Oceanside 70.3 Race Report -

Zack Bertges


Ah the race report writeup- the part of training where I accept the lessons learned from last weekend’s race, acknowledge the monsters that popped up on the course, and determine how to overcome them for next time. Luckily, this report won’t be too hard, because I had a reallyproductive race at the Oceanside 70.3 triathlon last Saturday- and feel very fortunate to have some great weather, no major problems on the course, and good company for the trip!

Despite pulling a 5:13:08 for the race, I hate to admit that I wasn’t really feeling this race in my training program. I’m still glad I did it, but energetically, and with missing my teammates, I wasn’t really ever 100% sure that I would be doing this race. Originally the whole point of doing OSide was to rally IronDave to participate in his first Tri since Kona in ’04. With Dave getting sick about two weeks ago, him and I agreed it would be best if he sat this one out, at the risk of him getting sick for longer, or just not enjoying his comeback race. After realizing that I would have to focus on only myself for this race, and that the rest of my boys were doing the UCSB Sprint Tri on the same day in Santa Barbara, I was looking for any excuse not to race. I probably mentioned to a couple people, a couple of times, “Oh my calf is a little achy, maybe I shouldn’t race”, followed by, “Eh, my shoulder is achy, I might have to sit this one out”, followed by “Well, my hip is acting up again, maybe I should just do the UCSB sprint with my team”, hoping that a friend or buddy would say, “Yeah, Zack, sounds like this race is a bad idea for you”…

Excuses- all of them- I was fishing for a way out. But the “problem” with surrounding yourself with GREAT people is that they all believe in you when you don’t – haha! I hope everyone reading is just as lucky- all of my excuses were responded by my training partners and friends as “Yeah, and?”, or “Good thing you’re a beast”, and “Robot does the job”. D*mn you good friends - I thought. Alright, alright I’ll robot one out for you. 

I definitely was missing my team at the event registration/Ironman village. (But it made me even more excited for our June IMFrance trip- the thought of being part of that together surges beastlyness through my veins!) But yet another one of Steve Smith’s (from SPaRC) phrases pop-up, “Your feelings don’t matter”, and he was right, for me, in that case. In addition to all of this, I think it was a challenge to rally because of my race schedule that’s laid out for the next 15 months- of all of them on the calendar, OSide seems soooo far away from Ultraman Canada (July 2014), as this race is the first of many leading up to that chapter of life.

I finally found my game face for the event Saturday morning at 3:30 am. I woke up feeling great and got to WORK- earbuds in, blasted out Macklemore’s newest album, and somehow was able to ride that energy wave all the way to the start of the race like the ceiling can’t hold us. Upon arriving and getting to the transition area, they announced that the water temp is 62.8 degrees- the warmest it’s been in months! Alright, I thought, I can bust out a good day today.

Didn’t see many SBTriClub Folk, I think there were only 5 of us racing – searched for Adrienne in the pro racks a couple of times with no luck, but eventually found Herzog to wish him a safe race. I also followed Jack Bianchi’s advice from the last SBTri Club coaches panel, and started talking to my competition/guys in my division, but mostly just to pass time. Odd thing though, I thought that with moving up to the 30-34 age division, that I’d be encountering a more “hard-core” division, thinking that older triathletes would be more competitive/prepared/race-oriented. But instead the guys that I were talking to had similar thoughts/fears/anxieties as I would predict for the 25-29 division.

Race Start & Swim:

Oceanside is an open water swim start- you tread water until the canon-goes/blowhorn-goes/something-explodes, and then it’s a free for all. With again thinking that I was rolling in a more dynamic age group, I started off farther behind in the pack than I should have, probably 3-5 people deep off of the start line (This is something I did my first year in Wildflower, too, and ended up paying for it by having to negotiate swimmers in front of me, instead of behind.) Not again! - I thought- this is the last time I underestimate my off-the-line swim skills. The theme here, again, is that when you surround yourself with great people & athletes is that your athletic perspective is always off! You think you’re slow, because you’re comparing yourself to REALLY strong people, and then when you get to the actual population, you realize how strong the strongest ones truly are, and how strong YOU are, in-fact. GREAT thing to REALIZE when YOU’RE NOT in a race. Saturday, I wasn’t so lucky, and ended up having to go around/under/through people to get the right lines for the swim. Granted, I’ve never felt competitive in the water before, but the lesson I realize now is that there needs to be a difference between being AGGRESSIVE and being COMPETITIVE. It’s obvious in my splits, too, I know, but as most of you know, it’s never about the time of the event or the race for me.

4 minutes of pondering later - I’m going to think of it like this:
Being AGGRESSIVE is about strategizing a course, or a thought, or an action in HONOR of your independence, regardless of your eventual & individual outcome.

It’s the you’ve trained for this, you deserve this,

and the I want to DO great to BE great,

and This is the best line for MY style of racing

and the Robot does the job.

Being COMPETITIVE is about strategizing a course, thought, or theme in PURSUIT of your eventual & predicted outcome. 

It’s the I want to beat THAT person,

and the I want to BE great to DO great

and THIS is the best line for THE style of racing

and the Your feeling’s don’t matter 

I think some people are more one way or another, or a combination of both, right? The good thing is that in the end, being aggressive OR competitive, and having a good race, still feels awesome, and you’ll always learn from every race you do.


Normally, I love the run of any race, but the bike course and race was definitely more in my favor for this day. Mostly flat course with some predictable hills, and we got lucky with the sun coming out midway through the course. Despite some beautiful parts of the California coastline, my ride’s theme was put your head and down and CRANK. And it worked for the most part, except for the fact that I got “suckered” into a great training ride with some friends 7 days before- from the Santa Barbara Mission, up Gibraltar, over Camino Cielo, and down Old San Marcos- I think it was close to 5000? climbing in the 30 miles, and it knocked my ass out…sort of literally haha. Butt was definitely working on race day, and didn’t let me forget the importance of sticking to your taper plan. But maybe one of best parts of being your own coach is that you don’t have to validate anything to anyone, you just base your adjustments to what you already know! As Coaches, we have to learn how to alter plans for our clients, as this is just one of MANY ways for coaches to determine what could or couldn’t work for someone who needs an adjustment.

I still cranked out a 20.14 mph average for the bike portion- a great sign that hard work on the bike is paying off! This is also the first race where I have ever placed higher overall on the bike portion vs the run portion. But I wonder what I would have done if I had done the right ride last week. In all reality, I still wouldn’t give up the Gibraltar ride, though! That ended up being a beautiful day with some great friends, and wouldn’t trade it for another 2 minutes less for the OSide Tri.


I normally love the run of any race, but the “flat” run course has some REALLY evil downhill slopes, that only lasted about 20-30 feet at a time, depending on where you were on the looped course. Those kinds of transitional downhills can really fry your legs, and I quickly realized some familiar aches and pains that I had ignored up to that point during the day. Perhaps TMI, but I had an inguinal hernia when I was 5 months old that set me up to have another one when I was 22 years old. The surgery, the second time, was to put in a permanent wiring/net into my abdominal/groin region, that still gives me pain in certain conditions (Sorry ladies, you won’t see me with a 6 pack ever because of this – haha). This creeped back into awareness about a week ago, as consistent core work seems to make things just a wee bit too tight and causes some discomfort. (I’ve been able to alleviate this tension in the past via diaphragm/abdominal massage, but that hasn’t seemed to help this time around, yet.) I went through a couple different techniques to try and overcome this, one being the ole’ Robot does the job line that Steve Smith ingrained in all of us. When that didn’t work, I went 3rd person and started saying does the job, and somehow that managed to kick up some intensity :)  Not a big deal, though, even though I know I could have run better than a 1:47 for the half-marathon- you play the best hand you have with the cards you’re dealt, and you move on!

What also helped was NOT reading the GU packets that the volunteers were handing out, around mile 9. I’ve always trained with GU and have never had any intestinal problems, BUT, I didn’t realize until after I had already eaten it, that I had taken down a JET BLUEBERRY Gu pack, which contains 40 mg of caffeine- twice the amount that I would normally take in. I’m normally scared of such a high concentration, but after that, the race was almost over and I felt like I was flying to the end of the it :) Stomach was in knots a couple hours later, but I think the spike of caffeine and consequent competitive sprint to the finish line ended up being a fun blessing in disguise.

Great seeing the other tri club racers on the course- all in their own zone, for sure! Seems like everyone enjoyed their race, as we all finished in the top 20% of our group divisions. Can’t wait to see the entire club and my teammates this coming weekend at the Wildflower Training Camp, and at the Wildflower Triathlon next month!

Big thank you to Thalisa and Thalia for the great support and place to stay this weekend- It’s hard to run slow when you have cheers like those to look forward to!

Beast On.