3:30 AM – Rise and shine. This morning I was heading to the race by myself for the first time that I can remember. Mindy had a long run to do in the morning before the race and was planning to park 8 miles away and run to the venue. My plan was to leave the house by 4 AM and park at upper El Moro and ride the bike down to transition. I ate my breakfast of oatmeal (2 pkgs), pumped up tires and loaded the bike. I arrived at El Morro around 4:20 and the upper parking lot had a gate across half the road saying closed. I went around it and parked there anyway. I got everything ready and rode down to Transition. I arrived and found that somebody had already taken the end spot – he had spent the night at the venue as a security guard for the Race Director so he deserved the best spot. I took the spot next to his and then Bob Littrell arrived and took the spot next to me. After a little while everybody from Team FC, OC Tri Club, Tri La Vie and others started to arrive. It seemed like I knew half the people in the race – all really great people.
Predicted time – 18:00
Actual Time – 24:24
I like the Crystal Cove swim course and have done it many times in practice and in my previous race (2010). There is usually some kelp and the swim start and exit can have some nice waves to go through, but it is usually a pretty tame swim. I did my practice swim and found the water to be very chilly compared to my Friday night swim at CDM.
As I strolled along the beach I noticed that the second red course buoy was very far off-shore and seemed to be drifting further away as we awaited the start. The course is supposed to be a rectangle consisting of a 150-200 yd straight swim from shore followed by a right hand turn that parallels the shore and the then a final right hand turn into the shore at the swim finish. By the time we started the second buoy had drifted pretty far offshore and the turn was more like a 45 degree angle heading out to sea.
I started right on the horn and went diving out through the waves and reached the first yellow buoy with no trouble and then as we swam towards the second buoy the water conditions were rough. I was getting slapped in the face and tossed around by the tight interval chop – because of the angle of the turn we were heading right into the wind chop and we were also out of the lee of the cove. It seemed like the buoy was moving away from us as we swam out. I had a strong kicker next to me or in front of me the whole time and it was very annoying. I had to really be careful not to get kicked so this forced me to keep my head up a lot more than I wanted. Once I made it to the second buoy things got smoother – the chop was coming at us from the side and it was much easier to deal with. I finally made it to the exit and saw my time and then looked at the distance – 24:00 and .72 miles. Yes we swam further than expected and in rougher than expected conditions, but it was the same for everybody. It turned out to be one of my best swim paces in a triathlon – 1:55 per hundred yds.
Predicted Time – 4:00
Actual Time – 3:27
One of the unique and challenging parts of Pac Coast is the pathways that you have to climb from the beach up to the actual venue where transition and the finish line are located. You encounter these pathways on both Swim-Bike transition and the Run Finish zone
My plan was to walk these hills because I know they can zap your energy, spike your heart rate and I can’t go any faster walking vs running. As I came out of the water everybody was cheering and yelling my name and I found myself running up the ramp, but then I remembered and slowed the pace to a steady walk. I got up to my bike my heart was still racing. I made the transition and got onto the bike and started my ride.
Predicted Time – 36:00
Actual Time – 36:35
I exited onto PCH and started towards the first hill. I got a lot of speed going and raced right up the first hill with very little difficulty. I made the turn and then raced back down the hill. There was a lot of traffic and I was yelling keep left but I had to hit the brakes for one rider that seemed confused about where she was riding. My heart was still racing as I came past the Reef Point bike exit and I tried to get calmed down, but at the same time this was a sprint distance race so I knew that I couldn’t do too much damage in 12 miles. I kept the pressure on and noticed that my power was around 240w about half way through the first loop. As I came to the end of the first loop I hit my lap key for a time of 18:02. The lap power was 240W and cadence was 90.
My legs were feeling a little scorched and on the second lap I so used the downhills to recover by coasting in a tight aero position – chin on the handle bars. This dropped my power and cadence some for the second loop but I didn’t lose too much time and I think it helped me to come out running a little stronger. Second loop was 230w and 87 cadence. I came into the bike finish feeling good and strong for running.
T2 – Bike to Run
Predicted Time – 1:00
Actual Time – 1:35
I was expecting a fast transition for T2 because I was going sockless and it was a small transition area. When I went to rack the bike I had a little bit of trouble and could not quite get the seat over the rail. Then I went to put my shoes on and grabbed the wrong shoe for the foot. As I tried to get my feet into the shoes I go a little bit of cramp in my calf so I had stand up. I continue to have troubles getting my shoes on my feet quickly. I finally got them on and ran out of T1 to the Run Course.
Predicted Time – 27:30
Actual Time – 28:02
This run course is very interesting because you are running downhill or flat for most of the first 2 miles and then you gain all of the elevation loss climbing up the steep pathway. There is one hill at the end of mile 1 but it really isn’t that steep. My plan was to run by feel and get as much speed on the downhill sections as possible.
For the rolling hills, I ran through them without blowing up and then for the final pathway to the top I walked. For the first mile I was right around 9:50 pace and I stayed at that pace all the way through mile 2 and through the sand to the pathway.
My strategy for this last part of the run was to walk up the pathway quickly and then run the last .4 miles as hard as I could – mile repeat speed or better. As I was walking up the ramp I saw 2 guys in my AG and I went by both of them. When I go to the top my legs felt pretty good and I started running again. I knew I was running pretty fast for me and when I checked my data I averaged 7:55 for the last .4 miles of the race. I saw a friend of mine up ahead of me with less than ¼ mile to go and we had talked before the race how he had never beaten me in a triathlon. He is a fast swimmer and has been improving his biking so I didn’t think I would catch him. He was running good but I was running better and I had him in my sights. Then Martha yelled out “hey Don, Bill Davis is right behind you and he is going to catch you”. This tipped him off and I gained a little bit on him but he managed to stay ahead of me – oddly enough we had identical run times – 28:02.
I came into the finish and heard all of the teammates and friends cheering. It was a great race day.
I felt great when I finished the race – I think I was fully recovered by the time I left the venue. This was a fantastic event and a fun race to do. All of my teammates and friends were at the finish line and eventually I found my wife – she successfully made her run from Superior/PCH (Hoag Hospital) to Crystal Cove. Ironman training forces you to do a lot of things to fit into the schedule of your life. She got there in time to see me on the bike and run and took some great pictures.