This race was the second time that I competed in the Tri Santa Cruz Olympic distance race. We generally try not to repeat races each year but due to the drought conditions in California, ocean races are pretty much all we have to do. Also, this race is one of the better organized and easily accessible ones. We really enjoyed last year’s race, so it was any easy decision to participate again this year.
The fee is about $100-120 per person for the Olympic distance of this race. If you register early enough you can get in for a slow as $90. For the price you get your race entry, choice of a hat or a shirt, finisher’s medal, and post-race food. There is also a lot of prize money available at this race for Age-Group racers and pros. We did not have to pay since we had credits we could apply from some of the other races we registered for being cancelled due to the drought.
As always, I recommend people plan their race calendars way in advance and take advantage of early registration discounts. You can also check RunTri.com for detailed analysis of many races and where you are likely to get the most bang for the buck on major events.
There was no expo pre-race but there was one after the race. Pre-race packet pick-up was held one day at our local Sports Basement store and we were given 10% off of our entire purchase that day since we were participating in the race. The Saturday pick up was held at Spokesman Bike shop in Santa Cruz with similar discounts. One of the big attractions for this race is that you can make a weekend out of it and go to the beach with family to relax and enjoy the scenery. We did just that and stayed close to Capitola and enjoyed the relatively warm NorCal beach weather we got for the weekend.
Learning from the pain and frustration of the first couple of races this year, we made sure to arrive extra early. We had more than enough time to set-up our gear, get in a good warm up and chat with friends and family before the race. The transition area had every participants’ spot numbered so it was easy to find where you belonged. There were a lot of familiar faces and team logos from all around NorCal. The race itself started about ten minutes late, but that was welcome given the foggy morning sky.
The course was relatively easy. It was flat in most areas and was comprised of tight loops, which allowed spectators to see their friends and family multiple times. Angela even helped Tyler and I get our wetsuits back to the car after we finished our swim leg. The swim leg consists of two .45 mile loops inside the cove of Cowell’s beach in Santa Cruz. The tide was really low so my Garmin only recorded a .77 mile swim instead of the expected .90 mile swim; but the nearly quarter mile run to the transition area made up for the swim shortfall. The start groups were also pretty small. The waves were pretty choppy on the second loop and I disliked having to get out of the water and back in to complete the second swim lap.
The bike course is about a 5.5-6. mile loop around Santa Cruz that is pretty fast. 19 mph or more was the standard for the day. The roads were pretty clean and manned by Police officers to keep cars at bay. We got access to a full lane of traffic so there was plenty of room for passing and moving fast through crowds of riders. I averaged about 20 mph on the bike leg. I know I could do a lot better if I owned a triathlon specific, aerodynamic bike. You do have to start the ride on a uphill slope but that is the only incline for the whole race.
The run is pretty flat and consists of an out and back along the cliff trail in Santa Cruz. The cool sea breeze and sounds of the ocean were very welcoming by the end of the race. The one down side of the run leg was that the turn signs were not distinct enough for some runners to identify where Sprint and Olympic distance runners should turn. Tyler got confused and turned too early, earning him a disqualification. Had he not missed the turn he would have finished first in his age group.
I was pretty pleased with this result. I have not been able to train as much as I would want while attending to many life events. I still, however, beat my Olympic distance personal record by 10 minutes. I still have a lot of work to do on the swim and my bike leg kind of let me down but for the most part it was a good race for me. I really went into it with a goal to have fun first and not put too much pressure on myself and I think that made me successful. I think I will come away from this knowing I need to spend more time in the pool and take a few more classes on swim speed. I also need to put more power into my bike training. I finished 89th overall, 74th among men and 15th in age group. It’s crazy to think that basically you have to do close to a two hour race time to be in podium contention.
The After Party:
They had a ton of food and music for everyone that hung out after the race. The finish line area was away from the beach so everyone wasn’t having to mingle with the other Santa Cruz tourists. We spent the rest of the day shopping and exploring Santa Cruz and taking it easy.
I would give the 2014 Tri Santa Cruz a B+. The race was pretty well organized but it felt less polished than the previous year’s race. We didn’t get TriTat body marking kits like the year before. The medals were definitely on the cheaper end. The swim was a bit compromised by the shorter distance. I did like that we got a choice between getting a t-shirt or a hat. I also appreciated how well run the transition area was. Not sure if I will participate again next year but I did enjoy it overall.