This weekend I did something that I’ve only done once before. I woke up early, loaded up the car and took a pre-dawn drive down to Oceanside to watch my fellow Tower 26 teammates race in the Oceanside 70.3 Ironman.
I spectated a few months ago when I drove out to Tempe, Arizona to watch Ironman Arizona. The trip last fall was a great chance to preview the course that I knew I would be racing (as well as the only way to sign up for a race that tends to sell out within hours). I volunteered at an aid station and handed out water to some of the fastest pros I’ve seen, and then spent the rest of the day and night cheering on the rest of my teammates and training buddies.
Days like the one I had in Arizona and the one I had yesterday in Oceanside make it apparent that even though you participate as an individual, triathlon really is a team sport. It requires friends and teammates to keep you motivated and pushing for your best. I’ll be participating in my own half Ironman in just a few weeks in Santa Rosa and it’ll be great to have so many teammates to help cheer me on along the course.
Early Saturday morning I loaded up my car and made it down to Oceanside in record time. I showed up at transition just in time to catch a glimpse of some of my teammates out for a morning warm up job, led by 70.3 champion Holly Lawrence. Holly is a professional triathlete who swims with us at Tower 26, and was the eventual winner in the women’s pro category. I had a feeling in those early morning hours that she could own the day and she certainly did.
I spent much of those pre-race moments wandering transition, checking in with fellow teammates, wishing them luck and meeting up with other spectators before making my way down to the swim start. The Oceanside swim course was beautiful out and back loop tucked into the Harbor, with a brief excursion out to sea. I managed to get a few shots of friends in the water, and caught most of my people while on the Swim/Bike transition run.
Eventually, my spectating crew and I picked a nice spot outside the Bike In/Run Out transition point and waited for the first of the pros to arrive. It was no surprise that Lionel Sanders (who I’d had the chance to see in Arizona) was leading in first place for the pro men. He raced in, quickly transitioned, and then raced out. It was several long minutes before we even saw another racer on the bike. Not too long after I spotted Holly Lawrence again, zipping in for a quick turnaround from her bike and moving onto the run, looking strong and in great spirits. We gave her a shout and got a smile back in return.
After watching the pros, we managed to catch a few of our friends as they made the turnaround to the run leg. It’s difficult to convey the calibre of the people I’m fortunate enough to train with––many of my teammates had great races this weekend, pulling down impressive times. It was great being able to watch them all one by one on the way to victory.
After a while we drifted away from transition and made the hike back to the pier near the finish. We met up with a few other spectators and picked a nice spot at the bottom of a big hill to give extra encouragement to runners. They needed it. Although in largely good spirits, everyone looked tired and a little drained. I went back to a trick I had learned in Arizona, reading the names off strangers off of their bibs and sending them well wishes. It’s an age old kindness that has been done to me in the past (although people tend to opt for reading my number rather than my name, since my name is tricky to pronounce), and I was happy to pay it forward.
I’m glad to have been part of such a great community for so many years, and in the company of such fierce competitors, pros and age groupers alike. We cheer each other on and provide support in times of doubt (or pure exhaustion, which happens frequently). I know many people who placed well within their age groups or accomplished new personal bests, and it was exciting to be along for the ride.
Post race I congratulated my friends and wandered around Oceanside in search of burgers and beer. Not long after the post race glow of Oceanside subsided we were already chatting about the next event on the horizon––Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa. With my number up now, each new workout feels more important than the last and I find myself even more hyper focused than before.
After the Oceanside course closed and the volunteers packed up, I went out for a run along the strand, wanting to knockout my scheduled training session before making the two hour trek back to LA. I felt like I could sense the energy left over by so many racers who’d given the day their best and I tried to channel it into my run. I wanted to capture the feeling I had yesterday afternoon and save it for my own race, imagining myself feeling as strong and as fast as I did then. I hope it works. I’m excited for what is to come!