Rachel Smith - Half Moon Bay Triathlon 2017 Race Recap

Pre race

Had package of Belvita breakfast crackers with banana and peanut butter around 4:30am, plus
water with Nuun (needed a little somethin’ to keep me awake on the drive down). Got to HMB around 6am, set up transition area and walked down to beach to scope out the terrain. Decided an extra pair of running shoes for the swim to TA run would be a good idea, since it was almost half a mile away. Didn’t warm up other than the walk down and back (~.8 mile total). Got back to TA to get into wetsuit, was surprised to find that the TA was closing in 5 mins so grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, extra shoes and caps and put everything on outside TA. There had been nothing advertised anywhere about what time TA was closing so that was a surprise.


Hopped in the water around 7:30 since my wave was delayed starting until 7:50, swam out to near the start, just treaded water and kept moving a little to get used to the water. Swim was definitely challenging - water temp didn’t overwhelm me this time, but just swimming that length continuously was a stretch. I took a breast stroke or two every few freestyle strokes so I could spot and stay on course and it helped me break the swim up into smaller chunks. Was not even close to being the last one of my wave out of the water, unlike Morro oly. Definitely noticed resistance from my wetsuit when taking strokes - not good or bad, just an observation. Lubed the back of my neck and was very thankful for that. Swam until my fingers hit sand, then pushed myself up and ran up the beach to my shoes. Stripped off my wetsuit, grabbed shoes and jogged to warming pool, dipped feet in water and put shoes on, jogged up a nasty hill to the TA.


Felt a little shaky once I got back to my TA. Dropped my swim gear, splashed some more water on my feet to get more sand off, splashed water on my face because I could already feel the salt from the ocean water starting to feel cake-y on my skin. Brandon was right by my rack outside the TA and cheered me on/took pics while I changed, which calmed me down a little. Sunglasses, helmet, buckle helmet. Biking shoes on, grab Clif blox and stuff into back of kit top pocket. Grab bike, and run to TA exit. There was a little bit of a backup of people getting on their bikes but I didn’t mind it because in my head I had imagined I’d be one of the only ones not doing flying mounts and dismounts. Took a few strokes and I was off!


I f!#@ing loved the bike leg. I was cruising along with the tailwind up around 20mph for the first ¼ then we turned around and went north into the headwind for about 6ish miles, then south again for the remaining. The headwind made even slight hills feel super gnarly. There was one pro/elite who snapped at me and another AG-er--I was passing her on the left (I had started before there was anyone directly behind me), and as I was doing that this guy passed me on the left and said ‘stay to your RIGHT’ in a really aggressive tone. Just because I don’t have a $10k bike doesn’t mean I’m any less of a participant in this race than you, sir. Anyway. I passed a lot of people on the bike and it was my favorite part of the race. Should’ve taken in more nutrition and water though; there just never seemed to be a good moment to do so. Flying back into T1 I saw my parents and that made me super happy. I’ve seen other racer’s Strava posts and they all measured the bike at 11 miles (my own watch included), not 10, which makes me curious about the discrepancy.


The easier of the two transitions. Dismounted and ran with bike to my rack. Bike up, helmet off. Pulled on socks that were already bunched up and easy to roll on. Running shoes, grabbed hat, took a sip of water and was off again.


Went out going sub 10 which oddly felt like I was going super slow. Dialed pace in, tried to focus on my breath whenever I got too uncomfortable. Walk around the halfway mark while taking another Cliff block and water but then got back to it. Tried to stay at a mildly comfortable pace until mile 3, then I picked it up and pushed myself all the way to the finish line, getting faster the closer I got. My pace in the last 100m or so was sub 8:00/mile and passed a couple people on my way in. I really had no idea what my time was gonna be, I was pretty sure sub 2:00 but goal was sub 1:45 and came in at 1:42! So proud of myself.

Post race

Walked around a bit and took pictures. Lots of congratulations from my mom and dad and Brandon. Didn’t get food at the festival because the line was ridiculously long and 10am beer didn’t sound appealing. I did grab a free muscle milk because I knew I needed protein and that hit the spot. Walked over to a local cafe for post-race pancakes but ended up running back for the awards ceremony, where I was first out of 2 (online results were wrong about 1 of 1) in the F 20-24 AG. Considering the winning times were under an hour, I didn’t really feel like I deserved to stand on the same podium as the other winners. But nonetheless, it was an awesome feeling to stand on the 1st place spot on the podium and be applauded for. 1st place goodies included a pint glass (made out of glass, so super nice) with a HMB AG winner logo, a wine-bottle sized bottle of Sierra Nevada IPA, a handful of clif bars, and a Sierra Nevada bike water bottle. What a rush! I felt so alive after all of this.

After I got home and showered, I rolled out my calves and thighs a bit and holy mother that hurt. Then put on some 2xu recovery compression socks and wore them for the rest of the day. The morning after, Brandon massaged my calves and traps really got into the tight spots with his thumbs - also super painful but felt amazing afterward.

Other thoughts

I definitely feel that my bike racing is stronger than my running. I passed many more people on the bike than on the run. Further confirms my desire to do more biking-only events in addition to triathlons. Also mad respect for anyone who passed me while riding a mountain bike. Consider that slice of humble pie eaten.

The thought that this was a test of my abilities really resonated with me and helped me push myself on the run even when my legs felt like lead. Like “okay, Rachel. Let’s see what you can do”. I think this is because of how serious of a student I’ve been in college (regardless of my motivation levels now). Doing well on academic tests has been a point of pride for me for the last however many years and the better I do, the more I want to keep doing well. Similarly, yesterday after I stood on the podium, my motivation to train was at an all time high. I want more strength sessions, more bike to run bricks, core strength on a more regular basis, more hill repeats...anything to help with my weak spots.

Kit worked out really well. I would prefer shorter shorts but only for aesthetics purposes only. No chafing, everything stayed in place, etc.

Event was overall well run, loved the number and age tattoos and swag bag, but didn’t love how congested the festival got. The finishers were directed right into the area where the massive food line was and it was the human equivalent of stop-and-go traffic. Course was well marked and the bike on highway 1 was well monitored in terms of directing cars. 10/10 gorgeous course, I’m a sucker for coastal races, would definitely do again next year.

- Rachel Smith