Oh 70.3, why do we love this distance triathlon? Likely because it's easier to train and race a 70.3 than a 140.6 and after you finish, recovery is so much faster. Add the beauty of the Sonoma wine country in mid-May when everything is in bloom and fragrant and Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 (formerly Vineman) did not disappoint!
Living in San Francisco and training in Marin, Sonoma/Napa countryside made this a must do race for me. Over 60 triathletes were riding from my tri club, the GGTC (Golden Gate Tri Club) something that I wouldn’t fully appreciate until I needed the boost of a friendly face along the course.
The day leading up to the race was magical. The day started in a ‘No Big Deal’ way, with having breakfast and good conversation with Mirinda 'Rinny' Carfrae, multiple Ironman and IM World Champion multiple times over and Ambassador for the Ironman Foundation Team. I was invited to represent and update the team on Women For Tri activities of which I serve as a Regional Ambassador for the Pacific Northwest region. Later in the day, we hosted a WFT meet up for women to learn about the course, ask questions, meet other folks racing and win some fun raffle prizes!
Race Day is here! Race morning started early - too early with a 3:15 am wake up. At 4:00, I was walking towards the buses en route to the start of the swim and point-to-point bike ride. It was still dark as we arrived and I remembered why I needed my headlamp, which was back at the hotel! As we arrived at the swim start at Lake Sonoma, the excitement of race morning was in the air as fellow triathletes buzzed by. After setting up my T1 area that would greet me after the swim, I headed down with some friends to the swim start. The sunrise and rolling start greeted us as we lunged our bodies into the refreshing Lake Sonoma water which three weeks earlier during a practice swim had seemed so much colder.
Exiting the swim I followed another triathlete to where folks were wet suit stripping triathletes, my favorite way to get out of the wetsuit fast. That made running up the big hill to transition that much easier!
I jumped on my bike and was off en route to Santa Rosa through some of my favorite wine regions. Don't tell my coach, but the thought of what type of wine I would drink in celebration after the race powered me on the course. Passing lots of guys and younger women on the bike course did too! The bike course was two miles of screeching downhill, a mile of flat, then two miles of gradual uphill and then rolling for the remaining 52 miles - flat and fast. Aero bars were a must on this course.
Coming into Santa Rosa towards the finish of the bike leg, we could hear the fans cheering and we were greeted with roars as we headed into T2 and the two loop run. I'm always happy to be on the run, which to me is where the race is won or lost. I've trained hard this season to be stronger and faster on the run and I was looking forward to putting this to work on race day! The cheering from the fans gave us all a burst of adrenaline that buoyed us to settle in on the run.
Mile three came quickly, seeing friends cheering buoyed me but so did the cramp in my right foot! Ouch! I had to level off my salts and hydration quickly or this was going to be a painful 10 miles that lay ahead. This run course was easier from the race course of past years as it had a lot of trail running along the Santa Rosa bike path away from traffic and cars and was semi shaded, a big plus as the hot sun was starting to heat things up. At mile six, Pro triathlete Meredith Kessler (MBK) was running, cheering with us and taking photos - what a treat to be cheered by a pro and an inspiration! By mile seven, I was delighted to run through my tri club, the GGTC cheer station - it was a blur as there were so many familiar faces. I wanted to stop and take it all in but I had to run, especially for the cheers!
Rounding the last few blocks of the race I came upon my friend who told me to push it home so I did. Luckily, race photos show me running happily across the finish arms high in the air. It’s amazing how big your smile is when you are super happy to be done with a challenging event!
I had my best time to date in the 70.3 distance and scored a slot to the IMWorlds70.3 in Chattanooga, TN this September. A dream come true. I can't wait for the next race! IM Hawaii 70.3 on June 3rd!
Happy Training and Racing!
Written by Carla McKay
Follow Carla on Instagram! @carlamckay
Would you like to do a race in wine country? Tell us in the comments below!