July 23, 2012

Solana Beach Triathlon Race Recap

Yesterday I completed my 7th triathlon, the Solana Beach Triathlon. This was a sprint distance tri, consisting of a 1/4 mile swim (roughly 400 yards), a 9 mile bike and a 3 mile run.  I signed up for it for two reasons, the first being that I haven't done a triathlon since last October (the Oly I was supposed to do in March got canceled due to severe weather) and I wanted a practice tri before my big 70.3 in September.  The second reason is that my 70.3 triathlon will be an ocean swim, and all of my triathlons to date have been bay swims. The Solana Beach Triathlon is an ocean swim, so I thought that would be extra good practice for me.

I approached this race with some trepidation, as I'd hurt my back over two weeks before and had really laid off the physical activity.  In fact, in the 2 1/2 weeks since wrenching my back, I'd only done two swims (one 1000 yard pool swim and one 1300 yard ocean swim), two runs (both 3 miles) and no actual bike rides.  My chiropractor wanted me to rest my back, but said the recumbent bike at the gym should be ok, so I did do the recumbent twice, but that really isn't the same as biking.  I did have my chiropractor's blessing to do this triathlon, especially since my back was feeling much better.  I had two races this weekend (the day before I did the Bolt to the Q with my 8-year old son, recap here) so this weekend I had more physical activity that I had in weeks! It felt good.

  I did packet pickup on Friday, so Saturday all I had to was pump my bike tires and load it in the car and quadruple check all my gear. I get really obsessive-compulsive about making sure I have everything (I have nightmares about getting to a race and forgetting my goggles or bike shoes or something else vital) so I usually start laying gear out a few days before so I can check the list and then check the list again. By Saturday night, everything was loaded in the car, all that was missing was me!

I went to bed at 8:30, and slept fitfully, waking up every few hours (as is my norm the night before a race). I was up for good at 4:00, well before my 4:30 alarm, so got up, got ready, and left a bit earlier than I had planned. I ate about half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the car; I just couldn't choke down the other half. I got to Solana Beach, easily found a parking space at the train station, and made my way over to transition.  Transition was supposed to open at 5:45, but I got there at 5:35 and it was already open. I had lots of space to choose from on the racks, which was great, because usually I end up squeezing in someplace.  It was still dark when I got there, and I had lots of time to set up. It was awesome using my new tri bag, which I got a few months ago for my birthday but hadn't had a chance to use yet.  I chatted a bit with the women around me, got bodymarked, and found my friend Andrea, who was racing her first-ever triathlon but was in a different wave than me.

all set up!

Soon it was time to leave transition.  We headed down to the beach, and I was pleased to see the waves were minimal.  Yay!  The announcer said the water was 70 degrees, which was perfect.  I was in wave 6 (women 35-44), so Andrea and I had about an hour until after the close of transition until my wave, which was at 7:45 (Andrea was in the wave after me).  I made sure to get my wetsuit up as best I could, as I've had issues in the past with feeling constricted and I wanted to make sure all the material was up over my shoulder.  I got in the water, not really to warm up but more to get acclimated to the water and to make sure my goggles weren't leaking.  Soon, it was time for my wave to line up for the beach start.  As usual, I lined myself up in the back.

The horn blew and we all ran into the water.  Well, most people ran. I half jogged, half walked. It's hard running into the water!  My goggles made it hard for me to see accurately, so I ended up taking them off until I was actually ready to swim.  This was a 1/4 mile U-shaped swim, roughly 400-440 yards (I don't have a waterproof Garmin, so I didn't get the actual distance). It was a short distance to a buoy, then a right turn parallel to the shore for a bit, then round another buoy to head for the shore.  Well, the water was so shallow in the beginning that for the first several yards, we weren't swimming, we were walking. Finally I was deep enough to dive under the next wave that was about to crash on me and I was off swimming.  By this time, I was really behind everyone, and I noticed only a few other red-capped women behind me.  After several yards of swimming with my head up, I finally felt comfortable enough to put my face in and began bilateral breathing, every 3rd stroke.

The swim, while super short, seemed to take forever.  This was mostly because my shoulders were killing me.  Remember I wrote that I sometimes get shoulder aches and I was careful to pull the wetsuit up all the way? Well, either I didn't succeed in that, or the problem is something else (ie I need a new wetsuit altogether).  Each stroke was painful. I MUST figure this out before my big race in 2 months; if 400 yards hurt me, imagine doing 1.2 miles?   Regardless, while the swim seemed to take forever, soon I was at the first buoy.  Suddenly I was back in the thick of the other swimmers, so I really caught up.  Here it was a bit more crowded, but I always had space to swim, and not once during the swim did I get kicked or swam over (although I almost ran into another woman who wasn't sighting well and was swimming perpendicular, right into my path!).  Finally I was heading back to shore, and even caught a few waves to body surf in a bit.  I stood up several yards before the shoreline and trudged through the water, unzipping my wetsuit as I went.

The path back to transition was cruelly up a steep hill.  Some people were running it, but I walked up.  My heart rate was high from the swim and I didn't care about adding a few seconds to my transition time.  I made it back to my bike, pulled off my wetsuit, put on my Garmin, dried my feet, put on my socks, bike shoes, headband, helmet, sucked down some Gu, and clip-clopped out of transition to the mount-bike line.

The bike ride was nice. I hadn't ridden on my bike in almost 3 weeks, since I had hurt my back, and it felt good to be on. I still need to get my bike re-adjusted (I did have it fitted a few weeks ago but I don't like the tilt of the saddle) and my quads were confused at the feeling, after 3 weeks of non-use, but it was nice. It was a double-looped ride, out-and-back on Highway 101.  It was a gorgeous ride by the ocean, plus see the other bikers on the other side of the course and also the runners doing their thing.  There were a few tight U-turns to navigate, but I did those with no difficulty. I ate a Fig Newton on the ride, which really hit the spot. 9 miles later, on the dot, I was back at the dismount line and  back to transition.

After a quick change of shoes and removal of my helmet, I was off for the run.  I thought it was supposed to be a 5k (3.1 miles) but I had misread it and it was only 3 miles so I was pleasantly surprised.  The day was overcast, and I didn't see the sun until I had 1/3 mile left, which was awesome!  The only issue I had was that my heart rate was STILL elevated (it was beating fast on the bike too) so I took some walk breaks when I needed to, to try to slow it down.  I took water at the aid station, not to drink but to pour on my head.  It wasn't hot, but it was humid, and it felt good to cool off.  Like the bike, this was a double looped out-and-back, and it was nice because I saw my friend Andrea 3 times.  Before long, I saw the finish line up ahead and ran to it.  The announcer called my name (always a bonus), I crossed, and got a medal (this was cool, because this company usually only hands out finisher pins, not medals). I had told Andrea that I would wait for her at the finish; she wasn't too far behind me and it was great to see her cross, hear them call her name, and see her officially become a triathlete!


Overall I was happy with this race. I  had fun, and performed well, but wish I could figure out two things: why was my heart rate up so high during the race, and why are my shoulders hurting? I think I am going to rent a sleeveless wetsuit and see if that helps; if it does, I need to suck it up and buy a new sleeveless wetsuit. I'd rather spend some more money, and be a bit colder with no sleeves, than to swim 1.2 miles in something that is causing me pain.

Next up: SuperFrog 70.3.  You can be sure I'll be writing about THAT soon. I'm freaking out already!


  1. Great race report! I can't thank you enough for being there at the finish when I crossed the line! And for the company both at the race and in training.

    I also owe you, as reading your report, I realized I are nothing between breakfast around 5:15 and the post-race bagels. Bet that was another reason my legs were toast on the run. I even had chomps in my bike bag and gels at transition! Too excited to remember them, I guess.

  2. WoooHoooo!!! You rock!!
    Not sure about the wetsuit thing.. I have full sleeves, it doesn't hurt while swimming, but I'll be extra sore for days after the tri. Wish I could offer advice!
    Sounds like this was a great race to get you in the spirit for the 70.3!


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