For the first time in my triathlon career, I have returned to compete a second time on the same course in a 70.3. Ok, that’s a little over dramatic… I could have just said I did another 70.3 and it happened to be my hometown race in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. I’ll try to save the dramatics, but to get through this race I had to take myself to a very dark place full of doubt despair and the dreaded quit demons. Though I didn’t have a perfect day, I managed a fairly massive PR and learned a lot about myself and what it means to hurt. I can also see a clear path to getting below 5 hours and those dark conversations I had with myself have left me wanting to return to that dark place and deal with those demons.
When the alarm rang at 4am I was wide awake and had been for at least 15 minutes. For once, I had no problems getting out of bed, quickly donning my running threads and slipping out the front door into the cool darkness of the morning. There’s something special about running before the sun comes up and being there to see the dawn’s first light. It’s funny that it happens every morning, but I’m rarely able to enjoy it. My first run of the day only lasted 20 minutes, but it served it’s purpose well and I was able to eat a good breakfast and take care of business.
Once again, I continued my tradition of not making it to the venue with everything I intended. This time it was a pair of shoes to wear after setting up transition and heading to the BTC tent. Luckily, Conrad came to the rescue with a pair of flip-flops. Hugh completed my setup with a pair of safety pins allowing me to pin my race number on my fuel belt and eliminate the need for an additional race belt for the number. Just 2 more tiny reasons racing with a team is so great.
Transition closed at 6:30am and Tricia Dixon unceremoniously removed us from the area with a shout only she could deliver. And now the wait. Gun time for the pro’s was at 7:05am. My wave went off at 8:25am. Luckily, there were a few others around, so I got to wish everyone luck as they took to water to start their wave. Conrad, going off in the wave before me, and I spent the morning alternating between lounging in the tent, making trips to the port-o and then taking on a few extra calories.
After what seemed like an eternity, it was time to gear up, head to the warm-up area for a quick lap and get in line.
The day before the race, I made the decision to ditch the full wet suit and go with the sleeveless. In the past, I’ve had horrible problems with fatigue in the swim that would rob me for the entire day. Breathing has always been an issue. A great opener swim the day prior and I was convinced.
The last few minutes before the gun goes off can be nerve wracking, but with some help from folks like Will Murray and coach EK, I’ve learned a few tricks to help calm myself down. Having practiced in the two sprints earlier in the season, instead of being fearful, I was full of excitement for the day.
The horn sounded, I hit “back” on my watch and took off for the fast 50 like we’ve practiced (yes, I hit “back” instead of start and I wouldn’t figure that out until the next day). About 400 yds into the swim, I realized that this was by far the best open water start that I’ve had in a race. Usually by this time I was swimming breast stroke and gasping for breath. Credit lots of practice and an equipment swap. Every 100yds or so, I would adjust my stroke back to where it should be. Long and lean. Good Catch. No rush. Though I was in the back half of the pack for my age group, I found I was able to draft and sight fairly well and by the midpoint, I knew I was going to come out fresh and started to get very excited about getting on the bike.
For once, I came out of the water running and quickly made my way to the bike for a fast change. I crossed the mount line in the air and my butt hit the seat well past for a perfectly executed flying squirrel.
Starting in the 17th wave out of 17th definitely brings a mixed bag once you hit the bike. On one hand it was great to be able to pass people and get that (perfectly legal) draft. On the other hand, there were a lot of slower riders to work around. A lot. I think I passed about 1,000 people on the bike. I wish I was exaggerating. I spent most of the bike leg shouting letting people know I was coming up behind them. This was particularly the case for slower riders who were in the process of making a pass and doing it too slowly (blocking) or as we approached corners. In experienced triathletes are particularly dangerous in the corners. Even going slow, they often feel the need to aim for the apex despite everyone behind them.
One slight mechanical issue gave me a small scare as I was about halfway up Jay rode when I noticed I had a minor brake rub. It was nothing that would have impacted the ride too negatively, but through some acrobatics, I was able to reach back and adjust the break while riding.
By far the biggest surprise of the day came around mile 35 when after coming through a 90 degree bend and passing about 10 people, I feel a hand on the small of my back. I look over to see none other than super triathlete Conrad Rodas with a big smile he shouts “Come on buddy! Let’s go get’em!” I was astonished and at a loss for words, though before I could ask him what the heck happened, he was gone (check the link at the end to see what happened!).
I managed to keep the power very steady all day, kept ahead of my hydration schedule and ended up back at the Res ahead of target. The run back to the Res was a bit frustrating. There were 3 lanes of cones combined with slow riders which made for a treacherous ride. I ended up stuck behind a guy on a P5 who kept refusing to pass and finally had no choice but to take him in the traffic lane. You can actually see me on the wrong side of the cones in this picture to the left. Luckily, I was only scolded by the official and not penalized.
After my frustrations on the run back into the Reservoir, I made about 10 passes in the last 100 meters of the bike and executed a perfect flying dismount and once again was running through transition. Socks on. Shoes on. Grab the rest of the gear and go!
“Why didn’t you run faster?” was the only question coach EK asked me at the Tuesday swim after the race. I’ve been struggling with that question for weeks and it’s why it’s taken so long to get the race report written. I came out of the water fresh. I rode within my limits on the bike, but was unable to maintain my target of 8:40/mile. Once again, the run sucked the life from me and I had to go to a very dark place in my mind just to get through. Here’s a sample list of things I decided during the run:
- I’m done with triathlon, this is my last race, I’m going to drop out after the first lap
- I can get enough money for my gear to fund a new hobby
- I’m going to get SUPER fat; eat everything I can find
- I’m going to start drinking (heavily) again
- I’ll buy a cruiser bike (maybe an electric one)
- I’m taking the next week off and maybe the one after that
Obviously, none of these things are going to happen and it was all part of the rationalization that helped me get through the run. It wasn’t pleasant and it was much worse than just that list.
What got me through was the people I saw along the way. I passed Liz Sharpe from Tribella and got a big boost from seeing someone I know at the beginning of the first lap. At the end of the first lap, EK passed me and shouted a few words of encouragement on his way to the finish. Nothing like knowing on the second lap that my coach was a full hour ahead of me. On the last lap, I found Pam Schuckies and exchanged a few words about how much we were both struggling.
Throughout the run, I had no cadence and couldn’t get the legs to turn over. The aid stations helped, and I managed to get through them without walking. On the plus side, though my pace wasn’t where I wanted it, I was able to keep it fairly steady for the better part of the run and came in right at 2 hours which was an improvement of over 23 minutes.
The highlight of the day, by far, was coming into the finishing chute and seeing Hollie had made it with Clarye and Izabelle. It was a huge relief to be done and to get to share that moment with my family. I spent the next hour or so laying in the BTC tent unable to move.
Post race thoughts
Getting to see my girls at the end of such a difficult day was very emotional and it took a few minutes before I was able to talk. I was somewhat surprised when the emotional high of finishing this race was just as strong as it was last year if not more so. There’s nothing unlike the relief of finishing a big race and it takes a while to get back to normal. I spent the next hour or so curled up sleeping in the BTC tent, but got to spend the afternoon celebrating with the team while the girls played at the water’s edge.
After the race, we took a trip to 5 Guys for a Burger and Fries. I can’t remember the last time I had enjoyed a burger and it will probably be a few more months before I have another.
All in all, I was very pleased with my performance. As you can see in the table below, I was able to knock off a considerable 49 Minutes and 38 seconds from my time last year and was able to improve across the board in every area of the race. That said, this was a great race to use to prepare for Ironman Boulder on August 3rd. There’s definitely room to improve in each sport, but the run is particularly troubling. I’m going to have to spend some time reassessing my time goals for the big one and focus on race execution so that I’m able to ensure a good race.
All in all, I had a great race and made massive improvements over last year in every segment of the race. I have to thank my family for putting up with my craziness and determination. Without Hollie’s help and cheering from the girls, this never would have happened. Coach EK provided the strategy and instruction. All I had to do was execute.
By the numbers:
Last year was my first time racing the 70.3 distance and in 10 months I was able to make a huge improvement. Here’s a look at how things shook out:
Let’s get below 5 hrs next time!
A few of my favorite shots from the day:
If you’ve made it this far. You probably love race reports. Take a minute to check out the day Conrad Rodas had. This guy never ceases to amaze me. I don’t think I would have reacted the same way he did. My day would have been over.