Big Kahuna Half Triathlon

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

I was excited coming into this race, as I heard that it was a fast course with rollers on the bike that suit me well. I was hoping to beat my 5:08pr and even test my limits trying for sub-5hrs.  I knew that would be highly dependent on the wind.  I’ve been feeling great and working on my bike strength going into my last tri of the year.

My wave heading into surf! Photo from Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Big Kahuna race is a small local race that has quite a following.  It was close, so I was excited to race down in Santa Cruz.  Race morning we had mild temps in the 60’s and a forecast of a marine layer for most of the day.  The swim course sent us around the pier and back to the beach.  The elites went of at 7am and my 35-39 wave went off around 7:20.  I felt strong jumping into the surf and was in the lead 5-10 peeps until we ran into an earlier wave near the end of the pier, where I lost my sense of order.  The water was 59′ and dam that was cold on my forehead.  It reminded me of the water at Boise 70.3 last year!  I felt strong and fast in my TYR Cat 5 Hurricane wetsuit!  Most swimmers chose a line closer to the pier coming in, but I stayed as straight a shot as I could.  I feel I can sight very well and went for it.  Coming into shore many other peeps were washing up closer to pier away from finishing chute.  I finished my 1.2mi swim in 31:57:00 for 10th in my wave and a new Swim PR for me!

Rounding the pier & heading home! Photo by Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa Cruz Pier

T1 was interesting, as you had about 200yds of beach sand to run through followed by a 1/3 mi barefoot cement run into T1.  I had been aiming for 4:30 on this split, but found myself not sprinting the whole way.  It’s a long day and I wanted to make sure to not wreck my feet on that run.  I did want to hurt this woman in front of me, as we ended the run though.  They had two kiddie pools to rinse off after that run and she decided she wanted to step in both, just as I was passing her to go into the second…grr!   I ended up with a very slow 5:26, but I was off and excited for the bike!

I was excited for the bike, as I’ve been hammering lately and feeling strong!  I also just had my Kestrel 4000 speed machine rebuilt and tuned up after a heavy race and travel year.  She’s never felt smoother and I have to thank the great folks at Sports Basement in Walnut Creek for their great work.  Speaking of my Kestrel, I’ve informally named her “S&M” which is very fitting 🙂

S&M in action!

The bike course is stunning, as we headed north on California Highway one.  The only technical glitch I had was with my hr strap not syncing.  This was annoying, as I use HR to monitor my exertion.  I tried a restart to no avail and then decided to forget it and go by feel.  It was smooth sailing one the way out and I hit the turnaround avg 22.5mph and feeling great.  Before the race, most people were talking about the potential headwinds on the way out.  We didn’t have them on the way out and it was hard to tell where it was coming from until that turnaround…where the 18mph direct headwind was at its strongest!

Big Kahuna Elev from my Garmin 500

The course has lots of rollers and a cumulative gain of just under 2,000ft.  I didn’t find any of the hills hard and just tried to get as low as possible on the way back to survive the headwind.  I must have been in aero 99% of the way back and started to pick up strength again with 12mi to go.  It was at that point that I saw the Bonny Dune rd turn off.  At that point I wouldn’t have minded that climb just to get out of the wind!  I finished in 2:43:20 for an avg of 20.6mph.  That put me in 20th place in my division and I felt I rode well given that wind. Strava had my avg power at 183watts, which would be just ok.  I also feel that I have my bike nutrition nailed down for these Half/70.3 races.  I drank three bottles of First Endurance EFS Grape and also two Berry Liquidshots.  I always felt like I had energy and never had any letdowns.

T2 was just ok at 1:34, as I had poor bike placement in the transition area.

I knew starting the run that sub-5hrs wasn’t within reach given my time.  I did feel I could test my 5:08 pr depending on how well I could run.  having races four half/70.3’s this year, I know how to just break it into quick miles.  Even my garmin is set to give my mile laps.  In my Portland PR race, I had avg 7:30’s the first ten miles and then went ultra conservative the last three way above 10min miles.  I wasn’t going to do that here!


Great Pic of Trails we were running on!

I felt great that first mile and had a steady 7:40ish.  That was slowed down slightly mile two for a quick potty break…at least I was well hydrated!  The first seven miles were all right around 8mi/miles and my HR was never above 170.  The first three were along the cliffs of Santa Cruz and then we went off-road on to trails till the turnaround. My Avia Avi-Stoltz were the perfect shoes for the on and off-road running on this course! I felt that was conservative and was excited to ramp up at the end.   Mile 8 and 9 were slightly hilly and I saw my pace slow to that 8:40 and 8:30 pace with slight HR creep up to 175.

Big Kahuna Half Garmin Run Data

Mile 10 I felt strong and in control with an 8:11.  My nutrition up to this point was spot on, as I was running with two Berry Liquidshots.  The first I took in around mile 4 and then I finished the second here on mile 10.

Feeling good on the run here!

This is where I started to get annoyed with this being a small race.  First, the mile markers jumped out to being off my .30 somewhere around the turnaround.  This screws with your head when your used to marking your progress by the miles.  It turned out according to my garmin the course wasn’t 13.1, but 13.39!  I know it’s small, but those things are annoying.  Secondly, I haven’t been at a race in two years that didn’t have cola at least for the last 5mi stops of the run.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled by IM and REV3, but this has been an integral part of my nutrition for these half/70.3’s!

The only option they had on the lats 4mi of the run was water or Heed.  I tried the heed to no avail and really felt like I was missing that extra jolt of energy.  Regardless, I wasn’t going to drop my times into the 9’s or 10’s and held sub 9’s those last three miles.  It wasn’t the sprint to the finish I had hoped for, but I ended up avg 8:25’s on the run and was proud of that for a hard day’s work!  My garmin clocked me at 1:52:45 for 8:25/mi avg.

Finish Line Shot by Santa Cruz Sentinel

Overall I finished in 5:14:44 for my second fastest half/70.3 ever!  I also finished 121th overall and 22nd in my division.  I was a fun day out there and I really enjoyed my 5th half/70.3 of the year.  It’s now time to go into cycle only mode for the next six weeks in preparation for my “Fall Cycling Madness“!

Big Kahuna Finishers Medallion!




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