The parking situation at Santa Cruz 70.3 is a fucking nightmare. After getting booted from one $5 all day parking lot, which for some reason was for residents only (why do residents have to pay to park in their own parking lot?), I was beginning to run short on time. Endless circling for a spot with 1,000 other vehicles on the same road quickly ate into the early dark hours of the morning, and I no longer had time to head to the parking lot I knew about from last year. I decided to risk it and park in a secret, and most likely illegal, dirt area, right next to transition. I pulled in and assumed that the next time I saw my rental it would have an actual boot on it or it would simply be gone, impounded somewhere. No time to think about that.
Next fiasco was forgetting my pump and my water bottles at my host house. I struggled with the pumps on hand, which were even worse than my own 19-year-old pump, but managed to curse enough air in to get to 200 psi in the front, 22 in the back–my preferred racing pressures. After that, I spent another 10 minutes having the mechanics move out my rear wheel limit screws because I thought my wheel was rubbing on my frame. Turned out just to be the little rubber bits from the artificial soccer turf, but I didn’t put that together until the afternoon.
Finally, with very little time to spare, I ran three laps of the soccer field looking for the god damn water, found a gallon jug and ran off with it to the beach, sweating bullets from anxiety of missing the start, which was just 20 minutes off at this point.
I had no time for the porta potty line, so grabbed some napkins and ditched behind a tree to shit out a huge cow-patty of mostly undigested salsa and salad from the night before. I did a poor job wiping but got most of it on the napkins. No time to fret about a little pooh thumb. From there I ran quickly to the beach start, which was conveniently only one and a half miles away from transition. When I got there, drenched in sweat, I dove in for a quick warm up, and the water actually felt refreshing, not ice-cream-headache-cold. Unusual for a before-light swim on the Pacific coast.
Back on the beach I learned that the start had been delayed. The fog rolled in heavily, hiding the second swim buoy from sight, which was the cause of the delay. My hopes rose with each passing minute that they might cancel the swim entirely. On top of the swim being my worst discipline, I’d injured my shoulder a few days ago and had been in panic mode ever since, icing, heating, getting a massage, taking aspirin, and rubbing various ointments on it for two days hoping that the pain would go away.
The start was delayed in 10 minute increments for about half an hour until, without any notice, everyone began walking north, which is really west since Santa Cruz is in a cove, but it felt like north. Anyways, three thousand people and seventeen tons of wetsuits began making their way to the new swim start, which was a mere 750 meters. Score! Heck yeah!
20 minutes later, the gun went off and 25 of us leaped forward, sprinted towards the eerily 68-degree warm water, and dove in for a pleasantly short but chaotic swim.
I came out of the water in 16th, stopped to put on my first pair of running shoes for the nearly kilometer run to transition, and continued on. Once in my safe place (on the bike) I settled in at a comfortable pace for the first five minutes, hoping to avoid the debilitating quad and glute cramps that I’ve been getting at the start of the bike leg in other races this year.
The fog was too thick to see out of my visor, so I rode with my helmet propped awkwardly on top of my head like a third-world woman balancing a pot of water, passing through groups quickly and gaining confidence that the leg cramps wouldn’t happen. Once onto Highway 1, I tried to find the right balance of not getting hit by a car but also being close enough to use the passing traffic’s draft to my advantage.
Passing mile 10!
I felt good. I’d lost over a minute to the leaders in the swim/long transition, but was catching guys like they were
standing still going just slightly less fast than me. My power was decent, averaging 346 for the first half hour, which eventually put me in 5th place at about 23 miles. But with cars constantly going by a few feet away and my blinding goal of making up as much ground as possible on the leaders, I neglected to eat very much during that first hour, or anything at all in the first half hour. I’d also left my two water bottles, as previously mentioned, each with 180 calories in them, back in the fridge that morning. I had grabbed an age grouper’s water bottles off their bike and put them on mine earlier but they just had water in them, no mix.
That’s a joke…or is it?
Yes, it is.
By the turn around, I was sitting in 5th place, maybe 50 meters in front of a group of five or six guys who I’d been trying to drop, without success because there were a few ‘ballers’ in there. We were about a minute back on second through fourth. A few minutes later I eased up and let another guy take the lead, someone named Tim McDonald? (never heard of him).
I figured I needed to break away from this group for good since I didn’t stand a chance at outrunning most of them, but needed a bit of rest and a hill to make that happen. I sat and bided my time. A few miles later I dropped back to third in line, letting Cody Beals go ahead, hoping that I’d get a bit more draft back further in line. But instead of feeling better I steadily lost power over the next half hour, feeling worse and worse. Usually I feel better as the bike goes on, at least in comparison to the guys I’m riding around. I gulped down a heavily caffeinated gel and another 200 calories of chews. It wasn’t a bonk, but was certainly a deficit of glycogen that was quickly taking its toll. I lost another position in line.
I’d been struggling severely to stay in the group for about 20 minutes now at mile 50ish, putting myself in a big hole for the run, but refusing to drop off. Then all of a sudden I simply popped. With around six miles to go I fell off the back of that five-man group and quickly lost two minutes to them in just six miles. They went on to virtually catch onto the heals of the lead group, minus Andi Bocherer who was minutes up ahead but dropped out on the run. Meanwhile, I contemplated riding head on into traffic.
My average had plummeted from a healthy 333 for the first 90 minutes to an eventual 308 by the end of the bike. I slammed the rest of my food as I pedaled zone two into town. Coming off the bike I ate two gels I had in transition, then two more in the first snack station for a total of 400 calories of gels, but it was too late. I was out of glycogen and had nothing left in my legs other than old rubber bands. I got passed by another guy at mile two and was put into 11th. The race only paid six deep despite the stacked field. I continued on for a while, battling with myself to keep going in case my legs came around. I ended up pulling out a little less under four miles, not wanting to do another 13 mile slog of shame like I did at Boulder and Steelhead. It just didn’t seem worth it so I quit like a quitting quitter because I’m a little weak limp dick bitch.
I’m not one to mess up a race due to poor nutrition, but I did it. Mission accomplished I guess. In my glycogen stores’ defense, I had also gotten sick a week before the race, and apparently wasn’t fully over it because I woke up at 2AM the night after the race with a fever, clogged nose, and phlegmy cough once again. All in all, I blew my shot at the podium of a swim-shortened race. Next up is Los Cabos. I have two months of uninterrupted training to prepare (once I’m not sick anymore), and I have a good feeling about this one. Until then, I’ll be carb loading. Every. Day.
I didn’t go surfing after the race like last year because of my shoulder injury, but the good take away was spending time with Kent and Eric, two family friends that I’ve had since I was a child.
Thank you to my sponsors! A-Squared Bikes, Cuore of Switzerland, Vision Components, and Hammer Nutrition for making all of this possible.