Monday, June 20, 2011

Ironman 70.3 Boise Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 19th Edition 
289.6 miles raced, 4800 meters swam and 133.9 miles biked in 2011
Race:Ironman 70.3 Boise
Place: Boise, ID     
Miles from home: 340 miles
Weather: 70 degrees; sunny

The Ironman 70.3 Boise.

I have been looking forward to this race for the vast majority of this year. Now, looking forward to and being able to prepare the way I would like to (or should) are quite obviously two different things.  However, when I jumped into the brisk 48 degree water of Lucky Peak Reservoir last Saturday, the amount of training or lack thereof became immaterial; it was time to do an Ironman 70.3.


I spent the two days prior to the 70.3 working with the Idaho Beef Council at the athlete expo. As the official protein sponsor of Ironman 70.3 Boise, the folks of the Idaho Beef Council were wonderful to be around. So many fellow athletes, who are not only in absolute peak physical condition, but do so on diets enriched with lean beef, continually sang the praises of having beef in their diets. As I munched on delicious jerky in the Idaho Beef Council booth, I was constantly handing out samples to others, many who said they would be using it during the actual event on Saturday.

With this being my first 70.3, I was experiencing the butterflies of excitement which I rarely feel anymore. With the triathlon, there is so much more to take care of than with just running, say, a marathon. The bike transition and the run transition were in different places which required athletes to drop what they needed for one event in one area and the other in a separate area. Being quite used to waking up, slipping on shoes, walking out of my hotel and beginning a race, this was a big change for me.

However, with my bike firmly in place serendipitously not too far from fellow Team Beef member and friend Daren Williams’ bike, I was as ready as I was going to be. We had tested out the water (with arms and legs) and definitely found it to be quite cold.  However, personally I did not think it would be that bad. Only time would tell.

After a fantastic steak dinner with the Council, Team Beef members and Idaho ranchers, I was ready to go to bed and actually get a decent night’s sleep for a change.
Race Day:

The Boise 70.3 is unique for its late day start.  Even moving up two hours this year, my wave of swimmers would not head out until 12:25 PM. This is perfect for me. I am simply not an early morning riser and have more or less picked the wrong sport to be participating in given my make-up. So this later start was right in my wheelhouse.

After barely getting our bags into the bike-to-run transition area (being yelled at for being tardy - I was curious if I was going to have to go to detention) Daren and I boarded the shuttle bus taking us to the start. We quickly had everything in place and had some time to kill. Meandering over to the water we saw people doing “warm-up” swims which I cannot imagine felt warm at all. As the crowds began to thicken near the water, Daren and I began to saunter back toward the transition area for last minute preparation.

“One minute until Transition closes!”

Wait. What? Daren, run! Once again, Daren and I almost got caught unawares and would have had to probably break various rules and noses to get to our gear. Fortunately, none of that happened and we were soon suited up.

We had to part ways here as we were in separate waves but not before I wished Daren good luck. He had some trepidation regarding the coolness of the water but I knew he would power through.Waiting for my group to enter the chilly wetness, I ran into more than a few other Team Beef members. We chatted it up as we waited for our turn. Not long thereafter, we saw the officials escorting a poor woman out of the water. Apparently she had called it a day very early - the water being too much for her. This definitely did not help settle the nerves of the rest of us. Regardless, it was now time for my age group to head in.

Swim: 32:17 (19th in age group out of 204)

I am beginning to learn that in triathlon, the only thing that really matters to the overwhelming majority of competitors is beating those in your age group. So as we bobbed in the water here, me more or less regretting the fact I only own a wetsuit that has no sleeves, I just wanted to focus on those with a 35-39 inked on their body somewhere. Before too long we were off. Mercifully, as it was icy cold.

It is rather hard to recap a swim. For the most part your head is buried in the water and you are just trying to move forward. I was fortunate enough to get out ahead of most of the people in this wave of 35-39ers but I knew that up in front of us was another age group. It is hard to race those you can’t see or who have a head start. Before I even made the first turn I was already swimming into the backs and legs of those who had started prior to us. Swim caps of all different colors were being passed meaning I was passing wave after wave of people who had started in front of me. I did a fairly steady job of weaving as straight as possible but if there was ever incentive to become an elite and start first, this would be it.

The water would go from surprisingly tepid to shockingly cold with no rhyme or reason. I had a pre-race plan of trying to get 28-29 minutes for this swim which I felt was easily in my range. As the dock appeared and I pulled myself from the depths, I was completely disappointed with the time I saw. With only a few other white capped swimmers (my age group’s color) around me, I figured it must have been a long swim for everyone (consultation with many would later reveal that I was far from the only one who experienced a swim about 3-4 minutes slower than expected.  I have no idea what that means. Cold water? Long course? Who knows?)


I had seen that the transition from swim-to-bike was a long one with an uphill climb of a few hundred yards to deal with.  Reaching the top of the hill, “strippers” were waiting for us. I can honestly say that even the scantily-clad stripper variety would not have deterred us from our appointed rounds but these strippers, volunteers who would help us rip off our wetsuits as quickly as possible, were greatly appreciated.  Before I knew it I was at my bike.

I slid on my bike shoes and my feet immediately hurt. I figured it was the frigid water I was in just seconds before and was happy I had been wearing my Zensah compression socks.  For one, they helped keep my feet warmer than they would have and also it allowed me to not have to mess around with socks when my feet were soaking wet.

Bike: 2:43:53 (47th out of 204)

I clipped onto my pedals and began for the short climb out of the reservoir.  The biggest downhill of the course awaited us right afterward and I welcomed the chance to get my legs moving quickly.  Almost immediately my toes felt cold and cramped and extremely painful. After about 100 yards, I knew something was askew. I dismounted, pulled off my shoes and presto! I had an extra handlebar cap positioned in the toe of each shoe. They must have worked their way in there from my transition bag. I dumped them out into a garbage can, put the shoes back on and away I went, shaking my head all the way.

The rest of the bike became a series of new events for me. I had never ridden further than 35 miles (ever) so every mile after that was a mystery. I had never ridden a course that had undulating hills like Boise did, so that was a challenge. Everything was different to me and I was extra cautious on turns, cross streets, and around other cyclists. Needing to pee from about mile 20 on did not help either. I simply have not mastered the art of peeing on myself while riding and may have to be very proud of the fact that I have not.

I am unsure of this was a challenging course or not but when speaking with fellow competitor and ultra-running legend Pam Reed after the race, she felt it was a tough course. If Pam Reed says something is tough, I believe her. This is especially true because she also shows the intelligence of eating a nice big steak the night before an event like this. I knew she was brilliant!

My goals for the bike had been to be around 2:30 but that was probably overly-ambitious given my complete lack of cycling experience. However, I did not crash, I did not slip a chain, and I did not get a flat tire during the ride. To me, those three things amounted to a highly successful ride. I was just really ready to get off this infernal contraption and let my actual body do the talking.

T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 1:16 

With my bike all but 5 bikes from the exact opposite end of the place where we came into transition, I had to run completely through the area in my stupid clippity-clop bike shoes to change into real honest-to-goodness, make-your-daddy proud running shoes. In spite of this, my transition was very smooth and I was ready to go run…and pee.

Run: 1:35:34 (28th out of 204)

First loop: (7:12 6:47, 6:47, 6:47, 7:12, 7:08)

After getting about a quarter of mile into the run and not seeing a bathroom, I knew I simply had to find the corner of a building, which I did. I know a full thirty seconds passed before I was off and running again but goodness did I feel fantastic. The run course was two loops of a 6.5 miler which was about as flat as you can get. With runners going both direction on many of the loop, clueless pedestrians walking their dogs and the occasional other jogger or cyclist, there was never a dull moment on the run course. Even less dull was how I was churning out mile splits way faster than I thought I had any reason to be doing. I did not know if I was pushing too hard but I know it did not feel like it. I realized I may very well end this entire race with a sub 1:30 half (my original plan) and be able to salvage a time much closer to my pie-in-the-sky goal of 4:30.

One aid station around the fourth mile went absolutely ballistic cheering on myself and every other runner who was wearing a Team Beef singlet. This was something that you not only looked forward to but it kept you from slouching as well. No one wants to disappoint those who are going out of their way to cheer loudly for you.

As I approached the turn-around to head out for lap two I could see the finish line ahead.  It really did not have the cruel feeling I felt it might, being so close yet so far. I knew the distance I had to run and no visuals were fooling me into anything else. I saw the Idaho Beef Council members cheering like mad and mustered the energy to give them an assessment of my feelings so far.

Second loop: (7:19 7:21 7:15 7:37 7:41 7:53 8:31)

Almost immediately my energy began to ebb on the second loop. I do not know if it was the fact that I was finally going to be done that was getting to me or that I had gone out too fast in the first loop. However, I continued to battle on even when one spectator/fan/random person positioned himself directly in front of me under a bridge in the dark, jumped up at the last second (either to be a jerk or out of surprise) and ran smack dab into me, stopping me cold. I was too stunned to say anything or do anything other than gather myself and start running again. Answers to questions like “What in the HELL was he doing?!” will haunt me forever.

Even as my mile splits slowed and the chances of catching some friends who were just a bit ahead of me waned, I was beginning to feel a warm glow inside. I was about to finish a Ironman 70.3. I have never really enjoyed cycling as an exercise. Two years ago getting hit by a car and separated my shoulder causing me to miss a world championship race in Australia in the aquathlon and messing dearly with my plans to finish my 100th lifetime marathon did not help my love affair with the bike.

While I was a swimmer growing up that was over half my life ago. Toeing the line (or water) this morning was a small act of courage. It was a jump into the complete unknown. Did it solve any major world problems or fix anything of importance? Of course not. But it was a major step for me personally.

That, my friends, is what life is about. We all wish to make big changes in the world at some point but the fact remains we must make small changes in ourselves first.

I finished in a time slower than what I had hoped for.  However, while this is not been completely verified, it appears my time of 4:56:49 was good enough to qualify me for the World Championship 70.3 in Las Vegas this September (based on percentages.) I would unfortunately not be able to attend if that were the case because of a prior commitment but the mere fact I was able to be fortunate enough to do so was something which made me very proud.

Over 50 Team Beef members ran this race and seeing them all on the course was inspiring and heart-warming.  The camaraderie of so many was palpable and when I saw Daren heading on his first loop of the run as I headed home, I was more than pleased to see my good friend powering through.  (His recap can be read here on his blog the BeefMan Bloggeth).

The city of Boise has much to be proud about with regard to the top notch event that they put on. The Idaho Beef Council itself is filled with some of the nicest, most hard-working people I have ever met. It was an honor to be associated with them at this event and to be their guest in this wonderful town. I will be back to work with them any time this wish to have me.

Kudos to all!

1 comment:

Dan said...

I'm old school, but I just can't call it 70.3. Too me "half" doesn't imply "half as good" or "half effort." It is just half the distance.

Good job. Wonder if I can get the same benefit from some North Carolina pork.. ha ha.

Thanks man!