- Published: 30 November -0001 30 November -0001
The California Ironman 70.3 in Oceanside is always a big race, and this year was no exception. As the season opener for the Ironman brand in the States there is a lot of hype, and very big/competetive pro fields.
The fact that Cali is the centre of it's own triathlon universe definitely made it feel like other race results, like my win at the Panama 70.3, for instance, or Frederik Van Lierde's big win at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon, never even happened. As a Canadian with "Hey, USA, please acknlowldge our existence" sentiments being part of our national heritage, this always helps add some fuel to the fire!
It's always better to get good press after a race for a good result, but I needed to get a bit pissed off pre-race, actually. We've been training in the Poway CA area with The Triathlon Squad for the past 3 weeks, and race week felt decidedly un race-week like. The normal Squad training routine, no big travel adventure, and the genereal weird lethargic feelings that come with some easy taper days had me feeling less than charged up.
There is a lesson in this. I've gone into races feeling amazing and had great performances; I've gone into races feeling amazing and had poor performances; I've gone into races feeling like crap and won; and I've gone into races feeling like crap and raced equally so. As much as we want to search for little things to boost our confidence in the days before the race, it's no good to let vague feelings cement themselves into beliefs that start to steer the course of your day. Know that you've done the work, and just be present at each moment of the day doing your best.
Race morning started off as usual, but as we were riding to T1 we saw an age-group athlete get his transition bag strings caught up in the spokes of his front wheel, which caused him to flip over and face-plant hard into the road, with an accompanying explosion of race gear. Lots of people were around to help, but that was awful to see and made me feel a bit sick inside. Not how you want to start your day.
Empathy tends to be short lived race morning though, so I had to re-focus and get ready to race. I was surprized to find that the transition racks were not arragend by race number, but on a first-come-first-served basis. It was a bit messy that way, and I was further from the run out than I'd like, but c'est la vie.
Becuase Trevor and I were both racing we got to hang out in transition, do our little run warm up and help each other with our wetsuits. I always love my swim-entrace-shoot-wesuit-Trevor-hug. Evidently, I also like stringing a large number of nouns together.
Anyway, the men (or most of them) were off at 6:40 and we got to get in the water right after for a quick 3min warmup before our start at 6:43. As we lined up to start, a group of 3 male pros frantically swam through our line to get to their race that they were a wee bit late for. Ugh. Time management fail.
Fellow athletes from the triathlon squad were there to cheer us on and took this picture a little ways after the start of our race. It nicely demonstrates how most swims go for me:
I was happy with my swim, though. I didn't manage to get on the feet of the leaders, but I started in a good position, to the far right, and was aware of the groups forming and could make tactical desicisons and swim strong without getting super stressed. This is better than the white wash mess, "I'm good, I'm good, what? how'd they get ahead up there? shit! close that gap, uuugghhh can't do it" situation in which I often seem to find myself.
It's always nice to have more time on your competition, at any stage of a race, but I was happy to be less than 2 minutes from the lead.
The first 25 miles of the bike course are pretty flat and roll near the coast before entering the Camp Pendleton navy base and starting the climbs. This type of riding suits my strengths, but it was really hard to ride steady and open any sort of a gap with a couple of slower pro males (who caught me at mile 7) leap-frogging first myself, then a bunch of us as we all lost time sitting up, backing out of draft zones and then re-passing... repeatedly.
You can see from the power file how up and down my power was, relative to the back half. I get that race course logistics make it hard to leave big gaps in swim wave starts, but when the pro fields are as big as they are for this race, there needs to be a gap larger than 3 minutes between the men's and women's start times. It doesn't seem unreasonable to hope that the only people who should be seriously influencing the women's race, are the women actually in that race (which is why it is also important to have a big gap from the pro women's start to the age-group start). As much as it may have benefited us to have her stand down for 4 minutes, I know I was pretty choked to hear that Rinny got a red card trying to pass a pro male. Had I not surged to almost 400 watts to complete passes when male ego kicked in, I could have easily been in the same boat.
Anyway, we ditched the boys eventually, and the lighter Heather J and Linsey C got a bit of a gap on me on the big climbs, and kept it through the rolling, climbing section complete with strong head-winds. I was able to close it on the flats at the end, however, and I ended up in 2nd spot into T2, with Amy Marsh out in front and Camilla Pedersen, HJ and LC right behind me. 2nd was short lived as HJ flew past, and the foot race that would decide the outcome was on!
By th turn around at the far end of the course on the first lap, I had managed to pass Amy, but Heather was gradually pulling away and I got a split that I was then 50s down from her lead. Despite my running a 1:19:50 half marathon, this gap kept growing and it seemed clear that she had the race in the bag. I was pushed hard from behind though, as I at every turn could see Lesley Paterson flying up behind me (almost literally - every run picture I've seen of her, her feet are about a foot in the air!), and I knew that Linsey wouldn't let her go without a fight either. I tried to imagine them pushing each other to catch me, and I kept the pressure on.
There were some nasty, short steep little climbs/descents to go from The Strand to Pacific St., and up and down from the pier. Yells from coach and the triathlon squad definitely helped - in addition to all those uphills run strides in training! You can see my ouch face here at the top of the climb:
With the smoking fast run times this weekend, there is some debate about the accuracy of the run course. There often seems to be this debate, and a twitter survey shows that some people had exactly 13.1 miles on their gps's while others saw 12.9. Whether it was 12.9 or 13.3 miles, it doesn't really matter. We all raced the same route, and comparing courses year to year with wind, water, temperature difference is of limited utility anyway. I ran my guts out, and gave all I had to finish 2nd so I'm happy with my day whether it was a "true" 1:19 half or not.
You can see a little post-race interveiw here: http://triathlon.competitor.com/2013/04/video/video-heather-wurtele-runs-her-way-to-second-in-oceanside_73007
I would be remiss if I didn't thank my sponsors for enabling me get out there and race to the best of my ability with the best equipment and nutrition:
Thanks also to coach Paulo, my triathlon squad teammates, friends loved ones, and of course my partner in dreaming big: hubby Trevor.
Up next - the St. George 70.3!