IM Santa Cruz 70.3 (9/12/21)

After Chattanooga, I had big plans for this race with a goal of top 10 in my age group, hoping to get a roll down spot for 70.3 Worlds in New Zealand in 2022. This race also was a rollover from 2020 due to COVID, and I had wanted to do this race for several years but the timing never worked out. Training went well for this race until I ended up with a weird hip issue, that only hurt when I was running. I tried PT, and then decided to see my friend and chiropractor, Phil Kriss. Other close friends I knew had been seeing him for various things and had great success. I’m forever grateful to Dr. Phil for getting me back to pain free running in just a couple of weeks! Worlds got moved to St. George Utah weeks before the race. Not somewhere I was interested in racing. A disappointment, but this race turned out to be anything but a disappointment! At 54, I had the best triathlon race of my life – so far 😊

Fantastic Support Crew

At this race, I was so lucky to have my step-dad come to support me. He was the best race support a girl could ask for, helping with everything from mechanical issues to all the things awesome race sherpas do. Helpful and calm, always with a smile! My best friend from college and her husband came down from Mountain View to stay with us too. They are just like family to me, we’ve known each other for a looong time! As triathlon newbies, they learned all the ins and outs of early mornings and all the crazy things we triathletes do. Last but not least, I was very fortunate to have my soul sister, Rachel Elizalde Powell race with me. Her smile and fun loving nature made the weekend so fun. And I got to share her amazing support crew – her awesome family and our local running friends all weekend. So grateful for all the wonderful support. It takes a village, stronger together. – makes racing so fun.

Aw, the Ocean – Check in, Check Out Swims/Rides

I absolutely love this area. The warm sun and sound of the ocean are just what I was craving. Right away, the sunshine and ocean made me happy. Rachel and her family had driven down to Santa Cruz and sweetly took my Sassy Slice with them, freeing me from worrying about packing my bike and flying with it. Friday Rachel & I met to check in and get our bibs, same COVID procedure as in Chattanooga. Our bibs were 703 for me and 702 for Rachel – we would be racked right next to each other just like Diane and I had been in TN. Having your soul sister racked right next to you is FUN. After that, it was off to the ocean for a check out swim. On our way to the water, a guy on a beach cruiser pointed to IM village and asked us “Is that a flea market?” Quote of the weekend. Yes, yes it is. A VERY expensive flea market.

As we hit the sand, my step-dad chuckled a little at our excitement (not!) to get in the ocean. This would be a first for us both, a triathlon ocean swim. Another triathlete was out there swimming so we took our time putting our wetsuits on. We waited to ask him how it was before heading in. Delay tactic? Maybe! Out we went for our agreed upon route, just to the pencil buoy and back. A whopping 4 min 55 sec but we thought that was good enough. A seal swimming next to us on the way out was well, exciting. Cold, but doable. Back to the flea market for some Athletic Brewing non-alcoholic gluten removed beers and sign making. First race I have been to that let you make signs that they placed on the run route for race day. Saturday came quickly and it was check out ride and rack the bike day. I was really excited to meet a local Zooter, Kathy Harris, who had set up a check out ride for me and a couple of other Zooters who were racing. In the weeks leading up to the race she had been super helpful sharing course logistics as it was her home turf. What a great ride! I kept it to 45 minutes and it was fun to go out on West Cliff drive and a bit of highway 1 with the group. I followed that up with a 20 min run on the course in my race shoes. Hip felt great and it was good to go up that first hill out of transition to see how that would feel on race day. I’ve run on West Cliff Drive before, and nothing beats it in my book. Running along the ocean, next to a lighthouse and gorgeous homes. I was really getting excited.

Met up with Rachel and her mom and we racked our bikes. May have had another one or two Athletic Brewing gluten removed beers. My local triathlon teammate John Colvard was also racing and I hoped we could meet up with him and Kathleen but unfortunately it didn’t happen with scheduled time slots. My best friends Ron and Denise showed up from Mountain View and we had a great low key dinner on the upper deck of the Airbnb. Temporary mantra tattoos applied, 30 minutes in the Air Relax compression boots. Denise mentioned how cool it was that my number was 703 for a 70.3 – good luck? End the night reading a note from my kiddo, my favorite pre-race treat. Perfect.

3:45 AM Race Morning

As usual, the alarm clock goes off early. For whatever reason, I had the best sleep before a race in my life. In other words, I actually slept! I woke up ready to eat, get dressed and meet Rachel in transition. I had everything in its place and ready to go fairly early the night before. Unlike most races mornings, I was not worried I had forgotten anything. I really felt pretty calm. My support crew was up and ready to head out at 5:00 am. Our adorable Airbnb was only 10 minutes away, so that made things easy. Once we parked, the butterflies set in and I couldn’t wait to see Rachel’s big smile in transition. I pretty quickly got my transition area set up and was excited when Rachel arrived. I like to set up my stuff quickly and go over it once then stop messing with it. Luckily Rachel is the same so we quickly headed out in our wetsuits for the long walk to the ocean, .40 miles, our long T1 transition route.

Foggy First Ocean Swim, 1.2 mi, 36:45 (8/77 AG)

First ocean swim. Cue fog, the kind where you can’t see anything past the first buoy and the nerves get a little jumpy, even with Rachel by my side as we walked through the sand. Had my Maurten gel snack a pre-swim ritual. Luckily, Rachel’s family was down on the beach at the swim start, so that made it more fun and took the edge off. Once again, the people in my swim seed group were awesome. Some excited, some nervous but all sharing swim tips from previous swims here and I was all ears. It was 55 degrees and the sand felt cold on my toes. I was thinking oh boy that water will be brisk! The start was a run into the waves as the beep goes off, 2 sets of 2. I told myself it was faster to swim than run in shallow water so get it over with and just dive in when you can. The water temp was 61, so it felt warmer than the air. Sighting was tough with the fog. I heard sea lions barking on the pier but didn’t see any. I tried to find feet, but mostly I was trying to not swallow salt water! When I finally made it to the buoy at the end of the pier I was relieved. I was focusing on form, not swallowing salt water and staying on course. One swift kick to the head but no goggles lost, so that was good. And then the waves got bigger, it felt a little like a roller coaster. I pictured Joy swimming next to me to calm me down. I was happy I bilateral breathe, because that really allowed me to breathe as the waves swelled. As I made that last right turn from the end of the pier, I thought I saw the beach through the fog. Before I knew it I was there and wow – I checked my watch and couldn’t believe my time. My fastest 70.3 swim yet!

T1, 7:04

Up the beach, across the roundabout and on to the paved path to transition. This is the year of long transitions it seems…another .40 to get to the bike. Moving as fast I could, I hear a “GO Lisa!” from the bridge above and was so happy to see my friend Brittany from AP Tri Camp cheering me on. Half way there… I got in, quickly got in my bike gear and rolled out of transition. I had hoped for 6:00, but unlucky for me as soon as I clipped into my bike my chain dropped. My heart raced and I told myself to stay calm. A little grease and blood later (chain nicked my hand) and I was off into the fog on my bike. As I left, I heard another “Go Lisa!” and there was my step-dad rooting for me.

Foggy with a Splash of Sun Bike, 56 mi, 2:53 (6/77 AG)

After the chain fiasco, I was so ready to ride. Up the hill to West Cliff Drive and I was rolling. With the windy road and fog I told myself keep alert. And then, there was Brittany again cheering me on with Adam and their sweet pup! Such a nice diversion as I was missing my ocean view. After that, I tried to focus on my bike power and speed targets. People usually pass me in the first miles, but I know to stick to my plan. I love following the BBS course targets even though they tend to be a little off. My Wahoo computer screen was starting to break up weeks leading into the race, but luckily it was holding. I was on target for the most part and made my way to highway 1. The fog was so intense it was misty on my glasses. Luckily I have PNW riding under my belt and it didn’t worry me too much. I saw at least 5 pairs of very pricey sunglasses on the road as I rolled by. I felt bad for people who likely tried to take them off and dropped them. The hills were rolling and I was feeling good. Still missing that ocean view, but the road was smooth and all was good. I had to adjust for headwind on the way out. I listened to local advice from my Zoot check out ride buddies and didn’t fight it, believing I would get it back on the return.

And then it happened again on a hill – a dropped chain. Deep breath, I know how to do this. I already had grease on me and a little blood from the first dropped chain, so suck it buttercup and get it done. Shortly after that, I savored the brief time there was sun and that stunning ocean view. I could see I was a little off my target time, but I hoped the wind on the way back would make up for the dropped chain. Seeing the leaders heading back, I got excited, knowing that I too was getting closer to the end of the ride.

The last 10-15 miles the sun was out and it was gorgeous. I spotted Zooters from my check out ride and many others, there were mutual good jobs, smiles and thumbs up exchanged. I was focused on seeing Rachel but even with her beautiful smile and custom helmet I missed her. More than one flock of birds randomly would pop up and “ride” with me and I loved that. And then, an extra pick me up! Rachel’s family and our local friends were cheering me on once I was off highway 1. They seemed to be everywhere and really made me smile. This time the views along West Cliff were there, the sun was out but not hot and I was soaking it up. At this point in the race, West Cliff was one direction for bikes and the other for runners. It wasn’t hard to navigate and I liked seeing everyone. As I rolled into transition I heard a cow bell. I saw my friends from Mountain View and my step-dad, such a great way to end the ride. My computer had my target time of 2:51, but official time was 2:53. I am sure with my dropped chain out of T1 I didn’t hit the start button at the right time. A little disappointing with the dropped chains seeming to be the reason I missed my time, but overall happy with my ride, gaining a couple spots in my AG.

Nutrition: After heat exhaustion in Chattanooga, I wanted to be extra careful about nutrition even though weather here was so perfect. Drank 3 bottles of Infinit, my new higher calorie formula at 300 cal per bottle. Snacked on 3 Honey Stinger mango bloks – tastes like candy! Took 3-4 salt stick tabs on bike as soon as my legs felt tight on the hills. I was very hydrated, really had to pee on the bike.

T2, 2:51

Had thought this would be 4:00 with the run into transition, so happy with this time. I did have to pee and that happened on the way in to transition. 2 for 2 this year on peeing myself in route to transition – is this a 54 year old age thing? No doubt I am on top of my hydration game. Visor on, race belt on, hand carry with ZYM and race shoes snug. Take a couple of Salt Stick chewables, and it was time to run!

Run in the Cool Sun, 1:57, 13.1 mi, (4/77 AG)

The sun was out, but it wasn’t more than 70. This is truly my happy temperature place, and I was ready for those ocean views along West Cliff Drive. After Chattanooga, the sun being out made me a little leery, but one breeze told me this was not going to be anything like the high heat and humidity of Tennessee.

My plan for this run was to race it smart. I made a deal with myself that it needs to feel easy until the end so I could finish strong. Very hard to do right off the bike, but I forced myself to stick with my planned pace even though I wanted to go fast. I wanted to finish well and upright, unlike I did in Chattanooga. Especially with the downhill turn onto the sand for the finish, there would be no face plant in the sand for me! Shortly after transition there was the hill up to West Cliff, which was helpful to keep me from bolting out of transition like my body wanted to do. There was now a steady stream of runners going both directions on West Cliff and some bikers still heading in. In addition to the now fog free gorgeous view, so many locals and supporters were out cheering on the closed road. Once again I saw my friend Brittany right away, and this time Adam picked up their pup and I got a paw wave! A surfer girl in her wetsuit gave me a hang ten and “You go girl!” which was pretty cool. I passed the Zoot tent and got even more cheers, feeling pretty loved and supported all around.

As I came toward the end of West Cliff, I felt settled in and continued to keep my pace in check. It was a little faster than planned, but not much. Our local friends, Patti, Lorinda and Stephanie were right there cheering me on. Heading toward the bluff, I told myself, strong, light focused. Smiling, I headed up on to the paved trail, looking at my temporary mantra tattoos. Out of the blue there were a couple of e-bikers riding down the center of the trail between the runners going both directions – what? Luckily no one got in their way. There were a few rollers, and I felt strong on the hills. My hip was feeling good (thank you again Dr. Phil Kriss) and I focused on form to make light work of the hills. Before I knew it, I had made it to the bluff for the 2-3 mile loop of hard packed sand/dirt. I know myself, so I tried to keep eyes down and not trip. A flock of birds were circling the bluff, and I felt like they might be my friends from the bike. During this loop in Wilder Ranch is where I finally really heard the ocean waves. It was the best. I stayed on my nutrition and electrolyte hydration, with a couple more Salt Sticks for good measure.

Back to West Cliff where I knew I only had about 3 miles to go. It was energizing seeing Zooters on the run going both directions. Some I had met on the bike check out ride and so many others. Everyone sharing a thumbs up, smile or “Go Zoot!”. My plan here was to pick it up now that I was close to the finish. I pushed as I could but didn’t quite get to the pace I had hoped I could. Soon enough I was heading down that hill before the sharp turn on to the beach for the finish. My legs were flying and I was determined to cross with a big smile and not face plant in to the sand – mission accomplished. I knew I was at my target time, but I had no idea how well I had done in my age group. As soon as I made my way out of the finish chute, I learned I was in 4th place in my age group – what? Me? I was beyond excited.

Nutrition: 20 oz ZYM electrolyte, Maurten gels 3,6,9. Considered one at 12 but felt good enough to skip it. Drank half cups of water 2 times at aid stations, and one on my back toward end. Did not have any more Salt Sticks although they were in my bra pocket!

5:38, Finish – First Podium, 70.3 PR (4/77 AG)

How could I not be thrilled with this race? My best 70.3 ever from a time perspective, best race execution and my first IM podium. If my chain had not dropped, it would have been perfect. Waiting in my sweaty, smelly Zoot kit to be on stage for my 4th place podium, I couldn’t stop smiling. I later learned that I missed 3rd place by 14 seconds – 14 seconds! Hard to swallow knowing that dropped chain really cost me some time. Despite that, truly grateful for my best race performance at an IM event.

Santa Cruz 70.3 was the west coast Tri Club championship race. As icing on the cake of a day that it was, Team Zoot won the Tri Club 1st place award and that was super fun. I got to meet the local team captain and some other local Zooters. When we accepted the 1st place award the team got flowers, champagne and a plaque. To properly celebrate, the champagne was popped and a champagne shower ensued. I felt like a rock star being a part of that! So glad my step-dad captured the moment with a photo.

Special thanks:

From start to finish, no hip issues at all. Beyond grateful for Dr. Phil Kriss who without a doubt, changed the game for me in the past month.

As always, a huge thank you to Alissa Anderson for writing me a plan and helping me keep my eye on the goal and my attitude hopeful when the hip issue was getting me down.

So much of my race day magic was due to the fantastic support I had from my step-dad and friends, can’t say enough about how much it meant to see them all through out the day and of course before the race. And to my soul sister Rachel, I loved going to this race with you. Your sunshine and sparkles make everything fun! Let’s do it again.

Published by Lisa B

A girl working every day to be a better human. Grateful for small moments, trying to go high when life goes low. Believer in good, triathlete, Mom and wife.

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