It’s been a few days, and although I haven’t had time to reflect it’s time for some words on Santa Cruz 70.3. I was pretty excited about this race when I first signed up because I knew it was a simple drive from Reno and who doesn’t want to go to Santa Cruz. Fast forward to my arrival…cold and gray as shit! I got situated and started to check out the course and how the transitions would be set up. I quickly deducted from my spy senses that the Ocean was too far away from the Transition…What the hell is this, I can’t run a half mile on asphalt with bare feet. Then I checked the water temp and did some scared swimming close to the shore. Whoa 59 degree ocean temp is damn cold, good thing I went with the sleeveless wetsuit! I have yet to get comfortable in sleeves and found the Synergy Sleevless Hybrid was perfect for me…just didn’t think about how cold the water was down in Sharks Cove.
I went to the pro meeting after some really hard opener training on Saturday morning and sure enough all the big names showed up…This would be the deepest field I lined up against to date: Michael Weiss, Jesse Thomas, Ben Hoffman, Cody Beals, etc etc. Not to mention the 10 or so rising stars that can all smoke me by 15 minutes on the run. After crushing 2 dishes of Thai food and some Penny’s Ice Cream, I bedded down for an early evening. Got a couple hours of Marc Pro time in bed and off to sleep for the 4AM wake up call.
If you want to be a Triathlete, you need to be able to function early, really early. I always write out a timeline starting with the start time and working backwards. I give myself ample time for each thing I need to get done, transition setup, warmups, breakfast, even multiple Porta Potty trips…
6:50 AM and I’m lined up on a beach and about to go swimming in an ocean that has a 58 degree temp, zero visibility and for sure some Great Whites watching from afar. No time to worry about that though. The national anthem played, and I took a little moment to consider the gravity of it all…It was the morning of September 11.
The cannon (I mean a damn big cannon) blast started us. I have yet to practice a beach start and was awkward as all hell getting into the water. Once I was actually swimming I noticed there was already someone a good 25 yards ahead…you gotta be kidding me. I was resigned to swim in the second group from go. The swim in triathlon has been a tricky thing for me. It is extremely disorienting and I can’t figure out if I should be going all out or saving myself. Either way, I am usually swimming off the side of the second group and it was no different this day. I don’t know who was leading the 2nd group but they seemed like they were taking a terrible line so I kept to my own sighting abilities and just kept a nice smooth stroke. I swam through some orange/red water and had a moment of sheer panic but figured at least the shark got what he needed and hopefully would take a break until his next feeding. I started making my way into shore and noticed I was just off the back, and to the side of the main second group. I hit sand and headed for transition. I’m not afraid to admit but I stashed some shoes near the exit of the swim. I tried running on asphalt the day before and woke up on race day with knee pain and figured the slight delay for putting on shoes and the uncool pro status was worth not hurting myself. I made it to transition and was a good 1+ minute behind the main group and almost 3 behind the leaders.
Once in transition things went smooth, and I was on the bike and ripping through West Cliff Dr before I knew it. I was pushing pedals pretty hard for the first 10+ minutes at over 370 and then settled in once I saw taillights of the lead pack moto. It took 30 minutes at 352 watts to make the catch. I told myself to just chill for a bit and take a gander of how things work in this whole “non draft legal sport” My power immediately started to fall, but this just meant I could possibly finish the run without imploding. Everything was mellow until we hit the featured climb of Swanton Rd when I believe Ben Hoffman threw down an attack. I was caught off guard thinking the hill would be steady but instead I did 433 watts for 5 minutes and was dropped. I knew I could make up ground quick on the descent (I actually wore gloves so I could hang on to my base bars while descending, those things are slick on my machine). I saw the tail end of the group at the bottom of the descent and had to waste a bit of energy once back on HWY 1 to catch back on. After I caught my breath, I was getting a little uneasy in the group and wanted to show the big names my cycling chops so I planned my exit strategy. We hit the turnaround and I started counting the competition. There were almost 20 guys close, and I knew every one of them could outrun me so now was the time to get a gap. I also saw the Austrian machine aka Michael Weiss coming!! I hit the front with speed and throttled down close to the 400 watt range for a bit before settling into 375ish. The lone leader, Chris Braden, was coming back in a hurry and right as I was approaching for the pass, Weiss came by me. Oh man, strap one on kids. I jumped hard knowing he was not wanting any company, over 500 watts for a minute and I was bleeding out my eyes to hang tough. After about 10 minutes of this ridiculous pace, I looked back and the field was gone. Not too surprising considering the amount of suffer it took just to keep pace. The pace never relented, and I just focused on fueling, staying aero and trying to be more aggressive about my 6 bike length distance, I’m not being the scared little newbie at 10 bike lengths anymore. I actually took the lead coming off HWY 1 and tried to show my appreciation to Weiss for setting that ridiculous pace. Onto the famous and amazing views of West Cliff Dr and the banked turns as we started to get some crowd participation involved. Weiss passed me in the final mile to cement his fastest bike split and first off the bike status. I actually almost beat him out of Transition!!
Bike Stats: 30 minutes at 350 to catch the group, 40 minutes at 290 with the group, including a long descent, 52 minutes at 352 watts with a max of 372 for 20 minutes on the way home. Normalized power of 348, avg speed 26.8, 3000’ of climbing and 56.3 Miles!!
I had no ambitions of running with Weiss and knew the lead pack was close when I heard the announcer say almost 3 minutes back. I took a peak at my watch and was quickly under 7 minute pace. I was hoping I had enough leg left for a sub 1:30 which would be a big PR. About a mile and a half in my watch said 6:49 and I felt smooth. This was a good pace for me and I backed off knowing I wanted to finish at the same pace. Just then I heard the approach of the 5 big names in the lead pack battling for 2nd. They went by me like a pack of wild hyenas…someday, maybe!! After this Paul Ambrose and Drew Scott came by and then Braden and I was in 10th. I knew others would be coming but that was out of my mind as I just focused on my own pace. I kept the nutrition on board with a couple of gels and took limited water at the aid stations, instead of bathing in Gatorade, red bull and coke like I have in previous races. Gel and water, that’s it. The Santa Cruz run course was awesome. The dirt loop on Wiler Ranch State Park was the highlight for sure as athletes enjoyed cool sea breeze air and views of the Pacific. I hit the climb around mile 8 and stayed within myself, not wanting to go into the red this far away from home. Stephen Kilshaw and my buddy from the cycling world Kennett Peterson came by around mile 9. Kennett gave me the signal to stay with him…ha, thanks Kennett but you just ran a 1:16! I kept pace the whole way home and fought off the fatigue around mile 11 and 12 to finish just under 4:06 with a run time of 1:28 and pace of 6:46. Another PR on a much harder course. I think almost 2 miles longer too!! I made sure to shake as many hands of the big pros that were still hanging around and grabbed some pizza post-race with Kennett and Sam Long.
One more race coming up in Miami and my season will be done!! After that I can go back to the drawing board and put together a plan of how to get that run down and the little details improved.