Ironman California 70.3 in Oceanside

Running Oside

Choosing my 2013 season opener to be Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside was a great decision.  This race sells out every year and always has a stacked field with great competition plus, it is a beautiful place to race.  As you may know from my Ironman Arizona race report (if you do not, click here to read about IMAZ), my 2012 year of racing was blissfully awesome.  Qualifying for World Championships in Kona set the tone for how I wanted to race in 2013.  Since completing IMAZ in November I had not raced in a triathlon.  Only trained like normal and participated in a few Ultra runs to feed my appetite for the extreme.  Leading up to Oceanside 70.3 I was eerily calm.  Even though I had a few moments of questioning if I was ready to race, the reality was, I was ready.  Now just how ready was the question that had to be answered on race day.  This was my first Ironman 70.3.  I had raced a local half iron distance race four weeks before Ironman AZ last year, but this was my first Ironman 70.3 that pulled participants from all over.  I’ve learned the half iron distance is long enough to require you need to have endurance but short enough that you can still ‘race’ it.  I’ve also decided I love this distance.california 703 convertedjpg

My Coach, Toby Baum with Camelback Coaching, helped me to mentally prepare for this race.  In 2012 all my races were local or up in Flagstaff, so I had never traveled to race.  There were going to be a lot of new elements that I was unfamiliar with. For this race we made loose time goals and I focused of racing with appropriate effort.  Toby at one point told me that 30% of the field in any long course racing will encounter something that will either derail their race day or impact it in some way.  Throughout my racing in 2012 I always fell into that 70% and always had great races.  In the back of my mind I always wondered when my luck would run out and would I be prepared to handle whatever came my way.  I never really had to think about contingency plans too much, they were there in my mind but I did not ever them much thought.  Because I had never seen this course, and being a bit of a control freak and always wanting to be prepared,  the day before the race I biked and did a light jog on the run course and then took a look at the swim course.  The bike course was through Camp Pendleton and was off limits until race day, so no cigar on previewing that part of the course. Leading up to race day I focused on staying calm and confident that I could have a great day.  Another element of excitement was this was my debut race as a Wattie Ink Elite Team member.  I was selected to race for them for 2013 and feel very honored.  I received my new race kit the day before the race and could not wait to wear it.


My race morning was the same as ever.  I woke up about an hour before I needed to be in transition.  Ate a bowl of oatmeal and let my body wake up.  Then the butterflies started, a healthy dose of nerves were kicking in.  I told myself I was ready.  Got my gear together and headed over to the masses, over 3,000 were registered for this race.  Getting to transition 1 was crowded as everyone was setting up and donning their wetsuits.  I kept things calm and friendly with all those around me. With it being a wave start there was a lot of down time between race start at 6:40 and when my wave took off at 7:27am.  I was able to watch the pros swim which was great reminder that having good technique in the water is what makes you fast

Swim:Swim course

I grew up in California and spent hours in the ocean surfing, swimming, boarding but I have yet to race in the ocean.  There were a few things I was unnerved about but did my best to be prepared.  You always ingest a little water when racing and there was a part of me wondering how my body would tolerate the salt water.  In addition to it being my first ocean swim, everyone was talking about it being really cold, some athletes were wearing neoprene caps and booties on race morning.  Leading up to the race I watched the weather and and concluded the water temp race morning was going to be around 60 degrees.  Thanks to Triple Sports I was able to bring an Orca 3.8 sleeved wetsuit and a sleeveless blueseventy Reaction wetsuit.  I was lucky enough to do a practice swim two days earlier to see if I could tolerate the 60 degree water in a sleeveless.

blueseventy_logoRace morning the water was 61 and I decided to go with the sleeveless.   As my wave was queuing up my mantra to myself was, “be slippery, you are just going out for a 30 minute swim, you got this”.  At SOMA last year, my only ever half iron distance swim, I swam 34:23 and was pleased.  All I wanted to do at this race was beat that time and stay relaxed.  The cold water had a little bite and sting to it but I knew once I started moving I would be fine.  The cannon went off I started swimming, a few ladies around me took off and I focused on my stroke and stuck to my plan.  Pretty soon I started swimming into the wave that had started 4 minutes in front of us.  Then I started seeing swim caps of all colors and few white caps (my swim cap color) in front of me.  There is something about the turn buoy that marks the half way point in a swim for me,  my mental shift is very noticeable to me, my confidence is boosted and I know all I have to do is get back to shore.  I kept my head down other than sighting every 4 strokes and felt strong and slippery.  Towards the end of the swim, I start to kick my legs a little more to get blood flow back to them.  As I get to my feet, I have no clue what my time is but I feel great.

After the race I learned my time was 30:39…WHAT?!  I was so stoked.  I am so proud that my discipline inOside-swim the pool is paying off.  My 2nd ever half ironman swim and first time in the ocean and I did a 30 minute swim.  It yielded an 11th place swim in my age division.  Need less to say, I am pretty pleased.

Transition 1:

T1 is very long and you have to run this chute the whole distance.  Since I was the 11th wave of the day I was dodging all kinds of athletes jogging and walking in the chute.  Transition is where I can make up some serious time and not knowing what my swim time was I DID NOT DILLY DALLY.  I sprinted the chute, peeling my wetsuit down as far as I could.  Once I was to my bike I was out of my suit and headed out.  My feet were a little numb and my heart rate was totally out of whack from being horizontal so I needed to be very careful because I was feeling a little dizzy.  I managed to do a flying mount and get on my way.  My T1 time was 3:30, which I was please with considering most people were over 4 minutes.



Oside-bikeAh, the bike.  I love my bike and was looking forward to this bike course.  The chatter around social media was the bike course was hilly, which suits me well.  Because the bike course races through Camp Pendleton, a military base, you can not preview the course.  My plan was to stay within my zones and execute to the best of my ability.    When racing on the bike I use my heart rate, cadence and RPE (rate of perceived exertion) as my metrics to stay in my zones.  Once on the bike my heart rate takes about 10-15 minutes to chill out from being horizontal in the water to sprinting in transition to now riding a bike.  About 2 miles into the bike I realize I am going to have to pass a lot of people on this course.  As the bike course leaves Oceanside harbor it heads into Camp Pendleton and the path is not very wide and there are some rough patches.  So much so that they spray paint them orange so you can see them.  At what I assume is about mile 3, I am passing this gentleman as I say ‘on your left’ he moves left and I swerve out to miss him and hit some rough asphalt.  I heard a funny sound and immediately look my bike over, my repair bag is still attached, my water bottle is still in its cage, tires are not flat, everything seems to still be in tact.  Gathering my wits about me and still trying to settle into a groove I continue to ride.  What feels like a few minutes passes and I look down at my wrist to look at my Garmin to see what my mileage, cadence, and heart rate are and a sinking feeling comes over me.  My Garmin is gone.

My streak of being in the 70% was over.  I am now one of ‘those’ athletes where something goes wrong.  No, it’s not a flat, or a broken chain or GI distress or something more cataclysmic that could really derail my day.  But it is my main source of knowledge of how to dole out my energy during the day.  If I were going out to just finish and have a good time, which I always am, it would be ok to not have the metrics I use.  But I have goals, big goals, I want to pursue my Elite card, I want to be on the podium, I want to be an inspiration to all women, especially moms that you can do it, I want a sub 5 hour half Ironman.  Crap!

Crap! Where is my Garmin?

Crap! Where is my Garmin?

For those of you wondering, I could not turn around to go get my Garmin.  It was too narrow, would have been dangerous and plus I was not even clear where it came off.  Now, the question is how are you going to handle it?  Honestly, I was pissed.  I did not have a contingency plan for this one other than saying oh well, do the best you can it will be what it is going to be.  I am sure I wasted a good five minutes spinning my wheels mad and second guessing myself, should I go back and look for it.  All I could do at this point was race off of perceived exertion.

When you are so tied to your metrics it is mentally hard to let go.  Not only did I not have my metrics but I had no time to help me keep track of my nutrition as well.   The course had mile markers every 5 miles on the course, after doing some quick math and guessing my speed I decided I would consume my nutrition at mile 15, 35 and right before I get off.  I have a pretty good idea what 90RPM feels like and kept my cadence high and just focused on how I was feeling.  The mental exhaustion from constantly second guessing myself was frustrating.  The hills were steeper than I realized from the profile and winds were kicking up.   At one point another cyclist said to me, “Do you feel like you are moving in slow motion?”  By mile 45 I was ready to be off my bike.  Without my watch and constant assessment I was ready to be done with this guessing game.  I did the best I could but felt like I was at a loss.  I did not want to work too hard and have nothing for my run but I also did not want to leave to much in the tank and have regrets.  The last 10 miles of the bike all I thought about was the run.  I was ready to run.  Heading in to T2, I had no idea what my time was and was hoping to see a race clock.  I felt pretty decent about my performance but really had no clue and just wanted to start running.  My time on the bike was 2:49, but I was hoping for a much faster split.

Transition 2:

Yes!  I am off my bike. I run with my bike to my rack, rack it, slip on my socks and K-Swiss K-Ona shoes, grab my gels and head out.  I was on my way in 1:45.  Heading out of T2 I saw the race clock.  It totally did a number on my head because my wave started 47 minutes after the clock started.  At least I could do some quick math in my head and knew I needed to run a sub 1:35 half marathon to be sub 5 hours.  I can do that 🙂


Watch or no watch, I have been running long enough to have a good idea of what pace I am running.  However, running off the bike I tend to bolt like lightening and had no pace metrics on my ‘missing watch’. I went off of feel and knew I was flying.  When running, I use heart rate, pace and RPE.  Today, I could only use RPE.

Running Oside2The course is a 2 loop course with one short and one long out-and-back section on each loop.  This made it easy to break the run up into four parts.  The short section is first, all I focused on was getting my legs back and getting into a rhythm.  I felt great but could also feel the sun on my body.  At every aid station I poured water on my head to stay cool.  Once I started on the 2 part, the long out-and-back section I was running next to this guy that had a Garmin on and I asked if he knew our pace. He said we were running 6:42, I felt like we were running closer to a 7min/mile so I made a mental note and slowed just a bit.  After-all  I still have 11 miles to go.  I focused on my RPE and tried to hold what I felt was about a 7min/mile.  Occasionally I would ask those around me what our pace was but no one was really running my pace or they didn’t have that metrics on their watch.  I was on my own.  At this point in the race I was passing a ton of people and tried to focus on keeping my pace.

After the first loop was done I felt pretty confident that I would meet my goal of sub 5 hour.  Once again, I was feeling mentally drained from second guessing my pace and ability.  I put my focus in looking for other athletes from my team and pulling from their energy.  Once I got to the last stretch on The Strand, I poured what I had left into my legs and took off.  I so wish I had my watch on to know what I ran on that last stretch.  I felt so good and excited to be done and to see how I stacked up against some great competition.  I ended up with a 1:34 run time.  One I should be proud of and I am, a little.  I know I can do better but on that day I was mentally challenged.  I am proud of myself for not falling apart and finishing a very strong race.

The crazy thing is my overall time was 5:00:05.  6 seconds and I would have met my “sub 5 hour” goal.  As I shake my head and shrug my shoulders I tell myself I had a great day despite losing my watch/computer.  Yes, I might have been able to race faster had I known my heart rate or my cadence or my pace but the fact of the matter is I am still learning and things go wrong and I am still a good athlete.  I was 6th in my Age Group and 14th amateur female in a very large race. Racing blind was a growing experience.  I will now train paying a little closer attention to my RPE in relation to the other metrics I use.

The take away here is have a race plan, follow it to the best of your ability and if your race plan hits a bumpLeaving Oside in the road, or a wall, go to plan B.  Still do the best you can and always have fun.  Lastly, I will look at the metrics I use during racing as “nice to have” rather than “need to have” information.  I very much enjoyed racing in Oceanside, the fellow athletes were amazing, the volunteers were wonderful and the spectators were very enjoyable.  I look forward to doing this race again in the future.

Next up…Wildflower Long Course.

I am so grateful for the support I receive first and foremost from my family and my sponsors.  Without ROLFS support it would not be possible for me to be able to do what I love.  Thank you.

Thanks for reading and happy training.

About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • Great race SheriAnne. Losing the Garmin certainly hurts… mostly the pocketbook at this point, but you had a phenomenal race and you are indeed an inspiration. Not just for women and moms, but to us noob guys on a journey to health. You’re so damned fast!

    • Thanks Dave! Hope your day out there was great!

  • Damie Roberts

    Great job chickie! I think this was a good first race :))))))

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