Race Report: 2009 Santa Cruz Triathlon

Tom Davis

Last Updated: September 21, 2009

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Since this race was only three weeks after Ironman Canada, I didn't care too much about the result, so I tried a new strategy: on every leg I just pushed as hard as I could, giving no thought to "saving something" for the next one. It worked great! I had faster times on all the legs than I did last year and my total time was almost 8 minutes faster. It was good enough for first place in my age group (of 24 men). The best improvement was on the bicycle which was 5 minutes faster than last year.

I think that the muscles used in the different events are different enough that there's not a huge penalty on an individual leg for really pushing to the limit on the previous one. The only real problem I had was a backache after the bike-run transition where it took me a couple hundred yards of jogging before I could finally get up to speed.

I did have the advantage of good weather (for me). It was foggy and cool the whole way, but never cold. The only thing that could have been better would have been rough seas (the ocean was completely flat), since the rougher the water, the better I am, relative to others. I had the fastest swim (I beat all but one guy in the water by more than 4 minutes and the guy with a comparable swim-leg time lost 10 minutes to me on the bike). For the first time in any triathlon, I had the fastest bike leg (by 3 seconds). My run was second-fastest by about a minute and a half. At the end of the race a whole bunch of people told me, "I couldn't believe how fast you were going when you passed me on the bike." Since I started in the very last wave, I had hundreds and hundreds of "rabbits" to catch. I do much better as a "hound" than as a "hare".

I was pretty sure I was ahead after the bike-to-run transition, but I had no idea by how far, so I was "running scared" the whole time. It turned out that I beat the second-fastest guy by about five and a half minutes, so I could have done a much more relaxed run, but who knew?

One thing I did differently this year was that I took off my wetsuit before I got to the bike transition area. There was a concrete wall of the perfect height that I could sit on during the long run from the beach to the bikes. It's easier to get off the suit with something to sit on.

One thing that made the race fun was that there were so many people from my club (SVTC: the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club) racing, and since most of us wore the club "kit", you could cheer for (and be cheered by) some people you didn't even know. Every year at this race there's a club competition and the score is made up of one point per club participant, and a bonus for every age-group place: 6 points for a win, down to 1 point for sixth place. The second-place club had 68 points and ours had 144 (90 of which were for participation), to give you an idea of the level of support we had. The 54 points for age-group placements is nothing to sneer at, either!

Maybe the secret to winning these short triathlons is simply to train for an ironman in preparation?

On my bike leg I just pushed hard all the time. If my legs stopped hurting, I picked up the pace. I did race with a full-disk rear wheel this time (and the deep-dish carbon on the front). The disk is supposedly good for maybe a minute or a minute and a half over 40K, but I was 5 minutes faster than last year, so at least 3.5 of the minutes were due to burning quads. I stayed in aero position except when I went out of the saddle on the small hills and perhaps the intense force for a long time in that position caused the sore back at the beginning of the run. On the run I was going as fast as I could, yet my pace for the first mile was 8:32 and all the others were solidly under 8:00 (about a 7:50 average).

Here are my official splits:

Swim (1500 meters): 24:33
T1: 4:27
Bike (40 kilometers): 1:07:49
T2: 1:41
Run (10 kilometers): 49:02

Here are some photos. Thanks to Denise Walos for the first four, and to Alex Tang for the rest.

Here is a photo of all the SVTC club members we could round up after the race:

Here I am after getting my award:

A couple of SVTC cheerleaders and their sign:

A few club members after we received the team championship:

Here I am in the blue jacket and white hat with a group of other SVTCers:

I'm pulling off my wetsuit on the way to the bicycles:

Here I am running with wetsuit off toward the bicycle transition area. I've still got the goggles on because they're prescription and I'm blind as a bat without corrective lenses:

Here I am, finishing the bike leg.

Here I am finishing the run. The shoulders are obviously holding a bit of tension, aren't they?