This Saturday marks the beginning (in my mind) of the San Diego triathlon season with the California 70.3 race up in Oceanside. In contrast to what many locals say about the race (too cold, too early in the season, etc.), it is one of my FAVORITE races. You can’t beat swimming in a protected boat harbor, biking through pristine scenery on the marine base Camp Pendleton, and then running along the boardwalk by the Pacific Ocean. It is a race that I hold near and dear to my heart because it was my FIRST half-ironman (and 3rd triathlon ever) back in 2005. I have competed in it every year except 2010 and now this year, 2012.
The preparation for a half-ironman can seem rather daunting. My masters swim coach convinced me that I would have no trouble handling the distance. As a former competitive swimmer, the 1.2-mile swim would not be a problem. Post-college, I started running more regularly and had completed a couple marathons and half-marathons. The bike? Well, I knew that I had my work cut out for me.
I spent a lot of time talking to friends, coaches, and other local triathletes who had experience with the distance. What were your longer training sessions like? What did you eat on the bike? How much did you drink? How did you pace the bike and run? What did you wear? I relied on my coaches and more experienced friends to mentor me through the process. I tagged along with friends on their training rides and talked to ‘seasoned’ athletes about their special tips/strategies for racing a half.
This year I decided not to do the race for various reasons. However, I learned that one of my friends from masters had decided to take the leap from short-course racing to the half-ironman distance. I was super-excited for her! At that moment, I had trouble containing of my energy to verbally spew out all of my ‘wisdom’ for the race. I decided that I would act as her ‘mentor’ for the race. We did several training rides and runs together, and during each of those sessions, I would share various details about the race and the little ‘tips’ that I had acquired over the years.
Here are a few of the tidbits of wisdom that I have accumulated in preparation for California 70.3. I hope that these little ‘pearls’ can help you have a fantastic day on one of the most fun courses in the series!
1. Bring an old pair of shoes for transition. The course officials are pretty strict in kicking you out of transition for the race start and if you’re a late wave (like W30-34), you will be standing in your wetsuit for an hour. An old pair of shoes will keep your feet warm, especially because the ocean is pretty chilly in late March.
2. Similarly, bring some nutrition (water bottle, gels) for the wait in transition. You can discard it in the trash or near the front of the bike racks before your swim. Then you can stay hydrated pre-race.
3. The bike path through the base heading north (in the first 40K of the course) can get crowded. Just be mindful of passing other riders and aware of the drafting rules. You don’t want to get a penalty!
4. There are three significant climbs on the bike course that start just about halfway through the ride. The first one is visible on the approach. If you’re feeling weak on the hills, try to spin up them as much as possible (to save your legs).
5. Thank the Marines! It’s quite generous of them to let 2000 tri-geeks blast through their base. They are gracious in volunteering at the aid stations and expo. Be sure to thank them for their service.
6. This year the run has changed but it is still a two-lap course. As a newbie, I would try to negative split as much as possible. Get a feel for your legs and the course on the first lap and then you know where you can really push on the second lap. Make it a game to pass the person in front of you – it really helps mentally.
7. SMILE!! Lots of locals come out to watch and cheer. If you’re local, it’s so great to see so many friendly faces! Remember that you’re out there because you CHOOSE to be there so make the most of that experience. It’s a luxury to get to push our bodies to the limits.
I wish you all the BEST OF LUCK this weekend and I hope that you can enjoy and appreciate this race as much as I do.