Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oceanside vs. Rage - the tale of two Race Reports

  • Some would say that doing two half ironman’s within two weeks of each other would be stupid.
  • Some would say doing two half’s back to back with a crazy ass century in between would be suicide
  • Some would say that if you have the energy to do all that, then you should have pushed yourself a lot harder!


Who the hell are these people???

Yes, I did the stupid and competed in two half’s basically back to back.

This puts me in a unique position where I can compare the two races. One an official ‘ironman’ 70.3 and the other a local hard as nails ‘long race’.

Oceanside was my first brush with the power that is ‘Ironman’ and my first impression is … uhh. Not ugh but rather uhh. I liked the race but I don’t see the “whoa! It’s Ironman! We got to do it!” effect it has.

The day before:


I will say that the race is incredibly organized. The roster had more than 2200 people and I expected a mad rush for packet pickup. I expected people crawling all over each other trying to pick up their packet. A mad zoo as people looked at the cool products at the expo. General chaos!

Instead I walked into a library. There were only a few people walking around (about 15 people). Everyone talked in hushed voices. The volunteers were laid back and looked bored. The pickup was broken in several ‘stages’.

  1. First was USAT check (which I felt cheated at, when they didn’t check the card, but instead went off a “yep, I have one!”)
  2. Second were name check and sign waivers. This was very easy. They had it broken up by last name and each table was spread way a part. Athletes milled from the door to the table in a very quiet manner.
  3. Third was swag bag pickup. Again they had it broken up into different tables and they were spread way apart. Everything was already pre-sorted out, so it was as simple as name? Here’s your bag!
  4. Lastly was the door! Just walk out. There was a video that talked about the rules and general Q & A. But honestly, most people just walked right though without stopping.

Typically, I do the same thing. I mean I am so far from the front that I don’t need to know the ‘special rules’, I just follow everyone else. If they are lost, then at least I know I’ll have good company!

However, this time I did stop and watch. It was a nice video, nothing special. It was basically the RD talking about the course and transition. No demo or anything special, just a general talk. It was set to loop so that you could walk in at anytime and it would just repeat over again.

Honestly, it was a very clever idea. Athletes floated in an out and it was no big “the video is starting in 30 seconds, hurry and grab a seat” event. Very laid back.

The expo was separate from the pickup by about 300 yards. In fact if you didn’t look around you would never see it. I think a lot of people missed it as there were not a lot people there. It was very humdrum and featured only Ironman 'approved sponsors’. I am not sure what I expected but I thought there be a lot of competing vendors and some killer deals. Instead it was ‘the Ironman store’ which sold anything you wanted as long as it said ‘Ironman’ on it! Ironman hats; Ironman cups; Ironman shorts; Ironman jackets; they even had Ironman shoelaces.

There were no free samples of items or fun booty. Everything had a price and usually it was expensive! You can have any nutrition you want as long as it was made by Gatorade. Want Heed? Nope! How about Endurox? Nope! But you can have all the powerbars and Endurance mix you want.

Rage on the other hand was almost completely the opposite.

Pack-it pickup was a complete nut house! People were stacked wall to wall. The expo was in the same location as pick-up so the sound level was LOUD!

At pick-up, you had to wait in line for the one table that helped distribute packets (where they did ask for my ID and USAT card, but JT did not get questioned at all). Then it was swag bag but it was located only 2 feet away and it wasn’t long before the backed up line flowed into each other and everyone was confused.


After pickup was the expo which had a nice selection of vendors. Maybe not a lot of competition but there seemed a wide ranging mix. One nice thing was all the freebies that you get from the vendors.

Thank you Fluid!!

Overall, I liked the laid back pace of Oceanside over Rage. Maybe it was the overabundance of volunteers or the massive amount of space they had but it seemed very low key and relaxed. Whereas after Rage, I needed a beer to calm my nerves (of course, It could have been the fact that I was doing a hard ass race the next day too!)


Swim:

I was initially concerned that 2200 people would be chaos at the swim. Imagine 2200 people all swimming at the same time! Reminds me of something (like a…..IRONMAN).

But they broke down each age group into lots of little mini-waves. In fact they broke into so many little waves that my wave didn’t start until almost an hour after the race began. They still closed down transition before the race started, so that meant we had to be in transition and get everything set up early and then WAIT!

Lots of waiting! Lots of nervous, freezing my butt off waiting. Lots of watching other racers come in and go waiting. Lots of ‘good God! Hurry the hell up’ waiting.

Each wave would wait until the other wave went off, then enter the water and swim to the start line, some 100 feet away. They’d wait there until the horn went off and then all 100+ people would take off. This would be my first ‘deep water’ start!

While waiting, I was freezing. The outside air was so cold and while the rest of me was covered in neoprene and latex, my feet were frozen. Had I known, I would have brought a spare pair of socks to toss at the last minute.

(Side note: While standing in line, waiting your turn to get in the water, nature inevitably hits. The RD actually had several port’o’potties in the waiting area!

Another side note: Not everyone used them! I made the mistake of looking down and noticing that a guy had ‘water’ coming out of his wetsuit and dripping down his feet into his sock. Mental note: don’t look down and don’t pick up any ‘used’ socks)

By the time I hit the water, I was afraid that if I dropped another degree, I would go into hypothermic shock. Imagine my relief when the water was actually warm! Who knows, it could have been 50 degrees but as long as it was 1* warmer then the outside air, it was WARM!

We swam out the start and waited for the gun to go off. Everyone tried to space themselves a part from each other, but it was either the current or the competiveness, but in a matter of seconds we were all bunched together. Once the gun went off, there were arms and legs everywhere! It wasn’t bad and within the first 200 yards it was fine.

The race itself is very well marked because it the buoys are all spaced about 100 yards apart.

Once I followed the buoys out the main sea, the rolling waves hit but it was more big rollers than crashers, so it wasn’t a problem. On the way back, Nate had told me to forget the buoys and instead focus on the big hotel. Sight on that and I’ll be perfect. He was exactly right! The sun was blinding and I couldn’t see anything on the water.

Thanks Nate!

If I could give one hint (beside focus on the hotel, it would be to stay closer to the docks than the buoys on the way in. The docks are the best line as the buoys take you out and then back in.

43:12

Once we were out of the water, we had to run down the entire length of transition to get in the back. With 2200 athletes, that’s a long run! One nice thing about the Ironman race was the carpet path they provide for entire swim to transition and through most of the transition area. My (pansy-ass) feet thank you so much!

5:09

On Rage, I seemed to take the exact opposite approach and showed up to Transition way after everybody else did. I had to fight (almost literally) for a spot for my bike. And while there, I must have zoned out, because I looked around and noticed that I was the only one in my area. Hmmm….where is everybody? Oh the water! Why? The race is about to start!!! Crap! I don’t have my wetsuit on, I haven’t eaten, and I am way on the other side of the transition area.
As I am making my way down, they start the countdown and I barely reach the water’s edge when the gun goes off. I slap my goggle into place and dive in.

Holy Crap! The water is cold! So much for a warm-up or even a chance to let the water soak into the suit. I am have way to the first buoy when the water makes its way down to the lower back, WAA! I am almost to the second buoy when the water finds my lower section. He-ll-o shrinkage!

By the third buoy and I started to adjust and am making some headway. About mid way back, it dawns on me that we are not heading straight back but rather going past the entrance to the next buoy and then in . At this point we are joined with the sprinters and I am mauled as I get swam over by the fast guys. But this gives me the chance to draft off of them for at least a few minutes.

47:27

Unfortunately, Rage does not have carpet in the transition area. For those who don’t know me, I have the weakest feet in the world! I am a little baby for walking barefoot!

Ouch!

3:34

OK. So overall, I think I would give this to Oceanside. They had a great support on the swim course with the buoys and the carpet, not to mention the volunteers in the water! Who helped you unzip. No strippers but a boy can’t have everything!

Bike

Oceanside starts off nice and flat. There are a few hills but all in all, nothing that slows anyone down too much.

Again the power of Ironman lies with the volunteers. The bike course had an overabundance of volunteers. Volunteers directing you; Volunteers feeding you; even volunteers in the middle of nowhere whose sole job was to cheer you on!

The bike course also had powerbar gels which is nice!

They’ll tell you that Oceanside has one big hill. They lie! It has a one BIG ass hill and several hills. And then a few minor hills (but by the time you get to them, they FEEL big).

Of course, the problem with all these hills is that they don’t happen until way over half way into the race. By then you are feeling good, feeling like you are flying; you’ve been enjoying the flat fast ground and you feel f-a-s-t! Right then the hills hit and all thoughts of good are gone!
You’re struggling to get up the first hill (there were some people walking it) and then the remaining hills are just vampires sucking the energy out of you.

Luckily, I started to feel better right around mile 50 and got my second wind. Nothing feels better than passing people on the last 6 miles in!

3:27:21

On the way out of transition, you run past the finish line (where there is an aid station, very nice of them to think of the beginning runners) and you get to see all the bikers coming in and the runners who are finishing. Personally, I would rather NOT see the finishers but it was nice to see the bikers, so you knew where you at.

2:59

On Rage, the bike (as always) has this huge hill climbing out of transition. Nothing like hitting zone 5 off the swim! But the good thing about the hill is that as soon as you are up, it everything else feels better.

It’s like when you tense every muscle in your body and then relax. Go ahead try it: tense up your arms and then your legs; work on tensing up your whole body. Now in one big motion: RELAX! Ahh! Everything feels so much better!

After that brutal hill, all the minor hills felt like cake, at least until hitting North shore road. Then the hills really began!

On this race, I had a few things going for me:

  1. I knew the terrain. I knew what hills to push on, what gear to be in and what was on the other side of the hill
  2. I had the Mrs. on the road. Gotta look good!
  3. I had JT breathing down my neck. Johnny is a beast on the bike, so I knew that I would have to have my best day out there to have a hope of holding him off.
  4. I had RBR and LA run buddy racing too. I had to represent!

Once I hit the turn around point, I knew that I was doing good. I felt strong and I felt fast. Went I hit the hills, I was able to stand up and work it! I was able to pass a few people and only got passed a by a couple people.

On the final hill, I was ready for the run.

3:25:59

I don’t know how the women do it. They can hop out of the water onto the bike wearing nothing more than a padded bikini. Not me! (You don’t want to see me in a padded bikini!) I need not just one pair of riding shorts, but two! If I could somehow get three on, then I am sure that I would!

Why oh why do bike seats have to be so freaking hard!! Would it add too much weight to add in some padding? Because it sure adds time to me, to put on the padding. For Oceanside, I swam without the extra riding shorts and then in T1, I put them on. (Nothing like nylon and wet skin to slow a person down). So this time, I swam with them on (probably sucked up half of the lake) and then I didn’t have to worry about putting them on in T1. Of course I have to remember to take them off in T2. Oops! No wonder it felt like I was running in a diaper…I was!

2:27



The Run

Oceanside is mostly run all on the street. I say mostly because there is a small section (1/4 mile) where it is through deep loose sand. That sucks! But the rest is all on the street and the pathway. Unfortunately, the street and the path are concrete. While it didn’t affect me much, I saw some people out there were feeling the beating.

My whole goal was just to play it smart. Run slow and steady for the first half and then add in the speed for the second half. A sort of negative split.

The problem with this idea is that it sucks to watch all those people you just passed on the bike come pass YOU on the run. My body is screaming to go faster and I have to check my ego at the door. I can almost hear the smugness in the steps!

On the second loop, it’s my turn to shine. I finally am able to put on the speed (that being a relative term – it’s me we are talking about after all). I finally get to pass (almost) all the people who flew by me. I also get to pass the people who went out way too hard.

It’s great! Until around mile 11 and I start to realize that I should have eaten more. My body is hungry and I am starting to feel fatigued. The sun is beating down on me and I am starting to feel fatigued. The sand gets in my shoes and I am starting to feel fatigued. The concrete is wearing me down and I am starting to feel fatigued. I guess what I am saying is that I am starting to feel fatigued!!

When the final stretch for the finish line is there, I am almost too gassed to put on the sprint. Almost! It feels good to be so close the end. I see the arches and I hear Mike Reilly announcing names. I don’t know if he says my name or not, but I feel like I have just finished an Ironman!

2:12:27

Continuing with the tradition, Rage is almost exactly the opposite of Oceanside.

Almost of all of Rage happens on gravel paths. There is only a small section (2 miles) that is on anything paved. The rest is all on trails. Some are groomed and well maintained and others are just a corridor through the desert, full of rocks and sand.

Add in that the first 4 miles are uphill and I knew that I would not have a repeat of Oceanside.
Well before the halfway point, I am feeling tired. My only saving grace is that I have been shoving food down me at every few miles and I have been dumping water on me at every aid station.

It’s HOT! There is very little shade and it’s us vs. the desert sun and I am starting to lose quickly.

Right after the halfway point, I see JT and he is looking strong. If he keeps up his pace, he’ll beat me to the finish line! This thought alone kept me going for more miles than I can remember.

Once I finally see the finish line, I take my time and enjoy the finisher chute. My family is there and I get to enjoy their company. I am happy to be done!

2:33:26

Aftermath:

After Oceanside, they direct you into a line. Get your medal, move to the next line, massage? No, next line; food? There is a wide variety of food, pizza, pizza and pizza! Lots of different types. Plus there are also the oranges, cookies and pretzels that were standard run course fair. Unfortunately, I am not in the mood to eat and just grab a quick bite before heading out.

Security is good in Oceanside, In order to get your bike you have to exit through one exit and they inspect you and match your race number with the bike. Very secure.

(I appreciate that. These bikes (not mine) can cost a lot of money. It would REALLY suck to have someone walk off with your $3000 bike, while you were getting a massage! At Silverman, you were completely cutoff from the bikes and the only way to get yours was to have a volunteer retrieve it. Nice! Of course it helps not to have some high school kid who couldn’t care less. I got my bike and then asked if Stef’s bike was there (because I hadn’t seen her on the bike/run course) and he comes back WITH her bike and gives it to me! Dude! You just gave me my bike, how many bikes do you think I rode today?!!)

After the bike security check, it was a LOOONG walk back to the car (no shuttle??) and then the long drive back to home. But not before JT and I stopped at an awesome BBQ place. True Texas BBQ! Now that’s recovery!

After Rage, we stuck around and cheered on everyone. This was nice because I was able to soak in the lake a little bit for a nice ice bath. JT came in only a few minutes behind me (I ‘knew’ he was right behind me!). After that we cheered in the finishers until near the official end. We are waiting for RBR and LA run buddy to come in and we are getting close to the end and I am worried that they’ll shut down before they have a chance to finish.

I go and talk to the RD and the announcer and get their assurance that they’ll stay open until they come through the finish. Right around then the announcer sees someone way in the distance and starts cheering them on.

“Come on Sally! Sally you are going to the last official finisher and I have a bag of goodies for you but you HAVE to hurry. You have 5 minutes to be official.”

Now Sally is WAY up the hill, she looks to be almost a mile away. There is no way she can make it.

But we all (including the volunteers) start cheering her in.

“Come on Sally. Hurry Sally. Hurry!”

And to my surprise, Sally is running. I mean Sally is RUNNING! This is the end of the race. This poor girl has been out there for almost 8 hours. It’s hot; she’s got to be tired. She has got to be exhausted. But here she sprinting for all she is worth.

And the crowd is going crazy!

But the race clock doesn’t care. It’s still ticking down. 4 minutes; 3 minutes; 2 minutes.

“Hurry Sally. Hurry!”

She is almost full sprint now. There is a small dust trail behind her. She is giving it her all and it may not be enough! I feel for her. If it was me, I would have given up a long time ago. I would have walked it in and been satisfied with finishing, but Sally is trying. She is pouring her heart out.

And it’s not going to be enough!

1 minute left!!

She is on the flat now, just the long, straight path left. She can almost see the clock.

50 seconds!

40 seconds!

She is so close, less than 100 feet to go and I am waiting for her to collapse. She has just ran down a hill full bore, she is sprinting hard.

The crowd is so full of tension; you can cut it with a knife.

By the grace of god, she finishes with seconds to spare!!

The crowd goes wild with cheers and hollers. She gets more applause than the pro’s.

I am near tears. I can’t handle this. Finishing the race was hard enough for me, now watching a made for TV drama has me near a breakdown!

And that is nothing compared to RBR’s finish. The RD and the announcer have made true to their words and are waiting for RBR to come through. But not only have they stayed behind but so have the volunteers and their families.

Everyone understands that Rage is not about finishing in a certain time, it’s about finishing! RBR is out there, fighting against the desert heat and the sun. It is nature vs. woman and she is about to prove that she is the victor!

The whole crowd has come out to join her. She is surrounded by all the volunteers and my family. They all run with her down the finish line and through the arches. Everyone is cheering and calling out her name!

If it was load for Sally, it was nothing compared to this!

Congrats to RBR. She showed true spirit and finished strong, where many would have given up!



Much later that day, we all meet for dinner and exchange war stories. We are sun baked, sun burnt and exhausted.

It was a GOOD RACE!

Overall:
Oceanside – 6:31:06
Rage – 6:52:51

I would have to say that each was great in its own way.

I learned so much at Oceanside. It was over an hour faster than Silverman! It was my fastest half marathon ever (closed or open) and I felt great the entire time!

Rage was so hard. The sun and the hills were real killers. When combined with the run, I think Rage was harder than Silverman (although, it’s very close). Yet, I was able to smash my bike time. Way faster than I have ever done on that course and faster even than Oceanside!

I loved the volunteers at Oceanside. There was so many of them. And I think that is where Ironman races really have their power. In the people who support them. The people who come out to volunteer for them, the people who come out to watch, the people who permit the races to even happen in the first place.

Would I do them again?

…..

Well, I mean I liked them a lot, but I may need a little break! Oceanside sucked the life out of me and whatever was left, Rage swallowed whole!

I loved each race, and I would definitely recommend either race to anyone. Oceanside is beautiful, with the beaches and the mountains. And Rage is beautiful with the desert landscape and the lake in the distance.

Neither is a cake walk, so before you come, make sure you’re ready!

9 comments:

RBR said...

DUDE! AWESOME REPORT (reports?) I will have to remember to be an annoying b*tch more often. (oh, wait...)Seriously, you had me laughing, almost crying (I DO have a reputation to uphold, you know?), and my heart racing. I felt like I was there, (ok, I was there for one of them. There for a long freaking time as a matter of fact, but I digress...)

You are so ready to rock IMCdA, I just wish I was fast enough to get to see you finish. As it is, I truly hope I DON'T get to see you finish, but I am sure you understand. ;o)

Give yourself some recovery time. You are ready my friend.

WADDLER26.2 said...

Love the reports and comparison. I find it especially since for my first Iron, I choose not to do an IRONMAN brand race. You gave me alot of insights. Thanks!

Stef said...

Nice comparison! I'm astonished at the differences in packet pick ups. Very interesting.

Oh and I had no idea you tried to steal my bike at Silverman. LOL!! Reading that was too funny! And SOooooo nice that you were checking on me! You are awesome!

ShirleyPerly said...

Ooh, great way to kill two race reports with one stone!

Interesting comparison. I think a lot depends on the race, though, as Ironman's FL 70.3 and Gulf Coast Tri, a non-IM half iron race, were quite similar to me in terms of participant numbers, support, volunteers, course difficulty, etc. The expos differed mostly, I think, because one was on private property (Disney) where as the other was not.

But, one thing I'll bet is that you could not have asked the Oceanside RD to keep the finish line open for RBR. Well, actually you could have asked but I doubt he'd have done it. Great job on both your races and for the awesome support you showed to the other racers!!

Dave said...

Great reports! Sounds like you'll be more than ready for CDA!

I have to admit, I'm a little jealous of the whole "we have warm enough weather to have 70.3s in the spring", though. My only tune-up will be a sprint in a few weeks. :)

Kelly said...

I can't believe that uou actually did better on the bike at rage, that's impressive!!

Fantastic job on both races (and yes, this is coming from one that thought it was too ambitious to do both. Sorry for doubting you :-)

Rachel said...

Nice race report. Good job on both! Oceanside is awesome. I love it. I'm doing it again next year. Good luck at CdA! You'll do awesome.

KayVee said...

Those are really fun race reports to read. And, by the way, you rocked them. You are soo ready for IMCdA!

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

That a great report, how you wove the two race reports together and compared them. Awesome job with finshing them both!