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IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside Race Recap - Hear from our Pros and AG Squad Members!

RTS had an AWESOME DAY at 70.3 Oceanside on April 1! It was exciting to see our pros Tamara and Jackson on the podium and Nicole in the top 10 of very strong pro fields. It was also amazing to hear more buzz about the team generally and to see some strong support from our AG squad. Go team!

In this race recap post, you will hear a bit from each of Tamara, Nicole and Jackson, as well as two AG squad spotlights from Steve Hazlett and Tom Foster. It’s a long one, but with so many great perspectives on the day. Binge it at once or read it in bits. You do you, but you will want to hear all of these stories :)

Here’s a little table of contents to help:

  1. Nicole Falcaro - 10th place pro women - Energy and ambivalence

  2. Tamara Jewett - Women’s Champion - Joy and strength

  3. Jackson Laundry - 3rd place pro men - Handling pressure and biking to the top

  4. Steve Hazlett - AG Men - Supporting RTS and battling the cold

  5. Tom Foster - AG Men - Winning against run demons and not forgetting to enjoy the view

  1. Nicole Falcaro - 10th place pro women - Energy and ambivalence

Wow - is Nicole’s second-to-last paragraph ever relatable!? I know most of us have been there at some point!

Nicole’s Race:

When the opportunity came up to race with some RTS teammates in Oceanside after an RTS training camp in Vegas, I thought it’d be a fun way to close out camp and kick off the 2023 season. One of the things I was looking forward to upon joining the RTS was to feel the energy out there on the race course, and holy moly, did that deliver!!

Personally, I had never been to a race more than two days prior (except for Boulder 70.3 where I have friends to stay with!) The days leading up to the race were unpredictably drizzly, but Tamara and I got in some course recon thanks to her very generous parents chauffeuring us around. All of this preparation was like putting lube on a used chain - it helped quiet the noise even though the parts were rusty. Having someone to bounce ideas and logistics off of was invaluable and kind of the whole point of traveling with teammates!

On race day, Tamara and I arrived at transition earlier than I’d ever been to transition, around 4:50am with a 6:43 am start time. She profusely apologized for this, but honestly, I give myself two hours to digest my breakfast anyway! In addition, I feel privileged to have a firsthand account of how a world class athlete approaches a race, and it doesn’t involve running out of time and having to ask a race photographer to zip up your wetsuit (not that I’ve ever done that…). When I originally signed up, my approach was that this race would be a usual “throwaway” race, but as it got closer, I admitted that I’m quite fit not just for this time of year, but for any time of year. I considered it an opportunity to see how I compared to several World Champions who were there that day, and I upped the ante on my performance. My coach agreed. Why couldn’t I hold PR watts?! Why not aim for 6:20s on the run?!

The swim started and I was pretty passive in where I lined up, behind two women I knew were good at finding fast feet, basically in the third row. This was the right call, and I had women to follow the entire swim, which was 100% necessary because I’ve never been so blinded in a swim! I actively stared into the sun a few times to find a buoy and was not successful.

I exited transition and my feet immediately froze the second I hit the freezing cold pavement. I proceeded to shiver for 75% of the bike course, and my toes were numb for 100% of it. I struggled to hold consistent power, but I’m proud I stuck to my Precision Hydration fueling plan! I have been doing a lot of time on the bike at full Iironman watts, but pushing 10-20 watts higher than that isn’t sustainable…yet.

I got off the bike about 10 average watts off my goal, which isn’t terrible considering my teeth were chattering for so much of it (I wore toe covers and a plastic bag in my jersey). I set off on the run a little hot then chilled out a little. When I got to mile 6, I saw Tamara going the opposite direction finishing her first loop (course was a double “loop” that was really a double out-and-back) and I saw a guiding cyclist behind her; she was in second!! I got so pumped, yelled “go Tamara!” and dropped a fast mile. A little bit later, I saw Jackson finishing his second loop and saw that he was in third!! He cheered back (btw Tamara and I had a pact that neither of us were under any obligation to say anything to each other, but we knew we were sending each other telepathic high fives during the race!)

Halfway through the run, I was told I was ten minutes behind the next woman in front of me and 2.5 minutes ahead of the next woman behind me. That’s what they call no man’s land! I chilled a little, but my heart rate still gradually increased. It was a generously low 60 degrees and sunny, and I never once felt hot. I proceeded to run the same pace until I crossed the finish in 10th.

I felt ambivalent about my performance until I walked straight to a porta potty. I knew I was way behind the top women, missed the podium celebration, and had no one I had planned to meet at the finish. Inside the porta potty, I looked at the time of day and did some rough math to find my time was in the low 4:40s, a pretty slow day. I started to cry - part of it was feeling disappointed, part of it was not knowing how I should feel, and part of it was the comedown of such an enjoyable two weeks with my teammates, and the race tied a bow on it. I walked over to the morning clothes bag to find several texts congratulating me on 10th place. I’m so grateful to those who watched from home, those who tuned into the broadcast to see my name on the extended leaderboard.

I reconvened with Tamara’s parents, a.k.a. my adopted parents of the week. Later that night, we raised a glass to the race, to the week, to feeling the RTS energy on the course, just as I had hoped for.

  1. Tamara Jewett - Women’s Champion - Joy and strength

Well…this was my 3rd pro 70.3 win, but by far my highest profile one. To understand what it really means to me personally though, in my own journey, here is one of the notes I sent to my coaches (Suzanne, Ethan, Miguel) :

At a certain point, putting together a race like Oceanside was kind of an athletic career achievement that finally emphatically changed a sports narrative and also life goals I’ve been living for over a decade. SO onwards and upwards and hopefully more exciting things to come. But also, just that alone is a really big thing to absorb.

I’m going to refer you here for a bit of the background on that athletic story, but there was a time when I thought that my career highlights would be from my junior track and field career around 2008 as I struggled through over a decade of injury and unfulfilled potential. It’s a big deal to me to have changed that.

Tamara’s Race:

The week leading into Oceanside was a little bit hectic and a little bit fun, with Nicole and my long drive down from Las Vegas to start our RTS Camp Phase Two Oceanside;), a few more media obligations than are typical for me, and working in training around the rain. It was wonderful to have Nicole there and to keep getting to know her a bit better.

Unlike some of the others recapping races here, I loved the cold - Canadian? But also, I’ve always been a winter person, and after some pandemic experiences in Ontario swimming in water that was 4 degrees Celsius (33.8 to you Americans), cold water just doesn’t phase me much.

I was thrilled to finally get out of the water with the lead chase pack (Paula, Kat, Chelsea and I all just over one minute behind Holly). A couple years of painstaking, patient (and sometimes tearful and frustrating!) work on my stroke with coach Miguel Vadillo is starting to show up in races.

Then I was able to stick with them on the bike as we caught up to Holly. I unfortunately picked up a 30 second blocking penalty being too aggressive worrying about some of the pro men we caught up to breaking up our race in the hills, which I served right before T2. No problem. Note to self that I still have a learning curve for group bike dynamics (can’t tell you how badly I don’t want to be too annoying in the bike group! Work in progress…). But coach Suzanne and I deeply value dealing with any race setbacks productively, practically and with positivity. That mindset is what sets me up to be at my best, and I consider it part of my job to try to stay there.

What made my day was that I was able to tap into the strongest version of my runner self on the run to catch Chelsea Sodaro on a day when she also ran incredibly strongly (our run splits were 73 for me and 75.21 for Chelsea). I just felt on and positive, with uplifting songs running through my head the whole time, even while fully expecting she could pull out a killer surge to catch me at any moment. I’ve admired her and her running since she won my first two pro races in 2019 and expect more run battles to come.

Will say - I very much did notice Nicole and Jackson out on the run course and was in-my-head cheering so hard for each of them! I didn’t quite have the extra energy to say anything on the day. But know that I am always cheering for teammates in those scenarios:)

3. Jackson Laundry - 3rd place pro men - Handling pressure and biking to the top

Jackson had some real added pressure as the defending 2022 Champion at this race. He handled it like a pro (but, like, a pro who can handle pressure;)) and put together a strong start to the season!

Jackson’s Race:

Heading into the race this year was a much different experience than in 2022. As the defending champion I certainly had more eyes and expectations on me. At times I did feel more pressure, but I kept telling myself I had to approach the race the same as last year to be successful; with an open mind and complete focus.

I can happily say I managed to do just that. I did have a good swim, but with where my fitness is right now it just wasn’t good enough to be in the front group. I knew it would take a huge effort on the bike to find the front of the race, but I managed to do just that with Sam Long leading the charge much of the time. We caught the lead group at 45km, and broke away with 5 of us in the hills at 50km. It eventually whittled down to 4, with Léo Bergère, Sam Long, myself and George Goodwin coming off the bike in the lead group.

The run was tough from the beginning, the bike effort took my best run legs away, but I managed well with what I had left in the tank. I got a good boost of energy seeing Tamara so close to taking the lead already after my first turn around! A well paced effort resulted in me passing Sam in the last half, shortly before being passed by the incredibly quick Jason West. Leo was long gone but I held on for a solid 3rd place.

It was awesome to see Tamara take the well deserved win and Nicole grab a solid top 10, a great weekend for RTS! I couldn’t have asked for more from myself, and I’m very happy with 3rd. I know I have more fitness to come having felt like I barely got into shape in time for this race. I can’t wait to see what I can do in a month’s time in St. George!

4. Steve Hazlett - AG Men - Supporting RTS and battling the cold

First off, a huge shoutout to Steve for using his Camp Pendleton credentials to help our pros with a bit of bike course recon pre-race. We are hugely grateful, and it was great to meet Steve. All he has asked for in return is a contribution to his fundraising campaign for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an absolutely excellent cause also supported by Bob Babbitt. Donate here.

Steve’s Race:

I don’t feel competitive in the cold. After I left the swim to bike transition area, my hands could barely grab the bars. I rode off course, back to my van, and got my cycling jacket that’s imbedded with neoprene…best move of the day…

The best part was laying on the ground…Shivering…Wet…Reaching for my emergency key to gain access to my van…New sensation for me, lying on my back, feeling the grime of the parking lot, and hearing the race take place in the distance. It was at that moment I decided to forsake my bid for a Finland qualifying slot.

On to Mallorca!!

5. Tom Foster - AG Men - Winning against run demons and not forgetting to enjoy the view

Tom is coached by our pro squad member Lisa Becharas! He focused on nutrition, gear and process, managing to put together a strong day and push himself (very!) hard, while still remembering to enjoy a few ocean views.

Tom’s Race:

Race lead up - Slept pretty well the night before a 4:10 am wake up!

Bike set up went smooth, re-lubed chain and ran 85 psi (which smoothed out the bumpy road and felt great BTW). Everything went nice and rehearsed, no stress, just chilly. Ran in place to get the blood pumping then put the wetsuit on with a PH Gel 30 in each side pocket for later and one in my hand for 30 minute before the start.

Swim - 7:10 (roughly when I hit the water) Water was 56. Lined up in the 30 -33 minute group at the back (hoping for some feet to draft off, more on that in a minute). I did everything I could to stay warm: arm swings, running in place, some stretching, breathing and meditating a little bit while trying to ignore everyone talking about how cold the water was…I kept repeating “you got this” and “just like a swim in Boulder” to stay in my own head. QR wetsuit, booties, double cap and smoke googles. Harbor swim - heading out for maybe 50 meters, then a sharp left that I did my best to fight through and find some water without bodies. Made the turn and pulled hard as I could to gain some time. I felt relaxed but kept running into people the entire VERY congested swim. You can tell on my data where I had open water and was able to find my rhythm. Current was pushing us to the right on the way out. I had such a hard time sighting but still only swam 2,192 yds. So 80 yds extra..(Might also have been since we started on the ramp and the pro field in the water. With all the fighting for room: 39 minutes.

T1 - LONG - This was the longest transition run ever! I got my suit half way down, dropped a gel and had the other one on the way to the bike. Bike set up had 90g of carbs in each bottle along with 45ml of HVNM - I also had a PH Gel 90 in my bento with a PH gel 30 caffeine (I had a spare Gel 90 in my back pouch, just in case). Dried off, debated for a moment on a vest, while putting on socks and gloves (lost a few minutes with wet feet and wet hands but am glad I did, especially the socks as the run out of T1 was also really long - I was dead middle of the transition area). Helmet on, visor clipped, time to get after it.

I stayed smooth and easy heading out of the shoot and onto the course, all about staying within myself for the first 20 miles. VERY happy to have gloves on and used rubber bands/electrical tape on my nutrition. I saw so much stuff all over the road, it was like a mine field at every really bumpy section.

Bike - Immediately out on the course was the first hill. I used the time to get my shoes tight, everything relaxed and take a big drink before heading out. I did everything to stay in my given paces as to not blow up before it got tough. The bike was gorgeous as we went along the ocean, and I did take a few glimpses to look over and take it all in. The mountains were great, but I knew I would eventually have to climb we go…

“Hell hill” not that bad, actually none of them were. I just worked on pacing and not going too hard as I saw so many people do. There was a 1/2 marathon coming after all. Many big climbs, actually, Boulder is an easier bike course, TBH. Top speed 45 mph. Stayed on the brakes in the “speed trap” and went 20 just to be safe. Once I was through that it was time to head into the headwind, stay super aero and push 180/190 the whole way back. So I did. I passed so many people that blew themselves up on the hills - it was pretty amazing.

Overall, I felt super strong the entire time, no fades, dark places at all. Even no real discomfort I really love my new saddle and the disc allowed me to slip through the air so much. Peed twice on the bike. (***EDITORIAL COMMENT - LOL! We appreciate the honesty - welcome to long course triathlon…***).

T2 - I got super slowed down in the shoot before the dismount. Legs felt immediately great on the run to my spot. Peed one more time before putting my shoes on and doused myself head to toe in clean water to get fresh, toweled off, grabbed my cap, nutrition, realized I had lost that gel mentioned in the swim (minor panic) - then “no big deal” they have Maurten on course, my stomach likes that…push on.

Run - 8:30-8:45 - stay on pace - was my mantra. I was running so steadily that multiple people were using me as a pacer! Coast the downs and take it easy on the ups was the plan. I knew my HR would spike but would recover quickly. Lap 1 went by so fast it was amazing, kept sipping on my 90g of Maple syrup and taking water without stopping at every aid station. It was super hard to not sprint on the strand as everyone was cheering, there was so much energy. “Stay within myself the turnaround is coming up” and I knew there was a long gradual uphill that I just ran down, paced efficiently. Went almost back to transition and started lap two. Lap 2 here we go! I could feel that I needed more fuel and my quads were taking a pounding on the down hill and calves on the ups. I needed to find a gel and keep pushing. I know I can now ride the redline but my legs had some different ideas.

Then finally - only a mile to go, come on! I started to come out of the dark spot but still did not feel 100% PUSH - saw that family and crossed the line - REALLY happy with the results today.

I battled some demons on the run and won, I pushed harder in this race than any race and crossed the line feeling like there was no way I could have given more. Even the medics saw it: I was super dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. That feeling lasted for about an hour to an hour and a half. I drank everything I could find, ate two tacos and relished in a really amazing day!

Thank you for all the Support - RTS

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