Santa Cruz 70.3 TCMTriSquad Race Reports
The Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz is the only reason I even started training for triathlons a little more than a year ago. To say this race was a big deal for me would be an understatement. I’ve come a long way in that time with many thanks to Coach Crystal but I’ve also received a ton of support from coaches Marty and Gunnar and the rest of the TCM squad members.
I woke up on race day feeling very calm. With the handful of other sprints and Olympic distance races I have under my belt, I can say this isn’t normal for me. I’m usually very nervous…to the point of feeling physically sick. But this time, I felt very well prepared. I also think with some of the smaller races, there’s always a chance to score a podium spot, which adds to the pressure of performing well. With a big race like this, I knew a podium spot was out of the question and for the first time, I wasn’t competing against anyone else. I was just focused on myself.
I woke up at 3:15, made black coffee, water, and ate my normal breakfast of blueberry waffles and maple syrup. I arrived at the race shortly before 5:00am which allowed me plenty of time to set up my transition area and use the bathroom. I ran through the game plan in my head several times about what transition would look like… where would I be entering and exiting… what is my order of operation. I felt very confident as I left to go down to the beach.
I seeded myself in the 30-minute swim group, which turned out to be perfect since I finished in 29:14 (13th in my age group). However, I kept catching up with the swimmers in front of me and running into their feet, which leads me to believe there were some folks in front of me that should have been behind me. It slowed me down and I think I could have shaved off another 30 seconds if everyone had seeded correctly. Regardless, I am very happy with my swim and felt strong getting out of the water.
I made my way to transition, peeled off the wetsuit, put on my bike gear (including socks for the first time in a race) and was on my bike with a T-1 time of 5:04.
I felt strong on the bike. I kept a close eye on my power meter to make sure I didn’t blow up too early or push too hard on the bigger hills. I also paid close attention to my nutrition. Drinking a full bottle of Maurten 320 with a Maurten Gel 100 on the way up and then the same exact thing on the way back. I feel like it gave me the power I needed without making me feel sick. Everything was going perfect until around mile 50 when I dropped my chain. It took me about 45 seconds to get off the bike, put the chain back on, and get back rolling again. Not a huge loss of time but I didn’t like how it threw off my steady pace. It’s still 100 times better than getting a flat tire though! All-in-all I was very satisfied with my 2:40:34 bike finish with an average pace of 20.93 mph.
Transition 2 went just as smooth as the first transition. In-and-out with no issues for a time of 2:14.
Now this is where things started going south. Almost immediately after I started the run, I began to cramp up. First in my stomach, my sides, and then my legs. Everything felt very heavy and I thought for a few minutes that I was going to puke. I actually caught up to Coach Marty and asked for his help. He gave me some very sound advice about just relaxing. It worked for the most part and it was advice I would come back to several times during the run. At every hydration station, I made sure to drink water, Gatorade, or Coke, pour water on my head, and pour a cup of ice down my tri-suit. When things got really bad, I had to slow down and walk (several times). I am not satisfied with how I felt during the run and I know my pace could have been better but considering how warm and humid it was during the run, I’m okay with my finish time of 1:58:42 with a pace of 8:58/mile.
Going into this race, my lofty goal was to finish sub-5:00. My realistic goal was to finish 5:15 but I would have been happy with finishing anywhere under 5:30. As it turns out, my overall finish time was 5:15:48, which is exactly what I estimated as a realistic goal! Pretty crazy.
I’m not going to lie…that run was so miserable that I told myself I was going to quit TCM and racing all together as soon as I was done with the race. Luckily I didn’t. The memories of suffering are short-lived and I’m already starting to think of the future. I’ll take the rest of the year off from racing and will concentrate on training and diet.
I underestimated how sore I would be today (the day after the race). Right now, I am resting, hydrating, and eating clean. Recovery time. I’m very proud of myself for achieving the goal I set over a year ago. As a result of all the training, I am now in the best shape of my life (no joke) and have discovered a love for swimming I never knew existed. I can’t say for sure what my racing future looks like but I guarantee I will not stop training anytime soon.
I took a quick dip in the ocean just before they kicked us out for the race start. It was a good move to allow me to adjust to the cold ocean temps, even if it was just for a few seconds. I didn’t feel any shock or shortness of breath which was a good sign. I’ll credit that to my daily cold plunge routine for recovery.
It was a long wait to start the swim after the pros started. I lined up with the 32-35 minute group, near the back. I was estimating a 35 minute swim and I figured lining up near the back of this group could let me draft off some faster people and also give me people to chase. After nearly 30 minutes of waiting, our group was finally up and I was eager to get in. By this time my body temp had already rose. I sprinted to the ocean and dove right in. Immediately, the cold ocean water was a nice welcome change and I was off.
The swim felt speedy as there were large mobs of people to draft off of. I think the current of everyone swimming helped speed up the swim. During most of the swim I was passing people. That got me going. Initially I was a bit worried that I was being a bit too ambitious in lining up with a “faster” pack. Either I was feeling really good and going faster than expected, or others were going slower than expected. To be honest, I had little awareness of where I was or where I was going. All I did was follow the groups in front of me and spot to the next buoy. I had my watch buzz every 500 yards to give me a sense of how far I had swum. But other than that I was going inwards – finding my rhythm and stroke. About 1500 yards in, I did feel that my hands and feet were starting to go numb. I tried keeping my fingers together, but they were splaying out. However, I felt high energy throughout the whole swim and it went by fast. Before I knew it, I was back at the beach and ready to do the quarter mile jog to transition.
I spent way too much time in transition looking for my bike. I guess 4 digits are too hard for me to remember. In the morning during transition check-in I had racked my bike on the wrong number as well (someone moved it to the right place) and now again I struggled to find my bike. There were just way too many bikes, I kept mixing up my number, and I might be a bit directionally challenged. The number on my wristband was upside down so maybe next time I will sharpie the number on my hand or something.
The first half of the bike I was cruising and feeling strong. I was flying past people. My HR was constantly above 150 bpm, but RPE felt like an easy day effort. I was averaging close to 200 watts for the first half, and I wanted to push harder, but I held back. However, during the second half of the bike fatigue began to set in. It wasn’t cardiovascular, but rather muscular fatigue. My lower back was killing me, which was strange because I usually don’t get that even on my longer training rides. But then again, I mostly ride indoors and not pushing race pace. My quads were okay though, and I looked for any excuse to get up out of my saddle and push during climbs. At a certain point, the way back on Highway 1 became extremely congested. The six bike length draft rule became a joke. I don’t think anyone was enforcing it either.
Some things I’m glad I did prior to the bike leg: carry two bottles instead of three, take extra gels (6 instead of 4). I ended up drinking much less than expected (not even 2 full bottles) and instead ended up consuming most of my fuel as gels. The temperatures were cool, especially coming out of the cold ocean water and I did not find myself needing to hydrate much at all (I also hydrated well days prior). The sports drink would just end up sloshing around in my stomach. This saved me from carrying ~1.5 lbs of dead weight. I figured that I could snag a bottle at an aid station if I really needed it. The Maurten caffeine gels were clutch and I alternated those with the regular Maurten gels. There was a palpable boost of energy each time I slurped one of those down and an easy way for me to get in calories.
Heading to T2, I fumbled the flying dismount because I was not anticipating the finish line. I wasn’t sure when to unstrap and I screeched to a halt when I saw people in front of me dismounting. I took off my cycling shoes after crossing the finish line though so I could jog barefoot to the transition area. That probably saved a few seconds.
I had a lot of energy coming out of the run and my HR was relatively low. My legs were warmed up but the only thing that was bothering me was my low back, which was still tight and sore. My goal was around 6:50/mi pace, but I took Coach Martin’s advice by going at a conservative 7:00/mi pace to test the waters. The first part of the course was slightly uphill, but I didn’t really notice it. Aside from low back pain, I was feeling pretty good. The temperatures were in the 70s, I took swigs of Gatorade Endurance and poured water on myself at every aid station. My pace slowed a bit as we headed into Wilder Ranch but thankfully my back loosened up. There were a few hills and windy paths, and a section in sand with uneven surfaces. Although not flat, the course was scenic and interesting. Around 5 miles in I found my groove and was cruising. I was keeping a solid pace, and it was motivating to cross paths with TCM’ers on course. With around 4 miles left to go, I was beginning to hurt and my HR was reaching max. But I looked at my watch and saw that if I sped up my pace a bit, I might be able to break 1:30. I pushed to my max effort, but even with the slight downhill towards the end of the course I didn’t have enough gears. I was about a minute shy of breaking 1:30, but overall happy with my pace and split. The course was harder than expected and I gave it my all.
My final time was 4:41:26. Aside from a few mishaps in transition I couldn’t have asked for a better race! The competition was stacked this year, but I’m more motivated than ever to train harder and race more!
One year ago, while watching the Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 I decided that I was going to start doing triathlons and one year from then I would be in that race. One year later, I finally got to race in the event.
It was my first 70.3 and overall it was my favorite race of the year. It was hard, it was long, and it was a lot of fun.
I had my best swim of the year. I went 1.2 miles at a faster pace than any other race this year. My swim goal was 38-36 minutes and I finished at 32.01. I knew I had a good one but was shocked when I saw my watch coming up the beach.
The 56 mile bike was familiar roads for me. I thought if I gave it my all I could break 3 hours. I felt great on the bike and got it done in 2:51:52.
By the time I hit the 13.1 mile run I was way ahead of my goal and feeling amazing. The first few miles on the run I was cruising, feeling great, then it happened. About 3.5 miles in my quads started cramping. Then it got worse and they were not letting up. I slowed, I had to walk a couple hills, I wanted to stop and just walk the rest. It was hot and humid and I told myself I could walk at mile 9 if I really wanted, but right now I had to keep running. While running I could tell I was not alone. The run was breaking people. I went to a really really dark place the last 7-8 miles but I managed to get it done. Run time was not what I wanted but I’ll take it with a 1:57:09 for the half marathon.
My goal was 5:35-5:45 and perfect race might get me below 5:30. It was not perfect, but I dug deep and finished with a 5:27:44.
1.2 mile swim
56 mile bike
13.1 mile run
5 hours 27 minutes 44 seconds
Never once when I stood on the pier watching last year did I think that was possible. Never ever. But it is amazing what is possible with a full year of consistent hard work, great coaching from Gunnar Roll and a great team to keep you going when you just don’t feel like it. One year and you can literally change who you are and what your body and mind are capable of.
I am officially hooked with this sport and can’t wait to see what is next and where it will take me.