A fast, spectator-friendly course
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to race at the Tri Santa Cruz Olympic distance triathlon organized by Finish Line Productions. It also happened to be the Para-triathlon international championship, a memorable experience I will talk more about shortly. I was looking for a local race in the area as preparation for the 70.3 Santa Cruz Ironman happening September 11. This year I have been focusing on increasing some speed, and the Olympic distance is a great way to do this. My first impressions about the venue were great! I love the local triathlon atmosphere, mixed with the competitiveness of an Olympic triathlon.
Pre-race prep: Since the race was only a few minutes away from where I live there was no need to stay at a hotel. This is a big plus. You get to sleep in your own bed, and have your usual pre-workout breakfast. After waking up at 5:00 am, I ate my usual breakfast; almond butter with toast and coffee. Soon after, I changed to my tri-suit and put my wetsuit on. I knew the race was not going to start in a few hours, but I rather wear all my gear, and carry as few things as possible. Having set up everything the day before, there was nothing much left to do but drive to the venue.
Transition setup: I like to keep things very simple. Because triathlon logistics can be overwhelming at times, I believe that less is more. The bike portion is short on the Olympic distance and, therefore, I only had a water bottle with Hammer Fizz for added electrolytes. With my bicycle shoes clipped on for a faster transition and running shoes on the floor, I was ready to go.
Swim and T1: The swim portion was pretty straight forward. Two 750 meter loops next to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Water was surprisingly warm, and even though there was some fog, visibility was good. I liked the fact that waves were separated by swimming time and not by age as this creates less traffic while swimming. Because of the two loop design however, it was inevitable to bump into other waves. No big deal though, the ocean is pretty big! Soon after the swim came an 800 meter run before getting on the bike. The advantage of having your shoes on your bicycle are that all you need to do is take your wetsuit off, put your helmet on and you are off!
Bike and T2: The bike portion was flat, but a bit technical as you had to maneuver around other cyclists and make a total of eight U turns. However, the course was 100% car free, and spectator friendly. My objective was to keep a consistent pace throughout the bike leg in order to have fresh legs for the run. I was able to keep an average of 250W, however, due to the multiple turns, I was not able to go under the one hour mark. Still, I was very happy with the result. I am always faster at T2. I got off my bicycle, ran to my spot and started running.
Run and finish: Once again, the run was pretty straight forward. The course was flat and spectator friendly. Moreover, aid stations where clearly set up and volunteers always helpful. My objective was to keep a constant pace and not burn out during the second half of the run. As I was running I got passed by two other athletes. The first one just flew by! I had no chance (I later found out he was a Pro triathlete). The second athlete however was close enough for me to be able to pace him during the first half of the run. During the first 5K, I kept my distance and did not let my head get to me. After the U turn, however, I decided to push to the finish line. The increase was gradual, but enough to recover my position and finish strong. At the end, I was able to take second place overall with a time of 2:03.
I really enjoyed this race, moreover, I was truly inspired by all the para-triathletes. Seeing this amount of determination shows just how much will power we have as humans. One of the most inspiring moments during the race was at an uphill, an athlete on a wheelchair struggling to go up. She was giving it her all, and never gave up. I wanted to help at first, but I immediately realized that all the cheering around us was giving this incredible athlete all the strength she needed.
I'm looking forward to the coming races, and I hope that any of you will join in some of my crazy adventures!