Sandman Triathlon – Shark-not-O

Can’t believe it – my second race is in the books! I competed in the Santa Cruz State Lifeguard Association’s Sandman Triathlon.

Date: August 2, 2015      |      Location: Aptos, CA

Weather: Cool, overcast, 64 degrees

Race: Modified Sprint      |      Age Group: 20-24

Results: Division – 1/4; Overall – 5/40

Location Distance Pace Estimated Time Place (O’all/Div)
Swim 0.75 mile (15:00) not sure! 15:00 1/1
T1 16:00 1/1
Bike 13 mile (0:46.00) 17 mph 1:02.00 2/1
T2 1:03.00 2/1
Run 4 mile (0:40.00) 10:00 min / mile 1:43.02 5/not sure
Finish (1:43.02 min) 1:43.02 5/1
Whoa picture in the newspaper (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Whoa picture in the newspaper (Kevin Johnson — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

General Feelings

Going into this race, my excitement was high and my nerves were mid-range. I already had a race under my belt, but I knew I was still a rookie. I thought I was prepared for almost anything. I felt comfortable in the ocean (and fought back thoughts about sharks), had practiced the bike course, and figured I’d be able to fight through the sand run.

One race does not an expert make. In a post-race chat with a teammate, he (a multiple Ironman finisher) confessed to making a few “rookie mistakes” (his words, not mine). Then he heard what I did. Overall, the race was well-organized by Race Director Jennifer Murray. I felt perfectly safe (for an ocean swim) in the water. It’s hard to mess up a straight out-and-back on the beach, though I did wish for one more aid station. The bike course was 98% perfect – no traffic issues, great assistance by CHP and other volunteers – though the steep descent I identified during my preview did prove to be a problem.

Pre-Race

Transition opened at 6 am, with a race start at 8. I woke up at 5:15 and headed over to the course. We snagged a great parking spot, and I rolled up to transition as the volunteers were still assembling the fence. It wasn’t a problem, because the only people there at that point were racers, volunteers, and spectators. I actually claimed a fantastic location on the end of a rack, set up my area, and headed out for a coffee. The body marking was easy and fast, and it looked like packet pick up was moving very quickly. Since I had picked up my packet the day before, I was able to just cruise around and examine the area, figuring out the routing from the ocean to transition, transition to the bike, and bike to transition to run.

I walked down to the water’s edge, and saw a few seals, when suddenly my mom gasped – she saw a fin, which we quickly realized was a pair of dolphins patrolling the coast! She was thrilled to see them, because in her mind, the more mammals meant fewer carnivores – specifically, those with a great, white, and shark nature.

Swim

The swim start was only 3 waves – 44U men, all women, and 45+ men. I was perfectly happy in the middle of the pack, and I was fairly sure I would quickly catch the previous wave and wouldn’t be alone for too long. This was my first “grand prix” style swim start, featuring a short run from the beach and some dolphin-dives to get going in the water. Once I was out of the waves, I got started with a strong stroke and sighted off the orange buoy next to the Cement Ship (what a cool view).

I saw the girl who ended up taking first next to me, and figured, eh-why not come out of the water first. I paced with her until 15 yards from the buoy and made my move, getting to the turn first. I was a little surprised by the strange current around the edge of the ship and had some trouble getting to the next turn. My direct competitor made up some water, but I beat her to the next turn again and took off for the rest of the course.

I passed quite a few men on the buoys, which probably isn’t very fun for them but is a great feeling for me! The leg paralleling the beach was like cutting through warm butter, and I made the last turn into the shore. I was very fortunate that I wound up between large wave sets for my landing, and even body-surfed a bit into the sand. I was up and running, and the announcer noted me as the first woman swimmer.

What a chill start. Easily snagged a spot in line with the first buoy.
What a chill start. Easily snagged a spot in line with the first buoy.

T1

I didn’t think I could move this fast. Nothing particularly exciting, but I was very happy my bike was in the rack I expected it to be. Off to the bike!

Bike

By my estimation, I averaged 17 mph. Pretty good for a course that goes up a mountain, down a mountain, and up and down a few bunny slopes. I am so happy that I previewed the course prior to the race – I felt like I had an absolute advantage over the folks I was racing. I was passed by the girl who won (I refer to her as a girl because she is only 16! What a rockstar) about 10 minutes in, and I sat comfortably 50 meters behind her for the entirety. During the climb, only a few men passed me, and they really didn’t get very far. As we were climbing, I could feel my heartrate rising but it stayed controlled.

We kept chugging along, and the field all seemed quite spread out. Finally we reached the last street before the peak, and a lone spectator stood on the side of the road shouting, “That was the steepest part!” She was very helpful! I saw the last turn of the major climb, and booked it past one of the men, skipped the aid station, and shifted to my granny gear to zoom down the hill.

Having prepped the course, I was prepared for the two small hills and one gradual climb that was left on the course. I kept leap frogging with one of the men – I’d climb past him, and he’d zip past me on the downhills. Finally, the steepest, but shortest, climb of the course appeared (Seascape Drive). I remarked to him that the particular hill was mean, passed him, and didn’t see him again until the run.

As I mentioned in my preview of the bike, the last hill was a steep descent into transition. As I approached I started braking and quickly was passed by three men. I knew I was prepared for the slope, but if I hadn’t slowed down I wouldn’t have had to deal with the obstacle course in front of me. A man decided to back out of a driveway on the hill on the right side of the (narrow and steep) road. A driver headed the other way opened his window to holler that he should move over for the bicycles because we were racing. The driver backing out instead decided to stop in the middle of the lane, yell back, and take up half of the road, leaving me directly behind him desperately trying to stop. I swerved quickly left, but then ended up in a groove in the cement, forcing me to gently move farther left, and cross the double yellow line (right in front of a CHP officer, and plenty of volunteers).

This being a USAT race, I should have been disqualified immediately, but I wasn’t. I apologized-yelled, but was definitely shaken up. We were routed through an active parking lot (!!) but I finally reached the dismount line, where I successfully unclipped and then unsuccessfully dismounted.

Boom – I fell right into a pile of sand. Not my finest moment. No bruises to me or the bike, though, so only my pride was hurt.

T2

Did I mention I was a little out of sorts? I was a little out of sorts. I stored my bike, helmet, and cleats, threw on my shoes, and took off.

Forgetting something…

Run

I made it through the deep, loose sand, and down the dune, to realize I had left my race bib behind. I yelled at some volunteers to make sure this was ok and fortunately it was, but… rookie mistake. Not acceptable in other races!

I was right behind the leader (maybe 30 seconds or so) heading into the run. A spectator yelled, “Go chase her down! She’s right in front of you!” and all I could do was smile. I’m certainly not chasing anyone down, especially on sand.

I ‘ran’ the two miles down the beach to the turnaround point. I was passed by plenty of people, but all of them were men! I was still in second! I started on mile 3, and realized the next woman was not far behind – maybe 200 yards. So I just kept plugging along, trying to stay the coming tunnel vision, bad thoughts, and wishing to walk. I managed to run right into a wave of water, soaking my shoe. I passed a teammate, who yelled that there weren’t many women in front of me – I knew! I knew there was only one. And then one passed me.

I kept plugging along, and another woman passed me. Ok, third. I passed my other teammate headed the opposite direction, and she looked great! Traded high fives, and then more high fives with the four people close behind her. What a friendly race! Then as I passed the three mile marker, and a third woman passed me from behind. Ok, fourth – still first in my age group. I made it under the pier, and was feet away from the dune – and the woman who set up across the rack from me passed me too! Shoot. Fifth. I struggled through the loose sand (why is it so unstable?!) and took a final step over the line in 1:43.02. Finally.

Upon crossing the line, I realized I probably should have passed on the Gatorade back at the aid station – it wanted to come up. In fact, it made several attempts which I successfully blockaded, but boy was it trying. I found my mom, who actually was just past the finish line (and had been there the whole time, I just couldn’t see that far), and…pfew. Made it. And, under my goal time!

Am I still running at this point? I'm not sure if my hands are in the air due to celebration or me not being able to find the finish line.
Am I still running at this point? I’m not sure if my hands are in the air due to celebration or me not being able to find the finish line.
Final Thoughts

This is really a unique course, and I will absolutely look to racing it again. The race itself is run as a non-profit, benefitting the Santa Cruz Lifeguard programs, so not only is it gorgeous, it is for a great cause. It was the perfect practice for me for the Oakland Triathlon, my “A” race – I won’t (hopefully) be falling off the bike at transition, may have a few crazy people to deal with on the road but there aren’t any technical hills like the one this weekend, and definitely won’t be forgetting my race bib.

And, how do you not love our kits? We can see each other from at least half a mile away, people love to yell for us, and we look awesome. Even with only three people from OTC, we still had a bunch of people yelling for us. I heard plenty of cheers in transition and during the run for “Go Oakland!” – It is so cool. There’s no other way to put it!

Me and the birthday girl.
Me and the birthday girl.
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