Ironman 70.3 Boulder was my second ever half ironman distance race and it took me a little over 6 hours and 24 minutes to conquer – while I am happy with my results, I also know that I can do better if I don’t have bruises and road rash on my leg…
The day before the race I had a little spill on my bike outside of the transition area as we were heading out to take a short practice ride. It was a really stupid mistake that involved me trying to clip in around too many people who were just milling around. I clipped in one foot and then had to turn my bike abruptly to avoid a guy who decided to stop just in front and to the right of me. When I turned my bike my front wheel dropped slightly into a man-hole/drain cover and my clipped in foot was at the bottom of my stroke with nowhere to go. I started falling to my right and to avoid hitting the guy who was standing there I had to kind of throw my bike under me and fall onto my right shin, right into some gravel. It wasn’t pretty.
With my shin and ankle bleeding, we (Anna, Julie and I) went on a short 20 minute ride out and back on the last part of the course. My dad was with me so I asked him to scout out first aid for when I got back. The first aid tent wasn’t set up yet but the life guards at the beach had first aid supplies so they cleaned and bandaged me up. We grabbed some food at the snack shack near the beach, and then I took my bike to get a race day tune up with the bike techs. Just around this time we saw dark gray clouds looming and the announcement came that the beach was closed – meaning no practice swim. I really would have liked to get in a practice swim in my long sleeved wetsuit, having only worn it once before for Rev3 Knoxville. Alas, I had to wait till race morning and hope they would let us get in the water to warm up before our waves. My leg didn’t feel up for doing a 10 minute run either so I was 1 for 3 on my warm ups for the day before the race, not ideal. The rain started to pour on us while we walked around race village and the merchandise tent. I had to wait for my bike to get tuned up before I could leave it in transition or else we probably would have left earlier. Once that was finished, I dropped my bike off in my spot in transition, said goodbye to Anna and Julie till race morning, and went to my hotel with my dad.
My mom and my aunt joined us at the hotel (they were staying in Vail the next week.) After some World Cup game watching and a Whole Foods hot bar dinner, I went to bed early for my 5am wake up!
I woke up and made some tea and oatmeal, double checked my transition backpack and rode with my parents and aunt to the reservoir. I immediately set up in transition because we had to be out of there by 6:45am, even though my wave wasn’t till after 8am. I made one crucial mistake – I left my sunscreen in transition. Whoops! I found my family, Julie and Anna and we snapped a couple of pictures and then watched the pros start. Julie and I then donned our wetsuits and went to the cordoned off practice swim area to get in a couple of laps. I actually didn’t think it was very cold. I took it nice and easy and really tried to keep straight lines in the water. We got out and pretty soon it was time for Julie to go join her wave. I gave a couple last hugs to family and found the neon colored caps of my wave.
The 1.2 mile swim:
I am thrilled with how I swam, especially with my new wetsuit, my lack of open water swimming so far this season, and all the shoulder issues I’ve dealt with since January! I started out in the back of the pack and worked my way to the inside track close to the buoys. Thanks to the great marking on the course, there was a numbered buoy every 100 meters, making sighting much easier than it could have been. I found a groove almost immediately and the first 600 meters flew by quickly (for me!) Then I hit the first turn buoy and there was a bit of a current, plus the guys in the wave behind me (men under 30 I believe) started catching up and some of them were super fast and leaving a wake. The choppiness threw me off a little but just in keeping a straight line, not in my breathing or stroke rhythms. After the final turn I could see the beach in my sights and I started feeling a bit of fatigue in my shoulders but nothing painful. I got out of the water with a big smile on my face not out of relief for that leg being over, but because it had been a really enjoyable swim, I didn’t even care about my time!
The 56 mile Bike:
My goal was maintaining at least 18 miles per hour on the bike, aiming for as close to a 3 hour bike as possible. I ended up with a 3:07 but I’m still really happy with it! I don’t think I got passed by any woman on the bike who I wasn’t able to pass back, which was great! My shin didn’t hinder my performance on the bike either, I had my leg wrapped and then covered with a compression sleeve so I could get the wetsuit on and off and it felt protected on the bike from wind and dirt. I was able to stay in the aero bars quite a bit considering that some spots had wind. There was a long false flat during the first 8-10 miles but it gave way to rolling hills and fast flats for most of the rest of the course. The most annoying parts were actually going through the town of Boulder where there were lots of turns I had to slow down for, and a short out and back that they added to make the one loop bike course the full 56 miles. I rode back into transition feeling pretty good, having fueled with a larabar, one full bottle of scratch, and 1 and ½ water bottles. I hopped off my bike, ran to my spot in transition (which I forgot to map out from the ‘bike in’ so it was a little more mental energy than it should have been,) threw on my socks and running shoes and hat, grabbed my honey stinger chews and decided against bringing my handheld water bottle.
The 13.1 mile Run:
The course was two mostly gravel road laps around the reservoir and the first lap was not very pretty. I started out and realized my legs were a little more fatigued than I thought when initially getting off the bike. I was about a half mile into the first mile when I felt my shin/right calf was in some serious pain. I stopped running and pulled down my compression sleeve to see if that would relieve some of the pressure on my calf. Then I really felt my right ankle hurting, not something I expected since I didn’t use it on the bike. I stopped again off to the side of the road and looked down to see that my ankle was swelling due to lack of circulation. I took off my shoe and then the compression sleeve, feeling some immediate relief. With the sleeve balled up and stuffed in my other back pocket, I started running again.
Well the damage was done and it took a couple of miles for my lower leg to feel less swollen. I wanted to pick up the pace but my lower leg wasn’t cooperating. Meanwhile the sun started to feel brutal and it was warming up a lot – remember that sunscreen I forgot? I could feel my shoulders getting sunburned. I was walking through every aid station and drinking water, and eating a couple of chews every half hour for some sugar and electrolytes. Then when I got to miles 4-6 which go over the dam back to the reservoir beach area, I hit a wall of wind. Hold-your-hat-onto-your-head wind. Which is exactly what I had to do at some points, I swear it literally pushed me backwards nearly 20-30 seconds per mile. Nearing the transition area I saw Anna taking pictures and all I could tell her was that the wind sucked! I saw my mom and threw my compression sleeve down next to her, then saw my dad. I wasn’t very happy at this point in the race, I was still feeling lower leg pain and the first lap took me 8 minutes or so longer than I expected.
The redeeming part of having 2 laps was that I knew what was coming on the second lap and I also knew that I could run the second lap a few minutes slower and still get a 6:30 total time, which was my hard goal. Instead I actually ran the second lap a little bit faster. The wind had died down on the dam a little bit and my lower leg pain was easing up. It was definitely getting hotter and I relished the aid station water and even licked the salt from a few pretzels, but I was able to pick up a little speed.
When I got to the finishing chute I saw my family and got to high five Julie while Anna took pictures of me on my way to the finish line! I had found my smile and forgotten about the pain!
I also forgot to stop my watch… a few minutes later I stopped it so I was able to estimate that I finished in under 6:25, my official overall time was 6:24:19, almost 20 minutes faster than IM 70.3 Raleigh last summer! My half marathon time though was 2:27, pretty far off the under 2:15 I was hoping for that would have put me under 6:15 overall.
It just proved to me that if my whole body is healthy I really think I’m capable of close to (or even less than) a 6 hour half ironman time! Julie finished with an awesome 6:13 overall time after absolutely beasting the bike in 2:55, we commiserated over the wind during the run! It was an awesome experience to race in Boulder, especially because this is where so many pros train! But there were also some really really good amateurs at this race and not as many of the slower folks I’m used to seeing at races, which made me feel slower than I might otherwise have felt at a different race. I’m really excited for the Lake Logan Half in August, and maybe Beach to Battleship half in October. I’m also not sure why I am so focused on half ironman distance races right now. Maybe I’m afraid grad school will take up too much time to train for longer races next year, but for now I am enjoying training for them and racing them so I am going to continue to do so through this race season!