One of my favourite races from last year – Ironman 70.3 Vineman – is now just a week away. In a few days, I’ll head north to San Francisco to spend some time with my coach in the city before then heading to the race venue, which is in Sonoma, heart of wine country.

Races become favourites for me for different reasons and this one has stayed with me because it’s in such a stunning setting. I know I’m spoilt when it comes to training and racing in some beautiful parts of the world and this part of California really is special.

Last year, I can remember riding my bike along the smooth rolling roads which snake through the region’s many vineyards with a huge smile on my face. That doesn’t always happen when racing, I can assure you. The run course is just as aesthetically pleasing and actually includes a couple of miles directly through a vineyard.

I finished fourth at this race last year, narrowly missing out on the podium, so am excited to return this year and see what’s in the tank. I’m also hugely excited to be racing my new custom painted Felt IA bike for the first time. This will be its maiden voyage and the bike is incredibly fast, so it’ll be fun to see what the bike – and its rider – can produce.

After the race I plan to stay in San Francisco for a few days to recover, catch up with my coach, team mates and friends before returning to LA later next week. I then plan to head to Calgary, Canada, for a race there the following weekend. It’ll be a new race for me and a new destination, which is always fun to do. You know it’s race season when your bike box and suitcase are constantly on the move!

It has been good to get some solid training weeks in here in LA leading into these two races. And it was especially fun to experience Independence Day yesterday. This is a huge holiday for the Americans with flags flying from homes, cars and shops in the days leading up to it. Giant parades, parties, barbecues and fireworks are staged in every town and neighbourhood. It’s a fun, family-orientated display of proud patriotism. I resisted temptation to enter the local 5K run and instead enjoyed a complete day off – spending time with friends and enjoying a serious firework extravaganza in the evening.

I’ll be back in two weeks with tales from Vineman and San Francisco.