Sunday, March 31, 2013

IM California 70.3 Oceanside

If you read my blog, know me, are a friend on Dailymile, Twitter, or Facebook you know my big event this year is Ironman Coeur D’Alene. (IMCdA)  That will be June 23rd.  I needed to race before that, and I thought IM California 70.3-Oceanside would be ideal.  No travel, plenty of time to recover and not mess with the overall training, so I signed up last year when there were about 100 spots left. 

All of the sudden it was race week.  Early on in the week the weather forecast was a bit dicey.  Chance of rain and wind.  As the week progressed, the forecast improved; although as late as Thursday morning they were still predicting pretty good winds. 

I reminded myself that the weather was out of my control.  I train in all kinds of weather so I would be prepared.  I knew what I would bring, wear, and do if the weather was chilly, cold, rainy, or just plain crappy.  But I was very thankful that we had a day that was just about perfect for racing a triathlon. 

I had my alarm set for 3:20 AM for race morning.  I woke up at 3:18 after a darn good sleep.  How often does that happen?  I got dressed, loaded the van and headed north on I-5.  I got a good parking spot right near T2.   

With a 7:39 start it was too early to eat at home.  I brought my race morning breakfast with me, and ate in the van.  When I was done, I grabbed my run bag and walked over to T2.  I set up my spot, headed back to the van prepped my bike, grabbed my bike bag and morning dry bag and road the mile or so to T1 at the harbor.  I went down to the TCSD racks and set up.  I was pretty much done and ready with almost two hours before my start.  Of course we had to be out of transition when the pros started which was an hour before me! 

Wandering around I exited transition and ran into my friend who was volunteering with water at the T1 entrance.  We chatted, probably for five minutes longer than I should have.  I headed back to my spot, grabbed my wetsuit, and got ready.  As I was tugging and adjusting, I could faintly hear the national anthem.  I knew the pros were about ready to start.  I headed to the corral, found my wave and got into the queue. 

As we crept forward in bare feet on the rough and crumbly asphalt we saw the pros come in as they ran by headed into T1 right next to us.  Defending champion and eventual winner Andy Potts was first out of the water as usual, but I was surprised at how close another pack of four or five were to him.  And a big pack not too far behind that.  With the pros gone, it was a while before the first amateurs started coming through.  Very few of us swim 1.2 miles in 21-22 minutes!   But we would see some, and we kept moving forward as waves went off every three minutes.  Yellow Caps On-Deck!  Gulp, almost show time!

Yellow Caps in the WATER!   Three minutes to get to swim/warm up, get to the start.  Hey!  That water is cold!  I just swam in the bay.  The bay is warmer.  By the time we got into position I heard 30 SECONDS.  Nerves turn to focus.  Calm chaos churning inside.  10 SECONDS.  Okay the water isn’t so cold.  I’ve got this.  Then the unmistakable pitch of an air horn.  Splash, crash, and smash time!  The start of a triathlon;   basically a hockey game with the ice melted.  I was behind two guys who I thought would be faster than me.  Don’t ask me why, I didn’t know them, I was just kind of guessing.  As I kept slapping the guy on the rights foot, I figured it was time to go around.  The guy on the left was almost the same speed, so his foot got slapped too.  It wasn’t intentional guys; the water was too murky to see.  I found a seam and got by.   

Every so often I would come up on a swimmer, and go by.  This kept going on, and the next thing I knew I saw the red buoys.  The red buoys meant it was time to turn.  I was stunned how fast I was there.  But on my alternate breath I looked right and it was open ocean!  Turning for home, this is feeling good! 

The 45-49 year men were split into three waves.  I was in the final set with a name at the end of the alphabet.  I was passing a good amount of blue caps, the wave in front of me.  I was also passing a lot of women.  I didn’t have the cap colors memorized, but that meant I was passing people with at least a nine minute head start.  Wow, am I swimming that well?  I don’t feel like I’m over doing it.  Literally the boat ramp was there!  I was up and out of the water!  I stole a peak at my Garmin as I hit the lap timer.  34:XX  HOLY NO-WAY!  34 and change?  My previous best is 40:52 for the distance.   
Bike time! -I'm toward the back, TCSD kit

Pack the car and go home.  The day has been a success!  But wait, there’s more!  The bike is my favorite part.  Off with the wetsuit, on with the cycling shoes and helmet.  Trot out of T1, mount the bike.  My friend gives me a yell and I am off!  Exited out of the harbor, I’ve done this a whole lot of times, but then through the Del Mar gate, which is usually off-limits to cyclists.  A few turns on parts of the base I am not familiar with, and then behind a bank of stores a turn, I see what looked like a bad crash with at least three bikes and one rider down.  Hope everyone is okay, and we turn on to Vandergrift.  I know this road.   

The next part is on roads I train on, through Camp Pendleton, onto old Highway 101 which is now a dedicated bike path, through a state park, and up past San Onofre’s reactor and Trestles.  I have to tell you I was feeling GOOD!  Yes, as in an all-caps good.  Taking nutrition as needed, riding at 70.3 effort.  The bike course was a bit crowded in places, but overall everything was going well. 

We turn onto Cristianos, and once we get past El Camino Real, we are headed back onto Camp Pendleton.  Only now, this is an area we don’t get to go normally.  I have never ridden back here.  We go through the checkpoint onto base and there it is.  Hill number one:  Not long, maybe a half of a mile.  But oh so steep.  I mean steep.  I saw somewhere between 8-12 competitors walking their bikes up this gnarly little beast.  I will admit, I was grinding in my 36x28 wishing I had a few more gears.  Finally over the top, down a bit, some rollers then up again.  Hill number 2:  This one is a little longer, not as steep, but it hit double digits in gradient at the top.  A big swooping downhill with the race prohibiting passing for safety.  I started to catch the rider in front of me, so I backed off then saw the end of no passing zone sign, and let it rip!  Until Hill number 3.  I am having trouble remembering this one other than it went up, probably wasn’t too bad, but I was ready to stop going uphill.  Oh yeah, and somewhere around the start I dropped my chain.  I promise it was a good shift.  Not on a steep section, light on the pedals.  Needless to say I was furious!  Off the bike, get to the side of the road I got the chain back on quickly.  Apologies to anyone around me that heard me cuss my chain out.  I felt it needed a berating for dropping in a race.  Do I look like Andy Schleck?  Hey chain stay on the bike!  Okay, get over it, and get pedaling!  Up hill, up, up, up; finally over the top, and a great descent.  Not steep, just long at 2-4 percent.  Time to fly! 

Mile 50, at this point the course is mostly flat, a few rollers, we make the turns back toward Oceanside, off the base, past the harbor and to the pier.  I hear Go Tri Club, yeah Go Tri Club, but SLOW DOWN. Oh, there’s the dismount line.  Un-clip, stop, and off the bike, trotting to my rack. 3:02:03. the chain cost me a sub 3 hour bike.  Cuss the chain out all over again.  This time under my breath, nobody else knew the butt chewing I was giving that chain. 

Bike racked, cycling shoes off, helmet off, running hat on, running shoes on.  Sip of Diet Mountain Dew, a little bliss in transition.  Off I go.  Well, a quick duck into Spanky’s commode.  Off on the run course.  Okay, here’s the plan:  Run 1:30, walk :30.  Shooting for 11:30 per minute miles as the ultimate goal.  Honest goal is 12:00/mile. 

Holy cow the start of the run is congested!  I skipped my first two walk breaks only because I was afraid I’d get run over.  Finally I got in the groove and the run opened up a bit, well, there was the whole down the super steep ramp, and back up.
I'm not in this photo, but you can see how steep it is!
  After a bit, we were headed south and it was run time.  Two loop course.  I was feeling pretty good.  Notice not great, or an all-caps good.  But still pretty good coming off the bike.  The first 3 plus miles the 1:30/:30 was easy!  That is the goal.  If it’s easy at the start, it should be a challenge in the middle, and real hard, but doable at the end. 

Stay hydrated! I'm in the yellow hat

Getting into the neighborhoods was great.  People were out, cranking up the tunes, it had the atmosphere of a Rock and Roll half marathon!  Exchanged a whole bunch of “Go Tri Clubs” out there, and just keep going.  About halfway through the run walk split got tough.  The second trip on the steep inclines around the pier were a must walk even if it wasn’t time to walk.  I was able to keep the run/walk ratio most of the way.  It got to 1:15/:45 at times, but the biggest hit on my time was when I was running, the pace dropped.  Overall I was having a decent run by my standards.   

The enthusiasm on the run course was incredible.  Heading out of and into the pier area there was a number of groups.  These folks would call you out by name (our names were on our bibs) shout encouragement, ring cow bells.  It really helps to keep you going.  I am thankful I did not have my brains eaten by a zombie!  (Carlsbad HS tent) 

The "Cheer zone" pre-race
Hey is that the big FINISH inflatable ahead?  No more walk breaks!  We are running it in, fueled by the crowd.  My name is blasted over the public address system, and my third 70.3 is complete! 
Timing chip off, medal around my neck and I meander into the finishers area.  I am congratulated by a fellow tri-clubber, who said nice job and that I was funny out there.  I said thank you, but then as my brain started to work again I wondered what she meant by that.  Funny?  Funny how? (Joe Pesci voice)!  Seriously if it was you please tell me what was so funny, and if it was funny good, or funny tragic and I need to fix something! 
Official Stats for the race: 
Swim 34:24 –PR
T1 6:34 – It felt faster
Bike 3:02:03
T2 4:43 – Includes visit to Spanky’s
Run 2:37:25 – 70.3 PR (stand-alone half mary PR is 2:26)
Total 6:25:09 –PR 
Are you a fellow gear-nerd?  Here is my equipment.  I am not sponsored, sponsors like people that get on podiums!  But I do think about my gear.  If you have questions on anything I use, shoot me a note, I’ll give you my honest assessment both pluses and minuses. 
Swim – Blue Seventy Fusion Wetsuit,
              TYR Rx goggles
              Speedo silicone cap under my race-issued cap (for warmth) 
Bike  - Specialized Transition Comp
            Force mid-compact crankset 52-36
            11-28 cassette
            X-Lab torpedo and rear carrier
            Williams 58-85 carbon clinchers
            Specialized Expert Road Shoes
            Giro Aero helmet 
Run – Saucony Triumph 9 
Clothing – Tri Club San Diego tri-top
                  DeSoto 400 mile bib shorts
                  Throrlo socks! 
Fuel – Carbo Pro 700 calorie bottle on bike, 300 calorie bottle on run
            Fig Newtons (ate 2 on bike)
            Picked up one pack of chomps on run course 
Thanks for reading.  Back to training, I have this 140.6 thing coming up in June.  YIKES!


  1. Awesome report Steve - that was a hell of an effort on a challenging day. Tough break on that chain drop!

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