My second triathlon was the Newport Beach Triathlon, exactly four weeks after my first. The “tri” season was wrapping up and I needed one more under my belt. The race was a sprint and included a .5 mi swim, 15 mi ride, and 3 mi run.
On Saturday afternoon, I headed down to Newport to hit up the expo. It was small so the packet pickup was super easy and quick. Love that! There was also a course talk where I learned two very important things:
First, we would not be starting the swim by age group but rather a SwimStream start (you would place yourself according to your projected swim finish time). Pretty simple concept.
Second, the bike course was very technical. The course took place on a road that was one way (with a small bike lane) with pretty tight turns. They warned us to slow down around certain curves to avoid crashing. The bike course featured 5 u-turns and 4 tight right turns. The race website also had a video of the bike course, and after watching it, I confirmed that the course was, in fact, very technical.
That night I took my bike out into the parking lot to practice turns (don’t judge). Practicing made me feel a little bit better and more confident in my abilities, but I was still nervous once I got back to the room, prepared my gear, and got ready for bed.
The next morning I was up at 5 a.m. for our 7 a.m. race. My breakfast consisted of a bagel (half with peanut butter, half with cream cheese) and apples. I walked to the transition area from the hotel. It was a quick set up and then I walked around to warm-up and ease my nerves. I also ate part of a banana and hydrated.
The water was around 68 degrees so I hopped in and swam around to adjust. This seriously helped me so much. I was able to get my initial “panic” out of the way so that I didn’t have to stop and float on my back during the race. I only stayed in the water for a few minutes so I wasn’t really physically warmed up, but that’s okay because I wasn’t looking to win the swim portion…just trying to finish.
I had only been out of the water for a few minutes when the race started. I both stayed towards the back of the line of people because I didn’t want to be pushed around By really fast swimmers. They only let small groups into the water at once so it took a little while to finally get to the front (I think I might have been the second to last group) and then I crossed the mat and were off!
The swim was held in a bay, so there were no currents. The swim course was a rectangle and we had to swim counter clockwise, making 3 left turns around buoys and then one right turn to head into shore.
Once I crossed the timing mat, I jogged into the water and quickly started swimming. My heart wasn’t racing and there was plenty of room. I swam along for a while and I eventually got into a groove. I only stopped once to start my watch, which I had forgotten to do. Damnit!! Any time that I felt out of breath, I breathed every other stroke, instead of every 3 strokes (but that only happened a few times). I really think that jumping in the water before the actual start of the race was a huge help. I felt so comfortable!!
The swim was pretty easy as it was only half the distance of the TriRock swim. I tried to just focus on my strokes and process the fact that it was 7:15 a.m. on a Sunday and I had just jumped in the ocean.
There were just a few times where the swim got crowded (turning around the buoys).
Before I knew it, I was making the right turn around the last bouy and heading to shore. I was ecstatic to have made it out of the water in a semi-respectable time.
Swim Time: 19:55 (2:16/100 yd pace)
The swim exit was not close to the transition area so I had a little jog to get to my bike. The time for my swim didn’t stop until I crossed the mat to get into transition so all that extra run time was added!
T1 was smooth. I had a little trouble getting my wetsuit off and I also took my time getting ready so I didn’t leave anything behind. When I was all set, I quickly ran my bike out of the transition area and headed off onto the bike, anxious to see how technical the course was.
The bike was a two-loop course, which, as I mentioned before, was pretty narrow and featured a few tight turns. The terrain was relatively flat, except for one steep, but short hill before the turn around (that we had to climb twice, of course).
I remained pretty calm at the beginning of the bike. I imagined the course being really crowded, but it wasn’t. A lot of fast triathletes (who had started the swim before me) were on their second loop, so I got passed by a good amount of people in aero on super nice bikes, but most of them were polite and warned me before zooming by.
I knew the first tight turn was right after mile one, so I was prepared. Volunteers warned us to slow down. I took a deep breath, shifted into a low gear, and I didn’t crash!!! I was so stoked. Aside from the u-turns, this was the most difficult turn of the course, so once I passed it, my confidence skyrocketed and I picked up the pace.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to pass people because it was a narrow course and a lot of people rode side by side. I ended up getting caught behind a few people who slowed me down, but I wasn’t too upset because the bike is my weakest leg anyways.
When we approached the steep hill for the first time, there were volunteers advising us to shift into a low gear…how nice of them. I knew the hill was short, but man was it steep. I had to get out of the saddle to climb it and even then, I was going super slow. The worst part of it was that once we reached the top of the hill, we turned right and were still going uphill (not as steep, but still going up!). I turned the corner and was able to sit back down, but still was in a really low gear crawling along for a few minutes until the hill got a little less steep. The hill went up for a little bit more at a more manageable incline and then we turned around and went back down past the steep hill.
On the downhill, I tried to make up the time that I had lost on the climb, but had to slow down at the bottom of the hill for a u-turn, before climbing up a hill, turning right, going down the steep hill again and back to the main bike course.
Once I was back on the main course, I tried to focus on increasing my speed and pushing myself. It was honestly just difficult because the road did wind around a lot. I knew I wasn’t going to be as fast as I was in TriRock, but I kept reminding myself that the course was much more technical and that the hill had slowed me down a lot.
I took a Gu before the second lap. The u-turn to head out back onto the course was the only one I had difficulty with. I ended up going through the cones and onto the lane where cyclists were heading out on the course. Oops! Luckily there was no one there!
The second loop was pretty uneventful. The steep hill was even more annoying the second time around and my legs were definitely feeling it. Towards the end of the bike, I realized I had only drank about half of my bottle of Gatorade. I had totally forgotten to hydrate! Luckily the run was only 3 miles. Also, there was a youth race that went off at 8 a.m. and so I got to see some of the little munchkins riding along. There was a little girl on a mini pink beach cruiser and I couldn’t help but smile. So cute!
Now time for the run…my specialty!
Bike Time: 56:34 (15.9 mph)
T2 went smoothly. I re-racked my bike, switched my shoes and put on my race belt. I grabbed a packet of Gu-Chomps. I was worried I would lack energy because I hadn’t finished my Gatorade. I was seriously so pumped to be done with the bike and heading out for the run!
The run course was a single loop that was relatively flat, minus a steep, annoying hill around 1.5 mi. I focused on taking short, quick steps, but not too fast. I definitely didn’t feel as strong as I wanted to.
I struggled to get into a groove on the run. My watched reached mile 1 about a minute before I saw the course marker and I worried that the run would end up being longer than 3 miles.
As I ran/dragged along, I repeated mantra “This is you” over and over again. When it comes to running, I know what I’m doing. Every person I passed gave me motivation to keep pushing through the pain.
The hill at 1.5 miles was no joke. It was STEEP and never-ending. I thought I had reached the top and a volunteer laughed and said to turn left and keep going!!! I’m happy that I didn’t stop and walk because if I had, I probably would not have ever started running again.
I picked up my pace going down the hill and took one chomp and had some water at the bottom of the hill. Then, I kicked it into high gear. There was only 1.5 miles left and I had to kill it, no matter how much pain I was enduring.
The second half of the run was better and I almost got into a rhythm. Once I saw the finish line, I was so ridiculously happy. I came down the final straightaway and saw my family and friends and sprinted across the finish line!
Run Time: 22:21 (7:27/mi)
Finish Time: 1:44:28
(283/461 Overall // 65/144 Females // 8/14 Women 20-24)
I was so happy to be done and have finished in a respectable time. The whole experience was so much fun and way easier the second time around. I knew what to expect in terms of transitions, etc. And after that…I was officially hooked on triathlon!