Sunday, August 16, 2009

Santa Cruz "Romp in the Park" Sprint

I am so not a morning person.

This was very obvious a week ago as I was shuffling my gear in a Santa Cruz parking lot trying to get ready for the Santa Cruz Sprint. First, I filled up one of my bike bottles with my Smart Water (it has electrolytes). Then I knocked it over and spilled half of it.

For my next trick, I got my bike off the rack and went to top off the tires. After successfully filling the front one, I got confused and ended up letting all the air out of the back tire instead of adding air to it. Oopsies.

I think after I figured out I had a lever in the up position that was supposed to be in the down position, I must have woke up a bit, because everything else went swimmingly.

I got a decent spot in transition and laid out my stuff. I had my new Rocket Science transition bag and it performed great. The included transition mat was a bit of a joke though. I may go out and buy a bigger one.

Unlike my last tri, I went through my pre-race rituals without incident. Got in the appropriate number of port-a-potty trips, warmed up with a nice 15 min. jog, and had the appropriate amount of pre-race nutrition. I did wait longer to put on my wet suit -- just as a test, since I often feel like I get into it too early. But I didn't like struggling to get into it on the beach so I am not going to do that next time.

We were able to warm up in the water more than I expected from reading how it would work on the web site. The water wasn't that cold either, once I made the initial plunge into the iciness. I think my new suit (size XS!) keeps me warmer. I did get knocked over by a wave trying to get into the ocean. So I watched how the young guys did it when their wave went off. Oh, that's right, you jump over the wave or dive under. I vaguely remember this from trips to the Jersey shore as a kid.

This turned out to be unnecessary as the waves broke perfectly for our wave and I didn't have anything to deal with. I just swam out to the first buoy, across to the second and back into shore. I had decent sighting until I was coming to shore. I couldn't see the finish line. But I still did okay. As I got out of the water, I looked at my stopwatch and it was only 13+ minutes. I'm sure that's the fastest I've swum a 700-800 yard swim.

Transition was quite a way away from the beach so I had brought down my flip flops. I was afraid of running over glass on the sidewalk. This turned out to be a mistake as I couldn't run in the things. I kept taking them off and putting them back on until I gave up and just carried them.

Because of the extra distance to T1, my official swim time was about 3 minutes longer, but that's okay.

I had added TriSlide to my routine for this race. I still had some BodyGlide on first, as I knew that worked, but I put TriSlide on top. My suit came off in record time! No more BodyGlide for me -- it's TriSlide all the way. In fact, I had the fastest T1 time in my career -- just over 2 minutes.

Then I got out on the bike and took off on the (essentially flat) course. I felt like I was making good time, but I did get passed a bit. I also passed some people. I decided that I would aim for all negative splits from here on out for this race. So after the first bike loop, I did my best to go even faster for the second loop. I'm not sure I succeeded, but I did manage to pass someone from two waves ahead of me and make him say "Damn it!" That was fun.

I also was able to gain on people due to better technical skills. They would slow down for the turns, but I didn't have to thanks to the bike-handling clinics I've been to. I just leaned into the curves and went for it. I love curves so that made up for the lack of good hills.

Then I ran into T2 and changed for the bike. Again, I knew my transition was good, though T2 is never the trouble spot for me that T1 can be. (I was just over a minute -- again my fastest T2.) Then out on the run course.

As I exited the shoot, two women zoomed past me. Crap! But we immediately went up a small hill and they were dying by the time we came to the top and I passed them and never saw them again. Then, I just kept running.

And passing people. And running. And passing. Oh my god, I might get through the race without any people passing me! I just kept going, telling myself "You're a strong runner" and "You are going to move up in the standings with this run" and it worked. I passed so many people and only one person passed me. Some 12 year old punk who started in the wave behind me. But I forgave him for being young and just kept going.

I came to the turn around, grabbed my water cup and thought "Let's negative split this bitch!" which is a phrase I read on a few days before my race. Again, I'm not sure I actually did. But every time I thought about slowing down, I'd repeat my new motto and push a bit harder.

As I got near the finish, a 26 year old and 44 year old passed me. It was all downhill so I leaned forward and went for it and was able to pass the 44 year old just as I crossed the finish.

They handed me a gorgeous Finishers medal, took my timing chip, and I went off to enjoy the Expo and wait for the results. Which were very messed up.

I didn't realize it at first so when I saw my name in first place in my age group, I said "No way!" Then I looked at my time and "no way." It was 30 min. shorter than it should have been. Eventually, they straightened it all out and I had dropped to 9th place out of 12th.

I would have been upset about that, but I was solidly MOP in the overall results and 7-9 place in my age group were separated by seconds. Plus, I had my first 10 minute mile pace in the run. I can do a 5k standalone with a pace of about 9:30, but I'd never done better than 11:45 doing one in a triathlon. And that one was only 2.5 miles, not a full 5k. So I was ecstatic!

All-in-all, I felt like the race was a big romp in the park and a lot of fun. I'm not sure I'll do it again next year, as I want to do less races, but longer distances, but I'll definitely do some Sprints as C races. They are good practice without making me take a week to recover.

Next stop: The Big Kahuna!
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