Ya Boy’s Cruzin’
by Louie Cao
On Sunday, September 27, I raced what is easily my favorite triathlon, the scenic, olympic-distance Santa Cruz Triathlon. In the end, I won my age group (because I was the only one in it, male or female), but more importantly, I had a great race and a lot of fun. My splits were pretty solid considering it’s not race season and I really enjoyed competing on the rolling bike course and the flat and fast run (I hate ocean swims, though).
The funny thing is, I came into this race with pretty low expectations. After a tough week following fall tri camp with lots of midterms and not much sleep, I was feeling pretty exhausted. Plus my Achilles wasn’t feeling great so I didn’t even know if I could do the run. On the plus side, I flatted on Friday ride, so I got all my bad luck out of the way. (So did Mariko, who flatted twice. On both wheels. At separate locations. She probably would’ve won the race if she had registered.) But the point is, I went into the race feeling pretty doubtful about how I would do, or whether I could even finish.
So on Saturday night, I went to Cal Tri alum Chris Fuentes’s house in Sunnyvale to stay the night. (Shoutout to Fuentes for his hospitality that weekend!) We got up ridiculously early Sunday morning to drive to Santa Cruz. We arrived 1.5 hours before the race or so and set up transition. While we were there, Fuentes spotted none other than Tommy Zaferes, American ITU pro and Olympic hopeful. Looks like I had some competition. After doing a short run warm-up, I walked down to the beach for swim start, completely neglecting to put any GU on my bike. Clearly it had been way too long since my last race.
I toed the start line next to Greg Harper, the third Cal Tri athlete doing the race. I’ve heard he’s a decent swimmer. The starting gun went off, and the race began! The swim was pretty uneventful. Didn’t get kicked in the face, so that’s always a plus. It was a bit wavy heading away from shore, but pretty calm after rounding the pier and heading back to shore. Luckily I was able to hitch a ride with a sea lion which really helped conserve energy.
Fuentes caught up with me in T1, so I “accidentally” knocked his helmet off of his bike to buy me some time. I then promptly proceeded to drop him on the bike. In reality, my legs felt pretty sluggish the whole ride and I’m surprised I was able to stay away as long as I did. The bike was pretty lonely. I passed one person, Fuentes passed me, and that was about it.
Starting the run, one thought completely consumed my thoughts. “Damn my ass hurts.” Of course the best way to relieve pain is to make something else hurt even more, so I took off at a pretty good pace on the run. I quickly realized that there were literally no other competitors near me. Fuentes was the next racer about 1:30 ahead, and the next person behind me was at least 5 minutes back. So I just let myself settle into a comfortably hard pace, making sure that I maintained my position. For most of the run, the only thought in my mind was a fantastic motto from my roommate and Cal Tri member David: “Ya boy’s cruisin’” (also the inspiration for the punny title of this race report). David is well-known in my house for his shall we say, unique, quotes. Tommy Zaferes passed by heading towards the finish when I was at mile 1.5. Holy Jesus that guy runs fast. My Achilles didn’t really bother me until mile 4, but my foot went numb at mile 5 so I stopped worrying about it after that. I ended up being the 10th person to finish (although a couple age groupers who started 10 minutes after me ended up beating me) and quickly engorged myself with strawberries at the finish line.
It ended up being a good day for Cal Tri. I won my age group (as I mentioned earlier), Greg won the 20-24 age group, and Fuentes finished third in the 25-29 age group. Tommy presented our awards which was pretty neat. One of the prizes I got was a neat dual hand pump/CO2 inflator that I’m probably not going to use for the sole reason that it would look horrendous attached to my bike frame. Still a cool idea though. Fuentes and I ended the day with a satisfying post-race meal of burgers, shakes, and onion rings at The Habit. I headed home, hung up my medal (which doubles as a bottle opener! So functional!), added my bib number to the wall, and went right back to studying. Great start to senior year.