Let me start this post by saying that I awoke in the wee hours of Saturday, August 28th with a severe case of food poisoning. I was so sick, I wasn’t able to join friends at East Beach for the Santa Barbara Triathlon Long Course that day. In fact, I didn’t even think I would compete in Sunday’s Sprint.
Luckily, I recovered enough that I felt comfortable competing. Late Saturday night, I put the final checklist and plans into place and set my alarm clock for 4:30am the next morning.
Waking suddenly to the bitter sound of “beep, beep, beep,” I immediately hit the snooze. “OMG! It’s already time to get up… I need at least another hour,” I said to myself. But, triathletes don’t need another hour, so I got up, got dressed, packed the rest of my stuff into my GYST transition bag, loaded the car and headed toward East Beach.
Parking was easy and I met some other triathletes, which helped brighten my mood. As we walked along the waterfront above the transition area, I can hear the waves off in distance. We talked about how cold the ocean water was projected to be and agreed that today’s swim was not going to be a walk in the park despite the calm conditions. This was real!
Being at the transition area so early, I was able to choose the best transition spot, the outside end of the 1140-1180 bib range. Five rows down from swim in and very convenient.
Of course, setting up transition was super simple with my GYST transition bag. Set it down, unfold it, and you are set to go! The wetsuit is ready, the change of clothes, the shoes, snacks and water bottles are there and ready to go.
For some reason time really seemed to fly. I had plenty of time to stretch, make multiple trips to the bathroom, chat with other triathletes, and focus on the task ahead.
But then I found myself in the porta-potty when they announced the first wave was leaving in fifteen minutes! OMG! I still had to put on my wetsuit and do a practice swim. However, fifteen minutes is plenty of time to wipe your butt, put on an over-sized wetsuit, and walk down to the beach.
The practice swim confirmed what we all have been hearing for the past few days, the water was really, really cold! I also realized that entry into the water might be an issue as I watched a group of swimmer get taken out by a wave. Once past the breaking waves, the feet didn’t seem to mind the cold much, but the hands and face protested. I started out with side stroke and got into a rhythm and then transitioned to crawl. But the ice cream headache during crawl was a bit much for my food poisoned, recovering body so I stopped to tread water for a bit before heading back to shore.
Lining up at the start was a little scary. It was the first time that I realized just how far apart each of the buoys were. Was this really a 500m swim? Looks to be a lot longer! Time to concentrate.
The first wave left and the 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint had begun! I could see that very few people were swimming with their heads in the water. They also seemed to take a while to get around the first buoy and make progress toward the second. Not very reassuring as the second wave, my wave, lined up at the start.
Then they announced 30 seconds, time to focus. I pulled my goggles down, checked my swim cap and took a deep breathe. Then the countdown began.
The horn blew and the wall of men in front of me disappeared. I remember seeing feet, splashing, and then looking up and seeing a wave. A giant and thinking to myself that this was going to suck. Why didn’t I look up before I entered the water and waited two seconds? The wave hit me and a few others, flooding my face with salt water and knocking the wind out of me. Time stood still.
Unlike the others, I was still standing where I was hit. I immediately dove into a side stroke, but quickly noticed that something was wrong. I was out of breathe and every movement of the arms and legs felt like I lacked power. Was it the cold.
While getting to the first buoy and turning to parallel shore didn’t take long, looking the length of the buoys and barely being able to see the far buoy was psychologically distressing. This was going to be a long, painful swim.
Despite my body trying to tell me to stop, I pushed on, doing any stroke I could muster that would keep me moving toward the end. From side stroke, back stroke, dogie paddle, to crawl, I kept myself going, absolutely determined to see this through to the end. While I realized that my goal of 55min was probably not going to happen at this point, I knew that I still had to give this event my all.
Rounding the last buoy, I realized how wide I went. I went so wide that I was in a world of my own, seeing blue and white caps splashing about 20 meters to my right. I must have swam crooked for a little too long… oops. I swam straight toward the chute on the beach. While others were starting to stand up, I gave myself a few extra strokes and then exited the water.
My heart was racing, I was out of breathe, cold, and wondered if doing this was really such a great idea. Of course it was, the hard part was now over and the fun was just about to begin!
The Little Piggy Goes “Wwweeeeee”
T1 was pretty fast. All I had to do was strip off the wetsuit, toss on the shorts, GPS, helmet and shoes and go. While I had some issues getting my Polar watch off and replacing it with the Garmin GPS, not putting on the gloves, socks and switching shirts like I did last year really saved some time. I grabbed the bike and mounted.
Those first few pedal strokes after the swim are some of the most amazing to me. You are covered in salt water, the wind is drying you off and your legs are still a little confused about what you want them to do. Yet, you can feel the power being transferred to the road and it is exhilarating.
It wasn’t long before I caught up to a few cyclists and went whizzing by them. I was moving at a speed just under 20mph and it felt great to pass someone else for a change. I had ridden this course almost a hundred times over the past few years, so this really was like a Sunday ride to me.
Going up the first hill, I came upon two young-ins making their way up the hill on mountain bikes. As I approached them at high speed, I yelled some words of encouragement. As I passed them, I could hear the frustration of my passing them in their heavy breathing. One remarked to the other to get moving, to which he replied with a gasp.
Going down the hill toward the Biltmore, I was reminded of the Geico commercial where the little piggy goes “weee” all the way home. This was fun, I was hauling ass, so what the heck. At 33mph down the hill, I let out a big loud “wwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” I don’t think the volunteers were amused.
The turn around came quickly and I thought I was slightly ahead of last year’s pace. Knowing that a run was about 12 minutes away, I backed off on my return ride to East Beach. Even still, I kept passing people.
I even passed people climbing up “hell hill,” the hill that I came screaming down just a few minutes before. There were three cyclists making their way up the hill and that was the motivation I needed to get to the top. “I’ll pass you and you and you, and you,” as I started my climb. Before I knew it, I got to the top and looked back just before the turn… to my astonishment, it looked like the other rides were just starting their climb.
Settling in and cruising back to East Beach was fun. I knew the bike was coming to and end rather quickly and I wanted to enjoy it. Turning on to Cabrillo Blvd, leaving the volunteers and officer in my dust, I turned my attention toward T2 and the run.
Dismounting and running back to my transition was a blur. I didn’t notice the crowd or much else. I was in my zone, mentally ready to finish this event.
Body Says Stop
T2 was quite fast. Rack the bike, slip off the helmet, change shoes, grab the waist pack and go. It went as easily as it sounds.
Unfortunately, about a quarter mile into the run, my entire right leg from hip to heel decided it had had enough and started cramping up. I pushed on, focusing on my form, lift the heals, push forward from the hip and stare at the horizon.
I then noticed my GPS was showing some odd readings. For instance it said I had covered 2,600 miles and was going 86mph! If only! Without the GPS, I had no idea what my pace was and my strategy relied upon knowing the pace and keeping my run consistent. But that was before my right side decided it had had enough.
The run was one of the most painful of all, and I found myself limping along. I was crushed, this wasn’t how I expected to end this event. Still, I pushed on, and brought the event home, crossing the finish line in 1:08:44, a full four minutes longer than last year. <results posted here>
Crushed, but Motivated & Content
Yes, my time was worst than last year. I suffered through a freezing cold swim, had the time of my life on the bike, and pushed through one of the worst cramps I have ever had on a run. I even did it while still recovering from food poisoning the day before.
Even factoring in all of the above points, comparing times to last year leaves me crushed. The Santa Barbara Triathlon was an event that I was sure I could pull off a decent personal record in. Unfortunately, things happened that prevented this from happening.
Did I give this event 150% effort? Yes. Could it have gone a lot worse? Yes. Am I so crushed that I’ve lost motivation to go on? No.
Triathletes have good and bad events. The 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon is perhaps one of my bad events. There will be others in the future too, but I must learn from this and move on.
With that said, I have three weeks to get ready for the 2010 Carpinteria Triathlon. See you there.