Right from the check-in on Saturday this race had a different feel. Entering the secured Naval Base and driving by the guards in full military gear gave the Superfrog 70.3 experience a feeling of seriousness I have never experienced at any triathlon. The banners of fallen soldiers and their stories put things in perspective real quick. I have been aware of this race for many years and familiar with its rich history which reaches back to 1979. The course was designed by a group of Navy Seals stationed at the US Navy Seals center in Coronado, CA to both prepare them for the Ironman World Championship and to enhance their training.
As we entered the base it was clear that the race would be scenic, but at the same time exposed to wind and sun. There was no shade to be found and the little vegetation gave the venue a very raw feeling. It was evident that this wasn’t just an average 70.3 as Andrew Messick, Ironman CEO gave a short talk about this race’s history and significance prior to the race briefing.
On race morning there was about a 20 minute delay due to the bike course not being ready. While waiting for the start and trying to stay calm I noticed a gentlemen who I thought I recognized. I wasn't exactly positive if it was who I thought until I heard him speak. I couldn’t believe that I was preparing to start a race along side the legendary Ironman and USA Triathlon Hall of Famer, Bob Babbitt. Now, I have seen many inspiring athletes at different events, pros including Ironman World Champions, but seeing Bob there was even more special and definitely the highlight of my race weekend. After a quick chat with my hero and seeing how relaxed he was going into his 16th or so Superfrog Triathlon it put me at ease despite the rough ocean we were about to enter.
Soon enough the gun went off and the race was on its way. I definitely got thrown around a little especially at the beginning of each loop where the surf was breaking. The first 100 yards were pretty intimidating, but the key was to stay relaxed. The worst thing you can do is panic. There were only two turn buoys so it was very difficult to spot, every time I attempted to find my target I seemed to be staring at a wall of water. The two loop swim was a very interesting format for a half Iron distance race. I have done two loop swims before in a full Iron, but it’s pretty unique for a half. Especially with this long 200 yard beach run in between. That was definitely the one point during the race with the most extreme heart rate spike. The second loop felt more comfortable, I was relieved to float horizontally again and couldn’t help but think to myself “damn, if the half marathon will feel like this sand run then it’s going to be a long day”.
Finally the waves helped carry me towards the swim exit and it was time for a gorgeous bike ride. Initially there was some head wind going south and tail wind heading north. Half way through the bike it seemed to switch, or maybe it was just fatigue. The beauty of this bike course combined with some wind and humidity reminded me of Ironman Cozumel. The paradise island. Riding along the coast and being able to admire the scenery of the beaches and ocean was a treat, the four loops made it easier to keep track of pacing and timing nutrition. Unfortunately right after a turn-around near an aid station I witnessed a pretty hard crash, seeing an athlete skid across the pavement reminded me of my own accident two weeks prior and put me on high alert for the remaining lap. I hope he was ok, the volunteers from the aid station ran to his rescue instantly.
T2 came soon after and it was time to grind out the three loop run. About 6 miles were on the beach in the sand. Entering as well as exiting the beach were extremely tough trying to get through the deep sand. The quads got a little extra burn, as if the bike wasn’t enough. The portion along the ocean wasn’t too terrible since the wet sand was able to provide some traction. The best part was the cool breeze coming in off the Pacific, it really provided a pleasant break from the hot portion of the run more inland. There were about 3 miles on loose gravel, I would describe that section as most difficult in the race. It was very challenging to get any traction so the only thing I could do is focus on form and biomechanics, forget about my watch and pacing. It was quite a high effort for very slow progress. Then there was a total of about 4 paved miles and parts of that section felt as if the wind refused to visit. It was an odd feeling similar to running in a hot room with no circulation.
This was for sure the toughest 70.3 I have done, but also the most amazing. The energy, location, as well as the military presence made this event extremely meaningful. I was honored to toe the line and share the course with some of this country’s bravest. It is likely not the best PR course, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves this sport and appreciates its history. It was not my fastest half, but it was certainly my best. I know I can’t wait to do it again.
View more 2015 Ironman 70.3 Superfrog Photos HERE.
Since 2001 Peter has worked with individuals from many backgrounds, some taking up exercise for the first time looking for weight loss and toning, and others seeking guidance with a more extreme goal of training for an Ironman triathlon. Peter has published articles in the Competitor Magazine, some of his work was also featured by USA Triathlon, Golf Fitness Magazine and Colorado Runner website.
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