Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz Race Report

Santa Cruz was my “A” race for the season. The one I was building up to for months and months. It turned out to be everything I was hoping for and more. It was also my anniversary weekend. Before the race K told me it would be a great race because it was our anniversary. He was right! We originally planned to make the trip to Santa Cruz just the two of us. Those plans didn’t work out when our childcare fell through, so we decided to make it a fun family race-cation instead!

Our hotel was right across the street from the boardwalk about 1/4 mile to the swim start. Being within walking distance to everything and having plenty of entertainment for the boys was key to making it a smoother trip with two toddlers. I rolled out of bed Saturday morning and walked down to the pier to get in a little open water swim practice. There were a bunch of other people there too. The water was cold, but not too bad like I had been warned. Many people advised I wear booties and a thermal swim cap…but I’m from California and used to cold water so decided not to get them. The water ended up being 68 degrees and it was announced booties would not be legal. Glad I didn’t waste the money!

After a short swim I headed over to transition to check-in and listen to the athlete briefing. There was talk that the swim course would be altered due to bacteria in the water from the recent heat wave. They confirmed this at the meeting. We would be starting about 100 yards south of the pier from the original swim start and swimming in a triangular course rather than rectangular.  After the talk I found a few of my Betty teammates and did a little shopping in the Ironman store 🙂

When I racked my bike in transition later that day I met Cathy, an amazing woman wearing the same Betty Designs Fuck Cancer jersey I had on. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just five weeks prior, but didn’t let that stop her from doing this race. She was so positive and upbeat. It was very inspiring. I ran into her again at the swim start the next day and seeing her smile helped calm my nerves. She truly is a special lady and meeting people like this is one of the many reasons I love this sport and being on Team Betty so much!

Race morning I woke up at 4:15am and called Uber to take me to transition. It wasn’t a far walk, but didn’t think it was a great idea to walk alone in the dark. After I got to transition, I realized I forgot my timing chip! I tried not to stress about it and was told I could get a new one down at the swim start. They closed transition around 6:30 and we headed down to the beach for the swim.

Swim

There was an extremely thick layer of fog and it was impossible to make out even the first buoy, but people were already out warming up in the water. I thought I was the only one worried that we couldn’t see ANYTHING out there.  Shortly after an announcement was made that the swim start would be delayed due to the fog. I felt a little relieved they were giving it time to clear, but it also gave me more time to get in my head which is never a good thing.

They kept pushing the start back until they no longer could because of permit limitations. Finally they announced they were shortening the swim and moving the start down to the other side of the pier. I was disappointed since I had been working hard on improving my swim and really wanted a shot at a true 1.2 mile swim PR. At the same time, I was just happy they let us swim at all. I know they could have easily cancelled the swim like several other races have this year.

I never heard an official announcement on what the new distance was, but a few people said it was half a mile. The pros finally went off around 8am. I was still in the water warming up. I wasn’t in a hurry since I thought it was still a rolling start with athletes self-seeding by expected finish time. WRONG. Everyone just gathered together in a herd and since I was taking my time in the water, I ended up in the back of the pack for the start. I was literally one of the last people in the water and didn’t start the race until 8:45am!

It was crowded in the water and I’m still working on getting over my fear of being hit and swam over so I stayed to the outside near the kayaks. It felt like I got to that first turn buoy fast! It was a pretty uneventful swim for me. I have a bad habit of stopping when I sight which I did way too much. Need to work on that. Other than that, it was a quick swim and I made it out of the water in less than 18 minutes according to my watch. A lot faster than I was expecting obviously, but I had no idea what my true pace or distance was. My Suunto watch clocked it at 1150 meters in 17:50 for a 1:33 avg pace, which I know is off.

Official swim time: 18:23 ( I still don’t know what the actual distance was)

T1: 6:10

We ran a half mile up the beach and on asphalt to depot field. A lot of people brought old shoes or flip flops to run in. I went barefoot and was just fine.  Ended up 2 minutes faster than Oceanside with a much longer run so I was happy with that.

Bike

I’ve been making the most gains in cycling recently, so I was excited to see what I could do. It was also my first race with my new Irwin Cycling race wheels. It was the perfect course for me to fly and gun for that PR. It had just the right amount of challenge. Lots of rolling hills for about 2,500 ft of gain. My favorite! The course is literally all along the ocean…beautiful views the entire ride. The first 3 miles were a little technical with some wide turns to get out to Hwy 1. Once we were out on the 1 though it was straight out and back for the next 50 miles.

My watch was set to triathlon mode, but when switched to the bike they display was stuck on time elapsed. I couldn’t get it to switch over to display speed and HR so I did the bike completely on feel. I decided I would just go hard, but not all out so I could save a little energy for the run.  At the mile 28 turnaround I felt great so tried to push it even more. Still no idea how fast I was going, but I was passing a lot of people. It was an open course and super crowded since the swim was cut short. There were a few sketchy moments when I had to pass groups of riders who were not moving closer to the shoulder even when I yelled “on your left.”  Just after the turnaround traffic was at a standstill and I saw a bike completely crushed under a car. A man was laying on ground not moving on the shoulder with a group of people around him. It looked pretty bad and really shook me up. I said a silent prayer for him. I later found out he escaped with only minor injuries. Such a scary moment and reminder to appreciate every moment.

Around mile 35 I passed a girl in my age group wearing a Team Coeur kit. She re-passed me on a downhill and then it was on! We played a fun game of cat and mouse most of the ride back on Hwy 1. She would kill it on the downhills and pass me (I’m getting better at laying off the brakes when descending, but not 100% there yet with hammering the pedals all the way down). I would re-pass her on the climbs. This went on for about 15 miles until I passed her for the last time with 3 miles to go and never saw her again. At the last aid station I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance from a volunteer and made a (weak) attempt to empty it into my aero bottle. I decided it was better to play it safe and pulled over to fill it. A goal for next race is to do this without stopping.

My goal time for the bike was 3:15 which was my predicted time according to TriDot’s RaceX. I ended up beating this by over 10 minutes and beat my Oceanside 70.3 bike split by over 30 minutes!!!

Bike time: 3:04:27

T2: 3:08

I took too much time applying sunscreen in T2. Not sure what I was thinking? I had already applied it before the race, but a girl offered it to me and I was too nice to say “no, thanks.” Good strategy on her part. Total inner race bitch fail on mine. haha

Run

The run used to be my favorite event, but the bike has recently replaced it. That said, I still love to run and felt strong coming off the bike. I nailed my nutrition on the bike and took Osmo hyper hydration the night before, which helped set me up for a strong, steady 13.1 miles. Similar to Oceanside, the majority of the run is along the coast, but there was less spectator support. Seeing all the Betty’s on the course and getting high fives really helped push me, especially up through the trail portion of the race in Wilder Ranch. My Oceanside time was 2:16. I was determined to beat that and end with a negative split. I stopped for coke the last 2 aid stations and gave those last couple miles everything I had. Rounding the last turn onto the beach to the finish I felt chills knowing I had crushed my Oceanside time by over an hour! Crossed that line with fists in the air feeling better than I ever have at the end of race.

Run Time: 2:12:41

Total Time: 5:44:49

30/78 Age Group

I couldn’t have asked for a better race to end the season. Seeing my boys’ faces and getting huge hugs from them at the finish was the cherry to top a season of hard work and determination. I plan on doing one more sprint race for fun in November, but I’m most excited for the possibilities of what lies ahead next season and beyond. I’m really starting to believe the big epic goals I once thought were distant dreams are much closer than I thought possible.

I have already signed up for two 70.3 races in 2018 and I’m considering one or two more. This is without a doubt my new favorite distance. I’ve come a long way from my DNF at Superfrog 70.3 a year ago which I did not let derail me. Looking forward to continuing the journey and seeing where it takes me in another year!

Special thanks to the sponsors that helped me get here. So grateful for the support!

Betty Designs, Badass racing kit

Irwin Cycling, Smokin’ fast wheels

Rudy Project NA, Super comfortable and stylish AF aero helmet

Jaybird Sport, Headphones to keep me pumped while running and those loooong trainer sessions.

COOLA Suncare, Keeping my skin safe and flawless during those long hours sweating in the sun.

TriTats, #looklikeapro while racing

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