It’s Like Spring Break, But With Water. Oceanside 70.3 Race Report.

I can’t believe it! I actually completed the Oceanside 70.3 triathlon! Actually, the biggest shocker is not the finishing of 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running…it is that I managed train for this event in the winter (granted, we hardly had a winter in the Bay Area this year, but typically the months of December, January and February are reserved for hibernating on the couch and watching Bravo). But, thanks to Competitor.com’s Super Simple Half Ironman Training program and the many, many people by my side while I trained, I completed 92% of my workouts. For a girl who typically slacks on training plans, this is pretty good.
So, on with the race report.

Hubby and I arrived in Oceanside mid-morning Friday. We drove partway to Palmdale Thursday after work, and headed out to Oceanside the following morning. Our plan was to check in at the motel and the head to race registration. We got to our motel and the room wasn’t ready. I booked on Priceline and the woman at the front desk said, “We have you for two nights in a smoking room.” I said something to the extent of “Esqueeze me?” and thought, “Yes, give the triathlon girl a smoking room. Of course.” I said, no I didn’t want a smoking room. She said, “Well, that’s what you registered for one you booked the room.” (Side note: I just checked my Priceline request. I did not request a smoking room. But I will save that for my TripAdvisor review.).They were able to get me a non-smoking room but it wouldn’t be ready for a half hour. We drove to the expo and Dennis waited with the bikes while I navigated the expo to get to Athlete check-in. I signed three waivers. Got my bib. Got my shirt. Got my timing chip. Got way freaked out by all the hardcore athletes in there. I have never done an Ironman branded event and oh my those peeps take their triathlons seriously! Time trial bikes, aero helmets, zero percent body fat…
We headed back to the room dumped our stuff and walked to the harbor for lunch. We then walked over to where the race start was so I could visualize the race. They were setting up a ton of racks in the transition area and the buoys for the swim were already placed in the harbor. I scanned the harbor—those buoys went way out there. 1.2 miles is a long swim. Just breathe. We headed back to the motel and I tried to get out of my head.
My amazing friends came down for the race to support me. They picked me up at our motel—which was great for Dennis to have a welcome break from my nervous chatter. We headed to the expo again so I could buy some water bottles and Gu. Then we went to the Pier and went for a little swim. I did more splashing around because the waves were pretty crazy and I just wanted to see what the water was like temperature wise. I wasn’t wearing my wetsuit, and the water still felt pretty great.

We enjoyed some apps and drinks (lemonade for me) at this cute restaurant that had an upstairs patio with amazing views of the water. The weather was perfect and it felt like summer—not late March. I felt very fortunate to be surrounded by these amazing women in such a beautiful environment.
They dropped me back off at my motel and then I went into full on crazy triathlete mode. I laid out all my stuff for the race to make sure I had everything. Wetsuit, running shoes, bike shoes, nutrition, water bottle, socks, hat, sunscreen…just a bunch of stuff. I took a picture of it and posted it on Faceook with the caption “Coach Gina, did I miss anything?”. Coach Gina was one of my friends who was down there to support me and she has been an amazing coach for me the last few years.

Dennis and I headed to Theresa’s house in Carlsbad (that was where everyone was staying) for pizza. We realized that pizza was not the best choice for me. My friend Wilma said, “NO CHEESE BEFORE RACE DAY!” I said, “What you are crazy, I can totally have cheese.” Then they reminded me of that one time we did a bike ride and I had a grilled cheese Panini at the lunch stop and spent the next 30 miles doubled over in pain on my bike. Fine, fine, no pizza. Gina then went in full on Coach mode which was awesome and we went to the grocery store. We got my breakfast items for the morning, Gatorade for the bike, a sad Lean cuisine for dinner, chicken tortilla soup, and stuff for Dennis before his bike ride in the morning. We went back to Theresa’s and I longingly watched them eat pizza while choking down my pitiful lean cuisine spaghetti. We headed back to the motel after and I packed all my stuff in my tri bag, got into bed and read a trashy tabloid before falling asleep. I had two alarms set for 4:45. I was wide awake by 4:15.

It’s RACE DAY!

The morning was a blur. Shoveling oatmeal into my mouth at 4:30 is not the easiest thing in the world. I put on my race clothes. I drank some coffee. I kissed Dennis goodbye and rode my bike and gear down to the start. Dennis was meeting up with Theresa’s husband to do a bike ride while I raced.

I got to the MASSIVE transition area. Seriously, over 2,500 people were racing this event. I found my bike number on the rack and put laid out all my stuff. Oh my gosh I was so nervous. I got body marked and then found a porta pottie with no lines. Then a woman said, “These are porta potties for the professionals.” Rats. Had I had more caffeine in me, I would have made a joke like, “Do you mean professional athletes or professional porta-potty users? Because I have been using porta potties since I was 4, not sure if that would make me a professional per se but you see where I am going with this?” But I just mumbled out, “Oh ok, sorry.”

The transition area was closing at 6:30, so I started to put my wetsuit on and head to the swim start. There were like swim waves and they literally had us lined up in a corral. I had my phone with me (I had a bag you can drop off before you start the swim that has your post-race stuff in it. I would put the phone in that bag.) I texted Wilma, “Where are you guys?” She texted back, “We are by the bike racks.” I texted “I am by the bike racks. I am holding my hand up.” She texted, “We are holding our hands up!” I looked around but saw no hands, then turned around and saw on the other side of transition these two crazy ladies jumping up and down. So I started jumping up and down! “Can we come over there?” She texted. “Yes.” I wrote back.

THE SWIM

The swim corral had an area where spectators could watch and Gina and Wilma found me. It was AWESOME having them there. I was REALLY nervous about the swim. My fear was that I would get in the water and decide that I did not want to swim and then POOF all the hard work and time and getting everyone’s support and love would have been for NOTHING. So, yeah, I needed to do that swim. Waiting for our swim wave to go off was like waiting for a ride at Disneyland. It was such a long line. Finally it was our turn. I stared at the water and immediately felt that wave of panic. “No. Don’t do this.” That inner voice said. I felt a cold sweat trickle down my forehead and thought about bailing for a second. Then I looked up and saw Gina and Wilma’s beaming smiles and told that stupid voice to just SHUT IT DOWN.

We got in the water. It was 67 degrees and felt incredible. We swam to where the start was and I tried to get in the zone. The air gun went off and we were off! This was happening! My friend Diane gave me advice to count every three stroked and blow bubbles in the water. I counted every two strokes. I did that for awhile. Then I started singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall in my head. I could feel the panic settling in so I started saying every name of every team mate who has supported me the last few months. I saw their smiling faces in my head. I remembered ridiculous trail runs where we burned more calories giggling than running. I started singing songs from Grease. The swim was feeling pretty good. Not super crowded. We hit the turnaround buoy and then things got bananas. The sun was out and we were swimming right into it. I literally could not see a THING. The only things I could see were other swim caps and the faint outline of safety kayakers. I just started following the sounds of splashing and hoped I was going the right way. And then all the swimmers behind me came. I basically felt like I was in the spin cycle in a washing machine and not sure how to get out of the cluster of swimmers. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. I finally found a spot where I could swim by myself. Still couldn’t see. A stinking thing. At one point I took my goggles off to see if that would help with visibility. I could see part of transition and then I heard “Is that JILL?” Holy cow, I picked the perfect moment to pop my head up because that is when Lisa, Theresa, Gina and Wilma spotted me and screamed their heads off. Gina yelled, “You are doing great!” and I gave them the thumbs up sign and kept on swimming. I finally hit the finish and got on dry ground. YAY! I FINISHED THE SWIM.
I ran the long run to transition and found my bike. My friends were there the whole time instructing me (Did you drink water? Did you have a gu?).
And then I headed out on the bike.

THE BIKE

The bike was the biggest blur. Perhaps because it was the longest leg of the event. I was hoping to get to under 4 hours on the bike, but wound up at 4:10ish. Oh well. The bike went through Camp Pendelton. I read that the first 20 miles were flat and that it was recommended to take it easy so you have energy for the hills coming up. I felt good on the first 25 miles. I read there was a hill around mile 29. There was a short steep hill and then a rest stop. I slathered on some sunscreen and asked if we already did the hill. A girl said, “I don’t know…that didn’t feel like a hill but my boyfriend said it was at mile 26.” I felt pretty self-congratulatory because I totally rocked the “hill.” I got back on my bike feeling super smug for the next mile until I saw the big wall of a hill up ahead. Oops. Guess that was the “hill.” I steadied my breathing and clicked into my granny gear. Let’s. Freakin. Do. This.

I slowly climbed up the hill. A lot of people were walking it. That was not an option for me. I can get to the top. Slow and steady. I started singing “I Will Survive.” Maybe in my head, maybe out loud. Not quite sure. I hit the top and let out a big whoo! And yelled out “We did it!” and then headed back downhill. The next 25 miles were rollers and some headwind. The wind was not too bad (thank you, headwind training rides on Santa Theresa) and was at least cool. I had five miles to go. The last five miles of the bike are the most mind boggling because it feels like it should be quick, but really five miles is still a lot. Oh, I forgot to mention since the bike is on Camp Pendelton there are lots of military people out there volunteering. There were a ton of marines volunteering close to the bike finish and yelling at us to go fast! One guy yelled out “GO PINK BIKE GO!” I burst out laughing and sprinted. The finish was coming! I heard ,”JILL MITSCH! JILL MITSCH!” Yay! It was Gina and Wilma! Whoo hoo! I headed back onto the transition area racked my bike and put on my run gear. And tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I had to run 13.1 miles now.

Oof.

THE RUN

The run was hard. Running 13.1 miles is always hard. My plan was to walk every mile for 30 seconds, or the rest stops. And the hills. You basically do two loops. As I headed out on the run I saw the turnaround and it said mile 7. All my friends were there yelling at me saying I had a good pace and I thought, man, I gotta wait 7 more miles until I get to see them again. But, I kept running. I hit mile 1. Mile 2. Drank Gatorade. Ate a banana. I really had no coherent thoughts. It was just…move…just keep moving. I hit mile 3 and thought to myself, “10 more miles. That’s a lot.” Fortunately there were tons of spectators on the course as you literally run through people’s neighborhoods. People were spraying us with water from their hoses, blasting “Uptown Funk.” It was a party. Our bibs had our names on them so lots of “GO JILL!” which was awesome.

I finally hit the turnaround and heard Gina yell out, “GO JILL! YOU ARE KILLING IT!” I smiled. I think I smiled most of the day. At mile 9 we hit the pier and I saw Dennis! Yay! I tried to have a conversation with him while running. It basically went, “Hi baby! How was your ride? I should be done in an hour! I love you!” Seeing him was an awesome part of the run.

My pace started slowing a bit. The heat was coming. I hit a rest stop where volunteers were spraying people with water. If you wanted to be sprayed you had to lift your arms up. “It’s like spring break, but with water!” I joked to the volunteers.

I could feel myself going to the dark place once I hit mile 11. This was stupid hard. But just keep running. I thought to myself, “this I what you do Jill. You are maybe not fast, but you are good at suffering for a long time, pushing through this…just do it. The finish is almost there. Just. Go.”

So I hit mile 12. Man my body was on fire. My feet were howling and my ankles felt cut up (side note: that is because my socks slipped down and my shoes cut up my ankles and I was bleeding!). Oh my gosh—there it is—the finish! I was going to finish this. I was close to the finish and I saw all my peeps cheering me on, even Dennis was “Woo-ing!” and he is so not a woo-er.

I crossed the finish line. The announcer said, “Look at that smile.”

LIFE AFTER OCEANSIDE

Phew. This was a long post. I am so glad I did this race. Granted it was not my fastest half ironman, but I had never done this course before. I definitely want in next year. And my fire is fueled to kick some butt once Death Ride training starts after this rest/recovery week.

It feels great to accomplish something that was daunting to me. But perhaps the greatest feeling of this whole experience was the feeling of support from my friends. From every step of training to race day, I had a whole community supporting me, running with me, biking with me, swimming with me. I am truly lucky to be a part of this group where we all support one another. This would have been a very different experience had I not had my tribe.

My tribe rocks.

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