RACE RECAP: HUNTINGTON BEACH SPRINT TRIATHLON

EVENT: Sprint Triathlon  | Huntington Beach Triathlon
DATE: April 6, 2013
LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA
DISTANCES: 600m ocean swim / 10 mi bike / 2.5 mi. soft sand run
COMPETITORS: 14 IN MY AGE GROUP (50-54). 340 Total Participants
TIME /PLACE: 53:16.8 / 2nd in age group  and 10th overall

Race Tag HB TriathlonToday was the inaugural running of the “Tri the Beach” series Huntington Beach Triathlon. In part because it was a first time event, the field was not particularly large. About 340 participants. A good percentage of them were first time triathletes. There was even a “fixed gear” division for beach cruiser type bikes. Its always good to see anyone coming out for the sport.
THE SWIM:
The organizers divided the participants into 4 waves based on self-reported swim speed. I, for the first time, was seeded in with the first wave. So it was me, then two-time Kona Ironman World Champion Chris “Macca” McCormick, and then about 90 others in the first wave. Because of a storm that had been anticipated earlier in the week, the organizers changed the swim course to make it shorter and less likely to have to swim against the side current. Despite their re-direction, there were some problems. Despite a simple out and back swim course, the side current was stronger than expected and the waves were fairly strong and breaking pretty far out.
I had a swim redemption after some poorly paced starts in the last few races. The changes I made to the swim were helpful. Even thought the water temperature was on the chilly side (60 degrees F), I forced myself to do a long warm up – equal to the actual distance of the swim portion. I also positioned myself further back in the start lineup. When I have positioned myself up at the front, I feel more pressure to start out fast even if my body isn’t ready for it. My swim went just fine although there were some challenges. We had started just as some wave sets were coming in. There was no way to sight the buoys because the next incoming wave obstructed it from view. My swim speed and direction fortunately brought me right to it. After a very short distance to the next buoy, it was direct to shore. In an ideal world, you would catch a wave and body surf in, but when you are breathing hard it is much more difficult and less tempting. Although my swim went well, apparently about 80-90 race participants needed some assistance or rescue from the lifeguards. Many missed the first buoy because of the side current and couldn’t swim back to it. I heard a few swam in, ran further up along the shore and started all over again . Good job for not giving up, people!! The swim ended, but there was about a 200-250 yard soft sand run up to T1 transition.
Swim Time: 10:13.8 [average time for top 9 finishers overall: 9:01.6]

I'm out there somewhere

I’m the one in the black wetsuit

T1 TRANSITION
Nothing special here. I took a little more time than needed to quickly get the wet sand off my feet. For the last race, I biked without socks for the first time, and my feet were numb the whole ride. This time I rolled up some socks on my feet before zipping out of T1.
T1 Time: 1:32.4 [average time for top 9 finishers overall: 1:02.5]

THE BIKE
This was an out and back up the Santa Ana River Trail. It is mostly very flat with just a slight incline going out. This portion of the race was the most problematic and poorly planned. The bike trail is perhaps 12-14 feet wide most of the way. The bike trail is also commonly used by locals for biking, running, walking, and stroller pushing. They did not block the river trail and so while riding, it was possible to have cyclist passing each other and have 4 cyclists in a narrow strip while also negotiating cruiser bikes, strollers, etc. We were spread out pretty far in the front and so I never passed or was passed the entire ride and the rider in front of me was letting the non-racers know we were coming through. I didn’t hear of any bike accidents or injuries so it all worked out OK, but this is the one area the organizers need to address for future races. The distance, seemed to be shortened from where we were supposed to turn around, and my bike computer was cutting out at times so I don’t know my actual pace for this ride.
Bike Time: 24:27.4 [average time for top 9 finishers overall: 23:15]

T2 TRANSITION
Fast, no nonsense. Rack the bike, helmet off, slip on the elastic lace shoes and off.
T2 time: 40.9 seconds [average time for top 9 finishers overall:43.5]

THE RUN
This was a 2.5 mile SOFT SAND RUN! There was no point in watching my pace on my GPS watch, or forcing any certain cadence. This is one of those runs where you just have to be aware of your breathing and heart rate and try to find some tire tracks where the sand was packed down a bit more. It was tough. Again we were so spread out, there was no one passing me and I wasn’t passing anyone.  The distance probably was not a full 2.5 miles. My run was limited by heart rate and breathing. Legs felt pretty good. Glad to be done with that.
Run Time: 16:22 [average time for top 9 finishers overall: 14:08]
MEDAL-FINISH

Would I do the race again? Possibly. It is local and convenient. I think the organizers have some kinks and potentials issues to work out for next years event. Mostly, I think they need to standardize the distances to how it was promoted, and they need to close the bike trail to non-racers for the duration of the race. If the race organizers ever read this, I will also suggest they use more than one photographer. There is no way one camera can adequately capture an event. For instance, to get all the swimmers then walk over to the bike area, you have already missed the leaders of the bike going out and coming back. To get all the cyclists, the photographer misses out on the finish of the top 25% or so of the runners finish. The good news is that the photos are posted quickly and available to download free. That’s refreshing. It is just hit or miss whether your photo will be available.

Regardless, any race is better than not racing.

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