Race Recap: Santa Rosa 70.3

Can you guess what time it is again? That's right - it's time for another race recap!

I am so excited to share with you coverage from last weekend's half Ironman in my beautiful home-state, California! Five of our seahorses toed the line May 13, at Santa Rosa 70.3, and rocked the course. We sat down with one of our athletes, Julia Sanderson, to see how Santa Rosa went from her perspective. This was Julia's third 70.3 distance and first time racing in California, let alone in gorgeous wine country!

Check out Julia's race recap below and get INSPIRED.



Okay, so the alarm goes off. What's your pre-race routine?

My pre-race routine is to wake up thinking, "Seriously?! What the hell was I thinking signing up for this?" (Soooo not a morning person).

But this was the first race I've had to wake a teammate on race morning, and the conversation went something like this:

Me to Mel Schiff: "Hey, Mel, it's 3."
Mel: "No."

It cracked me up because I felt the same way. I got up and had my shake of rice milk and protein (half a scoop w/6 oz of milk) and sunflower butter on about half a plain bagel. I can't stomach more so early, so I usually carry a salty ball to nibble on while I set up T1. We got dressed, woke Shannon McGarry, and she took us and our gear bags to the shuttle for T1. It was pretty chilly outside, so I was glad I packed sweatpants and a hoodie.


What did you think of the swim?

The swim was actually better than I expected, especially considering water doesn't tend to be cold in south Florida, where I live and train. The water was warmer than the air, so I didn't feel the usual shock of colder water, which helped a lot, I think. I wasn't sure what to expect from the cold, to be honest. I'd done a short practice swim the afternoon before with Shannon, but racing is always different.

Honestly, this was my first race I didn't once feel panicky in the water, so I call this mad progress. I didn't know how the cold would affect my swimming, and I had been reading about swimming in colder water, so I just tried my best to relax and do a steady pace. Though, in hindsight, maybe it was too relaxed. I never felt like I was out of breath; my heart rate felt pretty even; I felt GOOD.

So, I went with it. I sighted like a boss on this one, cutting as close to the buoys as I could. It was neat to swim under the bridge--I'd never experienced a swim like that before. There was the usual jostling in the water and I need to work on getting around people better. We had a few bottlenecks which frustrated me a bit.


Once out of the water, how were you feeling in T1?

I got out of the water feeling relaxed, another first for me in any distance race. There were supposed to be mats for us up the ramp into T1, but the mats we had didn't go very far. When my bare feet hit the asphalt, it felt like walking on broken glass (probably a combo of my very cold feet and the fact I'm not a hobbit). I just couldn't move any faster, partially because the grade was pretty steep, which we don't have where I live, and partially because my feet hurt SO MUCH. (Note to self or anyone else--bring extra old shoes to throw off to the side to wear coming out of the water too). My T1 time was crap, but I didn't rush myself--I didn't see the point by the time I got to my bike. It is what it is, and I'm still learning.


How'd the biking go for you?

The bike - HA! Well, it was terrifying at first because of the downhills with turns (remember--it's pancake flat in south Florida), so I was pretty tense for those parts, but I was also exhilarated! I tapped the brakes a lot and probably had a death grip on my bars because my hands were achy later.

Did you like the course?

The course was BEAUTIFUL- it looked like a promotional poster for wine country, with vineyards and gorgeous buildings all along the way. I must say though the roads are rather rough, which I understand in an agricultural area with heavy trucks and farming equipment, but it wasn't fun to ride.

And then there was the climbing - sweet baby Jesus, I thought it would NEVER end. Lots of rolling hills, steeper than I've experienced before. I kept telling myself I was strong enough to keep it up and I was NOT getting off to walk, nor did I, so I'm pretty effing proud. I did ask a few people as they passed me if we were close to the end of climbing. Once, I even thought I might just stop at a winery and call it a day. But, I made peace with the bike portion by telling myself I needed my legs to run, and it helped me a lot. I hydrated well and I ate when I was supposed to eat, so I did that right. It was a tough course for a flatlander.


What were you thinking when you made it back to T2?

Relief to be off the bike - finally! Also, I really had to pee, but I did so after racking my bike and getting my run gear on. I got annoyed when I got to my run bag because some morons had, of course, racked their bikes completely wrong. A lady on the other side who was changing was kind enough to help me move handlebars so that I could rack my bike, and I'm officially calling her my T2 angel :).


How did the run go?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs didn't feel all wobbly and painful when I started the run. I did start too fast because I was excited it wasn't 80 degrees by this point in the day, and I was excited I still felt like running after all that bike climbing. I managed to get my pacing under control and settled in for the 13.1. I spotted Shannon on the way out of T2 and heard Audra and maybe Sonja (not entirely sure because I didn't actually see them all), so it was a big boost.

I liked the run course, for the most part, though some of the laps were a little confusing. I kept asking people running near me what mile they were on just to be sure I had not missed a turn. When I hit the 5k mark, I hit my groove and sort of knew I had a run PR in the bag if I could manage to keep my pacing pretty even with my heart rate. But I didn't focus too much on the PR part because, I mean, stuff happens, so I enjoyed the trail and the scenery and just did my thing.

I sipped when I needed to, ate my chews every so often, grabbed a few orange slices here and there, and chatted up a few people along the way. It's always cool to experience the encouragement on these courses. There's nothing like it. I was hoping to have more of a kick toward the end of the run, and I did manage to pick it up a bit for the last mile, even though I didn't realize how much of a PR I was going to have at the time (I'm an English/history major--math isn't my thing). When I rounded the last corner before the chute, I picked it up even more and high-fived people along the chute, and, well, I just enjoyed it.

What was your favorite part of the race?

Honestly, I enjoyed it all. Truly. I'd probably do it again.

What was your least favorite part of the race?

The bike climbing was tough for me, and I didn't love the asphalt on my bare feet on the way up to T1.

How did Santa Rosa compare to other 70.3's you've done?

In comparison, we really lucked out with the weather because my two prior 70.3s have been HOT. I can't complain about race support at all on this one, and honestly, I felt like crowd support was the best I've experienced, even compared to Boulder (My Miami race was in the boonies, so it doesn't compare). I had my doubts driving the bike course the day before that I could do it (had a mild freakout about it), but my training paid off in spades.

Training for triathlon takes A LOT. Is there anyone you would like to thank?

So many people to thank - gotta start first with Audra Adair, my coach, because she's been pushing me and I'm getting stronger because of the tri training and the strength training she has me doing. I cannot forget Mikki Osterloo, who's always on my Training Peaks too and is a great cheerleader wherever she is on the planet at the time. Shannon McGarry has been a fantastic friend/teammate/cheerleader/Sherpa for me as well - sometimes she has to talk me off a ledge about stuff. And I need to thank Mel Schiff for being an awesome teammate and waiting for me at the finisher's chute, even though I knew she'd been done for a while. And Sonja too, for helping us all find each other and the coaching she's given me in the past.



Julia wrapped up her day with a PR in both the swim and run, and did an amazing job competing out there on a challenging course. At RTTC, we are not only teammates and coaches, but family as well. We take great pride in our successes, and I am so proud of all my athletes who kicked butt at Santa Rosa 70.3!

If you're interested in training with Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching, you can check out more information about our programs HERE. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram and FaceBook @risingtidetri for more inspiring content.