|I am a triathlete | I am a lover of microbreweries and craft beer | I am convinced these two passions go hand-in-hand | I am hard on myself and my running shoes | I am fond of recovering from a hard workout with a fantastic beer | I am in support of individuals who love to create daring and delicious beers ||
Heading out to Muncie, IN for the IM 70.3 this year? Lucky you! Muncie was a random, late addition to my race calendar last year, and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by the experience (race report). I spent some time pre-race in Muncie, and one day in Indianapolis post-race before flying out. To those familiar with this part of the country, it’s probably no surprise, but these two cities are mid-west gems.
The food: My favorite restaurant in Muncie was right in the little downtown, walking distance from packet pick-up. It’s called the Barn Brassiere and serves up fresh, healthy, locally-sourced french-themed comfort food. The beer list was also local, allowing us to try the Pogue’s Run Porter from Flat 12 Bierworks, based in Indianapolis, for pre-race libations. This is a must-stop place for dinner or brunch, when you can gobble up beignets. They also have crayons and paper tablecloths for all day fun. If you do head to Indianapolis as well, my favorite meal there was at Bru Burger Bar on Mass Ave, their main thoroughfare for awesomeness. Great beer list and tons of excellent meat and non-meat burgers and sammies.
The beer: As I mentioned, Flat 12 makes some great beers, specifically the porter. When in Indy, you can visit their taproom. But don’t worry, Muncie also has a fantastic watering hole to quench your pre and-post race thirst. Steps away from Barn Brassiere, you can find Heorot. The name Heorot refers to a mead-hall described in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as “the foremost of halls under heaven.” And I can understand why they chose this name. This pub has all of the beer. We stopped only for one beer, since it was the day before the race, and I tried a local chili amber named Cinco de Amber. It was unique, and definitely suited to 90 degree mid-western afternoons. Have fun spending some time in Heorot, but eat elsewhere. As of last summer they pretty much served only pretzels.
The lodging: In Muncie, I was not creative, and I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express with Triple C. But, if you choose, there are options for camping and Bed and Breakfasts very near to Prairie Creek Reservoir, the race site, that would be worth investigating. In Indianapolis I branched out and picked a fantastic B&B. The Stone Soup Inn was an ideal home base to explore Mass Ave, only a 15 minute walk away. It was an easy drive to the airport and the Zoo as well. The accommodations were excellent, as was the breakfast my host agreed to serve me at 6am for my early departure. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay again if my travels bring me to Indy again.
The Zoo: The excellent Indianapolis Zoo was my only real activity that wasn’t race related and it was amazing. Even though it was 90 degrees, the indoor dolphin show and butterfly mansions provided relief. The food was good, with a customizable salad cart on offer in the zoo. The zoo also provided the inspiration for my IM Muncie race report.
The race: I loved this venue, with quiet, gently rolling country roads for the bike and run, and a nice, warm reservoir for the swim. It was easy to get to and spectator friendly. It wasn’t my best outing at a race, but the course was definitely one I would do again. Even though those rollers didn’t feel so gentle once I was running on them…
The moral of the story, get yourself to Muncie!
As the name suggests, Vineman happens in the heart of California wine country. In traveling to this race, you can experience some of the best wine, and the best beer, that California has to offer. And also, a pretty great race.
I raced Vineman only once, back in 2011, but it sticks in my head as a memorable race and vacation. It’s an easy place to coerce loved ones to accompany you for a long weekend, so don’t be shy about asking a friend to tag along for post-race festivities.
Most people rent houses along the river for this race, but I stayed at a nearby hotel. If I were going to race it again, I would look into the house rental option and stay in the area for a week.
The Beer: I know that Sonoma and Napa counties are all about the wine, and to be sure that was a great part of my trip. Triple C accompanied me to the race, and we spent the entire day post-race touring a variety of vineyards and buying delicious bottles. I would recommend sticking to smaller tasting rooms and skipping the huge popular ones, like Jacuzzi. This place was a huge bus stop affair, and was really only good for a photo op.
I digress. To find great beer, plan trips to Lagunitas and Russian River. Lagunitas Brewery is super casual, with outdoor picnic tables in a beer garden, indoor high tops and standing room. There is often live music and people with kids and dogs dancing. The food is pretty solid, so don’t be shy about making this a pre-race or post-race stop. It’s in a weird location surrounded by factories, but is worth the effort to find. I have had a variety of their beers, and really enjoyed most of them. On this trip I had the Cappucino Stout. It’s thick and sweet, and doubles as drink and dessert.
Russian River is in downtown Santa Rosa, maybe 20 minutes from the Vineman festivities. It’s very important you visit this brewpub. Their beer is more difficult to find than Lagunitas, and a majority of what they pour at this location can only be found at this location. One caveat - it gets really crowded on weekends and can be difficult to find a table to eat. We ate at a Cuban restaurant nearby and just got a drink at the bar. I had a delicious dose of Supplication and can’t wait to go race this one next year, mainly just to return and sample more from the Russian River.
The Race: Vineman was the first time I won my age group in an IM 70.3, and it holds many good memories. I had a decent swim, the fastest amateur bike and held off the chasers on the run. The swim is unique, in warm shallow waters that you could walk if you really wanted to. But swimming is faster, so definitely do that. The bike course was rolling, great for sustained power output with small descents to power down. The roads were rough though, and narrow in sections. Later waves had to worry about auto traffic on the roads as well, which made for a few near-misses. Definitely ride with your head up and pay attention to more than just your watts. The rolling run course is always hot, and definitely demands that you save some matches for the return leg.
Enjoy your trip to
wine beer country and have a great race!
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