Just a note: I wrote this ages ago and then waited and waited for the race photos. Yes, I’m one of those people who purchases the race photos, depending on the race! And, yes, Boulder 70.3 actually happened – a few weeks ago now, which, in racing time is like “years ago”.
In some ways, it doesn’t feel *right* to spend 500 or 5,000 words on a navel-gazing ‘race report’. Additionally, now that 7-8 days since last Saturday have passed, so many details that seemed oh-so important at the time have faded. That, however, might be a good thing as maybe I’ll be somewhat more brief.
The lead-up to Boulder was far from perfect, even before Michael got hit by a car, and I can’t count the number of workouts that I skipped if I wanted to. Plus, compared to the past two years when I prepped for Wildflower and St. George and spent a solid 4 months training, the three months in preparation for Boulder 70.3 seemed a bit ‘light’ and certainly less focused. However, I had signed up for Boulder 70.3 back in August, thinking that it would be good practice for IM Canada. When I took that race off the table, Boulder remained as the focus for the first half of the year. Despite the uneven training, I thought that I could pull off a decent race, at least on the bike and the run, and my goal was to FINALLY (for fuck’s sake already!) go sub-6:00.
For the first few days following the car/bike incident, I didn’t think about Boulder 70.3 – I demoted it as a priority, and I was seriously doubting that I’d make it to the start line. However, with encouragement from Michael, patience from Beth who had coached me throughout my pathetic spring, and an open mind to see how my body felt moving (not even ‘training’), I decided that I should at least pick up all of my race gear – bib, swim cap, ugly Ironman bag (what the hell is with the Ironman Corporation these days? Their design team kind of sucks), and an okay t-shirt. Additionally, a friend got out on the bike with me leading up to the race and, I feel guilty even now, but it felt so great being out there. That ride, to be honest, was a bit of a test. While I had ridden on the trainer, gotten through the runs okay (except for my run on “Global Running Day”, which I didn’t even know at the time was a thing; that run was downright terrible), I felt that, before getting on the bike for 56 miles on Saturday, I needed to hit the open road beforehand and see how it felt – physically but also on an emotional level.
To say that my pre-race routine was a bit off-kilter would be an understatement. I continued to get my final workouts in, and I also started race-prep on Thursday. However, with Michael returning home on Friday, the day before the race, I knew that I’d have to fit in all of that pre-race stuff as best as I could, and what I couldn’t manage, well, I’d let it go. I’ll admit that I’d never fully appreciated Michael’s role as sherpa. Yes, I’ve expressed gratitude, and I’ve always loved having him there to help me out – and to share the experience with me, in a way – but it struck me how much I depend on him to help me with the pre-race logistics, not the huge items, but things like helping me deal with the bike while I’m checking in, taking my morning clothes after transition has closed but I’m still waiting around for my wave to start… These are minutia, but they matter.
In addition to Michael’s absence, which I was already feeling, other aspects of the pre-race prep were a bit of a comedy of errors. Okay, not everything went wrong, but it was not smooth cruising. First of all, I went for my FIRST open water swim in 10 months (the last one was IM Boulder – August, cough cough), and while I managed to get the wetsuit on and the swim went okay, about 8 hours later, I found out that they closed Boulder Reservoir because of high bacteria levels. Oh, great! Then, on Friday, during my pre-race “just take the bike for an easy spin” ride, I got a flat about 4 miles into the ride. “No problem,” I thought, “this is good practice for me since it’s been about year since I changed a flat.” No luck, however, after I blew my spare tube and that flatted as well. I looked charmingly pathetic, I’m sure, as hordes of triathletes and cyclists passed me, most of them asking if I was okay – and offering to help, but with 650s, I doubted that anyone had a spare tube that fit my tire. At that moment, I felt pretty lonely out there, but I told myself to suck it up and call my brother-in-law who lives about 2 miles from where I was stuck. I now owe him twice for picking me up along with bike/s (he picked me and the bikes up after Michael was hit).
On race day, I ended up quite glad that I flatted on Friday since there’s a good chance that I would have gotten a flat going over some train tracks in Hygiene. But it made for a sucky experience and left me feeling frustrated that I hadn’t gotten in my ride.
On the other hand, in the days leading up to the race, I really had let go of all my expectations, so I found the flat tire and tube to be a somewhat comical situation. Just another bump, but, as I thought about the past 10 days, as cliché as it is, I knew that I would be lucky to be out there racing. Beth sent me a message to help with my pre-race mindset: Ok, to say you have had a roller-coaster of a build-up would be an understatement. That’s why on race day, you have the privilege, the opportunity, to LET IT ALL GO for 6 hours or so and enjoy the moments. Enjoy your breath, enjoy the challenge, enjoy your health, give thanks to be there… So, that was my focus for Saturday. Not time goals. Not execution. Just get out there and appreciate the fact that I *could* race.
The Race: Arriving at the Rez, alone on a beautiful morning, I parked the car and sat there for about 10 minutes, thinking “I could just turn around right now and crawl back into bed.” However, Michael was sending me texts, encouraging and cheering me from afar (not really THAT far away, but he might as well have been!). So, it was on! I didn’t feel excited or super nervous – to be honest, a part of me just wanted to survive, which sounds melodramatic, but just get through the day. On the other hand, a part me WAS excited to be out there, to feel that race-day energy, to see other people and listen to the buzz around me. I was definitely quiet as I prepped for the race, but there was a hum of excitement around me.
I knew that it was going to be a hot, hot day, especially with an 8:15 start, the second-to-last wave, but I told myself that everyone in my Age Group would have to deal with the same conditions. I had low expectations for the swim, and it was, not surprisingly, quite mediocre. I just didn’t commit to swimming this spring, and my time reflected this. There was a woman that I kept going back and forth with, and, honestly, I should have just gotten on her feet and stayed there because she pulled away from me right at the end. I exited the water around 40 minutes and in 48th place in my AG. As I said, a mediocre swim! Also, the Boulder Rez was ‘mysteriously’ clean of bacteria for race day; I was skeptical about the sudden good health of the water, but I also figured that I’d be okay.
Out of the water – sweet relief!
So, the bike, after a lengthy amount of time in transition. I don’t know what the hell I do in transitions, but I think my T1 average for the 70.3 distance is about 5 minutes. Anyway, about the bike. It’s a pretty flat and fast course with some rollers, and I felt pretty confident about the last 35 miles or so since those were roads that I knew SO WELL. Like the lame triathlete that I am, I actually hadn’t ridden the first 16 or so, mainly because they are along the Diagonal Highway which is less-than-ideal for riding (it’s legal to ride there, but it’s a wide highway with cars that scream by). However, I discovered that the first 10 miles are super fast, as I clocked around 21-22 mph which, for me, is unheard of. I lost some of that speed when we flipped it, but even with the grind back up the Diagonal, I could keep the speed up. By the time I reached what is a typical route on Hwy 36, I was already at Mile 20, so I told myself “Think about the rest of the ride as just a normal Saturday ride, a fun loop that you do all the time”. Additionally, when I passed by my brother-in-law’s house, he and a friend were outside, cheering people on with a cowbell, so that was extra special.
Most of the ride was fun, and I felt that I was keeping my speed up. While I had tried to tamper down expectations, I also hoped for a good (for me) bike split. I was happy to lose a group of people on the long, steady climb up Nelson Road, and at a certain point, when I had about 5 miles remaining, I thought to myself “Holy crap, I might break 3 hours for the first time!”. With that in mind, I kept pushing a bit and crossed the bike dismount line at a new PR 2:57:29. Yahoo! Even better, I only slipped one place, from 48th to 49th in my AG (this also speaks to the mediocre swim, I realize, but usually a TON of faster ladies pass me on the bike; while I’m still not super speedy, I’m making progress).
The run: I tend to be ecstatic to transition from the bike to run – happy to get off the damn bike, but not so much this time. As I set out at noon or thereabouts, I felt the full impact of the heat of the day, something I hadn’t appreciated on the bike, and I think that I knew – or maybe I told myself and jinxed myself? – that it was going to be a long haul. The Boulder run course is two loops with a total elevation gain of 380 feet or something like that. “Easy enough” or so I thought. That was before it became, what seemed to me, a death march. The 6-hour mark, an ‘easily’ attainable goal when I started the run, became less and less important, and I cared less and less, as I just wanted to finish the damn run. Actually, not true – if I’d had my choice, I would have walked away, just said “I’m done”.
Okay, I do recognize that it was a choice to continue. I was still trucking along and, as slowly as I ran, I still continued to pass people. I told myself that it was ridiculous to give up when other people were clearly having a harder time out there but they were sticking with it. My thoughts also turned to Michael and everything that he’d dealt with and everything still facing him. Also, I used the ironman marathon strategy: don’t think about the entire run, break it up into segments. So, I’d get to mile 4, and take inventory of where I was physically and mentally; I’d then push myself to finish the first lap, and then bargain with myself to get to mile 8. I’d only walk up a hill and then start running again -or shuffling. I would try to tag along with people who seemed to pace themselves well. Little by little, I chipped away at the miles, and hitting mile 10 and then 11, I knew that I *could* do it, I could get to the finish line. I even picked up the pace those last 2 miles, thinking “Well, that sub-6:00 just might still be possible”.
And it was! With my worst run to date, at 2:11:14 (yikes – my full IM runs have been faster than this pace!) I snuck in at 5:59:08. What still amazes me is that I also moved up in AG rank from 49 to 23, despite that run – or because of it. The fact that the #22 lady beat me by two seconds does rankle a bit, however, there’s not much to do about it at this point.
Final thoughts: This wasn’t a “I’m going to prove [fill in the blank] to whomever” (myself, Michael, the world?) moment. In many ways, I felt that I had committed to the race back in August, and while getting to the start and finish line was a challenge, I’m glad that I lined up with the other ladies at 8:15 and that I crossed the finish line 6 hours later. Training and racing have certainly receded in importance these days, although I know that movement – being outside and pushing and challenging my body – is still a priority, not because I have a race (I don’t) but for my mental wellbeing. So much of our summer is now “on hold”, so I appreciated that I *was* able to get out there last Saturday, to feel alive, to feel energized, to cheer for other people, to take in other people’s support and thank them, time and again. I recognize that triathlon is a selfish sport, although, as a hobby, it’s certainly less pernicious than others, and maybe racing despite everything (or because of everything) was a selfish act on my part. As per usual, I don’t have a tidy, easy way to sum up the experience or to end, this didn’t *heal* anything, but, with everything else so uncertain, maybe I needed a focus, even for a day, even for a few hours, to face the certainty of the start line and to chase down that finish.