I did this race back on 15th September. Feels like a long time ago but in reality it was okay a few weeks!
I came over to San Diego to complete my final build up for Uberman and decided to throw in a couple of races while I was over here. The main objective for this race was to try and get a worlds 70.3 slot. Unfortunately, (spoiler alert!) this didn’t happen. But it wasn’t all bad. I still had a really fun race and met some amazing people.
I have never done an ironman race on American soil. I’ve done a bunch of 70.3 and ironmans in Australia and New Zealand so I felt very comfortable and knew what to expect but I wasn’t sure what it would be like in the home of ironman and birthplace of triathlon in San Diego. Would it be bigger and crazier than I am used to? Would people be more aggressive than I’m used to? And rolling starts have come in since I have done a race like this so figuring that all out was part of the puzzle to.
This particular race was originally organised by the Navy Seals as a training course before it was opened up to the general population and then ironman bought the race. I have to give credit to the organisers. It still felt like a very welcoming and low key kind of race. The kind that I like. The field limit of 1000 people certainly helped that too. I didn’t come across any mean or aggressive people, everyone was very happy to be there and the volunteers were amazing!
In the few days leading up to the race, the beach was closed to swimming due to a sewerage spill that had drifted up from Tijuana. Up until the night before the race, we didn’t know if we were going to start with a bike TT or a swim. Thankfully the race director put out a Facebook video saying that the water had been declared clear and we were going to swim. I was so relieved!! I much prefer having a swim than a duathlon any day!! And I would not know how to approach a bike TT start but I am glad I didn’t have to figure that out either.
My friend Man who I have been staying with in San Diego decided at the last minute to also sign up. It was so exciting to have a friend on course. I had family friend and her friends come down to support and also had a fellow Cupcake Cartel team member who I met the day before the race out there so I didn’t feel completely alone! Sometimes when racing overseas, it’s nice to have a couple of people who are going to be cheering specifically for you.
The day before the race, my back tightened up, spasmed and was generally not happy at the end of my shake out run. This hasn’t happened in a long time so I freaked out a bit. I did a lot of stretching, rolling and TLC then hoped for the best!! On the morning of the race, I lent over sideways to put on my tri suit and my back pulled again. Thankfully it was okay when I was straight but I knew I had to be very careful. No point in ruining myself now, especially when I have bigger races yet to come.
Race morning, I was separated from Man straight away when we went to transition and didn’t see him again until we were on the bike. That was fine. We had to focus on our own races anyway. It took me a while to get things sorted in transition. I hadn’t done a triathlon since November and that was Ultraman Hawaii! That only had one transition where I had my crew helping me out!
Thankfully I hadn’t forgotten anything and managed to sort myself out in the squishy space I had to lay out my gear.
I sat and chatted to my Cupcake Cartel buddy before heading off to warm up in the water. The waves were solid, I realised quickly that it would take a bit of an effort to get out past the break. I was glad I went in the water as it was a two lap course so I knew what I was in for!
They had a few Navy Seals parachute down onto the beach, played the national anthem then the rolling start was off. This was a non-pro race so we just lined up next to the signs of predicted swim times and moved through to the start chute. I started in a group of my ideal swim time but honestly, I had no idea what I was capable of! This is because I haven’t done short-er course racing for a while and my swimming has improved since I did Challenge Melbourne in 2017 before Epic 5 so I was hopeful of a decent time.
They let off 3 athletes at a time into the water with 10-15 second intervals (can’t remember which!) so it meant that we were all pretty spread out getting into the water. It took me a little bit of effort to get out through the break as the waves were a bit tough. My coach had told me to just go hard in the swim. All out. Don’t hold back. That’s something I struggle to do as I’m much more comfortable to sit in an endurance zone where I can breathe, talk and think and get through the distance. But I did try! I felt that I actually pushed pretty well. Since it was two laps, I could break it down into one lap at a time. Unfortunately, I was dumped in a wave on the first lap and lost my goggles. I don’t like putting them under my swim cap as they pull on my hair. In this case, I should have just put up with that as they were ripped from my face and gone in a second. Damn! They were really good goggles too!!
Second lap meant I had to close my eyes each time I put my face in the water and then open them to sight and breathe. Annoying but not the end of the world!
The one thing that I hadn’t counted on was athletes still waiting to get into the water with the rolling start. For some reason, I hadn’t thought about it so there was a bit more traffic to get through, especially getting out to the first buoy.
The main issue with the second lap was that my heart rate was super high getting into the water. I had run hard on the beach between laps and struggled to catch my breath. I started to feel a little panicked so I did a couple of breast strokes to calm myself down that worked. I was able to put my head down again and get through the second lap. I managed to get dumped again – pretty sure on the same wave on the way back in again. I was pretty thankful that the swim was done with when I hit the sand again.
I took a bit of time in transition as I wanted to make sure I had applied sunscreen, grabbed all of my nutrition and got my helmet, glasses on before I left. The athletes who are active service people had priority spots in transition at the front which was good. I was about 2/3 of the way down which wasn’t so bad.
The bike was x4 loops with one aid station at the far end. Typically, I hadn’t done a lot of research to find that out so I figured it out on race day. I started with x2 electrolyte bottles with the plan to have water at the aid station then ditch the bottle before the end of the rubbish area. This worked okay in theory until my stomach objected to having so much fluid dumped into it in a short space of time on the last lap so I had to just stick with water as I didn’t like the on course drink.
The laps were pretty simple up and back, one little bridge to climb over and the rest was pretty flat. I was paranoid about my back so stood up frequently to stretch it out. The last thing I wanted or needed was to have issues on the run!
My plan was to break the bike down into 3rds. First 3rd, ride conservatively, middle 3rd, increase effort then last one go hard. I actually managed to execute this quite well and found myself passing a decent amount of people towards the end of the bike who had either passed me earlier or I hadn’t seen before. That made me feel good, especially since the winds were picking up by the end of it too! Also made me glad I was out of the swim when I was too.
I almost took out a couple of spectators on the turn back in as I don’t think they expected me to turn back to transition instead of doing another lap. Thankfully the volunteer saw me coming and yelled out to them!
I almost forgot to put on sunscreen in transition until I saw someone else doing it. I had to take a few steps back to apply. Always have to make sure I put on sunscreen at every opportunity for my poor ranga/glow in the dark skin!
The run was again 4 laps. I usually don’t like multiple lap courses. 1 lap is perfect for me. 2 at best. That way I do it once, get to know where things are, second time and I’m done. Mentally, I struggle with more than that so instead I focussed on the distance and how far I had to go. I like to count down kms when I am both riding and running. Gives me a different focus. Although, when I did my 100k trail run earlier this year, I laughed when I thought to myself, 2kms done, 98kms to go! That just sounded ridiculous.
Man had run the course the weekend before I arrived so he was able to tell me that it was tough. I sort of listened to him but probably should have paid more attention. I found out later that it was approx 13k of sand running, 3k of pavement and the rest on a dirt trail! Sand running is not a strong point for me. I usually just tough it out when I have to. I knew there was sand running in this race but I didn’t realise there was more than half the course on sand!! Again with the lack of research…
The course sent us straight onto a decent out and back on the sand. We were able to run down by the waterfront so it wasn’t that soft but since everyone wanted to be in the same point and then trying to avoid the waves when they came in, there was a bit of dodging going on. I almost ran into one guy who was looking down and not at me when we both swerved up the beach to the same point! Oops!
The hardest part was getting up and down on and off the beach. That’s when the sand was really soft and unkind to my calves. My coach has said not to worry about my pace on the sand, then try to make it up on the hard surfaces. I tried. I really did try but my legs were pretty screwed from the sand running so by the last lap, I couldn’t put in the extra effort that I wanted to. My goal run time went out the window pretty quickly when I realised how slow I was on the sand! But it was still fun. I still got to see my friends on course and cheering from the sidelines so that’s what matters.
The run actually went by pretty quickly. For me, I have now built up the 50k distance as a pretty achievable distance so anything shorter than that (course dependant!) to be pretty okay for my mental side of things. I was surprised when I was 5k in and didn’t really realise.
Again, the volunteers on course were all amazing and full of energy.
We had been given wristbands at the registration that we were able to hand out to volunteers that we felt were worthy of it to ‘thank them for their service’.
I had two so fave one to the woman at the swim start who I chatted to then a guy who was high energy every time I saw him. Gave me a lift so figured he deserved it.
Suddenly I was on my last lap and almost home!! The weather was warm but I had managed to keep myself cool as I went so I didn’t melt down thankfully!!
The finish line was great. Lots of cheering, lots of support and love. It was awesome!!
I had accidentally stopped my Garmin when I was on the bike so I had no idea of my overall time but I knew roughly where I was at. For that course and my lack of short-er course training, I was happy with my result.
Really recommend this race for a nice, low key feel and a tough, honest course for anyone looking to do a race this time of year.
For the worlds spot, the winner of my age group took it so I had no chance. Since the field was small, there was less spots. Plus I found out that they have moved the race to Thanksgiving Weekend so likely more people from America will be able to have time off work to travel for it.
Ah well. It was worth a shot!!
Oh and my back was totally fine on the run. Phew!! 🙂