This past weekend was the Boulder 70.3, which I was really looking forward to – even with mixed feelings (nervous about contact and choppy waters on the swim, and not sure if my foot would hold up).

On Friday afternoon, I biked up to the Boulder Reservoir (“The Res” for us lazy locals) for athlete check in.  The whole process was super fast and smooth, and within just a few minutes, I was all tagged and ready to go.

As I was wandering out of the Ironman Village area, I glanced to my left and saw some familiar faces hanging out and doing autographs and pictures.

rinnyReigning Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae (Rinny), and Tim O’Donnell – two AMAZING triathletes

Well, that was cool!

On Saturday, I headed over to the Res and checked in my bike (they now have a mandatory bike check on the day before to the race).  Everything was quick and easy, and I was even surprised that the traffic and parking at the Res wasn’t that bad.

Sunday dawned bright and early at 4am.  Fortunately, I live right by the race venue, so I didn’t have any crazy travel time.  It was actually a rather relaxed morning!

I headed out to the Res at 4:45am, and by 5:15, I was through the traffic, parked, and getting my things organized in the transition area.  The first thing to do was pump up my tires, since you always make sure to let the air out when you have to rack it the day before (sitting out in the sun all day can overheat your tires and cause a blowout – not good).  As soon as my tires were pumped up, I stashed the pump back in my car and headed back into the transition area.

On my way back into transition, I found a tri club friend who was doing body marking.  She wrote all over me (and only now, several days later, is it almost gone – that was some magic sharpie!), and then I headed back to the rack to finish sorting out my space.

In transition, I found a few friends from my tri club (including one who was racked right next to me), and chatted with some of the women in my age group.  This race had our bib numbers organized by age group, so all the 30-35 women were racked together.  Some people didn’t like that (theoretically, this could cause crowding in the transition area since we were starting the swim with our age groups), but I didn’t notice a problem.  Plus, these ladies were super nice, and great company during a chilly pre-race morning.

I laid down my small towel (NOT a full size towel – don’t be that guy), on top of which go:

  • Bike gear (in the front half of the towel)
    • A small throwaway squeeze-type water bottle (to wash the sand and gunk off my feet before putting on my shoes)
    • Bike shoes and socks
    • Sunglasses
    • Jersey/tri top
    • Spray sunscreen
  • Run gear (in the back half of the towel)
    • Running shoes
    • Hat
    • Belt with bib number already attached
    • Handheld water bottle with run nutrition in the pocket
  • On my bike went:
    • Bike garmin
    • Helmet
    • All nutrition

For the swim, I was wearing my tri shorts, heart rate monitor, sports bra, and bia watch (my review here).  Plus the obvious wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap.

After laying out my transition area, I stalled as long as possible before having to ditch the jacket and flip flops at the tri club tent – it was chilly out!  But once the sun really started to come out, things got much better.  And by the end of the day, we would all be wishing for those cool temperatures again.

I wandered down to the beach with my tri club friend who was racked next to me.  We had quite a long wait until it was our turn to start.  The pros were starting just after 7am, and our wave wasn’t until 8:05.

We ended up hanging out on the beach and watching the waves go before us, and before we knew it, it was almost our turn.  The few of us who had been chatting headed over and joined in with the other silver-capped swimmers just a few feet from the start line.

Oh shit, now I was really nervous.

I should mention that I haven’t done much swimming during this round of training.  It’s always the first thing to go when things get busy and you’re trying to squeeze things in.  Plus, the last race-setting open water swim I had done was Ironman Lake Placid, where I was miserable and getting beat up the entire time.  PLUS, on top of that, the day before this race, I had gone for a “nice little open water practice” at a local reservoir, and it had been HORRIBLE.  It was super choppy, and everyone was having a terrible time fighting the chop.

So now I was panicking a bit.

I could see that the water was calm, so that was fine, thank goodness.  But I still was really nervous about contact on the swim.  When you’re just watching from the shore, you can’t see the free-for-all that can be an open water swim.  People get punched, kicked, and smacked all over.  I have been kicked and punched in the face and chest while swimming on more than one occasion, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

While we were all standing around waiting for our turn, we were chatting a bit.  Turns out, the women in my age group are AWESOME.  Everyone was so nice and sweet.  And all everybody wanted to do was get in the water, do their thing, and not get beat to crap.  There were plenty of us saying “if you don’t hit me, I won’t hit you, buddy!”  So it was good to know that I would hopefully be surrounded by like-minded individuals.

The 30-35 men went off.

Oh shit.  Now it’s our turn.  Shit shit shit.  I don’t want to get punched in the face.  Ahhhhhhh!

We shuffled into the water, about waist/chest deep, and waited.  There was a five minute gap between each wave.  People (myself included) were bouncing around, talking, laughing, and “dancing” to the music.  (I was mostly doing this to distract myself, and not let others know how much I was freaking out.)

I positioned myself in the back of the group, to give myself even more of a chance to not get caught up with anyone who was going to beat me up in the water.

The gun went off.

Oh crap.  Here we go.  Just stop thinking and start swimming.  It will be fine.

The Swim

For all my worrying, this swim was fantastic.  I have never had a better, or more contact-free swim in a race.  And I think that had everything to do with the age group wave start.  So, thank you, 30-35 women.  You are a pleasure to swim with.

One of the annoying things about swimming at the Res is how murky the water is.  I had heard about this ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I was still amazed at how little I could really see.  I could barely see my own fingertips when they were stretched out in front of me.  Where this could become a problem is that you can’t see the feet of a person who is swimming ahead of you.  So to prevent face kicks, you have to keep an eye out for people as you are sighting for the buoys.  It took me a couple minutes to get used to this, but as soon as I did, things opened right up, and I had pretty much clear water the whole way.  There were a handful of accidental body bumps along the way, but nothing that was problematic.

We swam out from the shore for quite a way, then made a right to do the top end of the upside-down triangle that was the swim course.  On this second leg of the swim, I noticed a couple hot pink swim caps creeping up on me.  These were the fast people from the wave behind me (women, 25-29 – those young whippersnappers – before the start, our wave had been joking about forming a human wall to block them on the swim).  But no major problems here.  At this point, we were spread out enough that they could navigate through us slower folk.

After what felt like an eternity, we made another right turn and started heading back to the shore.

Oh my god, this leg of the swim took forever.  I think I was just getting tired, but WOW did it feel long.

I kept wondering when that stupid arch would look any bigger.  Plus, I was starting to get a bit toasty in my full wetsuit.  The water was warm enough (high 60’s) that I could have managed just fine with a sleeveless.

Just keep swimming… just keep swimming…

FINALLY, I put my feet down and felt the bottom.  Hooray!

I’m always a little dizzy and lightheaded after a long swim, so I took my time standing up and walking out of the water.  I felt like it took a bit longer than normal for me to get my bearings back, which I’m guessing has to do something with the altitude (even when you live here, you can still get a bit oxygen-deprived on the swim).  Or it could just be a lack of swim conditioning.  Also highly likely.

I crossed the timing mat, stopped my watch, and made my way to the transition area.

Swim time: 45:17 (Just a couple minutes slower than I had hoped, but I’ll take it, given my nerves and lack of swim training.)

T1

After walking off the dizziness, I jogged down the bike racks, found my spot, stripped off the wetsuit, and got to work cleaning off my feet.

Shoes and socks go on, jersey on, helmet on, sunglasses on.  (Always put your helmet on before unracking your bike – you can get DQ’d if you don’t.)

Good to go!

I took my bike off the rack and jogged to the mount line.

Transition time: 5:51 (Not bad.  Could be faster.)

The Bike

I made my way out of the Res and onto the bike course.  The first several miles of the course are a long, gradual, nearly imperceptible uphill.  This, combined with the fact that it’s the start of the bike and I don’t yet have my bike legs going, is so frustrating.  I felt like I was working so hard, and going nowhere.

In addition to that, due to the age group wave start, I was constantly being passed by the fast people from the waves behind me, which is incredibly demoralizing.  The wave starts were wonderful for the swim.  Less so for the bike.  But after 20-25 miles, people were mostly settled in with riders of similar speeds, and that stopped.

We made our way up Route 36 and north out of Boulder.  This part of the course is really beautiful as you ride right along the edge of the foothills.  There are some decent-sized hills that aren’t quite rollers, and aren’t quite climbs.  They’re just enough to make you work hard.  But they’re over in a minute or two.  I’ve ridden this part of the course many times with my tri club, so I felt very comfortable on it, and just kept chugging along.

Eventually, we made a right onto Route 66.  Once you get to this part of the course, things flatten out and you can really start to get some speed.  I actually averaged 16.3 mph for the first hour (which included all of that long gradual climb, and just a little bit on 66), which I was happy to see.  16.3 is still slow for many people, but it’s improvement for me!  In previous years, I always seemed stuck at 15 mph, so I’m very happy to see those numbers creeping up (albeit slowly) now.

The next hour of the course was the fastest section.  It’s mostly flat, with some rollers, and just a couple steep (but very short) climbs.  I was feeling good, and picked up the pace a bit.  For the second hour, I averaged 17.2 mph.  I was starting to get excited now.

The third hour of the bike, I was unfamiliar with the course, and didn’t know what to expect.  All the times I’ve been out to ride, I’ve ridden the course for the full.  The courses are the same for the first 30 miles or so, but then the split.  I was anticipating that this last part of the course would be mostly flat with some rollers, and a fast ride back to the Res.

I was wrong.

There were a LOT of long, gradual (but somewhat steep) climbs in this section!  I was getting frustrated, because I had been excited and getting my hopes up to keep my average speed around 17mph, and now I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  But then, I realized that I was still averaging more than 16mph, which is what I was originally estimating, so I couldn’t really complain.  For the third hour, I averaged 16.3 mph

Eventually, we turned right back onto Diagonal Highway, and we were nearly done.  We rode our way back into the Res and to the dismount line.  I got off my bike feeling good, and very happy with how the ride went.

Bike time: 3:23:01 (16.55 mph average)

T2

T2 was a quick change.  Rack the bike, helmet off, shoes off, jersey off.

Running shoes on, tri top on (it was getting hot and I was desperate for a sleeveless), hat and sunglasses on, race belt on, grab water bottle, and GO.

Transition time: 4:52

The Run

Heading out of the transition area for the run, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect.  My foot had been painful on only a two mile run just a few days earlier, so I wasn’t expecting anything good.  I was fully prepared to stop running and accept the DNF the minute my foot started hurting.  This race was not my A race for the season, and it just wasn’t worth risking the Ironman – which was only 7 weeks away.

I started running out of the Res and made the right onto the dirt road that goes around the lake.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far before I started to notice some tightening in my foot.  This was not a good sign.  I was only two miles in, and had 11 to go.  I wasn’t in pain, but I knew that I would be long before I finished the entire run.

The question was, was it worth it?

I stopped on the side of the road for a minute and thought about my options.

  1. Keep running and finish the whole thing, regardless.
  2. Keep running, finish this loop (it’s a two loop run course, so each loop is 6.55 miles), and see what happens.
  3. Stop running, and walk the rest.
  4. Stop running now, accept the DNF, and don’t do any more damage.

I ended up picking door #4.

I know I could have run further that day, but I really had no idea how much further.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the whole 13.1 miles, so finishing the run wasn’t going to happen anyway.  I figured it was smarter of me to stop at 2 miles before my foot started to get painful (at this point it was just getting a little tight, but that’s how it starts), and avoid any further damage.  I may have been able to make it through the whole first loop, but even that was questionable.

As I was standing there on the side of the road, the roving medic came by and asked if I needed anything.  I told him I just had an ongoing foot injury and wasn’t going to be finishing the run today.  So he took my timing chip, and I slowly walked back along the course, cheering as I went.

It was a bummer to DNF, but I know it was the right choice.  I really didn’t want to make my foot worse and not be able to race Ironman Boulder in a few weeks.  So even though having a DNF sucks, in this case, it’s better than the alternative.

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