We met at the ARC at 1 pm and loaded up seven bikes onto two cars! It was impressive to see all our bikes stacked up!
The drive to Santa Barbara with Justice and Megan included conversations about alternatives to single-use plastics, the Democratic nominee for president, and prayers for rain so the swim portion of the race would be in the pool instead of the ocean.
After we picked up our race packets at a bike shop, we went out to dinner at Los Agaves. It was about 5 pm when we ate, but everyone was hungry and looking to get to bed early, so the early dinner worked out well. Then we went to Trader Joe’s, and I had fun putting together my pre-race breakfast and learning from the other team members about the food they usually eat before a race.
The hotel was the Sandy Reef Inn and it was nice even though it was cozy. We all met in one room and listened to Jesse preview the route for each leg of the race and discussed strategy for optimizing each portion. Then I braided Megan and Victoria’s hair and went to bed!
I got up at 5:45 am, packed up, got some motel coffee, and we were on our way! The full moon was low, big, yellow, and bright as we got on the road. It was a bad ass way to start the day!!
We got onto UCSB’s campus as the sun rose. We parked and road bikes together to transition. The team set up our own cluster in the transition area near the bike exit. Then we applied body glide, shimmied into our wetsuits, and walked down to the beach. We all got into the water, and my butterflies kicked in! We did a cheer—which needed practice but it felt good to yell out some of my energy! After the men started, the women had a 5-minute wait. Then we were off!
I sliced through the water and made sure I could site and breathe without having to look toward the sun. Once I got into my rhythm, I felt like I was flying and really pushed my pace. The swim is my strength, so I my goal was to get off to strong lead during the swim. Everything went well until I swam to the steps to get off the beach and up the cliffs. I angled too far left, when I needed to enter the steps to the right. Luckily, a volunteer on a surfboard yelled “pull to the right!” before I wasted too much energy going off course.
I climbed up the steps with waves crashing around me and held onto the handrail. Three flights of steps later, I picked up my pace and ran to transition. I could not get off my wetsuit and eventually sat on the ground and finally got it off. Justice ran up and it was nice to see a friendly face!
The bike started with a lot of tight turns on campus bike paths. Luckily, there were a lot of volunteers heling guide the way. After the turns, the route opened up to a straight, slightly downhill stretch. I pushed it and passed several competitors. Then, I road by a lovely nature preserve on campus. The beautiful sights and the smells made me feel so happy and excited about being there.
At the start of the second lap of the bike, I took a wrong turn and had to turn around! I was bummed because I knew some of the people I passed were beating me again!!! But I put on a smile and tried to find them!! The second lap went by much more quickly, and I just focused on pushing it!
My transition was quick because I don’t have clipless pedals, so I stuck with the same shoes for the bike and run. My feet were still numb from the swim and the first mile of run my feet felt so weird and unhelpful. I ran by Robbie (and apparently Justice and Jesse, but I don’t remember seeing them). A couple minutes later I saw Zack. I started wondering where in the heck the first mile marker was! It felt like I had definitely been running longer than a mile at that point!
There were some steep (though thankfully, short) hills on the run. It was really hard, but the scenery was gorgeous. Once I got to the turnaround point, I felt a wave of relief. But then I was guided to a different path and I realized I was not halfway there. Thankfully, the extra loop took me by a labyrinth on campus, and my love of labyrinths empowered me to push it and keep going. I also enjoyed this part of the run because the trail was almost as thin as a single-track mountain bike trail. As far as running places go, this course was fabulous.
As I got close to the finish line, I heard and then saw my teammates cheering me on. It felt cool to have fans!!! I was happy with my time, though I was pretty much destroyed by the run.
I joined the team in the cheering section, and we saw Victoria run up trailing behind a competitor from USC. We got really hyped up cheering for her and she BOOKED it and overtook the other competitor. It was a spectacular show of athleticism and determination. The whole crowd got amped up watching Victoria edge out her competition. Then, we all cheered on Megan and congratulated each other. After pictures, we collected our bikes and packed up in transition. Then we got Thai food in Ventura, and Justice, Megan, and I drove home. Many thanks to Justice for driving, to Jesse for coaching, and to the other team members for being so fun and supportive.
Finally, shout out to Kendra, the person who UC Santa Barbara’s race is dedicated to. She was a member of UCSB’s triathlon team and was killed by a car while on a training bike ride in 2006. Her family was at the race, and it is sad an athlete died in training because of a car. Be safe out there, to cyclists and drivers alike!