Event Recaps: Pier-to-Cove Swim and San Diego International Triathlon

“When the wife is away the husband will play!” That was the theme two weekends ago when my wife was out of town and I did a back-to-back events -> The La Jolla Swim Club Pier-to-Cove swim (1.5 mile ocean swim) on Saturday followed by the San Diego International Triathlon (1k swim, 30k bike, 10k run) by Koz Events on Sunday.

Pier to Cove Swim (1.5 miles)

I signed up for this event on a whim after a co-worker told me about it the week before because it was such a great opportunity to get in some ocean swimming practice/training. Since I have never actually done a legit ocean swim before, I was a tad bit nervous about this event, especially since I just started swim training two weeks prior. As the name implies, the swim course was from the Scripps Pier to La Jolla Cove (~1.5 miles…depending on how straight you swim).

Based on my wetsuit experience in my last race, I decided to go with my sleeveless wetsuit for unimpeded arm mobility. I had my standard fatty coffee in the morning before heading to the event early to ensure I had plenty of time to find parking and check in. Besides reducing pre-race stress, I like getting to events early because it gives me a chance to meet and chat with some of the other racers. I got to talking with some people from Arizona that have done a bunch of different open water endurance swim events. Apparently there is a swim under the Golden Gate Bridge which I’m definitely adding to my bucket list.

The event started on the beach just north of the pier. Since the surf was slightly above average and the cove is just a small sandy beach surrounded by rocks, the event was precluded by a pretty serious (making it almost funny) safety talk by the lifeguards. We had had to swim out past the surf, around the pier, and then south to the cove. I’m so glad I got a pair of prescription goggles because sighting would have been a big challenge otherwise.

At this point, my Midwest roots were getting excited about the novelty of swimming in the ocean. It was a mass start with all 350+ swimmers and was WAY more low-key than a triathlon start. Instead of a full contact battle, we all sauntered out into the waves at the starting siren giving each other plenty of room to swim. Even though I have lived in San Diego for a year now I haven’t been in the ocean much and diving under waves brought my back to playing in the surf when I was a kid. Once I got out past the break I think it was the farthest I’ve ever swam out in the ocean before. I was in new territory!

I gotta say…open water swimming in the ocean is VERY different than the calm lakes of Minnesota. If I couldn’t have seen my progress along the pier I could have sworn I was going backwards at times. Swimming over waves was definitely a unique feeling. It was like swimming up and down hills. Eventually I made it around the pier and started heading south to the cove parallel to the shore. Another thing about ocean swimming is that it was hard to find a rhythm when I was constantly getting pushed around by the water, especially since it was choppy. This made sighting and swimming a straight line a lot more difficult. It got to the point that I never trusted my line so I was constantly trying to look up to sight (not efficient at all) and sometimes when I looked up I was just staring directly into a wave. This was definitely turning out to be a great learning experience.

When I finally made it just outside the surf break by the cove, there was a host of lifeguards given direction so no one ended up getting smashed into the rocks by the waves. Every time I went into a vertical position to listen to the lifeguards my calves and hips starting cramping which was not comfortable. So instead of trying to catch a wave and body surf into shore I was just in survival mode trying not to get thrashed by waves. When I finally did make it to shore it took me a minute to realize that I had to run about 10 more yards to cross the timing mat (hence he goofy grin on my face).

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When I was out of the water and started peeling off my wetsuit I realized how unfortunate it was that I forgot to throw a stick of bodyglide in my gear bag because I had pretty bad case of “rub rash” all around my shoulders (the major downfall of a sleeveless wetsuit).

My total time was was 53:40 which put me in the middle of the pack in all categories (41/84 for the overall wetsuit division; 27/49 of all males; 3/5 in the 30-34 age group)

I grabbed some of the post-race brunch buffet and made the barefoot walk/jog back to my car at the start. Time start prepping and resting for the next day’s triathlon…

San Diego International Triathlon (1k swim, 30k bike, 10k run)


Other than my shoulders feeling a bit sore, I felt pretty good in the morning. Per usual…I had my fatty coffee and got to the event early to make sure I got a decent spot in the transition area. I decided to give my full sleeve wetsuit another shot because I couldn’t handle more irritation on the “rub rash” I got from the previous day’s swim. As I got to chatting with another taller guy in the transition area about wetsuits he told me his strategy….basically I had to pull it up way more than I thought and then lean over at the waist to reveal how much more room I had to pull it up. Holy crap! That made all the difference in the world!

Transition Area

I was much more relaxed this go around waiting for the swim start. When we finally got underway and considering my goggles didn’t leak and I wasn’t fighting against my wetsuit sleeves, my swim was already 100% better than my last race. The swim was in Harbor Island’s West Basin, which was basically like swimming in a lake compared to yesterday’s ocean swim. I had some trouble sighting on the 2nd half of the swim because we were looking directly into the morning sun. When I made it to the transition area I figured I was probably in mid-pack (per usual). Going into the race I thought my swim time would be around 20 minutes so I was pleased when I checked my split as I was heading out of transition and I was at 17ish minutes.

I tend to get over excited at the start of the bike and had to remind myself to dial it back when I caught myself overdoing it. The bike course was an out an back that climbed up to the Cabrillo National Monument with two loops at the top before descending back down to the transition area. The two loops had rolling hills which is my favorite terrain. Since my age group was wave 3 it was pretty much wide open road until we started the 2nd loop. Just as I was started to get annoyed from people not obeying the passing lane rules (if you are going to pass…PASS…don’t just ride next to someone and block them from entering the passing lane), I made the turn to head back to the transition area and had open road again. The ride (descent) back was all downhill and was a ton of fun! Nothing like coasting at 38 mph on a wide open straight road! I was thinking the bike was going to take me an hour but when I checked my split as I was heading onto the run course it was around 55 minutes. #Boom

I had a buddy that happened to be in town visiting family over the weekend and their hotel was right along the run course. My swim and bike times had created a bit of a predicament because I was now 10+ minutes ahead of the time I told him that I would probably be running by their hotel. I kept on the lookout but I was sure I missed him when I got to mile three so I just went into focus mode. He did manage to see me though! Thanks for the pic Sean and coming out to spectate!

Sean Pic

The finish line was in Seaport Village so the last two miles were along Harbor drive and went past the USS Midway museum. Since this is such a well-traveled area it was not a closed course at this point. It was kinda weird because here I was in the pain zone near the end of a race running down the sidewalk, mostly by myself, amongst leisurely tourists and families out on a morning stroll. I’m sure I was quite the spectacle for unknowing onlookers.

When I crossed the finish line I still felt pretty good and I definitely didn’t leave everything out on the course. Since I’ve primarily been focusing on long course racing and building an aerobic base, I definitely don’t have that extra gear and top end speed needed for these shorter races. I gotta say…there are some freaking fast people in SoCal!

Total Time2:03:03

30-34 Division Place: 17/32

It was funny – before the race I was asked what my best event was by a first time triathlete. I told him that I’m pretty average across the board. After looking at my results that was pretty accurate. Swim: 20/32, Bike: 16/32, Run: 18/32.

I didn’t spend much timing hanging around the finish area because my wife was flying back into town just after noon and I still had to get my gear (and myself) cleaned up before she got home so we could spend the rest of the day hanging out.

Overall…a pretty epic weekend!

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