Since Ironman Boulder was the only real race on the docket for me last year, it had been 657 days since my last Olympic distance race and 636 days since I finished a race at all. Suffice it to say, although this was not my “A” race, I was still champing at the bit to get back out there.
The plan was always to head up to Boulder from home, a drive of about an hour so that meant waking up at to eat and load up for the trip. The morning meal ahead of a race has been pretty solid for me so a bagel with cream cheese, a smoothie and a banana sated me. I also had a cup of coffee on the way—it was before after all!
At that hour, traffic to Boulder was mercifully light and I made the venue with plenty of time to spare. That was a good thing because much to my chagrin that morning, my front tire had gone completely flat. I have no idea what happened but I was especially concerned that the problem was a tire, not the tube.
I racked my bike in transition and then took the front wheel to the bike support tent which was staffed by the good folks from Colorado Multisport. I had brought my own spare tube with me and they were happy to change it out for me. As they began the process, the technician looking things over was concerned with my tire. While there was nothing overtly wrong, he decided to change it out. Just like that, he grabbed a new tire out of a bin and put it my wheel. I asked about paying for it later on but they just said no problem. If you are in or near Boulder, this is the kind of company you probably want to patronize. I don’t see myself in the market for a new tri bike any time soon, but if I am, they’re likely to be my first stop.
With that worry out of the way, I set up my minimalist transition area and got body marked. Despite not having been through the process for some time, it all went just fine. After dropping off my last items, I came across my coach who was there primarily to support a group of newbies who had been training all winter for their first ever race (there was also a Sprint event). His advice to me: Go fast.
While actually an Olympic distance race, the philosophy was much the same as a sprint. Push hard, especially in advantageous areas such as downhills. Stay mentally focused and really aim to go at maximum effort for the distance. In other words, don’t let my mind wander to things other than executing the strategy.
Then it was time to get a couple of warm-up laps in before the start. I had been concerned about water temps, but getting in provided no shock. To be honest, I’ve been less comfortable getting into my rec center pool lately. I felt a little winded during the warmup but was hoping that would pass. As is usually the case, swimming was my strong point and I expected to do well.
While not right on time, the race started soon enough with elites and pros going in the first wave, followed by my group, . It was a waist deep start which is good and after a short wait, we were off.
Initially the winded feeling came back to me and I just struggled to find a comfortable pace. It took around five minutes but then my heart rate caught up and I as making comfortable strokes forward.
This particular swim course at Boulder Reservoir starts of facing east which means sun in your eyes and sighting much past the next buoy more or less impossible. I was however able to stay on a straight line. I think most of the variability below is due to GPS signal issues rather than me wavering around:
After making the turn and heading for the finish arch, I was somewhat pleased to see I was catching swimmers in the wave that preceded me. I did not expect to catch any of them but clearly even the best of triathletes struggle with the water portion of the event.
I kept stroking forward until my hand dragged on the ground, a good indicator that it’s time to stand up and run the rest of the way.
My Time: 26:36
Official Time: including the run to transition
I had the course a bit long as well at 1816 yards vs the expected 1640.
My bike was a bit wobbly in its rack and that made for a bit of a distraction. Fortunately, I got myself through reasonably quickly. I had purposely chosen a spot near the swim in/run out section. I soon found myself moving out quickly.
My Garmin watch seems to jump transition zones if you just look at it wrong so when I hit the lap button to start the bike, it actually had me entering T2. I managed to reset quickly back to bike mode and then proceeded out of the park.
A few people flew by me, but I honestly don’t think the race is won or lost in that initial section. In fact, from the start all the way up US36 was where my coach actually said I did not have to push quite as hard. There’s a lot of climbing so I was still around 205 watts for the section but it was definitely not maximum effort either. I continued as this steady pace until reaching Broadway where the first major downhill of the race is encountered.
It’s great to roll downhill after several minutes of putting forth a hard effort. However, this particular section of highway is also where you encounter bottlenecks on the course and faster traffic on the highway. Perhaps I’m more easily frightened as I get older, but I was a bit tentative here and while I did pick up some speed, I was not especially aggressive.
After climbing out of this section, the course is more flat to up and I cruised along at a respectable effort but again, was saving my legs for what was to come.
What was to come was a nice steady downhill on Nelson Road. This same section is on the Ironman Boulder course, but you are headed up hill and it gets very demanding, even demoralizing. On this day however, I was able to shift into the big ring and bomb on down to 63rd Street. I averaged 28.5 mph through this section and I have no doubt it was a big contributor to my overall time.
Turning right on 63rd Street is a slowdown, but overall, the section is characterized by rollers. Again I tried my best to keep up consistent effort. Primarily, I sought to keep my effort going until I had crested a hill and then ease up once gravity got ahold of me and started the downhill coast.
There has been a bit of an easterly breeze which I noticed riding down Nelson but now it was at my back and it allowed me to make decent time heading southwest back toward the reservoir. In races past, this is a place where I might have a gel but I had fueled well enough earlier in the morning, I felt no nutritional deficiencies so I just kept going strong.
The roll back down 51st Street to the reservoir entrance was uneventful and soon enough, I was at the dismount line and ready to complete the final stage.
I really had intended to put the Yankz on my new shoes this week, but by the time night rolled around, I really just wanted to get to sleep. As a result, for the first time I transitioned into running shoes I had to tie. Not a big deal but not something I’m going to practice going forward either. Again, my front tire wanted to turn making the bike wobbly, but I got out okay and was soon headed out.
My Time: Don’t have one thanks to Garmin issues
A good thought to have when you are in transition is “Hurry up and get out there.” Obviously you want to make sure you have everything you need but it makes a lot of sense to carry items with you and start running. You might be slower but you are moving toward your goal as opposed to stationary in transition where time is the enemy.
Leaving transition and heading up the hill on the main road through the area. It’s characterized by a single tree that more or less marks the top. It’s not a steep hill, but you do sort of feel it as you are trying to get your body to switch from riding to running.
At this point, I was feeling pretty good and passing a few people. Making the left turn onto the first of two flat dams, I kept my pace in the low range here but I could tell it was going to be hard to sustain. My HR was getting higher but I felt okay so I just kept the pace going as cleared the first mile, rounded the bend between the dams and then started on the second one.
The end of the first dam sees you headed down a bit of an incline around a spillway and then back up a hill of equivalent size. It got to me a little bit but I kept chugging along, now albeit a pace more decidedly above per mile.
Unlike past events out here where the run takes you on a gravel road along a canal, we went on more of a jeep trail (two tracks with weeds in the middle) to the turn around. It made passing one guy a little tricky but otherwise okay. The woman ahead of me was going at a good pace so I stayed a few yards back from her. It helped, but she was also wheezing and struggling and sounded the way I do when I’m doing a 200 meter drill at all out pace. Eventually, wheezing and all, she broke away from me and I think finished about 30 seconds before I did.
After the turn, I saw my pace drop some more but almost always below per mile except for a couple of climbs. I was hurting a bit by this point and feeling really anxious to finish up. Even as I got through the 0.5 mile-to-go point, it felt like forever to the finish line.
Passing that one tree at the top of the hill I saw my coach who encouraged me to keep going and treat the remainder like a “400 meter drill” which sounded awful. Nevertheless, it was downhill so I put on as much speed as I could muster and held it until things flattened out. It’s not exaggeration to say that I was pretty much putting all I had into my effort at this point, but finally, reached the end and, just as I did at the Harvest Moon in 2014, jumped onto the slip-and-slide finish.
My Time: 50:58
Official Time: 51:23
My Overall Time:
My efforts were good enough for 8th place out of 19 in my age group and 50th place out 218 overall. It’s better than my 2014 race in Steamboat (even when you factor out the flat tire incident) and better than my 2012 Rattlesnake Triathlon which was one of my best at the time.
I’m in recovery mode this week and then next week I think I’ll feel re-energized to start training hard again. There are not many weeks left until the big day and I think I’m starting to zero in on being fully prepared.
Thanks for reading and have a great week!