I have officially ridden in granny gear now in a race.
More on that in a bit.
Boulder Peak Triathlon. I had to fight tooth and nail to get this race off, and unfortunately missed the other half's birthday because of it. Nevertheless, this was one that's been on the calendar since last year.
Our training the week before, to put it bluntly, was awful. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of work issues. No excuse, but still. We both thought going into this race that we had no shot of hitting our PR's at the Oly distance. (Mine was 3:36:27 at Rattlesnake in 2010). I assumed I'd be close to the same for this race, but I thought a PR was a long shot.
The weather yesterday morning confirmed my speculation. Cold and drizzly. After a monstrous heat wave in Colorado, dealing with 90+ for most of June, suddenly the weather has turned rainy. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with rain in the Denver area, here's how it usually works. It's sunny when you wake up, then the afternoon rains come. Usually around 3-4 in the afternoon, they will hang around until dinner, then clear out. It's very rare to get rain in the morning here in Denver. But that's exactly what we faced yesterday morning.
Driving up to Boulder, we saw the drizzle just coming down like crazy. We started wondering about the possibility of the race getting canceled, but there was nothing on the Boulder twitter feed about that. We attempted to stop at a Safeway to get some garbage bags to keep our stuff dry in transition, but no joy on that either. It looked like a pretty depressing day.
When we got there, there weren't even volunteers to usher us into the parking area. We unpacked the bikes, pumped up the tires, put our bike stickers on, and started walking to trans. It seemed the drizzle was lightening up, and I predicted to T that it would calm down once the sun came up.
In trans, T gave me a Target bag to keep my saddle dry, and I carefully set up my area. I took special care to keep my running shoes dry as well as my bike shoes. T and I bounced around, trying to just keep moving. The humidity was very high, but the clouds started breaking up, as I predicted. Furthermore, the drizzle stopped.
I finalized my trans area, filling my water bottles and attempting to make my helmet sticker stick to my helmet. That didn't work. I asked a USAT official if it mattered and she said no, just for the photographers. We got into our wetsuits a bit earlier than normal, but no big deal. Then we walked down to the water.
Since T was going to go off much earlier, I sat in a lifeguard station and just kind of hung out. We chatted for a bit, just kind of making a final race strategy. Basically, the goal today was to survive. Then T hopped in the water, while I hung out.
After the National Anthem, the waves started going off. The sun peeked out here and there. T got her two laps in, then we walked over together to her wave start. I wished her luck, and a few minutes later, off she went. I watched her swim for a bit, then got my own warmup in. I did two loops around the swim beach, just to loosen up.
Finally, my wave came. I waded into the water and decided to line up on the inside, close to the buoys. I figured with my swim times the way they've been, especially in races, that I'd be good there. The horn went off and off I went.
I feel comfortable in the open water. I like to swim, and I think I'm a decent swimmer. Yesterday was no exception to that. I got into it immediately. The first stroke was proper and from there, I just started cruising. However, the swim wasn't completely smooth.
In the first 1/3 of the swim, it was definitely full-contact. I took a couple kicks, kicked a bit myself, and overall just experienced what I've heard open water swims can truly be. Also, I was discovering I wasn't able to break free of anyone. The majority of my wave was right on top of each other, all swimming at very good paces. It was definitely an indication that today was going to be a day that the good competitors showed up.
Somewhere on the back half of the swim, I lost my swim cap. No big deal, just was sort of weird. I also got tangled up in a group of swimmers. From what I could see, there were 3 guys swimming in perfect sync. There were two others near me, so that made 6 swimmers in a tiny area. I don't know how it happened, but suddenly I felt a hand hit me in the lip, and I was caught off guard. I didn't know if there was blood, but I definitely felt a swelling. So much for swimming being peaceful.
I swam some more then suddenly felt the bottom. I dropped to my knees, let my head settle, and then slowly left the water. I unzipped my wetsuit partially, removed my goggles, and jogged towards trans. Swim = done.
My friend Mike, who is a cyclist, talked to me about my transition. I told him that I've been having issues getting my breath under me and therefore, my bike coming out never gets off on the right foot. He told me to take an extra few seconds, drink some water, breathe, and then leave. He said 10 seconds won't hurt.
I took his advice.
Wouldn't you know it? His advice was good! I rode out of trans feeling great! I had a surprising focus and didn't have any breathing issues.
However, I knew there was a monumental task before me: Old Stage Road. It's about a mile of climbing up a 15% graded hill, gaining nearly 800 feet of elevation. A lot of people walk it. Some give up. Climbing that hill is a right of passage. Or so I've been told.
First I had to get there. I took it very slow coming out of the res, and then the very gradual climb to Old Stage began. I felt good enough to push it, but decided to keep it dialed back. And I'm really really glad I did.
Approaching Old Stage, I had to start shifting down. I was in middle ring climbing up to the start of Old Stage. Then I got there and shifted down to my smallest ring. I'm glad I did.
Then the climb began. And for the first time in my racing life, I was in granny gear.
You can see in that video how awful this climb truly is. A couple days earlier I was giving T a hard time for getting off her bike last year. Once I started the climb, I realized that she is awesome and I promised to never ever say anything about that ever again.
The worst part about the climb, my friends, is not the climb itself. It's the fact that the aid station is at the top. Or what LOOKS like the top. You'll get the aid station people cheering and saying "you made it! great job!" Then you get complacent and WHAMMO! You have more climbing to do. So you have to just keep climbing until you hit the point where they tell you to not go too fast on the downhill. THAT's the top.
Anyway, climbing up, my back started hurting, and I averaged maybe 3.5mph. But I never got off my bike and I never walked. I hit the aid station, dropping my crummy bottle that held Gatorade, and in turn grabbed a bottle of water and a bottle of Perform. I had drained most of the water in my aero bottle, so I figured I'd fill that after I conquered Old Stage. Silly me. The bottle fell out of my water bottle holder almost immediately. Oops.
I used the reprieve after the aid station to spin my legs out a bit and get ready to tackle the final part of Old Stage. After making it to the top, I let my legs rest on the downhill, where there was a 35 mph speed limit. It took riding my brakes pretty good to stay under 35!
As soon as the speed limit was lifted, I threw myself into aero and threw down the hammer. Aside from a curve that slowed me down for safety sake, I lit it up, with speeds in the 30's consistently. The ride was amazingly scenic too. Riding in the foothills outside Boulder is something I've never done before and look forward to doing on some training rides in the future. I even saw a red fox walking on the road!
Turning onto Nelson road, I knew I had to ride fast, since one of our stuffed baby dinosaurs is named Nelson! And ride it fast I did. I was still averaging 24-25 mph and feeling really good. My muscles were not betraying me like they have in races past, and I was enjoying the nice weather. The sun had sort of come out, and while the humidity was high, the temperature was comfortable. It was just like a nice ride.
Of course, the rolling hills coming back towards the res decided to show up, and the rolling hills worked my muscles a bit. Turning onto the diagonal road back to the res, I looked at my watch for the first time, which indicated I was way ahead of where I thought I'd be in this race. A PR was definitely in order.
Turning back into the res, I spun my legs out. I dismounted, then ran back into transition. I didn't know my bike time at the time, but let's just say it was a great ride.
Taking Mike's advice again, I took it a bit slower. The humidity was definitely high, which I knew would be hell on the run, as I do not do well in humidity. I ran out and started the 10K run, knowing I was going to PR. If I wanted to.
I knew my run training has been lacking ever since I PRed in the BolderBoulder. I think mentally I've been a little burned out on it, which is not good. However, I knew that even so, my running has not been terrible this entire year, so I could survive this.
In the first mile, I got my legs under me. It took a little while, but not too shabby. I think I did the first mile in about 10:05. Really, that's not bad, given the circumstances. However, it was going to be downhill from there.
Each mile seemed to go slower and slower. I wasn't falling apart, per se, but my quads were definitely seizing up. I ran into T somewhere between mile 2 and 3, where she told me she had a bike accident up on Stage and had to get her saddle fixed. She said otherwise she was doing ok and fine.
After the turnaround point, I just made it my goal to survive. I didn't allow myself to think about the lack of training at this point, because that wasn't going to do me any good. I just wanted to get the run done.
Turning in at mile 5, I saw the pros doing their run. They do a 1 mile out and back 3 times, which has to be absolute hell. Their amazing focus, their dialed-in-ness, it was amazing to see. I was both humbled and amazed.
As I got close to the finish, the male pro was about to finish and win. I didn't catch his name, but I knew something big was happening, so I pointed at him, in a kind of salute. Then I turned down the finish chute, saw T, and crossed the finish line.
T and I headed towards the expo, saw a buddy of ours at the Pearl Izumi tent, then immediately signed up for a massage. My quads were just screaming, and I had to have them worked on. The woman that worked on them found my muscles were very inflammed, and worked them out very nicely. We finished up with those, grabbed some pretzels and oranges, and hightailed it out of there.
Overall, this was a good race. I PRed by about 13 minutes and aside from the run, was very happy with the segments. As always, there's things to improve on, but for today, I can accept how I did with pride.
Total time: 3:23:57