Ironman Boulder

I debated writing this recap. Mostly because my life has been beyond busy the last few weeks and I've been so incredibly tired and in the hole that the mental energy required to write a recap just didn't seem worth it. And then also I was told that if you spent more time describing your efforts for a "training race" than for a typical training day, then, yes, it should be considered a true race.

So three weeks later, I still don't know whether I actually "raced" Ironman Boulder. My prep leading up to race day says "no", my body said "100% yes!" and then the weeks that followed said "aw hell no!"

About 3-4 weeks leading up to race day, I touched base with Chris and we discussed our plan for the next few weeks and months. We both came to the conclusion that with less than three months of actual training under my belt and some inconsistency with training due to work obligations, shaky living situations, etc., etc., it wouldn't make sense to go into Boulder with the expectation of being able to race effectively. Instead, we decided to approach it as a very long, catered training day. Here's what he had to say about it:

 

The day before the race, I ran 8 miles with some tempo work at the tail end, and the day before that I knocked out a 3-hour ride. The Ironman on Sunday capped off a 20-something hour training week and on the morning of the race, I stood on the starting line, shaking in my wetsuit, scared beyond belief that I was staring down a possible third consecutive DNF at the Ironman distance.

Okay, hold up, let's pause for a moment and back it up.

I have been uncharacteristically quiet about this the past year, but the last time I finished an Ironman was Chattanooga 2015, one of my best races ever, only to follow that race up with a DNF at Cozumel (heat exhaustion) and then another DNF at IM France (sliced open my foot in T2 and required nearly a dozen stitches). This fact is, admittedly, quite embarrassing for me.

I have always been a ferocious competitor—to the point of nearly killing myself by pushing through the pain at Kona 2013—and these two black marks on my record have been haunting me for the longest time.

To top it all off, as a result some poor math on my end, I mistakenly thought that I went through my first two-ish years as a pro without re-qualifying for my pro card (which is accomplished by placing within 8% of the top female pro's time). While I actually was truly safe and had re-qualified (after revisiting the numbers—apparently I'm just bad at certain kinds of math), I spent most of March debating whether to drop back down to race as an age-grouper and temporarily abandon my pro dreams. With more and more races turning into "age-group only", this was definitely tempting.

To be honest, there is no reason why I should not be racing age group right now. I have always wanted to go back to Kona, I would actually be able to hold my head high placing at the top of my age group versus at the back of the pro pack and lessening the (self-imposed) pressure of "being a pro" would certainly make things easier mentally given that, yes, I have a great day job in place keeping things afloat and [newsflash] triathlon truly is just a fun hobby for me to pursue. But at the end of the day, I reminded myself that the only reason I choose a sport like triathlon is to challenge myself and to learn each and every day what my body is capable of in the sport of my calling. 

Ultimately, this spring I decided that I would prefer to be a "slow pro" than a "rockstar age grouper", simply because I knew that playing in the big leagues will ultimately force me to become a better and faster athlete, versus simply resigning myself to be a big fish in a small(er) pond. I sometimes wonder whether I took my pro card too soon in 2014, taking on Arizona only a few short weeks after Kona attempt #2, but then I look back and see how much faster I have grown as an athlete and as a person as a result of that decision. Plus, the entry fees are WAY better if you're someone like me who likes to race a lot. ;) 

So, anyway, I attempted to race Boulder as a dry run for Ironman Canada in my own backyard. Here's how it went...

Swim

This was the weirdest thing. My swimming as of late has been better than ever. I had been swimming 4-5x a week and leading the 1:30 LCM lane at CAC masters without issue. I went into this with the confidence of someone who should swim a 0:57 without breaking a sweat. Now, I think the wetsuit and some chop on the far end of the reservoir slowed me down some, but I came out in a very pitiful 1:07. Even my favorite lane-mate Ulli (who went on to finish 5th female pro) was like "what happened to you?!" the next time we saw each other after race day. 

What I loved though was the small field of pro women joking together pre-race... what a great group of women to race with. 

I don't know what it was: the same group I swam with while going way too easy (for me) at St. George pulled away from me around the half-way point and I had nothing to give, and then I had a minor freak out in the chop and then I swam way off course with my wonky shoulder. Part of me attributes that to the deep training hole I was in at the time I attempted Boulder—I was cooked, y'all, seriously cooked—but who knows.

But to see such a slower swim time despite feeling so much stronger in the pool and seeing such faster splits week after week was absolutely bewildering and somewhat depressing. 

Bike

But I came out of the water and was determined to execute the day as originally planned. I normally hop onto the bike, guns blazing and hope to make up time from the swim, but this race I was actually good for once and stuck to the very specific instructions from my coach. The entire day was spent in my Zone 2 power: it was boring. It meant getting passed by the lead female age grouper (oh, my dignity!). It meant getting to enjoy my surroundings for once and smile and wave to all the Dynamo crew members there to cheer on the Kyle Pease teams. But it was a well-executed ride. That's all I really have to say about that.

But I definitely had fun with it. Lots of smiling and lots of thank yous to volunteers.

Aside from the last loop of the three loop course when there was some unexpected dry-heaving (I've been encountering this on all of my longer rides, even at lower power numbers—I have no idea what it is from...) it was a great day to spend 114 miles with several hundred of my closest friends and get "free" bottle and nutrition hand-ups. 

Run

The run. Oy. I fell apart, but semi-kept it together as well. Something I did not tell many people immediately after or before the race was that some unknown panic kept me up most of the night before the race. I don't know whether it was race day nerves or being scared of a third consecutive DQ or if I just had a few too many mg of caffeine the day before but I was tossing and turning until 3am.

And then my alarm went off less then an hour and a half later. Having done Norseman on similar levels of sleep deprivation due to the time difference, I did not panic, but I certainly felt a level of heaviness in my legs pre-race and on the run unlike any other I had ever experienced. I think it was a combination of sleep deprivation, tired legs and just the accumulated exhaustion I had been dealing with. 

So given everything, my run was okay. Obviously I would have liked a faster run and while seeing 8:XX splits at times—let alone 9:XX—was frustrating at times, it was still a great day to test the legs and I was proud that I only walked once through a single aid station.

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And if anyone asks, the only reason I did not wear my Cuore kit here was that I wanted to be as "incognito" as possible, since I knew I was likely to have a slow run. And DANG I wish I had worn my Cuore kit because I was SO beyond chafed from this race whereas I usually have never ever had any chafing issues from my Cuore 2-in-1 race kit.

The only downside of the run course was that special needs was at mile 11 or so and on the out-and-back. In my mind, you could choose whether to grab special needs at 11 or 13. I opted for Mile 13—and they were not there to give me my bag. So the 4 gels I had packed for the back-half of the marathon went unused and I ran on empty, trying to get my fill of water and coke to get through the rest of the run.

But I finished, and was happy to walk away with a paycheck and solid training day.

 

The Aftermath

The funny thing though was that even though I felt terrible in the hour after the finish (hellooo puking by a bunch of random strangers—should not have turned down my invite to the med tent but oh well), the next morning I felt like I was on cloud nine. I went to masters, I went for a ride, I felt like a million bucks. Training since then has been more hit or miss (hellooooo, overreaching) but it was still cool to see that within only 2-3 months my fitness has come from a couch potato level to a "bounce back from an Ironman in 24 hours" kind of deal.

What's Next?

Today I have a 2-hour trail run and then tomorrow it is the Boulder Peak, the legendary Olympic distance that has a grueling climb on the bike course! While this will not be as devastating as a full Ironman, I'm excited to go fast and step out of my comfort zone and tackle a full Olympic that I can ride my bike to the start at the morning, get my butt kicked by a bunch of ITU girls and then come home and finish up the day with a PM training session!