This was my first year racing Oceanside 70.3 and I was very excited as I have gotten in some really great training the past several months. I was sick most of the week leading up to the race but I stayed on top of my nutrition, rest, mobility work and vigorous coughing to get everything flushed out of my system by race morning. Although it is a long drive from Santa Cruz to Oceanside I really enjoy the driving and with the recent rain the views were spectacular.
Race morning I was feeling good and my setup and warmup went right on schedule. The swim is in the Oceanside harbor and although most of the SoCal natives were saying that the water temp was a little low, 56 degrees is actually what it always is in Santa Cruz so that was perfect for me. We were not allowed into the water until right before the swim start but it was a bit of a swim to get to the start buoy so we had time to shake things out. I think the presence of Andy Potts in the field made the guys anxious because everyone hit the gas really hard at the gun so I just picked an inside line and waited for it to settle into a good rhythm. There was a strong group of five or six chasing Andy and another guy that were way ahead and I got in behind them and they kept a good pace up. At the turn around Matt Lieto made the move I was originally going to by cutting off the apex of the curve on the way back and I followed him. I felt much more fresh than in past races at the end of the swim and was glad that I have stepped up the swimming yardage this year.
T1 is a long down and back run and I was glad to see that I was in good company with Matt Reid, Matt Lieto and Jesse Thomas trotting along side me. The transition was smooth and I was rolling out with some strong guys which I hoped would help me push myself on the bike. I ended up with a few mechanical issues surrounding my hydration and nutrition and by mile 5 I had lost sight of the lead group of guys. About ten miles in it started raining and I was cold and not paying very good attention and dropped the flask that was holding all of my nutrition for the day. Fortunately this was on an out and back section of the course so when I can back down the road I pulled over and picked it up because I figured 45 seconds was nothing compared to what I would loose if I bonked. Another group of guys passed me when I stopped though and it would have been a good group to be in contact with because some of them put up some fast bike times. The next 20 miles were cold/wet and being alone it was hard to gauge my effort/speed so I am sure I was not going as fast as I am capable of. After the big hills on the back of the course around the 40 mile marker I realized that I had a lot of energy left so I put my head down and absolutely drilled it the rest of the way.
T2 was a little rough because my hands were really cold. I didn't even realize it until I tried to grab the tung of my shoe and my fingers could not grip hard enough to hold my shoe up. I heard later that everyone else was having similar problems but when you are standing over your shoes and just kind of pawing at them for a full minute, it is a little embarrassing. At some point I turned around and looked at my parents who were near by and said 'I can't get my shoes on...I cant feel my hands...' eventually I just jammed my feet into them and did my best to pull the tung into position.
I felt great coming out of T2, probably because of the 3 oz of caffeinated GU I had consumed 15 minutes earlier and I flew through the first three miles almost 20 seconds per mile under the pace I had originally planned on. The logical mind does not work as well when you are smoking your body in an Ironman event and a part of me just thought I had really made that much progress on my run in the offseason. By mile four my lungs reminded me that this was not the case and the middle 6 miles of the run were done in survival mode. It is worthwhile to note that I should have gone with a thicker pair of insoles as the entire run was on concrete and was very hard on my feet. I kept up the hydration and nutrition plan though and with 3 miles to go I was able to pick it up some and push to the finish which was right along the beautiful Oceanside Strand.
When I first looked at the clock I was not all that satisfied with my time but I kept my girlfriends advice in mind and tried to focus on the positive aspects of the day. I ran a half-marathon PR, my energy was way more consistent throughout the race and I was no where near as wiped out at the finish as I have been at events of this distance in the past. There are a lot of things I learned and a lot of good indications of progress to take from the race and I am really happy to be off on the right foot for 2012. The company that shot race day photos actually caught some good ones which is unusual...check them out here, my bib number is 17.
My parents traveled down for the race and we have some family in the area so afterwards we all enjoyed an incredible dinner at World Famous right on the water and watched the sun set with some of my college friends that live nearby.