Because I rarely do research before races anymore, I figured I was going to have a warm ocean swim, flat coastal ride, and whatever kind of run at the Big Kahuna half-ironman in Santa Cruz Sunday. Luckily, we arrived in time to do a little recon. The end of the run was in the sand on the beach, the bike leg was hillier than rollers, and not only was the water cold, there were sea lions. The race director’s last-minute instructions even warned us not to pet the sea lions During the swim. Already, it’s shaping up to be my kind of race.
Sunrise broke oddly… In fact, it didn’t break at all. There was a giant wad of fog that had settled over Santa Cruz like a big, wet blanket. You could barely see the end of the pier we were supposed to swim around. We wouldn’t be able to SEE the sea lions, much less pet them. The swim was great. I almost always like the swim, but I really liked this one. It was just out, swim past the end of the pier, and in. The water was probably 58-60, cold enough for moderately numb face, hands, and feet, but not so cold that it sucks all the warm air out of your lungs. Plus, the salt water and the wetsuit are my kind of combination. I had one of my fastest swims!
The bike leg winds through town for about 3 miles, then goes up to Pigeon’s Point lighthouse and back. The blanket of fog held out for the whole bike, so the temperature was perfect. I had Patrick’s really fast Zipp wheels on the Speed Concept, and was feeling good. I had a moderately mediocre ride at an Olympic race a couple of weeks ago, and wasn’t sure what to expect… So I was pleasantly surprised to be able to hammer some. One of the benefits of being in a later wave is that you get to pass lots of people. (Oh, and as an aside, Mr. 45-49 year old on the expensive bike in the aero helmet and deep dish wheels, don’t act so serious when you pass me at mile 40. You started five minutes after me. Where ya been for more than two hours?)
There was a time when I looked forward to the run, because it was my strength. Yyeeeaahh, not so much anymore. But as far as runs go, this one was mostly ok. You run Down a beautiful paved path right next to the ocean and the cliffs. Then you duck onto a trail that has gentle rollers.. Then down and around til you see the Giant tiki, where you turn and come back. I ran up upon a woman who was running the same pace I was. That meant I could zone out and just move my feet forward. That helped me not walk for most of the race. I love that girl. There is an ugly little add-on a the end. The last .2 miles are in the sand, some of it along the water, so you had to dodge water, squishy sand, and kids. As always, the sight of the finish line made me run faster.
Truly, I didn’t care how I did (famous last words), but I sauntered over to the results board anyway.. and surprise! I took age group second, 23rd woman overall. Very excited, as I expected to get crushed by all the California girls. This may have become my favorite triathlon, bumping off Lake Stevens 70.3, no easy feat.
And I really like Santa Cruz, a quirky little surf town (with a boardwalk full of rides). A couple of quick foodie notes: Harbor Cafe for an incredible breakfast with big fluffy pancakes and biscuits and outdoor dining and Surfrider Cafe for the best burgers in town and avocado fries. Turns out its great fueling and recovery food!