My original plan for this year was to re-race the Orangeman Triathlon - but something went awry with the Orangeman's planning and they ended up having to cancel the race. I was already in the midst of training for the race when I got the notice, and it took me less than a day to decide what to do about it.
I have been eyeing the Big Kahuna Triathlon for awhile now - I'd never been to Santa Cruz, and I thought it would be really cool to do a race up there, by Big Sur. It happened to be on the same day as Orangeman (before it got cancelled), so that made it really easy to transition to thinking about this new race.
There are two big differences between these races. The first is the water temperature - I had to mentally prepare myself to swim in 60-degree water (or colder!). I had only one previous racing experience with water that cold, and I remember that my feet didn't thaw out until halfway through the bike! The other difference would be the bike course - Big Kahuna has a rolling bike course that heads North on HWY 1, with no really difficult hills. On the other hand, Orangeman is pretty much one big gigantic hill, climbing up into the mountains, then sailing all the way back in to Dana Point. So now I didn't have to focus so much on extended hill climbing.
I had been waiting since January for Orangeman registration to open up - last year I did Orangeman right in the middle of recovering from a fractured metatarsal in my foot, and this year I wanted to race healthy. I really like the Orangeman's unique bike course, and was pretty set on doing that race.
In April, our lives were pretty much put on hold, when Paul ended up with a very bad strep infection in his ankle, that reached into his ankle joint. After 2 ER visits, 12 days in the hospital, 2 surgeries, 6 weeks bed-ridden, 6 weeks of IV-administered antibiotics (and 2 additional weeks of oral antibiotics), 5 weeks of morphine... let's just say he's lucky to be alive right now. Once Paul was able to get out of bed, and get himself off the morphine, we were able to breathe again. It's kind of odd to think about that timeframe now - every effort was just to get rid of those dang bacteria, while still keeping our family sane. My sister even came to stay and help us - which made things bearable, and got us past the worst.
During all of this, I just could not see myself taking time to go workout - I just couldn't pile anything else on top of what was happening. No running, biking, swimming. The only thing that I did was see a physical therapist every couple of weeks, which was to help me correct an imbalance in my hips that was causing me to have a lot of pain in my hips when I would run more than 13 or 14 miles. Turns out that when I ran, I barely activated my gluteus maximus on either side, and my gluteus medius on my right side. I "graduated" PT a couple of months ago, and I really feel more balanced... I haven't completely put it to the test yet, but I continue to do my exercises because I really do feel it's making a difference.
Paul's full recovery is going to take awhile, but one thing that we talked about after all of this was the triathlon. While I wanted to do the triathlon... basically I didn't want to be working out all the time and kinda waving it in his face that I was doing all this exercise, while he could not because of his ankle. But he gave me his blessing - and said what I needed to hear. He knew I needed to do the race healthy, and wouldn't be happy until I did. And he knows this sentiment better than even I do - I know how determined he is to re-race the SD100.
So, I signed up for Orangeman. And then I started my training plan... after not working out hardly at all for 6 weeks.
For training this year, I used the Super Simple Ironman 70.3 Triathlon Training Plan that Matt Fitzgerald posted a couple years ago. I shuffled the workouts around to fit my schedule, and the last 2 weekends before the race I shortened the long workouts - I didn't feel the need to go so long right before the race. I took several long weekend vacations during my training, and resolved to not worry about my training plan during these vacations - I knew that having that small break would be good recovery, and I really wanted to de-stress my training as much as possible.
This year was the first year that I really incorporated "hard efforts" and "sprints" into my training on a weekly basis, per the training plan. I have to say, that I'm 100% positive that my improved time in my swim can be attributed to that fact alone. The bike and run improvements have some to do with these types of workouts, but there are also other things that contributed.
On a side note, once I'd signed up for Big Kahune, I decided we should spend 4 days up in Santa Cruz, so we would have time to relax before the race, and after. We drove up, which took about 10 hours going up, and 8 hours heading back. What a long drive, but we survived!
When I was looking at hotel prices, I couldn't believe the pricing! There was no way I was going to pay $400 a night... and then I remembered airbnb.com. I have looked at this website several times, and finally decided to dive in and try it. We found a place that all four of us could stay, in a place all to ourselves (not sharing someone's house), and it was perfect - AND it was also less than $100 per night. I highly suggest checking this website out - and try it! I made sure to pick a place that already had a lot of good reviews on it - and it really turned out to be a good experience.
The day before the race, we woke up and went down to the pier - I wanted to get at least one experience with the water before race morning. I swam for about 10 minutes, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I just knew I'd need to get in the water before the race and acclimate a little bit before the race started. I had planned to do a 10 minute run and a 10 minute bike, but I decided to just call it good and relax with the family. We drove on the bike course out to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and just tried to relax. It was kind of hard to relax - I think my emotions were on "red alert" - and it was overflowing onto everyone else.
We ate dinner at Saturn Cafe - a vegetarian/vegan cafe right in Santa Cruz - it was really really good! All four of us liked it (and my kids are not plant-based like us). We actually went there twice during our stay, it was that good.
Before we went to bed, I took a shower/bath, painted my fingernails and toenails, and went over my raceday checklist again.
Race morning, I was up and ready with no trouble. Had some coffee, and oatmeal with trail mix. I was not in the mood to eat, but I forced it all down - I knew I needed the calories. I was out the door by 5:15 - and rode my bike down to the transition area. I had my headlamp on, and I met up with two raccoons just hanging out in the neighborhood - no big deal. I got to transition with plenty of time - we stayed only a couple blocks from the race!
Paul walked down to be there with me - I love the support that he gives me! I set up my transition spot, and mentally visualized my transitions, and checked and re-checked my raceday checklist. Once I was certain everything was in place, Paul walked with me the 1/4 mile down to the water. It was a beautiful morning, and the marine layer was in full force, giving us a beautiful cloudy morning, nice and cool. Also, they announced that the water temp was 62! It was shaping up to be a great morning.
The race began with a Hawaiian blessing - I thought it was a great way to start. My wave was starting 30 minutes after the first wave, so I had time to get in and get used to the water. Then I stood with Paul, shivering, and teeth chattering - I had my wetsuit on so that was about as warm as I was going to get at that point. Then it was time!
I had decided based on previous swim practices that I was going to try to keep my swim smooth, and not try for a sprint if I could possibly hold myself back (slight sarcasm there). So I focused on being able to breathe, and I tried as much as I could to stay behind others, to get any kind of a draft off of them. We made it around the three buoys and around the end of the Santa Cruz pier, and at that point it was a straight shot back to shore. I lost most of my group - I supposed because we were all taking our own lines back to shore - and I started getting passed by the speedy ones in later waves. I tried to draft off of them, but they were gone in a split second... so I just continued on, swimming my own comfortable pace, trying not to get too impatient. I felt like the swim was over pretty fast - actually I thought every single buoy came up pretty fast - and just like that I was done!
I jogged up the beach to the shower, where I had my ratty flip-flops waiting for me. I tried a tip that I had read in a blog post - I pulled off my swim cap and goggles, then held onto them while pulling off my wetsuit - so then they were lodged in my wetsuit sleeve and nicely tucked away. I stripped off my wetsuit, and rinsed off my feet. I saw my husband and it's always so nice to see him there cheering me on!
After ~.25 mile jog to transition area (flat, so not too bad), I got into transition, did all my gear shuffling, double-checked my transition checklist, then jogged my bike out to the bike mount area!
I knew my T1 time would be kinda long because of the 1/4 mile jog - but I just wanted to get under 10 minutes and I made it!
The bike course was lovely - beautiful views, perfectly shaded from the sun by the marine cover, hardly any wind to speak of. This course is rolling - there's not too much flat. However, there's only maybe one or two major hills, and I would consider them tame compared to other hills I've had to race on (see Orangeman). My goal was to get through the bike with enough life left in my legs to have a decent run. I have been working a lot this year on staying one or two gears lower than what I would normally do, and keep my turnover fast. My feet were cold from the swim, and they didn't fully recover for awhile, but I also have had problems with my feet going numb - right in between my toes. So those two things kept my mind a bit off the grind, and I felt like I always had someone that I could try to steadily reel in. At one point, I was going back and forth with two ladies, one of them dressed all in hot pink! She was ahead of me, and I was passing the third lady, and we talked for just a second. She said 'doing great!' and I said 'I just want to beat pinky!' ... hey anything to keep me occupied! We still went back and forth for awhile, but once we got into town I somehow got in front of them and stayed there. So yay - I beat pinky!
I told Paul I wanted to get under 3:30... he was there waiting for me but he missed getting a picture of me! Our son saw me though, and managed to snap a picture.
The dismount area was at the bottom of a hill - and it came up really quick. Luckily it wasn't too crowded, and I was able to dismount without crashing (boy my legs were wobbly!). I jogged (if you could call it that), swapped gear, checked my list, then jogged out...
Starting my run was painful. Not because we immediately ran up a small hill, but because the muscles on the inside of my thighs were seized up. Totally cramped. After taking a look at different muscle charts, I think it was my adductors. It was a full mile before they finally calmed down and I didn't notice them anymore. Other than that, I felt pretty good! I saw the family on the way out, and Paul even said I was looking good - I'll definitely take it!
My goal was under 2:30, and wouldn't it be cool goal was 2:10.My first crampy mile was 10:57, and then the next 5 miles were under 10 minutes each. I tried to just keep it steady, and not try to keep up with anyone but my own self. As we ran out to Wilder Ranch, and beyond, where we'd find the Tiki statue along the cliffs overlooking the ocean, I tried to ignore my tired self. See this downhill you're running? On the way back you're going to walk it. Just find the tiki, I said, and then you can walk. You're doing great, it's a beautiful place to be running, just keep it up. And when I made it to the tiki god, I threw him a big kiss, and ran around him. Ahh, I started walking. For about 10 seconds, then I said screw it, I'll walk when I get to that uphill. So I kept jogging, and the uphill never materialized. So weird - I don't know what I was thinking! Just kept running steady, and I started feeling a little nauseated - I knew this was going to happen but I was surprised that it hadn't crept up until now. I stopped at the next aid station and gulped down 2 cups of water - that was just what I needed. From then on, I didn't stop. For the biggest uphill on the run course (40ft up in ~1/4m) , I jogged. When I could hear the finish line from way across town, I thought maybe I was hallucinating. It's all downhill from here, and there's no reason to walk. No reason at all, the run course was super easy, and ran right along gorgeous cliffs overlooking the ocean and the kelp forests. I even managed to put in a 10-minute mile at mile 11. That West Cliff path seemed to go on FOREVER! But I finally made it back to the beach, and saw my teenage son - who gave me a high-five! At that point, all I needed to do was run ~1/4 mile on the beach to the finish line - and it wasn't too bad! Paul and our younger son found me, and ran behind me in to the finish - my son even filmed it for me!
Swim Goal: :40
Bike Goal: 3:30
Run Goal: 2:10
Transition Goal: :07
Would be awesome because I'd get under 6:30!
AG Place: 13/27
Gender Place: 60/170
I like to call myself a middle-of-the-packer - and I was worried about this race. It was somewhere I'd never been, racing people that I somehow got it into my head are hardcore. I proved to myself that I trained well, and destroyed my time goal. This is my second 70.3, and I PRed by an hour and 23 minutes! Soo nice to race without being injured!
breakfast: coffee and oatmeal w/ trail mix and fruit mixed in
pre-race: 1 juice box
bike: bottle of Perpetuem (Cafe Latte, 3 scoops), PB&J sandwich, Honey Stinger Chews, water bottle
run: bottle of Perpetuem (Cafe Latte, 2 scoops), 2 Hammer Gels, water from aid stations
post-race: gigantic peach from finish line
post-post-race: BEER and veggie burger with fries!!
Beautiful town, and area. The place we stayed was right in town, and it was nice because Paul and the kids didn't have to drive at all (or find parking) while I was racing.
We highly recommend going to Saturn Cafe, and we also liked "burger." which is where we went after the race. Good veggie burgers, very very good beef burgers (so I was told), and some crazy outlandish burgers... like the Phatty that our teenager got (burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches).
It was really nice to stay the night after the race, because we could all just relax. The next day, we cleaned out the place we stayed (did dishes and vacuumed per request of our hosts). On the way home, we stopped at a little restaurant in Moss Landing, called... Moss Landing Cafe. Funny enough, there's a beach covered with moss there!
Restaurant was great - hometown feel, and not very crowded (probably helped that it was a Monday mid-morning). We all had excellent breakfasts, and several people in our family lamented that we couldn't come back for lunch, because they had some very interesting sounding seafood dishes.
I'm very happy with how this race went! I really surprised myself on my swim and bike times, and surprised myself by running almost all of the run. I really liked the course, and the weather could not have been better - and I'm very serious about that. I had been reading previous years' race reports and there was lots of swims below 60 degrees, lots of bike courses with fierce headwinds - it really was a perfect day to race.