Monday, June 24, 2013

Beach Blanket Beatdown

Two weekends ago Ryan and I participated in the Beach Blanket Beatdown.

Get your beach Cruiser out and leave your running shoes at home. This first annual triathlon features a 500M ocean swim, 3.5Mile low-tide bike ride and a 2.0 Mile soft sand run on beautiful Coronado City beach. we encourage the use of as little equipment as possible, but you can bring anything you feel necessary for this Sprint Triathlon.

I thought it would be fun to try another type of race – so why not TRY a TRI (especially since it seemed to be one more for ‘beginners’ – at least the beach cruisers made me think that).

A couple words of warning:

First, I thought this would be ‘easy’. With the distances referenced for each leg I figured it would be a walk-in-the-park. With that being said, I didn’t really adjust any of my training for it – meaning I did a 19.5-mile bike ride the afternoon before the race.

Next, I am NOT a swimmer. I don’t even really like the water (ESPECIALLY when I can’t see my feet). I had only done one ‘swim’ all year, and it was more a ‘recovery workout’ after a half marathon on January. I KNEW the swimming portion would be tough – but our goal was just to finish. I think if we were to ever do another triathlon in the future I would actually train for the swimming portion (even though I am POSITIVE that pool swimming would not have totally prepared me for open-ocean swimming).

All in all we had a great time. There were only about 40 participants, which was nice. It allowed us to spread out a little more, not feel like I was going to get clobbered in the swim, etc.

The swim portion was HARD. I mean, Ryan thought he probably could have beat everyone on that leg, but he was nice enough to stay back with me and be my cheerleader. Like I mentioned, I am NOT a swimmer, so I was in the last pack to get out of the water – but I was super proud of myself that I stuck with it and finished it. I did swallow a bit of water, but kept my head up the whole time. I was switching back and forth between free-style, backstroke, and maybe a little doggy paddle. At the end of the swim, when we were getting ready to run in, Ryan asked if he could help and ‘body surf’ me into the shore. I told him okay, so he pushed me in with a wave – but I went face first (and drank more of the water). I am sure it was rather humorous for the spectators on shore. I was rather proud when they told us we were around 17 minutes when getting out of the water. Again, I have NO idea if that was good (but seeing as I probably only beat like 5 people I assume it was NOT), but I was pumped I was able to do it.

Some of the competitors wore the same thing for all three legs (i.e. one guy wore a Speedo the whole time, while others wore the triathlon suits that are like wetsuit, spandex-y material). Ryan and I took a little breather, took off our wetsuits, tried to dry out a little, and then got on our ‘race gear’.

The bike portion was next. This part was nice and easy. The sand was packed since it was low tide. There was a slight issue on one portion of the bike ride – we had to carry our bikes through the deep sand because there was a large rock jetty that you couldn’t ride over. You had to carry your bike twice (out and back), but thankfully it wasn’t too long of a distance. The one bummer part was that neither Ryan nor I wore shoes (we thought they would just get filled with sand, so opted to go bare foot). My bike pedal was not as smooth as Ryan’s (has a bunch of grips for your shoes, so awfully bumpy), so I couldn’t push as hard as I normally could – but figured since it was just a ‘fun race’ that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

We dropped our bikes off and then made our way to the deep sand run. I know that I am a ‘runner’ – but man this part was difficult. I am not sure if it was because I had already expended a ton of energy in the swim, because I still had water dripping out of my nose from the face plant Ryan helped with, or if it was just difficult. It was all loose and on a slant. You couldn’t get a decent footing, so not only were you running, but also you were working overtime to try not to tip over and keep moving forward. I told Ryan that maybe I should train running on different surfaces. I do the majority of my training on hard, compact surfaces (sidewalks, streets, tracks, etc). Again, I don’t know if training on sand would have helped, since I was pretty spent from the swim, but maybe it would have been a little easier. We did the run portion using the ‘walk-run’ method – walking a bit and then running. I didn’t want to strain anything or push myself too hard.

As I stated, we were just doing this for fun – to try something new – but it still would have been nice to have the race organizers to take it as a ‘serious’ event. It seemed pretty ‘thrown together’ – things were running late, the course wasn’t laid out ahead of time, etc.  I would have also liked to have seen all the participants get a finisher medal (as long as they actually finished the entire race). We originally signed up because we wanted to try it out, but also because they were advertising this nice ‘beach blanket’ that you would get. Turns out the beach blanket was really just a beach towel that was screen printed on, meaning it is hard and you won’t be able to use it to dry off…

Some things that I hope they improve for the future:

First, if you don’t complete a portion of the race, you cannot move onto the next phase – you get disqualified or a “did not finish”. There were folks in the swim portion that asked the lifeguards to take them into the beach and they were still able to move to the bike. This means that although we swam the whole distance, there were people that did not swim the entire distance, were taken in by a lifeguard, and started the bike portion before us.

Next, there need to be someone making sure that everyone is taking the same course. There were two instances that stood out to me. One – on the ‘deep sand run’, Ryan and I ran passed a lady (since this was just a ‘fun’ run for us, we were making small chat with the folks we would see – either cheering them on, commenting about the course, etc). The run portion was an out and back. We had passed a certain person and then continued going on the course. When we turned around we noticed she was now on the ‘return’ side of the course and in front of us. This is especially a bummer if she was in my age group (and therefore took one of the ‘places’ before me). Two – the end of the ‘deep sand run’ you were supposed to “pick your adventure” through sand dunes. Since the run portion was out and back, we saw the first batch of people running back and going towards the finish line. The first group did NOT run through the sand dunes. I don’t know when they ‘switched’ the course (meaning putting the cones up on the sand dunes to direct people to run through them). The sand dunes were KILLER, so I am sure if I was in the front pack and saw the cones not going through the dunes I would have opted to go around them too – but if that was the case, they should have kept the course consistent (and fair) for EVERYONE – not just ‘correct’ it once they noticed it.

Lastly, the company that was putting on the event was Urt Clothing. They had a little table set up with some of their t-shirts and tank tops. While I was standing there I noticed that some of the people that were checking in were going to that table and getting a shirt for free. Ryan and I were in the first group of people to sign in (I was #4 and Ryan was #5) I went over to the table, thinking that maybe we missed it. I looked at the shirts and saw one that I really liked. I asked the girl at the table how much they were, expecting her to say something like ‘Oh, well if you are participating you can have one’, since that looked like what was happening to people that were signing in after us. She looked at me and said that they were anywhere from $25 to $35 depending on the design. At this point Ryan was taking Walt up to the car, so I stood around near the table while waiting for Ryan to come back down and I even overheard her talking to the people signing in participants saying that if she saw a number on them she would give them a shirt. So then after the event ended I thought I would go over to the table and even offer to buy the shirt (even though it sounded like everyone was getting them for free) and the one that I wanted was ‘sold out’. Oh well, guess I didn’t need it anyway.

If they put on this event again in the future, hopefully they think through things a little better (the course, volunteers that actually make sure people are completing each section, starting on time, etc). I think going into it as a ‘fun event’ helped our mindset – but I think if I were really competing I probably would have been bummed at the lack of organization.

I don’t know if I would do a triathlon again, but Ryan seemed like he really liked it and probably would sign up for another – especially the sprint distance. I am pretty sure that neither of us would sign up for this particular event again in the future though (I know, I know, it was the first year they were putting it on, give them a break, but I got the feeling that they were just ‘trying something out’). Maybe next time they could have a company that actually puts on races run everything and they could be one of the sponsors. Lesson learned – I probably won’t sign up for another inaugural event for a while – let them get the kinks worked out and get things running smoothly before I waste my time on it.

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