Nautica Malibu Triathlon Race Report
OK, it took me a long time to get around to this. It has been a couple of weeks since I participated in the Malibu Nautica Classic Distance Triathlon. I an summarize this race the following way – Nothing went horribly wrong, nothing went really excellently. I didn’t feel great after the finish and that has basically clouded my memory of the event. So lets get to it.
Sarah had committed to doing this triathlon with Team Amwins (a business affiliate of hers) earlier in the year. She roped me into it by asking me many months ago “Hey do you want to do a triathlon in Malibu” and me going “Yeah, OK” maybe not totally understanding or internalizing the consequences of that agreement. Sounds like completely typical marital communication.
Fast forward to September of this year and I am lugging my bike in a brand new bike case (2x $450 Thule Cases…REI loves us) into DIA. As an aside, no one figures you are carrying a bike. I had 4 people ask me what was in the bag, one person asked me if I was carrying a yurt. Number one, what the hell is a yurt? Number two, why is that the first option you went to? The nice thing about this case is that the bottom of it resembles a roof rack, putting your bike into it is very straightforward. It takes about 20 minutes of wrench turning to disassemble and insert the bike into the case and the same amount of time to reverse the process. There aren’t places to put your handlebars, aero extensions, tire changing kit, saddle, etc. We bought some bendy rubber ties from Eddie Bauer and I fashioned all that stuff into the bag – it was a thing of beauty. I think the TSA people opened it just to see my elegant packing job once they saw it come up on the X-Ray machine.
We got up to Agora Hills on Friday night after some tourist sight-seeing and bedded down for the night. There are actually two Nautica Triathlons, the international distance on Saturday and the Classic Distance on Sunday. When we got to the hotel we saw familiar signs of other triathletes. People with numbers painted on their arms, TT bikes, headsweats visors, and things with Project Rudy painted on them. The hotel had little brown bag breakfasts prepared for these athletes which was very nice of them.
The next day we headed out to Malibu for packet-pickup. This was my first clue that this was not a normal Ironman brand or Lifetime brand triathlon. These folks were not well-organized. No need to spend a lot of time on that topic, but it felt very amateur. The strangest part was the bike tags, normally they are stickers you slap onto your bike frame so the officials and police can see your number. In this case we got paper numbers with holes punched in them and zip ties with which we would affix the number to the tubes of the bike. Yes, that thing flapped around in the wind.
Morning of race – we had to get up stooopid early. Like 0345 or something. There are only a couple of ways to get to the beach and they all have bad traffic. By the time we made our way from Agora Hills to the beach it was about 0430. Instead of martyring ourselves, we had a nap in the rental. It only takes a few minutes to set up your transition area. Eventually we grew bored with napping and we made our way to transition. The transition area was very large, this a big triathlon by number of triathletes, to give you an idea of how large, my T1 was 1/4 mile! Normally it is 1/5 of a mile or less. Since we were a corporate team we got our own rack which meant I got much more space than usual and we were right near bike and run-out. Score.
The swim – I have never swum in the ocean before. The breaks were large, some were over my head and this was a new experience for me. I got crushed a few times on the way out but eventually I got through the break.
That isn’t me but this person was in my swim wave and I would say that it is a good approximation of the break I experienced. The swim was an eye-opener for me, and not just because someone smacked off my goggles and when I put them back on there was a little salt water in them and it burned my right eye like holy hell. It was an eye opener because the water was clear enough you could actually see around you. I have done triathlon swim in Union Reservoir, Boulder Reservoir, and Weaver Lake, in all three you are lucky to be able to see your own arm in front of you below water. In this sea you had 5-10 meter visibility.
Anyway, I swam slow as poop. I was planning on getting out of the water in 15 minutes and it took me 21 minutes. Twenty one minutes for a 1/2 mile swim, that is almost shameful for me. I am convinced I lost all my time trying to get on shore. That break that was a b*tch to get through on the way out was hell getting through the other way. Worse because you weren’t sure when a wave would crash you in the back of the head. Worse still it had the effect of pushing you into shore a little but, but then immediately pulling you back out. It took me ages to get out of the water, and when I finally did I felt like I had gone through the spin cycle. Sarah had a similar experience except one of the breaks tumbled her head over feet! The swim was quite an experience. This was the first time I saw people hauled away on a rescue jet-ski – and there was more than one.
The bike – not bad by metrics. 18 miles averaging 20.8 MPH. What I wasn’t expecting were that the rolling hills actually included a bit of real climbing. If you are familiar with the Pacific Coast Highway at Zuma Beach and about 9 miles north you know what I am talking about. Here is the profile:
You go from 16 feet to 200 feet a couple of times. That will get the legs warmed up. The course was beautiful on the way back because you get an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. My only gripe was the turn around point which brought you below the highway on a smallish paved path. That was fine, it was everyone that slowed to 6 mph (a 15 mph speed limit was imposed here) and road side by side that pissed me off. Other than almost plowing over a clueless cyclist on a downhill the rest of the bike was uneventful.
The Run – Not bad by metrics, but I was not feeling well. It was warm out and I was still super annoyed by the swim. I was cranking away averaging 8:32 a mile which is a few seconds below my 10K time. It was warm, sunny, and humid, which isn’t a recipe for a really fast run. There was some unwelcome elevation change but I muddled through it OK. I was passed by someone with no legs and only one arm. I am not joking, this happened. For obvious reasons there was no age written on his calf but I memorized his bib number. I beat him in the overall race but it is still humbling to be smacked down.
This is where my major gripe with the race happened. The run was 1/4 mile long. I can tolerate 1/10th of a mile, that is understandable, but 1/4 mile in a 4 mile run significantly alters your split times. This is an easy problem to fix, so fix it. Have someone run two miles out with a Garmin and tag the turn around point.
When I got back in from the bike I noticed Sarah’s bike was still on the rack, so I was very concerned that they had plucked her out of the water. Turns out her swim wave was just waaaayyyyyy behind me and she was fine. After the finish you walked off the course on soft sand, the worst surface to walk on after a race short of molten lava. I desperately wanted cold water which they didn’t have at the finish. I am so accustomed to being handed a bottle of water after these things that I think I actually stuck out my hand and promptly received nothing. I made my way to the brunch tent, mainly to get out of the sun because I was much too warm, and they had nice hot coffee and milk. The though of either of those options made me queasy. Eventually I found orange juice, which helped. It took me 30 minutes of sitting in the shade before I returned to normal. I was able to see Sarah come into the finish, she felt better than I had.
Overall I have mixed feelings about this triathlon. On the one hand it was beautiful and the proceeds went to a good cause, on the other hand it was somewhat poorly run. There were far too many relay participants and the lack of experience of many of the cyclists was borderline dangerous. In fact, someone was rather severely hurt the day before in a bike crash. I wouldn’t dissuade people from doing this triathlon because it does go to a good cause, but I wouldn’t make it my A-race.