Camarillo Duathlon: A Race to Never Forget

For the past three years, since the very first Camarillo Duathlon was publicized, I have had the goal of completing the course. Due to cancellations, scheduling conflicts, and even injury, I couldn’t quite get my butt down to Camarillo at the right time to get it done!  This race turned into one of those long-term achievements that happen later for a reason.

Back in early 2009 when I set the goal, the race was just an Olympic event (5k run, 20mi bike, 5k run), but today it offers a sprint (1.5mi run, 10mi bike, 1.5mi run).   So, when I arrived at Freedom Park in the wee hours of August 14, 2011, I was feeling a little like I had taken the easy road with the sprint.  Little did I know that in a matter hours, I would be on cloud 9.

Before I go too much further, I would like to commend Bill Escobar for creating this awesome event for us.  Hearing his announcements that morning, watching him interact with the public and volunteers, he demonstrated a passion for multi-sport and a level of hospitality that I haven’t seen before.  Clearly he loves what he does and I am honored to be a participant in his events.

Without further ado, here are my highlights from the event.  I will spare you the novel that I wrote earlier (you know that blow by blow narrative that is a tad long to post here, but if you want a copy of it, please email me armh31″at”

Run #1

Of course the start was pretty melodramatic.  We lined up and the horn blew.  The pack ran off ahead and instead of following the speedy types, I settled into my groove.  By the first turn, I was at the back of the pack, but I didn’t care.  There were plenty of aircraft to admire along the route. As long as I wasn’t last, I was doing well…. observing, strategizing, and plane spotting!

T1 & Bike

Heading into transition I felt winded and one glance at my heart rate said I had pushed the run a tad hard.  Mounting the bike, I sailed out onto the streets amongst the fields of Camarillo.  With authorities keeping those pesky cars at bay, I settled into a decent pace for the 10 mile loop.

That is until the dude in the yellow jersey passed me.  I don’t know why, but having HIM pass me turned a switch and the game was on! As hard as I tried to keep up with him, I couldn’t quite catch him… until nearly the end of the course.  Things got really interesting as I saw him up ahead and slowing down.  I easily passed him and we exchanged glances.

I thought I had him when, all of the sudden, a half mile later he goes whizzing passed me.  I turn up the speed and start chasing him down, but the zigzags back to dismount kept me from catching him.

Then he made a mistake.  He stopped a good 15 feet from the actual dismount line and I went sailing passed him again only to brake hard and stop right on the dismount line itself (a little trick I learned from an experienced triathlete).  I had 15 feet on him and I ran hard with the bike to the transition.  I still had him!

Run #2 & Finish

The Author Following the Race

With a quick switch of gear, I headed out on the run, not even looking back to see where the mister yellow jersey was. I didn’t care, I had a lead to maintain, so I kept a fast (for me) but steady pace that I was certain I could handle all the way back to the finish.  Since I had just run the same course, I knew what to expect and knew that once I was half way down the dirt road, turn on the sprint to finish.

But at the turn around, I saw that my competition had ditched the yellow jersey and wasn’t that far behind me.  I was nervous so I picked up the pace just a bit more.  Passing him, I could see in his eye that he already gave it his all.  I had won… unless I screwed up.

Hitting the dirt road was when the legs seriously started to protest. Just as I considered my options, I was passed by an older guy whom I knew was a sprint participant.  He was moving fast for his build and age, so I wasn’t about to give up my spot to him.  A little earlier than I wanted, I went into sprint mode and ran him down.

Luckily, there was a curb to run around to the finish chute, which he negotiated rather slowly compared to my more flexible maneuver.  Then it was a sprint to the finish and I beat him by two seconds.

And that was the end of a race I will never forget.

Sprint Results Plotted (courtesy TrainingMetrix)

With my overall time of 1:09:31, I was happy to see myself just ahead of the Sprint race average of 1:10:33.   That was good for 32nd place of 69 competitors.  Camarillo Duathlon Sprint Race results were plotted by TrainingMetrix (graph above is reproduced with their permission) and you can see I am just ahead of average (the red dot).

So, have I achieved that goal I set years ago?  As much as I want to say yes, I still have to finish the Olympic course and we might save that for 2012.  But with the third race of 2011 coming up on Sept. 4th, I might just give the sprint one more try in 2011!

Note: I am working compiling some video of the race (the Olympic start) and will post a video post here when it is complete.

A Brilliant August It Will Be

Goleta Beach Triathlon2011 is sprinting by faster than any other year of my life.  Perhaps I am having way too much fun, or my life is full of activities, hobbies, and other responsibilities.  Regardless, when I look at the calendar and realize that 2011 is far more than half way through, I have to look back and realize that I have not competed once so far this year.

Since I am now feeling the benefit of focusing on stress relief in my life, I am now able to look competition as say, “bring it on!”  It just so happens that August has some awesome events for me to compete in!  (It is amazing how these things happen!)

Camarillo Duathlon – August 14

First up, the Camarillo Duathlon on August 14th.  The Camarillo Duathlon and I go way back to the beginning of my journey for the CamDua as I call it because it was going to be one of my first events. Unfortunately, the event kept getting rescheduled to dates that conflicted with other events and I never got to do it.  Well, on August 14th, rain or shine, nothing will stop me from completing the sprint.

McConnell’s 5k/10k – August 21

Second, a good old fashion 5k.  And a local favorite event at that, the McConnell’s 5k on August 21st.  With a simple out and back sprint along the bike path between Goleta Beach Park and Patterson Avenue, this is going to be a fast, but fun event that will test my ability to control pace.

Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint – August 28

Third, ending August with an event close to home, the Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint on August 28th.  The year was 2008 and this was going to be my first triathlon sprint ever, but I never made it that morning.  It wasn’t until a full year later that I kicked my trainer’s butt on the sprint (he had some issues with the swim) and finished this course.  With 2011 being my third year for this event, I am looking to just have fun and maybe better my time from last year.

If you are in Camarillo or Santa Barbara on the respective dates, please come on out and cheer me and the other athletes on.  While athletes are great to compete against, it is the cheering spectators that take the event to a new level.

I am seriously looking forward to these events and can’t wait to redeem myself and have one brilliant August.  Sadly, it will likely go by fast, but I know I will enjoy every minute of it!

Expect the Unexpected: 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint

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.

Uh-Oh, WAVE!

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.

Triathlon #7: Santa Barbara Triathlon

Just under one week away on August 29th, I will embark on my seventh triathlon journey.  This journey is going to be short, fast, and sweet.

I completed the 2009 Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint in just over an hour and four minutes.  With a full year of training, three additional triathlons and a lot more experience and new gear, I expect to better that time.  In fact, I am aiming for a sub 50 minute result.  Yep, I want to shave fourteen minutes off my time from last year.

With a team reorganization this year, a new triathlon coach, and the realization that my life obligations can and did make training difficult, completing in the Santa Barbara Triathlon is going to be pretty sweet.

The Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint presents many unique challenges that will separate the men from the boys (or women from the girls):

  1. The distances are short. This eliminates the middle guy. Unless you are a beginner triathlete looking to get your feet wet with something simple or a die hard sprint triathlete, you probably won’t find the extremely short distances appealing for the money.
  2. Every second in transition counts! Being such a short event, an extra few seconds in transition could actually cost you a few places in the rankings.
  3. The run is flat. The two mile run is along the bike path.  While flat is usually great, it means that it is going to be fast compared to a more hilly route like the UCSB Triathlon.
  4. The bike is only 5.62 miles. Being just shy of six miles, the bike is truly a sprint.  Out and back on the same route, there are hills, inclines, sharp turns, and scenic views to keep the rider on his/her toes.

The race is compelling. The journey will be even more compelling. Crossing that finish line is going to be so sweet.

Hope to see you all there.

All Those Triathlon Goodie Bags Revealed

You know that goodie bag you get when you pick up your race packet the day before the triathlon?  Ever wondered how it got stuffed full of ads, samples, and other cool stuff?

Check out this time lapse video from the Santa Barbara Triathlon showing members of the SB Tri Club stuffing 2,000 goodie bags for the upcoming 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon.  I am in there somewhere:

I tell you, while it took almost 2 hours and I suffered a number of paper cuts, it was well worth the fun and hope that all the participants recognize the hard work everyone put into creating that goodie bag for you.

See you at Santa Barbara on the 28th & 29th!


Strawberry Fields Triathlon: Hell, Heaven & Fun

Don’t let the title fool you, the Strawberry Fields Triathlon is one of the best run events I’ve had the honor of participating in in my triathlon career.  Race maps were accurate, volunteers were extremely helpful, transition area was marked with reserved spaces, and the pre-race information was highly detailed and accurate.  The next race to reach the top of my charts has a lot of work ahead to top this race!

Just with any event that you compete in, you have to approach it with an open mind.  Going into an event expecting something or a particular outcome is setting yourself up for failure.  With the Strawberry Fields Tri being my sixth triathlon, I approached it expecting to simply take each stroke, pedal stroke, and step as it came.  And it was a good thing. (note: official results are posted here)

Swim – Hell

The swim portion of the triathlon consisted of a 450m ocean swim just off Oxnard State Park.  The thing that made me nervous after visiting the site the day before was the long, sandy beach run from the water’s edge to the transition area.  Plotted in Google Earth at 0.26 miles, this was going to separate the men from the boys. Beach running and I just don’t get along, in fact it kills my legs and saps them of energy.

However, the morning of the triathlon, another hell quickly materialized.  After setting up my transition area and heading down to the beach, the calm conditions were not exactly calm.  High surf, crashing waves, and swell at over four feet was just the icing on cake.

In fact getting out to the first buoy was just the first step into hell.  Turning right at the first buoy sent the swimmers parallel to shore, but meant we had to swim diagonally across breaking surf, huge waves, etc to the second buoy.  Then it was simply keeping your head above water and riding the waves to shore.

Entering the water is all about timing.  Being part of the first wave, I didn’t have the ability to watch others enter the water, but I did have enough to observe the wave patterns.  One large wave, two smaller ones and then calm before the pattern repeated. I used this to my advantage, letting the “pros” run out into the first “big” wave only to get themselves clobbered!  I more patiently waded out into the surf, waited for the two smaller waves to break and then started side stroking for my life. It worked, but the four foot swell was too much.

I dogie paddled around the first buoy and thought to myself how crazy it was that I was actually doing this.  Just shy of half way that realistic voice told me to quit,  then the competitive voice said that that would embarrassing.  Then the lifeguard actually looked me in the eye and asked “are you done?”  “HELL NO!”  The evil voice in me suggested knocking him off his surfboard throne into the hellish cold I was suffering in, but then I would get disqualified, not totally embarrassing, but not exactly the nice thing to do.

Approaching the second buoy conditions continued to change as we swam diagonally across the surf/waves.  The waves were pushing us toward shore and the lifeguards were desperately trying to push the buoy back out into position.  This gave us a narrow space in which to turn.  By this time, the speed-demons of the second wave caught up to us and I found myself in a mixed hell of human arms and feet, cold water, breaking, waves, lifeguards, and possibly even a few sharks (not really!)!

The cool thing was riding the wave to shore.  While everyone stood up and started running in the water, I managed to catch a giant wave and went surfing by the runners!  Woohoo!

Then it was time to run up the beach.  This sand was like no sand I’ve walked on before.  Extra dry, extra course, extra deep, and extra loose.  With every step I could feel my legs strain, energy disappearing and my heart rate racing.  The British competitor that caught up to me just when we hit pavement said it best, “Could they have put the transition area any closer to China? We aren’t running marathons… we are triathletes!”  I will never forget that!

I will also never forget that on July 18th, just after 7:30am, I entered a hell that I never expected to see and lived to talk about it.

In the end I spent 8:30 in the water with a little over 3 minutes for the run to transition.  (11:35 total)

T1 – I Am Alive!

Transitions are where triathletes can really shine, proving their ability to quickly switch between sports.  On this day, I was just so happy to be alive after swimming through hell, that I wanted to relish in the fact I was still standing.   Strip off the wetsuit, grab the shorts, turn on the GPS, put on the HR monitor, socks, jersey, grab some water, put on the shoes and helmet and enjoy the fact that I am still standing.  With the bike off the rack, time to run another marathon to the bike mount.

T1 was a shamefully leisurely 4:15! Ouch!

Bike – I’ve Gone to Heaven

Cycling is my thing.  I love cruising on the bike, enjoying the scenery, enjoying the smells (pleasant and otherwise!), and feeling the air rush by.  Mounting on the bike, I felt like I went to heaven.

The course was very similar to the Ventura Triathlon course, although there was a surprise in the end for me.  The course went north along Harbor Blvd, west across Gonzales Rd to Victoria, an out and back segment along 5th ave, and then swing back to Oxnard State Park via Channel Islands Blvd.

The course races amongst natural land, the agricultural fields growing produce such as strawberries, and then through the civilized world of Oxnard.  Such a great course that is quite flat and lets one just cruise.  However, it wasn’t all flat.  Toward the end of the 11.5 mile route, one must go up and over the Channel Islands Harbor, an extreme incline compare to the rest of the route.  Heaven on the muscles.

Rounding the corner back into the park, there was a slight communication problem as to when one should dismount. The first volunteer said to dismount after the line, the second said to dismount before the line.  I split the difference… stopped with the line mid-bike.

11.5 miles in 37:45 (including the marathon to the mount/dismount)

T2 – Forgot Something… Again!

You have something go so well that you know you must have missed a step.  Yep, my T2 was so good, I totally forgot something.

After mounting the bike, removing the helmet, changing shirts, shoes, etc, I started off toward then Run Start.  Its that moment where you are going through a mental checklist and you suddenly realize that something is missing?  That sinking feeling?  Yep, I had that feeling when I realized that I forgot to put on my number belt.  Not the end of the world, but required.  I ran back across the transition area to get it.  Ugh!

total T2 time was a doubly shameful 3:38!

Run – Let’s have some fun!

With everything finally in order, I started to run.  I’ve had to go to the the bathroom since I started this event.  Since the run course went right by the bathroom, I figured I had very little to loose and a lot to gain by making a brief pit-stop.  It took about 60 seconds and I was back running.

I’ve been working with a running coach who has really helped my run become more efficient.  By leaning through the hips and using my legs to carry momentum forward using gravity, I can run slightly faster than before at a lower heart rate.   Using this new technique, I settled in and just enjoyed the final leg of this fantastic event.

While I did stop for a few brief moments, I can’t believe how well I kept up a decent pace.  The straight shot run along Ocean Dr.  reminded me more of Tijuana than California.  The narrow road with tall multi-story residences and sand covered intersections put me another country, adding to the fun.

Rounding the last few curvy turns toward the finish I really quite surprised at how good I felt.  The final sprint came fast and seeing the time clock really sent the reality of finishing the event home.

With a potty break and steady pace, the 5k run came in at 36:40.

Final Thoughts

Finishing this event in 1:33:51 puts me in 384th place overall and second to last (of 35) in my age group.  (note: official results are posted here) After finishing a triathlon, I expect to walk away from the experience having learned a few things.  To do otherwise, one would not be fully experiencing the event nor would they call themselves a triathlete.

What have I learned after this event?  A couple of things:

  • What I thought constituted a rough ocean paled in comparison to the conditions of the event. I survived and know what hell looks like.
  • Transition times are important and need to be improved greatly!  With an average transition time of 3:56, shaving even one minute off each time would have bumped me up to 367th place from 384th overall and up one position in my age group.
  • My modified running form is working. Being more efficient on my feet during the run feels great and I really am looking forward to making more progress.
  • The 2010 Strawberry Fields Triathlon was run so well, that this event sets the standard for how to run an event.
  • Pre-race positive visualization works well.  It doesn’t help to get stressed out over what could be during an event. Simply taking the event in stride and going with each blow as they come is the only way to succeed.
  • There might be some more, so I will add to this list as I continue to reflect on this memorable event.

What’s next?  I am not quite ready to go there yet.  I am still riding my high from this event.  I know what I need to do succeed and I am more determined than ever to push on and make the next event the best yet!