2012 Orangeman Aquabike Race Report by Bill Davis
I originally signed up to do the triathlon and then 3 weeks before the race I decided to switch my entry to the Aquabike event. Most races do not have an Aquabike and it is an event that I have placed in before so I decided to make the change. I looked over the results from last year and I saw that the competition was pretty tough – mostly very fast swimmers that had pretty good bike times. Reviewing last year’s results I estimated that I would have been in 5th place. My bike time from last year was faster than the top 4 finishers in Aquabike and overall I was about 8 minutes behind the fastest person. I thought maybe I could push harder on the bike and make up some of that lost swim time. The bike course was a little different this year and the swim was about .2 miles long and the end result was a 7th place finish. I went as hard as I could in both the swim and the bike and I had a good transition and a good race. I am satisfied that I did the aquabike event, although next year I plan to do the triathlon – I need full distance bike rides to catch these swimmers and also less hills.
Mindy and I got up at 3:30 with a plan to leave by 4:15. I ate my usual breakfast of 2 oatmeal packages and we left the house right on time. We arrived in the parking lot a little before 5 and started seeing people that we knew. I got a spot right on the end strategically near the bike-out side of the rack. My wave start was the last one so I had a lot of time to get ready. After transition closed I went down to the beach and did some practice swimming. As I exited the water I noticed that there was a steep drop off right before you could exit the water. I knew this was going to be difficult to stand up and walk out of the water; after struggling to walk up the incline and continually sliding back into the water I finally let the wave wash me up onto shore. I knew that I would have to swim until the water was very shallow in order to exit without a lot of problems.
Time – :50:17
The swim was a beach start and the waves were relatively small so it was pretty easy to get swimming. Also, the quick drop off made it so that you had to start swimming right away. It was very easy to swim and not crowded at all. The course was marked good and it was easy to sight because there were very few waves/swell. This was a lot like swimming at CDM on a nice day. It seemed like it was taking me a long time to swim and I knew that I was one of the last people in my wave. I looked at my watch after the final turn buoy and it read :27 so I knew that I was going to have a slow time.. As I went to exit the water there were some small sets of waves coming in and I tried to catch them. When the final one came I rode it up onto the beach and rolled over on my back until I was laying on the sand. I turned over and stood up. I could see other people struggling to climb up the incline and getting knocked back by the surge. I went through the timing mat and saw :50 – yuck. It turns out the swim distance was a about .2 miles long so that explained the extra time. Most people that I talked to said that their times were about 3-5 minutes higher than they expected.
It was a pretty long distance up to transition from the beach and also the exit out to bike mount was pretty long too so this made for long transition times. I actually got changed pretty quickly – I went sockless to save time.
I knew that I was probably about 15-30 minutes behind the competition and that I was going to have to ride hard to get into the top 3. I had a plan that Joby made for me that mapped out my power ranges along various parts of the course. Unfortunately when I turned on my bike computer it said ‘battery low’. I have been having trouble with the cable/connector that I use to interface and charge the unit. Evidently it didn’t charge up like it normally does. I still had my Garmin 310 and I had an average power range for the entire ride but it is hard to look at when riding and I wanted to be able to review power at various section of the course by lapping them. Basically I went by feel in my legs and heart rate to pace myself on the bike. The first part was fast and also a warm-up. After about 6 miles you come to La Pata – this was not part of the course last year. It is a 1.5 mile detour up a 5-6% grade. This was probably the steepest part of the course. I pushed this fairly hard even though I knew it was early in the race. After you descend La Pata you are on Ortega Hwy and this is where the fun really gets started. The first part of Ortega is very rolling terrain and a lot like riding through Santiago Canyon. I came into the first aid station planning to fill up with water, but they handed me a bike bottle that would not stay open when I tried to squirt water into the aero bottle. I had been told that they were going to use these for water on the course and I probably should have stuck a bottle cage on my bike because I could not get any water out and basically I had to make the climb with very little water.
After about 11 or 12 miles the climb starts to get steeper and more of a mountain type road. At this point I had averaged about 210 W and I was right about where I should be in terms of power. My legs felt good so I continued to push the pace up the hill. Nobody had passed me on the bike (probably because there was nobody behind me after the swim) and I had been passing a lot of people. As I approached the Candy Store (about 24 miles) I could see that my overall power had risen to 220 watts and my legs still felt good. The Candy Store people set up their own aid station and fortunately they had a water bottle that was open so I was able to refill. The final push from the candy store has a switchback and a good climb to get up to the turnaround. I was starting to get a little worn down at this point but I kept pushing to the turnaround because I knew I could recover on the downhill and I didn’t have to run anyway. I was expecting the turnaround at mile 28 but then it didn’t happen – I had forgotten about the detour up La Pata. About mile 30-31 I hit the turnaround and I tried one more time to get water out of those water bottles and I only got a few sips – this became a big problem later because I definitely got dehydrated. My time to the turnaround was about 2 hours.
On the descent I pushed the pace as hard as I could without being unsafe. The week prior to the race my bike had been in the shop to have the bearings on the headset (steering column support) replaced. Normally I would ride about 20-40 miles and then re-tighten them, but I got my bike back late Friday afternoon and I couldn’t ride more than about 4 miles – it did not loosen up in that amount of riding. I could definitely feel a little wobble in the front end when I was coming down the hill and by the time I was finished with the ride it was very loose. Fortunately it is a failsafe design in that the fork isn’t going to come apart, but it affects maneuverability. I don’t think it slowed me down as I was pushing very hard down the hill and kept good control of the bike. I knew that if I was going to get into the top 3 competitors I would have to pass people on the downhill part. As I went down the hill I passed a lot of people. After I went across the bridge in San Juan Capistrano I knew that it was about 3 miles back to the finish line and it was all flat. I rode as hard as I could, continuing to pass people just in case they were in the aquabike category. I pushed as hard as I could all the way to the end and crossed the finish line in 7th place. Not where I wanted to be but I had a good race.