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Missed the beginning?  Pre-race, The Swim, The Bike.

The Run

I came out of the changing tent in T2 and jogged my way out of the high school area.  The transition exit popped us out on the Boulder Creek Bike Path, and I immediately saw two of my friends on the side of the path, cheering their heads off.

run 1They caught me adjusting my race belt.

So far, I was feeling good!  I had no idea how my foot would hold up, but I figured I would run for a bit and find out.

The sides of the bike path were crammed with spectators, making the run very loud and fun.  Boulder definitely knows how to spectate a run!

The run is a two-loop course that’s shaped like a Y, so there are three out and back legs, and you do the whole thing twice.  This did get a little monotonous, but it was also kind of nice to just focus on the out and back at hand.  It broke things up quite a bit.  I still have mixed feelings about this setup.

I ran along for the first two miles and was feeling pretty good.  The constant ups and downs on the bike path (underpasses) were tiring, but not insurmountable.  Mostly just annoying.  Everyone was very happy and chatty, and I started to find myself settling in with certain people.

After two miles, I started to notice that familiar tightening in my right foot, and knew it was decision time.  I had absolutely NO intention of DNFing, so stopping wasn’t even an option.  It was all about managing the foot for the next 24.2 miles.

I settled in to a run/walk situation.  I knew that if I just walked, my foot wouldn’t get any worse.  I also knew that if I ran too much, it would blow up on me like it did at the Colfax Marathon in May, and I wouldn’t even be able to hobble my way into the finish.  Time goals were now out the window.  This was all about managing.

Around this time, I also settled in with a nice guy named Paul, who was also doing a run/walk system.  We ended up chugging along together for most of the rest of the night.  We pushed each other when the other didn’t want to run, and we kept each other occupied by chatting as we went.  Sometimes, one of us would be feeling pretty decent, so we would run ahead, and the other one would chase for a bit.  It definitely made the drudgery of the Ironman Shuffle more entertaining.

run 2Me and Paul (in the red).

I decided to try something new this time around, and started grabbing a cup of Coke at each aid station.  I had heard good things about it from others, but never drink soda myself.  But man oh MAN, that stuff was like the nectar of the gods on this day.  I may have said exactly that to several of the volunteers throughout the night.  I will definitely do that again.

One other thing that was nice about the Y shaped course was that you had a lot of chances to bump into friends who were also out there.  I caught most of my training buddies at least once.  Including… Molly!  She had made the bike cutoff, and when I saw her coming in the other direction, I may have screamed, and sprinted to her to give her a big hug.  She looked tired, and terrified of being pulled off the course, but she was doing fantastic!

I caught several of my friends out spectating on the course throughout the whole run.  They are the best!

run jumpBeing a doofus.  Paul looks unamused.

The out-and-backs continued into the darkness.  At mile 20, I came to the big screen that the Newton Running Lab had set up, and my friend Laura popped up with her pre-recorded cheer.  It definitely brought a smile to my face.  I can’t even imagine the waterworks that must have caused for the first-timers.  I would have been a mess!  It was definitely a nice little touch.  I hope they do that again next year.

The last 6 miles were fairly quiet.  We were bringing up the rear, but the course definitely seemed more crowded that normal.  I think a lot of people ended up getting hit hard with the altitude, sun intensity, dryness, heat, and deceptively challenging bike and run courses.  At this point, Paul and I had picked up a couple other guys, and the four of us were bringing it in in a group.

We worked our way back toward the high school, and then past it for the final out-and-back.  Up to Eben G Fine park, and then the final (gradual) downhill to Pearl St.  We had been obsessively checking the time all night, and knew we had plenty of time to spare, so there were no worries there.

At this point, my feet were on FIRE.  It was the only problem of the day (aside from managing the tendonitis).  I had stupidly forgotten to change my socks and bodyglide my feet in T2, and now I had blisters on blisters on blisters.  It was AGONY.  Every step made my heels feel like they were on fire.  But that was okay.  I only had one more mile to go.  Then I could pop those suckers and get even.

Perhaps my favorite sign of the day was the one I saw as I came to the high school.  It said “To the finish” with a big arrow.  I happily followed it.

I looped around, off the bike path, and up onto the street.  It was here that my friend Laura caught me – cowbell a-blazing.

blurry finishLaura running me in.

Laura ran up 13th St. with me for two blocks, cheering and cowbelling.  I entered the barricaded area, and into the bright lights of the finish chute.  To my left, a guy who was just about to finish stopped and was about to propose to his spectator girlfriend.  Mike Reilly was freaking out and sprinting toward them, but still managed to squeak out “You did it! You are an Ironman!” as I crossed the finish line.

IM Boulder FinishSuperstar!

I crossed the finish line with a big grin, got my medal from the female pro winner, Danielle Kehoe, and proceeded to hobble my way to Laura, and her boyfriend, Nick, who were waiting for me just a few feet away.

after the finishAfraid to take my shoes off and see these blisters.

I sat on the sidewalk and started taking my shoes off.  It was AWFUL.  I was horrified.  After several minutes of just sitting and enjoying the feeling of being shoeless, Laura, Nick, and I rolled my bike (which they had awesomely collected for me) back to my car, so I could go home, shower, and sleep.

 

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Missed the beginning?

Weekday pre-race, Pre-race, The swim.

The bike

I got to the mount line and hopped on my bike.  The ride out of the Res was lined with spectators, and we zoomed along the slight downhill and out onto the open roads.

The first several miles of the bike are a long false flat that really kick your butt if you’re still trying to find your bike legs.  And there are a couple small, yet unpleasant hills right as you exit the Res as well.  But at this point, I had ridden this course so many times, it was a non-issue.  That’s one of the perks of living here.  I feel like I know this course inside and out at this point.

We worked our way up 36 and north out of Boulder.  The ride up 36 is beautiful, and a bit challenging.  However, these short climbs don’t feel too bad on fresh legs, and I powered my way through them feeling quite strong.

Then I got to the out-and-back spur on St. Vrain.  As I turned right off of 36, I was looking forward to the lovely long downhill that awaited me.  I flew down it, knowing full well that I was going to have to do a u-turn and power my way back up it in only a few moments.

Going up was MISERABLE.  YUCK.

Everyone was huffing and puffing and working as hard as they thought they could spare.  When I finally saw the turn to go back into 36 and continue north, I was ecstatic.  MORE DOWNHILL!  Hooray!  We had earned it!

Most of the first half of the bike course is uneventful.  The roads are smooth.  The hills are manageable.  And the day was still young (read:  not too hot).  We rode our way north up into Loveland (just south of Fort Collins) without much to report.

A friend of mine lives in that area, and had told me to keep a lookout for her around mile 40.

Sure enough, at mile 42, there she was!

bike 1

It took both of us a minute to notice each other, but we gave each other a shout, and she flipped her sign over to reveal a nice big “FSU” (PG version: Mess Stuff Up).  That gave me a good laugh as I continued along the next uphill.  My awesome friend also caught me again a few miles later.  Superstar spectator!  I’m so glad she was out there!

Around Loveland, the bike starts to get ugly.  Good thing we only have 60+ more miles to go!  (Please note the sarcasm.)

The whole second half of the bike course is either long, gentle uphills, or never-ending false flats.

IT. SUCKS.

Also, at this point in the day, it’s starting to get hot.  It was actually a pretty glorious day, compared to the weather we had had for the last several weeks (in the 90s, and brutally hot – over 105 out on the roads).  But there were a ton of people out on the bike course just dropping like flies.  It could be anything from the altitude, to the intensity of the sun (much more intense when you’re at elevation), the dryness, the heat – who knows?  But it was getting ugly out there.

I continued on – knowing full well what was in front of me.  I hated this part of the course in training, and I hated it now.  But for some reason, it felt SO MUCH WORSE today.  I think that was partly because I had gassed my legs on the swim with all the backstroking.  I have to kick a lot to keep them from sinking when I backstroke.  I barely kick at all when I swim normally.  I think it was also partly because on race day, you inevitably end up going JUST a tad harder than normal due to excitement and all the other people around you.  It just happens.

Whatever it was, I was feeling it today.

I rode my way south along Colorado, and then eventually on Highway 119.  Around the little rectangle of 6th and 7th, and then west on highway 52.  This is my least favorite part of the whole course.  Highway 52 just keeps going, and going.  And it’s one hill after another.  And by now, I’m SO TIRED.

As I was plugging my way up the second to last hill on 52, the girl about 30 feet in front of me looked like she was about to topple over.  I saw her pull over and get off her bike, doubled over in pain.

Uh oh.

Myself, and another girl who was right there both stopped to check on her.  Apparently she had hit a bump early in the bike, and lost all her nutrition.  She had been trying to make do with the aid stations, but was not doing well.  She was cramping up bad, and looked like she was in a lot of pain.  We started rifling through our pockets and bento bags and giving her everything we could spare to eat and drink – nuun tablets, potato chips, coconut water, gummy bunnies…

After a few minutes, a sheriff arrived and called in someone from medical.  There were people dropping left and right, so after we assured him that we could keep an eye on her until medical arrived, he went off to check on the next person.

While we waited for medical to arrive, we chatted a bit.  Turns out, this girl was a local, and was in my tri club!  So hey, I made a new friend.  Races are funny like that.

After a while, a race official showed up and told us we could take off.  They would keep an eye on our friend until medical arrived.  We all exchanged some parting words of encouragement, and went our separate ways.  All in all, it had been about 13 minutes.  But that’s race karma.  I would hope that someone would do that for me if I were in the situation.  And really, at the end of the day, 13 minutes on my time doesn’t matter.

I pushed my way up the last hill on 52.  At this point, I was at mile 99 of the bike and nearly done.  I kept telling myself, “Okay, just fly down this downhill, make the left, power up The Bitches, then it’s all over except for that little hill on 57th…  Nearly done!”

I flew down the downhill at the end of 52, and made the left onto 79th.

The first Bitch loomed in front of me.

I made her my bitch.

Then the second.

Then the third.

I was done with the worst of it!  I turned right onto Lookout and felt like I was flying down the downhill.  The left onto 75th, right onto Jay, and then left onto 57th all flew by in a blur.

The small hill on 57th wasn’t great – it’s so small, but at that point, my legs are SO TIRED.  But I got up it, yelled to a spectator “yay!  All the hills are done!” and continued on.

After the short little bridge to get back onto Jay, I felt like I was home free.  I turned onto 26th/Valmont, and the last two miles flew by.  I was blowing through town, yelling “I love you!” to every volunteer and cop I could see.

When I finally got to the turn into Arapahoe, I told the volunteer at the corner “and I love you the most!”

I flew down Arapahoe, towards the high school, SO ready to be off my bike.

And my awesome friend caught me again just as I was about to turn into the high school.

bike 2

I think I might be fist pumping in this picture… Hard to tell…

I turned into the high school, rolled up to the dismount line, told the volunteers how much I loved them, and hopped off my bike.

Bike time: 7:42:07

Not great, but if you subtract the 13 minutes helping my new friend, that puts me just under 7:30, which was what I was aiming for.  So I’m happy with that.

T2

I jogged/walked my bike through the chute and into the transition area.  This was a rather long 1/4 mile run in bike shoes, which a lot of people complained about after the race.  Quite honestly, I was just so happy to be done with my bike that I didn’t give a crap.  Although, a note for anyone racing next year – do NOT do this run barefoot.  A lot of people did, and ended up burning their feet (badly) on the black track.  At LEAST wear socks.

I handed my bike off to a volunteer, and ran down the row to get my run gear bag.

In the changing tent, yet another wonderful volunteer took care of me and all my gear.  I changed shorts and shoes, put on my hat and my race belt, grabbed my handheld water, and was on my way.  All I had left now was the run.

Transition time: 9:21

To be continued…

Missed part 1?  Read it here!

It’s 6:30 am.  I’ve been awake since 3 am, and am antsy to get in the water and get going.  The sun is finally up, and 2,400 triathletes are crammed into the starting area.  Everyone is chatting, and in their faces you can see a mixture of excitement and nervousness.  Ironman Boulder is about to begin.

The swim

At 6:35 am, and age grouper cannon went off.  I was seeded at the back of the 1:15-1:30 corral, so it took a while to shuffle my way to the water’s edge.  Along the way, I chatted with some of the women around me.  Many of which were doing their first Ironman that day.  At 6:46 am, we crossed the timing mat and stepped into the water, which was a very comfortable 74 degrees.

I took a couple steps until I was about waist deep, and then started swimming.

Right away, I could tell I had seeded myself much better than I had at Lake Placid.  There was basically no contact.  I was in heaven.  I did have to stop once or twice when someone cut me off, but those were pretty minor things.

Getting to the first buoy was uneventful, which is wonderful in a swim.  But somewhere around the first buoy, I noticed that my breathing was getting out of control, which was starting to make me panicky.  My solution to this is always to simply flip over and backstroke for a few seconds until I can get my heart rate back down and get the breathing under control.  Sometimes this happens with race day adrenaline.  It’s not that big of a deal, and is usually pretty easy to fix.

So I flipped over and started backstroking.

After a minute, I tried to flip back over and swim normally again, but I still couldn’t breathe properly.

Uh oh.

Backstroke, backstroke, backstroke.

Flip.

Nope.

Fuck.

While I was still backstroking, I started to wonder if I was going to be able to even complete the swim, let alone the rest of the day.  This was not looking good.  For a brief moment, I considered flagging down a kayak just to have something to hang on to and catch my breath for a second, but I didn’t want to go there.

Keep on backstroking…

Every time I flipped over to swim normally, I would find myself out of breath after just a couple strokes.  I ended up backstroking for about six buoys – which is a LONG TIME.  After the sixth buoy, I was FINALLY able to get into a rhythm and start swimming normally.  Thank goodness.

At this point, I was way behind where I had wanted to be, but hey, at least I could breathe.  Now it was just time to put my head down, plug away, and sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” like I do for all open water swims.

99 bottles of beer on the wall.  99 bottles of beer…

Take one down

Pass it around

98 bottles of beer on the wall…

Oddly enough, this works really well for keeping my strokes smooth.  It’s the perfect beat.

56 bottles of beer on the wall…

Make the first turn.  Are we done yet?  Sheesh, this swim feels long.

30 bottles of beer on the wall…

Hey!  Is that my friend Molly just to my left there?  I should try to catch her!

2 bottles of beer on the wall…

Dammit, she’s not getting any closer!

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

Good lord, where is that second turn buoy???

25 bottles of beer on the wall…

There it is!!!

1 bottle of beer on the wall…

Seriously, why the hell am I not catching her?  This is annoying.

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

Well, hey, at least I can see the swim finish now.

64 bottles of beer on the wall…

I feel pretty good!  Nice!

45 bottles of beer on the wall…

This is great!  My goggles didn’t leak at all…

44 bottles of beer on the wall…

:: Goggles start leaking a little ::

3 bottles of beer on the wall…

Allllllllllmost there!

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

Allllllllllmost there!

72 bottles of beer on the wall…

Allllllllllmost there!

29 bottles of beer on the wall…

Hells yes!  There’s the bottom!  Let’s blow this joint!

Swim time: 1:48:08

Not at all what I was hoping, but everyone’s watches measured it as 2.6 miles, not 2.4, plus the breathing issues.  I’ll take it.

T1

I pulled off my cap and goggles and ran to the wetsuit strippers.  They had my wetsuit off in a few seconds, and then it was off to grab my gear bag and into the changing tent.

My amazing changing tent volunteer had all my stuff out of the bag in a matter of seconds.  I had already worn my tri top and shorts under the wetsuit, so all I needed to do was put on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses.  Then it was time to load up the jersey pockets with food and some extra CO2 cartridges, and I was off to grab my bike.

No bike grabbers here like there were at Lake Placid.  We had to run and get our own.  Not a big deal, since you had to run past it to get to the mount line anyway.

Grab the bike, and run out of the transition area, up the small hill (not fun in bike shoes), and to the mount line.

T1 time: 7:14

 

To be continued…

The Boulder Peak olympic triathlon:

So I just realized that I never wrote a race report for the Boulder Peak tri.  Whoops!  Overall, it was a really good day.  My swim was about two minutes slower than I would have liked, but I can’t complain, considering how little swimming I’ve done this season.  The big success of the day was the bike.  I realized before the race that I always ride at the same pace – Ironman pace – no matter what the distance is.  I always average 15-16 mph.  So before The Peak, I told myself that I had to actually ride it like the 26 mile bike that it was.  I figured I could hold 17 mph without a problem, and could possibly push myself to 18 mph on a good day.

Well, by the end of the bike, I was averaging 17.8 mph!  I felt great, and passed quite a few people on the second half of the course.

I got off the bike and my legs were still feeling good for the run.  I didn’t push the pace here like I had originally wanted to, but I held up just fine.  No foot pain, and a pretty consistent pace.  I ran roughly 10:00/mi all the way through, but added on a few extra (15-30) seconds each mile while I stopped to ice up and drink up at each aid station.  It was crazy hot out, so this was totally worth it.

Overall, it was a great day.  I was really happy with how it went, and I had a lot of fun.  Final time: 3:16:40.

On to Ironman stuff…

It’s time for Ironman Boulder!  The big race weekend is here, and the festivities are in full swing.

Thursday, I headed over to the high school to check in.

check in

Aside from the muddiness (we got a ton of rain on Wednesday and the field was a mess), check in was uneventful and very quick.

Later that afternoon, I headed over to the Boulder Running Company for the Underpants Run!  I was super excited about this.  It turned out to be a blast.  Can’t wait for next year!  Also…  ahem…

Apollo

Yup.  That’s me and Apollo Ohno.  :: Swoon ::

our butts

Me and some of my amazing friends.  (Saucony Runderpants)

We were led in the Underpants Run Oath by Michael Lovato, who was serving as the Underpants Captain.  He was hilarious.

michael lovato

After the oath, we headed out for our short, but incredibly entertaining run.  We ran less than a mile to the pedestrian mall, where we did some lunges and whatnot, and then ran back to the store.  There was also a beer aid station along the way.

beer

Love it.

After we were done, I put my pants back on, and headed out to the Q&A session at the TrainingPeaks headquarters with Apollo Ohno, Rinny, and Crowie.

q and a panel

me and rinny

crowie

My god, he’s gorgeous.

Friday (today) was less eventful, but still a fun day.  I headed back over to the high school to register for 2015 and meet up with some friends.

me and molly at the village

Me and my awesome friend Molly, who is doing her first Ironman this weekend.  Go Molly!

Then it was time for lunch, laziness, and prepping gear bags!

gear bags

all packed

All packed and ready to go!  (See my packing list here)

Tomorrow (Saturday) is bike and gear bag check, and lots of being lazy.  Then it’s early to bed.  Race day will be here before I know it!

Overall, I’m feeling good going into this race.  As usual, I didn’t train exactly as I had hoped, but I feel like my bike is solid, and the swim and the run are fine.  The biggest question mark for me going into this race is my foot on the run.  I haven’t run much at all since the Colfax Marathon in May.  I’ve been trying to give my foot as much time to heal as possible.  My longest run since that race has been 7 miles.  My foot hasn’t bothered me for the last month or so, so I’m hoping all will be well come Sunday.  But you never know.  All I can do is keep moving.  So we’ll see what happens there.  I do have some time goals, but ultimately, I just want to have fun and enjoy the day.  That’s the most important part.

Ironman Boulder is 24 days away!  Where did the year go???

This past Sunday, I got out for a great century ride.  It was brutally hot.  Someone’s bike computer read 107 degrees at one point.  Mine read 102.  It was nuts.

I was really proud of myself on this ride because I don’t like to ride alone, and will often use that as an excuse.  But this time, the girls in the group that I normally ride with were on a recovery week, so I was on my own.  And this time, there was no time left to put it off until another day.

So Sunday morning, I loaded up the car, and drove to Tom Watson Park.  I was on my bike by 9am, course map and turn-by-turn directions in hand.  I know the whole first part of the course, but with the course changes, I was unfamiliar with all the roads up in Loveland.  This always made me stressed out riding with a group.  The girls I usually ride with are awesome, and we have a very laid-back no-drop group.  But even knowing that, I’m always stressed out that I’m going to be dropped, miss a turn, and then be all on my own to get back.  Not that this is really a problem – thank goodness for smartphones.  But I’ve noticed that it makes me stressed out, which makes the ride less fun.

I rolled out of Tom Watson at 9am, and headed out on the course.  Down Diagonal to Jay, up 36, and onto 66.  For the first hour, I was spinning out my legs, and getting things warmed up.  I felt good!  Today was also a test run for my new nutrition, so I was really curious to see how that worked.  My old standby of the Clif shot drink mix and strawberry Gu chomps didn’t seem to be working for me anymore.  I was bonking hard around 50-70 miles in every time.  So I switched it up, and decided to try out some Skratch drink mix, with some applesauce pouches, and peanut butter and strawberry jam Uncrustables instead.

The other new thing I was testing out today was the new tri shorts from Coeur Sports.

Worked like a charm!

It was stupidly hot, so I went through a lot of water and had to make two refill stops at gas stations before I even got to mile 65.  But aside from the heat, I felt really good!  I wasn’t bonking, AND – hallelujah of hallelujahs – my lady parts felt fantastic!!!

By mid-afternoon, I was riding south on Colorado, wishing the sun would go away and that fantastic storm that I had been eyeballing for the last hour would come my way.  I was in the middle of trying to decide if I should make the left onto 66 and follow the actual course, or just continue straight on Colorado all the way down to 52.  At that moment, I saw a group of cyclists taking the course on 66, so I decided to make the turn and follow the course.

This ended up being a very good decision.

I rode east on 66 for a couple miles, and noticed that I was slowly catching up to these people.  Eventually, once we got onto highway 119, I caught the back of their group.  It was a bunch of women out riding the course.  We said some brief hellos, and commented on how damn hot it was (this was the WORST part of the day), and I continued on past them.

A few minutes later, I caught another two in their group and said hello.  This was the point when my garmin said 102 degrees, and I was pretty much hating the world and wishing I could go jump in a frozen lake somewhere.

At the intersection of 119 and 52, I stopped for a minute and got off my bike to stretch out my lower back.  At this point, a guy in a car stopped to ask if I was alright.  I gave him the usual smile and “I’m good!  Thanks!”  He then asked if I needed anything, and said that he was working as a mobile aid station to about 50 triathletes out on the bike course that day.

Helloooooooo, angel with the cold water!

I wanted to kiss him.

I dumped out the (now very hot) water in my bottles and refilled.  The girls I had passed a few minutes ago had now caught up, and we chatted for a minute.  Turns out they had someone acting as a mobile aid station as well, and she was just on the other side of the intersection, about 200 feet away.  They invited me to ride the rest of the way with them, which seemed like a much better option than pushing through the heat alone.

I rode the last 30 miles with these 5 ladies, and had a fantastic time.  Aside from the brutal heat, and the 40mph wind gusts that we faced at one point, it was a great ride.  They were all super nice and friendly, AND they had cold water.  (Swoon!)

Eventually, I rolled back into the Tom Watson parking lot just as my bia and garmin ticked over to 100 miles.  Perfect!

Overall, it was a great day.  My nutrition seemed spot on, and the seamless chamois tri shorts are the work of angels.  I averaged 15 mph on a super hot and occasionally super windy day, so I’m really happy with that.  Race day goal is to be above 15 mph, but I’ll be perfectly happy to do 15 as well.

Since this ride, I’ve gotten a few good trainer sessions in at home, and have some runs and OWS sessions planned for the next couple days.  This Sunday is also the Boulder Peak olympic tri.  I’m hoping to push myself a bit on the bike for this race, since it’s so short.  I always seem to settle into the same sort of pace, no matter what the distance is.  It would be nice to race it like it’s an olympic, and not a full for once.  Then again, I could just completely blow up if I do that.  Either way, it will be interesting.

After this weekend’s race, I have one more peak training week, and then it’s taper time!

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.

Somehow, the year is flying by, and we’re already only one week out from Ironman 70.3 Boulder.  When did that happen???

It’s been a tough couple months trying to get training in, but I’ve been doing alright.  As usual, not as well as I had originally hoped, but my conditioning is pretty decent, and somehow I seem to be getting faster (thank you, living at altitude!), so that’s good.

Going into the 70.3 this coming weekend, my goals are pretty much the same as usual:

  1. Have fun and enjoy the day.
  2. Give it my best effort.
  3. PR if possible – given my recent biking and running paces, I should be able to do this if nothing unexpected happens.

Ideally, I’m expecting something like:

  • Swim: 42-43 minutes (I might be a bit slower on this one since I haven’t swam much.)
  • T1: 5 minutes
  • Bike: 3:30 (16 mph average)
  • T2: 5 minutes
  • Run: 2:04 (9:30/mi average)
  • Total time: 6:27:00

So we’ll see what happens.  The foot has been doing much better, but it’s still a question mark on anything longer than a few miles.  I’ve been trying to take it easy and give it a chance to rest and let the irritation go away.  So far, so good.  I’ve been able to run 3 miles with no pain during or after, so that’s progress.  I’m hoping to get in a couple 6 mile runs this week to get a better sense of how things are going with the recovery.

This weekend I got to do my first open water swim of the season, and it went surprisingly well.  The first OWS is usually a bit bumpy and there are usually a bit of early season jitters.  But this time I felt great.  I never got jittery, and actually had a really nice time in the water.  My swim conditioning could use a bit of work between now and the full in August, but I should be fine for this coming weekend.  And I have a few more OWS practices coming up this week to make sure I’m comfortable and ready to go.

One thing that’s been really great is riding with people from my tri club.  There’s a fantastic group that goes out for a weekly no-drop ride, and I’ve been loving riding with them.  We had a great 59 mile ride after our OWS on Saturday.  It’s fun to ride with them because it’s a low stress group that still pushes me a bit, so I’m improving quite a lot every time I ride with them.  Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people, since I’m still pretty new to the area.

Another awesome thing about Boulder – so many group workouts and races to choose from!  I now have SIX different OWS chances throughout the week, plus the weekly Stroke and Stride series, and multiple weekly tri club rides and runs.  It’s fantastic!

Anyway, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep.  Lots to do tomorrow!

Missed something?  Pre-Race, The Swim, and The Bike

The Run

I came out of the transition area just elated that I had made the bike cutoff, and with time to spare.  The crowds of spectators were thickly lining both sides of the road, and it took me a minute to remember that my name was on my bib.  So many people were cheering me on by name and it threw me off for a minute.

Starting the run, my legs actually felt really good.  Way better than they had at Beach 2 Battleship in October.  I started out on the run course around 4:40 pm.  I knew I had until right around 11:40 pm to finish, which gave me just about 7 hours to complete the marathon.  That was doable.  I felt slightly relieved knowing how much time I had, but I was also feeling good, and didn’t want to cut it close – so I ran my way down the hill and out of town.  Somewhere just after coming out of the transition area, I spotted my support crew.  I had asked them to be nearby to make sure I made the cutoff, and sure enough, there they were, cheering away.

At this point in the day, most people were on the run course, so the roads were crowded.  At this point, most of the people I met were starting out on their second loop and were a whole 13.1 miles ahead of me.  It was humbling, but I was just happy to be off the bike, and not pulled from the course.  I know I’m slow, I made my peace with it.

For nutrition, I started out with some strawberry Gu chomps – my personal favorite.  But at this point in the day, my stomach really can’t take much sugary stuff.  It just doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  So after a few pieces of Gu chomps, I switched to nothing but water and pretzels from the aid stations.  The salt was spectacularly delicious, and it was a nice change from all the sugar I had been downing all day.

I made my way down the big hill just outside of T2, out of town, past the ski jumps, and down the other big hill (both of which we had to come back up later – twice).  Then it was time to turn left onto River Road for the nice peaceful out-and-back.  The scenery was beautiful through here, and I was still feeling really good.  I was doing the same run/walk system that I had done at my half iron a few weeks before – walk the uphills and aid stations, and run everything else.  At this point, I was pretty surprised with how good I felt.  Sure, I was tired, but I wasn’t in any pain.  For the first 8 miles or so, my pace seemed to be hovering in or around the 11-12 min/mile range, which I was very happy with.  One of my favorite signs at this point of the course was “You win.  Andy Potts never did a 17 hour ironman.”  (If you are unfamiliar with ironman, Andy Potts has won Ironman Lake Placid two years in a row now.)

I continued on with my run/walk out to the turnaround on River Road, just before mile 9.  Coming back, I chatted with a guy near me who had just graduated college, and was in a similar field as me, and was considering moving out to Boulder, Colorado after the race (which I just did – hence the delay in posting this part of the race report).  We had a lot in common and ran/walked along together for a few miles.  He was very sweet and encouraging and pushed me to run just a little farther, and just a little faster than I would have otherwise, and I really appreciated the company.

On out-and-backs, I’m always keeping my eye out on the other side of the road to see who’s around.  I spotted several friends from my tri club, kicking butt and taking names.  One of them, Jeff (who raced Lake Placid with a broken collarbone last year), actually lost all his nutrition off his bike early in the day, and ended up having to spend an hour in the med tent getting fixed up.  And he was still doing amazing.  We exchanged a quick hug and some encouragements, and then ran off in opposite directions.  Also at this point, I saw my other favorite sign of the run leg.  It said “Prancercise the next 1/4 mile to loosen up.”  I especially enjoyed this one because I had just been talking with people about prancercise the day before.  I laughed for a long time about that one.

Eventually, my buddy and I parted ways, and then it was time to climb back up the big hill by the ski jumps, and head into town again.

At the top of the big hill, there was a woman at the end of her driveway.  She was cheering through a construction cone and was completely awesome.  Also, possibly drunk.  But damn entertaining.

Past the ski jumps, there was another awesome cheering section that had a table filled with beer.  There was another “free beer” sign, and, while I’m sure it would have tasted delicious, I figured now probably wasn’t the best time.  Some people were taking them up on it though.  Shortly after the free beer, I passed my hotel, where I spotted my support crew again.  And they had gained a person!  I saw her from waaaaaay down the road.  My best friend had planned on coming up for the race, but I really didn’t expect her to make it through all the traffic.  From about 500 yards away I screamed “YOU MADE IT!!!!!” and ran for a hug.  I was so happy she was there.

Heading back into town, the cheering crowds were everywhere.  The other big hill of the run course is just as you’re coming back to swing past the Olympic oval.  On this hill, there was a guy with a bullhorn, yelling at people who were walking.  I told him I would run up it on the second loop (I may have lied there…).  Just at the top of the hill, I finally saw my student who I had been looking for at the top of the Keene Descent earlier in the morning.  I gave her a big sweaty hug, and headed on my way.

When I got to the top of the hill, I was right in front of the Olympic oval, which functions as the transition area, and the finish line.  The party was raging, and I couldn’t wait to get there.  But first, it was time to turn right onto Mirror Lake Drive for the next out-and-back.

Running down Mirror Lake Drive was great.  The roads were lined with barricades, and the crowds were jam packed in along them.  People were cheering my name everywhere (which I still found weird, but nice).  Also in here, I kept bumping into several people from my tri club, most of whom were about to finish their second leg, and the entire thing.  I was a bit jealous.  But they bust their butts to be that fast.  One day, I will too.  For now, I’ll keep slogging away at the back of the pack, and having fun doing it!

I ran my way down Mirror Lake Drive, past all the crowds, tents, parties, DJ’s, and the aid station.  One mile down the road, I hit the turnaround, and started back towards the oval.

Coming back down Mirror Lake Drive was awesome but hard at the same time – for no other reason than at the end of it, you either go right or left.  Right to finish, left to do the loop all over again.  And I had to go left.

13.1 miles to go!

I turned left and started out on loop 2.  My student was nearby, and jogged along with me for a few minutes to chat, and then headed back to her friends.  By now, the amount of people running was significantly less, but I was never alone.  I ran out of town, past the ski jumps, down the hill, and turned left to do my second out-and-back on River Road.

The hardest part at this point was that no matter where you were on the course – even all the way out at the end of River Road – you could hear Mike Reilly echoing through the night.  It was such a tease!  It was starting to get dark, and I was doing obsessive race math to constantly know what was the absolute slowest I had to maintain to finish by the cutoff.  At this point, I knew I could walk the rest and be just fine, so I decided to take a little walk break for a couple miles to stretch out my legs and re-energize myself.  I walked from somewhere around mile 15 to somewhere around mile 18, and then it was time to go back to my run/walk system again.  It was working well for me, and I was still feeling great, which was shocking.  The only slightly unpleasant thing was that I knew I had a bit of chafing going on, but it was tolerable, so I just gritted my teeth and tried not to think about getting in the shower later.

By the time I got to the turnaround at the end of River Road, and mile 18.something, it was dark.  At some point, someone handed me my glow necklace, which does little to help you see, but they’re still fun.  I went around the cone, and started heading back towards the village.  There were still several people behind me on the course, and I really wondered if some of them would make the cutoff.  I was still worried about making it myself, even though I knew the math all worked out.  I was paranoid.

With paranoia as my fuel, I ran as much as I could back down River Road.  At one point, I passed a guy.  We exchanged our hellos, and I muttered something about running because I was just trying to make sure I would make it in in time.  His response was “don’t worry, you can walk and finish at this point.”  It was reassuring to hear it from someone else (I never trust mental math at this point in an ironman), but I still wanted to bank as much time as I could.  So I kept running.

I got to the end of River Road, and made the right to go up the hill near the ski jumps.  Lo and behold, the drunk construction cone lady was STILL THERE.  I would bet she hadn’t stopped cheering all day.  She was awesome.  As I ran past her, I gave her a high five and told her as much.

The free beer table was quiet, but there were still a few cans out.  I didn’t take one (I would be drunk off one sip at this point in the day), but there didn’t seem to be many left.  Clearly, it was a popular pit stop.

I got back into town, and it was time for the last uphill of the day.  I didn’t really have the gas to run it (it’s pretty steep), so I walked – quickly.  As soon as I crested the top, it was back to running.  The crowds were amazing.  The closer it gets to midnight, the crazier the party gets.  People were everywhere!  I passed the oval, made a right, and headed out for the out-and-back (essentially the victory lap) down Mirror Lake Drive.

Since 6:40am, I had completed 138.4 miles.  I had 2.2 miles to go.

I ran down Mirror Lake Drive, got a couple high fives from some kids along the barricade, and exchanged many “congratulations” with others around me.  A few minutes later, I reached the turnaround point, and the last 1.1 miles of my day.

I told myself earlier that I HAD to run the entire thing once I hit that turnaround.  It was a slow run (11:03/mi pace), but at that point in the day, I felt like I was flying.  Congratulations were being cheered back and forth from one runner to another, and everyone was smiling.  As I approached the oval and the finish line, I could hear Mike Reilly getting louder and louder.

I reached the end of Mirror Lake Drive, and it was finally my turn to go right and enter the Olympic oval.

The crowds were amazing.  The lights were blazing (which can be a bit of a shock when you’ve been out on the dark course for the last few hours), and everyone was cheering.  The moment I turned and entered the oval was such an awesome feeling.  The curve of the oval was laid out in front of me, just begging me to go around the corner and see the finish.

Entering the oval, I felt awesome.  I was running strong, and passed three other people who had also just entered it.  We exchanged congratulations, and they told me to go ahead of them.  Everyone wants their own moment at the finish line, and they appeared to be waiting until no one else was coming in around them.

On the curve, I saw my support crew.  I was so happy to see them.

photo (17)

Then it was the moment I had been working for.  I rounded the last curve of the Olympic oval, and there was the finish line.  It was a huge sea of people on both sides of the finish chute.  Everyone was cheering, music was blaring, and somewhere in there, Mike Reilly said “Sarah, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

photo4

(My friend took a picture of the jumbotron since they couldn’t be right at the finish.)

Run time: 5:54:35 (still slow, but significantly faster than B2B!)

Final time: 16:02:36

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was met by two catchers, who grabbed me by my elbows, wrapped me in a space blanket, put my medal around my neck, gave me a bottle of water, and steered me toward the table to get a finisher’s shirt and hat.  Those ladies were efficient.  After getting my medal, shirt, and hat, my one catcher stayed with me (to make sure I didn’t pass out, etc.), made sure I got some food (best watermelon EVER), and got my finishers picture taken.  Once I had done all that, and she was sure I wasn’t going to fall down, she headed back to the finish line, and I headed off to find my support crew.

Just beyond the finishers area, I saw my student again.  I gave her a big hug, and we chatted for a few minutes until my crew appeared.  Then it was time for sweaty hugs all around.

photo (7)

photo (15)

They are the BEST!

They brought me my post-race bag, so I had a chance to change into flip flops and put on warmer clothes.  When I sat down to take off my shoes, it felt so nice, I didn’t want to get back up.

photo (9)

SO flattering.

They collected my bike and gear bags, and I hobbled slowly for a few blocks to get back to the car.  (Come on guys, get it together!  The car should be on top of the finish line!)  Then it was time to head back to the hotel, shower (ow, ow, OW), and SLEEP!

IMLP medal

Missed part 1 or part 2?  Check them out!

At this point, I have finished the brutal swim, and am about to mount my bike and see what happens.  My biggest worry going into the race was whether or not I would make the second bike cutoff at 5:30pm, so that was really the only thing running through my head at this point. Just get in by 5:30.

The Bike

I crossed the mount line with a big pack of riders, clipped in, and headed down the first downhill of the bike course.  We rode out of the Olympic oval and down the ramp that goes up to the high school.  Then it was a few blocks of fairly steep downhill, until you turn onto the main road to begin the ride out of town.  So far, I was hanging with the pack much better than I anticipated.  My swim had been a bit slower than I had hoped for, but overall, it was still a fairly average time, so there were plenty of people around me.

I had turned my garmin on when I got my bike, but it took a while for it to find satellites (about 3.5 miles or so).  The ride out of town and past the ski jumps was pretty uneventful – mostly just a chance to warm up and find my bike legs after swimming for a while.  Right after I passed the ski jumps, I flew down a nice little hill, over the bridge, and began the climb up to the top of the Keene Descent.

The climb out of town is a bit rough, but I’ve found it’s been getting easier the more I ride the course.  I put my bike in the easiest gear, and just chugged away, one hill at a time.  Many people passed me like I was standing still, but I also passed a fair number of people too, so that was nice.

At the first aid station, I had nearly exhausted one of my water bottles, and decided to chuck it and get a new one.  At B2B, I got off the bike at each aid station so I could fill my bottles, but this time I didn’t want to go racking up precious minutes that I might need later.  So I went for it.  Coming into the aid station, they had actual goals for us to throw bottles and trash into (some had giant bullseyes).  I chucked my bottle (they’re cheap), made eye contact with a volunteer holding water, slowed a bit, and held out my hand.  He jogged along with me for a second while we did the handoff, and then I was on my way.  Beautiful!

Nearly to the top of the climb, I passed the house of one of my students.  She wasn’t out yet (still asleep – college kids!), but her parents were.  We said some quick hellos as I rode past, almost done with the first big climb.

It’s always a great feeling to get to the top of that climb, because you know the Keene Descent is next.  I crested the top, switched to a higher gear, and began my first descent into Keene.

Another benefit I’ve gotten from riding the course often is that I feel very comfortable on this descent now.  Because of that, I flew down the entire thing, passing tons of people (who – even as I was flying past them – I knew would be passing me again very, very soon).  I hit 42 mph at one point – not my fastest ever (49 mph), but a good speed.  And I’ll take all the speed I can get on this downhill.  I need it to balance out my slowness on the uphills.

Coming off the descent and into the turn at Keene, there was a decent crowd cheering.  I made the turn onto Route 9, and headed off to Upper Jay.

Around now, I was starting to get hungry.  Following my century ride bonking debacle, I had decided to commit race sin #1.  I changed my bike nutrition for race day.  I stayed with the Clif Shot drink mix for the bulk of my calories – it seems to sit decently with my stomach.  But I can’t eat Gu gels anymore, and Gu Chomps, while I love them, don’t seem to work for me on the bike like they do on a run.  I decided I needed more “real” food – less straight up sugar.  So I had stuffed a few peanut butter and honey Uncrustables in my jersey pocket.  I was taking a gamble here, but I figured it couldn’t be worse than my horrific bonk on my “century” a couple weeks earlier.

On the flat to Upper Jay, I decided it was time to bust into my first Uncrustable.  It was delicious.  So far, I was happy with my decision to bring those along.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I would remain happy with that decision as the day went on.

I stayed in aero most of the time I was on the flats, and it felt pretty good.  I’ve gotten to the point that it’s actually fairly comfortable, and bothers me a lot less than it used to.  Many of us were riding at similar paces through here, and we chatted back and forth for a while.  We cruised through Upper Jay, and made the turn to follow the river out to Jay and Ausable Forks.  This section of the bike course is a nice reprieve from the big climbs, but it can be deceiving.  There are plenty of rollers and false flats along the way.  I still seemed to be in with the pack – maybe towards the back of it, but I was holding on better than I expected.

I rode out to Ausable Forks, made the turnaround, and headed back to Jay.

The ride back to Jay wasn’t bad.  One thing I always do when I’m coming back from a turnaround is scope out how many people are behind me.  There still seemed to be quite a few.  I was clearly not in the middle of the pack, but I was still doing alright.

By now I had gotten into a rhythm with the aid stations.  I wasn’t going to stop and get off my bike until the second loop.  So for now, my system was:

  1. See aid station coming up
  2. Chug as much of whatever is left in my throwaway water bottle as I can before hitting the aid station
  3. Bottle exchange at aid station and be on my way

Coming into Jay, you can’t help but think ahead to the huge climb ahead.  The last 20 miles of the bike loop are mostly uphill, and it’s a long slog to get back to Lake Placid.

I rode into Jay, and made the turn onto Route 86 to start the long climb.

This was one of those points that I was so thankful I had been riding the course.  I knew that I could do it.  If I hadn’t had that experience, I honestly don’t know how I would have done on race day.  But I just put my bike in the easiest gear, and plugged away at it a little at a time.

The best spectator in the climb from Jay to Wilmington was a guy sitting on a 4 wheeler at the end of his driveway.  Next to him was a cooler and a sign that said “free beer.”  Spectators were pretty spaced out here, but the ones who were out there were very enthusiastic.

Eventually, after what felt like an eternity of slogging away, I finished the final climb (of this section) and cruised down the small downhill into Wilmington.  At the bottom of the hill, I made the hard right onto Haselton Road for the short out-and-back.  The aid station here was hopping, with tons of volunteers, a loud DJ, and many spectators.  Before I knew it, I was at the turnaround (it’s only one mile down the road), and heading back towards the aid station and Route 86.

At the end of Haselton, I turned right to get back onto 86 and finish the long climb from Wilmington to Lake Placid.  A few hundred yards down the road, 86 hangs a left, and then you’re on your way to Whiteface, and beyond that, Lake Placid.

For me, the worst climb of the entire course is the one just past the driveway to Whiteface Ski Resort.  It’s a category 5, and it’s just steep as hell.  I feel like I’m dying.  What made this hill bearable this time was the spectators at the top.  There was a group of 20-somethings at the top with signs like “Honey badger don’t care.” and “Wheelies are aero” (also yelling for us to do wheelies – which some people did), and “We’re drunk.”  One of them was also holding a sign in front of himself that said “I’m not wearing pants.”  They were great.  I was looking forward to seeing them again on loop 2.

After several painful minutes, I made it to the top, and began the long section of rollers that goes past High Falls Gorge (beautiful!), and along the river.  At this point, I really didn’t feel terrible.  Heck, aside from the searing pain in my crotch from the stupid bike seat, I would go so far as to say I actually felt pretty good!

I finished the section of rollers, and passed River Road.  For me, passing River Road is the sign that I’m pretty much done with the loop.  All that’s left after that is a few climbs known as The Cherries and The Bears (Mama, Baby, and Papa), and you’re in town.

Climbing the Bears was pretty fun.  Somebody had re-marked them, which was nice.  When I got to the top of Mama/Baby (Baby is really just a tiny bump on the top of Mama), and looked ahead to Papa, the crowd looked awesome.  I had heard that spectators lined Papa and made you feel like you were in the Tour de France, and I had been looking forward to it.

I got to the bottom of Papa, and was joined by a cheering spectator who ran alongside me with a big flag just like the nutters at the Tour de France.  It was great.  I loved that guy.

At the top of Papa, I made the right onto Northwoods Road, and the FINAL section of uphills.  At the top of the second hill on Northwoods, I knew I had a nice ride into town, and I enjoyed every second of it.  The crowds were thick and loud, and it was a great feeling to have the loop done.

Now I just had to go back out and do it all over again.  And then run a marathon after.

I came into town and made a quick stop at the bike special needs station to get my bag.  This was the first time my feet had hit the pavement since I started the bike course 4 hours ago, and it felt great.  I decided there was nothing I needed from my bag, so I got back on my bike, got a push start from a volunteer (those guys are amazing), and rode through town.

I was feeling really great riding into the center of town and past the Olympic oval.  Then it was time to ride back down the bus ramp, and out for loop #2.  By now, it was a little after 12:00, and when I was riding out of town to start my second bike loop, I passed people already running.  Granted, they were the pro men, but still!  Gah!  (Related to that – how cool is it that in this sport, I can be three feet from the pro men?  Little nobody me.  It’s awesome!)

Riding back out of town, I passed my support crew camped outside our hotel and cheering.  I had an empty clif shot bottle that I didn’t want to lose, so I tossed it to them and took the other one out of my jersey pocket to use next.

The second loop went much like the first:  Chug chug chug up the climb to the top of the Keene Descent, fly down the Keene Descent, try to hold my speed on the flats from Keene to Ausable Forks, and then start busting my butt on the climb back to Lake Placid.

At this point, my lady parts were on FIRE from the saddle.  I started stopping every other aid station or so to re-lube, which provided some temporary relief.  Other than that, I felt great.  But no matter how I sat – aero or not – I was in pain.  Oh well.  It would be over soon.

The single biggest thought going through my head during the bike was that 5:30 cutoff.  I really didn’t know if I would make it, and I was seriously worried.  I kept trying to do race math (calculating paces, and what’s the slowest you can go to make it in time), but when I get that deep into a long course race, I don’t trust my math.  It seemed like I could make it in time, as long as I kept going the way I was.

Eventually, I made it into Wilmington for the second time.  I finished the out-and-back on Haselton Road and then turned back onto 86 to finish the long climb back to town.  Just before making the left to start riding out to Whiteface, I heard a loud “pffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff” coming from my front tire.

“Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!!!!!!!!  NOT NOW!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Yeah, I believe that’s verbatim.

I pulled over and inspected my front tire.  Sure enough, there was a hole.  I could see it.  I had a flat.  AGAIN.  SHIT.  By now, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and this just pushed me over the edge.  I had already been worried about cutting it close with the cutoff, and now I had a FUCKING FLAT.  I was sitting on the side of the road, pulling my front wheel off, swearing and muttering (not so quietly) to myself, and crying just a little.

As required by race karma, everybody that rode by checked on me and asked if I needed anything.  I was just trying to change my flat as fast as I could.

A really sweet and well-intentioned volunteer came across the road to check on me.  I didn’t need any help (changing a flat is kind of a one person job), but he stood there and kept me company for the few minutes I was working.  I vented to him a bit about being worried about making the cutoff, especially now, and then he said the ONE thing no one in this situation wants to hear.

“Andy Potts finished about two minutes ago.”

I wanted to punch him.

“My son is racing today too.  He’s out on the run course and he’s halfway done.”

SERIOUSLY????  Are you shitting me right now?  ARE YOU REALLY TELLING ME ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SO GODDAMN FAR AHEAD OF ME WHILE I AM SITTING HERE FREAKING OUT ABOUT EVEN MAKING THE STUPID BIKE CUTOFF????

I know he was just being a proud dad and meant well, so I didn’t actually say anything except “Nice!” and “Mmmhmmmm.” but MAN, I wanted to throat punch that guy.

After a few minutes, I got my tire changed and back on my bike.  The flat had taken quite an emotional toll though, and I was NOT HAPPY.  I rode off toward Whiteface and started the long climb back into Lake Placid, all the while thinking “Screw this.  What if I just give myself another flat on purpose and then I can be done?”

I busted my butt hard to get back to town in time, but I was also resigned to the fact that the flat may have ruined it.  Once I passed River Road and only had the last bit of climb into town, I started to realize that not only was I going to make the bike cutoff, I was going to beat my anticipated bike time by quite a bit.  Wouldn’t you know it, my mood started to improve.  Go figure.

When I got to the bottom of Papa Bear, the crowds were still there, but had thinned – I was clearly slipping further towards the back of the pack.  There were a couple young-ish guys at the bottom of the hill, who I pointed to and told them that I needed them to run to the top with me.  And they did.  They were awesome.

I hit the top of Papa, turned onto Northwoods, and felt like I was home free.  I started cheering to myself, and telling spectators and volunteers that I loved them (I seem to do this at the end of long bike legs).  I mashed my way up to the top of the very last uphill on Northwoods Road, fist pumped, and then started pedaling as hard as I could to get to the oval and T2.

Turning on to Mirror Lake Drive, I rode alongside part of the run course, which was already full of people on the run leg.  The road was jam packed with spectators, and I positively flew through town and into T2.  The bike cutoff was 5:30pm.  It was around 4:30pm.  I was so thrilled with making the bike cutoff that I felt like I could run to the moon if I needed to.

Bike time: 8:15:38   (Anticipated bike time: 8:45 – beat it by 30 minutes!  AND I got a flat!)

T2 (Bike to Run)

I crossed the dismount line and handed my bike off to a volunteer.  I was directed around the outside of the oval towards my gear bag.  I popped off my shoes and tried to jog for a second, but that didn’t last long.  Instead, I walked to my gear bag, grabbed it, and went into the changing tent.  I was met by a fabulous volunteer, who opened my bag, organized all my clothes and gear, packed up everything I took off, and helped me change into my run clothes.  She was awesome.

I took a few last swigs of leftover bike water, changed my garmin over to “run,” and headed out of the changing tent to start the run.

T2: 7:44 (slow, but hey, I made it!)

To be continued…

Missed part 1?  Read it here!

The day has dawned and a few thousand Ironman hopefuls are crammed in to the swim start area.  All I can see in every direction are wetsuits, swim caps, and anxious/excited faces hidden behind goggles.  Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, pauses for a moment, and then

BOOM!

The third and final cannon sounds.  The age grouper race is starting.

The Swim

Check out this great video of the swim start here.  The age grouper cannon goes off around 5 minutes in.

After the cannon fired, we continued to stand there for a bit.  Then the mass of people started slowly shuffling forward.  We inched closer and closer to the starting arch, and after a few minutes, I could see the timing mat and the water was in front of me.  From my quick glance at the clock on the building nearby, it was 6:42am.  That meant I would have until 11:42pm to finish.  Very important mental note.

I stepped over the timing mat and into the water.  I could see the wide line of swimmers stretching out in front of me, and there were still a ton left standing behind me.  It was a big group.  A few steps into the water and it was time to swim.

This swim was BRUTAL.  Absolutely brutal.  Worst I’ve ever had in terms of contact.  Right from the start, there were people crammed in around me.  I kept getting grabbed, smacked, banged into – you name it.  At one point I got kicked in the chest.  There was just NO open space to be had.

Now, in hindsight, 1:20 is a very common swim time, and it would probably have been better to seed myself further back where there were less people.  I would take swimming past someone who was slower than me over dealing with this crap any day.

The swim course goes straight out from the beach – 9 buoys down, and 9 buoys back – then rinse and repeat.  Before I even got halfway out to the turnaround on the very first lap, I wanted to quit.  I had had enough of this contact bullshit, and my nerves were shot.  It’s very stressful being in the water with a ton of people who want to pull you under and swim over the top of you.  My automatic defense mechanism is whenever I feel someone grabbing my legs, I kick – HARD.  Sometimes it was just a little accidental brush of a hand.  No big deal.  Other times it was a straight up GRAB on your leg.  That’s the start of someone trying to pull you under.  That’s when I start kicking like a crazy person.  If someone grabs my leg, and I kick them in the face, maybe they shouldn’t have grabbed me and tried to pull me under.  Assholes.  Swim around me.  There’s space.

Clearly, I have no patience for this bullshit.  At one point, I pulled my head out of the water and yelled “GET THE F&*$ OFF OF ME!!!” to some jerk who wouldn’t stop.  They stopped after that, so I win.

Initially, I tried to stay close to the buoys, which was part of the contact issue.  Everyone else was trying to stay close to them too.  Many people like to do this for Lake Placid because there’s a bright yellow cable that runs the whole length of the swim buoys (it’s what they’re anchored to), and it’s easy to see.  If you can get on the cable, you have absolutely no need to sight.  You KNOW you’re going perfectly straight down the buoy line.  One thing about this that I found highly amusing was that you could tell who was doing this (not looking up out of the water at all), because every time they got to a buoy, they swam straight into it.  It cracked me up every time.

Eventually, I swung a bit wide and got away from the cable line, and some of the jerks.  Things started to open up a bit, but it didn’t last long.  I would have a few minutes of calm where I would get in a zone, and then all of a sudden it was like a swarm of douchenozzles coming to pull me under again.  I couldn’t understand it.  It happened for the ENTIRE swim.

After 22 minutes or so, we made the turn to head back in toward the beach.  By now, it had started to rain.  It was barely noticeable if you were swimming, but I felt bad for all the spectators.  As I got closer to the shore, I started to hear snippets of crowds cheering, music blaring, and the ever-present Mike Reilly.  It was a weird mixture of silence/bubbles/water and then one second of horns blaring and “YAY!!!  ANNNND HERE’S SO AND SO!” and then back to silence and bubbles.

43 minutes after entering the water, I made it back in to the beach.  I stumbled out of the water (I’m always a little disoriented and off balance coming out of the water), ran across the timing mat, and went back under the arch to start lap #2.  As I was on the beach, I heard Mike Reilly announce the first female pro coming out of the water.  It’s amazing to think that she did two laps in a just a hair more than the time I did one.

Before starting lap #2, I paused for a second to gather myself.  All throughout the first lap of the swim, I had thought about getting back to shore and packing it in.  I had had enough of all the contact, and really didn’t want to do another lap.  But I told myself I had to at least start it.  So I dove back in.

The second loop was slightly better than the first.  There was still just as much contact, but at least this time I knew I was done swimming after this.  I was so angry and worked up that I had gotten to the point where if someone grabbed me, I would just SHOVE them away from me as hard as I possibly could.

Lap #2 went much the same as the first.  Lots of contact and shoving, lots of frustration, and a few moments where I found my groove.  Eventually, I was coming in to shore for the second time.  It seemed like a lot of people were coming in around me, and it was a mob scene in the last couple yards to get to the beach.  There was a lot of grabbing and banging into people, and I was just happy to eventually put my feet on the bottom and find solid ground.

I came out of the water 1:31:57 after entering it for the first time.  My overall swim time was a few minutes slower than I had hoped for, but considering I had barely swam in my training, and the physicality of the swim, I was happy with my time.

T1 (Swim to Bike)

I crossed the timing mat and unzipped my wetsuit.  The first wetsuit stripper was free, so I went up to him.  We struggled for a few seconds to get my arms out, but he worked his magic quick enough, and then it was time to jog to the oval and get on the bike.

Running right after coming out of the water is always tough for me.  I’m always dizzy and lightheaded and it takes a couple minutes for me to get my land legs back.  Running through the chute to the oval was a really neat experience because it was just so jam PACKED with cheering spectators.  You really feel like some big shot running through it – even little nobody me.  I tried to keep my eye out for my support crew, and I did manage to catch them on the way down the hill into the transition area.  I yelled out a feeble “yay!  I didn’t drown!” and kept on going.

I entered the oval and was directed through the gear bag racks.  I grabbed my T1 bag, and went into the changing tent.

The changing tent was packed!  I was still reasonably in with the crowd, so that was exciting.  I managed to work my way around the outside of the tent and found an empty chair, where I promptly dumped my stuff.  Volunteers were everywhere, ready to help with whatever you needed.  They were awesome.  Boobs and butts were flying in their faces everywhere, and they didn’t bat an eye.  I stripped down, toweled off, put on my bike gear, and chugged some water.  Then it was time to throw everything into my bag, which I handed off to one of the excellent volunteers (they return it to your rack for you).

I ran out of the changing tent and down the row of bikes.  There were still a decent amount of bikes left on the racks – not a ton, but more than I’m used to seeing.  Volunteers were waiting in each row, with others yelling upcoming bib numbers over a megaphone.  When a number was called, a volunteer would run down their rack, grab the bike, and have it ready and waiting when that athlete got to them.  It was quite the efficient machine.

I grabbed my bike from my volunteer, and rolled out of transition with quite a crowd.  You’re not allowed to mount your bike until you get past the mount line, which is marked on the pavement outside of the transition area (this prevents people from riding in the crowded transition area and causing accidents).  A whole mess of us got backed up for a few seconds waiting for those ahead of us to mount their bikes and be on their way.  But it didn’t take too long.  I crossed the timing mat exiting the transition area, and mounted my bike, ready to see what would happen next.

Transition time = 12:42 (slow, but this also includes a 1/4 mile run from the beach to the oval)

To be continued…

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