The alarm went off at 4:45 this morning and I hit snooze 3 times before finally getting up at 5:00. It was a rough night’s sleep – barking dog next door, temperature issues, pre-race wakefulness, etc. Suffice it to say, I was not the most enthusiastic athlete, bounding out of bed with glee. But I made my breakfast, checked email, got dressed and ditched the poor dogs without their walk or breakfast.
I found a sweet parking spot in Santa Cruz, just off the bike course, and messed around with my Blackberry for 10 or 15 minutes till I decided it was time to walk down to transition. Once again, I was one of the first there, before transition opened, and stood in line to waiting for them to let us in. It turned out rack space was assigned, so I didn’t really need to be there early to get a good spot, but it was better to get set up and then relax and wait.
All of my racing friends and family rolled in over the next hour and it was nice to be relaxed enough to hang out and chat with everyone. I knew a LOT of people at this race, I guess finally a benefit of (a) doing local races and (b) dragging so many of my people into triathlon. At 8:00 we headed down to the beach (about 1/3 mile away) for the pre-race meeting. We got lucky that it was a much nicer day at the beach than for the Olympic yesterday – the sun was peeking through the clouds, adding at least a hint of warmth to our neoprene wetsuits as we waited to dive into 59-degree water.
A good 10-minute swim warmup helped me adjust to getting my face in the cold water, and then it was time to line up on the beach in the start corral. I noticed that most of the women in my wave were dry and had not been in the water– so I moved to the front of the corral. I know darn well how much some of these girls panic when they hit the cold water and I wanted to try to be in front of it. Well, that didn’t entirely happen and I had to do some swimming around people who couldn’t get their face in yet. This was my first ocean swim RACE since my 1st year in triathlon (when I was 2nd to last out of the water) and I was much more confident now. The only issue I encountered was that one side of my goggles started leaking heavily – rather than waste time trying to fix it over and over, I just swam with one eye closed to keep the salt water out. Given that I was swimming with only one eye and there were only 2 buoys for a 750m swim, I did quite a good job sighting and was pleased with my swim time. The official results count the long run to transition in the swim time so I’m glad I had my own watch to know how I did.
From there it was a long run up the beach and down the city blocks to transition, where I tried to get off on the bike as quickly as possible.
The bike course consisted of 2 loops around Santa Cruz – about half through neighborhoods and the heavily wooded Natural Bridges State Beach and about half right along the cliffs over the ocean. My instructions were to try to blow my legs out on the bike. I certainly gave it my best! The fog had rolled back in a little bit during my first loop and it was misty out there – I ditched the sunglasses when I couldn’t see through them anymore! Overall the bike flew by quickly and felt strong.
T2 was quick and I was off onto the run. The run course starts as the bike course does, with a large uphill. Ummmm….not so pleasant. And then I remembered my plan was to ease into the first 1/2 mile – phew! It felt much better to dial it back as my heart rate skyrocketed. I noticed something in my shoe right off the bat but as long as it wasn't hurting, I wasn't going to stop to mess with it. It felt like a tree branch rolling around under my toes. Post race, I pried my shoes off and in fact, there was a large twig in there! My legs settled in nicely from there – so much for having nothing left after biking hard – and I negative split each mile. The mist from the bike course was gone and the run felt HOT – I’m glad it wasn’t any warmer than it was. The finish line arrived just in time and I was done! Nigel and my uncle Dave had gone off in a wave 20 minutes ahead of me, so they were there to cheer as I finished.
In a completely out of character move, I hoovered a slice of pizza at the finish (usually I am too nauseous to look at food for hours) and then packed up my gear while waiting to cheer in my aunt, Mermaid friends, and friends doing the duathlon.
According to the official results, I came in 5th in my age group. To the best of my knowledge, this is my first top-5 finish in a triathlon, so - wheeeee!!!! And at the USAT Southwest Regional Age Group Sprint Championship to boot.
Onward and upward – the 1/2 IM training gets REALLY serious now!