A friend asked me for info about Vineman 70.3, and suddenly I realized my email was ridiculously long. So here goes...
So, Vineman was pretty cool overall. Kind of weird, but one of the best parts was the drive out from AZ. I went up the east side of the Sierras, camped near Mammoth, and went up and over (through Yosemite). Driving through central CA is nothing special, but it was cool to drive through San Fran because I had never been there before. After San Fran, the traffic was HORRIBLE. If you race there, I would recommend driving up early, like Thursday.
Lodging is reasonable I think, but I ended up camping ($12 per day or something). If you want to camp, make a reservation!! If you want to stay anywhere close it will fill up. I counted on camping in the state park (awesome redwoods!), but they have like 8 camping spots... I ended up camping like 1/2-hour north, but it was cool because Luke McKenzie and company happened to stay in the same place. They were easy to pick out with their rides and official Scott enclosed trailer.
Overall, the venue is cool. Small, touristy towns, and vineyards everywhere! It is strange with two transition areas so far apart, and only two ways to get there. It made for a LONG day.
The Russian River is awesome. It's like a family getaway straight out of the 70's. One campground with tube rentals, beer, etc. right on the beach. The cool part about the swim is that it's fairly easy to swim straight-even easier than Tempe Town Lake. The crappy part is at the turnaround there is like a 50-meter section where it is too shallow to swim. Literally less than 2' deep. The RD said it was "swimmable", but I disagree. If nothing else it was a chance to stand up and catch your breath. T1 is uneventful, but expect rough ground and a long run with your bike. Run your bike up the first hill! Many people fell trying to pedal up the hill immediately after the mount.
The bike course is scenic if nothing else. Lots of narrow roads with no shoulders. Overhanging trees, vineyards galore, etc. Of course trees occasionally fall, but it happens I guess. My biggest complaint was the rough roads. Not as bad as Euclid in Tucson, but moderately bumpy almost the whole time. I lost my nutrition around 10 miles in. A couple moderate climbs in the early going, a tough climb at 40+ miles (a good 5-10 minute climb), then downhill to flat back to T2. T2 is very interesting because you just drop your shoes there the day before.
The run is a nice mix of road and trail (probably 80%/20%), and deceptively hilly. Some good rollers with some flat stretches between. Some shade, but mostly exposed to the sun. It would be very nice on a typical day in July, but not last year when it topped out around 95. The highlight was running through the vineyard at the turnaround. The run-through misters were greatly appreciated!
Post-race was typical for a longer race. Good food, and lots of support. The Trisports.com tent was awesome! Somewhat disorganized for awards because the ceremony goes on while so many people are still on the course. Then I had to wait for 1/2-hour or so to get on a shuttle back to my car at T1 (a half-hour ride). It definitely would be nice to have support out there to give you a ride back to your car.
Overall, it was a great experience for my first branded 70.3 event. If I lived close I would do it every year. Next year, I'll probably be picking a different destination race to try out something new.
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