Race Recap- Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz- Part I

Living Sober

Earlier this week, I talked about how I was able overcome a lot of fears and anxiety to enjoy (and ultimately cross the finish line!) at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz.

But for those interested in taking on this race, or any other triathlon, I thought it might be helpful to do a recap from the race logistics perceptive.

I broke this recap into two separate posts because it got pretty long. This post deals with my taper, key trainings specific for Santa Cruz, and the day before the race logistics. The next post will cover race day.



First off, I can’t really explain my taper for this race without explaining a little accident I had ten days before the race- I sprained my ankle when I fell off my bike.

Long story short, I got a new bike about three weeks before the race with a different clip-in system than I was used to (I went from mountain bike style to road bike). One of my first rides out, I didn’t clip out fast enough and did that oh so embarrassing slow fall onto the street.


 In the process I sprained my ankle.


Fortunately, it was just a first degree sprain. I immediately followed doctor’s orders and iced and elevated it. But I had to cut back on running from that point forward until race day.

Luckily, I had done a 13-mile run the day before, so that officially became my last long distance pre-race run.

The rest of the taper involved swims and short bike rides with hills, when possible.


The weekend before Santa Cruz I had two key workouts that really made a difference on race day.


Swim Workout

San Fran OW Swim


For the Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz race, the swim portion is in the Pacific Ocean. While I had done a lot of open water swimming in lakes and rivers, I hadn’t done one in the ocean.

The week before the race, my husband and I went to San Francisco and I swam at the Aquatic Park. I think this made a huge difference, both mentally and physically.

One reason is salt water is different than lake or river water. It feels different when you get it in your goggles and up your nose- it’s going to happen at some point, so acceptance is the key! Experiencing this before race day was really helpful.

Also swimming with small waves is a little different than swimming in a lake. To be honest, this difference was way more minor than I thought it would be, but I’m thankful I did a long distance ocean swim before race day.

Plus seeing a seagull stare at you while you sight the next buoy is just bizarre. Better to experience that during a practice swim than in the first leg of your triathlon!


Bike Workout

The other key was riding hills on my bike. The total elevation gained during the bike portion of Santa Cruz was 2,284 feet over the 56-mile ride.

The most effective way I trained for this kind of elevation ride was doing rides where I gained a similar amount of elevation, but over a shorter distance.

I found a ride that was a 23.5-mile loop with 2,314 elevation feet gained. I did this loop a few times the month before the race, often doing it back to back for a total distance of 47-miles in a single ride.


This completely prepared me for any hill I encountered during Santa Cruz.


I did this 23.5-mile loop ride one more time the weekend before the race. It was a great shorter workout, but definitely a confidence builder after my fall while trying to get used to a new bike.


Packet Pick-Up/Bike Check In

The hubby and I got to Santa Cruz about 1 pm the day before the race.

Parking was a little tricky around the transition area/packet pick up area, so my husband pulled over and dropped me off and then went off to find parking.

The packet pick up took about an hour.

It takes a while because you have to fill out waivers and a volunteer goes over some logistics with you as they give you your packet (where to put your bike stickers, etc). I’m sure the wait is shorter on Friday or earlier on Saturday. I think I was there at a peak time.

And even though it took an hour, I was really impressed with how organized everything was.


All the volunteers are so amazing and helpful.


After I was checked in, I made it over to the last athlete briefing of the day. I find these so helpful.

A race official basically explained what to expect on race day. They described each leg of the race, what to watch out for, where the aid stations will be, etc. It was less than 30 minutes and definitely worth the time.

After the briefing, I checked my bike in to the transition area.

For most triathlons, you have to do this the day before the race. For this race, it had to be completed by 4:30 pm on Saturday (the day before the race).

It’s a simple process where the volunteer makes sure you have the sticker in the right spots on your bike and then you head over to rack your bike in the transition area.


I really liked the transition area for Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Transition Area


It’s a fenced in area with fake turf. I’m sure it’s a soccer field normally, but it was perfect for this. No dirt or mud to contend with at all.

For this race, transition spots are preassigned based on your race number, so no need to get there early to snag a prime spot.

You keep your bike there overnight and you can even leave your tri-bag, etc if you’d like.

Leaving the bike is fine, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving anything else. Since you’re right by the beach, everything is wet with dew the next morning. It didn’t impact my bike, but I can’t image it would have been good for shoes!


Swim to Bike Transition

After we checked in my bike, we went down to the beach to check out where I was going to hide my shoes.

That’s right- hide my shoes… this is key for Santa Cruz.

That’s because the distance between the end of the swim and the transition area is about a half a mile. It’s mostly paved, but that is a long run and you go over train tracks.

The upside is you can place old running shoes (don’t do flip flops, people slip!) along the exit chute of the swim. I read about this tip from people who have done this race before and I’m so glad I did it as well. It made a huge difference.


It’s really easy and you’ll see a ton of shoes lined up race day.


Just make a mental note of where you placed yours.

Timesaver Tip- use shoe lace locks so you can quickly slip your shoes on, lace up, and be on your way.

Double Timesaver Tip- tuck some nutrition in your shoe. I tucked in a waffle. As your running to transition you can get some nutrition in, which is key because there is no eating in the transition area.

Once I was done with check-in and had walked the beach to the transition area, I was feeling really excited for the race.

The friendly volunteers and athlete briefing put any nerves I had at ease.


Pre-Race Dinner/Lodging

Water Street Grill

After getting all of the pre-race day logistics out of the way, it was off to an early dinner with my Hubby at The Water Street Grill– I highly recommend it! My turkey burger and lava cake dessert were amazing!

After dinner we checked in at our hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Ocean Street. It was a great location, just minutes from the transition area.

Because of the early start, I brought my breakfast with me. But I noticed on race morning that the hotel had set up the continental breakfast by 4:30 a.m. (normally it’s at 6). So thoughtful!

Tomorrow’s post will cover the race, but if you have any questions, please post in the comment section below!