The Chula Vista Challenge was my third race this year of four on my calendar. Superfrog awaits to finish out my year. This is an Olympic distance triathlon, also making it the shortest event of my year. Please do not mistake short for easy. There is a reason the Challenge is in the title of this race!
The logistics of this race are different than many in that you have two transition areas separated by about 12 miles the way the crow flies. This requires preparing your T2 bag with running shoes and other necessities the day before and leaving it at race check in. Since it is recommended you park near the finish and take a shuttle to the start, you also need to leave your bike at T1 the day before. In short, you pretty much set up the day before.
I took care of all of this on Saturday including my usual Saturday shake out ride. Felt good on the bike during the Saturday ride and forced myself to take it easy and limit the ride to under 40 minutes. This made me happy since my legs felt so dead on Thursday I skipped my planned ride. I also felt very tired, and since it was race week decided extra rest was okay.
Sunday morning! A 3:40 AM wake up. Why do we do this? Not that big of a deal, really since I get up at that time twice a week for my swim workouts.
I make sure I have my swim gear and my nutrition and drive off to B2BE fitness, which is near the finish line, a race sponsor, and where the shuttles will take us to the start. Nice coach buses to take us over.
Head into transition and take care of the usual business. Walk through swim out into T1, and bike out. Take a look at the bay and wow, the tide is OUT. It looks as if you could walk to the first turn.
I put on my wetsuit and headed out to get into the water for a bit of a warm up. The looks were not deceiving, the tide was out. The entry was also rocky with small pebbles, then mushy. I mentally mark the area where I can start swimming, and take a short practice swim. That felt really good, and I am ready.
I look around as our wave queued up and realize the wave seems small. In fact, the race itself seems like a small race for a triathlon in
Elites go off first, I was in wave 5, but the time went quickly. Soon the siren sounded and we were running/trotting into the water. Running over the pebbles/rocks was actually easier than walking over them so I was in, got to the area I marked in my mind as get down and swim, and I was off. I passed a bunch of wave mates right of way that out ran me, and I was off feeling good in the water. By the first turn I passed someone from the wave in front of me. The waves were three minutes apart. Another 200-300 meters out I was passing a bunch of previous wavers and even some from the wave before that. I knew there were a couple of really fast guys that were gone, but I didn’t see any other white caps. Am I really swimming this well? Just keep going. Out of the water, the timing mat is up near the entrance to T2, so I had a run of about 200 yards to the mat through the pebbles, up the beach which meant a big step up where there was some serious beach erosion, and into T1.
Official swim time 28:23, a Personal Best for the distance, including the run! And 6th out of 19 in my AG. Actual swim time was about 27:00. In just my third year of swimming I am thrilled with where my swimming is. I would attribute the most recent improvement to two things, one I discovered how to improve my roll three weeks ago in the pool. This was one of the benefits of a post Ironman easy swims where I was focusing on form. The other is we have a small group that is doing open water swims on Sunday mornings. This has helped my sighting and open water awareness. Looking at the Garmin data, the swim track actually looks straight, not like a drunken bee that many of my previous race swims look like. Thanks to the swim group’s main participants: Andrea, Speedy Ted, and Sugarmagnolia
Into transition I go. I have made the argument that a mid-packer doesn’t need to worry about flying out of transition. Seconds matter if you are competing for a podium, etc. That being said, looking back, my T1 times have been too slow. I made a conscious effort in set up to get through T1 better. Including no socks for the bike. Boom! 2:24 to get out of T1. Off on the bike. Often my best event, certainly my favorite, as my journey into triathlon began with cycling.
When I start the bike in a tri, I generally stay on the bull horns until I get my breathing regulated and my pedal strokes in synch. Then I go aero and get into my race at race effort. Right of way on this ride my legs felt heavy and had a hard time getting going.
I felt like I was putting out 40K race effort, but getting IM pacing results. Another reason why I need a power meter. If anyone at Garmin is reading this, I would be happy to give you a mid-packers perspective on the Vector Contact me and I'll let you know where to send it. Anyway, the ride felt like a struggle throughout most of it, even the first 10 miles which is mostly flat, fast, and easy. The last 14 which is mostly uphill and accounts for most of the 1,200 feet of elevation gain was rough. In a rarity I was happy the bike was done. 1:25:01. For reference I expected to be just under 1:20. 11th out of 19 in my AG for the bike.
Transition 2 is one of the cool experiences of the Chula Vista Challenge. They handle T2 the same way Ironman does. A volunteer takes your bike and racks it for you while they grab your run bag. You get to sit on an actual chair and put your shoes on! Another 2:24 transition and off on the hilly run course. 400 feet of elevation gain over 6.2 miles. And we are not talking about gentle inclines. No, these are harsh spikes up. Those of you that read my race reports know that the run is my weakest event. Generally I am right in the middle of my age group for the swim and bike, but the bottom 10-15 percent on the run. I am working on it. The strategy for this race was to go with a 1:30 run to :30 walk, and when the hills hit, to modify it to walk the steepest parts.
This run went well by my standards, and I really enjoy running through the Olympic Training Center. To think of the athletes that train there, and here I am running through their training grounds. Soon enough it was up the stairs, yes stairs just after mile 5 and I was out of the OTC and headed for the finish. 1:09:01 a 12 minute improvement from last year, but still 18th of 19 in my AG. The splits were pretty even from 10:53 to 11:30, the 11:30 being the hilliest mile.
**Update** I had already written the bike section and took a break as I finished the blog. I went over to my bike to take off the race wheels and I think I discovered part, if not all of my bike issues. The legs may have felt a bit heavy, but it is not their fault. No, my front brake was rubbing ever so slightly on the wheel. No enough to be obvious, but taking it around the parking lot for a spin, then adjusting it and going again made a noticable difference. Not sure what I could have done, as I checked the bike over in transition before heading to the swim and the front wheel spun fine. It wasn't a lot, but definitley could have cost me 1-1.5 MPH. Grrrrrrrrrrr.
Huge thank you to the volunteers of this well run event. Which brings me to why this event does not seem to draw as well as others. Is it the challenge portion? Yes this is more challenging than a typical Olympic Distance event. But it is a well run event and provides a good race experience. I would highly recommend you put it on your calendar.
Equipment nerd like me? Here is what I used:
Swim: X-terra Vortex sleeveless wetsuit, Aqua Sphere Rx goggles
Bike: Specialized Transition, 52x36 mid-compact crank set, 11-28 cassette, Williams 58-85 wheels, X-Lab Torpedo and rear carrier
Run: Saucony Triumph 9 shoes
Nutrition: Carbo Pro, water
Upcoming Races: Superfrog 70.3 September 29.
Oceanside 2014. And I am volunteering
for IM Arizona in November. And ya’ll
know what that means! California