I returned to Aptos for the third year in a row for the 32nd Sandman and was once again thrilled to toe the line.
After some upheaval in my day job the week prior, a wedding in Lake Tahoe the day before, and general stress around equipment, cars, and commuting, I was not sure how this race would go at all.
Fortunately, the morning of the race was relatively stress free – parked at 5:55, prepped my bike, and had my race packet in hand by 6:03. Yay small races!! I waited for transition to open to prep the rest of my gear and just got to enjoy the beach become illuminated through the clouds.
My friend Rob usually doesn’t race anything shorter than olympics, but he had raced Sandman once before and decided it was time to return. It’s always so nice to have a friendly face you know is there!
The race is still three waves: younger men, all women, older men. With a Grand Prix start, racers literally toe the line and run into the water. The ocean’s swells started to pick up just before race start, so during my warm up I reminded myself how to duck dive and properly exit with waves breaking! There was at least one belly flop involved (ok, several).
After the first men went, my wave’s nervous energy was palpable. As we took off, I expected the young girl who led the swim last year to pop up in front of me pretty quickly – which is exactly what happened. But with the swells, it was obvious that sighting was going to be a bit of a challenge. The leader, another young girl, and I formed a triangle as we approached the first turn. I could see the buoy we wanted, but both younger swimmers were aiming too far north (to the right). Fortunately we had already had a pretty contact-free swim, so I gently nudged the girl next to me south. She realized (or at least I hope she realized) what was going on and got back on course quickly.
Despite the chop, the rest of the swim went smoothly. I made the turn across the ship, turned quickly down the ship towards shore, and turned to parallel the beach. I was able to keep about five yards between the girl leading and myself, and followed her to the beach. I caught a nice body-surfing wave launching me in, ran through the soft sand into transition, and quickly headed out on the bike.
As I slipped my feet into my shoes, I pedaled along despite it feeling like my heart rate was steadily rising – my HR monitor wasn’t going to cooperate so looks like the race was going to be by feel. Knowing that the first five miles of the ride are basically straight uphill, I figured it would feel hard regardless of my heart rate!
“Just go hard, wire to wire” were Mitchell’s words ringing in my head. So that’s what I did. I climbed the hills with confidence, and finally hit the two GLORIOUS, long downhills and felt comfortable descending with speed. I nailed the short and steep climb on Seascape Drive, and just kept pedaling hard.
About 1.5 miles from T2, a woman came flying by me like I was standing still. Shoot. Not long after, another woman zoomed past – now we were just a minute or so away from the steep descent back to the beach. At the back of a line of five racers, I played it safe on the downhill and held back. Slipping out of my shoes in the parking lot next to T2, I entered transition planning on hunting down at least one of my competitors out on the beach.
Oooh what a silly thought that was.
I saw the women ahead of me on the beach slowly pulling away, and by halfway to the turnaround, they were gone.
I kept pushing on, and on, and on, in the sand and seaweed and driftwood. I passed my friend Rob who was headed in the other direction, and he yelled that I was in second (wrong, but thank you). I passed a fisherman fiddling with a bucket and almost stepped on the baby leopard shark beached in front of me. And then finally, I was tripping my way through the soft sand at the turnaround and telling the lone water station volunteer that I was so happy to see him – I made the turn and was face to face with another woman. She must have been reeling me in down the beach!
With a new carrot so close, I tried to stay with her.. For about 20 steps. Too fast of a carrot. So I kept to my pace, continued on mentally breaking the run into 5 minute sections, and just kept going.
I passed under the pier and saw a spectator. I foolishly asked, “Is there a girl like, RIGHT behind me?” And she responded, slowly, “Um…yeah..?” So I kept going. And going. Rob was waiting for me 100 yards or so from the finish, camera in the air! As much as it hurt in the moment, I was really grateful to have someone cheering for me as I struggled into the finish line. (And capture my sudden stop at the line, but miss the immediate springing into action when I was told I had to file my bib before the guy coming in behind me!)
I love the Sandman. It is hands down one of my favorite races. It is absolutely brutal and a definite challenge, despite the short distances. I had my best finish yet in 2017: Fourth Overall, First Age Group, and a three minute course PR.
PS – did I mention there were WHALES on the course during the run??
Thank you to Mitchell Reiss and ETPA for fantastic coaching and guidance and all the work on so many aspects of racing behind the scenes; Topo Athletic for helping me learn how to love to run; Santa Cruz State Lifeguard Association for continuing the wonderful tradition that is the Sandman Triathlon; Mom for always being there; and all my friends and teammates who give me a ton of crap for waking up at the crack of dawn but supporting me anyways.