Oceanside is one of my favorite races for a variety of reasons. First, I get to sleep in my own bed. You don’t know how awesome this is, to sleep where you’re comfortable before a race. Second, I have the hometown advantage. The bike course goes right along my training grounds, and I’m used to the weather during that time. Third, the vibe is awesome! So many talented pros and age groupers to compete with. Finally, it’s a great early season test of fitness, which is what my purpose was for this race.
Coming into Oceanside, I had rolled over my training program which I had used to build for Arizona, with great success. It was an attempt to see if Arizona was just a random lucky day, or the result of a great training program. The program was simple in its principle: Make easy really easy, and make hard really hard. I incorporated really hard bike efforts into long and mid distance rides in an effort to build bike power AND improve the strength on the run. In turn, I increased my goal paces on my hard runs to improve speed. All of this in the effort to “train like a pro.” This was my mantra.
So there it is, the secret’s out. I have a pie-in-the-sky goal to become a pro Ironman triathlete. Yes, I know how old I am. Yes, I know I started this late. Yes, I know I have a long way to go. But, as I look back on my brief career in triathlon, I have seen the development I have made with an obsessive amount of focus and drive. What I’ve discovered is that if you truly have a belief in your goal, your actions gravitate in that direction, and a self fulfilling prophecy is born. I also like the idea of setting your goals so high that even if you fail, you still hit some high standards!
Okay, back to the race at hand. My goal for this race was first a test of fitness. I wanted to see if I could go hard and maintain on the bike and still put together a good run split. I had a great run split at Arizona, but I also took it pretty easy on the bike. I wanted to see if I could bike hard and still feel good running. Secondary to that, I had hoped for a podium. This is a competitive race, so hitting a podium would be a great confidence builder toward my build to qualifying for Kona in late July.
This race was extra special because my wife, and Extra Life athlete, Marie was racing with me. I was more nervous for her than I was for me. I have been coaching her for a couple years now, and she has seen great success (cough cough **Olympic distance podium** cough cough), but this was her second 70.3 on a very challenging course. I knew that conquering some fears of biking on super hills was going to be a big deal for her, and I really wanted to see her succeed in that regard. She put in some amazing training to progress her training in this regard, and I think it paid off tremendously. To sum up her race in a nutshell, she conquered the hell out of those hills, finishing the bike in just over 3:30! While she was a little disappointed in her swim (mainly because she started a bit farther back than she wanted to, and wasn’t warmed up getting into the water), overall, she finished strong! I mean, look at that smile coming out of the water!
Marie Photobombing a Beardy guy
I am so proud of my wife for finishing this race, as I know how challenging it is. It makes me proud as a coach also to see an athlete succeed in accomplishing their goals. I know that Marie has some more great races ahead of her, and many successes!
For my race, I was up at 2:45 to do my Wim Hof breathing. As I described in this post, I believe the Wim Hof method for endurance athletes is a game changer. I have no affiliation with his product, I just believe in the method. I sat in my Normatec Recovery Boots for about 20 minutes while I did the breathing and meditation.
I like to eat at specific intervals before the race starts. The first one is four hours before, when I consume about 400-500 calories in the form of a shake (banana, blueberries, oats, flaxseed, almonds). After the shake, I had a cup of coffee and got ready for the drive down to Oceanside.
Parking was easy, and we got to the shuttles in plenty of time, only to realize that we forgot a vital element of our race strategy in the car; our helmets. Pro tip: ALWAYS use a checklist to pack your gear, and ALWAYS keep your gear together until you get to transition. It’s really easy to forget something. Fortunately, we remembered in the nick of time and went back to the car to grab them. On the bus, I had breakfast number 2: about 200 calories worth of brown rice with butter and salt. Yum…
We made it to transition in plenty of time to chat up a few of my rack mates and friends. It was chillier than usual for this race, and there was a bit of a breeze, so it led to numb appendages. I put on my wetsuit earlier than usual. After using the bathroom one last time, I excused my way through the corral, jumped in the water for about a minute to do a quick splash around, and then fell into the front of the 30-35 minute group (it was a rolling start this year, which I loved). The gun went off, and about 5 minutes later I was in the water.
Swim – 32:36 – HIM Swim PR
Again, I love the rolling start, and I believe that it was partly responsible for my swim PR. Since I have traditionally been a 33-34 min HIM swimmer on this course, being at the front of the 30-35 minute group helped me to push my pace immediately to stick with the faster folks. I don’t remember being passed during the whole swim, and while I would call the group swimming around me “aggressive” (I was hit in the face a number of times, and kicking was pretty violent!), I had clear water most of the way.
I felt really strong for the first half of the swim, and was trying to keep the tempo high. The cold start led me to feel a bit stiff in the neck, but ultimately it wasn’t too much of a problem. I like Oceanside as a first race of the season because the swim is very easy, and it’s easy to overcome the first race jitters. There’s only about 200-300 meters of “rough water”, when we get out to the channel, but nothing too bad, even in high surf.
Rounding the farther turn buoy, we head right back into the sun, which makes sighting challenging. I just look up briefly and make sure that I am directly behind “splashy people”. If not, I’m off course. Fortunately, I had a good line for the whole race.
The swim was mostly uneventful, but fast, and I was back to the boat ramp in 32 minutes, a new half Ironman swim PR for me. Coming from 38+ minutes a couple years ago, I’m happy with this progress, and look forward to some more to come.
Bike – 2:25:43 – 3rd fastest bike split in 35-39 age group
Did I mention I love the rolling start? If it weren’t for this, I would have been in the last wave, which would have meant a) waiting until like 8 am to start the race, and b) having to make a lot of surges to pass large groups of people for most of the ride. That’s not too much fun, and not very safe. With the rolling start, I was in the water before 7 am, and close to the front of the race once I got on my bike. This being the case, I was able to settle in pretty quickly and focus on my sustained effort.
The goal again was to push the bike and try to be sustainable throughout. Then I wanted to see how I could run off the bike on tired legs. I don’t use a power meter on the bike, I just focus on my effort and heart rate, and I was able to keep my heart rate around 140-150 for most of the bike except for a few surges to climb the hills or make passes.
The first half of the course is relatively flat, and I ride this part of the course very frequently, so I was able to pace very well and ride strong. Did a lot of passing, and was able to get a glimpse of the lead groups while riding up the out and back on Las Pulgas. I was pretty surprised to see a lot of folks riding in the front packs. This was an early indication that there were a lot of fast folks here this year.
The second half of the course is very hilly, which is what makes this course challenging. Additionally, throughout the year you are not allowed to ride this segment of the course, which adds to the challenge and enjoyment. On one hand, you get to see a part of California nobody (except military) get to see. On the other, it tests your bike fitness!
I chose to push hard up the big climbs, getting out of the saddle and exerting big effort to climb them. I also descended well, passing a number of people and maxing out at about 45 mph. I kept up the tradition of getting passed in the “no passing 25 mph zone” also. I wonder if the guy got DQ’d?
Right at the turn to Vandegrift is my cue to take in the last bit of nutrition. I did so, and enjoyed the final 10 miles of downhill into transition. With about a mile left, I began spinning at lower power to flush out the legs and get them ready to run. I ended up following pro Kelly O’Mara into transition. Before running out of transition, I stopped into the porta potty for a quick second, which added some time. During the bike leg I moved up from 32nd place in my age group to 6th.
Run – 1:33:57 – HIM Run PR
As I got onto the run, I was feeling pretty fast, but feeling a little nauseous. This is common after overbiking, which I think I may have done a bit. That was okay, it was part of the plan. Now to suffer the run. Despite the nausea, I felt pretty good and kicked off low 7 minute miles. This was pretty normal for me on this course at this point in the race. The previous two years I would cramp up around mile 2 or 3, and then begin to fade slowly over the course of the race.
While the cramping began to rear it’s head, I stayed on top of it with water, salt, and proper breathing. I think the breathing definitely helped. While I certainly knew the stomach cramps were there, I didn’t succumb to them.
Also fortunately, I felt that my pacing was sustainable, a good sign that my speed and tempo work was paying off. Over the course of this training build, I pushed much harder paces on my interval and tempo runs, holding my tempo paces around 6:15. I was happy to see that this worked for my running strength. My low 7 min paces stayed consistent throughout the course of the run. I once again used Coke (Sorry… “COLA”) as my primary nutrition, taking it in every mile.
I was very surprised to see how often I was being passed. It wasn’t because I was feeling terrible, in fact I was having the best run I’ve had to date at a 70.3. It was simply that there were a LOT of fast dudes here. Looking at the final standings, I was astonished by how many people run a sub-1:30 half marathon. I’m just grateful that I’m headed in the right direction with the type of training that I’m putting in.
It was only at the last mile and a half that the abdominal cramping began to get to me. It stopped being “manageable” and started forcing me to double over a bit. With just a mile and a half left I didn’t want to be forced into walking. I slowed a bit, and let the pain subside, and then picked up the pace again. Fortunately, this did the trick.
In the finishing chute, I saw the same pro that I left entered T2. I thought I would hold back a bit so as not to do the rude thing and pass her in the chute. Unfortunately, I felt another guy starting to run me down. Not wanting to let that happen, I sprinted by and finished strong.
Final Time – 4:40:40 – PR for Oceanside course, 88th overall, 47th Amateur, 8th in 35-39 age group
Again, some really fast dudes at this race. I was really hoping for a podium this time around, but was very happy to have a course PR and a personal best swim and run with a nearly personal best bike. It makes me feel confident that my training is paying off. Although it does feel ominous as I prepare for Santa Rosa. I notice that many of the same people in my age group racing here will be racing there. It means that some really smart and high quality training will need to be put in between now and then.
For the rest of the day I had the joy and privilege of watching my wife finish the race. Though she gave me the stink eye the whole time for lying to her about the severity of the climbs on the bike course :-).
Next stop is Ironman 70.3 St. George. I’m not looking for anything special there, just some more race scenario practice. Until then.