Racing in Steamboat was an absolute blast! With each race, I continue to learn more and more about this sport. Some days it’s a few steps forward in some areas while taking a few back in others. This race was special for me as it was the first race that my parents have been able to make and the first race that my girls have watched in quite some time. We also had the opportunity to spend time with our friends Izabela & Greg and their sweet girls Olivia & Natalia. The four girls were fast friends.
The alarm went off early, but with the 8am start time, not as early as it usually does. I tried to be as quiet as possible getting up so as not to wake any of the girls, particularly Izabelle (the one holding Gramma and softie in the picture) who was sleeping on the futon in the living room of our hotel room.
It was early and still very dark. Steamboat was fast asleep. I did my, now traditional, early morning run to wake myself up and get things moving. In 10 minutes, I was out of town and in another 10, back to shower and finish the final prep like filling bottles and packing up the van.
Chief texted at 5:20am sharp like he promised and we headed to Starbucks to pickup our coffee on the way. It was a chilly morning and luckily I had packed a light jacket but no track pants, so I shivered in my shorts. We were one of the first groups to get to the site and I picked the best transition spot, just a few feet from Bike in/out. After sitting in the van for a few minutes to warm up, we quietly said our goodbyes and I headed off for another run.
I’ve picked up some helpful techniques along the way from Coach EK and others around visualization and while on my 2nd run of the morning, I ran through my race prep. Everything but the swim went exactly how I visualized it. On the way out of the transition area for the last time before the race, I ran into my friend Charles, fresh off 2 amazing performances at nationals only a week prior. He would “phone it in” this race but still win his age group!
Before getting in the water, I ran into the family and was able to get a few pictures. Hollie took the one here with her cellphone right before I headed out to do my warmup swim. Having such a great support team made the day go very smoothly.
Though the air was chilly, the water was a comfortable 71 degrees and prime wetsuit conditions. The course is a right-handed rectangle with the longest leg being the homestretch. From the moment my group started, I knew I was in trouble. I did everything I could to set my mind at ease, but my lungs couldn’t take it. I spent race constantly speeding up and slowing down while focusing on technique and trying to be long and lean. On average, I probably made it through about 100 yds of the mucky water before having to swim breaststroke to catch my breath.
Sadly, I was paced by a gentleman swimming backstroke and my time was nearly as long as 2 weeks prior swimming the 1.2 miles of IM 70.3 Boulder. Turning for home and heading down the backstretch, things went from bad to worse. Now, instead of just seeing the billions of tiny bits of algae, I was grabbing big chunks every time my hand hit the water.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally out of the water and up the hill. Seeing the family cheering, waving and ringing bells put a charge back in my step and I was able to run up the hill and into transition.
I was slow by my standards, having a bit of trouble getting out of the wetsuit, and then had problems getting the socks on. On top of that, my hard earned transition slot was spoiled by someone who wedged her bike in on the end of my rack. I made a mental note to seek her out after the race, but I never saw her. My only real blunder was forgetting to turn on my watch so the GPS will have the satellites established when I hit T2 for the run.
The only good thing about being such a lousy swimmer is that I get the thrill of chasing down and passing a TON of people on the bike. I came out of the water 220/331 and had the 92nd fastest bike time, so I navigated my way around quite a few racers. The steady stream of people I passed made the ride go by very quickly. Some day I hope to do a race where I rarely pass people on the bike, but for the right reasons…
My first surprise on the bike came when we exited the lake and turned left instead of right. I had ridden what I thought was the course the day before and apparently I had gotten close, but was not quite on track. My recon had at least given me enough knowledge of the area to know when to push vs relax so as not to blow up. The power meter helps there a lot too. I had already decided on the spots where I was going to “burn a few matches” by going over my power threshold and in each of those spots I strategically made the trade off of extra power in exchange for speed.
The bike course is one of the most scenic of any race I’ve done so far, running through the valley alongside the Yampa river up into the southwest side of Steamboat. The 963ft of elevation gain proved to be a bit more than I expected, but nothing I couldn’t handle. My legs were surprisingly fresh at the end of the ride and I was able to push harder than I had planned without feeling like I was going to hurt myself too much on the run.
In just a shade over an hour, I was headed back down the hill towards the transition area, popping out of my shoes and getting ready to hop off the bike at the mount line!
Felt strong off the bike and made one of my fastest transitions. Bike down, shoes on, grab the hat (full of gear) and GO!
Coming out of T2, I was again greeted by my cheering family which was just what I needed to get off to a flying start on the run. It took a little while for my legs to come up to speed, and I drug it a bit for the first mile. You can also see from the data that the GPS didn’t acquire for a little over the first .25 miles. A little after the first mile marker, I saw Charles running at me and yelling for me to stop looking at the age of the guy in front of me and to just run. BUSTED!
I was a bit technologically impaired during the run as the pace data was coming at me completely bonkers. I could tell I was putting down a solid and even effort, so I largely ignored the pace data and just periodically checked the time. The run course is a simple out & back with gently rolling hills and nothing too technical. I made the turn at just shy of 25 minutes and feeling fantastic. I had to fight to keep myself from charging and blow up. I did test myself a few times by speeding up and then being forced to slow down. My coach was in the back of my mind telling me constantly to ensure that with every step I could finish the race at the same pace.
I crossed the finishline alone and the announcer for the day had some fun with it, though what exactly she said other than “Here comes Ken Woodruff from Superior Colorado!” eludes me. The family was waiting for me and I collapsed under a tree for a few minutes of much needed rest.Coming up the last hill, I gave it everything I had and crossed the line with what turned out to be my fastest mile. I’m no speed demon (yet), but I was thrilled to crank out at 7:35 min/mile to close the day.
On the way back to the transition area to pickup my gear, I was surprised to have several people stop me and say something about how I was “flying” on the bike. I’m not the fastest, but it felt good to be called out.
After we arrived back in town, we quickly loaded up the van, said our goodbyes to our friends, stopped for a quick burger and then headed back down to Boulder. This really was a great weekend!
Overall, I’m pleased with the results despite the swim being miles away from where I want it to be. There is a lot of room for improvement!
- Swim – 41:48
- T1 – 2:01
- Bike – 1:06:23
- T2 – 0:57
- Run – 48:16
- total – 2:39:23
- 124/331 overall 19/25 AG
To my friends Izabela and Greg, a special thank you for letting my family come up and stay with you for the weekend. We really enjoyed getting to spend time with you guys and can’t wait to see you again soon!
The Nordic Lodge is definitely the best place to stay in Steamboat!