Race Report: Nautica Malibu Triathlon

On Saturday, September 12, 2009, I did my first Olympic distance triathlon. Let me take you to the events leading to this tri, whilst I sit around and rest this day after the triathlon.

I have been doing sprint triathlons for the past 2 years, and became comfortable with the distance. The sprint distances are similar to doing a long 10K running race. Then in 2008, I signed up for the San Diego International Triathlon, which is an international distance (1K swim, 30K bike, 10K run). Unfortunately, after driving the bike route of this race, I backed out and sold my race entry to SDIT; the bike portion had serious hills, had only a small area of the street closed for the course, and had lots of switchbacks – no way was I going to do that! I continued running more marathons and did less sprint tri’s. Finally in the beginning of this year 2009, I thought it was time I do an Olympic distance, and came upon this Malibu Tri, which looked like a fun event (and maybe I could see some film stars!) Little did I know the celebrities only do the classic distance which is on a Sunday, and the Olympic is on a Saturday.

So during the weeks and days leading up to the event, I was training hard on the swim, because I normally hyperventilate in the beginning of an ocean swim, and my heart rate goes soaring. I swam at La Jolla cove to the ½ mile buoy and back, and also swam from La Jolla Shores towards the cove’s ½ mile buoy and back. I also did several bike rides on the 56 fwy bike path, but that was just a total of 18 miles, round trip. During my training, I never got up to the 25 miles distance of the tri. I still kept up with my running, but that came naturally so I didn’t do too much of it. Two weeks before Malibu Tri, I signed up for one last sprint tri, the Imperial Beach Tri, to practice my transitions, and actually getting ready for a race. I had a good IB Tri, did it 10 minutes faster than my time the previous year I did it. I thought I was ready, even if my bike was only up to 18 miles, I thought 7 additional miles won’t be too bad.

The week of the tri came and although it was a short work week (thanks to Labor Day), I was so busy at work that I was stressing out with work and the upcoming tri. Friday, September 11, came, and I left work early so I can drive up to Malibu and pick up my race packet and drive through the course. After picking up my race packet, my sister and I drove the bike course – then I started freaking out! It had a LOT of hills, although they were rolling, I was more afraid of the downhill portions – I don’t like going downhill, I’m afraid of going too fast, losing control and eventually falling off my bike.

The day of the Malibu Tri finally came. I woke up that morning at 3:30 am, I couldn’t sleep well the night before. I got to the start really early, 5-ish AM. I got my transition area set-up, then found a few friends in the transition. Rebecca and Farah from TCSD were there, Farah and I were in the same wave, so we were in the same transition area. We finally went to the stage area for the last few instructions, singing of national anthem, then the long walk to the swim start. It was a cloudy morning.

At the swim start, we waited patiently as all other waves started (beginning at 7AM – our wave start was 7:45 AM). While the other waves started, I went into the water, to get used to the waves, and swimming thru the waves. The water temp at Zuma Beach was 66 F, per the announcer. Coming back out of the water, there was this huge wave that I tried to body surf, but I ended up get tossed around by the wave! That freaked me out! As 7:45 am was nearing, we lined up on the swim staging area.

When the gun shot signalled our start, all pink caps ran into the water, whilst I took my time. It felt like it took forever getting through the waves and then to the first buoy to turn. I was still not getting into my groove at this time, and there were maybe 3 or 4 other women around my swim pace, at the back of the pack. All the lifeguards on their surfboards were nice enough to be with one of us, so we had someone with us. When I got to the 2nd buoy I finally got my rhythm, I would swim halfway to the next buoy and stop for 10 seconds, then to the next buoy. Throughout this swim, the lifeguards were very helpful and encouraging. When I turned the last buoy, I finally thought I’m almost home free! The surf didn’t seem too bad as I looked forward towards the swim finish. Then as I swam almost near the beach, this huge wave came right behind me and tossed me forward, then that’s when I got this bad calf cramp, I couldn’t walk. I screamed, I think I scared the lifeguards, so they came to my rescue. I said I just had a bad cramp, but couldn’t walk, so they escorted me out to the beach, so I can stretch. It was hurting so bad, I stretched it out, one lifeguard massaged my calf, then the lifeguard asked me if I will continue. Of course I said I will continue.

I limped back to the transition area, got out of my wetsuit, and tried to stretch out my right calf so I can at least walk and get on the bike. At that point I didn’t know how long I spent in transition (apparently more than 10 minutes per the official time), but as I saw the last few women get on their bikes, I thought I should get on the bike soon if I want to make the cut-off time. I knew I was the last one to get on the bike.

What was refreshing though was that on the bike, I passed 6 women on the bike, mostly passed them on the uphill portions. I got the hang of the up and downs, so on the downhill, I just didn’t brake, so I had momentum going up the next hill. I was actually starting to have fun on the bike, and gaining confidence each time I passed someone else. My sister, Raciel, took photos of me on the bike as I rode towards the transition. Finally as I entered the chute to get to the bike dismount, it felt good, but when I got off the bike, my calf was still not well. I couldn’t put too much pressure on my right foot because my calf was starting to cramp up again. But, I was not quitting quite yet, I just had the run left to do, and that was my event.

So I took my time, all the women near my transition were done already, but I said I still had to move and run. I stretched out my right calf again, whilst this lady whose bike was next to mine was telling me, she once tore a muscle and had the injury for a while. But I said I only had a cramp so I will finish this run. So off I went, actually my legs were wobbly from the bike, but no matter what pain I felt, I just kept on running, even if it was just a slow jog in the beginning. And this is how I know I am a strong runner because when my sister, Annelle, tried to run with me on the 10K, she couldn’t keep up with my pace (thanks for trying to run with me, Ate) – I still could do my nice and easy 10 minute pace!

The run seemed like forever, there were lots of small out and back, then out and back on this parking lot. Finally, on the boardwalk, people were walking back to their cars, but as they see me try to finish my run, they were cheering me on, keeping me motivated, so it kept me going. When I could see the white tents, I knew I was home free. Then as I ran the corner, I heard the announcer say my name, and say that it was my first Olympic distance. It was such a great feeling crossing the finish line (I found out later my sister, Raciel, requested for the announcer to say that!) This race felt like running a marathon to me, except there were 3 different events. At least I set my PR this first time, I can always beat it later. Although I was expecting to see stars and didn’t see any, and also had a horrible muscle cramp on my calf, I still had fun and enjoyed the whole experience.

Next stop, 70.3, then a full Ironman triathlon! With a lot more training, I think I can actually do this!

Bib: 1392
Name: Diaz, Minel
City, State: La Jolla, CA
Age: 35
Gen: F
Finish: 4:02:01.4
AG: 48/73
OA: 271/410
FO: 889/1258
Swim (0:51:54.3 )
T1 ( 0:10:14.2 )
Bike ( 1:52:51.9 )
T2 ( 0:03:05.9 )
Run ( 1:03:54.9 )