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.