With some nudging from my husband, I signed up for Oceanside when registration opened last July, 2018. It was one of those things that you’re scared to do and you know once you commit to doing it there’s no going back. So once I hit that registration button, I knew that was it!! I was committing to my first half Ironman and I will admit, I was slightly terrified. It’s no secret that the 2nd half of my race year last year was quite the roller coaster, but in October I started with my new coach, Jarrod Evans of Triathlon Gold, and we were off and running with Oceanside 2019 in our sights as the first big race of the year for me.
My husband and I live a short drive up the coast from Oceanside in Orange County, so we drove our RV down on the Wednesday afternoon of race week. Thursday was a total rest day for me so we checked in, spent some time in the Ironman Village, did some course recon, got the bike ready to go with race set up, checked all my gear, and tried to relax even though I was definitely feelin’ the nerves. Friday morning I was up early for a short ride and then headed down to the water for a swim. I didn’t have anyone to swim with because all the people I knew racing were coming down later on Friday, so I signed up for the SMOG open water clinic. Learned a few useful tips and was really happy to have a group to swim with (always swim with a buddy!); knowing that they were “Putting the ‘ocean’ back in ‘Oceanside'” meant I really needed to be comfortable in the water for several reasons: the temperature of the water was about 61 degrees and even in a wetsuit, it gets cold quickly and I needed to be used to the shock; I needed to be sure I was confident in my ability to dive down under the waves; and getting in would give me some peace of mind that I’d be fine on race day. The swim recon went well, I proceeded to get the bike all checked in and scoped out the transition area, so then we headed home to relax and put my feet up for the rest of the day. I didn’t go all crazy with carb loading – I feel like that kind of happened anyway because I was still eating mostly my normal diet and routine and not exercising as much because of tapering, so I was gaining the pounds anyway. Friday night was a pretty normal dinner, some light stretching and rolling, and to bed by 9:00pm.
RACE DAY Y’all… I consider myself a punctual person and I hate being late. BUT…I’m always late on race day!!!! Why!!! I was up at 4:45am for breakfast of PB&J on white bread with matcha green tea (I have had to quit coffee due to heartburn issues *sigh*). Yeah, so I planned to be transition at 5:45am for a 6:50 rolling start and was going to do my run warm-up on the way over from the parking lot that was 1.5 miles away. We ended up leaving the RV late, my run warm up took longer than I thought, and by time I got to transition it was about 6:10am. Luckily, I have an amazing friend that was texting me that he had checked my bike tires and pumped them up for me – this LITERALLY saved me (thanks Ryan). I was that person rubberbanding my shoes to my bike as they were announcing that we had 2 minutes left to get out of transition, but long story short I made it, and I was NOT the last one out of transition!
SWIM As it was my first 70.3, the sheer amount of people present at the race start was a little intimidating. I’m a decent swimmer so ceded myself close to the front in my expected time, and with the ocean waves visibly getting bigger by the minute I knew I just needed to get up and out. They were starting us slightly down the coast because the current was pushing north, and we watched the pros go and saw how quickly they were moving to the right. The rolling start went really smoothly, I tackled the waves pretty well even though my brain was freaking out going a million miles a minute, and I was confidently headed towards the fist buoy. I feel like I only made one “mistake” during the race, and it was at this point – even though I knew the current was pushing north, I looked up when I was about halfway to the buoy and there it was right in front of me. So I had to backtrack to the left a bit and fight the current to get myself around that first buoy. Not a terrible mistake but probably some time lost. Heading into the harbor was absolutely BLINDING. I had no idea where I was going and have to admit that I relied on the people in front of me, hoping they were swimming the right direction. I’m glad I listened to whoever told me to where my darkest tinted goggles because the sun would be rising! I swam pretty straight though, and the rest of the swim was smooth. Side note: Can you say “wetsuit strippers” ? OMG those guys were everything. My suit was off in .8 seconds. Y’all – use the strippers.
BIKE T1 went smoothly, I remembered to put my racebelt on thank goodness, and my mount was smooth. I had put together a very detailed nutrition plan with my coach so I was ready to execute my plan. The bike has been my weakness since I started triathlon; I’m small and don’t weigh a lot at 5’4″ and about 110lbs, and I didn’t have a lot of strength to begin with. I’ve been focusing a lot of my training on getting stronger on the bike, and I actually feel really good about my ride. Earlier in the week, one of my right adductor muscles was acting up and ended up bothering me all week so I was a little apprehensive about what would happen on the bike. The first hour of my ride was a little on the chilly side because I was still wet from the swim, and I felt like I had tight adductors on BOTH sides now, but there was really nothing I could do about it except say a little prayer that they would calm down. Luckily as the ride went on and I “thawed out” and dried off, they did calm down. I was aiming to be under 3 hours and ended up just a few minutes over that, but considering the thrashing we got on the HILLS, I will give myself a little extra credit here for this. I ended up eating 2 Lara bars, 3 Manuka Sport gels, and one bottle of electrolytes. I had a 2nd bottle ready to go but I was feeling good, it was (luckily) cloudy and not too hot, and my belly is notorious for getting sloshy on the run so I opted to not drink the 2nd bottle. The home stretch was definitely head-windy as predicted but I was able to get pretty aero and rallied my legs for a good finish.
RUN I would never do this in a Sprint or Olympic distance race, but I had decided that I would sit down to put socks on for my run (do any of you run without socks??). No problems in T2, grabbed 2 more gels and was off. I knew immediately it was going to be a long and painful run on some tired legs. My goal was to run under 7:30/mi which I knew was going to be a challenge but something that I thought was achievable. I remember looking at my watch at 0.7 miles in and thinking to myself, “This is WAY harder than I thought it was going to be. What have I gotten myself into?! How am I going to run 13 miles??” I resolved to dig deep, trust that the training was there and my legs weren’t going to give up before my brain did, and I would just keep going – no matter what. The pace number slowly started rising from 7:10… 7:20… 7:35.. 7:50. A few miles in was the first time I came upon my husband and friends on the side of the course. My husband said, “There she is, go!!” and I saw a girl coming towards me.. it confused me at first because I didn’t recognize her but then I realized it was my friend and teammate, Emily. I was SO happy to see them, and to have her giving me a little pep talk!! She asked me how I was doing, how did I feel, how was my nutrition and I could barely get any words out. But she gave me the encouragement I needed and reminded me of my game plan, to stay focused, and to drink at the aid stations. I told her I thought at that point I would be able to keep it under 8:00/mi even though it was a lot slower than I wanted to be going, but my legs were hurting so badly that I actually couldn’t believe I was moving that quickly. Emily left me and I foraged on down the course, through some small rollers that felt like giant mountains, and made it to the turn around that seemed like it was a million miles away. I didn’t drink every aid station because I was borderline belly-sloshing, but when I did I alternated between coke and Gatorade. I eventually started walking through the aid stations because I was having a hard time drinking from those stupid cups and running, but it also helped having those few seconds of walking to relieve some of the pain and tightness building up in my legs. Second lap around, I’m not gonna lie – I walked up that long double ramp. My husband and Emily were moving locations on the course to catch me more times and had moved to the top of the hill there; they both told me later that it was hard to look at me because I looked like I was in so much pain… which kind of makes me laugh when I think about it now but at the time I WAS in so much pain. I walked by my husband and he said the only words I needed to hear: “I’m so proud of you. Keep going.” And that was all I need. Both my feet had gone numb by this point, I’m not sure why because that’s not normally a problem I have. My pace slowed to around 8:00/mi and that was just what it was going to be for the day. It became a fight for me to keep it there; I focused in on how efficient I could be with every step, and kept going through my mental checklist over and over: tall from the hips, arms tucked in, keep stride efficient, make sure all movement is forward, control your breath. When I got to about 9 miles in, I knew I would make it. I knew I could keep that pace for 4 more miles, and when the 10 mile mark came I thought “YES only a 5k left!!” Coming down the final stretch of road I could hear the announcer and kept straining to get a glimpse of the finish. The fan-lined red carpet was just as awesome as everyone says, I managed to give out a high-five or two, and my swim coach yelled at me “Let’s go Christine, sprint it in!!!” so I tried to give it my usual end-of-race kick but I truly did not have much of anything left in my legs at that point. I thought I might cry when I finished, but I didn’t… I DID double over to catch my breath and must’ve looked bad enough for a couple people to ask me if I was OK. A buddy of mine was just ahead of me when we finished so when I ran into him just after the line I of course asked him,”Dude where is the FOOD?!”
Going into the race, I had a goal in mind of 5:15 and my official time was 5:32:32. Though my times were a little shy of where I wanted them to be, I can’t say that I have any regrets about any of the way that I executed my race. I think it was a great reflection of where I am in my training and certainly gave me a ton of motivation to get back to work for Chattanooga 70.3 next month. No surprise, I was incredibly inspired and humbled by all the athletes and community the entire weekend, and felt super blessed to have my husband and friends there to cheer my on. Can’t wait to see what I can do next! Happy Triathloning, friends.