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Club Member: Marci Concotelli
Race: Race Report - Oceanside: Views from the Back of the Pack
Distance: Half - Ironman
Race Date: 04/04/09
Submit Date: 04/14/09

This was my first attempt at Ironman California 70.3. What an AMAZING experience!!

The only things I wanted for the day: most importantly - finish! Finish strong!! Secondly, if it was at all possible - I wanted to surprise myself by finishing stronger than anticipated.

Saturday - RACE DAY!

I awoke at 3:40 a.m. - this sounds ungodly early…but it works for me. I awoke before the others and had my oatmeal with peanut butter along with banana as well as a strong cup of coffee. I put on my tri suit, had one last overview of my checklist. Soon the others were moving slowly and mustering up enough energy to get up.

I was up, dressed, Super Husband applied my race numbers - and fellow triathlete, Big Brother Wes, finally awoke. I helped him put on his race numbers and before we knew it, we were out the door.

We started our journey down to race central, down to transition. It was 5 a.m. and it was pretty chilly - we all had many layers on and the thought of jumping into the water was not on my “Sounds like fun!” list.

Wes and I found our respective spots in transition and racked our bikes, placed our race gear on our towels and waited for our waves to begin. I had one last hug and kiss with Super Husband and ran back to put on my wetsuit. One last hug to Big Bro - wished each other well - and this was it… the race was about to begin.

The sun started peaking over the horizon and as I was pulling on the wetsuit, I heard the cannon go off. THE PRO’s WERE OFF!

My wave was 45 minutes after the first - so it was a long wait which wears on the nerves…but I talked with the female triathletes (among them Tina Geller, Stella Tong) around me. We all had nervous energy and enjoyed chatting together. Before we knew it, it was time to line up!

The swim start began with 3 minute warm-up swim to the start line which is a “floating start”. Since I have been training in the ocean, the temperature felt great (props to those who joined me each Sunday morning for the LATC swims!). The 58 degree ocean was actually nice and warm compared to the air temperature! We bobbed in the water - giggling at our nervous energy. Some of us high-fiving each other….and before we knew it, 10 second warning. Deep breath….. HORN BLOWS…. we’re off.

The swim was in a marina - so very little ocean movement, just a little chop from wind and fellow swimmers. The first several minutes were pleasant - since the only swimmers around me were in my wave. Once the fast swimmers in the wave behind us caught up to us - well, then we had large men swim over us. However, I need to get used to this for Ironman Wisconsin’s mass start. One more thing I need get used to.

The swim overall was very comfortable. I never panicked in the water. I did swallow my fair share of salty, gross ocean water…. and the wave action / chop got worse around the turn around since it was the opening of the marina to the ocean. Once I reached the turnaround I was a bit relieved. The only issue was swimming back directly into the sun. I picked out swimmers in front of me and just hoped they knew where they were going - to follow them since it was so difficult to see with the sun’s glare.

The spacing of the buoys were GREAT - and my eyes always sighted the next buoy just down the way. Before I knew it I saw the boat loading dock with the volunteers. I reached for a volunteer and two reached for me immediately. They pulled me up, one unzipped the back of my wetsuit and I was on my way. I did find my legs cramp up twice due to the cold water - but now it was time for them to run through transition!

Transition was a bit long - and I was cold from the water and the breeze. I asked a volunteer to help me put on my cycling sleeves - which did not want to go on easily with the wet skin. However, after a quick porta-potty stop, I was out of T1 with my bike. Super Husband was right there, taking pictures - I waved goodbye and thought “see you in 56 miles!”.

As I left to start the 56 mile cycling portion - I made sure I paced out my nutrition (Perpetuem liquid – thank you for the tips on this, fellow LATC’ers!) and paced my energy. I heard the first 30 miles are great: easy, rolling hills, fast! And - they were. The first 30 miles left Oceanside and went into Camp Pendleton. The miles flew by very quickly. We gained elevation - but not as apparent as in the Santa Monica mountains. We were simply in the foothills - and we couldn’t see the ocean, just the grassy foothills of the Base.

The aid stations were about every 15 miles - I was very pleased to see this. I didn’t need them until mile 45 - but it was nice to see the happy, energetic volunteers with ample food, water, gatorade for each rider.

After mile 30, I kept my eyes peeled. The climbing was about to begin. Around mile 32 or so we saw the first of two challenging hills. The first was steep - but nothing I couldn’t handle. The spin class I’ve been taking (thanks to Rom Levitzky's Weekly Trainer Session!) made me prepared to downshift and go slowly. I muddled my way up - slowly but steadily. Many other cyclists dismounted and walked unfortunately.

At the top everyone continued onward and went with the rolling hills. We came across the second large hill - which wasn’t as steep but longer. Again, I downshifted and went slowly. The canyon training with LA Tri Chicks definitely paid off! I passed walkers as I made my way to the top and continued the rollers.

There were two areas that were single file. One section in the beginning along a narrow bike path - nothing steep, just narrow. The other was a very narrow descent with a sharp left turn at the bottom. I wasn’t sure what to expect - I only went off what others told me so I took it very conservatively down the descent. I look back and it wasn’t nearly as bad as many of the descents I’ve encountered in the Santa Monica mountains.

Meanwhile as I was climbing, I heard from my brother that there were two bad pile-up’s / collisions on the hills. His chain broke during the first big climb and was out for 90 minutes. A very nice LA Tri Clubber (thank you Sharon McNary!) handed him her chain tool which got him rolling again. Sharon, may good triathlete karma come your way – you certainly deserve it!

At mile 45 my awesome liquid nutrition was empty so I pulled up to the aid station and one of the armed forces volunteers filled my aero bottle with Gatorade. I was 11 miles from the cycling finish and thought it would be good to get some electrolytes in me.

I continued onward and at this point I was counting down the miles….. single digits remaining!! But where was the ocean??? I know it’s here somewhere! Why aren’t I seeing it?? Finally at about mile 53 I finally see the big blue ocean! Funny how the mental visuals help (or hinder) one during a race.

The last three miles were along the ocean and I rode into the marina - beaming with delight. I couldn’t wait to see my support crew and get off this darn bike! My gears were slipping on the hills and I was ready to hand that thing over!

I rolled into transition and put on my visor, running shoes, grabbed my Hammer Gel flask - and off I went!

Around the corner was Super Husband and I felt FANTASTIC! I went into this race thinking my run would be my strongest….and low and behold, so far - it was!

I continued on the run and never had the transition legs most triathletes have - that “brick” feeling. Maybe it’s because I work in a brick every couple weeks to get my legs used to that feeling…. either way - I felt fantastic! I continued on my run and noticed the race organizers put the sand portion of the run back in. For two years the sand was taken out due to high tide….since it was low tide, we got the sand. Arrgh! I was really hoping it was taken out for good. Ah well….

The strand was a lovely run - ocean to the side with the cool ocean breezes balancing the hot sun. I saw Big Bro on the strand and he seemed to perk up as he saw my bright pink visor and realized it was me. We high fived each other and carried onward.

Next there was a turn into a subdivision area at the end of the strand and they most amazing volunteer station was there. All volunteers were incredible - but this station was amazing. I continued onward another mile or so and made it to the turnaround and backtracked.

This run was mapped well - it was two loops. I thought of it as a 5k down, 5k back, 5k down, 5k back. It really helped me mentally prepare and I was able to sing songs in my head or just focus on getting to the next mile.

As I came back through to the turnaround I saw Super Husband waiting for me. He noticed my beaming smile and cheered me on. I felt I was in a groove and couldn’t be in better spirits! I made the “half way” turn and continued onward.

I journeyed back out and blew a kiss to my better half - knowing the next time I’d see him would be the finish line!! As I made my way through the sand and on the strand - I was so impressed with my endurance. I felt so strong and stable. I focused on making it to the next mile - then the far turn around in the subdivision. That meant only a 5k left!!

I learned a new tip at this race: flat cola is the elixir of the Gods. I had a few sips of it and it was like I was jolted back to life! Every time I passed that aid station I took a cup. Mmmmmm!!!!

At about mile 11.5 I felt a little off so I slowed to a power-walk and walked it out past the sand and up the bridge to about mile 12.5. At this point I could see the end - and I started the run and knew the chute was waiting…. I wanted that medal!

With that cheesy smile still on my face (for the past 7.5 hours!) I made my way down through the chute - and as I came within about 100 yards, I lifted my hands high and beamed with pride.

I crossed the line, heard my name and relished in the moment.

Volunteers gave me my medal, took the timing chip, handed me an official Ironman California 70.3 finishers shirt (in my size! woo hoo - not a way big size that doesn’t fit!), an official Ironman California 70.3 finishers hat, and a foil wrap to keep me warm. I walked along the way to get some food and my Support Crew came up and gave me hug after hug! It was fantastic!

We all regaled in our day…Wes shared his story about his broken chain and being out for 90 minutes - yet he was so very happy with his day. I was bubbling with pride at my amazingly strong day. Life could not get any better….

Positives of this race: Everything! From organization to volunteers, to supplies, to maps, shirts, registration…. All was done so professionally and well. The course was tough but not as tough as I thought. I trained properly for this race and it showed. I was slow but very steady and VERY consistent. In fact, I made a half marathon PR!! Woo hooo!!!

Could be better next time:
I am not a fan of the new medals…but that is secondary. I cannot think of anything that can get better…this race is amazing and I recommend it highly!

Fun moment of the day: I met Mike Reilly, “Voice of Ironman”. He was walking near the post-race food tent. I said, “Mike Reilly?” He turned and I held out my hand. He asked my name, shook my hand and congratulated me. I told him, “I’ll be seeing you in Wisconsin.” To Ironman nerds, that is a big deal….to get some face time with “the voice”!

Now….to evaluate and continue training for Ironman Wisconsin!

-Marci Concotelli

LATC Back of the Packer - and happy about it!


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