Monday, September 17, 2007

Big Kahuna Race Report

On September 9, I completed my last triathlon of the season, the Big Kahuna Triathlon in Santa Cruz, CA. I had been feeling somewhat tired and unmotivated training for the race, and felt less prepared than usual. Going into the race, I wasn't sure if I would try to run, since my running has been particularly difficult to recover since Ironman. I figured I could muddle my way through the swim, and felt more confident about the bike leg. But the run. Hmm. I told myself that I would do the swim and bike, and stop after that if I wanted to. I tried to believe that I would be okay with that.

Race morning came. I ate my oatmeal early (no milk) and headed to the race start. I was calm, more so than for most other races. In fact, this was the first race in recent memory where my pre-race BG's were less than 100 mg/dL. I was actually alarmed to see a reading of about 95 on my meter before heading down to the swim. Still, since my training volume was considerably less than during Ironman training, I wasn't as afraid of having a low BG during the race, or at least during the swim. I ate one gel and went into the water around 160.

Swimming out around the Santa Cruz Pier, I heard the sea lions barking. The water was mostly calm, with a slight current to the west (this part of the beach runs east-west). I had the usual experience of being smothered by each wave of swimmers, which unfortunately seemed to happen right as I was rounding each buoy. I was surprised at how good I felt, though. I tried to pick up the pace now and then but was mostly enjoying the opportunity to swim out in the ocean with a safety crew on hand.

There was just a little surf to push me in the final distance, and I was happy to exit the water. I found my strategically placed shoes for the quarter-mile run back to T1, and made my way. I saw others barefoot and in flip-flops and was happy to cruise along in my old Saucony's. The weather was pleasant with overcast skies and the wind light as I started out on the bike.

Most of the 56-miles bike course ran along Route 1, with majestic views of the Pacific Ocean. The first time I rode this route, the headwinds riding north were incredible. Riding north for 50 miles took me at least 90 minutes longer than the swift 50-mile ride back south. Today, however, the winds were fairly calm and I saw my average speed was almost 19 MPH. There were a lot of us bunched together and it took some effort to avoid drafting. I noticed many who didn't bother to not draft and others who were outright drafting. The race officials seemed pretty casual about this; actually I should say that the race officials seemed mostly absent. I guess they were probably up front with the race contenders. After the turn-around, I rode 10-20 miles with another guy, swapping places every few minutes. I would generally pass him on the downhills and he would gradually catch up on the uphills of this rolling course. I found him after and thanked him for the fun ride.

As I got back to Santa Cruz, I realized that I could finish my bike split in under 3 hours if I really booked it. Throwing caution (i.e., heart rate zones) to the wind, I pushed to finish those last few flat miles and crossed the mat in 2:58. Unfortunately the official results combined my bike with my T2 for a time of 3:04. But I know I did it so ha!

I threw on my run gear, hit the portapotty and was off. After the first small hill I saw my cheering friends and one of them said, "I guess you are doing the run!" I guess I was. I decided to just take it as easy as I wanted and to not worry about my time. I felt better than I expected on the swim and bike, and thought I could probably make it through the run.

The run course also goes along the coast, and has a couple of miles on a dirt trail at the turnaround. The sun came out and warmed us up a bit, but it was still pleasant. My BG's were decent and I ate a few gels along the way. Coming back to the finish line, I kept a pretty steady pace and was not horrified by my time of 2:14. My finishing time for the race was 6:19, a bit slow on a day when people were getting PR's all over the place, but a good enough time for me given my expectations.

The best part of the race for me was the realization that the Ironman training did have some lasting benefits that I hadn't been able to see in the weeks leading up to the Big Kahuna race. I was pleased that I could "take it easy" and finish in the time I did. I didn't take it easy on the bike, though, and was happy to see that I could still push myself if I wanted to. As my coach had reminded me before the race, triathlon is a lifestyle and not just about racing. I tried to take that advice to heart and had a much better experience because of it.


LindaF said...

It's nice that you can enjoy the benefits of training for the Ironman in later races. Congratulations! Good luck on your bike ride this weekend.

AliRae said...

Yeah Anne! Way to push through and finish the race. I hope you are having a wonderful time in Montana.