Vineman 70.3 Race Report

“…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.”
-Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati

I came into Vineman excited! I felt good and despite some injuries I felt that I had been as consistent and diligent. I felt at that point I did what I could and prepared the best I could. I knew I had the legs in me. I knew that my swim time had been significantly improving since starting consistent masters swimming workouts in January. I knew that I have had consistent bike times and that the course was somewhat similar to Oceanside 70.3, lots for rollers, climbing, and challenging roads. I knew that I had done it before so there was no reason to not believe that I could not perform. I came into this race believing that I could do better than my Oceanside 70.3 performance of 5:16 and 15th AG placing. My goal was to meet that time, and my stretch goal was somewhere around 5:10.

We had good race prep in the days leading up to the race. Earlier in the we saw Katie Vona of ELITE Massage Therapy. She does the best work and got us totally where we needed to be. Shout out to Katie!

On race morning I felt good and just want to start already. It was interesting because I did not have my “normal” pre-race jitters and felt more like “okay let’s start already.”

Swim: So for the first time in a 70.3 race I started with no hesitations for the swim. I started out front, something I typically do not do. I do not get anxious about all the bodies around me and it reminds me to focus internally on myself.  I went out harder, hit the first buoy, our age group eventually dispersed, got myself in a good space inside closest to the shoreline (just like a track, the inside lane is always where you want to be and the shortest distance from point A to B).  From then on my strategy is always one buoy at a time. I sight every so often just to be sure I’m still on track but for the most part my focus is on getting to the next buoy. My mantra was “flow, flow, flow,” “empty your mind, breath, focus” and this was to keep me mindful on technique, efficiency, and keeping my heart rate steady. After the last buoy I sped up the pace. I was comfortable enough throughout the swim, which made me think I could have gone faster, but since I have been working on improving my swim technique I really wanted to make sure I kept my form and didn’t not let it break down as the distance progressed.  I don’t want to go back to reinforcing bad technique. I came out of the water in 38.06 (a swim PR for me) and feeling good.

T1: Was focused and, in my mind, efficient. No hiccups other than running into the wrong side of the bike rack.

Bike: The bike was challenging for me because I had been getting my fit adjusted since January. I’ve been through several adjustments and two different riding positions, and still felt that it was not quite right, but there was no time to go back and make adjustments before the race so I dealt with it. It’s too bad because this course is amazing, and other than the many crummy roads the scenery well makes up for it. So for the most part it was hard for me to be in TT position due to lower back/hip issues and I was in the bullhorns more than I liked to be, especially in the last 20 miles. I kept telling myself “I’m giving what I got. This is what I have. Do what you need to do to adjust.” There was also this slight paranoia that my back wheel might flat, it was partly due to seeing so much abandoned race junk all over the roads, as well as many riders on the sides of the roads changing flats. Again, I refocused and got some songs going in my head. Finished the bike in 2:57.  

T2: By this point I, and my back,  were ready to be off the bike. A quick transition, put on shoes, got my hat, and I was off.

Run: I had looked forward to the run for most of the bike leg. I started the run with a small cramp due to shallow breathing. So I kept repeating, “relax” “legs” “relax” “legs”. “Relaxed” reminded me to deepen my breathing and “legs” helped me refocus on energy to my legs and to release the tension in my upper body.  It worked and I was off. I felt like I was peeling off the time that I felt I might have lost on the bike. For the most part I  felt as if I was on pace for low 7:30 min/mi but the course was not marked clearly (actually there were NO mile markers on the bike) so I was using the aid stations as my markers. Bad idea. I don’t typically race with my Garmin 210 but after this experience I probably will. The first 6 miles went by fast because I really did not know what mile was at until I hit the winery.  I kept repeating “God peace. God strength.” “Swift legs. Just look ahead and down.” “Focus. Focus.” This helped me not focus so much on the hills and descends and kept my heart rate steady. By the time I hit the winery I asked this dude with a Garmin what mile we were at and what pace he was holding. He told me 7th mile and 8:15’s but by that time there was a sign that said “Mile 7” (the first mile marker that I clearly saw since the start of the race!) he proceeded to chat with me in a conversational manner for the next 1.5 miles. asking where I was from, had I done the race before, sharing his experiences in the area. I noticed I was getting frustrated because I knew I could go faster but if not for the chatting away. I struggled with being polite and sports (wo)man like or just running away like some rude chic (glad I did not because we saw him at bike pick up and he was very gracious). By this time we hit an aid station and he said he was going to walk, “thank God “ I thought and  took off at my pace. I saw him at a turnaround he was going in and I was going out. Gave a high five and kept trucking. Those last 4 miles were tough because there were some turns that looked exactly alike. I was thinking I was in the Twilight Zone.  I kept redirecting my thoughts to my legs, reassuring them that they knew what to do. At each aid station I took in water, coke, and intermittently Gatorade.  I finally hit the last stretch in which it was a straight away for about 1.5 miles. I saw a Chico Tri Club kit and recognized Jennifer Moore! I was so happy and inspired to see her. She looked strong and steady.  We exchanged encouragements and she said “I can’t believe you did 10 of these!” I said or thought, “it nevers gets any easier!” I passed her and then finally hit the finish!

Post-race Assessment and Conclusion:

Overall, I’m pleased with giving what I had on race day. There are clearly things I need to work on and areas to significantly improve and tighten up. I know this race is partially a reflection of what I can really do. However, a race performance like this is reality check and reminds me that if I want to get to my highest potential than having these types of races are necessary to show me the areas that I need to address. It’s no different than what I do at work. Assess, evaluate, and create a treatment plan.

I’m not going to lie. I came into this race believing that I could do better than my Oceanside 70.3 performance of 5:16 and 15th AG placing.  I believed I would maybe have a shot at getting a qualifying spot. I believed, like every other triathlete out there believes that ANYTHING could happen and that today could have been MY day. We chase our dreams, we run them down, we sweat blood and tears, and endure the pain to have a shot at it.

However, it is satisfying to see that as the race progressed I was able to shave off some time and improve my AG placing, despite feeling like I had only 80% of run that day and I still managed to attain the 10th fastest run split of my age group.

Swim Time: 38:06 /48th AG

Bike Time: 2:57 /28th AG

Run Time: 1:45 /10th AG

Overall time: 5:24 / 23rd AG 30-34 F

Most importantly, I am always grateful and give thanks to God for a safe race and healthy body.  My thoughts and prayers are never far during a race, but more so. I always have in mind a prayer that my husband, friends, and all the athletes end the day safe and unharmed. My thoughts and prayers go out to Margaret Hinsdale Pometta, 50,the woman lost her life during the race and to her family. May God’s comfort and strength be with you.

“Life is filled with happiness, sadness, tears, smiles, laughter and other emotions but when life gets you down, just be strong about it and keep your head up high and have faith in all things in life. Always remember: God is at your side, always.”

Published by

Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is sport and performance psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California and works with elite sport teams and athletes across the country. She is competitive athlete herself and enjoys practicing what she preaches.

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