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Vineman Full Ironman - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Guerneville, California
United States
Total Time = 12h 42m 18s
Overall Rank = 162/
Age Group = M40-44
Age Group Rank = 26/
Pre-race routine:

Last year, I had a bike crash at this same race where I broke my shoulder, had a compression fracture in my vertabrae and possibly a broken rib. This was also a month out before IM Canada so I DNS'd that race. 0-2 at 140.6 in 2009.

After e-mailing the race director about my crash, he very generously offered me free entry into this year's race, which I, of course, accepted. The only caveat to all of this was that it was less than a week after IM Lake Placid, which I already had scheduled. Vineman was going to be free and I'm an endurance junkie so I decided why the heck not try to push my limits and see if I could do two ironmans in one week. Obviously, I wasn't going to be able to "race" Vineman, but I could at least have fun with it.

I spent the rest of last year focusing on ultra marathons and laid off of swimming for 6+ months, mostly by choice. I started focusing on training again in February and completed Wildflower (long course and olympic course) and Auburn tri (70.3 distance) in May and IM Lake Placid a mere 5 days earlier.


On the Friday before the race, I worked from home in the morning and then drove up myself since DW was coming up later with her friend. I had to take my other tri bike (P2K) with my since my P3C still had not yet returned from Lake Placid via Tribike transport.

I left later than I wanted and was going to miss the pre-race briefing. Plus, traffic was a mess, esp. starting just before Petaluma (lane merge down to 2 lanes) and then to Santa Rosa (construction). I finally made it to Windsor and parked in the high school parking lot.

To my surprise, there was a talk going on in the gym and I stood in at it for a little bit. The pre race talk was for Barb's race, but the logistics were the same. I heard enough about what I needed to hear (that it was the same as previous years and no course changes) so I left the talk early so that I could register before all of those folks left to go register.

Registration went very quickly and smoothly. Outside of registration, I bumped into a few folks from my tri club, so I chatted with them. I went to set up my T2 (Vineman has two different locations for T1 and T2). Racks are numbered by block of numbers, but not individual locations, so I picked a convenient spot. In my T2, I had my shoes, running socks, 4 gus, my race bib, and my secret weapon (more later).

Nothing else to do here, so I left and drove to meet up with the woman from whom I was renting a cabin in Forestville, just a few miles from the race start in Guerneville. I unpacked everything, started prepping some of my gear, and then just chillaxed until DW and her friend arrived an hour or so later.

While I waited for them, I snacked on some Acme olive bread and dips (smoked chicken, egglant melanzane, and cilantro and cumin) from Pastagina, a fresh italian/pasta place in my neighborhood.

DW and ME arrive and we go for a short walk down to the river. After we get back, we start prepping ddinner. I had brought along some fresh made pasta, marina sauce, meatballs from pastagina and we also brought along ingredients for a salad.

It's time for me to go to bed soon, so I set multiple alarms (clock/radio, iphone, droid and DW sets her blackberry and iphone).


I sleep restfully and wake up at about 4:15am, 15 minutes before the alarms are scheduled to go off. perfect. We make some coffee (we roast our own beans at home and bring some whenever we travel) and I have some toast and honey. I change into my tri clothes and assume all my packing is complete from the day before.

It's not too cold outside, which is something I worried a bit about since I don't want to wear any extra clothing (i.e. arm warmers, vest, etc.). We drive to the race start. Not many cars yet on the road, surprisingly and we pull into a parking lot less than 2 blocks from the ramp down to Johnson's Beach.

I unpack my bike and DW helps me pump up the tires. i'm good to go. DW isn't going to stick around for the race start so she heads back to catch some more zzz's.

It's still dark. I head down the street and down the ramp to the beach. A good number of racers are already here too. I get body marked straight away. I can see that there currently is no line at the porta potties, but I have to go drop off my stuff at transition first.

I enter the transition area. There is carpet on the main travel areas back and forth, but the beach/transition area has a lot of gravelly dirt. I've planned for this for my transition, but I still think it's a mess.

Just like in T2, there are rows for blocks of numbers but no assigned specific spot on the rack for each number. I'm able to grab a spot the second bike in on the rack from the swim side start which is advantageous so that I don't have to trudge long through the gravel dirt in bare feet.

I partially set up my transition area and head to the bathrooms. There's a line now, but it's not bad. Then I'm back to transition and I wander around a little bit to find fellow tri club members, but I only find one and wish him well.

Back at my transition area, I finish my setup and then I just chat with some of the fellow racers. One guy from Palo Alto has done Auburn earlier and a couple IMs previously. One guy from Utah did St. George earlier in the year as his first and we chat a bit about that since I'm doing St. George next year. Another guy from Huntington Beach is doing this race as his first IM.

Soon enough, it's time to suit up and head down to the water. The previous wave of silver caps (our wave is in white) takes off and we hop into the water. The temperature is perfect. Cooler than Lake Placid was and just right for swimming in a wetsuit. It's not long before it's time for us to go.
  • 1h 18m 36s
  • 3862 meters
  • 02m 02s / 100 meters

The swim start is mercifully uneventful (compared to the melee at Lake Placid). A few minor incidental contacts, but everyone is quick to steer clear of each other. I'm feeling pretty good and just swimming along. Early on the swim out, we pass under a pair of bridges.

I'm a little surprised that the water is so shallow also along the out section (normally just at the turnaround). With the shallow water, many people take the opportunity to stand up and in some case walk forward.

I'm very relaxed and the turn around comes quicker than I expect, so I must be doing okay. The swim back is equally uneventful and I'm pleased with how quickly the first loop seems to go.

There were only a few things of significance on the second loop for me. One, I seemed to zig zag a lot more. Two, I had to pee, but couldn't do it just swimming and didn't stop long enough to relax enough to go. Three, at the shallow sections, I tried experimenting with dolphining, but it does really go well as I end up just putting water into my wetsuit which I can feel because of the extra gap in the suit and I can feel myself dragging along the extra weight.

In any case, I see the finish on the beach and I swim until my fingers touch bottom and then stand and walk up the ramp.
Transition 1
  • 04m 58s

Once I step into transition area, there are wetsuit strippers, which is great since I always have trouble with mt suit getting stuck on my ankles. The only thing that's kinda not fun is that the carpeting is covered with bits of gravel so that lying down on the carpet for the wetsuit strippers means you get up with a bunch of gravel stuck to your backside. Oh well.

My rack is the second on the left from the swim in and my bike is the second one in. There are still a good number of bikes on this rack so I can't have done horribly (although as it would turn out, it was my worst IM swim ever). Palo Alto guy is right here with me at transition.

I don't want to make the mistake I made last week at LP of not peeing before the bike so I make the in-the-moment decision to just pee right there where I stand and use the water bottle I have at transition to rinse off. Ah, sweet relief. After rinsing, I pull on a second pair of tri shorts, my shorts from IM Lanzarote.

I pack 4 gus, two bars, and my inhaler. Throw all my remaining gear into my transition bag and I'm headed out. While clomping to to get to the bike out, some of the other guys from our tri club who are there spectating (is that a word?) cheer me on.
  • 6h 38m 42s
  • 112 miles
  • 16.85 mile/hr

Past the dismount line, it's crowded. It's on a little hill so many opt just to run up the hill rather than mount on an uphill. It probably makes about 5 seconds difference either way.

It's a little chilly at the start since it's still overcast, but it's not too cold and I'm still wet anyway. A lot of bike traffic and a surprisingly large amount of car traffic here right at the start on River Rd. (a good chance the car traffic is from spectators). I'm trying to keep my cycling reigned in at the start since I tend to go out just a little too fast (and end up dropping back from other riders at that pace anyway) and I have no idea how my legs are going to be today.

I'm feeling pretty good along this stretch along river road and the turn onto westside comes up pretty quickly. At every turn, they have a volunteer with a purple sponge hand thingie with a finger pointing so you know when and where to turn. I thank the volunteer and try to thank every volunteer on the course that I can. I take this very carefully since it's kind of a nasty sharp turn on a downhill ramp. There a short climb from here and then it's rollers after that. Legs feel okay, a little sluggish, but even when I'm fresh, I always start that way.

I'm leapfrogging with a group of riders and I'm glad I'm keeping pace with them. I eventually come to the area where I crashed last year. To my surprise and disappointment, the rut in the road has not been repaired since I can clearly see the groove in the road in between the lanes.

In fact, in general, the roads are not in good shape shape with various patches, rough spots. There are some areas that are marked by white paint outlining bad patches, but what do you do when that white circle covers the entire lane?

As we turn onto Dry Creek Road, I'm a little surprised we haven't yet seen an aid station. I thought they were supposed to be every 13 miles. In any case, one comes up soon at mile 18.

I'm starting to drop off the pace a bit from the group with whom I was leapfrogging. Okay, that's not abnormal either since I usually start out a little too fast and then settle in to my pace.

As I continue onward, I'm getting passed quite a bit and not passing very many at all. This is not normal for me since I'm usually finishing in the top 1/3 or better on the bike. Some of the guys from my tri club pass me and say hi.

As I make the turn on Canyon Rd. for the first of only 2 climbs on the loop, I'm feeling okay. I'm even passing some people. It's a quick descent down. The guy who banzai-ed down the hill ahead of me ends up having to pull over at the bottom for some reason (flat?).

It's a right turn to head south on 128 towards Geyserville. Once I'm in Geyserville, it's a left turn to stay on 128 which I'll stay on until Chalk Hill Rd. Along this stretch, I'm fairly consistently getting passed and not passing many. I don't feel bad physically, but I just don't seem to have the power that I normally have. It does seem windier than I remember it being in previous years, although perhaps that's my imagination. In any case, wind is definitely not my friend, esp. since I'm small (135 lbs) and don't have the raw power that many others have.

There's a guy who notices my IM Lanzarote tri shorts and we start chatting it up. He's been trying to do all the international Ironman races and had done Lanzarote last year. He's doing the race as a relay with his son and his mom, who I much later find out is the 70 year old woman I briefly spoke to on the run course.

I finally get to chalk hill rd. and this goes along okay. By the time I get to Chalk Hill, KC, one of my tri club team members passes me and leaves me in the dust. He does ask as he's passing how I did at LP and says that he's amazed that I'm out here racing at all. Normally, I'm slightly faster than him on the bike, but I'm pretty sure my bike split is suffering if he can pass me so handily. Still, I don't feel bad physically climbing the hill, but apparently I'm just not going fast at all.

Overall, there is very little spectator support on the course, but there are a few individuals here on chalk hill cheering us on. At least this time the photographer isn't stationed right at the worst part of Chalk Hill. But all in all, Chalk Hill is a mild climb compared to anything I do when I'm training.

After Chalk Hill, there is some downhill relief, so that's nice. By the time we turn onto Old Redwood Highway, it feels like we're back to civilization (and cars) again, but this also, fortunately, means that I'm closed to the end of the first loop. On Airport Blvd., we have to go over an overpass and thankfully there are police here to meter the traffic from the on and off ramps. The stretch on Skylane Blvd is flat and fast.

Finally back on Windsor, I roll up to the crowds near the high school. DW is also here cheering me on. The volunteers direct me to the left to start my second loop.

The second loop winds around a little bit and includes brief out and back. Then it's heading south on Eastside and eventually to Wholer to reconnect back to Westside to ride where we've ridden before. This second loops is largely uneventful. I'm not getting passed nearly as much(most everyone who could pass me obviously already has!) and I'm even passing a few here and there. I never felt particularly bad or anything on the loop and the climbs and Canyon Rd and at Chalk Road were no problem, although again, I'm not doing these particularly fast.

Coming back into Windsor for the second time is a nice relief and I'm more than happy to get off the bike.
Transition 2
  • 05m 25s

I have no problem finding where my T1 setup is. It takes me a little longer in T2 because I have to pull out my running outfit - a french maid dress. Like I said earlier, I couldn't really "race" this event so I was going to have fun with it. This dress took me awhile primarily because I was not very coordinated trying to tie the bow on the dress behind my back. But eventually I did and grab 4 gus which I stuffed into the hips on my tri shorts and off I went.
  • 4h 33m 37s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10m 26s  min/mile

I start on my run and my legs feel pretty good. I get a lot of smiles but also a lot of startled, incredulous looks. I also get a lot of cheering and commentary along the lines of "nice dress" and "SEXY!" esp. from women.

Even on the first uphill, I'm feeling pretty decent and I've been passing people pretty consistently. After the uphill bit, a guy comes running up to me and starts talking to me about wearing my dress. he's kind of giddy to have someone wearing a dress. he tells me that he has some running skirts and that he's always been afraid to wear them, but my wearing a dress on the run has given him a little bit of inspiration and encouragement. We chat for a bit and after awhile, he drops behind.

I see KC on the run and I think I surprised him (i.e. the french maid outfit) and I'm not sure he recognized me.

After the turn onto Mark West Station Rd., there a bit of an uphill which I'm still able to keep running/shuffling up. So, I'm still passing people fairly handily. At the last aid stations before the turnaround, my tri club, Golden Gate, has an aid tent set up. I briefly stop there and get some cheers and some aid from my fellow tri club peeps.

I make the turnaround and I'm feeling good. My return run for this first loop (of three) goes much of the same. I'm able to keep running and passing quite a few people and receiving lots of cheers from spectators and other racers alike.

Once I get back to the crowds along Windsor Rd., I'm getting tons of people cheering for me (including many from my tri club), one of the distinct perks of wearing a costume on the run of an ironman race.

As I come around the transition area and by the finish line, the announcer says he doesn't even want to guess what bet I lost to have to dress up like that.

Loop 2 was not really much different than loop 1 other than I walked the big hill. At the start of this loop, DW and ME are here so I stop for a minute to chat with them.

I did see AbbieR on the run and said hi to her. I'm still passing people and more and more as the race goes on. This is probably a function of several different factors - one, the fastest racers have already finished, two, the slower finishers are just coming onto the course, and, three, the run is my strength and I am no stranger to running on tired legs thanks to my ultramarathoning in the off season. All the same, I think I have even more people cheering for the french maid. There were a couple girls in costume cheering on the return stretch and wanted to talk to me. They gave me two gold stars which they stuck on my race big. Thanks girls! Back near the high school, there was a pair of little kids who said "I like your costume" as I trudged by. They were dressed in some custom shirts of some kind so I said in return "I like you your costume too" and that put a big smile on their faces.

Loop 3 is very similar to Loop 2. Ont the start of lap 2, I run into DW and ME and I stop for a minute to chat with them. One difference from lap 1 was that I walked another hill in addition to the big one. I'm close to finishing up and I come up behind AbbieR and I walk beside her for a little bit. She's in a rough spot and she feels like quitting (she's on the return of loop 2). I try to give her some words of encouragement, but I'm not sure it helped at all. I am feeling a bit tired in the last couple miles, but the pull of the finish sweeps me up. There quite a bit fewer spectators now, but the ones that are there are cheering. As i come along the finish line, the crowds along the sidelines have their hands out so I can high five them. I'm high fiving everybody on this last stretch.

DW is here cheering too. I run through the finish and feel great.
Post race
Warm down:

Start 06:35:23.0
Official Finish 12:42:18.4
Chip Finish
Overall 164
Men 144
M40-44 25

swim ( 1:19:36.3 )
T1 ( 0:04:58.0 )
bike ( 6:38:41.4 )
T2 ( 0:05:25.4 )
run1 ( 1:24:40.1 )
run2 ( 1:33:58.5 )
run3 ( 1:34:58.4 )

I receive my medal and a shirt and some water. DW and ME are here and congratulate me. They've already packed up my bike and other gear from transition in the car. We walk to the post race food and I have some fruit, pop chips, chicken sandwich.

Back at the car, one of the other racers comes up to me and congratulates me. he says (tongue in cheek) that he doesn't know how he's going to tell all his friends that a guy in a dress beat him. He asks to take my picture and I oblige him.

Timewise, this race was my worst performance ever - worst swim split, bike split, and run split by far. Obviously, that wasn't the goal. Many non-triathletes think we're crazy to do what we do; other triathletes think that what I just did was crazy (the two IMs in 1 week, not the dress!), so that's saying something.

Last updated: 2010-03-10 12:00 AM
01:18:36 | 3862 meters | 02m 02s / 100meters
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Course: The Full Vineman swim is staged at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville, California. The swim takes place in the Russian River. Water temperatures are typically between 72 and 76 degrees. If this is the case on race morning wetsuits will be allowed as this falls within USA Triathlon guidelines. The swim course is a double out & back course which starts in front of the dam at Johnson’s Beach and proceeds upstream to the turn around point where the swimmers will then return to the start point for the second out & back. Swimmers will keep the swim buoys on their left for the entire swim. A neutral area, which is marked with buoys, where there are no swimmers, will separate the swimmers on the outbound and return legs of the swim. The swim course, which averages between 4 and 7 feet in depth, will be monitored by lifeguards in kayaks. Between the Russian River being dammed in a number of locations near Guerneville and the fact that it almost never rains in Sonoma County between June 1st and October 15th, there is very little current in the river during this time period. Under typical conditions, a 25-minute mile swimmer should expect it to take about one minute longer to make it to the turn-around point (swimming against the stream) than it would to return back to the swim finish from the turn-around (swimming with the current.) The dam at Johnson’s Beach is a seasonal dam which is up only in the summer months. The dam is scheduled to be in place by mid June and will remain in the river until the end of September.
Start type: Deep Water Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 04:58
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:38:42 | 112 miles | 16.85 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Course: The 112 mile point-to-point bike portion of the Full Vineman passes through the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country. Shortly after beginning the ride beneath the redwoods in Guerneville, it is off through miles and miles of vineyards! Dozens of wineries and literally hundreds of vineyards line the Vineman bike course. The bike begins at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville and finishes at Windsor High School (approximately 17 miles away from its starting point). Aid stations are located approximately every 13 miles and have bottled water, Gatorade G Series Pro 02 Perform (this is the same Gatorade Endurance Formula that we have used for the past few years....just a change in name!), Clif Bars & bananas. NOTE: Gatorade G Series Pro 02 Perform contains an tailored to help replace the the fluids and electrolytes elite and endurance athletes lose during their longer, more intense workouts, with twice the sodium and higher levels of potassium and magnesium to support longer, more intense occasions. The gently rolling hills are challenging, but not overwhelming. The roads are lightly traveled and will be marshaled by USA Triathlon officials. Cyclist will make two loops of the bike course. The bike course will remain open until 5:30 PM. Air temperatures generally range from the low-to-mid 50s early in the morning to daytime highs between 80 and 95 degrees. Chalk Hill, the largest hill on the course is approximately 385 feet above sea level at its crest. The bike course begins at approximately 50 feet above sea level and ends at approximately 100 feet above sea level.
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 05:25
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:33:37 | 26.2 miles | 10m 26s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Course: The 26.2 mile Full Vineman run course is a 3 loop, flat to rolling course with aid stations located approximately every mile serving Gatorade G Series Pro 02 Perform, water, Clif Shot or Clif Bloks, cola, assorted fruit, cookies and tortilla chips.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2010-08-04 7:30 PM

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San Francisco
Subject: Vineman Full Ironman

2010-08-05 5:46 PM
in reply to: #3024086

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san francisco
Subject: RE: Vineman Full Ironman
Crazy, no, Awesome, YES!!!!

Glad you could return to the site of the crash and my goodness, one week after IMLP!  You really are an endurance junkie and a tough one at that.  Looking good in the hot dress!  Congrats, Donato!
2010-08-05 9:34 PM
in reply to: #3024086

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Subject: RE: Vineman Full Ironman
Great job out there!  I had no idea you did IMLP the week before, you stud!  YOu rocked that dress!  COngrats on another IM finish
2010-08-05 10:38 PM
in reply to: #3024086

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Northridge, California
Subject: RE: Vineman Full Ironman
After riding by you there on the side of the road last year, nice to see you follow through with the opportunity to come back and finish the race.  Amazing to do it on the heels (no cross dressing pun intended) of another IM!  Congrats!
2010-08-06 10:52 AM
in reply to: #3024086

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Albuquerque, New Mexico
Subject: RE: Vineman Full Ironman
Looks like you did exactly what you set out to do.  Congrats on finishing 2 Ironman races in one week! 
2010-08-06 12:18 PM
in reply to: #3027511

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, Minnesota
Gold member
Subject: RE: Vineman Full Ironman

That's awesome!  The race, the dress, everything.  I love the attention to detail you have with packing food, too.    Nice.

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