Friday, April 12, 2013

"Tri the Beach" Huntington Beach Sprint Triathlon

 My first triathlon.... Spring Break 2013

Elite swimmers battling the surf and current, some more successfully than others.  

Course Preview and Training

Since joining Team Blonde Runner (TBR) in January, I had looked forward to doing my first triathlon with the team.  Unfortunately, the race fell on the day I was leaving for California for Spring break with the family.  So, I tried to find an alternative event.  To my surprise and elation, the the city of Huntington Beach had scheduled its first triathlon in many years while I would be their visiting family.  Both my wife and I are from southern California originally, and my parents live less than a mile from the transition area for the race.  So.. I was sold.  Only a half mile swim, 10 mile bike ride and 2.5 mile run. No problem.. right.. well wrong? I'll get to that soon.
We arrived in HB, on Saturday evening, and enjoyed a day off and Easter with family.  Did some scouting, training during the week.  Of note, 3 miles into my first ride since getting fitted to my bike and having it tuned up, I got a pinch flat.... Grr

Changed that and finished a short 14 mile ride.  Learned another thing that day, the wind coming off the ocean was strong.  Easy to go 21mph away from the beach, harder to go 18 on the way back.  Yes, I know, slow, but hey this biking thing is relatively new.  Aero position made all the difference though.

A nice sand run the next day and then an ocean swim with my coach (Lora Erickson, aka The Blonde Runner) who just happened to be in California as well, the next.  Of noted on the ocean swim, the waves were big (4 foot) and blown out (it was the afternoon) and I got washing-machined on the way in.  The southward current was strong as well.

Utah Tri Dad with Coach Lora Erickson Huntington State Beach

Next day was the race.  Had a party at my in-laws and left early meaning to go to bed.  My experience swimming was in my brain though, and I couldn't sleep.  Because waves for race morning were predicted to be 5 feet and current strong.  The course was to be an out and back around 2 buoys (about 0.5 miles).  I wasn't worried about going out.  Just coming back in.  At least swimming out you can sight the waves and dive through or under.  I am an experienced ocean swimmer.  Lived in southern California for 16 years.  The majority of my teen years were spent at the beach.  But swimming back in, not looking at waves and getting pummeled is not my idea of fun.  I lost sleep...

Race Day

Transition set up

Arrived for transition set up at 630 am when it opened.  Had to pay to park, wasn't expecting this, so bring cash if you plan on doing the race next year.  I had to go up the road a bit to Magnolia because I didn't have cash and the Brookhurst entrance had not been open in the off season.  Anyway, set up my bike, etc and went to check out the waves


Spent a good deal of time talking to lifeguards about the current, waves, swim strategy, etc.  The HB lifeguards are not pool lifeguards.  These folks are experts.  This was time well spent.  After a prerace briefing we were set to go.  A sand to ocean start.  First wave, red caps, elite.  I was yellow, the next (largest) group set to go in groups of 50 swimmers.  


Another key positive, I watched the elite swimmers-- and the current.  The south current was strong and many elite swimmers were swept south of the the first buoy, having to work really hard to get back.  And, a set of 4 or 5 huge waves hit them on the way out, pummeling them.  I decided to go with the first yellow group.  This was earlier than I had planned but, hey we were between sets, so I took advantage.  See the picture on top.  Of note, there was the yellow lifeguard boat and, I think, 2 lifeguards with buoys in the surf and 2 or 3 personal watercraft, around 9 lifeguards watching.  It was safe as any ocean swim could be.

I got off to a good start, running to the left, dove under a few waves and got out pretty much unscathed.  The current pushed me around the buoy and, though tired, I rounded the second and moved in.  My return wasn't as fast as it may have been, but I looked back a lot and tried to get a ride in.  Never caught a wave, but didn't get pummeled as many did.  Total swim time including a run across the wide sand beach was about 14 minutes.  Not bad for a neophyte triathlete swimmer.

I must say though, I was tired.  And this impacted my bike ride.

Transition 1

Hmm, rubbery legs, tried to find my spot, wasted a bit of time finding it.  Pulled off the wetsuit quickly and changed.  Forgot to clip my shoes to the pedals and couldn't get my right foot in quickly.. Grr  .. 2 and a half minutes


After the ride, coming up to transition
Ride was easy for the most part, flat, along the Santa Ana River trail.  It was well staffed, because the path is narrow and traffic was two way.  There is also a turn over a, well used, wooden bridge.  But I felt safe.  My speed wasn't fast, maybe 18mph overall, I was a bit toasted after the swim.

Transition 2

Easy, out of shoes, on top of pedals, put on running shoes.. pick up hat and put on hat and race big as I head out of transition.  About a minute.  


Across the beach, harder sand, toward but not in the water out and soft sand, other side of lifeguard towers, back.  Very tiring.  But at the finish, I was feeling great!  Picked in up and pushed it in picking off 2 or 3 people in the last few hundred yards!  

All pictures near finish.  Had to post these.  I never look good in running pics.  These I liked


Well it was my first tri, so I had family and friends there.  There was ample food, drink and great booths, good job race team.  Anyway, got to meet Chris McCormack (2 time Ironman World Champion) and he signed my race number.  

With Chris "Macca" McCormack


Great race, scary waves, well done, tons of great pictures, highly recommend.  May make it an annual tradition.  Oh and this from an email from the race team after the race, LOL.

Team Blonde Runner

A shout out to my team and Coach Lora Erickson, who did a great job preparing this neophyte for the race.  Even a surprise ocean swim the day before. :)  My first tri and in the top 1/4 for my AG; not bad at all. Thanks Coach

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