For some reason, writing about Boulder IM hasn’t been top on my list of to-dos since the race. Oops! I was also waiting for some photos, but now that they have arrived, it’s time to sit down and reflect a bit on last Sunday’s endeavor. Overall, it was a GREAT day out there, and I feel lucky that I raced/performed the way I did. I know that it isn’t all luck, but I do think that there is an element of chance that comes into play.
It was obviously a super early morning with a 3:00 am wake-up call. One of my greatest fears in the days and weeks leading up to the race was that I would oversleep. No chance of that with my nerves! We got out of the house before 4:00 am, dropped Gus, our dog, off at my brother-in-law’s house (which is 2.5 miles from the Rez), and then drove the opposite way into town to board shuttles. Sigh – that was one of my personal frustrations about the race, although I definitely understand why they couldn’t allow people to drive to the Reservoir. I knew someone who considered walking to the Reservoir, but I didn’t want to risk any chance of A DQ. Also, I had items in my special needs bags that I thought that I might want on the bike and the run, so I had to drop those off at Boulder High.
As much as I found the shuttle annoying, it was also very easy and we arrived at the Reservoir with plenty of time for me to noodle around in transition, make several pit stops, and finally suit up. It was a beautiful morning, and I tried to take in and appreciate how amazing it was and how fortunate I was to get to the start line. Even with no professionals racing, the energy was terrific and it was so exciting to be there!
The swim ended up being wetsuit optional – so I could wear the wetsuit but I would have to start behind all of the non-wetsuit swimmers and I wouldn’t qualify for Kona. The latter wasn’t an option anyway (even if I had qualified – chortle, chortle, chortle – my fall is booked!), so the decision was whether I wanted to start behind everyone else. Ultimately, I decided to go with the familiar – which was a wetsuit. The only time I attempted an open water swim without a wetsuit did not go well. So much for the swimskin investment on Friday! Once I made that decision, my thoughts really turned to the day. I still couldn’t believe that I was going to tackle the ironman distance – again! It suddenly freaked me out, and I almost started to cry. I gathered myself, gave Michael lots of hugs (poor guy) and then lined up for the swim.
The swim started at 6:30 and I was probably in the water by 6:40 – initially, it seemed like it would be a low-key experience, and suddenly it got really aggressive. The problem was that there were slower people in front of me and plenty of fast people behind me, because the wetsuit people all started in a bunch and not in corrals. It made for a bit of a clusterfuck, to be honest, but there were plenty of open pockets too, so I tried to focus on swimming strong and steady. The course is one lap, as opposed to other courses that are 2. I did like the fact that once the shoreline came into view, I knew that I was almost done! I exited the swim and looked down at my watch, fairly disappointed with the overall time – 1:26:10. I hit my “C” goal – to swim faster than the CdA swim last year, but I barely managed that. Obviously my swim training hasn’t been 100% solid this year. The plus – when I exited, I barely felt tired. Thank you wetsuit! And a sign that I probably didn’t push it very hard. Hmmmm….
Transition to the bike was a bit longer than hoped, but way quicker than last year’s 16 minute slog. I wore a tri-suit for the swim and bike, so that cut down on some time, and I tried to be a bit more efficient, while also not rushing too much. Once on the bike, I felt really good and was excited to ride familiar roads. Overall, I do like the bike course – it’s a lot of rolling hills, especially for the first 85 miles or so – the first two loops. Coming out of the Rez and on to Jay Road, I saw Michael and his brother Charlie who both gave me a cheer and rang some cowbell! The first lap, around 40 miles, was really speedy, and I was somewhat concerned that I was ‘burning matches’, but I also felt confident that I’d be okay. Starting the second lap, I passed by Charlie’s house again – and my parents were now out there cheering for me (they arrived in Denver at 7:10 am – I think they had an earlier morning than I!) which was fun to see.
As I expected, the second lap felt MUCH harder than the first, and, as chance would have it, I hit some issues taking in food. I took what I trained with and what I ate at St. George, but my stomach wasn’t happy. Maybe it was nerves? Maybe I needed to just power through? I don’t know, but I ended up taking in about 1,000 calories less than expected on the bike. I felt okay until about mile 55-60, after I stopped for water and for my special needs (taking more fuel from the bag because I was optimistic that I could turn it around). My pace was REALLY slow, like 2 miles slower than the first lap, and I thought to myself “I am fucked”. Somehow, once I climbed up Nelson (not a long climb but kind of a grind) and got to Hwy 36, my spirits lifted because the course was fun again. My split time was still pretty slow, but I just focused on getting back into a rhythm, and soon I hit mile 70 and then mile 80. I also figured out why my pace was so slow – I didn’t have auto-pause activated, so I stopped a few times and the clock kept running and my pace slowed down. I do think that knowing this helped me mentally.
Hitting mile 80, I thought to myself “This isn’t too bad, I’m almost done!”. While my food intake sucked, I stayed well on top of my hydration – I was using Skratch and also taking in water and Gatorade at the aid stations – and I was taking in salt on a regular basis. My only other issue on the bike was a slight case of ‘hot foot’, which I had already considered to be a possibility. I stopped once to loosen up my shoes, and then around mile 90, I stopped and took my shoes off to see if my socks were scrunched up. They were not, and I briefly thought, “What if I don’t put my shoes back on?”. I did, however, and somehow taking the shoes off seemed to help for the rest of the ride. The third lap is different from the first two, and there is a series of small climbs that someone described as “punchy”. I hadn’t actually ridden them (so lame of me), but I had driven them and knew what to expect. Honestly, it was so great hitting the crest of the last little climb – from there, it was a fast clip into town, mainly downhill. And, as I came into town, I passed this couple who had an awesome Australian shepherd, thought to myself “Hey, that looks like Obie” (a friend’s parents’ dog) – then I looked at the couple with the dog who started to cheer “Go Kristina!”. Oh, it WAS her parents! That was too nice of them to wait around for me to finally pass. I ended up finishing the bike course at 6:43:49. Again, my goal was 6:40, which I probably would have hit if I hadn’t stopped to deal with my shoes, but I was very happy with my time.
The run from dismount to handing the bike off to a volunteer was LONG (I preferred CdA where, as soon as you got off your bike, they took it away from you), but I saw Michael and my parents. In the changing tent, I had a volunteer to help out. I was also right in the doorway, so if anyone wanted to see me change, well, they could have. The volunteer was awesome – if I ever do this again, I’m going to have to remember to take something as a thank-you. I changed from tri shorts into running shorts because I wanted to feel more comfortable running. I also grabbed my hand-held water bottle with more Skratch in it, which was a mistake because I ended up dumping the bottle early on in the run!
Starting out, I felt okay and was, as usual, just happy to be off the bike and running, but my lack of fuel on the bike really concerned me. I decided to keep trucking along and see what my body would or could do. Like most people, I had been worried about the heat on the run, but some clouds rolled in, so the heat wasn’t an issue at all – lucky us! The run course was extremely spectator friendly, and that was a huge help as people lined almost the entire course – it never felt lonely out there, although it could get a bit crowded. This run reminded me a bit of the St. George run leg in terms of my focus. Yes, I tried to have fun, but honestly, I just wanted to get through the course and continued to move forward. I ran most of the course, except for the aid stations, where I walked, taking a variety of liquids – coke, water, Gatorade, even Red Bull. I also ate oranges, some watermelon from a spectator, and potato chips. But, except for the aid stations, I jogged along. I didn’t focus on specific splits, which was good because miles 10-13 or so would have left me highly disappointed! Instead, I told myself to keep moving and I’d ask myself, if I started to walk, “Do you HAVE to walk? Or do you just want to walk?”. Somehow, that motivated me to keep running, along with the thought of the group of spectators that was waiting for me at the finish line. I know that we race an ironman for ourselves, but my thoughts turned to my parents flying in to watch me, and to Michael and all the shit that he puts up with, and I felt that I owed it to them to keep moving forward. Hitting the turn-around at mile 23.5 (or so?) and knowing that it was mainly downhill from there and that I would definitely finish under 13 hours really let me push at the end, even though my quads and calves were killing and threatening to cramp up.
As I hit the finish, I was exhausted and happy. That run – well, the entire race – was tough, no doubt, and while my marathon time was slower than last year’s, I also felt that I pushed myself further and harder. I started that run with a lot of doubts, about my foot holding up (ironically, every other part of my leg hurt EXCEPT my foot) and unsure whether I’d bonk, but I stuck with it. I finished the marathon in 4:17:50 – and negative split it – and my overall time was 12:45:10!
After crossing the finish line, I immediately felt terrible, which I expected, so I got a sprite and some chicken broth (dinner of champions?), and hung out with a great group of spectators – Michael, my parents, his brother, 2 of his nephews and some friends. I felt incredibly fortunate to be so supported by that group of people.
And, in terms of the finish – I am so happy with my overall time. My A goal was a 12:30, which may have been possible, but I’m not thinking about those 15 minutes and wondering where or how I could have shaved them. Every step of that marathon was a fight to keep running, and I’m happy with that. Also, I know that it’s not about the final product but the process. In this case, I think that both the product and process reflected hard work over the past six months and a bit of grit on race day. Training for a second iron-distance event and racing one are a different experience from that first time “high”. There were fewer highs on race day this time around, and I was less social and chatty on the run and the bike. It may have resulted in a less ‘fun’ day out there, but I actually feel more satisfied with the end. I tried to cheer on other people, comment on cute kits, compliment people on their pace, but I also had to shore up my energy to just get through the day.
As always, I feel so fortunate to have started and finished this endeavor – not just on race day but throughout the season, to work with Beth who is amazing, and, obviously, I appreciate and couldn’t do this without the patience and the support that Michael has for my hobby.