Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Race Recap: Boulder 70.3

Welcome to my Boulder 70.3 recap.  This will be a longer blog post, so bear with me and enjoy. This race had a lot of good things, and a couple things I have to work on.  I'll go over those at the end.

This was our 3rd race of the season, and really, a test.  We were only in week 5 of IM training, so while our base was excellent (or at least pretty good) we hadn't sunk in any serious mileage yet. (Longest bike ride was only 35 miles and only one long run of 10).  Furthermore, while it wasn't our A race, we both wanted to do well in it.  You know the last time we did this we followed a plan just to finish, and let's just say we did that (7:29:50).  I wanted to improve on that and knew that I could.  (Swim was 44:56, bike was 3:16:47, and run was 3:18:56)

On Saturday, day before the race,  we a brief 2 mile run with Run Colorado in the morning and a 10 mile ride to check out the Tri For the Cure expo, where we met Nicole DeBoom of Skirt Sports and former professional triathlete.  We also got T's cyclometer fixed.  

In the afternoon, we headed up to the race expo to check in and look at the expo.  Also hoping to get some open water time in, we brought our wetsuits.  

The expo this year seemed very sterile and unfriendly.  I don't take this sport too seriously, and I guess as such I hope everyone around me is having a good time too.  This didn't seem to be the case this year.  The athletes were walking around with focus, but not a pre-race focus.  It was just an unfriendly focus.  The sponsor tents were uninviting and lacking.  Even the volunteers at check in seemed worn out and uninterested.  It might have been the gloomy weather (cloudy and spitting rain) or maybe they were just worn out, but I said to T on the drive home that I was suddenly feeling anxious and lacking confidence in my race.  We talked it out and once I got home, I felt better.

Normally we go out for breakfast food the night before, but I decided we should stay home and make our own stuff.  We made Skratch Labs Feed Zone pancakes, eggs, and bacon.  We also watched the movie Secretariat, which we refer to simply as "Horsey Movie".  After that, with rain pouring outside, we packed up our stuff and headed for bed.  Tomorrow would be a long day, so whatever sleep we could get would be good.

Race Morning
We woke up, and while normally we grumble and ask ourselves why we are racing, this morning was different.  We both woke up exhausted and not even wanting to pull ourselves out of bed.  As such, we were a bit rushed leaving the house.  Thankfully, the weather seemed clear and the rain had moved out.

Driving up there, I couldn't seem to really wake up and focus.  I was, as we like to say, out of it.  We left the house 15 minutes later than normal due to the fact that bike spots were assigned in transition and we wouldn't have to worry about finding a spot on the rack.  However, this would bite us.  

When we pulled into the res, the line of cars was ridiculous.  Normally there is barely a line when we get there.  That day, not so much.  We puttered along and realized they were not parking people where they normally do.  They were instead moving people deep into the res and it'd be a decent hike to transition.  So our plan backfired.  Getting set up would have to be a quick process.

We parked, hustled, and wheeled our bikes into trans.  Once there, you could tell that others were a bit panicked and rushed.  The parking situation didn't just screw us over, it screwed over all the athletes.  I got my area set up pretty quick but didn't even take the obligatory transition shot.  It was crowded and I was more concerned about meeting up with our friend Scott from the running store and Mike, a teammate of ours from Phoenix who was racing as well.

Eventually, we got wetsuited up and headed down to the water for our pre-race swim.  Normally we do 3 laps.  Today we were only able to squeeze in 2.  T and I both agreed that it would have to do.

We chatted with Mike a bit before we lined up in our swim corrals.  The National Anthem played, I said goodbye to T, and hopped in the 42-44 minute swim wave.  The pros went off, then the waves in front of me did.  Eventually our wave got called up, and the race was off.  My 70.3 adventure was beginning.

The Swim
You all know by now I'm pretty confident in the water, and my training this year has reflected distance.  I've put in a lot of work already in the pool, including some long sessions, so I wasn't worried about swim endurance.  However, my open water swims have been a bit slow and I'm not thrilled about it.  Regardless, I knew I had to shut up, put my head down, and swim!

They brought us out to more of the left this year, so we weren't swimming directly into the sun.  That was nice, let me tell you.  Made sighting a lot easier for sure.  Early in the swim, I'd say 2-300 meters in I got hammerpunched in the side of the head.  First time that's ever happened to me in a tri.  It literally dazed me for a bit, and I had to regain focus.  That was fine though, and I kept going.  Aside from that, I pretty much had my open space.  There was one guy, and I have never seen this before either, who was literally zig-zagging his way.  It was bizarre, and actually made me mad in the water.  Really dude?

Anyway, I rounded the first buoy no problem and started settling in comfortably.  About halfway through, I could feel my swim caps sliding off my head.  I wear the race cap over my own swim cap for warmth and I don't like the feeling of the latex ones on my scalp.  I knew eventually both would come off and I wrestled with the decision of what to do.  Do I stop and put them back on? Or just keep going?  I decided to say screw it and kept going.  When they slid off my head, I attempted to grab at least my own silicone one, but was unable to, and decided to just press on.

When I rounded the 2nd buoy for home (shore), I was elated.  I was feeling good and strong, and just kept pulling.  It seemed to take forever for shore to come, but eventually, it did.  I hustled my way out of the water and lightly jogged into trans.  I looked down at my watch and saw I was out in 42 and change, which is exactly what I figured I'd do.

Swim time - 42:46

Because I had bad sunburn in 2011 and rushed a bit setting up my trans area, T1 took a bit.  I took my time, making sure I had everything together I needed to.

T1 time - 4:30

The Bike
The course changed for this year.  Instead of doing two loops like we have in the past, this year it was a single loop course, taking you outside of Boulder up into the farms of Longmont and back.  It was nice to know I wouldn't be climbing the J twice and 36.  Really, I'm getting tired of those two roads.

Heading out of the res on my bike, I quickly took down some fluid.  I was thirsty, and had a game plan to hydrate before I hit the first aid station.  I also wanted to take in adequate food before I got there.  Just in case.

The ride up the J was surprisingly quick.  The elevation profile of this course was something like this: uphill for the first 11.6 miles, then downhill, flat, a couple "bitch hills" as we called them, but most of your climbing is in the first 11.6 miles.  So my theory was to get to Nelson Road, and the rest of the ride would be pretty easy after that.  And I was accurate, for the most part.

The first 11 miles past me by pretty quick.  I got my legs under me early and found a groove that worked.  I took in a few Cliff Shot Bloks and drank most of my Skratch.  I had no interest in throwing down really fast speeds on this ride because I wanted to have some leg strength for the run (I get the feeling in 2011 that I blew myself up on the bike).  

When I started the descent for the next 9 miles, I tried to hold myself back, but it was hard.  I was doing 23-24 mph and didn't even feel like I was going that hard.  I forced myself into a higher gear and told my legs to quit pushing.  It's a strange feeling to know you have more in you yet are holding back.  That's what I was doing.

Hi, me!

The next miles were uneventful, almost boring, even.  The climbs were real, I can tell you that much.  I also started feeling aches and pains that I knew were the result of just not having ridden this distance yet.  I took some Advil along with my salt tablets due to my back giving me some aches and pains from not having ridden the distance yet this year.

Around mile 40, I had happen what I feared would.  My quads starting giving out, my back was hurting, and I was getting tired.  I did something I never did before, and that was literally stretch myself on the bike.  I stood up out of the saddle and did some funky stretching that would have made any passerby wonder what the hell I was doing.  Whatever I was doing, it felt good and it worked.  I wouldn't say I was ready to go kick more ass, but I was ready to finish the ride.

I made it to the diagonal and just started spinning my legs out.  I knew at this point I wasn't going to crack 3 hours, but certainly was going to beat my previous time.  I decided at this point to keep it slower and spin.  Turning back into the res, I knew there was one more big hill to go, then I would be in transition.

I hopped off the bike and wheeled it into trans.  The longest part of the day was now completed, and it was time to go running.

Bike time - 3:04:05

T2 was even slower than T1.  Again, I applied sunscreen and actually took a few seconds just to calm down.  I was in no rush at this point.  Sub 6:30 was still in play and I was ready to attack the run.

T2 time - 5:22

The Run
Those of you who follow me know running is my weakest discipline.  I knew this going into the race.  I had two things in the back of my mind though.  One was that I have improved a lot this year in one area: consistency.  I've worked hard to at least be consistent in my running training.  While I'm not gaining speed, I've worked at running in general and it's paid off.  Two was that it wasn't as hot as it was in 2011 and if I managed my heat and fuel properly, I might manage 2:30 in this race.

I grabbed some aid immediately, a cup of the orange-mango Perform and a couple orange slices.  The Perform was thick, sweet, and delicious.  I knew I had my drink of choice at the aid stations for the remainder of the race.  The oranges were also amazing.

The first mile is mostly downhill and I took full advantage of it.  I was planning on a simple strategy in this race of running more than I walked.  I also was going to hit nearly every aid station for hydration/ice.  

The first 1/2 of the race was definitely slow, but I didn't mind.  My pace was still looking fine.  6:30 was going to be a bit of a stretch and I would have to dig very very deep to get it, but I was going to try very hard.

On the 2nd half of the run, I made a friend.  Her name was Jackie, and she's from Wisconsin.  We quickly bonded over being from the Midwest together (I'm from Minnesota).  We both agreed that we enjoyed each others company and that we'd get through this together.  The heat was getting more burdensome (I think it got up to 87, a far cry from 98 a few years ago, but still hot) and my stomach was becoming quite unsettled.  I figured it was due to the Perform (I had probably drank 4-5 cups at this point), but I was thirsty.  I didn't just want to drink water because I knew salt and electrolytes would be more helpful, so I was in quite the bind.  Regardless, I was slowing down.

At around mile 10, we both smiled knowing we had 3.1 miles to go.  A simple neighborhood 5K.  I knew at this point 6:30 was done, and 6:40 would be in jeopardy.  But I knew I was going to beat my time from 2011.  Shatter it, in fact.  I was going to finish this race a winner.  Jackie felt stronger and pushed on, so I said goodbye to her and that I'd see her at the finish.

The final mile was incredibly difficult, and yet I kept going.  I saw my friend Scott wheeling his bike to the car, so I knew he had a great day.  He told me to finish strong.  There were a lot of people cheering and their excitement just made it that much sweeter.  I rounded the corner, heard the announcer say my name, and crossed the finish line.  I looked down at my watch and smiled.  I got a medal, a hat, and some water.

Run time - 2:45:31

I ran into our friend Mike back into transition.  We chatted and congratulated each other.  He finished just before me, so our times were similar.  He told me T had a flat on the bike and was on the run right now, but she looked strong.  I felt relieved for that and threw on my track pants and my Embrace the Suck T-shirt.

Mike and I chatted and grabbed some food.  My stomach was still rattled and I really didn't feel like eating.  I called my mom who had been stalking me all day and filled her in.  I also called my friend Kris to fill her in on the day.  I talked to her about the stomach issue and she notified me that too much sugar will really upset your stomach, so I chalked it up to that.  I made the decision that I'd eat later and just waited for T at this point.

Eventually I saw her coming towards me.  I snapped a couple iPhone pictures of her and saw her finish.  We walked around together a bit post-race with Mike and his friend and sister.

  Our team post-race

Then we packed up our stuff and got ready to head out.  I saw Jackie in trans and thanked her for pulling me as far as she did.  She wished me luck in Ironman (she did Wisconsin in 2011) and said we'll do great.  We packed up the car and hustled over to our friends Mike and Nicole's place for a Run Colorado Barbecue.  Scott was already there, and we were quite fawned over, which I'm not used to.

Post-Race thoughts
- I slashed over 30 minutes from my 2011 time, and yet I'm hungry to get my run even better
- hydrating is good, but be careful about overhydrating
- arm coolers are amazing and might be the best investment of the season
- my swim isn't necessarily fast, but very consistent.
- this was a major confidence boost for Ironman Arizona.  I'm excited to see what I can do down there
- I have a long way to go

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