Note: I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this post. All products listed below were purchased with my hard-earned money and are provided for informational purposes only.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of racing Oceanside 70.3. The southern California weather was perfect, the course was challenging but beautiful, and I managed to finish a few seconds under my goal time of 6:30. Rather than recount each of the 23,377 seconds of the race, I’m going to share some tips and lessons learned from the day in a bullet-list-y (not a word, I know) kind of way.
If convenience is your priority, choose lodging at the Oceanside Harbor. You can walk to the start and don’t have to deal with parking and shuttles race morning.
I wanted to keep expenses low so I booked a hotel a few miles away from the action and made my reservations before race registration opened and only paid $70/night at the Best Western Oceanside Inn. If you go this route, I suggest going to packet pickup ASAP to snag one of the limited parking permits for race day.
The day before
As expected, there were a lot of people peacocking and sizing each other up before the race. As a middle/back-of-the-pack athlete, this aspect of racing is always entertaining to me. Many of these guys are indeed very fast, but in some cases it’s just for show. My slow ass passed a lot of fancy tricked out bikes (and also got passed by people on not-so-fancy bikes). A bike is only as fast as the person riding it.
The days leading up to the race were very hot, about 90 deg F. I made a point to limit my sun exposure and stay hydrated.
My coach also advised me to let some air out of my tires at bike check-in to keep my tubes from expanding too much in the heat (genius!).
Just before bed, I drank 1 scoop of Osmo PreLoad (a full dose for my weight is 2.5 scoops).
Race morning transition setup
My first priority, pump tires back up to pressure.
To prevent blisters, I put foot powder in my socks and had a second pair for the run.
In case something should happen with my contact lenses during the swim, I put the prescription insert for my sunglasses in my transition bag (in a sturdy case). At IMCdA, I put spare pairs of contacts in all my gear bags, but I didn’t want to deal with them for this race.
At first, I made the mistake of putting my helmet, sunglasses, and food on my aerobars. I walked away for a few minutes and came back to find everything scattered on the ground. Lesson learned: put everything on the ground under my bike in transition.
Prior to entering the swim start corral, I drank 2 scoops of Osmo PreLoad.
Beware: Port-a-potties were extremely limited in transition, plan accordingly!
The water was warmer than usual (upper 60s, I believe) so I didn’t wear the booties I brought. A wetsuit, two latex swim caps, and ear plugs kept my body at a comfortable temperature.
I had my watch (Garmin Forerunner 920) set up and ready to go in triathlon mode before wading out to the swim start line. Unfortunately, I discovered it was in power save mode when I went to start the timer as the horn went off for my swim wave. Rather than waste time playing with my watch, I chose to swim immediately and dealt with it after exiting the water. Lesson learned: turn off power save mode on watch before race.
Be advised, if you’re in one of the later swim waves, it’s going to be a full-contact swim. I was in wave 17 (out of 20+ waves total) and the mens 40-44 waveS (the age group is so big, they start in multiple waves) started just after me.
The first half of the swim was fairly mellow. I passed some people from the earlier waves but there was plenty of room to get around. The water got a little choppier as I approached the end of the harbor, but nothing terrible. The end of the swim is when shit got a little crazy. The space between the buoys and harbor is narrower on the return trip and it was more crowded as I started passing more people from earlier waves and more of the faster guys from the later waves started to catch up. I had various parts of my body grabbed and pushed and got punched in the face but somehow managed to remain calm and keep swimming. I used to have a lot of anxiety during the swim portion of races but I think surviving IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene must have calmed the part of brain that would freak out in the water.
The week before the race, I did a “dress rehearsal” swim where to test for issues with the Castelli Stealth T1 top I bought for sun protection on the bike and didn’t find any. Unfortunately, on race day the collar was sticking out of the top of my wetsuit and caused some serious chafing. Lesson learned: make sure all clothing is fully encased by wetsuit to avoid chafing.
Swim time: 42:09
My strategy for the bike was to maintain a moderate level of effort, eat/drink constantly, and see what happens. The first half of the bike course is flat and fast, the second half is hilly and hard. You definitely don’t want to go balls to the wall at the beginning because you’ll become one of the many people walking their bikes up the hills later on. Bike nutrition: 1 bottle of plain water, 2 bottles of green tea Skratch, 3 smooth caffeinator Picky Bars
Bike time: 3:16:13
The run course is mostly flat with some short and steep climbs/descents between sea level and street level. I ran all of the first loop then decided to walk the steep bits and aid stations on the second lap. At each aid station, I topped off my water bottle and put ice in my top to keep my core temp down.
Around mile 10, I ran through a huge puddle at the aid station and soaked my feet, causing hot spots and blisters to form. After a decade of distance running, I’m still a huge wimp when it comes to the skin on my feet and walked a good portion of miles 11 and 12. I finally forced myself to suck it up and run the last mile. Lesson learned: don’t run through puddles (and maybe, toughen up a little…)!
Nutritionally, I felt pretty solid. I didn’t have a single muscle cramp and my GI system stayed calm the whole day. Let’s be honest, it’s not fun when you feel like you’re on the verge of shitting yourself throughout the run. I’m ecstatic that I didn’t have to deal with tummy troubles this time.
Run nutrition: 1 bottle of green tea Skratch and lots of water from aid stations
Run time: 2:20:40
Total time: 6:29:37 (Hello, PR!)
Congratulations on your PR! Great write up and I liked the format over a standard blow-by-blow.
As for the comment that a slow bike is just as fast as a fast bi… Er, a less-expensive bike is just as fast as a $13,000 super-machine, that’s not exactly true. Those crazy-expensive bikes really are much better, lighter and indeed faster. The difference can be made up for with hard work though. I’d take my race bike over my rain bike any day of the week and twice on Sunday for a hard day – it makes fast easier.
I understand that the bike makes a difference. The point I was attempting to make is that a slow rider on a “fast” bike is still going to be slow, just slightly less so.
Sorry I missed it, you’re absolutely right.
I apologize for being unclear.
Also, thanks for the feedback on the format. I was tempted the throw the whole post out because it seemed so fragmented and random. My hope was to share something useful without too much fluff.
I liked it, you did well. 😎
Yay for a new PR! Well done!!
Nice job! I really want to do Oceanside one year. I’m thinking of doing my first 70.3 either here or in Santa Cruz.
Thanks! Oceanside is awesome course. Santa Cruz is a great option for a first-timer, it was my first 70.3 (back when it was Big Kahuna)