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written by: Joe Weslolaski
posted: 08/16/2005

For those of you looking for an alternative to the rah rah pomp and circumstance of Ironman M Dot races, check out VINEMAN in Sonoma County, CA. This race is the longest running IRONMAN distance race in the Continental US. Small field of entrants, beautiful course winding through the many vineyard and ranch areas of Sonoma. A great race.

This was my 2nd Ironman , (IMLP ’04 12:19:04) and arguably a tougher course and most certainly tougher mentally. In addition to the Ironman Distance race, there was a Womans only ˝ , and an AQUABIKE – (Ironman distance swim and BIKE minus the marathon) . This made the event as a whole lot more fun , added some other participants in different states of suffering , and reinstalled some confidence when getting passed on the bike “I bet they are just doing the aquabike and don’t have to run”

SWIM – 2 loops, upstream and downstream the Russian River. They said the current was “negligible” as the River was dammed this time of year. Yah right. My 3 week crash swim training, or lack thereof , came back to haunt me . I am an average swimmer when in form, but any type of swim against a current magnifies your flaws. I labored for 85 minutes in water no deeper than 6 feet. It wasn’t much fun , No draft to speak of with such a small field of entrants (70 or so in my wave) as most flew past me early on. I was happy to get out of the water.

BIKE - first a 10 mile stretch taking you back to “town” then two 51 mile loops around the vineyards. Lots of rolling hills and very technical , no shoulder, with significant drop offs into irrigation trenches, on much of the largely deserted roads. Daunting at times, stay focused and well to the left.

Luckily the “Marine layer” stayed around till 1pm and kept the course nice and cool . By the time it burned off the heat came with it and wouldn’t see a cloud the rest of the day . One major hill of note “Chalk Hill” fairly steep but relatively short and near the end. More Alpine esque then Adirondack esque. Spin up then fly on down . By the 2nd loop it was an exercise in Isolation, at times hard to stay motivated. Wind became a factor, few spectators, and few distractions from the pain. Total BIKE – 6:24:05 . I went out too hard on the first loop, and paid.

RUN: - 3 loops , out and back . sort of boring to cover the same area 6 times, but essential given the small field. Lots of small hills , on curved roads, like running in a velodrome at times, Hips and ankles are still all out of sorts, running basically sideways all day long . very challenging , And now Hot . total time : 4:54:25 .

Overall l -- I came in at 12:54:12 , I was happy to break 13 hours, but slower than last year’s Placid race. I had expected this , I was undertrained and never seemed to lose those last 10 lbs. mental note . I am now registering as a Clydesdale. I carry the burden, mine as well be compensated, I would have placed in the top 5 in Clyde’s .. This race beat me up , perhaps the winding run , the extra lb’s , the fact its just hard, whatever. I really felt like I was damaging myself out there towards the end, but sort of reveled in the fact that my last 5 miles were my fastest. I hustled to come in under 13 hours. I wouldn’t recommend this as a first timers Ironman race, I missed a lot of the hype and adrenaline rush you get from the aura and mystique of the Ironman, All the buildup and fanfare. But it is a great race, a purists race if you will , you really are “racing the course” and need some guts to get to the end . Being the lone Boston guy (in honesty I was also racing with my Tri Life Teammates but wearing BTT Colors) , I was excited to see a Wheelworks guy , who I did in fact beat. Some chatty racers and race officials loved seeing an east coaster at the event. All and all a good day , I didn’t bring my “A” game , but came in under my goal.