Back to the Russian River: Monte Rio Olympic Triathlon

The Russian River is an amazing place. The past two winters, while California struggled in a long drought, rainstorms upstream turned Guerneville (former home of the swim start for the Vineman) and Monte Rio into Atlantis – that is, they were momentarily underwater. These towns are used to the river overflowing its banks, however, and are resilient. Monte Rio was quiet as ever (though overrun by a bunch of triathletes) as I prepped for my second Olympic distance race.

Ok, Russian River. Let’s do this.


My mom (#sherpamom) and I stayed at in a glorious AirBNB in Forestville. Amazing gardens and a wonderful hostess. It provided the perfect home away from home before the race.

Honestly, most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen.

With the town of Monte Rio being so small, bike check is highly recommended for the day before – I don’t mind having one less thing to worry about on race morning, plus I don’t want to deal with the logistics of getting my bike to transition on race morning, so I’m a big proponent of the method.

Transition was oriented differently this year, so I actually was racked in the same place as the past two years. Good for muscle memory!

In Guerneville. I love the Russian River!

After dropping my bike, checking out the river (which DEFINITELY had a current this year), and grabbing a bite to eat, my mom and I headed to Guerneville to hang out. After an awesome dinner and some fun ice cream, it was off to bed!

I woke up and realized I had brought my race nutrition…but managed to leave breakfast at home. I ate the mini Clif bar from the expo and hoped for the best! When we got to the race a coffee truck was set up and fortunately they had some instant oatmeal. Sherpa Mom said they didn’t even charge her because they were so concerned (facepalm). Whoops.

The best.

I was excited to be in the second wave this year instead of second to last! With everything prepped in the transition area, I headed down to the beach and warmed up. The first wave went off quickly, which meant it was time to race. Lining up in my normal spot, I was trying to just stay in place in the river, but we were all getting pushed downstream. This was going to be an interesting swim.


And we’re off!

At the gun, I took off, not really sighting since it’s kind of a straight line and hard to go off course. Still, the girl next to me (who wound up being right by me the whole swim), managed to swim on a diagonal pushing us both to the shore. I don’t like correcting people while we’re racing but at a certain point you have to hold your own line – so I swam back into her. She figured out I had the better buoy line and straightened her course quickly. 

Exiting the swim. Yes, this is my race face.

The other girl and I traded the lead a couple of times upstream – we even had a lead SUP! That was so cool. At first I was annoyed because I thought the lifeguard on the giant floaty thing was just in my way. Then I realized he actually was our escort and I didn’t have to sight all the way up to the next buoy!

We finally (when I say finally, I mean JEEZ THIS FELT SO LONG) turned to head downstream, my competitor had found the better line and she got about a body length on me, and held that the rest of the way in to shore. We flew by the men in front of us, though, and exited really quickly.

T1 at Monte Rio is a little painful, with a short but steep run uphill. I won’t lie to you, it is a super cool experience to have spectators get excited to see you just because you’re a woman. They’ve seen a ton of guys go past and then all of a sudden, OH IT’S A GIRL!! GO GIRL!!

With a fast transition despite the distance, I grabbed my bike gear and was out of there. I mounted quickly – no traffic when you’re not the second to last wave! – and was off.

Focused race face.

The bike course was a little different this year due to the effects of flooding on a normal bike route road. We had a great long ride out on River Road to Highway 1, where we turned north toward Jenner just to make a quick turnaround to head south. Well, surprise! With the new course, the route south on Highway 1 includes a relatively big climb.

Climbing was just as hard as I expected it to be. I crested the top and cruised down the highway toward the second turnaround. But then as soon as I did… I was hit by a wall of wind. Headwinds were STRONG and it felt like I was riding in place for sections. Otherwise had a great ride back toward Monte Rio, even with the merge with the sprint racers. If anything, they kept us on pace.

Looks like I was headed into T2… or something. Shoe off!

As I approached T2, I readied my shoes and prepared to dismount. Last year, my poor mom saw an Every Man Jack athlete crash on his dismount and I really didn’t want to do that too. Fortunately, just a little wobbly and ran to my rack without incident.


I actually put socks on for this run and I’m glad I did. I started out feeling ok, holding the pace I wanted. The run on Moscow Road is mostly shaded and mostly flat, but there were some very slightly uphill and downhill sections (when I say slightly, I mean that a marble COULD roll if you put it on the street but it probably wouldn’t). Those uphill sections killed me. I made it 5km into the 10km run and just…died. In speaking with Mitchell after the fact, he reminded me that I’m still so new to running that I kind of “top out” at 5km right now.

Headed to the finish line!

Other than feeling crappy and having to revert to a walk-run for a few kilometers, I finished the best I could. I finally made it to the bridge, knowing that I had the dip down and up to the finish line, but I made it. I had completed an Olympic distance triathlon without incident, and I was thrilled!

6th AG (no wine this year, means I need to race faster next time!)

Swim 26:08 // 2:36/100 yard
T1 3:11
Bike 1:20:38 // 18.5mph
T2 1:30
Run 1:04:35 // 10:25 min/mile
Time 2:55:59


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