travel finish line Vineman, Sonoma County, Calif.
Oneof the best- kept secrets of triathlon is nestled about one hour north of San Francisco in Sonoma County. Known primarily for hosting Ironman 70.3 Vineman in early July, this spectacular venue is also host to the Full Vineman and Barb’s Race just a few weeks later. Both events utilize parts of the 70.3 course but offer a more laid back, low-key experience. Owned and operated by the Pugh family, the entire organization goes to great lengths to ensure each athlete has a unique and memorable experience. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned regular at this weekend celebration, the organizers make you feel right at home. This year was the 24th annual Full Vineman Triathlon. Known as the “the people’s full distance event,” Vineman is the oldest independent full distance triathlon held in the continental U. S.
The point-to-point venue begins at Johnson’s Beach in the quaint town of Guerneville where athletes swim in the Russian River. The race finishes at Windsor High just 17 miles away. On the bike, athletes travel through five magnificent grape- growing regions on their rolling, scenic tour of some of the most beautiful vineyards and wineries in Sonoma County. The multi-loop run is a perfect blend of flat and rolling terrain. The course passes through the transition area giving everyone a chance to feed off the crowd’s energy before heading back out. If the day’s temperatures rise, as they have been known to do, finding respite from the sun will prove to be the real challenge.
The Full Vineman was named one of “The Best 140.6- Mile Races” by Triathlete Magazine in March 2010. For 2013 the field was limited to 1,100 athletes, ensuring each competitor had an unforgettable day. Once out on the course for the 140.6 mile journey, 800 volunteers were on hand to meet all the athletes’ needs. Newbies and veterans alike experienced the attention normally reserved for the professional field.
As our sport moves through this growth spurt, it is comforting to know Vineman brings the feel of “the good ole’ days” each and every year.
In terms of lodging, it is most convenient to stay near the finish area in Windsor or Santa Rosa. Many athletes camp in Guerneville so they are at the starting line first thing. The race does provide free shuttle buses to take athletes from the finish at Windsor High School back to Johnson’s Beach after the race from noon until 11:30 p. m., but bikes are not permitted on the buses.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to visit the vineyards and wineries located in northern California. Of particular note are La Crema ( lacrema. com) and the Francis Ford Coppola Winery (franciscoppolawinery. com/visit). In addition to wine tasting, athletes and their families can view the region from a hot air balloon or picnic at Armstrong Red Woods State Natural Preserve in Guerneville.
While out training on the course, be sure to check out the Dry Creek Store and the Jimtown Store. Both markets welcome athletes and offer an array of food and snacks to get you through your taper sessions. Do take the time to sit on the porch at Dry Creek and enjoy the beautiful view of the vineyards.
The evenings are the perfect opportunity to travel to the neighbouring towns to enjoy some of the best cuisine in California. From metropolitan San Francisco to cosy Healdsburg every family will find something to suit their palate.