Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Santa Cruz 70.3

I was supposed to race two weeks ago at an Olympic distance race in Oakland.  Swim went well, but it was actually raining and if you've kept up with the weather in California, it hasn't rained in oh about 3 years.  So rain resulted in slick roads.  Long story short, I went down hard, cracked my helmet in multiple places and bruised my ankle and hip.  I came away from that, thinking MAN am I lucky- it could have been so much worse.  That made me think twice about racing Santa Cruz, given that it's always foggy there and could also have some slick roads.  I'm sure this would be good for practice, but thanks but no thanks, I don't want to take any chances this close to Kona.  In the end, mark said to just keep the rubber side down, keep it safe and that yes, I had to race. Off to Santa Cruz we went!

Awards from WTC on left and original from previous race years ago...I want my wahine girl please!
I've been trying to get a pulse on why I don't always love to race (outside of Hawaii and qualifying for Hawaii I sometimes am not so pumped to race)...is it that the more you race, the more you know how badly it will have to hurt to yield the desired performance?  When you first start racing, it's so exciting.  Racing is still exciting for me, but I know what it takes and sometimes I think that I get scared. Scared of the effort required, scared that I might not be able to do it and maybe even fearful of success.  While lying in bed trying to get to sleep, I kept reminding myself that I had to "take" my success.  I had to own it and want it.  Success doesn't just happen and as much as I wish there was there is NO "easy button" when it comes to success...in any part of life.  Which is probably why success brings so much joy.  It isn't easy to accomplish.

I've raced this event in the past, when it was known as the Big Kahuna- see my love for all things Hawaiian started long ago! I tried to go back through the results, but I raced it in 2008/2009 and then I think? 2012, but couldn't find the results anywhere.  If you've not visited coastal California, it can be FOGGY and a bit cold, not my typical weather jam. We got lucky for a no fog swim so we could see the buoys, but it was a sunscreen optional kind of day, with the sun barely peeking out for the run.  We opted to sleep at home the night before- it's always SO nice to be at home the day before a race, on your sofa, watching TV, relaxing and then getting to sleep in your own bed.  The 4:00 wake up call was the only downside to this!

Pre-race nutrition- Staple of 2 eggs with rice and aminos, one banana about 30 minutes before the start, cold brew coffee(what no latte?!!), and one bottle of pre-load 

Ready to go!
Kayla and I hopped in the car and got to transition by 5:20 for a 7:00 start.  The water looked like glass, but as soon as we started, we saw that the glass was only a surface appearance...what lie beneath was the Pacific doing it's thing on a Sunday morning.  The current was trying to push us back towards the start, so I shortened my stroke to a short, choppy stroke and tried to time my breathing with the waves so that I continued to move forward without gulping mass amounts of sea water...cause I didn't order a side of sea water with my breakfast and did not need that in my belly. The only reassuring thing about the swim was knowing that after the halfway point, we turned for home and it was literally smooth sailing as the same chop that we had just fought, was now assisting us on a fun and fast ride home.  I always try to stay with buddy Christine as she is a SUPER fish, for as long as possible.  Same as at Vineman this year, I was 30 seconds back of her exiting the water and came out in 3rd place.

Bike nutrition: half a recipe of salty balls and 3 bottles (almost?) of Osmo Active

I managed to come out of T1 just a hair in front of Christine and we quickly set out in pursuit of the gal who was leading out AG on the road.  The roads were wet as we headed out of Santa Cruz and wound our way to Highway 1.  I was cautious as the memory of hitting the deck is still way too fresh and was excited once we hit Highway 1 and it was straight and dry...for a bit.  There was one section that was a course change and it took us off of 1 and onto a small parallel side road that was some of the worst pavement I've ridden and culminated with a 1 mile climb, and subsequent descent.  Somewhere along this climb, Christine came by me and I dropped into 3rd. Man, did I lose some time on that descent.  It was still foggy and I was still nervous, so I rode it like a granny.  I figured nothing was worth a crash, even if it meant that I gave up a position or two.  On the return trip a gal come by me like I was standing still- she ended up going to win our AG and was 2nd overall amateur. Once back onto Highway 1, I told myself I needed to do some serious work to keep myself ahead of 4th place (good friend and faster runner, Sonja) and to be able to start the run in a good position.  I was worried with it being cooler that I had not taken in enough fluid, even though I had pre-load both the night before and the morning of the race.  Nothing was wrong nutritionally, but I am used to hot races and just plowing through hydration!  My bike ended up OK with a time of 2:38:42 and I was in 3rd heading into the run.

Getting ish done! Photo cred: @mariofraioli
Run nutrition: half bottle of pre-load/active combo, coke, water, 1 pack Muscle Milk chews, and 2 gels (sorry Stac!)

Onto the run I went, starting in 3rd, but could hear the announcer just ahead at the first mile mark, calling Christine's name. I knew Christine was in 2nd and I was able to move into 2nd place by the end of mile 2.  Now to run the next 11 miles with Sonja chasing me!  Going back to my thoughts on success, I had to make a decision.  Try to run hard and get the very best of myself, or be scared and let myself get caught.  I chose to work hard and try to maintain my lead.  I have really been working on increasing my cadence and leaning forward, trying to be a more efficient runner, so that in the later stages of Kona, I am able to maintain a good pace.  The good thing is, a quicker cadence doesn't hurt so much.  This method paid off in multiple ways on Sunday.  Most awesomely, I had a half marathon PR, by nearly 90 seconds, so bettering my previous half mary PR (from 2012) by 6 seconds per mile.  I was thrilled to get home and figure that our, especially since I hadn't felt like I was running 7:15's. i also felt like I could have sustained that effort for longer, so hoping the same tactic and techniques pays off a little under 4 weeks from now on an island in the Pacific :)

2 miles to go- RUN! Photo Cred: @jenbaer
The final stretch of the run- is on deep sand along the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  I am sure the families there for a beach day were like, what is happening here, and who are these crazy folk?! I tried to keep myself in the hard pack sand, but ended up getting hit by incoming waves, so not sure that was any better than running in the deep sand. The only thing that I would like to have nailed a bit better is nutrition- I think truly, I didn't drink enough during the bike and on the run, I was desperate for drinks and to keep fueling myself, something that rarely happens to me in races.

35-39 podium and FRIENDS!
I crossed the line still in 2nd place in the AG and as 3rd overall on the day!  Now it's a bit of recovery along with Interbike this week and then it's time to wind it down for Hawaii!
Post race Sunday dinner...the usual!