After taking a mid-season break and having just 2 weeks of consistent, structured training leading up to race day, I am so happy with a 2nd place finish at Vineman this past weekend! I absolutely love this race and its legendary course. To be honest, I had forgotten JUST how beautiful the area is and what an awesome course it is: a river swim, a non-stop undulating bike course and a really hard, hilly run, all set amongst a beautiful backdrop of vineyards. We had briefly considered not racing to focus in on Vegas prep, but I am so glad we drove down to race! This race is a blast and one that everyone should try to make it to at some point.
With wine country being known for its dry, hot climate, the cool, overcast and almost drizzly morning was very welcomed race morning! It was actually pretty cold when we first got there and I was getting my Cannondale situated- filling my Speedfil with Herbalife24 Prolong and Wattie pumping up my Zipp tires for me:) I got my T1 set up pretty quickly and pulled on my Zoot Prophet wetsuit and Aquaspere Kayenne goggles for a good 15minute warm-up in the river. The guys went off at 6:30am and we lined up next. I found myself near Linsey (Corbin) with Mere (Kessler) and Emma-Kate over to the right a little. I knew they would be the front girls and I knew it was going to be all out right from the gun if I was going to minimize my time loss to them, so I just went for it. I started sprinting as hard as I could and pulled in behind Mere and EK and a couple others (Amy Marsh?). We made it to the first bridge (maybe 300 meters) and I was still with them! Barely. haha. They were pulling away and my arms were slowing down drastically. Suddenly I was alone...pretty standard. haha. I kept swimming and after another 100meters or so, I saw some girls coming up on my right side. I pulled over towards them and started swimming on someone's hip. I was able to stay with this group the rest of the swim, sitting in on someone's feet and breathing somewhat comfortably. I ran out of the water and into T1, ripping off my goggles and wetsuit and grabbing my helmet. I sprinted up the ramp towards the exit and ran all the way up the hill right outside transition before mounting my Cannondale Slice. At this point, I saw Mark Barber, a friend who is extremely accurate with time splits:) and he said it was exactly 2minutes from Mere, who was in the lead.
Having learned a little about this bike course last year, I was mentally prepared to attack right out of T1 and that definitely paid off. There are some pretty significant rolling hills early on so there is no time to just settle in and relax to find a good pace. This is where you make up time or can lose major time. Wattie and I had recon'ed the course on Friday for a few hours, practicing sharp corners, which lines to take, etc. I did everything we practiced and was hoping by mile 20 I would have pulled back some time. I passed 2 or 3 girls in that section, made the left onto Kinley to begin the middle, false-flat, somewhat rolling part of the bike, and saw Wattie on the side of the road. He shouted that I was in third and that Mere was about 90seconds up but Emma-Kate was only a minute or so ahead. I settled in a bit and made sure to drink some of my Herbalife24 Prolong.
I caught Emma-Kate around Chalk Hill and ended up riding with her the last 5 miles or so into T2. I had started to fade and I was concerned I hadn't fueled enough, but I kept telling myself to think positively. You got this! We got to T2 and I started SPRINTING. I mean sprinting. haha. It's a long transition run and a place you can make up time. Sure enough, I rounded the corner to rack my bike and I could see Mere! I pulled on my Zoot Kiawe's as quickly as I could, grabbed my Fuelbelt race belt, and started sprinting after her. I heard someone say about 20 seconds back but I could see her down the straight road. I was in a tough spot thinking, ok should I make a move now but risk running out of steam? I know Meredith can run. Or do I wait and cross my fingers that I can wear her down? I ran with her as best I could with her always about 20-30seconds up but in sight. My legs definitely didn't have any spunk to them as I kept trying to pick it up for little sections to gain some ground on her. Around mile 6 we made it to La Crema and made the turn in to make the loop around the winery (so cool!). Not long after that, I felt my stomach start to go a little sour. I had to go BAD. I wasn't sure what to do...I've seen plenty of people just go but I wasn't sure I could do it. Nor did I think I could keep running as fast as I could with that, if you know what I mean:) So I rounded a corner and started trying to go while still moving...not so much. I finally had to stop behind a tree and probably lost 20-30seconds there, because when I finally made it out of the winery, someone shouted that I was a minute down.
I held on to about the same pace the rest of the way in to the finish line and was able to hang on for 2nd place! Woohoooo! Congrats to Meredith on the win!! She is such an amazing athlete and just coming back herself from a horrible accident- so even more impressive! Congrats to Amy for 3rd, Emma-Kate for 4th and Corbs for 5th! As well as the rest of the girls for pushing it all day. Thank you SO much to Amy and Dave for putting on such an amazing event- the race is so well-run and well-organized and just an overall must-do race that should be on everyone's bucket list. Thank you to all of the volunteers out there and the fans out there cheering all day!!!!
Thanks so much to my sponsors- as always I could never do this without your support! Zoot, Cannondale, Herbalife, Wattie Ink., ISM Saddles, SRAM, Zipp, Speedfil, Fuelbelt, Aquasphere, SRM, Oakley, FinalFit, Recovery Pump, 454 Tattoo. Thank you Cliff for such amazing coaching, support, and guidance. And Wattie- you are everything! My support, my backbone, my sherpa- thank you for all you do!!! xoxo
Post race, it was necessary to get in to recovery mode as fast as possible! :) So we made a quick move to Russian River Brewery for lunch. It is right in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa, super cute location, fun atmosphere and great food & beer! Probably the closest thing to a brewery in Bend that we've found outside of Bend :) We hit Matanzas Creek after that to really get in to the Napa feel before settling in to Sonoma for the night to rest up for a big day on Monday. The big day I speak of was a full day of recovery- Napa style, with my sister Biffy, her boyfriend John and their son Scout!
We kicked off the day by celebrating another successful race weekend with some bubbly at Chandon. A HUGE compound of a winery full of ponds, gardens and a massive tasting room including a full restaurant. It was crazy! After that was a stop at Frog's Leap. This was meant to be a quick tasting to kill some time before the 2pm appointment we had and it ended up being a huge hit! A beautiful estate surrounded by lush gardens. We sat outside for the tasting overlooking the aforementioned gardens and tasted all of their delicious wine. And by that I mean ALL of their wine was delicious! I wish we had more time to spend there because it was such a great spot with such great wine! We will definitely be going back.
The rush to leave was so we could make our 2pm appointment at Conn Creek Winery to do their Barrel Blending Experience. Biffster and John had done this before and insisted we check it out. Little did we know what was in store for us throughout the afternoon. This "experience" consisted of spending an hour (well it was supposed to be an hour but due to our tardiness we were rushed through in about half this time) tasting 30 (YES 30) different wines, taking notes on which ones we liked or didn't like. If you're wondering, the answer is yes, after about 3 tastings they all start to taste the same...After the hour of wine drinking you spend an hour creating your own blend and eventually your own bottle of wine to take home. With 30 tastings in an hour, I was really bursting with creativity to develop my special blend. We will see when we can open them in 6 months. hahaha.
With a solid day of fully enjoying Napa, Wattie and I limped home to start the big push for Vegas. 7 weeks baby!!!