Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Vineman

Drawing on Endurance Corner's collective years of experience and access to an extended network of some of the most knowledgeable racers, we wanted to provide our best recommendations for approaching some of the biggest races around the world.

Here, we profile Ironman 70.3 Vineman in Sonoma County, California.

The Vineman Ironman 70.3 is entering its 23rd year and the course has changed only slightly over that time. It has a rich and historical tradition of fast age group racing and nowadays typically boasts the best 70.3 pro field outside the World Championship. The race is based out of Windsor, California, and mostly in rural Sonoma County. Windsor is 10 miles north of Santa Rosa and 65 miles north of San Francisco in one of the most beautiful grape growing and wine producing regions in the world.

Travel and Accommodations
There are many options for air travel to Sonoma County, including Sonoma County Airport, Oakland International and San Francisco International. Lodging is available all through the area, with the ideal locations being in Windsor as it’s where the run is based.

Vineman 70.3 is a point to point race with two transition areas, separated by approximately 15 miles. After registration, you’ll need to set up your T2 gear the day before the race. You will bring your T1 gear, including your bike, with you on race morning to the swim location (Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville).

Race morning weather is almost always cool and in the 50s. Most often there is what the locals call the marine layer, or a high fog that looks like cloud clover. Once the marine layer burns off the race tends to warm up quickly. If it is a day without marine layer it will typically be very hot. Temperatures can rise into the mid to upper 80s (normal), 90s and sometimes up to 100 degrees.

Race Morning
The swim takes place at Johnson’s Beach in the small town of Guerneville.

Transition 1 stays open on a continuous basis so later starting swim waves are encouraged not to worry about checking in to T1 when it opens at 5:30. The best scenario is to allow the early starting waves to get staged but give yourself ample time to be organized. The last thing you want to do is stand around for 2+ hours until your start time.

The Swim
The course is an upstream swim of 1050 meters and 850 back downstream in a counterclockwise direction. Sighting is very easy with the large number of buoys placed on the course and the tall redwoods that line the river. The river ranges in depth from 10 feet to 3 feet deep. Though it is shallow in places, and provides a piece of mind if one needs to stand in emergency, it is never too shallow to swim. The current in the river is negligible and rarely affects overall swim speed.

The Bike
This course has a bit of everything so it favors a well-rounded cyclist. The scenic course traverses three different grape growing valleys, the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valleys. Wind is rarely a concern for the Vineman 70.3 (a different story for the Full Vineman).

Stay controlled in the first part of the course. The first five miles is very flat, with the following 15 miles on Westside Rd and Kinley Rd the place where a lot of athletes tend to damage their races. Westside Rd. is a series of rollers and very short hills that are tempting to power over early.

The remaining miles in the Dry Creek Valley are relatively flat with a few small rollers, but the section ends with a 2-mile very gradual uphill on Canyon Rd to the halfway point on the bike. That is followed with a very fast descent to a right hand turn into the Alexander Valley.

Miles 28-40 tend to be the flattest, fastest miles on the Vineman Bike Course. Mile 40 begins Chalk Hill Rd. This is a lot of mixed terrain with one short steep climb, followed by the climb of Chalk Hill around mile 45. In itself Chalk Hill doesn’t seem like much, but it can catch athletes off guard because of its placement and because of the fatigue already in your legs.

The remainder of the course is mostly flat and fast with gentle rollers as you make your way to T2.

There are some short sections of Westside Rd., Chalk Hill Rd, and Faught Rd. that have sporadically inferior pavement. I strongly recommend that you make sure your nutrition bottles are snuggly stored in their cages for those sections. The remaining roads tend to be in good shape. I often advise athletes to ride slightly lower tire pressure at the Vineman races if they are typically riding on smooth pavement 100% of the time.

The Run
Similar to the bike course, the run course has a mix of flats, rollers, and hills.
The first two miles of the run is relatively flat. From mile 2 to mile 5 there is a large mix of terrain progressing to roads that are very exposed to the sun. Be prepared for short, steep rollers, and some sustained uphill and downhill running during this three miles.

After a change in the course in 2012, miles 5 to 9.5 are almost completely flat with a 1.5 mile jaunt through the La Crema Winery property (not accessible pre race) with a section of that on dirt and firm gravel road.

From mile 9.5 to just past mile 10 sees the last of the real hills on the run before the course starts to wind its way back to the finish.

The final miles are mostly flat with a downhill trend and some gentle rollers. Overall the course change in 2012 made this run faster than previous years.

The best place for viewing is the start at Johnson’s Beach and back at Windsor High School for the end of the bike, start of the run and end of the run. There are great places for food convenient on the Windsor Town Green.

Because of the very narrow country roads it is very dangerous to try and drive along the bike and run course at any time as it makes it dangerous for the athletes. Portions of the run course are closed to most traffic be it cars or bicycles.

The Vineman Group does a great job maintaining its website and it has all the pre race information you could need including race program, maps, directions and important details.

Post Race
Windsor is in the heart of wine country and is loaded with post-race food options. Check out the information provided on the Vineman site for fun, post-race activities.

In addition to having coached countless athletes to success at both Vineman 70.3 and the Full Vineman, Dave Latourette has served as the lead announcer for Vineman races for years.

Dave is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette

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