Hermosa Day at the Beach is about as close to home as you can get for us; the transition zone is less than 2 miles from our house. So it was a no-brainer to do this particular tri, though I’d heard the turns on the bike were a little rough and occasional collisions occured because of how the course is set up. And, of course, I know what the surf’s like in Hermosa.

Ah yes. The surf. MUCH more on that later.

We picked up our packets at Triathlon Lab after attending the ‘grand reopening’ of Catalina Coffee Company, my favorite local hangout for coffee, croissants, salad, muffins….you get the idea.

The building, a 1950s drycleaners, had a flat overhang over the patio area. As you can imagine, after 50+ years of rain settling and not draining, it finally failed and needed to be rebuilt. Of course, if anywhere else than SoCal, with more rain, it would’ve failed much sooner. So they closed down for a week when they had to do some intensive rebuilding and remodeling. Still not completely finished yet but almost.

Anyway, got our packets, another free towel from Toyota, and free stuff and water bottles at the LA Tri Club tent.

We prepped all our stuff the night before down to packing our bags and attaching our race numbers to the bike, and realized how lovely it was going to be to sleep in (relatively speaking) before a tri.

I actually slept well. No weird tri dreams (I especially appreciated the one I had in which the race organizers had me do the swim and bike the day beforehand because I was too slow, and then I was too late to do the run anyway — that one was I believe before Malibu, but maybe Jamba), slept through the night, and woke up at 4:00 a.m. anyway. But I was able to lay in bed and nap until 5:00 a.m.

Got everything in the car in record time and headed down to where we knew we could park for free. Nice to be a local.

In case you were wondering why we didn’t just ride to the transition area from our house I had four really good (well, sort of) excuses:

  • pitch black out and no bike lights (this is the most valid excuse)
  • time constraints after the tri (had to be able to get to the LA Tri Club picnic in a timely manner);
  • BIG hill on the way back to our house;
  • and litter boxes are unwieldy. Even though I stuffed them into Dave’s ‘tri’ bag, a mesh Akona dive bag.

Litter boxes? Small litter boxes are the perfect size for rinsing your feet. And they are new, never used for their intended purpose. So stop wrinkling your nose and saying ‘ewwww, I wouldn’t stick my feet into a litterbox’!

We ride down to the transition area, which encompasses all of Pier Plaza. We’re racking bikes by numbers — my favorite way, because it ensures I can always find my bike.

Finding my bike is not generally an issue as it’s usually one of the last still in the transition area. (Even if I wasn’t a rotten swimmer I’m still in the last wave.)

Regardless, I can always read the number on my arm and match it to the rack if my brain totally fails otherwise.

My rack is third from the bike exit — awesome! Get set up, get bodymarked, potty break, gyrate into the wetsuit, eat a Clif Shot, listen to the pre-race brief, and head down the beach. Wade into the water — supposed to be 61 F, feels okay, mostly because the sand is freezing and the water feels warmer. And watch the surf.

It sucked. We were going to get pounded. I knew it could be bad, and it was. Moderate waves interspersed with some big ass, gnarly knock you off your feet and hold you under kissing the sand waves.

I hung out with the other gold capped people (not as bad as the condom caps but close). Yep, Athenas, mountain bikers and over 40s. For all my bitching in the previous post, I’d better just suck it up because in two years, this is gonna be my wave.

It was the first tri for a lot of people so I shared some encouraging words: Relax, don’t drown and you’ll do fine.

Well, maybe not so directly, but that was the gist.

The gun went off, we charged in.

Now, as an aside, I was talking to a charming Brit at the LA Tri Club picnic later that morning, discussing the tri and especially the surf. She pointed out that she was always told to hang back, watch the sets, and swim swim swim during the lull to get out past the break. I told her that made perfectly good sense but that I’d NEVER seen anyone do that. (Which could be because I’ve spent more time flinging myself into the waves than watching how the pro’s handle the surf entry.)

But it’s something I’m going to try next time, because

  • after getting thrown around, hammered, pinned down etc I’m terribly tired;
  • I don’t get to really make any forward progress until after all of the previous has occured i.e. when the lull starts;
  • any time I ‘save’ by charging ahead is more than lost later due to fatigue and
  • since I end up making progress at the same time anyway (the lull) no time IS saved.


It was horrible. So horrible I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get out past the break. I got pushed back by a 6-7 foot wave at least 10 yards (all of that under water eating sand) and held down DESPITE my wetsuit. Pushed back by other big waves. Even trying to dive under them, I got picked up and hurled back to the shore. My goggles filled with water, my heartrate shot up, and then, during that biggest most horrible wave, I twisted my ankle while flailing for footing.

I persevered. Ankle throbbing, I started swimming towards the first buoy. The cold eventually numbed my ankle.

The lifeguards (helpfully) screamed at us to keep our heads down and swim. I was gasping for air until about halfway through, thoroughly exhausted from my entry.

I slogged around the second buoy, then had to deal with the waves coming IN. Lifeguards screaming about waves coming, duck down, get held down SOME MORE. Almost in but here comes another big one. I look at the lifeguard and wearily ask, ‘A little help here, ‘kay?’ He lets me hold on to his float as we duck together under the next wave. I pop back up a lot faster than without the float, thank him, and make the rest of my way in by myself.

Through the soft sand for ~150m (again, I’m not even at a point where I can even think of trying to jog through it) up to the Strand, start jogging on the concrete into the transition area. Wetsuit off, rinse feet, dry feet, socks and shoes on, helmet and sunglasses on. Slug down a chocolate Clif Shot, almost puke it back out, get the bike, and go!

The first bit is a hill up Pier Ave. I’ve got the bike in the appropriate gears so I’m good to go — the hill is a lot easier than I thought it would be. All of a sudden I’m happy! I’m passing people even going up the hill, I’m on Rocket Bike, I will pass other people, I will push myself to increase my mph, I’M OUT OF THE STINKING OCEAN!!! Life is Good!

The course is up the hill then twice around a loop and back down the hill. There are some subtle changes in elevation along Valley/Ardmore that don’t seem so subtle to me on the bike — I’m feeling the uphills and flying on the the slight downhills. There’s a hill at Herondo but it’s doable. I pass people. I like passing people. I know most of them will pass me on the run (but not if I finish enough ahead of them on the bike!) but damn it, I like passing them!

Go screamingly quick down Pier to the transition area, off the bike, out of the shoes, helmet off, hat on, race belt on, running shoes on, drink some more PowerC Vitamin water flavored water (I do 1/2 and 1/2) and grab a gel for later. Jog out of the transition area and start the run!

Keep in mind my ‘run’ is still a run punctuated by walk breaks. Some would say it’s a walk punctuated by run breaks. Nonetheless, my calves aren’t cramping, I’m feeling okay, and my ankle is okay. I could feel it throbbing halfway into the bike but for whatever reason it’s okay during the run.

The run was on the Strand, basically the same route that Melanie and I train on, except we usually go farther (all the way to Manhattan Pier). Water was available at the turnaround point. I ate my gel right before and washed it down with a couple cups of water.

I was feeling good enough to cheer some people on. I always like to be cheered on, so I try to encourage others as well.

Near the end a woman passed me. I started my feeble kick and passed her back! Yeah! didn’t mean all that much I’m sure to either of us, but, I like passing people on the run, too, I just usually don’t get to do so. Charged across the sand to the finish (yep, last 2om in the soft sand. What were they thinking?).

Grabbed a half of a banana, an Oreo (wasn’t missing out on them this time) and a water, then moseyed over to the Tri Club tent, grabbed another water (they didn’t want to have to carry them back to their cars) and some Power Bars (Power Bar is one of our sponsors). Visited the Glen Ivy Spa table and got some nice bottles of body/face cleanser and some coupons for $ off treatments. (They’re opening a day spa on PCH in Hermosa…walking distance from my house.)

Overall an interesting experience. My ankle started to swell up and hurt later that day — not too bad, but enough that I noticed it (and still do, as of Wednesday morning). I’ve decided to change to the bike tour this Sunday rather than the 1/2 marathon to give it more time to heal and will be primarily walking and working out at the gym this week.

That said, I’m working on my plan for this winter and next season, picking out races, etc. I’ll be posting as soon as I get it together.