Race report: The 2013 Ironman 70.3 Boulder

by julie on August 7, 2013

After each race, no matter how well or how poorly I’ve done, I want to have learned something that I can apply to future races.

Last year, I learned that I need to take nutrition requirements seriously. I need to train longer on my bike, and I need to run in the heat.

This year, I learned even more.

I started well in advance of race day by slowly shifting my meals away from beans, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables toward more simple carbs that are easily stored (and which are also a little easier on the digestive tract, ahem). We had our usual pre-race dinner at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, and on race morning, we both drank Ensure.

I’d seen Ensure mentioned a few times on triathlon message boards, and I gave it a try during training. Since it’s meant as a meal replacement, there’s a lot of calories packed in a small bottle, which makes it ideal for fueling up when you’re too nervous to eat any solid food.

I meant to have a gel shortly before the swim, but I forgot to bring one with me from transition, so I went without. Dimity (Ironmother of Another Mother Runner fame) had suggested I seed myself slightly faster than my anticipated swim time, so I hung in the back of the 42-44 min group.

This strategy worked very well, especially since I swam about 20 feet to the left of the line of buoys. Yes, I swam a little farther overall, but it was worth it not to bump into so many people. (I did swim right between two chatting breaststroking women who seeded themselves a little two ambitiously.) The final leg of the swim was choppy though, and I wasn’t sighting as frequently as I should have. Next year I will sight consistently no matter how confident I’m feeling.

Transition was fine, as was the ride out of the reservoir and onto 51st Street, but on the first hill my left cleat released unexpectedly. I couldn’t clip back in, lost momentum and fell over. I tried to get going again, and I fell over again. The worst part was that I was in other cyclists’ way; fortunately I didn’t cause an accident.

I had taken my bike in for some fitting adjustments and mentioned that my left cleat often gave me trouble clipping in. The tech greased it up, a little too well. I’d ridden hills since then, but not with my adrenaline surging and nerves pinging. Next year I will not make any changes to my bike the week before a race.

One advantage to being a relatively slow swimmer is the ego boost I get from all the roadkill on the bike course. I passed dozens of people on Route 36 all the way up to the north end of the course. Two hours into my race, I was 21 miles into the bike. Two and a half hours in, I was halfway through (28 miles). I was eating and drinking, and I was actually starting to feel cocky.

Until I did the math and realized I was only on track for a three hour bike. I wanted to break three hours. I knew the rest of the course was pretty flat, but the wind was working against me. Now my mind was working against me too. I forced myself to continue eating and drinking, but miles 45-56 ticked by instead of flying. Next year I will do even more long training rides and throttle back a bit during the first half of the race.

At least I was happy to be off the bike and onto the final event. In transition I stopped to get smeared with sunscreen (those poor volunteers must have drawn the short straws) which was a super smart move and worth the time: Despite spending six-plus hours outside, I did not get burned. Next year I will stop for sunscreen again.

Like last year, I did fine with the first two miles of the run course, but slowed to a walk on the big uphill after Mile 2. My body wanted something (besides, you know, to STOP), and I didn’t know what it was. At the next aid station, I stopped at the port-o-potty. At the aid station after that, I still wasn’t running consistently, and the only thing that sounded good was Coke. So I took it.

I think Coke (and Pepsi and everything else of that ilk) is basically poison, but during a race that stuff is a magical elixir. At least for me it was. I started running, and I only stopped at aid stations, where I drank more Coke and dumped ice cubes in my shelf bra. I finished my first loop and didn’t even mind too much that I had to stay out for my second loop instead of heading into the finish chute. Next year I will drink Coke again.

I continued drinking Coke at each aid station. I walked for a hundred paces or so after each one, to let the liquid settle in my stomach, and then I picked up running again. Miles 8-11 were amazing. I could hardly believe it. I started to get cocky again; I was going to have a negative split on the run!

Until I started to feel bad heading into the Mile 12 aid station. I drank more Cole, but its powers were gone. It was only my familiarity with the course that kept me running, knowing that less than half a mile ahead lay pavement, which meant that I only had a half mile left to run after that, and it was almost all downhill, surrounded by crowds of people shouting encouragement at me. Next year I will start drinking Coke at Mile 5, so that when I crash I have the crowd to catch me.

It’s always an amazing feeling to head into the finish chute, but especially so knowing that I’ve finished strong. My goal was to finish in less than 6:30, and I did. 6:28.30 was my official time. I dropped two minutes on my swim, nine minutes on my bike, and a whopping 20 minutes on my run, though I did not run a negative split (1:12, 1:16) or break three hours on the bike (3:05).

Will I do another 70.3? Heck yeah. I’ll do Boulder again, and I’d love to find a cool destination race. But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a little well-earned time off.

How I’ve been spending my summer vacation

by julie on August 2, 2013

Wow. Over two months since I’ve written. But as Liz recently posted, I’ve been doing things worth writing about.

I joke that swim team eats up my summer, but not-so-secretly I love it. Of course I will gladly support the activities my kids love (cash flow permitting), but I genuinely enjoy meets and my volunteer duties. (Driving carpool all over the metro area at ungodly hours for practice, not so much.)

Summer league was a rousing success, especially for CJ, who snagged finals spots in all five events (25 free, 50 free, 100 IM, plus both relays). Meaning, she was in the top 16 swimmers in the league in her age group. Considering there’s 18 teams in the league and literally hundreds of swimmers at prelims, that’s pretty darned impressive for a girl who’s just barely four feet tall. (Many of her competitors are taller than Tacy.)

dear me, look at all of my successes!

Speaking of Tacy, she made an impressive showing for a petite 11-year-old. (Many of her competitors are taller than me.) Aging up to the 11-12 age group right at the start of both seasons — summer league and long course — made it a grind for her, but I was incredibly proud of her perseverance and positive attitude. It paid off too — she’s moved out of the developmental group and into the 9-11 practice group. That was a bigger success for her than making summer league finals could have been.

tacy breaststroking

Oliver swam all five summer league meets — not particularly fast, but with great enthusiasm. How many five-year-olds shake their booty on the blocks?

Our neighborhood pool hosted summer league finals, and it was as grueling as my predecessor had warned me it would be. The week leading up to finals, I spent several hours a day preparing and organizing deck cards from prelims. The day of finals, I (along with a dozen other volunteers) made sure those deck cards got into the right kids’ hands, and the right kids herded through heating and onto the blocks in the right order.

if i never see another deck card...

How hard was it? Hard enough that when finals was over and we were heading to packet pickup for the Boulder Peak, I sighed audibly and expressed gratitude that all I had to do now was an Olympic-distance triathlon (including Old Stage Hill).

Triathlon training has eaten up much of my summer too. I’ve logged many more miles and hours than I did last year. Instead of sinking money into lighter gear, I put myself on a diet in January, integrated strength training into my workouts, and dropped eight pounds.┬áTraining in the heat of the day (because those are my anticipated race conditions, especially for the run), I rarely see other cyclists and never see other runners. I’ve been using Tacy’s tempo trainer (think of it as a metronome for athletes) to push my pace in the pool.

It’s been a very uncomfortable summer, which has so far yielded great improvements in my race results. Other variables outside of my control notwithstanding, I’m ready to drop 30+ minutes on the Ironman Boulder 70.3 this weekend.

I did get a chance to relax (in a way that I would have never previously considered relaxing): Camping at Lake Granby, complete with drinking exclusively from a nearby stream and sleeping in a tent (albeit on an air mattress). The view from our campsite was phenomenal.

lake granby from campsite

We returned from the Boulder Peak only to quickly shower, pack up the car, and head over Berthoud Pass. No screens, except for iPhones used as cameras. We taught the girls to play Crazy Eights and I Doubt It (aka Bullshit). Kyle sent the kids on a scavenger hunt. The girls and I hiked up the shore of the lake and carried back as much garbage as we could find, plus treasures: part of an ancient Austrian-made water ski and some deer bones. We lured chipmunks to our tent pad and watched deer watching us. We ate heartily, including the most delicious pancakes ever, no syrup required.

camping collage

camping collage #2

We also had a visit from my Aunt Carol, albeit during the week I was wrangling deck cards. Thankfully, she was extremely understanding about my heightened level of distraction, and I’m sure the kids’ attentions more than made up for it.

oliver snuggling up to aunt carol

Finally, there’s been plenty of the usual insanity. No, really — that’s probably an appropriate way to characterize drinking pickle juice with a straw and dining by headlamp, which is simply de rigeur around here.

collage of general insanity

What’s next? After the 70.3, we’ll welcome our third daughter-on-loan to our family and get ready to send Oliver to kindergarten. (I know; I can’t believe it either.)

Pretty sure all of that will be worth writing about too.