They Put the Ocean Back in Oceanside

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As the title of this post suggests, the race organizers of Ironman 70.3 Oceanside did put the ocean back in Oceanside. How? By starting the swim from the beach as opposed to an in-water start in the harbor. If you know me, you know my well documented fear of open water swimming and you must be wondering how the heck I ended up on the start line of such an early season race that starts in the Pacific Ocean. Well, for that I have my good friends Isaac and Maria Keselman to blame.

Abby and I were invited to hang out in the beach house last summer, so we did. When we arrived, Maria handed me a bottle of Poland Spring. Or so I thought. It turned out you can’t drink alcohol on the beach so Maria kindly replaced the water with vodka. A couple of bottles later, Isaac and I were bobbing up and down in the Atlantic and he asked if I wanted to do Oceanside. The vodka said yes.

I signed up a couple of months later and now here I was in Oceanside, California getting ready to do my first outdoor swim since Ironman Lake Placid 9 months prior (which reminds me…I need to write that race report).

Since I signed up for Oceanside relatively late, XC did not have a room for me in their hotel. Luckily, I was able to snag an Airbnb near the swim course and transition (the Finish Line is next to Oceanside Pier, less than a mile away).

Swim Course
View of the Swim Course from our Airbnb

We arrived to the race venue on Thursday afternoon. We flew from Newark to San Diego, and Meb Keflezghi happened to be on our flight. We had met Meb a few times prior (thanks to United sponsoring the NYC Marathon), so we sort of knew each other. He was a super nice guy, and even stopped by my seat mid-flight to chat. He asked what I was doing in San Diego, and I told him about the race. He wished me luck, which I think was a harbinger of how I was going to run later (thanks, Meb!).

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Abby, Me, Meb

After we settled into our Airbnb, I went to get my bike from Isaac’s hotel room, since XC was kind enough to pick up my bike and gear bag from TriBike Transport for me. I had not planned on riding that day, since my coach just put a 20 minute run on my schedule. However, since Isaac and another XC athlete (Mike) were riding, I decided to join them. This may or may not have been the greatest decision because of what happened later.

We rode from the hotel to The Strand and down part of the run course. At one point we turned towards the far turnaround of the run course, which is where Mike dropped his chain. Somehow he managed to get his chain really wedged in between the small chainring and his frame, and neither Isaac, Mike, or I could get it free without damaging the frame. We were only about a mile or so from the expo, so Mike decided to walk it while Isaac and I rode on for a few more minutes. On our way back, we passed Mike and I slowed down to see if he was OK. He said he was, so I started to ride again. Almost immediately as I stood to pedal, a water bottle (similar to a Poland Spring bottle, not a regular water bottle) I had placed in my rear bottle holder flew out and got wedged between my rear wheel and frame. I was clipped in when this happened, and one second I was pedaling, and the next my rear wheel had completely locked and I could not pedal at all. Since I was not going very fast I started to fall over. Luckily I was able to maintain my balance, not panic, quickly unclip and stand up to avoid a pre-race crash. Mike saw the whole thing happen, and he was shocked I didn’t crash.

I pulled the water bottle out of where it was stuck and handed it to Mike. My bike looked fine, so I mounted and started to ride. Within a quarter of a pedal stroke my crank hit something and wouldn’t move forward. I had to quickly unclip and dismount again, and I noticed that the crank was hitting the front derailleur. Apparently the water bottle had caused the front derailleur to shift and my crank no longer had clearance past it. Without any tools with me, I had to walk the remaining distance to the expo as well and hand my bike to the mechanics.

Now you may be wondering what all of this has to do with the race. Trust me, all of this will make sense later, and this is all relevant.

After we got back to the hotel, Abby picked me up and we went on my 20 minute run. We decided to run around the swim course to check it out.

The water was pretty calm at that time, and they were expecting just 2 – 4 foot waves, so they anticipated it to be a beach start as planned. I wanted to practice getting into the water, but unfortunately we were out of time with the bike snafu.

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Abby and I at Swim Start (forgive my hair)

Once we finished checking out the swim course, we went back to our Airbnb to get ready for the XC Welcome Dinner.

The Welcome Dinner is pretty fun. We get to see the other XC athletes and their families/friends, and since 80+% of XC athletes return for the races, we get to know each other fairly well. In fact we keep in touch throughout the year and we tend to meet up whenever we’re in each other’s respective cities/towns. Three of us are actually planning on going to Bermuda in a few weeks to race WTS Bermuda (more on that after the race).

It’s also at the Welcome Dinner where we get to register and forego having to go to regular Athlete Check-In. It’s a pretty cool perk of XC: registration comes to you.

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One of our XC Athletes (Jed) getting registered

The next day, we had to check in our bikes since the race was on Saturday. Before that, though, we had our traditional XC breakfast where we met Joe Gambles (also Heather Jackson’s coach). Joe is a pretty cool guy, and gave us lots of advice on the course having raced it about half a dozen times prior. Unfortunately he could not give us any direct advice on the beach start since this was the first time they were doing it at this race, but he did give us general beach start advice, which was essentially to not fight the waves. He advised us to look for the wave to come in, and before it hits us, dive under and grab the sand to hang on. Allow the wave to roll over you, and then go back up to the surface. This seemed like pretty good advice, but it was much harder in practice.

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Joe Gambles in the Wattie Ink hat giving us advice

After the breakfast, the XC guys took us to Swim Start to get into the water. At that time, the water was pretty rough with 4 – 6 foot waves but it was good to practice since the waves were forecasted to be calmer on race morning.

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Me on the left, wondering what the hell I got myself into, while Todd helps Kevin into his wetsuit.

One thing that’s really awesome about the XC family is that it truly is that: family. The entire time I was in the water, Mike Cummings (who I just met the day before) and Isaac stayed with me the entire time. They both kept me calm and made sure I was OK. An experienced boater, Mike also gave me a ton of advice and pointers in how to deal with the waves. He even had me practice ducking under the waves and told me what I was doing right/wrong. We spent about 20 minutes out there in 60.2 degree water, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their help. Mike even offered to swim next to me during the race, but I declined, not wanting to ruin his race or have either of us be disqualified (since I’m fairly certain that’s against the rules).

After the swim we all rode down together to bike check in. During this short ride I made sure my bike was fully functioning, and she was. She was shifting like a dream and handling really well. I had no issues at all with her.

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Race Ready!

Or so I thought. After racking my bike, one of my XC teammates noticed something on my rear tire. He took a closer look at the tire and realized that the tire in that spot was completely bald. Basically you could see the air being held in place by the thinnest layer of cotton. This must have happened because of what happened with the water bottle the day before (see? I told you that story was relevant!). What was strange was that I could not feel it while I rode, and the mechanic who worked on my bike did not notice that massive hole. It definitely was not there before, since I checked my tire over carefully prior to going to CA. This is because I was riding Vittoria Open Corsa Speeds, which last about 200 miles, and I had about 120 on them (I rode them in Ironman Lake Placid).

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Look at that!!!

Had my teammate not noticed the issue with my tire, I probably would have lasted no more than 5 miles before an irreparable flat. Lucky for me, he did and even luckier, I had Isaac and the XC team to help take care of me. As soon as people realized what happened, the XC team drove me back with my bike back to their hotel so Isaac can give me his spare race wheel. Since the race wheels I brought were tubulars, there was no way for me to be able to get a tubular in time and glue it on the wheel since it takes about 24 hours for the glue to cure. Luckily, Isaac travels with a spare set of race wheels so he was able to give me his.

I wanted to swap out both of my front and rear wheels with his, but unfortunately his front wheel was slightly wider than mine so my front brake kept rubbing, no matter how I adjusted it. I did not want to adjust my front brake since it was optimized for my front wheel, so I decided to keep it. More on this later.

After swapping out my rear wheel (luckily Shimano cassettes and SRAM groupsets are interchangeable), I rode to transition while the XC guys followed me in their van. On the ride there, I tested everything, and once again everything was working perfectly. Once I re-racked my bike, Frankie and Troy drove me back to my apartment (XC is the best).

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Isn’t my custom Wyn Republic kit awesome?

Now on to the race!

The Swim

Swim Course Map
ROKA Swim Course

As I mentioned before, the swim course for Oceanside has changed to incorporate a beach start. Athletes start on the beach, run into the water, and swim to a turn buoy a few hundred meters off shore. Upon reaching the turn buoy, athletes swim between two jetties and then turn right into the mouth of the harbor. This is supposed to be about 4/10ths of a mile. Once in the harbor, there’s a slight current that brings you to the next right turn. Make that turn, and it’s a straight shot down the harbor to the final 90 degree turn right before the boat ramp swim exit.

It seemed simple enough, but I would later find out that swim into the harbor goes directly east. This meant that the sun would be rising directly over the coast, leading me to be unable to see where I was going during that entire stretch. The race director had warned us of this during lunch the previous day, but for some reason the significance of which did not register to me, so I didn’t prepare properly. I only brought my Roka R1 Cobalt and Vermilion goggles, neither of which are tinted enough to protect against direct sunlight. D’oh.

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XC Crew @ Swim Start, and me with my Roka R1 Light Vermilion goggles

Anyway, the XC group was slated to start at 6:46, 6 minutes behind the pro women, while the rest of the self-seeded age group start begain at 7 AM. There was a lot of confusion  about this, however, since after the pro women started one official told us to go while another official told us to wait. They argued back and forth for a while, while we stood there confused.

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The XC crew looking confused while the official argued whether or not we should go

This turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise, because the confusion allowed me not to focus on what was happening in front of me. Throughout the entire time I was in the corral, I did not look at the water. Rather, I chatted with my XC friends about anything but the race. Even when I had a few minutes in the water prior to getting into the corral, I didn’t actually look at or notice the waves. I am really glad I didn’t, because I saw the photo below after the race (stolen from another XC’er, Ed Baker).

Swim Waves
Those waves were NOT 2 – 4 feet

Had I noticed the waves, I think I would have been more nervous than I already was about the water. Lucky for me, I didn’t notice the crazy waves since I don’t know if I would have gotten into the water.

Speaking of getting into the water, Abby took a couple of videos of the pro men and pro women start below:

Pro Men Start

Pro Women Start (including Sarah True being run over!)

Anyway, the officials decided to let us go early and we went in right after the Pro Women. While most of my XC friends ran full tilt into the water, I slowly jogged my way in. I did not want to get my heart rate up before I even got into the water, so I took my time and got in slowly. When I thought I was deep enough, I did a shallow dive in. It turned out I wasn’t deep enough yet as my first stroke hit the sand beneath me, so I got back up and kept on wading in.

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I’m in the Roka Maverick X wetsuit with a white swim cap, in the middle of the photo. Also, waves.

Eventually I was able to start to swim, which I tried to do with a relaxed stroke. I tend to have a very high stroke rate, and Isaac and my coach keep telling me to slow my stroke down. Unfortunately what always happens for me in open water is that my stroke goes to shit. I’m not a fast swimmer in the pool by far, but my stroke is 100x better in the pool than in open water. I ended up not really being able to slow my stroke down and I was swimming all over the place. I had so much trouble sighting too, since I was also struggling with the waves: one second I could see my XC teammates ahead of me, the next second there was nothing in front of me except open ocean.

The turn buoy was a couple of hundred meters ahead of me, but I could not seem to get there. Nor could I keep it in sight. I also had trouble spotting the kayakers, though I knew they were out there. Eventually I spotted one on my right, so I aimed for him but a few strokes later he disappeared. I found him well to my left, and I ended up stopping to re-orient myself. I looked back at the shore a couple of times, debating as to whether or not I should turn around. Thoughts of quitting started to get into my head, but I did not want to. I had a really good swim (for me) in Ironman Lake Placid last year,  and the rest of the year’s open water swim experience (WTS Bermuda, the Franklin Lakes swim, and Lake Placid during Memorial Day camp), and I knew I could do this swim. I thought about all of the support people have given me over this, including Isaac, Trevor, Abby, Jimmy and Diaa of Ventum, and even my new XC friend, Mike (and many, many others), and I tried to draw strength from them. Throughout all of the times I’ve struggled, they’ve always been there for me and have offered so much support that I did not want to let them down.

Plus I trained for this race, much more consistently than I’ve ever trained before. Since January, the only days off I have had were the 7 days where I was sick for 2 weeks. Besides that, I had at least one training session a day. I have never been this consistent before, so I knew I had the training to get through this. I just had to focus on swimming.

Which is what I tried to do. I kept trying to swim towards the first buoy, but I kept having to stop to stay calm and to look out for where the support personnel were. Each time I stopped, I wanted to flag someone down and tell them I was done. Each time I thought that, I put my head back into the water and kept on swimming.

It took me seventeen minutes to reach that first buoy.

Once I made that turn, I looked for the next kayaker and swam to him. I stopped next to him for a bit, but I did not hang on. He asked if I was OK, and I said I was. I kept swimming and eventually I reached another buoy. By that time I noticed some splashing around me, and I realized the other AG waves caught up to me. Up to that point, I was the only one within sight, because my XC teammates were long gone and I did not want to look back for fear of wanting to swim back to shore.

I used the other people passing me to help sight off of, since I was still having trouble sighting due to my lack of experience in ocean swimming. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I really did not want to end up swimming to Kona.

As I swam towards the next turn buoy, I passed the first jetty. I thought at this point I would turn right, but it turned out I had to swim all the way to the middle of the channel before turning. I kept thinking “Where the hell is the damn turn buoy?” since I could not see it. Eventually I noticed a woman in a pink cap swimming next to me. While I would swim, I would pass her, but she would re-pass me every time I had to stop to make sure my HR did not get too high.

I decided to just follow her until the turn, but once we made that turn, the sun was shining directly into our eyes. I could not see anything at all, and I had to stop several times to make sure I was still headed in the right direction. There was supposed to be a decent current pulling us towards the harbor but I could not feel it. Again I felt defeated during the section because I really struggled with sighting, but I just kept telling myself that I just had to make the next turn buoy.

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Abby took this photo on the jetty. I’m trying to sight but I’m fairly certain I couldn’t see anything at this point.

Eventually I made the next turn buoy and started to swim home.

I’m the one in the white cap, in the videos above. Videos taken by Abby.

Once I got to the ramp, I checked my time and saw that I had safely made the cut-off. It was not my worst swim by any stretch, but it certainly was my toughest swim. I struggled badly with the waves, and I felt out of breath almost immediately from the start. I wanted to quit so badly, but somehow I managed to get through it. Still, at this point though, I was physically and mentally exhausted.

Swim Time: 50:25

T1

After exiting the water via the boat ramp, you ran around transition before entering at the bottom end. It’s carpeted the entire way to the entrance, however once you enter transition it’s no longer carpeted. The XC rack was near the Pro rack, so it’s convenient to where you enter transition from Swim Exit, and close to where the Bike Dismount line is, but a LONG way to run with shoes on to Bike Out (I still have not learned how to do a flying mount).

Still, it was not bad so I ran to my bike. Once there, I saw Abby, Maria, Frankie, and Troy (I think Ann and Denise were there too, but it was all a blur). They were right next to my bike, so I ran over and quickly took off my wetsuit.

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As per usual, my bike is the last one in the rack (the bike next to mine is Dina’s, an XC teammate – she unfortunately DNS’d).

Since it was a 70.3 with a half marathon at the end, I went to put socks on. My thinking is that if I “lose” time putting socks on, I may as well do it when I have the most real estate to make up the time. Of course, when you come out of the water dead effing last, you have a lot of time to make up for.

For some reason, I had a really hard time putting my socks on properly. I had to take them back off to put them back on, since I ended up putting them on backwards. I managed to get them on while everyone was screaming at me, but it took far longer than I usually take.

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I actually sat down in transition!

After I put my socks on, I put my shoes, race belt (Oceanside requires a bib on the bike, since most of the course is in Camp Pendleton) and helmet on, grabbed my bike and ran off.

Actually, I didn’t. My bike was firmly stuck on the rack. This usually happens because my seat post is set so low that there’s very little clearance between the water bottle and the bottom of the saddle, but I’m usually able to take my bike off with a little wiggling. Here, nothing I tried helped and at one point I lifted the entire rack by my bike. Poor Frankie was next to me trying to figure out what to do without getting me disqualified (no outside assistance). Finally I was able to get my bike out and off I went.

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This took some effort.

All said and done, it took me WAY too long in transition. A quick transition is something I am usually proud of, but not this time.

T1 Time: 5:40

Bike

This bike course turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. Going into it, I knew it has ~2,700 feet of climbing, but I have done harder courses (Ironman Lake Placid, Quassy, Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Zell Am See, Austria, etc) so I did not think it would be that bad. It was. Partly because I had nothing in my legs that day, but also partly with how the course and the climbs are structured.

In Lake Placid, there are effectively two continuous climbs in the first beginning and middle/end of the course. There’s time to recover as long as you do not override the section after the Keene descent. In Zell Am See, there was a 9-mile, Category 1 climb up the Alps but it was just one big climb. It’s one hell of a climb (some parts were up to 15% grade, if I recall correctly), but once you get over it, the rest of the course has gentle rollers or is relatively flat.

For Oceanside, the course has climbs throughout. There are three major climbs (really, 1), but the course can be fairly relentless with hills and the headwind for the last 16 miles.

Oceanside Bike
Oceanside Bike Course

Anyway, once out of transition the course starts with a small climb out of town. It’s not a big climb at all, but as soon as I got on it, I knew my legs were in trouble. They did not have any freshness or “pop” to them, and I felt like I worked a lot harder than I needed to climb the small hill.

I also realized that my front wheel was rubbing. I could hear that scritching noise that the brake makes when the carbon track rubs up against it. It was very regular, but it was not safe for me to stop with all of the athletes around so I rode until I hit a highway. As soon as we got onto a highway, I motioned that I was pulling over to the side and dismounted. I checked the front wheel, and it was definitely rubbing. I tried to adjust it, but it still kept rubbing. No matter what I did, I could not get it to stop rubbing. As I mentioned before, the day prior my bike was working perfectly. Yet, today, the front wheel (or brake) was not.

After spending some more time on it, I gave up and continued riding. Sadly I wish I could say that this was the cause of my shitty ride, but it was not. While it certainly contributed, it was not the cause. I just had zero legs for the ride and I could not generate any power. My Normalized Power (NP) was low zone 2, and fully 30 watts under what I was targeting for the race.

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I felt about as good as I looked.

I had 960 calories of Infinit in my Ventum bottle, so for the first 15 miles or so I kept trying to take in calories to see if that would help revive me. Unfortunately it did not work, and by the time the first aid station rolled around I again thought about quitting. I knew I was in for a very long ride, and I started to question myself. This was only a 56 mile ride, but I honestly had doubts I could finish. 

I kept at it, however, but I was concerned that the first 25-ish miles are the easy part of the course. The course starts to climb starting at Hell Hill around mile 28, and I knew that if I was struggling in the first 25, I would be in for a really long day.

And I was.

I was in for what is perhaps my worst bike split ever in a 70.3.

As I approached Hell Hill, I could see how bad it looked from about a mile away. Thinking that hills always look worse than they are, I thought it would get better as I got closer. Nope, not at all. In fact, it got worse.

Hell Hill is a relatively short (~.75 miles) hill but it immediately kicks up and maintains roughly an 11% grade. A lot of people struggled up it, myself included. Eventually I made it to the top, but not without some curse words in between gasps for breath.

One good thing about going really slowly throughout was that I received a lot of compliments about my custom Wyn Republic kit. I gave people a lot of time to appreciate it as they approached and passed me, and I had quite a number of folks say how much they loved it.

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It is a good looking kit

I mentioned earlier that there were 3 major climbs. The first of which was Hell Hill. The other two are Little Hell Hill and Junior Hell Hill.  This is not like Lake Placid and the three Bears, which come immediately after the other, since the hills are fairly spread out over a few miles. The other two hills also really aren’t bad at all, the only thing worth noting about them is that the sign for the second hill came about a mile away from the actual hill.

One thing that made climbing harder also was the fact that for some reason or another I was not able to shift from my small chainring to my large chainring. When I would try to shift, my front derailleur would move to shift, but I could not see the chain move. No matter how I tried to shift the chain would not move. I think the limit screws need to be adjusted, but I did not bring any tools with me to adjust the brake width. In order to shift to the large chain ring, I had to move the front derailleur forward, get off the bike, and then manually move my chain. Since this is a rolling course and since my legs had no power, I had to shift my front derailleur a lot.

After a while I gave up continually getting off my bike, so I ended up just staying in the large chain ring. This contributed to my high VI for the ride of 1.16, and I thought my legs would be destroyed for the run.

Another issue I had had to do with my helmet. I have worn my Giro Aerohead helmet several times previously, including in Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico, and I had no issues with heat. In Oceanside, however, I started to overheat badly and developed a massive headache from it. I had to flip up my visor in order to try to cool myself down. It helped, but I really struggled with it and it was not even hot (my Garmin measured an average of 69.1 degrees).

All in all, it was a very tough day on the bike.

P.S. – After I picked up my bike from TriBike Transport, I took the video below, which shows how my front wheel was during the race.

Bike Time: 3:38:05 (FML. I might as well have been on a Citibike)

T2

To come into T2, you ride effectively the length of transition, on the same chute you ran into from Swim Exit. Towards the end of the chute is the dismount line. Once I dismounted, I quickly reached my rack (thanks again, XC!) and racked my bike by my handlebars. I know you’re not supposed to do this, but this is the only way I can rack my bike with my Ventum bottle attached.

I sat down quickly to remove and re-put on a sock that was bothering me (I know, I could’ve done this any time I had stopped on the bike due to my mechanicals, but I wasn’t thinking). Since I knew my time would be terrible at that point, I decided not to rush through T2. After changing into my running shoes and grabbing my hat and sunglasses, I stopped by the XC port-a-potty and grabbed a cup of water from a volunteer. I then ran the 300-400 meters to Run Out and started the run.

T2 Time: 3:37

Run 

The run in Oceanside consists of a fairly flat (400 ft elevation gain, according to my Garmin) two loop course. Most of the elevation is gained running to and from The Strand, which is the road on the beach level and beneath the Oceanside Pier.

Oceanside Run
Run Course Map

As run courses go, this run course is pretty awesome. It’s not completely flat (with the exception of The Strand), as each turn leads to a STEEP uphill/downhill. Running on Pacific Street is also a false flat, and the turnaround at Myers Street is at the top of a slight incline. There’s just enough variety in there to make sure you recruit other muscles in your leg and back as you run. It’s also very well supported with crowds, and the volunteers are great. I would definitely like to run this run course again.

As I came out of T2, I honestly had no idea how my legs would respond. I historically never run well off the bike, and I thought that after the horrible bike I had, I’d be in for the worst run I’ve ever had.

I actually thought that I would make it to mile 1, where I knew Abby and the others were and call it a day. I just did not want to suffer for 2+ hours for a horrible time. My thinking was that I’d feel a lot better not running and just cheering on my friends racing. So I ran out of T2 with the intention of stopping after a mile or so.

Surprisingly, though, my legs felt OK. I did not think this would last, so when I saw Isaac as I descended into The Strand and he was heading to the turnaround, I told him I felt like shit (I did). He yelled at me to keep running, so I did.

As I approached the first water station, I took one of the three Maurten gels I was carrying. My nutrition plan was to take one at the relative start of the run, and to take another as I started the second loop. I had a third with me just in case I lost any of the other two (a la Challenge Roth).

After the water station, I saw Abby, Maria, and Ann next to the ramp that lead up to the Oceanside Pier. They were cheering their heads off, as I ran by them signaling that I was dead.

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My kit was awesome, even if I wasn’t feeling awesome

Since my legs still felt OK, I decided to keep going to see how long I could last. Turning right to the ramp heading up to the pier, I saw how steep it was. Trevor had warned me about it before the race, but man, it was steep. People around me immediately started walking, but I kept running and just controlled my effort. I stayed on my toes, ran “light” and made sure my HR hovered around 160 (zone 3 for me is 160 – 180). There were several turns until you get to the top and Pacific Street, but once on Pacific Street you had a bit of a breather with a short, straight stretch before the next turn.

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On Pacific Street

That turn, however, leads to a VERY steep downhill. According to TrainingPeaks that section was -8.3%, and that’s something that I had talked to Kevin about before. He warned me that taking them too fast in the first loop is a great quad buster, so I kept that in mind. I slowed way down, leaned slightly backwards, made sure my foot struck directly underneath me, and took it as easy as I could until the bottom.

Once I got to the bottom, I picked up my speed again and just focused on staying smooth and controlled until the next turn and next uphill. That uphill was about 7.2% (thanks, TrainingPeaks!), so similarly to the hill up to the Pier I stayed in control, on the balls of my feet, and watched my HR to make sure it didn’t climb.

At the top of the hill I saw one of my Team Wyn teammates (Fernanda!) cheering. She cheered me on, and it was great to see her. Side note: I saw a ton of my Team Wyn teammates out there, and they all looked fabulous. I yelled at as many as I could, but I think they were confused as to who I was since I was not wearing the Team Wyn kit. Still, it was great to see them all crushing the race!

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I may or may not have pooped my pants

Back on Pacific Street and towards the Meyer Street turnaround is the longest straight stretch. It’s a little over a mile and a half until the turnaround, but it’s also not perfectly flat, which is great. It’s a false flat/up hill till the turnaround, but you get a mostly down hill run back. It’s more of a mental/pacing exercise than anything, so like on The Strand, I focused on my HR and effort.

One thing that really annoyed me, and actually helped fuel me through the second loop was the fact that the mile markers did not match my watch at all. Each mile marker was about .4 to .6 miles away from when my watch beeped. Normally I do have some variance in races, but either: a) the mile markers eventually match up closer, or b) I’m off by .25 miles at the most. This time I was way off, and it wreaked havoc on my math (which I can’t do on a good day) when I was trying to figure out potential finish time on the run. I don’t think it was due to me weaving around people, as while I did do a bunch of that, the course was fairly narrow and there was not much distance gained/lost in the weaving.

Oceanside Run Data
.69 longer!

So, because of this I was actually pretty annoyed in the second loop. This definitely helped fuel me through it, and also some people started to annoy me. It was not their fault – there was only so much width to some of the paths (particularly on The Strand), but every time I ran up to people and I had to squeeze to get by or ended up (slightly) nudging them out of the way, I became annoyed. I just did not have the patience for anything after the day I had, and I just wanted to be done.

Also at the start of my second loop I took my second Maurten gel. At that point I did not feel like I needed it, but I knew if I did not take it I would suffer greatly later. For the rest of the second loop, I just continued to focus on the three things I focused on prior: HR, effort, and relaxation.

This all went pretty well, until I hit the last 3 miles. There, I started to fade and hurt a bit so from Mile 10 onwards, I started to take Red Bull and Coke (the soda, not cocaine) at the aid stations. Previously, I was just taking water. I also decided to take my last Maurten between Mile 10 and 11, because I started to get hungry. I started to think about the In-N-Out double double and cheese fries afterwards

179_m-100875550-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2843_128425-26592663
Definitely thinking about In-N-Out

Finally, I hit the finish chute. I wish I could tell you what I remembered from the chute, but like all finish chutes, I was completely spent. I just kept running as hard as I could until I crossed the line and Abby could give me my medal. Afterwards, I remember being helped by Abby, Troy and Frankie to the VIP tent where a Isaac, Maria, and a few other XCers were. Luckily (or unluckily) I didn’t collapse like Ironman Arizona or Ironman Lake Placid, but I definitely would not have made it there on my own.

IMG_3505
I wanted my cheese fries
IMG_3508
Abby giving me my medal

Run Time: 1:57:24 (which was actually a 1:41 PR from Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant in 2015)

Overall Time: 6:35:09 (ouch)

Closing Thoughts

Admittedly I was initially bitterly disappointed. In fact once I reached the VIP tent, I cried. I was not happy with how much I struggled with the swim after great open water swims last year, and I was definitely not happy with my bike. I felt like I worked super hard to get myself to the start line in a position to have a solid day. I knew I did not have the fitness (or weight) to PR, but I was not expecting to. I was expecting to have a solid swim (maybe even PR that leg), have a respectable bike, and to run faster than I biked. I accomplished one of those three goals.

Now, some time later, I can honestly say that I am in a much better place about what happened during the race. Everyone was very kind and supportive and quick to remind me about the important part: I got through the swim. In fact, Trevor and Isaac came over after the race and said that they thought about me during the swim. They said that it was one of the roughest swims they had and were concerned about me while they were swimming. The fact that these guys actually thought about me during their own race is remarkable and made me feel all of the feels. Everyone else back home also sent several messages of congratulations and support because they all focused on what I should’ve focused on – my victory in the water and the fact that I continued to fight for the day no matter what happened.

Triathlon is such a tough, tough sport. Not only do you have to train your body and mind to perform well in all three very different sports, you also have to handle everything each leg (and transitions!) throws at you. Something will almost always go wrong, and you have to accept it, adapt, and continue to fight to reach your goal. That’s kind of what I have to focus on now also: I had a tough swim and a shitty day on the bike, but I adapted to them and continued to fight. I have to accept that and know that I’m a stronger athlete physically and mentally for it. Now onto WTS Bermuda and beyond!

 

 

 

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