So, Boulder 70.3 (2017) has come and gone. I planned to write a pre-race ramble, but failed to do so. Well, actually, I got this far: So, it’s been a while since I did anything that resembled a race event, over a year, to be precise, and, now, I’m having to remind myself of the protocols – formal and informal – of race week. I say that I’m racing in parenthesis because, while Boulder 70.3 is my “A” race of 2017, I’m nowhere near to being in true race shape, or what would have been race shape in past years, and really this is more like a dust-off-the-cobwebs-race. But, so it goes… Different years, different priorities, a lingering foot injury that kept my running game minimalistic for months, to say the least, and, yet, I’m looking forward to suiting up on Saturday and see how the swim/bike/run legs feel and to be out there, feel the energy of other people, and just embrace the fact that I have the good fortune and privilege to participate in the race.
There is a part of me, as silly as it sounds, that feels that I’m a fraud for my tri bike, my wetsuit, the new aero top that I bought this summer (to inspire and motivate me!). I often catch myself wanting to apologize to other people, as they zoom by me on their bikes, lap me in the pool, and/or outpace me on the run, to tell them that I used to be a little faster, I used to not suck quite so much. But then I think, “Well, fuck it”. While I’ve read plenty of people who’ve talked about finding faster in their mid- to late-40’s, I’d like to defend the case of getting a little thicker, a little slower, and just a little more settled about being totally average. Yep, I am an average age-grouper. In the past, my run could possibly lift me to a better overall place in my age, but, with only a few months of tentative running, I’m trying to be realistic about the fact that this is going to be HARD. And I’ll probably feel/be slow. And all of that is okay.
I thought that this race might be my swan song, a farewell to triathlon for now -or even forever. Yes, I realize that I live in the triathlon training capital of the world (please note that I say ‘training’ – I’ve definitely experienced “grass is greener” sentiments in terms of racing b/c California offered absolutely EVERYTHING, and Colorado, being a land-locked state with only reservoirs for swims, really can’t offer as much variety), but I lost my triathlon groove a while back. To be honest, I mainly signed up for this race to give my summer structure and to have a concrete goal on the horizon. Michael *might* have encouraged me to do so as well, probably for all the same reasons.
And, despite my grunching and groaning and the sense that I’d lost all of the gains that I’d ever made in terms of swimbikerun, I did enjoy quite a bit of the training. It was far from perfect and we experienced a few of those major life happenings in July (one positive and one of deep loss), so I did what I could but also had a flexible view about training. While I never found my swim groove, after a few open water swims in the Boulder Rez, I found some confidence in the water. In terms of the bike, I had several solid bike weeks of well over 100 miles in the saddle. Starting in June, pretty much 100% of the rides were outside, which probably didn’t help my speed/strength, but made the bike training experience WAY more pleasant. My favorite ride of the summer was the Tour de Steamboat in, obviously, Steamboat, CO (sorry for having zero photos). We opted for the 66-mile route which was gorgeous and fun and SO well supported – great food and drink at rest stops (watermelon, skratch, chips, M&Ms, pickles, just to name a few of the items)! We are hoping to return next year to ride again – maybe the 116 mile option, although that 66 mile route is pretty awesome. As for the run, I have to admit that I was really gun-shy about re-injuring myself, and while I needed to ramp up the mileage, I was extremely cautious and had only ONE double digit run before the race. I had to tell myself time and again that it would be okay if I ended up walking a lot of the run. Or, at the very least, that it would NOT be the end of the world.
So, fast forward to race week (2 weeks ago now) – I seemed to remember a lot of the pre-race rituals, which happened without too much fanfare and/or drama. I got in the shorter workouts and felt well-rested. Finally, I checked in on Thursday afternoon and tried to get a little excited about the event and the IM wristband. This didn’t seem to work – I barely looked at any merchandise, not even stopping for free samples of food – what was with me?! We migrated over to my brother-in-law’s house on Thursday night because he lives about 2 miles from Boulder Rez and the bike leg would go right by his house. I felt lucky that we had the perfect place for the weekend! On Friday morning, I dropped my bike off at transition almost as soon as bike drop-off opened up which is UNHEARD of in my racing ‘experience’. In fact, it was so early that my bike looked pretty lonely in its spot, and I was a little worried about it. By 10:00 am, I was done with all of the check-ins, bike drop-off, and pre-race workouts. This was the most efficient and stress-free pre-race experience I’d ever had. It was also, without a doubt, one of the least exciting too. I was well aware of that, and I wondered if I’d get ramped up on Saturday morning. “We will see” I promised myself.
After taking care of all the pre-race ‘stuff’ well before noon, Michael and I went to Lucille’s and I ate a TON – eggs, biscuit, potatoes, bacon. We also saw a really weird-looking guy as we were finishing up, and then we walked by the Boulder Theatre where Steve Earl was playing Friday night and realized “Holy crap! That really weird-looking guy was Steve Earl!”. We got a good laugh out of that, and I decided that it was okay that the most interesting thing of the day had nothing to do with the next day’s race. (Again, this is a major departure from last year’s race which was just a mess for me in so many ways.) Friday night came early – I studied the race maps again, organized my backpack for the morning, we cooked dinner, I enjoyed a very small glass of wine, and then we all went to bed EARLY.
I slept pretty well, waking up just before 5:00 am and leaving for the Rez by around 5:30. Michael and my parents would come later and see me before I dipped into the Rez. Since I was in the VERY last wave, it made zero sense for them to be at the Boulder Rez with me by 6:00 am. However, I freaked out and called Michael to come earlier because I had forgotten one important item – the HR monitor. UGH! Not as bad as forgetting a bike helmet or running shoes, but an integral part of ‘racing’, for me. I felt bad about freaking out – apparently I wailed on the phone “The shit show has already started!”. It took them a while to get to the Rez thanks to traffic – which was so bad that enough people were late that they delayed the start time by 15 or 20 minutes! Honestly, in many ways, Boulder 70.3 is a pretty easy set-up and experience, but the traffic on race morning definitely created a sense of stress for most people, athletes and spectators alike. Michael and my parents arrived right after the male pros started the swim, heart rate monitor in tow, and we had PLENTY of time to hang out and wait. And wait some more. I also had plenty of time to get in more calories and drink, drink, drink.
Awesome spectators ready for a long day!
After plenty of screwing around, I eventually suited up. Ready to go!
*A quick(ish) note about Boulder 70.3: How is it possible that this was the third time I’ve done this race?! When I don’t even like it THAT much?! It’s a pretty fast course, definitely PR-friendly, in large part because of the bike course which has lots of rollers but no significant climbs and is a bit short. The run isn’t easy but isn’t that hard either, so you can set yourself up for a good race. Finally, for whatever I think about IM branded events, they do offer good support, and this is no different, especially on the run.
Okay, back to my personal race last Saturday (another detail I like – Saturday vs. Sunday races). Did I mention that I was in the dead-fucking-last wave? It sort of bothered me going into the race, as I thought about how an earlier start would be nicer weather-wise, but, then again, all women 45-49 would be in the same situation, so I told myself to get over it. With the delayed start, I actually wasn’t even sure when my wave went off – either 8:29 or 8:33 or it could have been 8:31. So much for accuracy and worrying about that pesky little start time! Anyway, we ladies started around 8:30, and, as someone else said, at least no one would be swimming over us from following wave starts. The swim is pretty straightforward – just an out-and-back rectangle, and there was plenty of contact but nothing too crazy. I found feet on the way out, lost them at a certain point, and then found other feet coming back in. I’m never going to be a super awesome swimmer, so killing myself to maybe come in a little bit ahead of someone just doesn’t matter anymore. I think the Stroke and Stride swims (all two of them that I did) really helped me with sighting and also figuring out that if you can, drafting on the swim is the way to go!
Coming out of the swim, I felt pretty good. I had steeled myself for a 42+ minute swim, but as I exited, I thought that my time was around 39-40 minutes. (And it was – 40:06!) I started to peel off my wetsuit and then I saw them – wetsuit strippers! Yay! That is always a plus and helped whittle down my T1 time from 5+ minutes to just under 5. Transitions obviously continue to challenge me! I did wear a new aero top which helped as well because I didn’t feel the need to reapply sunscreen to my back and shoulders. That was a win!
And the bike course – not much to say except that plenty of people passed me, but I wasn’t TOO slow. As I mentioned in my course note – it’s a fast course with excellent roads, so not much to say about my experience this time around except that I felt pretty good throughout the ride – not much too say, but not much drama which is just fine! In terms of fueling/hydration: Skratch on the bike, I took in water and gatorade at aid stations, and I ate gels (Skratch, which I just discovered and love; Honey Stinger; and ProBar) and 1 pouch of Cliff banana beet ‘stuff’. I used to eat bars on the bike – seemed to get tired of one and moved on to the next, working my way through Cliff, Bonkbreaker, Bobo’s, you name it, I’ve tried almost all of the bars out there. As much as I like them on training rides, I just can’t seem to eat them when I’m trying to go hard.
I’d hoped to ride something around the 3-hour mark, and I wasn’t too far off with a 3:05 (it would be fast-ish for me, but, again, this is on a short course). I didn’t do the math in terms of what did I need on the run for a “good” day? And I’m glad that I didn’t. All I knew was that, coming off the bike, unlike last year when I really really really wanted to pack it in after the bike, my legs felt AMAZING! I had a – for me – good T2, would have been better but I made a quick pit stop at a port-a-potty before officially starting the run. It was fun to see my parents, Michael and a friend (she was a total surprise; I tried to dissuade her from spectating, telling her that it was going to be a clusterfuck, but she obviously paid me no mind)), and maybe that gave me a boost as well?
The theme of 2017, training-wise, was, of course, the lack of running, so even though I came off the bike feeling good, I had no idea if that feeling was temporary or that I’d somehow find that I actually *did* have leg endurance and would/could manage to run 13.1 miles. The Boulder run course is two laps around the Reservoir, so pretty easy in terms of pacing and knowing where you are on course. It’s a bit disheartening setting out and knowing that a LOT of the people running (or walking or shuffling) are on their second lap, but I just stayed focus on what I needed to do.
The first shot is just starting the run; second shot – I’m plodding along!
I thought that a 9:40 pace, while fairly slow in terms of past performance and pacing, would be manageable with my current run fitness, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that I was running at a faster clip. Honestly, I didn’t focus much on pace and I tossed the HR goals right out of the proverbial window. I figured that, well, if it came back to bite me on the ass, I’d live with my decision to push it a bit. But the miles ticked by, I treated the aid stations as a buffet line, walking through and grabbing water/gatorade/coke and eating oranges and chips, then picked it up again. When I hit mile 10 on the second lap, I knew that I was good to go – I wouldn’t bonk at that point and could even pick up the pace a bit! Overall, I never felt bad on the run, and maybe I could have pushed it a bit more, but it was just a good, solid run. And, while not my fastest run, I was close to ecstatic when I crossed the finish line at 2:02 (and some change).
Smiling at the finish!
And the irony of all of this – I ended up with a race PR! While not one leg was a PR time, somehow, adding them together, I wound up with a solid race. There’s no moral to the story, I have zero words of so-called inspiration, and I won’t try to put triathlon into some greater concept or give it deeper meaning. I will say that letting go of all expectations and focusing 100% on the process and not one iota on the final product allowed me to just enjoy the experience. Would I say the same thing if I hadn’t ended up with PR? I certainly hope so because it was one of the *best* race experiences I’ve had in a long time (mind you, it’s not like I’m racing that much these days…). And, maybe that feeling of being “settled”, of being an average age-grouper and of not giving too much of a fuck, of not even knowing my start time – maybe these little pieces contributed to a fun day. I certainly won’t claim to have been in great race shape (I wasn’t), but it was nice to put the pieces together for the first time in a while and just enjoy the experience. No deep take-aways here, but I *can* say that I’m looking forward to 2018! How’s that for taking the long view?