Earlier today, I participated in my final triathlon of the season: an Olympic-distance race in Oceanside, CA organized by Lifetime Fitness. The event has an extremely similar setup to Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, which I raced in 2013, sharing much of the same swim and run courses. The race was composed of a 1.5km swim in the Oceanside Harbor, a 40km cycle along the 76 highway and through coastal roads, and a 10km run through the Oceanside pier/beachfront.
Unfortunately, I came into the event still recovering from a two-week-old head cold, and thus I thought my goal time of 2 hours and 20 minutes be unfeasible on the day. This ended up taking some pressure off, leaving me relatively relaxed going into the event.
The opening part of the swim was actually quite calm: I only made light contact with a few swimmers. I was able to find feet pretty quickly, and I followed them through the first two buoys. A couple minutes in, I ran into some congestion with swimmers from other waves. Because they were sending off waves every 2 minutes, it was not uncommon to run into groups of swimmers going either much faster or much slower than myself. After a few kicks in the face and getting swam over twice, I adjusted my goggles and found some clean water.
I ended up swimming on my own through the turn buoy at the end of the harbor. By that time, I had gotten back into my rhythm, and I made a conscious effort to start finding feet again. I was able to stick with a group of three through the second-half of the course, and before I knew it we were approaching the swim exit. I tired to do a bit of analysis on how I felt, but I felt disconnected from my body due to my recurring cold. My legs were telling me that my blood sugar was dipping into the realm of hypoglycemia, though I figured I’d wait till I got on the bike course to see how I felt. I came out of the water feeling quite dizzy, though I felt physically strong enough to make my legs start hammering.
Overall, the venue made for a great swim course! Because the swim was in a protected harbor, the water was quite still. This made sighting quite easy, especially in the slightly overcast weather. In addition, the 70-degree water temperature meant that I was relatively comfortable in my sleeveless wet-suit.
Swim time (mm:ss): 31:25
Right off the bat, I was able to find two guys riding at a comparable speed, and thus I made a conscious effort to stick with them. I was immediately riding at about 90% of my threshold power, which was my plan for the whole bike course. After we left the Harbor, we headed out for two loops on the 76 highway. Although the course was very flat with just a couple rollers, the winds were quite strong for this early in the morning. I just focused on keeping up with the other cyclists while staying within my target power goal.
By the time I finished the first loop, there were a LOT of other cyclists on the course. This made it difficult to ride aggressively because I constantly had to worry about passing other riders. Nonetheless, I was able to hold my target power as I finished the second loop. Next, we had to complete two loops along a coastal road in Oceanside. This segment had even thinner lanes, which again made it stressful to push hard while avoiding the mass of other competitors.
Although I spent a lot of the bike course coughing and feeling weaker than ideal, I was able to finish the 40km bike course with a normalized power output just below my target. This resulted in an average speed of around 22mph, which was a little slow for a course this flat, but understandable given how many U-turns and technical segments were on the route. I rolled into transition with sore legs, though they still felt decent enough to run at a fair pace.
Bike time (h:mm:ss): 1:06:59 (22.2mph)
I started running at a high effort immediately out of T2, reminding myself that 10km is too short to start the run conservatively. I was FLYING by a ton of other competitors, and was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find an athlete to pace off of. Within a few minutes, I caught up to a guy running just 5-10 seconds slower per mile than myself, so I stuck with him for a couple of minutes. He asked me what pace we were holding, and I told him that my best guess was 6:20-6:30/mile (I didn’t bring my GPS watch). Saying this out loud actually made me a little concerned that I was going too hard in the opening 5km, but I again reminded myself that I could handle 40 minutes of pain.
I eventually took off and ran on my own, again passing by a ton of other competitors. The realization hit me that all the faster runners were likely far up the road, as they probably put 5-10 minutes on me through the swim course alone. However, all the volunteers and the spectators from Oceanside motivated me to keep pushing and to sustain my difficult pace. I rolled through the first loop (5km) in just under 20 minutes, mentally preparing myself for the rest of the race.
The second loop ended up being uneventful. Although it was still overcast at this time, I used water at the aid stations to cool my body down and get a bit of fluids in. When I saw the 5-mile marker, I decided to speed up and use every last bit of energy I had. By the time I made the final U-turn, I had enough adrenaline to carry me down the finishing shoot and finish with a solid closing mile.
Run time (mm:ss): 39:16 (6:20/mile)
Overall time (h:mm:ss): 2:20:22 (with transitions)
Placement: 80/402 overall, 1st in Men 19 and Under
Overall, I was pretty happy with my performance! I came within 22 seconds of my goal time despite feeling pretty poor coming into the event. In particular, I ran quite a bit better than I expected, which makes me excited to do some stand-alone running events in the coming months.
This was a pretty fun way to wrap up my triathlon season! Lifetime and the city of Oceanside put on a very professional event, and despite a few complaints, I was very pleased with the organization of the race. I am eager to make a lot of fitness gains over the winter and come back stronger than ever in the Spring. I really enjoy the Olympic distance, and I am excited to see how fast I can go in this format when I race with the Cal Triathlon Team next semester!