Race weekend started off with the typical Ironman Village and debriefing. If you are able to, I highly recommend attending the earliest athlete debriefing possible because it will be less crowded and if there is any new information, you have plenty of time to prepare. I also recommend giving yourself time to be able to go through the entire Ironman Village and have a little spending money; it’s a great opportunity to get discounted gear you have been wanting. Since this was a “B” race for me, I did not read all of the information as in depth as I usually do, so I was surprised to learn that you are required to wear your race bib on the bike course as well. It’s one of the few half Ironmans to still require a race bib on the bike. I usually bring extra race belts but didn’t this time around. I just brought one for running with water bottles and I was not going to ride 56 miles uphill in that race belt. Off to the Ironman Village to purchase a simple race belt. The Oceanside’s Ironman village did not disappoint! When I first started walking the aisle I spotted a spin wheel at 2xu’s booth and figured what does it hurt? It landed on “choose from prize box”. So I asked if they had a race belt in there. After some digging we found just one in the bottom of the box. If you like a longer inseam on your shorts check them out. They have high quality triathlon apparel. Next we browsed Roka for a wetsuit solution for David and backup goggles for myself. Long story short we walked away with a FREE wetsuit for David! We were blown away by the reps and I will be purchasing my next wetsuit from Roka.
Next on my must see list was to check out all of the aero drinking solutions since I was not happy with my current set up. Speed Fill ended up being the right choice for me. Since this was a test run for Vineman Ironman, I broke my rule of nothing new for race day but I had been practicing with their straws already. Some of the features that made me go with Speed Fill was the flexibility that you can use any water bottle with the speed fill cap, you can also use just a regular water bottle if you choose, and it had a Garmin attachment on top of the bottle cage. They did a great job setting everything up that day and I was set to go. The final Ironman Village highlight was checking out Hypersphere by Hyperice, it is a vibrating roller which is extremely effective. This has been added to my wish list!
Bike drop was the day before from 2-7:30pm. I don’t see any point getting there right at transition opening because Ironman is pretty strict about opening on schedule and there WILL be a line. Best case you will have a few people missing on your rack but worst case there will be 8 people per rack and you will only get 18 inches of space underneath you bike to set up transition. That’s not much. Unfortunately, our rack was completely full. Since your bike will be in transition overnight it’s a good idea to bring bags or towels to put on your handle bars and seat.
The best advice I received prior to my first 70.3 was to prepare and pack everything prior to dinner the night before so all of your worrying about “Did I forget this? What about that!” is out of the way before dinner and you can have a more restful night sleep. This has been a great system for me and has reduced a lot of stress and worry. As I was preparing all of the race numbers and final details for the next morning I found there was a lot less to stage and get ready with my new Rudy Project transition bag. Everything was in its place from initially packing and I surprisingly I had a LOT less to worry about. As I walked down the street for dinner I realized this was the first half Ironman I wasn’t nervous with butterflies in my stomach and I was hopeful that I could for once have a good swim, especially because the water would be very warm, 63 degrees, compared to the past 2 years in Santa Cruz were I could barely get my face in the water for 1/3 of the swim.
Race morning started with every athlete’s worse nightmare. My alarm, which I double checked, did not go off. Thankfully I woke up only 30 mins behind schedule and tried to get ready without panicking. I was determined to not ruin my zen mindset from yesterday. Heart rate monitor on, clothes, anti-chafing products applied, ankle chip, sunscreen, breakfast and I was ready to go with my transition bag on my back. Our hotel was within 1 mile from transition and within walking distance so there is no traffic to deal with. I have found a short walk to transition is a good opportunity to gather your thoughts and prepare for the day.
I arrived at transition only 15-20 min behind schedule at 5:35. As I arrived at my bike I found both transition neighbors had set up on the wrong side, handle bar side, of their bike and on my side of their handle bars too. I found a coordinator to confirm that athletes were to set up under their back tire. Both girls moved their stuff under their wheel so I could set up. I tried to use a very narrow space and doubled over my red towel to place everything on. I like using a red towel so I can easily spot where to rack my bike when I get back for T2. Transition was scheduled to close at 6:30 so I started getting into my wetsuit at 6:10. I try to have lots of extra time to wiggle into my wetsuit to make sure it is on properly. There is nothing worse than starting a swim to discover you’re getting chocked because your wetsuit isn’t pulled up all the way. I do a few squats and arm circles to make sure it’s on comfortably.
Oceanside swim is in the working harbor north of the pier. There is no warm up and you cannot swim the course outside of the event. There were 23 waves spaced 3 minutes apart. The first wave of pros started at 6:40 and my wave, Women 25-29 was at 7:17. Everyone had already started cramming into the swim shute to wait for their start. It was similar to self-seeded run corrals. Some other ladies and I wove through the crowd and found corral #13. Once it was our turn we only got three minutes to swim out to the start line which was barely enough time to get out there. Thankfully the water was rather warm for a wetsuit and you did not need to get acclimated. That has been the hardest part with Santa Cruz’s very cold running start. From the very beginning I already had a comfortable swim rhythm and the course was flying by. At buoy number four I was already starting to pass three different color swim caps!! This was my first swim to pass more than 2 swimmers and I started feeling more confident. By the time I got half way through the swim I was on track to get a PR for this swim distance but unfortunately we had a current pulling us out on the way back. Once I was knee deep I took my wetsuit off and jogged to transition. I find it is much easier to take my wetsuit off in the water. All in all, it was a good swim.
As I approached my bike my neighbor’s wetsuit was almost on my bike and smack dab over my stuff. Everything got pretty wet and I struggled to put on my now drenched gloves. I almost forgot my race belt for the bike ride since it was kicked off down the aisle somewhere. I was a little frustrated but got out as quick as possible.
I always try to focus on “negative splits” meaning your second half is faster or a harder effort than you first half. I started out riding focused on controlling my breathing and keeping a target cadence. I started passing quite a few cyclists. As a few others passed me I had to remind myself “Do your race. Go at your pace. Don’t burn out.” I settled down into my aero bars and just got comfortable. Riding through camp Pendleton made for a fun bike course that you can’t ride regularly. There are 2 no pass zones on the bike course. The first one is on a slight incline and I know climbing is my week point. So I tried to just focus on myself, to not go too hard up the incline so early in the bike course. I felt bad keeping a line of cyclist up behind me and told them “I’m sorry for holding you up” as they passed. I was blown away that each and every one of them then congratulated me on doing so great. From descriptions by other team mates and glancing at the elevation chart I was really just expecting one bad hill. Well there’s not. There are really 4 hills. They are not fun. Just grind it out. Again I was impressed with the fellow athletes on this course as they encouraged each other as we slowly went up yet another hill. Positivity on the course is contagious and names on everyone’s race bibs made it that much easier to cheer each other on. After getting over the last hill and the final aid station we hit a head wind for the last 12 miles or so. I was pleasantly surprised that I passed the most amount of athletes in this 12 mile stretch, and only one woman passed me. I was very thankful to have disk wheels provided by Rubber Soul during this stretch; I know it helped immensely.
The red towel made for an easy space to spot out of the sea of transition but once back at my rack I was frustrated to find that my other transition neighbor had put her bike directly over my spot. I had to balance my bike and move hers over because I couldn’t rack my bike. As a rule, I try to not touch other athlete’s bikes but sometimes you are left with no other choice. In my frustration I forgot to apply run guard on my toes and feet but didn’t realize until mile 3 of the run.
The run is a two loop course with the finish shoot located at the Oceanside Pier. There are aid stations located a little less than every mile. Going into the run I tried to keep in mind two things: this is a B race, and I must listen to my ankle. I was still trying to be careful on my ankle to avoid an injury. Due to my hyper mobility it has been moving around in the joint too much and straining the tendon. Since hills bother it the most I decided early on I would walk any inclines. There aren’t really any “hills” on the Oceanside run course but there are a handful of ramps and inclines. In training I’m used to drinking just a little at every mile, so the aid stations were a little too frequent for me but I knew if I didn’t drink at each one I would regret it. I highly suggest you train based on where your aid stations are located. If you have fluid on the run every .80 miles get used to hydrating at those intervals so you don’t have to carry your own. I ended up finding someone that ran the same speed when we were running and we kept each other running more than we would have otherwise. At mile three on the course you go through “the oven” which is about a mile and a half long. Now I understand why it has that name; it really did feel like an oven. We had a cement road and cement walls lining both sides with no shade! Well…unless you are slow…then there is a little on the second loop for the houses lining the street! As we got onto our second loop I tried pointing out or celebrating little things like “only this far to the next aid station,” “Yes! A decline!” There were a handful of house on the course blasting music for us and cheering us on which makes all the difference! It felt so good to finish on a hot day!
Swim (57:51) Water temperature 63 degrees
Bike (3:54:41) 2,720 ft of elevation gain, heavy headwind mile 45-56
Run (2:59:47) All cement with no shade
Age Group: 47/54 (87%)
Gender: 622/934 (66.6%)
Overall: 2183/3253 (67%)
Some things to improve for next race are to set a backup alarm, place run guard in running shoe so I don’t forget, get better at reading and analyzing elevation charts, train run hydration based on aid stations.