The Vineman 70.3 was my first half-distance triathlon. And overall I think this was a fantastic race. PRE-RACE: We stayed in Guernesville just a mile from the swim start at Johnson’s Beach. This was a great choice. Especially if you are traveling with friends and family. It’s nice to get some practice swims in before the race and the beach offers canoe, kayak, tube rentals to keep everyone happy. The day before the race you will be asked to set up T2. You will also have to attend a mandatory meeting to go over the rules and other stuff you can find in the race manual. The video lasts about 20 minutes long and features a “talking chicken”(puppet). This kind of had people rolling their eyes. I found it kind of amusing… The packet pick up went smooth with lots of volunteers helping out. I thought the expo could’ve been a little “more”. It seemed a little small for a race this size. They also had their credit card machine break down at the main tent.
COURSE: I gave straight A’s to this event except for the course, which I give a high B. “The Swim”…Russian River, very low current, and about 72 degrees. By far the easiest, fastest, and safest swim I’ve done in a triathlon. The depth runs only 3-6 feet so you can literally stand up at times if you had issues. And there were a few times your hands actually scrape along the bottom of the river. The current works against you on the way up and with you on the way back. If you’re not looking to win the race, think about taking the route right along the tree line on the way up. I had no current and a wide open lane to the turn around point. On the way back stay more towards to the middle to take advantage of the current. T1 is nice but set up in a dirt parking lot. You are also required to put all your belongings in a provided bag which is transported to T2 by the race. This adds a little time but well worth having all your stuff at the finish line. “The Bike”…there is a small steep hill as you exit T1. Some people mount their bike there others run it to the top. I would suggest sizing up the hill for yourself and make your own decision. But do leave your bike in an easy gear at T1! The bike course was incredible. Rolling hills throughout the vineyards and countryside. The scenary was beautiful. But this is a very technical course. You really need to know how to work your gears. It seemed like you were constantly going up or down through the rolling hills. You are also battling the country road conditions. Very poor! Very bumpy! Make sure your tires are in good shape and not over-inflated AND strap down your nutrition bottle. I saw dozens of bottles across the course that had beenn bounced from their cages. Including mine which I lost in the first few miles. There is one large hill (Chalk Hill) towards mile 42 or so… Not a huge hill but difficult because it’s at mile 42! But mostly downhill to the finish from there. “The Run”…The run course was un-inspiring. Especially the 1.5-2.0 mile loop around the vineyard. Like the bike, mostly rolling hills and not too many flat stretches. The aid stations on the run are great! Every mile they had a “buffet” of choices: Water, gatoraide, cola(awesome), ice, oreos, pretzels, grapes, and other various fruits. Some of the aid stations also had someone with a hose cooling you down. The volunteers at this race were top notch. They were always on top of things and filled with encouraging words. “The Finish”…I was lucky. I didn’t have anyone around me for the finish line. So I got the announced name and finish banner put up to run through. “Post Race”….they had a good variety of foods to choose from at the finish tent. They also did a good job of making the race finish line a big deal. The swag at the race was also great. The medal and shirt were good and will be worn with pride after finishing my first Half distance tri! Overall, I thought the race was great. The shallow swim(which i really didn’t mind) and bumby bike course were the only things I thought weren’t “ideal”. Definately a race I plan on adding to my 2013 schedule!