Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oceanside Ironman 70.3 ~ A race report from the other side of the fence

I went with my friend to Oceanside, California. She was racing the half Ironman and her family couldn't go with her. She asked if anyone would be able to go with her and I quickly volunteered to be here Sherpa and photographer. We left on Thursday, March 26th, at 6:00 p.m. She drove so I was the navigator. We arrived at our hotel at 11:00 p.m. and went straight to bed. 

On Friday, the 27th, we met up with some other friends that were in town for the race as well. We went to their rental house for an easy bike and run. I had brought my training gear in case I was able to get in some training over the weekend. We biked about 7.5 miles which included the entire run course. This allowed the racers to get a feel of what to expect on race day. We also rode to the harbor to look at transition and the swim. We saw sea lions while there! After the ride we went for a little more than 2.5 mile run. It was along The Strand which is where a lot of the run would take place. After the run, my friend and I decided to play in the surf. We borrowed some boogie boards and had a ton of fun. 

After the fun in the sun, we went back to our hotel and cleaned up. We then went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. We had planned on meeting another friend for the 2:00 p.m. Athlete Briefing and packet pick-up. We then walked through the Ironman Village and the merchandise store. My friend picked up here race backpack and bought a t-shirt. Next we took her bike and gear to the transition area so she could have it set up instead of having to do it in the morning. We then decided to drive the bike course. We had heard that there were some serious hills so my friend wanted to see what they looked like. We followed the race map that we had been given in order to figure out the route. We found the two to three big hills and made lots of jokes about them. My friend said later that she wishes we hadn't looked at them ahead of time because they looked pretty bad and you can't fear what you don't know. Once we finished the drive, we stopped for a quick dinner and then headed back to the hotel. We got all of our gear ready for the next morning since we were going to get an early start. We were in bed by 9:00 p.m.

We woke up at 4:30 a.m. with plans to leave by 5:15 a.m. We got ready and ate a light breakfast in the room. I drove that morning since I needed to drop her off at transition and then search for a parking spot. The closest I could get to transition was still about a half mile away so my friend decided to walk from there. I told her that I'd find her in transition in a bit. I ended up parking near the finish line in a residential area. Then I walked roughly a mile back to the transition area. It was very busy and buzzing. I hadn't seen where my friend's transition area was at and trying to find her among the 2500 athletes was impossible. Luckily, we both had our cell phones and were able to coordinate a meet up. We finally found each other and spent about half an hour chatting and mixing with the other athletes.

Her wave was scheduled to start at 7:24 so she headed off just before 7:00 a.m. to get in the start line. I then made my way to a rocky point to watch the swim. There was no way to see my friends individually but I knew what color their caps were so I kept an eye out for that. The swim was in a harbor so it was pretty protected. There was a small amount of current or movement near the turn around point. The swim was basically a triangle. I saw sea lions pop their heads up several times in the middle of the triangle and look around. It was funny! Once I started to see the colored caps I was looking for, I made my way to the transition area. 

I placed myself in a great spot to see them enter transition and waited. I was able to see four of my friends as they entered. I made sure I yelled loud as they passed. It was fun to see them recognize that they were being cheered for and the smiles that would come on their faces. 

Once my friends were all off on their bikes, I walked a mile back to the car to drop off my friends backpack and tire pump. I then made a quick bathroom break and walked another mile back to the transition area. I wanted to watch then come in on the bike and out on the run. I was amazed that by the time I was almost there, the male pros were already starting out on their run. They had started the race at 6:30 a.m. and it was about 9:00 a.m. The leader ended up having a 24 minutes swim and a 2:10 bike. That is insanely fast!

I found a good spot along the guard rail and waited for my friends while watching others race. I had a group of ladies next to me that were cheering as well. They had made a sign that was cracking everyone up. They were ringing cow bells and yelling. I loved it and so did the athletes. 

Soon I began to see my friends roll in! The bike course was no joke so I was so proud of them for having conquered such a challenge. 

I was able to catch several friends as they both came in on the bike and left on the run. It was a perfect spot. Once again, I loved how they would light up when they saw me and heard me yelling. Being a racer myself, I know how important it is to have a cheering squad. I was even able to cheer on one of our local pros, Angela Duncan Naeth!

I was also able to see some truly inspiring athletes. This blind athlete and his guide rode a tandem bike and then were bungied together for the run. I would have loved to see how they did the swim as well. This was amazing to watch. I was also inspired by Fireman Rob who ran the entire 13.1 miles in his full fireman gear. 

After my last friend left on the run, I made my way closer to the finish line to see them on the run. It was about another mile away. It was starting to get warm and I knew that the heat would become a factor for many of the racers as well. I was able to see all my friends as they passed me several times since the run was a two loop course. 

I was so proud of all my friends who raced. It was the first half Ironman for some and I was so amazed to see the determination and dedication of them as they pushed towards their goal. My friend was aiming for a 6:15 finish time. She finished in 6:13:59! She did amazing! 

After the race, we went back to the hotel to clean up. We then went back to my other friends rental house for a post-race pizza party. It was really fun sitting around hearing the different race stories and experiences. Everyone was tired, sun burnt and a little sore but they were all so proud of their accomplishments. We returned to our hotel after a few hours and went to bed. 

On Sunday morning, we checked out of out hotel and went back to the rental house for a few hours of boogie boarding. The waves were huge and we had so much fun. We showered there when we were done and said our good-byes. We stopped for some fresh seafood for lunch and then started our drive home by noon. The drive was supposed to be 4.5 hour but ended up being 7 hours due to bad traffic and a few wrecks. 

My husband had told me to use this as a scouting trip to determine if it's a race that I would like to do next year. When it opens for registration, it sells out in about 2 days so I need to know before then if I want to race it or not. I think that it would be a fun and challenging race. I haven't decided for me yet but I would suggest it to others. It seemed to be a well supported race that held a few surprises (which I won't share to keep them secret) for the racers. 

My friend had warned me that being a spectator is almost as hard as racing. I don't know if I'll say that but I will agree that it is a hard job. I walked about 6 miles total, didn't eat, stood for almost 12 hours, and only had one bathroom break. Even with all that, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love this sport and I love my friends. If I'm not racing, I might as well be their support. It's the next best thing!

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