This was the inaugural Oakland Triathlon Festival. I signed up a long time ago because I felt I wanted to support and race a local race. The fact that I would be able to ride my bike to the start was an added bonus. Ever since signing up when telling people about this race all I’ve heard has been negative comments. “Who wants to swim in that dirty water”, “Is the swim going to be in Lake Merritt, thats gross”, “Will you be riding in a bullet proof vest?” and so on. None of the people that had these comments did the race and completely missed out on a great fun race with a very unique course and a great organization.
I rolled down the 3 miles to the transition area at around 5am in the morning. Entered the transition area from the location where both swim and bike in would be. Found a perfect transition spot on the first rack. This meant shorter running barefoot after the swim and also shorter barefoot running after the bike (since I ride without socks and leave shoes clipped in).
Proceeded with the usual setup of the transition area and met up with my buddy D who was doing the duathlon (bike and run).
For some reasonI wasn’t entirely prepared for this race and there were a couple of details that I didn’t know about. I had to check when my exact start time would be. All I knew was that the race started at 7am but there would be start corrals and I had no idea when I was going to start. 7.08 am it turned out.
I had brought some old socks to wear during the 10 min walk to the swim start. Smart I thought since it was probably much more comfortable compared to being barefoot.
I got into the water and got about a 10 minute or so warmup before my wave started. This was a deep water start and not a beach start. Only time I have done this type of start before was at a race in Stockholm. So instead of starting on the beach and running into the water you start in the water and everyone is lined up treading water before the gun goes off.
The swim was another part of this race I hadn’t researched properly. Or hadn’t researched at all I should say. When I arrived at the swim start I did overhear some people talking about the course. I then asked some more people but everyone seemed a bit confused about it. I finally decided to just go with the flow knowing that I most likely wouldn’t lead my start wave on the swim anyways so there would be people to follow.
I general I had a good swim. I was for once able to follow a bigger group of swimmers and it felt pretty good. The course was a bit unusual but fun. Had a 1 mile swim time of 24 min 18 sec.
The swim was followed by a 0.2 mile run that included running up some stairs to get to a bridge over the train tracks and then down stairs on the other side. I had no problems with this. Felt pretty good and running barefoot here was no big deal as it was mostly carpeted or pretty smooth tiled surface. It was pretty slippery at some points and I didd hear someone behind me eat it when we were running down the stairs.
T1 as a whole (run from water to heading out on bike) took me 5 min 40 sec. Thats pretty long but it did also include a long run for being transition. Getting wetsuite off and gearing up for the bike ride was pretty uneventful. I did fumble a bit when buckling the helmet but that probably only cost me a few sec.
Out on the bike I managed to get my feet in the shoes and getting the shoes on properly pretty quickly. I had my shoes clipped on to the pedals and held up by rubber bands in transition and then ran through T1 barefoot. Jumped on the bike and started pedaling with my feet on top of the shoes and when I got some speed going strapped on the shoes properly.
Started to work up a pretty decent pace right out of T1 and also started to pop some nutrition down early on. Had a few Bonk Breakers, some Gu and Osmo during the ride. The bike course was basically dead flat in comparison to any other triathlon I have ever done. It was also probably one of the more technical bike courses I have done. And by technical I mean a lot of turns. It’s not really that technical but compared to an out-and-back course with a few turns only this was technical.
I kept a pretty good pace on this two loop course and was passed only by 2 guys during the 40k. Those two were probably some super fast guys from the waves behind me (the overall winner and the 2nd place were 47 and 40 years old so probably those guys).
The ZIPP wheels performed really well in the winds and surprisingly well given the amount of turns involved on this course.
Finished the 40k bike course in 1 hour 7 min and 25 seconds.
I messed up a bit when arriving to T2. I had not prepared and unbuckled my shoes and had to kind of last minute unbuckle one of them to get my foot out and then had to stop with one foot on the ground to unbuckle the other foot. Probably lost a few seconds on this.
My rack space was immediately to the left when entering the transition area so I quickly racked the bike and made a very last minute decision to run in socks. Put socks on and while doing so heard D’s voice next to me as he entered transition also. The duathlon had started around the same time as I started my bike ride. I told him we should run together and bolted out on my run.
T2 ended up being reasonably fast given that I took time ot put socks on. 1 min 32 sec.
I set out targeting a 7 min/mile pace on the run. Felt really good early on and I kept pushing. Eventually made it to my stoping grounds around Lake Merritt where I end up a lot of times for training runs so i know that loop really well. Early on I passed a lot of people but when the sprint and international run course parted ways it got lonely for a while. I finally caught some people and then some more. After the loop around the lake we eventually hit the same stairs that we ran when exiting the swim. Running up 3-4 flights of stairs and then down again was tough at about 4-5 miles in to the run. I had to scale back a little bit at then end because is was almost about to cramp. Managed to keep a pretty solid pace for the whole run and did eventually cramp but that was just after passing the finish line.
Run time (6 miles) 42 min 59 sec.
Total time 2 hours 21 minutes 54 seconds.
Had wife, son, mom and dad greet me at the finish line. Looked like a great after party with beer and food but the lines was a bit too long. We made plans to go grab brunch instead so I went and collected my stuff from the transition area and biked the 3 miles home.
I ended up 12/79 in my age group and 63/918 overall. My buddy D that did the duathlon grabbed 1st place with almost 6 minutes to spare!
I’m definitely doing this race again!
Finished 12/79. Happy with the result. Had a really fun day and great performance given that this is a shorter distance than what I mostly do. Probably most happy about the sub-7 min/mile run.
Race report to follow….
Got my new wheels, ZIPP 404’s last week but haven’t been able to try them out until today. Did a 26 mile ride along the waterfront in Emeryville. These are some really fast wheels. Without any extreme efforts I ended up with a bunch of Strava PR’s. It was also pretty windy but was still able to push a pretty decent pace without too much effort.
This is a long one so go grab a drink…
The day before the race was mostly spent in Leadville. Went to pick up my start package, spent way to much money on stuff at the expo, attended the mandatory athletes meeting, napped, packaged my drop-bag and had some delicious pizza.
Not knowing what to expect out of the aid stations in filled up a drop-bag to the brim. Extra food, nutrition, electrolytes and a bunch of clothes. The wether can change pretty rapidly so I figured it could be nice with some dry gloves, arm warmers, bike jersey, etc. if it start dot rain (or snow).
Early bedtime the night before and I had no real problems falling asleep. This probably thanks to the 12” pizza at High Mountain Pies and the beer. Had a 4am wake-up call the morning of the race but probably didn’t get out of bed until 4.20-ish. Had prepped obviously prepped coffee and then had the (for me) standard race morning brekkie of bagel, honey roasted PB and a banana.
It was cold in the morning, real cold. There was a thin layer of ice on the rental car. Race start was 6.30 but we needed to line up in our start corrals between 5.30-6.15. I arrived pretty early but opted to stay in the car because of the cold. When I finally made my way over to the start area it was packed. Since I had not qualified and I was a first-timer I was in the last (white) start corral. Since I arrived late I was also all the way in the back of the white start corral. At this point I didn’t worry too much about that since I was basically shivering because it was so cold.
The gun went off and we started moving, sloooowly. But since its basically a rolling start and your time doesn’t start until you cross the time chip line that didn’t really matter at that point. However your placement in the race does count from at what place you cross the finish line. So placement in race and time is separately tracked but probably doesn’t differ all that much.
The first couple of miles is easy downhill and mostly on pavement. If it was cold earlier it got colder at this point. However this changed as soon as we hit some dirt. A little bit more effort and the HR went up a bit and I quickly got warmer. I had a very annoying problem going on the first couple of miles. I had knee warmers on and my left one kept sliding down so that it was basically bunched up below my knee. I tried to pull it up several times but it just kept sliding down. I finally decided not to care about it.
We hit the first climb, St Kevins. People started to slow down, people went to a complete standstill, people were walking. This was extremely frustrating. I am by no means a technically good rider but this was not technically difficult. I had a hard time understanding how any of these riders would make the rest of the course if you had problems with some of the “easy” climbing after a few miles. A lot of people were also huffing and puffing at this point and we had 90+ miles to ride and probably about 11000ft+ to climb. This set me back a lot and this was a result of me wanting to stay warm in the car earlier in the morning. I decided to not get to frustrated and annoyed about it and fell in to the line of walkers as it was impossible to ride anyways give that everybody was walking all over the place.
First quick stop for me was at the top of St Kevins. I took of the knee warmers and wind vest and a first bio break.
After this we went through some defending on dirt that turned in to a fast decent on a paved road and then some long climbing in paved road.
Then it got interesting. We hit the well known Powerline decent. I had heard about this and seen this on some videos. This was supposed to be a really sketchy, technical and a bit dangerous downhill. Well, if you’ve ridden Cinderella in Redwood Regional park then this is nothing, just longer. It was not technical at all, the only problem was a lot of riders stopping in the middle of it so it was difficult to find a flow and a line to ride. I made it down in one piece without problems.
Next we hit some more paved road that was very flat and in pretty open landscape. I caught a group and took position in the back to leverage the draft. However after a while I wasn’t happy with the pace so started pushing past the group and started a faster pace. A few riders followed and we rode a few miles together. Got back on to dirt roads and eventually hit the first real aid-station, Pipeline . I had plenty of food, nutrition and water at this pint so I kept going.
After this the course was somewhat flat with some mixed terrain of dirt roads and single tracks. There where a few steeper climbs and downhill here and there but nothing that was too long or grueling. Eventually made it to the Twin Lakes aid-station. This is a big one. It is really easy to access by car so this is where most people will be. This is also where I had decided to have my drop-bag dropped. However when hitting the aid station I didn’t feel like I needed anything from the back. That and we would pass this aid-station again on the way back. I had a banana and re-filled a bottle with Osmo (sports drink).
This is the real climbing would start. The climb up to Columbine Mine is 10 miles and climbs 3300 ft. The first part is rocky dirt road that turns in to a nice dirt road that turns in to really gnarly rocky single track. I’m not sure here since I didn’t count but during the first part of this climb when we were still on a nice and wide dirt road I probably passed about 100 people. This is also where I met the leader of the race coming down. When we got to the rocky sketchy single track section riders turned in to walkers and I was stuck again. This was the same as the experience with St Kevins earlier in the day. Some parts here were a bit technical for sure but I would argue that all of it was rideable. This is also close to 12000ft of elevation so oxygen is sparse here. The less fit people of the race were definitely struggling here.
At the top I decided to refuel and took my sweet time to enjoy the view and the food. PBJ’s, cookies, bananas, etc. Lots of very nice volunteers up here. Took a picture and posted it on Facebook.
At this point I still felt very strong and I didn’t really seem that the elevation was affecting me much. I started descending. I was expecting to have some slow riders in front of me but that wasn’t the case. The first part was brutal however. Riding a hard-tail in this section was rough. My arms and wrists were in pain and exhausted by the time I was done with the rocky single-track section. The rest was smooth sailing back to the Twin Lakes aid station. Fueled up some more but decided to leave the drop-bag and just ride the rest of the race out with what was offered at the aid-stations.
At this point in the race, about 65 miles in, every climb started to take its toll on me. I was still ok but definitely started to feel the 6+ hours of riding. Kept pushing on and was riding with basically the same people around me on and off as we all stopped for bio breaks.
Enter the Powerline climb. This was tough, this was really tough. I had been riding for pretty much exactly 8 hours when I got to this climb. I had already forgotten how far I descended earlier in the day. At this point it also started to get pretty clear to me that I have been training for 6-ish hour races all season, not 8 hours and longer. I was having a hard time eating at this point in the race also and was only really getting in some sport drinks and the occasional Gu. I rode a part of the Powerline climb, longer than most around me but had to walk for a big part of it. The end of this climb was also really technical to climb, lots of short steeper sections and lots of loose rock. This definitely took its toll on me.
After that grueling climb it was time for some refilled, about a 15 minute descend. Only to be followed by about another 40 minutes of climbing again. At some point someone at an aid-station said that there was no more climbing from this point on. That was the biggest lie of the day. I’m sure I climbed at least another 1500ft after that.
The St Kevins downhill (this time obviously) was also brutal. My grip was really suffering at this point so I had a hard time dealing with the extremely rocky surface. This would obviously be better with a full suspension bike but I don’t have one so I don’t have the option. On the other hand a full suspension rig might suffer more on the climbs so I’m torn on what would be better overall.
After St Kevins there was time for some flat riding again. Around this point I hit the 100 mile mark. The rout back at this point was slightly different than going out. The last few miles here seemed like they never ended. The last 3 miles or so was a long gradual climb. Some people along the course helped push me and other riders around us along for a few seconds.
There was a bit of relief in form of a slight downgrade just before coming in to the finishing shoot and the red carpet. I mustard enough energy to sprint past one guy here.
Official finishing time was 10:50:44. The un-official moving time according to my GPS was 10:23:59 so I took my sweet time at the aid-stations and especially at the top. The cut-off time for officially finishing the race is 12 hours and that was my target so I beat that by far.
I had a blast. It might sounds strange that biking and suffering for almost 11 hours would be a blast but I don’t expect everyone to understand that. There are some people I know out there that do understand the fun in that. An IronMan is tougher I think. But anything can be made really tough depending on how hard you push yourself and how well prepared you are. I think I could break 9 hours (the silver buckle cut-off) if I prepared properly and wasn’t held back by walkers due to starting far back.
Today, the day after I feel ok. A bit sore but for the most part ok. A lot less sore than after running a marathon thats for sure. The cold that I had before the the race got a bit better leading up to the race. Biking for almost 11 hours did not however make it better but I’ll get over that sooner or later also.
I did have a bit of a hard time sleeping. Passed out at 9pm and woke up around midnight and was awake for a really long time. My HR was probably around 100 (very high resting HR for me). I’m sure the high altitude, 10200ft, and that my body was trying to recover contributed to that.
Leadville is a cool little town with emphasis on little. There’s not much to do in town and there’s not a whole lot of restaurants either. But it’s cute and it has it’s charm. The draw is the amazing nature around Leadville. This is something that riders get to experience to the absolute full extent throughout the entire race. Sometimes I even found myself forgetting about being tired and exhausted because the views around you were so spectacular.
I’d love to come back and do this race again sometime. Not sure that I will anytime soon as it’s huge logistical undertaking. There are 3 riders that have completed the race all 21 times that it has been running. I won’t beat that but maybe I’ll come back one day to attempt the sub-9-hour mark.
Had an early morning start in Boulder to meet up with a friend fro breakfast. There are tons cool and very interesting breakfast places all over Boulder. With only one full day here I am just scratching the surface. We hit up a place called Snooze, delicious looking pancake menu but I opted for less sugar and went with a pulled pork benedict.
After breakfast I wen to a cafe called The Laughing Goat and got some work and other stuff done. Nice to sit outside in the sun at 8am in the morning. That sunshine quickly changed to rain and I moved inside. The rain stopped just as quickly as it started and I headed out to go get a ride share bike to take a quick ride along Boulder Creek. Amazing to have a creek that basically runs throughout downtown.
You can only use the ride share bikes for 30 min at the time and then have to return them to a station. You technically pick one up immediately and keep going but I had done some research and was interested in checking out an outdoor 50m pool. So I went over to the Scott Carpenter Pool for an easy swim. I got exactly 200m in before the lifeguards pulled me and everybody else out due to thunderstorms and closed the pool for at least 30m minutes.
Off to lunch. A recommended place and popular place in Boulder was The Kitchen. It seemed a bit pricey for lunch so I went next door to The Kitchen Next Door. Delicious sandwich and a beer.
After lunch I strolled the downtown area of Boulder for a bit and especially Pearl Street. Lots of small shops, cafes and restaurants. Street performers and obviously a bouldering playground for the kids.
I did have a re-entry available for the pool and decided I needed to get that swim done so I headed back to the Scott Carpenter Pool as they had lane swimming open again starting at 4. I got there a bit on the early side and had to wait for them to put the lanes up. After that I got 1300m in all by myself in a lane. I’m used to pools being packed full of people when its lane swimming and especially in an outdoor pool when the weather is awesome. Not sure why it was so empty but I’m guessing all triathletes in Boulder get there swim sessions done in the morning.
Headed back to downtown and wanted to use the bike share some more since I had paid for 24 h of use anyways. Did some more casual riding along Boulder Creek but in the other direction this time. Ended the ride by Pasta Jay’s and gobbled up some delicious Chicken Juliana.
After dinner I started the 2.5 hour drive from Boulder to Leadville. Arrived safely at The Windspirit Cottages and Cabins at around 10pm and crashed after a long day.
On my way to Leadville for the LT100 MTB race I am stopping by Boulder. I have always wanted to visit Boulder as I’ve heard so many good things about this place so figured this would be a good time to visit since I’m in the area and also because there is a lot more to do here compared to spending all my time in Leadville. In addition I can still get some benefits from spending some time at altitude even if Boulder is only at about 6,000ft and Leadville at 10,100ft.
Got in on the later side last night but decided to immediately head out to Magnolia Road for a run. This is about a 20 min drive outside of Boulder. Its been made famous by the book ‘Running with the Buffaloes’. It’s an extremely windy paved road that climbs from 6,000ft up to 8,000 ft where it somewhat flattens out and turns into a gravel road. Beautiful scenery, fresh air and all-in-all one of the best runs.
I parked where the paved part ended and did about 3 miles out and back.
Headed up to Donner Lake in the afternoon on Friday. The plan was to beat most of the traffic and that kind of sort of worked. Carpooled with the Zoot NorCal team captain and had a stopover at his office for some free lunch before starting the drive up to higher altitude.
We made decent progress and decided to head straight for the lake rather than going to the cabin we had rented. The weather was really nice so we decided to go for an easy swim. The water temperature was perfect, almost a bit too warm to use a wetsuit.
Ended up getting about a 20 min swim done and got to try out to swim at altitude for the first time. It was interesting for sure but not as bad and exhausting as I had expected.
After the swim we decided that a bike ride would be nice. Changed, hopped on our bikes and headed over towards Lake Tahoe. We changed the plan along the way and went up to Squaw Valley and stopped there for an appetizer and some beer. Got a bit comfortable there and basically forgot about the time. So heading back to the car we got a bit rushed to make it before it got completely dark.
Stopped at a Mexican restaurant to rule up before heading up to our cabin in Donner Tahoe. We had a pretty big house rented that had 3 floors and basically 4 bedrooms. The plan was for some other Zoot team members to join but plans changed and they would come up later instead.
Had a really early start on Saturday morning. We had signed up to volunteer the Donner Lake Sprint and Kids race. We were assigned to handle the swim safety and had a gathering for that at 6.30 in the morning. Spent most of the morning and mid-day on a paddle board in Donner Lake. It was a blast to see the race from that perspective and being able to help out and coach some people that were terrified of swimming and in a panic to finish (at leafs that part of the race).
I went back to the house in the afternoon for some much needed rest time. Managed to take a quick nap and started to get my gear sorted for the race the following day. Wrapped up the day with a beer and pizza and headed to bed pretty early.
The rental house was only about a 10-15 min drive from the race start. Regardless and as usual race day is an early morning start. Initiated the routine with Chocolate Zico, a banana and a honey roasted peanut butter bagel.
Had plenty of time to get transition set up and managed to get a pretty good spot and then end of one of the racks. For a change I even made it in to the water for a pretty decent warm-up with plenty of time to spare.
The swim went ok, not great but ok. I was swimming with a bigger group early on in the race and for a change wasn’t toward the tail end of my start group. That felt good but changed pretty quickly. The group split up and the smaller pack I followed didn’t really navigate all that well. I ended up getting pretty far off course and ended up with a 41:10 for the swim. This is something that needs some serious improvement since I actually ended up finishing the swim at place 80/111.
T1 was good. Biking in the Lake Cycling TX312 makes transition from swim to bike much faster for me as I can ride without socks. However in this case it wasn’t perfect. My bad for not checking this out before the race. The short running part inside of the transition areas was fine, it was gras and partially paved surface. However right when exiting the actual closed of transition area there was a section of running that was on sand/dirt/pine needles/bark before getting to the mount point. So with wet feet all the dirt got stuck to my feet. This was by no means great and I had some problems getting the dirt off and also getting my shoes on because of this. To add to this the bike started with a 3.5 very steep climb so I didn’t have much option to coast or roll on the bike while trying to sort this out.
I like biking hilly courses and this course was definitely hilly and fit me perfectly. The course started at around 6000ft and climbed around 1200ft over the first 3.5 miles. After that a pretty long down grade to a turn point only to climb all of that back up again and repeat followed by now a steep downhill back to the transition area. The first loop around I was pushing but took care not to go to hard. The second loop I tried going hard but my legs started to get very tired at this point. We also ended up getting mixed in with the Olympic distance race during the bike segment so it started to become very difficult to know who was in your race and not. I was targeting sub 3 hour bike but missed that with a few and ended up with 3:02:29.
During the bike ride I decided to make the run back into transition with the bike shoes on just to avoid the dirt. Bike to run transition was fast and again much of this thanks to the Zoot Ultra Tempo 6.0. The shoes are designed to run without socks and saves a lot of time in transition for me.
The run was 2 loops around Donner Lake. The traditional distance would be 13.1 miles but in this case I think the official distance was 13.36 miles. Small difference one might think but a huge difference at the tail end of a half IronMan distance triathlon.
Given cramping issues in the past I started of with a somewhat moderate pace. I did have some tentative cramping early on but was able to manage that by controlling pace and drinking as much water I got get my hands on and also plenty of Gu for electrolytes. Seemed like I made good progress in the filed also and was passing several people during the run. Towards the end of the first loop I was passed by the male leader. After that point almost every aid start ion mentioned to me that the leader just passed and I was running in second. Thanks Zoot for the very professional looking race kit :)
Had a goal to break 2 hours and not being caught by my fast team mates during the run. I managed to achieve both with a run time of 1:55:43.
Had lots of fun all day. This is definitely a great race course and a great race venue. I’ll be back for sure.
Total time 5:42:03
Finished 4/15 in my age group and 25/111 total.
Thanks Jim for pictures from the finish!