Ironman Oceanside 70.3 was a bucket list race I’ve wanted to do since I first did my first 70.3 distance in 2013. Last year, I won a drawing for a guaranteed early entry to this year’s race from the Salt Lake Tri Club – thank you Rory!
Everyone had told me what an amazing beautiful race this was. Despite being at still sea level, this race is more challenging than you might think. Getting lost in the beauty helps get you through it.
Mark, Shane and I went to go pick up our packets. Ironman is so organized when it comes to registration, seriously it’s super impressive. You sign your life away like 3 times, but I understand, they aren’t liable. And of course I had to take Shane shopping at the Ironman tent and buy myself some swag! I was thrilled to get a Ironman Oceanside tank instead of a t-shirt this year. We wandered around the expo talking to vendors and geeking out on gear. Shane took my bags back to the room and Mark and I sat at the athlete briefing. Athlete briefings are helpful. I learned many things that helped me on race day. A few of those things were: You have to wear your bib number on your bike. This isn’t typical. The reason for this was because most of bike was on Camp Pendleton military base. If you come out of T1 without your bib, they’ll make you go back and get it or make you a new one. Shane said there were several people that messed this one up on race day. Also, transition was in one location. This meant everything was in one area. Which is nice that you don’t need bags for the different areas. This also meant you had to walk forever to get to the transition race morning. They would not allow anyone to drop you off and there was no parking. So we spent time driving and scouting what we thought we could do race morning. There were two no pass zones: a bike path and a downhill where not only did they not allow you to pass, you couldn’t go 25 miles an hour or you were disqualified. You only learn these things if you know how to read because it was in the athlete guide or you listen to the briefing. It’s kind of amazing how many people don’t pay attention. Guess they are too cool for information. Sure they were thinking they should of listened when they got disqualified or had to go back and get their bib not the bike.
I had the opportunity to meet Swim, Bike, Mom – Meredith. And by opportunity, I mean I interrupted her talking to some people (Sorry about that) and acted like a crazy fan. She was super gracious and sweet. I really enjoy her blog and her articles in Triathlete magazine. It was fun to meet her in person and of course, have a picture taken together.
Sitting at the briefing I got a little sunburned. Yikes! It wasn’t too bad race morning. I found my friend Julie and we took a pre-race picture with Mark. Julie had some great tips for the race, as she had done it the year before. Let’s just say… her tips saved my VA-JAY-JAY on race day.
We took the family to Ruby’s on the pier for burgers and shakes as a pre-race meal and fed the birds.
That night, Mark and I set goals with my husband for each discipline and what we were hoping for our over all time. Here’s what my hubby wrote in his phone for me. Regardless of how everything broke out, I was hoping to finish before 2:30 pm. Here’s the notes my hubby was taking as I talked about my goals. I hit everything but the swim goal!
I woke up at 4:15 am race morning. Since we had while to walk to get to the swim start and transition, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get there. Our hotel was in the middle between the finish line and the swim start. This was a great location because my family could get between both places within walking distance. This was the first time Shane would see me on an Ironman swim.
We were able to get a good parking spot in a lot by Joe’s Crab Shack by the harbor and walk in. I found my spot and got my race stuff set up. There were two bike spots to the left of me that didn’t show. This is was nice because me and another girl had a little more room on the rack. After set up, every athlete hopes for the morning poo. Don’t laugh – it’s critical to get that OUT before you race. There was no line so I got right in to do my important pre-race business.
It was a cold morning. As soon as I got out of my sweats, I put my wetsuit on to stay warm. A local woman told Shane it was colder than normal, not a typical Oceanside morning. The chilliness of the air made me wonder about the water.
Shane and I stood in line for the porta potty one more time before I lined up to go swim. Again – one last thing NOT to worry about while racing. I kissed him goodbye and set off to find my age group.
The swim shoot was really long going to and leaving the water. One of the longest I’ve seen. They had us line up with our wave leaders to walk through the shoot. While we stood there waiting, the pros came out of the water and ran right by us. It was fun to see Andy Potts and others come right by. I was shivering while we waited. Finally, it was our turn. When I put my feet in the water while we waited to swim to out the start, I thought YAY the water isn’t that cold. I swam the 300m or to get to the swim start and I was just fine. The salt water made me feel more buoyant and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.
I got up to the start line and we treaded water for a little bit while we waited for the gun to go off. Just as the gun went off and everyone started…. I lost my shiz. I had a panic attack. I had a full on freak the freak out! I wanted to rip my wetsuit off. It felt like my wetsuit was crushing my chest. I was doggy paddling with panic. It was awful! I collected myself enough to flip over on my back. I floated for a few minutes and had to talk myself off the ledge. I battled in my head for moving forward vs. quitting. The battle went something like this:
“Come on, you’ve swam open water before. This salt is lifting you up and you have a wetsuit.”
“I can’t do this, I am going to drown. I can’t breathe.”
“Find your rhythm, move forward, you can do this.”
“Where’s a paddle board and I am done.”
“You’ve come all this way. Don’t give up know. You’ll hate yourself if you quit.”
“I can’t breathe, I am going to pass out, get this wetsuit off. Oh no I am going to drown.”
“Turn over, stop being a pussy and swim this thing.”
I finally calmed down and moved forward. I did also get a little off-course as the waves came. As we swam out of the harbor, the waves continued to kick up and that made me a little sick. Coming back in, the sun was in my eyes. I didn’t wear my Garmin watch in the water because in 2013 I had it kicked of my wrist and didn’t want to lose another $500 watch and not have it for the rest of the race. Between the panic attack and going off-course, I was 10+ minutes slower than my usual swim time. I knew I was slower out of the water, looking at the clock as I exited I thought I was at 52 min ended up 55 minutes. I honestly didn’t care, I was just grateful to be out of that water and on to my bike.
As I mentioned before, the swim shoot was long, so I ran down the shoot and took of my wetsuit. I had to sit down and get my feet doctored up for the bike. I had recovering blisters from the race the week before. I was looking for my hubby coming out of the bike and didn’t see him. I figured I couldn’t hear him yelling. Come to find out, he missed me. He was right out side of the transition but missed me coming out too. Big bummer for both of us.
The bike is my favorite of the three. I was so glad the freaking swim was over, happiness washed over me as I started to pedal. I settled in the bike and focused on my heart rate and cadence. I felt strong and powerful. I was passing women in my age group so I knew I had made up some time from the bad swim. At mile about 16, I hit a bump and my water bottle on my aero bars flew off. There goes my electrolytes and water, and thirty dollars. Crap and oh well. I had another water bottle on my bike and I knew at the aid station I could grab a water bottle and put on my cage. I fueled every 30 minutes and it was PERFECT! My nutrition plan on the bike was perfect. Salted Carmel Gu’s and Honey Stingers were perfect for me.
The bike course was challenging. False flats and some pretty challenging hills. As I mentioned before, there is a portion that is downhill where it’s a no pass zone and you can’t go over 25 miles an hour or you get disqualified. Some guy, on this part, passed me and two other people and got pulled over by the marshal at the bottom of the hill. He was a jerk. The guy in front of me yelled “Hey, no pass zone” the guy yelled back “stop going to slow,” then he got in trouble. Serves ya right buddy. Follow the rules.
I made a new friend climbing one the hills – Lynsey. She’s in the Tri club, but we’ve never met. I was so glad to chat with her up that hill, it kept my mind off the suck fest. And she’s a rockstar!
The base was really pretty. I couldn’t believe how green everything was. I am very grateful to the service members who were out there supporting the race and protecting the base. At one point, there was a sign that said – Artillery fire use caution and sure enough, I heard machine guns. About mile 32, I had some type of little bird or giant bug hit my forehead and die in my sunglasses. I had to shake it out of my glasses…. guts on the glasses. Yuck!
I couldn’t believe the headwinds after the last hill back to the harbor. It’s flat but the winds kicked my trash.
I was happy to know we were almost back to the harbor. I had set a goal to do my bike in 3:15 and I was so close. I ended up doing it in 3:16, but they made me slow down coming into T2. ?
We had to bike through the long swim shoot to get to transition. That was awkward, but it worked. At least they let us ride it slow instead of walk it. I sat down in T2 to fix my moleskin on my feet to ensure last week’s missing skin didn’t cause me a nightmare on the run.
Holy crap, I felt great coming out of T2. All of those bricks paid off. I settled in a pace and shocked myself. I saw my friends Andrea and Wally on the run, it was awesome to give them hugs that first mile. Then I saw my family. I got choked up seeing them. It was so amazing to see them and gave me a boost to finish as strong as I could. The run was flat until it wasn’t. Haha! There were some rolling hills on the far south side and the pier was steep. I settled into a pace and about mile 4.5 I saw Mark. I walked a little with him then took off again. It was so much fun to see SO many friends on the course. Loves of high fives, hugs and cheers for my fellow club members and friends. I got to see my family 3 times along the run. Great motivation every time I saw them.
I started to lose steam near the end. I walked more and ran when I could just to keep me moving forward. The blisters where setting in around the moleskin. I wish moleskin made a sock… my poor feet could use it. I asked a another runner what time it was and knew I was so close to my finish goal time and that helped me push through that last two miles. I finished at 2:27 pm with a final finish time of 7:04. I still PR’d of 15 minutes over my previous 70.3 times. Victory indeed!
It would have been awesome to finally go under 7 hours, but considering where I was on the swim, I was grateful I finished with the time I did because there were minutes where I thought I was going to drown or be done with the race.
Post Race Thoughts
This was challenging race, no doubt. Even more mentally challenging than I would of expected. I thought about Matt Fitzergerald’s talk the week before about mental toughness while I was on the bike. I was happy I rallied during and after the swim and battled back on the bike. The more I race the more I understand that every race brings its own challenges, regardless of the distance. Things happen that you can’t control. As age group athletes, we will always have goals we want to hit. Some races we’ll crush them and others we are just lucky to cross that finish line. Ultimately, I need to continuously remind myself the goal is to finish and finish knowing you left it all out there. I’ll always want a better time, better split, faster swim, bike and run BUT I need to remember that finishing is the goal and live to race another day. Next up – Ironman St. George 70.3 on May 7. 5 weeks and counting.
I also got an awesome farmer tan and tattoo tan/burn. I’ll remember my numbers for a few weeks. Gotta dig the TriTats
Tips for Future Ironman Oceanside 70.3 Participants
Plan to walk race morning and walk after the race to get to transition. The morning of the race you can’t drop off athletes and parking is limited. There is a shuttle, but the shuttle still requires you to walk about a mile or so in. Same applies after the race, you can’t take the shuttle back to transition, but it drops you off about a mile out. It’s a long walk back to get your stuff when you are tired. The swim shoot coming in and bike in is long into transition. It’s longer than I’ve seen before, but maybe that’s typical, either way. Just a heads up.