It’s hard to believe a year ago that I was only an arm-chair triathlete, and this year, I was competing among some of the best Pro Triathletes in the world at last weekend’s Oceanside 70.3 race (aka: California World Championships)!
I stepped on the line at Oceanside 70.3 with no real set “result-based” goals. I respected the field immensely, and felt grateful to toe the line with some of the world’s best. Of course, I am a dreamer, so I left many options open and did not limit myself from thinking big, but ultimately, I knew that my best performance would come from a well-executed race.
For the first time since I “turned pro” last July, I had company on the swim. I managed to hang on to the 3rd pack which was a much more positive feeling than previously when I was so far behind that I literally couldn’t see anyone else in the water. It is a good feeling getting to the bike rack with bikes still on the rack, and other women still putting on helmets and shoes! Seriously, at Challenge Penticton (5th) and Silverman (7th) I pretty much did not see another racer until the second half of the run…that’s a long long time trial! So…back to the swim…in addition to actually swimming more than 8 km / week this fall, I also made a couple key adjustments to the execution. Not to give away too many top training tips (from a 3rd pack swimmer!) but sighting does really help you to swim a shorter distance. And not going out as fast as possible and having a massive body shock when the lactate sets in is also a preferred strategy. I actually enjoyed the swim leg for the first time in my life.
I ran out of the water with a pack of gals. Coach Matt (@purplepatch fitness) had warned me it was a long run to transition and an opportunity to make up some time. So I sprinted by everyone, which was easier said than done because the path was very congested with people still waiting for their swim wave to start. Although I made it to my bike first out of my little pack, my non-ITU worthy transition put me back a bit again during the run out to the mount line. Nevertheless, I had people in my actual category with me…such a great feeling!
I jumped on the bike and was prepared to ride hard. I found the first 15 minutes to be way more technical and entertaining than I expected: 180 degree switchbacks down highway off-ramps, parking lot tours, and I think we even popped through an opening in the fence onto a bike path. I would not be able to re-create the beginning on the bike course if my life depended on it! I was fortunate that for the 1st hour of the bike race I had people to key off and reel in – it kept me focused and motivated to ride hard.
Once we entered Camp Pendleton, I was very much alone again and would not see another competitor until onto the run – of course I didn’t know this at the time. The bike course was much hillier, much more beautiful, and much more interesting than I had expected. It was a privilege to ride on the military base and to see the support from the personnel on course.
I had a bit of problem on one hill and it definitely bit me in the butt. I have had this experience previously and it is probably nutrition related but my vision started to blur and narrow a bit. I was able to maintain the same power (although I could not read my Garmin properly) and immediately pounded a few gels. Within a few minutes I felt re-freshed and re-focused. It was surprising to me because I had followed a similar nutrition plan to other races, but perhaps the difference was that I was riding much harder!
The last 20 miles of the bike ride were a bit lonely and hard. My legs and lungs were getting tired and I kept thinking of just getting back to transition. At this point in a triathlon it is hard to consider a hard long run yet to come! My bike ride was solid and showed good improvement relative to last year. I rode about 15 watts higher than my best race in 2015 and it is still early in the season, so those hard trainer sessions actually are beneficial. But I know there is much more still to come.
While I was hoping to run a sub 1:20 half marathon, my legs were pretty beat up by the run and I focused really hard on staying present and in the moment. Some good advice from a pre-race Purplepatch blog helped me to stay in the moment: never evaluate during the race. When my mind would start to wander towards thoughts that I should run faster etc, I just told my legs to do their best and I trusted my body to work hard. At about half way through the run, Graham yelled to me that I was about 1 min down from 9th and 2 minutes from 8th, and that gave me a lot of motivation to pick up the pace again. Fortunately, I was able to catch 9th, but unfortunately, Mary Beth Ellis held on to 8th although I chipped some more time back. I was pretty happy to see that finish line running down the Strand.
I finished the race pleased with the process and execution and optimistic that I have lots of room for improvement for the rest of the season. As it was Graham’s birthday, I had promised him I would do my best and have fun so that mission was completed! It was really fun to hang out on the beach afterwards with great friends, and to go to dinner with the Fleshman/Thomas and Savege/Rapp crew. Hats off to the great support crew of spouses who cheered us on and looked after our toddlers – the unsung heroes of race day!
Next up…St. George. Another little race without any hills or challenges!