Oceanside 70.3 Race Report (aka: There be big hills in California)

Remember yesterday’s post about how the Oceanside area is beautiful?  Well, it is – that’s still true.  Except, I probably should have withheld a bit of judgement until AFTER I had to cycle over 56 miles of hills.  In.the.wind.

With that, here’s the run down.


I’m slowly starting to get down the whole art of arrival into transition area at a reasonable time.  I used to get in WAY to early and was standing around bored.  Now I’m getting it a bit closer.  The organizers here clearly have their stuff together.  There were no lines for anything such as body marking or entry into transition area (despite having 2,000 people milling about).  Well, there were short lines for the bathrooms right before start.  But umm…cold water..wetsuit warmer?


(Moments before the pro’s started, the singing of the National Anthem)
I got setup pretty quickly in what clearly the most ghetto pre-determined slot available.  There were actually garbage cans in my slot (which we moved).  The good part of having a slot up against the fence is you can just lean your bike there instead of battling with the bar trying to get it out/in. 


(My bike spot’s sprawling estate – taken afterwards)

Oh right…the swim…

I swam. Really, how much more can you say about the swim?  Ok, I guess I can say more.  The swim is in a protected harbor/channel, the ‘start’ is about 100 yards from where you get in the water.  THAT WAS AWESOME!  You get a short warm-up, and your body adjusts to the 59* water.  Once you got there, you had about a minute to chill. 

I stared off on the front edge and then slowly drifted in behind once the local swim-boys got out and about.  I didn’t have too many issues with sighting, the buoys were plentiful and colorful.  As we made the turn back there’s a section that’s fairly exposed to some of the inbound waves.  This created some fun rollers.  Although, judging by the ‘carnage’ out there, most people didn’t find it fun.  Many swimmers littered about looking confused, tired and seasick (it was a bit tricky sighting over the rollers).  I just pressed on.  The last 100 yards or so into arriving back was a bit messy.  It was like being at the start again, lots of kicking/pushing/etc… Oh well.

T1 was relatively uneventful.  It’s a long run, maybe 2 minutes.  I started off from the water running what had to have been a 4/min sprint pace down the carpet.  Not sure why, my body was just thrilled to be running and not a fish anymore.


(Photo from Monica, it’s kinda funny the expression I have on my face.)

The Bike:

The bike course is incredibly scenic.  It wanders up the coast for a while, and then eventually turns into Camp Pendleton (Marine Corps Base) and up into ‘the hills’.


(From ASI photo, somewhere near the start)

The first part of the course I was cruising, averaging in the 20-21MPH range, and easily 22+ on the flats.  Down in aero and life was grand.  Well, except for the fact that my stomach was staging a strike for the first 30 miles.  That’s fine, I brought in scab labor instead (water bottles from the Marines).  Stomach: 0 Me: 1.

At around the 30 mile marker it occurred to me that I was slowly working me way along a bit of a valley floor, and that the only way out was up via a big ass hill.  The kinda hill you see little ‘ants’ in the distance slowly going up.  The kinda hill where your top speed is 6.2MPH.  The kinda hill that…I actually enjoyed.  Why?  Because my back and stomach were much happier with me standing up.  So I got 6-8 minutes to stand up.  And then you got to go down the backside hill, at 35MPH. Woohoo!


The woohoo was short lived.  There was another hill.  And another…and another.  Ok, note do self – I need more hill work.  But more than hill work – I need more aero work.  Like hours upon hours of straight hour.  My back was the single biggest limiter after about 90-120 minutes of aero.

People were complaining about the high winds…but honestly, I didn’t notice.  After the last two weeks’s worth of cycling training rides – this wind was nothing (although it clearly slowed me down on course, Mr. GPS tells me that).


(Photo courtesy ASI photography, at around the 15-20 mile marker)

Oh…I almost forgot.  I got an aero water bottle for Christmas, and got it all hooked up last night before the race.  Except I never quite tried it out before hand.  Which was too bad really.  Cause I would have realized that the straw (even using the long one) was too short, thus I couldn’t extract any liquid from said bottle – defeating the whole purpose of having an easy to access water bottle.  Doh, lesson learned.

After 56 miles of joyful time spent with my trusty Fuji (and no flat tires this time!), it was off to the run.


Sure, like everyone I have a big checklist of things that I pack – all separated out by sport.  On that list was race belt.  And don’t worry, the race belt was with me when I departed transition.  Except for whatever reason the strap on it had expanded to support that of a water buffalo.  And have you ever tried adjusting one of those things while running? 

It took me a full mile to get it so it would actually stay around my waist.  But that kept me occupied.  And the first mile was knocked out at a 6:26 pace (actually, slightly faster since I forgot to start my watch the first tenth).  From there, it was a slow descending spiral of mile splits.  Not one of my best run performance by any means (sure, best PR in a HIM – but over 10 minutes off my half-marathon PR).  Note the below graph.


So you may be asking yourself what happened at mile 9?  Well, two things.  Actually three.  I took off my HRM.  It was so tight it was actually starting to hurt, really distracting me.  I took a bit of cola.  And…I walked for 45 seconds to drink said cola.  After all three things (primarily the HRM removal), I felt much better.  And you can see splits slowly get faster from there on out.


(Another photo from ASI, not exactly stylish looking though)

I’m definitely NOT a fan of the multi-lap run courses.  I’m clearly an out and back kinda guy.  Heading out on the second lap of the run course was depressing.  Especially since it was slowly rolling elevation changes (I can’t call them hills, they weren’t – they were just annoying).

In summary

Swim: 33:31 (1:41/100 yards)
T1: 2:52
Bike: 2:57:43 (19 MPH)
T2: 2:09
Run: 1:36:21 (7:22/mile)

Overall: 5:12:36

I finished with an overall PR – by about 10 minutes.  But I didn’t finish where I wanted.  I was about 12 minutes slower than I had anticipated.  Mostly the fault of my bike performance, but also a breakdown on the run.  The direct sun/heat certainly played a part in the run.  But I’m not concerned about that – another few weeks in DC and it will be much warmer and I’ll acclimate to that and get the run back to where it was in November.  And I did only start running 6 weeks ago after 3 months off due to knee injury, so I’m guessing that played into it some.

Most of all I really need to get my aero position sorted out.  That was the major differentiator today in my overall time.  It honestly should have been 15-20 minutes lower.  This is simply a matter of HTFU and do longer aero rides where it’s truly nonstop aero.

But…despite that – it was a good & fun day.  A bit of a learning day.  And in many ways, that’s why I flew all the way out to San Diego for this race.  I wanted an early season half-iron race to both force me to train all winter, but also to provide a bit of a early season litmus test about 5 months out from Ironman.  And that I did.  I have a huge list (click here to see my shorthand version) of things that I can work on/did right.  I write up one after every race and make it a point to review them all before each race – attempting to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

After I was done hobbling around the food tent, I took a quick dip in the water.  Damn, it was seriously not that cold in the morning (although with a wetsuit).


(An unexpected wave hit me right as I took the photo, and the freezing cold water went to a location where the sun don’t shine)

Oh, and I had one of the many SPECATACULAR & AMAZING volunteers take my photo before I packed everything up.


Last…but certainly not least – let me give a huge shoutout to Monica and Ryan – both of which came out and watched the race, and shouted much needed encouragement.  There was also others that I knew, but couldn’t remember their names from the lunch the day before that were out there helping out.  Thanks for coming out!

Next up – Wildflower 70.3 in a month!

(P.S. – I’ll be adding some more photos from the race in here as I get them, so if you’re reading this in a reader, click the link to see if any new photos are there)


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  1. Congratulations on a P.R. and a great performance! That bike course just looks daunting… especially with wind.
    You’re right about staying in aero–you need to practice it a lot or your back will never forgive you in a race…
    You did awesome.

  2. That picture with the wave hitting you is classic!

    And I would be dead after 8 minutes of a standing climb. This is why it is a good thing I live in Iowa.

  3. Awesome job, considering you had ZERO taper going into the race. For just another training day, it seems you learned a bunch to improve on, but also had plenty go right.

    I’ve given up on the HRM during a race. It always feels too tight and constricts my breathing. Your training is when its time to figure out your heart rate compared to your level of effort. I know for the longer races, its more important to track heart rate, but if you generally know what pace you should be moving, the HRM is just a confirmation of what you’ve been training for. I’m sure others rely much more heavily on them, but I’d rather feel free and focus on the race, rather than the numbers.

  4. hey!!! what a cool trip!!!

    and no, we don’t all have lists to pack!! i walk around the apartment grabbing miscellaneous triathlon equipment that comes into sight. unfortunately, i’m not kidding.

    i love that you’re using your triathlons to travel. what a great way to see things!!

  5. Congratulations on a PR. It sounds like a terrific start to a great racing season for you!

  6. Congratulations, well done!

    is that the fuji “newest”? if so, i want it!

    and yikes, them are some hills.

    Where do you get ocean swim training around here? Well i do know a certain water park near you with a wave pool. maybe i should try it!

    Your half mary time is unbelievable. Except? I believe it!

    Nice job!

  7. Congrats on an awesome performance and your new PR!

  8. Great job!!! You really are traveling this year. Wildflower should be a blast.

  9. Awesome job rockin’ a PR, Ray!

    Re: the aero bottle – there should have been a 10″ or so length of clear tubing that the straw fits into. The clear tubing will reach to the bottom.

  10. how is your aero bottle too short? mine kept poking me in the face all day today on my 120 mile ride. yep, 120 miles, DONE!!!

    hey, great to meet you this weekend and get a little bit o’ trainin’ in together. you kicked my ass on that short stint through the base. and i don’t know if you could call that “towing the line” on the way back. sorry i didn’t get to see you finish, but the “lunch crew” said you looked great. i’ll send you pics soon.

    yes, yes, there be hills here in cali. and MORE of them at wildflower, so plan accordingly!!! hopefully, we’ll catch up again there.

  11. SLB

    Great job on the PR and the race in general.

    Yes you think it’s hilly in SD you should come up the coast to LA where the waahoos are bigger, so to speak!

    Well done again.

  12. Congratulations!!! With those hills, and you were only 12 minutes below your target time. You did an awesome job.

    I didn’t know you were such a good swimmer.


  13. PR!

    Yes for building aero time and dialing in the position.

  14. Great job. You done us proud. Pretty fast run after all that other exertion. Don’t you just hate it when those unexpected waves come up behind you!

  15. i just found your post by searching for race pics… i think you might have been behind me at one point in the bathroom line? we discovered there was a separate line for pee? if so that is pretty crazy…

    it was my first “HIM” and i got 6:30; totally bonked for the run and got like a 10:33 mile rate 🙁 but i was happy with my bike performance; i only started biking at all about 3 months ago when i bought my first road bike… i LOVED cycling for the first time and didn’t get flats!

    i’ll probably write a bit about my experience on my own blog as well… but tonight, a nice big burrito, glass of milk, and hot tub! will start training again on Wednesday for my first straight-up half marathon in May. Only sprint and Olympic Distance races for the rest of the season probably, but probably for sure this event next year again!

  16. A solid PR on a very tough course in your first race of the season … I’d say it was a very good trip for you. Nice job with the race, and thanks for the great report.

  17. Oh man, you are unbelievably fast in my book! Congrats on the PR!

    You definitely got a snicker from me about the water buffalo strap! Yep, things happen – u deal with it, and it sounds like you can deal with anything!

  18. Was just blog-surfing others’ race reports from Saturday. Nice race report. That was a kick-ass time for the early season and this race.

    There were a lot of us with higher expectations, myself included.

    I’m glad the wind didn’t bother you. I thought it sucked. 🙂

    I think Coca-Cola is the key to half-IMs. I only take it once, but about halfway through and it seems to give me the get-up and go for the rest. Usually.

    Nice work out there!

  19. Nice work rainman. Congrats on the PR. See those cold rides really did help.

  20. AWESOME Race!!!

    That is smoking fast on the run. I am impressed with that swim time as well since you said you had rough and cold conditions and you have not been a fish all your life.

    Congratulations on your PR!!!

  21. Hey DC, I’m doing IM70.3 California this weekend (2011) and really appreciate your race report. I’m getting nervous about them thar hills!