The morning of Oceanside 70.3, not uncommon for a guy like me, I found myself in transition, deep in existential thought pondering the purpose of my race. I observed pro’s racking their gear, hoping for a $12,000 pay day as well as amateurs taking their bike out for perhaps it’s first ride of 2015, content on simply making it through, with the remaining athletes representing their place on a very broad spectrum. This would be my first time racing a 70.3 with no intension of finishing from the get-go, having not even packed running shoes in my transition bag. Since January I have been coming back from a calf strain and it was a mutual decision that completing the run would offer no value with very high risk for the potential of very little reward.
Pacing back and forth in transition, waiting in line for the porta-johns and bumping into athlete after athlete from Tower26, LA Tri, Cal Tri, QT2, Purplepatch, Cloud9, Fortius, Surf City Cyclery, etc I pondered why I compete in triathlons and what I came here to do, the answer arriving very clear and obvious. #1) to feed a competitive hunger. I have always needed a medium to improve and progress and nothing is as straight forward, measurable and ever encompassing as the sport of triathlon. Plus, being sidelined these last couple months has shown just how important it is for me to be able to race, against others and myself. And #2 camaraderie, the most significant component to this sport! I have never been to a race with so many familiar faces, the only possible exception being IM Lake Placid, and was very excited to have so many people cheering my name and tracking results. There are elements about this sport that are very individual but the bonds established through training and suffering together are stronger than I’ve experienced with my early athletic career in team sports. It creates a greater sense of value in and justification for a little more pain to get those couple watts or save a few seconds.
Oceanside Race Report
I received some valuable insight from both coaches about the Oceanside swim and following their advice worked very well to my advantage. We were not permitted to warm up in the harbor for this race however transition is basically on the beach and it was very easy to prepare in the warm ocean water while all other athletes were waiting in their corals. I approached this race differently than in the past. Where I’ve always been taught to go out hard and find feet or if not at least similar pace groups this time all I focused on was long, steady strong strokes. The result was a 0:30:41, a slight PR. Gerry told me Tuesday that it wasn’t a good time for me and I was encouraged by this. I am getting faster in the pool every day and am excited to leave 30 something swim splits in the past very soon.
Not being able to run I was ready and happy to crush the bike. The plan was to follow my old protocol for the first 26 miles, a target heart rate of 159bpm, then increase output for the 2 miles leading up to the first hill before forgetting data and just pushing hard. I noticed right away my HR was out the window so I ended up going by feel with a backup of 30 sec average power. This came in handy when I would pass Age Groupers and they’d rally to overtake me back. I’d notice the power getting over 300 watts and let them go before passing them for good a minute later. At mile 26 I followed my coaches advice, counterintuitive to what you’d think, upping power before a very steep hill but it seemed to do the trick, passing 4 or 5 riders on the climb. My wattage went up yet somehow my HR stayed the same. Then at mile 45 I made the decision to leave everything I had on the course. This is where my HR climbed to an unsustainable 170bpm, but power went down, likely form the descents and not a lack of effort.
Forgetting numbers for a second I was extremely happy just to race. Not once in my near 3 hours did I get passed by another athlete (as best as I could tell in the swim and for sure on the bike). It’s hard to describe the feeling of being shoulder to shoulder out on the race course with the confidence that you’re stronger and will outkick the competition. I know it’ll be a different story once I get out of the water a couple minutes quicker, but am happy to face that day once it comes.
In summary, it was a blast racing Oceanside, even if just the unofficial aqua bike, and though I technically was a DQ, not a DNF, for breaking 25mph on a particular downhill section. I fully expect to re-register for this one in 2016 to go back and have a second try, racing healthy with friends. My splits aren’t magic, but they’re increasingly closer to the standard I’d like to achieve. As I look ahead, Texas is officially off the schedule, which is a good thing. It will allow me the time to fully commit to Placid and adjust to the different training protocol. And new to the tail end of 2015 I am go for Ironman Tahoe, following 2 nightmarish years I am hoping the third time will be the charm for this race.
Good read, Welby. Nice work out there.