. The real fitness is being able to back it up. As I have moved through the years it is amazing to see what my body can handle now during training. I find it truly remarkable. When I first began training for triathlons I could not even run two days in a row at an easy effort; I would be crushed from a short 30 minute run. Now, I can do a hard track workout and then run the next day without a problem. I never thought that would be possible for me when a 3 mile run used to hobble me for days.
The start list for Vineman is always loaded. I think the location in beautiful wine country and the timing make it very popular among the professionals. I knew the prize money paid eight deep so when I looked at the start list I wanted to slide into the 6th-8th spot. I don’t look at the lists and say “this person will definitely beat me, and this one, and that one too.” However, let’s be honest, I know what I am capable of and the type of athletes (ie, world champions) I was racing. I had a best case scenario in my head for what I could do on the course and I planned to execute my strongest race and see where I would end up on the day.
There was one thing that was a non-negotiable for me. I WAS going to be in the front swim group. I told Andy I was a good enough swimmer to be there and I was done with coming out :20-30 behind the group. To me, that was just stupid. If I could swim :20 behind I should be able to stay with them. He told me in the grand scheme of things those :20 don’t really matter (and they usually don’t) but to me it was all about the mindset. I believed I could be there and, dammit, I was going to be!
Race morning at Vineman always goes by quickly due to the early start at 6:30am. It is a 30 minute drive out to transition, then set up my bike and after that a long swim warm up to make sure I was ready to hit it right off the bat. Before I knew it we were lining up for the gun. I was calm and just wanted to get started. I had a good start and did not get irritated or shy away from contact with other swimmers which is not often the case. I was fired up and nobody was going to get in my way.
I found myself swimming with Meredith, Holly and Leanda which is exactly where I wanted to be. At one point Meredith stayed way right of the buoy line, going closer to the shore, and I stayed in the middle and cut off some yards heading to the turn buoy, avoiding some contact as we approached the turnaround. We swam next to each other on the way back. Meredith and I exited together with Holly and Leanda just behind.
I ripped off my wetsuit relatively quickly and made it out of T1 just behind ITU fast transitioner Holly Lawrence. She decided to mount her bike at the bottom of the short hill just outside of T1 while I ran up it. Running up the hill is definitely the way to go at this race. I rode into the ditch my first year at Vineman trying to mount at the bottom. That was slightly embarrassing.
Like I anticipated, Meredith and Holly took off relatively quickly. Leanda seemed to try and go with them but I reeled her back in and passed her. She repassed me and we rode together for a few miles but honestly, it just felt too easy. I questioned myself for a mile thinking “she is a world champion, should you try to drop her?” “you’re not that good” and other such nonsense. In the end, I decided “f*&k it, she is having an off day or something, don’t just sit behind her because of her past accomplishments, get going!” Magali passed me at mile 16 or so and she was the only other person I saw the rest of the ride. I just focused on riding hard and eating/drinking like I should to give myself a chance for a solid run. I did wonder where everyone was though. I thought they might have all been stopped on the course by a bunch of cows crossing the road or a train??? With each passing mile I gained more confidence that if they had not caught me already they were not riding much faster than I was. So, I kept churning away. I had moments where my legs felt really tired and seemed to cramp but I weathered it just like I do in training. In fact, it was quite an enjoyable day riding my bike.
I got to transition in 5th (!!!!) and was ready for whatever was going to happen on the run. If I blew up, oh well, at least I went for it. I saw Mirinda Carfrae and Laura Siddall coming into transition as I was running out. Andy told me to run steady, catch Lauren Brandon and hold off Laura. There was no mention of Mirinda because, well, she was going to catch and pass me, that was a given unless she was having an absolute shocker of a run. And, catch me she did, at mile 2.5 or so. At that point I saw Holly standing near an aide station, pulling out of the race. I knew I was in the top five with a chance to move up a spot and, if I ran well, hold Laura off—payback because she ran me down last year!
I won’t lie, the first four miles of run felt like crap. I told myself to stay with it because I often feel better as I go on. Fortunately, around mile five I did start to feel better and found a good rhythm. At the turnaround I passed Lauren Brandon and saw I had increased the gap to Laura Siddall. I knew if I continued to run the same pace I could be 4th…a great result for me. I focused on taking my powergels, downing a vial of Oral IV and getting coke and water at each aide station.
Once I got near Windsor HS, where the finish line is located, I began to relax. I had executed a solid race for ME and, on the day, it was good enough for 4th place in a strong field. I told myself before the race I wanted to be top 8, and if I had an amazingly great race I could be 5th.
Monday was a day for some easy training to loosen up after the race. On Tuesday Andy and I headed to Kauai for six days to relax and celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (we got married in Kauai). It was nice to completely relax after a good performance. Now it is home and back to what I love–training! Pacific Grove is up next.
Race Set up/Equipment:
Swim: Roka Maverick Pro (Sleeved), Roka F1 Goggles (Dark vermillion/Blue Mirror)
Run: Zoot Custom Trisuit, Zoot Race 4.0s
Pre-Race: Cereal with Almond milk, One packet of Justin’s Almond Butter, Banana, Vega Pre-Race Energizer, Powerbar Perform, Water, one vial of Oral IV (use “Emily20” for 20% off).
Race: 3.5 bottles of Powerbar Perform/Gatorade from the aide stations, 3 Powergels, and one vial of Oral IV on the bike. During the run I had 4 powergels, one vial of Oral IV and water/coke/gatorade at the aide stations.
Post race: Eggs, pancakes and bacon.