This was my first trip up to the Strawberry Fields Triathlon. The Breath of Life triathlon was just up the coast a month before and I used that primarily to get used to the flat courses in this area. It actually shared a large part of the bike course so I really felt at home with this before we got there.
This would be my first proper ocean based race of the year. Breath of Life was in the ocean but was sheltered inside the Ventura harbor.
So back to this one. I actually nearly pulled out as I managed to pick up a cold since the "Keep LA Running" 5K. My head was bunged up but I seemed to be just about holding off a transition to a chest infection. I decided to go for it anyway as a friend of mine had told me that you tend to feel better during activity and it will come back afterwards.
My wife Sam and my son Ben, were packed into the car and off we set up the coast. We were staying just down the road from the venue with a beautiful view of the marina so I was quite excited.
I had new wheels for this event and for the first time ever, I was racing with a disc wheel. It was actually going to be a set of Zipp 808's with a disc cover at the back. This is an affordable alternative to getting two rear wheels to cope with different wind conditions. As it happened, it was really windy by the race venue when we checked in on Saturday afternoon. It is typically less windy early in the morning so after a discussion with race director Jamie Silber, I decided to stick with the disc.
That night we chilled out at a local restaurant. I had been told that the transition is fully allocated which means that there is no fighting over prime spots. You have your space allocated and you go with it.
Other than having less of a scrabble in the morning, it also means there is no rush to get to the venue.
A relaxed and very quiet night meant that I was feeling pretty good in the morning. I was to ride to the venue on my own and Sam and Ben would have breakfast at the hotel and walk down later.
The ride in went well and I still arrived pretty early but things didn't go quite to plan with regards to pre race preparation. I rushed down a small energy bar and half a breakfast cookie. I intended to eat a lot more than this but I didn't feel like eating and I was rushed for time. I also missed my usual GU gel and only just squeezes in a GU just before the swim.
Due to a long toilet queue, I was now running really late. I was using a new wetsuit for this race so I had been hoping to allow a good amount of time to warm up and get used to it. Unfortunately at this point, I was rushing to get into it with only 5 minutes left before the start. I ran down to the beach and jumped straight in. The water was really cold. I'm normally good with cold water but this was really really cold. I submerged myself quickly and took a couple of strokes. For some reason I just couldn't adapt. I needed much longer and I didn't have the time.
We all lined up for the start. Luckily they were running behind otherwise I don't think I would have been able to get into the water at all. The countdown started and the gun went off. I don't feel I got off too fast but at the same time, it wasn't too slow.
As we hit the water, the cold hit hard again. As usual, it was much better the second time but I didn't navigate the surf particularly well. I seemed to go from being near the front before the waves to seeing at least 20 people ahead of me. Not a great start. Once I was swimming, things calmed down. The first buoy arrived really quickly and wasn't even clear of the surf. I went slightly wider to avoid the break and arrived at the second buoy really quickly indeed. After the final turn to shore, I heard a panicked shout before being hit by a big wave. I didn't have time to react and got tumbled but I stayed in the wave and finally got released right in the shallows. I stood up and looked across to my left to see Josh, my training partner, also standing up. We exchanged a funny hello and set off up the beach.
My run up the sand towards transition was solid and I had a good pace going. In past events I have felt that this was a really weak part of my race but Breath of Life was a real turn around for me and I kept this going into this race.
The clock showed that I pulled out 10 seconds on Josh just running up into transition. Josh made up a bit of time during transition where I had a slight fumble getting my wetsuit off over my timing chip. I think I had it too low where it should have been under the wetsuit. Something to remember for next time.
I left transition just before Josh and just after the lead pack. Unlike Breath of Life, I could see all but one of the riders ahead of me. One rider passed me while I was still securing my feet in my shoes but once in, I was able to hold him about 20 yards ahead of me. We seemed to be pulling away from the rest of the pack which felt good but at the same time, I didn't feel like I had the zip in my legs like the previous race.
On the back of the course, I put in a slight push. I was able to take the place away from the other guy. At this point, I was wondering whether I was leading the race. This was soon corrected by a motorbike and the leader passing us going the other way after the turn around point. He was about 1-2 minutes ahead. It did mean we were running a close 2nd and 3rd with another pack about a minute behind. I didn't see at this point, but Josh was in this one.
The rest of the bike course went smoothly with the other guy just passing me again. I had a great running dismount taking the place back on the way into transition. This transition was really fast and I grabbed my stuff and just went for it.
We left transition together again and set out on the run. My legs didn't feel great at this point and the other guy quickly passed me. Unlike the bike leg, I didn't feel like I was able to hold him.
This is still a problem for me but it is one of the main focus points to my training now. About 4 minutes into the run, another guy passed me. He was going really fast and passed both me and the second place man pretty quickly. I was now in 4th on the road but luckily I was fast enough to hold on to this place to the finish. As I came up to the final turn, I saw Sam cheering me on with Josh's wife Leandra. It's always nice to see this and I gave Sam a high five as I passed.
Josh was still a minute back and we did a near identical run. I think Josh was 3 seconds faster than me.
The good thing was that I was the first to finish in my age group. Josh was second just a minute back at the finish. We had talked about this being our goal for the race and a 1-2 finished meant a good race for us both.
Overall, I was pushed down one place by the time the later waves had finished, but I was pleased with my 5th place finish.
With better pre race preparation and a clean bill of health, I am pretty confident there is a better performance in me for next time.
Next stop, Malibu.