Challenge and Chill – Sandman 2016

If you want to be transported to the roots of triathlon, this is the race for you. I love this race – low key, competitive, and super fun. I’m so glad I raced it last year and I’m thrilled I was able to race it again this year.

The Sandman is no joke. You start with 0.75 miles around the cement ship in Aptos, a 13 mile ride through the hills, and a 4 mile beach run on the sand. I love the location and I love the challenge.

Last year this was my second race – ever. I had a blast. I also had a pretty decent race! This year was still a challenge, and I had a slightly tougher day, but I’m happy enough with my performance.

Start of the day: all alone.
Start of the day: all alone, all quiet.

The day started really. REALLY. Early. I left my house at 4:30 am to make it to transition by 6 am, when it opened and packet pickup started. This was the first race I’ve actually waited until race day morning to pick up my packet, so I was a little anxious. Shocker, everything was just fine and I got a great spot at the end of a rack.

14054533_1156786491061494_3161322156665512592_oI had a few teammates racing, both from Oakland Tri and my new buddies from ETPA, AND some coworkers! Such a treat knowing other people are out there racing.

The swim was awesome. The Monterey Bay is always on the chilly side, and this day was no different. We had more chop and current this year, and I was happy to slide in behind the women’s leader’s feet and keep an eye on her throughout the swim. She was speedy! And, also, an impressive teenage triathlete. I came out of the water in second, stripped the wetsuit and buckled the helmet, and was out of there.

Thanks, Sandman Team!!
Thanks, Sandman Team!! Look at all those bikes there!

The bike was exciting – my second race on the P2 and some climbing rather than flat racing. I maintained my position until we crossed Highway 1, where I was passed by another woman..until we hit my favorite climb into Seascape. I found this on my recon ride last year, and the woman who had passed me and the young woman out in front both got caught on it. I had a HUGE shit-eating grin on my face as I easily pedaled past them on the climb. The older woman passed me in the last few minutes of the ride, so I came into transition in second still.

I didn’t fall off my bike as I dismounted, nor did I take off the top of my toe – great dismount! And was suddenly throwing my running shoes on and grabbing my belt and visor. As I exited transition I was surprised by two teammates cheering (hi Sharon and Jerry!) and got so excited I leapt down the four stairs onto the beach. Somehow I didn’t face plant and started my run.

No, not T2. But I bet you can find my running form here (hint: I may as well have been dancing to a Michael Jackson song)
No, not T2. But I bet you can find my running form here (hint: I may as well have been dancing to a Michael Jackson song)

This run is tough. Is it hilly? No. Is it hot? Not really. Yes, it’s on sand, but the sand is hard packed. I struggle because its two miles out, turn around, and two miles back. I had planned to take it a half mile at a time (mentally), because that would allow me to break it in four parts for each direction. Not sure if that hurt or helped, but man the run was hard! I was passed about half a mile in by the teenager – I knew that would happen – and I cheered her forward. She also offered an encouraging cheer. It’s always so nice to see sportsmanship in races, especially coming from younger athletes. They’re setting the pace (or they should be) and they’re also setting the example!

I kept running along the beach, and some spectators were cheering. A man yelled, ‘go for the gold!’ – my ingenious response was ‘I think I’m going for bronze, man.’ I held my position to the turnaround, and I saw competition coming up behind me. I was pretty sure I could hold on for a bit longer…and then I was passed at about mile 2.5. And again at 3. And again at 3.5. I was pretty frustrated, but those women were flying on the run. Eventually I hit the pier for the cement ship, and, knowing I was only a quarter mile from the finish, checked behind me for competition. I was struggling, my legs were cramping… and I was all by myself. I had plenty of real estate to jog it in to the finish and not bury myself unnecessarily.

There were two of these guys, though, and that made things better.
There were two of these guys, though, and that made things better.

Ultimately, I finished 5th overall / 1st age group. I was joined on the podium by my OTC teammate Lily in 2nd age group. My coworker completed his first triathlon, another coworker made a triumphant return to triathlon after several years (decades?) of retirement from a pro triathlete career, and his daughter finished her first triathlon winning her age group.

I love this race. I love the spirit and the encouragement of the athletes, the community, and the spectators. And, I love that so many people had a really solid day!

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