Sunday, March 29, 2009

SUCCESS: UCSB Triathlon Race Report (UPDATED)

So here I am, 30 years of age today.  And here I am, a triathlete!

Yesterday my mom, wife and I made the drive up to my hometown of Santa Barbara.  After feeding at my local favorite "The Natural Cafe" we headed back to my mom's house (and my childhood house!) to wind down and celebrate "Earth Hour."  I must admit I used the laptop on battery power during this time!  I took a shower and shaved them legs!  (This time with a razor instead of the electric.)  Might as well have the full experience of triathlon.  :)  I was off to bed by 10pm and ready to close off the decade that was my 20s.

5:45 AM.  I awoke with delight.  Had a little coffee, ate some flaxseed almond bars from TJs and got ready to go.  Short drive to UCSB, I maxed out the tire pressure, hopped on the bike and rode to the transition area.  We were there by about 6:30.  The transition area was nearly full!  Luckily I found an open spot and set up.  A quick trip to the bathroom and very light jog later and it was already time to get into my wetsuit.

The prologue.  We hiked down to campus point, where the race would begin.  The rocky path killed my feet!  But upon arriving to the sand I had one of those moments.  Bliss.  I feel well trained and totally ready to go.  But I'm also HELLA nervous!  I decided to get into the water to try and acclimate.  After dunking and swimming just a bit I realized I was getting the dreaded "ice cream headache," despite my neoprene cap (and swim cap over it!)  My mom, Julia (and Henry) reassured me that all would be well.  I hoped they'd be right, as swimming with your head out of water for 1.5k is NOT fun.  The college folks headed out at 8:00 - we'd have a half hour to wait until 8:30.

The swim.  Time flew by and before you knew it we were off!  I decided I'd try and swim somewhat aggressively.  I've had some friends suggest I lay back on the swim to avoid getting kicked in the face, etc.  But I wanted the full experience!  I didn't want to go all out, but I'm a fairly strong swimmer and knew I could at least be mid-pack.  Getting into the water is a bit of an art - and I was, ahem, not too graceful!  As I was starting out a huge wave crested and blew back a dozen off us - pretty epic!  The ocean was not at all calm.  Not quite the roughest I've swam in, but very, very close.  The addition of all of the people around you makes for quite the experience.  It was very hard to find a lane and very difficult to get into any sort of groove.  And very EASY to get off course - as I did half a dozen times.  There were four buoys to go around and on each approach we would all uncomfortably bunch up like crazy.  I felt arms, etc on my feet several times, almost ripped a guys goggles off with my hand (sorry!) and even got a few feet to my hands a couple times.  Talk about the full experience.  The course took us quite far out and through several kelp beds!  I got wrapped up a ton, which was no big deal but funny.  It was a little tough spotting the buoys with the swells - often times they were hidden by the breaks.  I probably ended up swimming closer to 2k with all of the drifting and swimming off track!  I finally approached the beach and swam nearly all the way in. 

T1.  I hopped onto the beach and quickly realized I had absolutely no feeling in my feet.  It was as if I had local anesthetic!  Eerily, it reminded me of how they felt on top of the mountain when my cousin and I got stranded.  I ran up the beach, up the 3 flights of stairs to the transition area.  It was bizarre - the path was rocky and I knew I should be experiencing pain in my feet, but I felt nothing.  I got to my bike, put my socks and shoes on (still feeling nothing) grabbed my helmet and glasses and before I knew it I was off on the bike.  Clipping in was a huge challenge as I couldn't feel my feet!

The bike.  I was really trying to push it on the bike portion.  It's where I've put most of my training since it's so new to me - it's also the longest portion timewise (hopefully!) so it makes sense to go for it.  The course took us along the bike path in my favorite town - it's just gorgeous.  I tried to go into "aero position" as much as possible but am still not completely comfortable on them during turns, etc.  I was trying to push my tempo the whole way - I ended up passing a lot more than being passed - that felt a little bizarre since I'm not so used to that - especially on the bike!  I got to Cathedral Oaks road, a road I'm pretty familiar with and put it into a high gear.  I must have been cruising around 21 mph or so for a few miles straight - but I had no idea what was in store for me next.  We took a right up Fairview Ave and there was a nicely sized hill in front of me.  No biggy.  Let's just chug away!  Probably 8-9mph, maybe 10 - and still passing people!  After about 5 minutes of climbing (seemed longer!) we hit a nice downhill, in which I hauled ass.  Then we took a sharp left and would go up 

"Holiday Hill," a very steep - but fairly short - hill.  I approached with optimism, but not more than 20 seconds in my chain derailed while shifting to the lower gear.  I tried to force it back in by shifting up (sometimes works) but I was about to fall!  I clipped out, yelled "sh*t" and put it on the gear with my hand.  Now the hard part - clipping back in on a very steep grade!  It took me a good 30 seconds to get back in, meanwhile all the riders that I had passed were now passing me!  Dow!  I was angry and killed that hill, hopping out of my seat and absolutely attacking!  I crested and proceed to fly down the downhill.  I was happy with my turns, going way wide then cutting in.  Next we'd nearly pass by my mom's house, descend into a little valley, and climb out.  I was starting to feel it (especially in my back!)  But I knew I only had 5-6 miles to go.  I kept my bike computer on speed and time, as to motivate me to try to get back to transition sub 1:20.  I charged as fast as I could those last miles, by my favorite place (Ellwood) and through UCSB.  The wind really picked up towards the end - and for the last 2-3 miles it was definitely working against me.  What to do though?  I still wanted to try and make my split goal!  I had seen Julia and my mom out of the water and was hoping to get a little cheering at T2, but I couldn't find them amongst the crowd as I approached.  The time on my bike computer upon getting back into T2 and racking my bike?  1:20:XX.  Wow - that's accurate training, eh?

T2. Racked the bike.  Sat on the ground to take off my bike shoes, slipped on my Asics - and oh yeah, remembered to take off my helmet and replace it with my hat!  Took a last swig of Cytomax and I was off.

The run.  Legs are always ridiculously wobbly at the start of a run after bike.  No new news there.  I was shocked my Garmin had me running at 7:5x pace though!  That seemed a little quicker than I felt.  About a half mile in we hit a steep dirt path - maybe 50 feet long, but there was no way anybody could run it - it was literally a quick hike and had an angle of at least 50 degrees.  Then was a nice flat section of trail before we hit the second aide station where I inhaled more water and looked ahead to see a few flights of steps!  Ugh.  I made it up...and still felt marginally ok.  About a half mile later I completely and utterly bonked.  I had pretty much nothing left to give this race.  What to do?  Walk?  Go slower?  Forgo my time goal and just try to enjoy the course (slowly?)  I just walked a few steps, inhaled my new favorite nutrition (Honeystinger Gel) and started to run again.  I was at a pretty slow 10 minute pace for a bit.  I was nearly to the end of the first loop.  As I ran (or "jogged") by the finish area, lamenting that I wasn't there already, I saw the read out on the clock - 2:50ish.  But that clock was 30 minutes ahead of me, since the age groupers took off at 8:30, not 8:00 as the collegiates did!  I had this in the bag as long as I didn't collapse!  5k in in 40ish minutes?  I wasn't THAT gone!  Just goes to show you the mind/body correlation.  I was definitely still hurting, so I didn't push it too hard too early, but I knew I could pretty "easily" work my way to the finish line time goal in hand.  It was just a matter of how hard to push.  The loop seemed to drag on, I remember at one time hearing the clock tower ring on the hour and I knew it was just 11am - I had plenty of time to make it across the line.  A mile to go I passed an aide station dying of thirst.  It was getting hot out there!  I had zipped down my stylish tri top!  There was no water (and no volunteer!) to be had!   Oh well.  I cruised on, ignoring the hot, lightheaded feeling knowing that I'd soon be at the end of the race.  About a quarter mile out there's a pretty decent hill.  I gave it all I had.  There was my smiley mom snapping pictures!  She ran with me a bit before I "dropped" her.  I was hoping she'd keep up!  I rounded the corner and saw the line.  Smiles all the way - even more when I saw my babe for a wife Julia standing there her camera.  I crossed the finish line screaming bloody joy, I collapsed (gracefully and willingly) onto the grass and enjoyed the fact that I was 30 years old.  I had finished my first (and not last!) triathlon. 


The Splits.

Swim: 32:15 (includes the run out of the water, jaunt up the stairs and run into transition)

T1: 2:36

Bike: 1:20:07

T2: 1:25

Run: 55:05 (5k split, 27:21)

Total: 2:51:25

The feeling.  I braved the waves, the cold, the hills, the wind, the heat.  Multisport is truly unique and I've learned so much the last few months.  I pretty stoked how it all came out.  I nailed my splits just as planned - despite bonking.  My final time: 2:51:28.  I'm 30 today with shaved legs, a smiley face and the satisfaction of making it through my very first tri.  Now it's time to eat and drink like there's no tomorrow!  Thanks for reading.  :)



  1. Great job! :) I think these are so hardcore so I admire your tenacity and strength to start and finish one! :)

  2. WTG dude - you trained, you were ready, and you rocked it. While it wasn't a perfect race, I'm sure you took a lot away AND, you smashed your 'A' goal. That's definitely something. Congrats again man - heck of a race.

    Welcome to the 30's. It's all downhill from here!

  3. Thanks guys! I think I might be on the tri bandwagon...but I think it's mostly running the next few months with Big Sur, SB and LA!

  4. Way to go! Just ignore Billy...take it from someone in their 40s!

    What's next then...ultra running?

  5. Congrats! Welcome to the club!

  6. Good going! That was my first triathlon (of any distance) as well. And, like you, it won't be the last!!!!

    Quick question- Where are you getting your times from? I'm not seeing the results posted online yet, and I think it's odd that they're taking this much time...

  7. Hey Scott -

    @ Scott - I had the bike split on the bike computer and the run on my garmin...but then they finally posted the results!

    They don't even have age group ratings, etc though...

    @ TRI-James - Thanks! Yes, I believe I'm hooked...

    Oh...and @ ultras planned for me yet! A few marathons though! :)



About Me

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Film composer moonlighting as a runner, cyclist and triathlete