vineman: ready or not

“Are you ready for Vineman?” It’s a question I’ve heard more times than I can count over the past two weeks.

This phrase, commonly passed between triathletes, is more than just small talk. It’s social currency, a sign that you’re in tune with a friend’s race schedule. It’s code for “I care,” “I’m interested,” “how are things,” and so much more. There’s a lot that can be read between the lines.

Me and the bro-in-law stopping mid-ride for a peek at the ocean.

My answer? I think so, I hope so, and I’m not quite sure. It’s definitely not the resounding “Yes!” of Ironman Cabos, or the cheerful “whatever I’ve got left will have to do” of St. George. As I wrote last week, I came into this week’s taper hungry for rest. And rest I have. Mark’s birthday last week and a visit from his brother made scaling down from an 18-hour week to a 14-hour training week much easier.

Training highlights included a hot yoga class at Yoga Tropics, introducing Stephen to the Elfin Forest loop, swimming 30 feet away from dolphins at Moonlight Beach, holding up the rear of the 1:35 lane at Masters, running somewhere new (Balboa Park), and riding more with Mark. Non-training highlights include everything that comes along with summer weekends: Dinner with both of our adopted families (the Markoffs and the Butskos), homemade kimchi-infused sausage, cooking on our new grill, birthday happy hours, and meeting up with an old friend at Bread and Cie downtown.

Bike napkins and beer at the Butskos.

But back to whether or not I’m “ready.” Being asked that question so frequently has made me think more lately about this state we call race readiness. Likely, it’s different for all of us. To help give order to my thoughts, I’ve put together a list of five factors that contribute to that fleeting, hard-to-define feeling of race-readiness. At least for me. I’m hoping that writing them down will help me tune in a little more, and maybe learn something for future races.

What contributes to whether you feel race ready? I’d love to hear.

Factor 1 – Coach/no-coach: I’ve noticed that my sense of race readiness is more likely to be high when I’m being coached. Answering to another human being, whether in a work setting (compared to being your own boss), or in a training environment adds a je ne sais quois seriousness I have a hard time cultivating on my own. I may be a perfectionist who’s very driven by inner motivation, but for me the mere presence of a coach seems to take it to the next level. I wonder how this will change over the years, if at all. It’s probably simply trusting an expert’s plan more than my own, fly-by-the-seat of my cycling shorts approach.

Factor 2 – Early mornings: Another random factor in how successful I deem a block of training (and thus how “ready” I feel), is how many workouts I’ve completed before work. I have no idea why. A hard run at lunch hour or in the evening can be just as effective as a 6 a.m. swim session, right? For some reason the number of break-of-dawn sessions seems to correlate to confidence in my this head of mine.

Factor 3 – Number of “hard” workouts: This is defined somewhat loosely in my own head by group workouts that really push me, trainer workouts, run and bike hill repeats, and tempo runs. It doesn’t include anything long or endurance-focused. How many of these I’ve done in a given training block is directly proportional to my sense of readiness—and in fact, I draw on each of them leading up to races for mental prep. There is undoubtedly science behind doing “hard” workouts (they are the building blocks of training after all), but in my head it’s more of a foggy sense I draw on than hard data. (Just for my own warped sense of fun, I went into my training log and counted the number of these I’ve logged leading up to Vineman, or basically since my last race: 16 — my magic number.)

Successful Vitamix green smoothie: Banana, mango, spinach, celery, greek yogurt, honey.

Factor 4  Diet and alcohol: For obvious reasons, I feel more race ready when green smoothies frequent my Vitamix and leafy greens my dinner plate. Add to that a week with at least two or three dry nights, and I’ll probably sound a lot more positive about an upcoming race than if I’ve been indulging (which is, kind of often). What specific differences these things make to my actual results I don’t know, but they’re powerful mental factors for me.

Factor 5  Comparisons to others: This isn’t a healthy one, especially when you’re surrounded by fast friends who either compete for a living or are just genetic freaks. My confidence is too easily derailed when a friend tells me about a recent race-pace workout, or if I see Instagram photos of friends setting PR’s at local sprints. Social media can be a hindrance to happiness and confidence at the best of times, and in the triathlon world, we have to be especially mindful of its influence.

There’s my list! Now it’s off to pack for Vineman and pray this brand-new lower back tightness (nooooo!) doesn’t get any worse. I’ll leave you with the recipe for this easy Campari-Orange sangria we brought to a recent potluck. So refreshing, enjoy!

Campari Orange Sangria 


3 3/4 cups sweet white wine, such as Riesling
2 1/4 cups fresh orange juice,
1 cup Campari
ice, for serving.


Mix the white wine with the fresh orange juice and Campari in a large pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. Fill tall glasses with ice, pour the cocktail over the ice and serve.

From The 20 Best Summer Drinks, Gaucho Grilling with Francis Mallman/via Food and Wine.

A late birthday supper on the new grill. 

Many hands makes good pizza (featuring Mark’s homemade kimchi sausage!)

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