I’ve heard that some people feel really energized during their taper weeks, leading to a race, with extra energy they can barely control. I’m the opposite. When I start to taper, my body takes the opportunity to completely fall apart. Good thing I am beginning to see this as a trend in all my races, or I’d be worried. In my two week taper I really felt horrible. I felt tired and fatigued all the time and I barely wanted to even do the easy workouts for the day. I tried my best to get good sleep every night and continue to eat pretty clean. I tried not to limit my diet too much and even ramped up the food the couple days before the race with some extra carbs thrown in for good measure. No giving up anything the week of the race like I’ve heard others do with coffee or alcohol. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a tradition to still have my red wine the night before racing.
I slept surprisingly well the night before the race. I never have slept horrible before a race, but this night was exceptionally good. Went to bed around 9pm and woke up at 4:50am, which is very close to my normal sleep any other day. Breakfast was a couple cups of coffee, and a huge bowl of greek yogurt with berries, granola and honey and a packet of Justins almond butter. My goal was to eat about 2 hours before my race start at 7:05. After breakfast I slowly got dressed and grabbed my nutrition bottles from the freezer and got on my bike to ride the mile to transition.
Setting up transition was pretty low key. It didn’t take me long to do, so I had a lot of time to just hang out and watch other athletes as well as try to ignore all the nervous energy in the air. I’m notorious for not being able to find my bike coming in to transition, so I made sure to walk the transition and find the best way to spot my bike.
As they got closer to my wave start, but put on my Roka wetsuit and made my way to find my group.
I find wave starts pretty anti-climactic. I really like the mass starts because of the energy. The wave start just feels small and unimportant. The start was an in water, swim start. The water was really warm (especially coming from Monterey), so getting in and wading for the start wasn’t an issue. I don’t really even remember the sound of the start (was it a gun, or a cannon, or a beep). I just started swimming when everyone else did. I knew I could sustain a pretty strong pace for 30 minutes and not worry about tiring myself out.
The swim was fairly uneventful. I didn’t find anyone’s feet to draft off after the first few hundred yards, so I was on my own. There were people at my feet, which I usually don’t mind as long as they’re not annoyingly swatting my feet. Pretty much all I thought about the whole swim was, don’t swallow any of the nasty harbor water.
There were a couple points in the swim where it was hard for me to make out the next buoy to sight. That and every now and then I’d come across a pack of swimmers from a previous wave and have to either go around or fight my way through.
As I existed the water on the boat ramp, I looked at my watch and saw 30 minutes. I was really expecting to be a couple minutes faster than that. 30 minutes should be very doable at an even moderate pace. That was somewhat disappointing for me right away.
Swim Time: 30:27
I was pretty happy there was some fog and it was cool out. As I got on the road, I got situated in aero and did a quick body and leg check to see how I felt. My quads seemed a bit fatigued which was odd. After getting away from all the people leaving transition I just tried to hold form and focus on keeping my power where I wanted it. My goal was to hold 230 watts, which is a pretty good effort for me over 2.5 hours. I knew it was very doable as I had my race rehearsal at that power for 3 hours without issue.
As we headed up the coast, I did notice my heart rate was much higher than I expected. At 230 watts, I would expect my heart rate in the 140s and I was seeing it in the 150s. I was a bit concerned, but I usually try not to pay too much attention to heart rate during races as all the race excitement and transition usually gets it going higher. I just focused on looking at power, focusing on my breath and trying to enjoy the ride.
I really think that having a positive attitude while racing is so valuable. I always remind myself to look around and enjoy the moments during each part of the course. I even try to smile at people or say encouraging words as I pass them or get passed.
The course was a really great bike ride. We weren’t in traffic like some other races I have been in. Lots of rolling hills and a few good climbs and lots of pretty scenery. The fog started lifting and the sun came out about a third of the way through the ride.
I will say the Dimond is a fast bike. I just flew by people on the flat sections and downhill’s without too much effort. I will say, I don’t think I passed anyone on the up hills. I try to flatten the course by not going to high above my target power on the climbs. And this means, it feels like I am going very slow and easy on the climbs. People would blow by me like I was standing still every climb. I guess we all have our different strategies.
For nutrition, my goal was to take in 300 calories an hour. I knew the bike would take me about 2.5 hours to complete. I had 2 HoneyStinger honey gels, 1 HoneyStringer gummy packet, and they rest of the calories came from a UCAN bottle I had behind the seat. Because it was pretty cool, I only drank 2 bottles of water from my BTA bottle (refilling it only once). I did bring salt with me, but dropped that on accident right away, so I never was able to take any.
The last handful of miles on the bike, as I made my way back to the coast, were really nice. It was flat and I had the whole road to myself. I could only see one person way in front of me, and couldn’t easily see anyone behind me. It was kind of nice to just be alone on the road.
As I made my way back into transition, I wanted to try something new to speed up my transition times. I wanted to dismount the bike and leave my shoes on the pedals. In all other races, I run back to transition in my shoes, which is uncomfortable and slow. I really mis-timed this and ended up taking off shoes about a mile before transition, so I had to pedal the last mile with my feet on top of my shoes and not in my shoes.
Bike Time: 2:33:26
As usual, as I started to run, I did a quick leg check. It seemed everything was normal. I had that weird feeling I always get running off the bike. My “on paper” goal was 7:15 pace to start with and then pick it up half way through if I felt strong. I decided to try for a 7 min pace right away since I was feeling good and then I could always back off a bit if needed.
The run is pretty flat except for a few quick steep sections where you’re going up or down to the Strand. Those sections really take some effort to get through.
What always happens to me during races, is my feet fall asleep and I get that needle feeling in both feet. I cannot figure it out. But that happened after a couple miles of running and I really lose a lot of feeling in my feet. Luckily it went away after about 8-9 miles. I really need to figure that out.
I never really have a great nutrition plan on my runs. I just took in sports drink from every aid station and then dumped a cup of water on my head. I figure the run is only 1.5 hours, so it’s not long enough to really put a lot of effort into nutrition.
I was able to keep a good 7 min pace the whole run. I even had to hold back a few times because I noticed I was picking up the pace. I kept telling myself to wait till mile 10, then pick up the pace all you want. Once mile 10 came, I was starting to get somewhat tired, and I ended up really not picking up the pace at all.
I will say, the crowd support coming in for the finish is amazing. That was the best experience of the whole race.
Run Time: 1:30:37
I really enjoyed this race a lot. I think the course is great. It also helps to have family that has a condo right at the finish. Logistically, the only pain was having to go back to transition after the race to pick up my bike. That mile walk was hard, especially since we were in a rush to get in the car to make it to Santa Barbara for dinner reservations.
Looking back on my times, I have a lot of room for improvement. I was happy that I hit all my pace goals, but my transition times were downright horrible. Everyone else in my age group around my splits are doing 3 and 2 min transition times and I’m doing over 4 min in each transition. I could easily gain 4 minutes just by being competitive in transition times. That’s something I really need to work on.
I’ll definitely be back next year!