IronMan Boise 70.3- June 7th RACE RECAP

My Blitz Triathlon teammate Danielle and I went down to try our hand at IronMan Boise in early June of this year. It’s fun to read these race reports after the season is over, which is great because it’s the only time I get a chance to write them.

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Here’s how the race went:

Swim 1.9 km:

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Let’s start with the positives. Compared to other races where the buoys are put out late the night before or the morning of, the buoys were out for the practice swim. Even better, during the pre-race ‘what have we gotten ourselves into’ course viewing, we were told that it was 135 meters between the buoys and it was clear that there were six numbered yellow buoys going out (810 meters), a red turn buoy, 4 orange cross buoys (540 meters), and then 4 yellow back in (540) meters. Then on race morning the water looked calm and I thought to myself  ‘finally, I get to race in dream swim conditions!’

We started in heats which meant two things. First, there was a LONG wait after transition closed at 6:30 am until everyone got in the water at around 7:45 and shade was at a premium with people hovered under the dry bag truck and garbage dumpsters. Second, it meant you got a lot of open water to get lost in. As the gun went and my age group of around 75 pale pink swim caps started the push to the first buoy. I thought I started well but when I looked up I realized I wasn’t swimming straight at all. All the sudden the water seemed choppy and I decided to just focus on swimming straight from yellow buoy to yellow buoy. Despite this I kept getting off course and I cursed myself for not just staying in the crowd as I usually swim on the inside of the buoys to avoid the swim blender. I will remember that the next wave swim I do I should stick with the crowd. At the turn buoy I checked my watch, something I’ve started doing to keep me focused. Swimming is one of those sports that it’s hard to gauge how much time has passed. At that point if I was swimming my normal place I would have been 18 minutes. I was at 18:12. I was a little disappointed as it seemed like I was working so hard.

When I turned at the buoy I realized that it was hard because I had been pushing into the wind. Now the waves were with me but instead of helping, it felt like they were throwing me forward and really affecting my stroke. It was hard to find a rhythm and I was swallowing a lot of water. At this point there when I looked up to sight there were a lot of people swimming backstroke or not swimming at all! I kept plugging along and by the time I got to the second turn buoy I just wanted it to be over: it was hard to sight, I was tired of fighting through the waves, and there was not a single pale pink swim cap around. By the time I dragged myself up the ramp I was at 45 minutes, one of my worst swims in a while. It was hard to get pumped up at this point as it seemed like I had already let myself down but then I remembered, I had been here before and there was lots of time to make up time!

Danielle was in a few heats behind me and her recount was that the swim felt like an eternity. Specifically her words to me were “I was passed by like 3 heats of swimmers… and I did breast stroke for at least 20 of the 49 minutes because I couldn’t catch my breath. I kept getting pelted by waves. My swim cap was coming off… I could see the buoys down the first stretch, but they seemed like pin-heads on the second stretch… there were some people around me but they were of no comfort because they were the other panicky swimmers and I wanted to avoid them like the plague…”. Of note this was only Danielle’s second race where there was an open water swim so I think she did pretty awesome. Our swim pictures were my favourite because we had a good laugh that her race cap was indeed coming off and that I took off my cap right away so that nobody would know how late I got out of the water.


Bike 90 km:

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As usual I was eager to start the bike and was happy that it began with a long decent from the dam. Although I was going fast it felt like I should be going much faster. In fact I looked down several times in the first 15 minutes to check if I had a flat. Although I didn’t feel strong I was still passing people at a steady rate. But, because I had forgotten to pack my bike computer, I really didn’t have a good gauge of my speed. After about 15 minutes of hard work I surmised that I was pushing into the wind and it seemed to getting stronger. I reminded myself that I’m a strong cyclist and that if it sucks for me then it sucks for everyone so I just settled in a kept the pressure on. There was turnaround at 25 miles and I wanted to get there in just over an hour. That became my focus. Apparently the ride was beautiful. I say that because I didn’t notice it because I was trying to stay as low as possible in the wind. It wasn’t a particularly hilly course and not really suited for small women riders- wind is notoriously tough on small riders because we have similar frontal area but less relative power. Finally I reached the turnaround and was happy to have ten miles of wind at my back.I had made my first split.

I was flying, feeling good, and passing more and more people. It seemed like people had pushed so hard into the wind they just wanted to relax on the tailwind. At mile 35 we were back in the wind and I just grinded it out… finally I saw the mile 50 sign and pushed through that last ten km, happy to be done with the bike. I clocked a 2:44 for the ride and moved up 584 positions from the bike alone from 940 overall to 356th and from 273rd female to 63rd. At this point I was trying to do the math in my head and knew that sub-5 was going to be impossible. That, combined with the 29 degree temperatures had me worried for the run.

I saw Danielle about 5 miles from the turnaround on the bike. She didn’t look happy at that point but when I asked her after about her swim to bike transition she said “I was so happy to finally get on my bike that I could have kissed it… I took my time in T1 because I was shaky from the swim – I put on sunscreen and went to the bathroom…”. She recounted that although the bike was windy, she enjoyed continually passing people. She also accidentally dropped her water bottle so she was parched for the middle 30k. She also noted disliked that the no-passing part where we had to go on the path. She was super happy to get to T2 and “tried to hurry in T2, put on more sunscreen, went to the bathroom, and realized after I tied up my shoes that I forgot my calf sleeves, I was too lazy to put them on so I said “Fu%$ it” and went on a yog…”

Run 21.1 km:

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I hopped off my bike and started the awkward trot to my run bag. I always think I must look like a newborn moose taking its first steps when I try to run after riding hard. I racked my bike, found my socks, tied my shoes twice, thinking I shouldn’t have skipped those speed laces, and was off. Once on the course it took a while to settle in and I found myself breathing really hard. I often find myself almost hyperventilating during the first ten minutes of the run and know that for me it’s best to just push through. Before I knew it there was the one mile mark. I looked at my watch… it took me just over 6 minutes to get there. Right about then I saw a pro women just ahead. I thought I would pace off her. This seemed like a great idea because it forced me to slow down a bit (she stopped on the trail to go to the bathroom a few times). I stayed with her until mile 3 (5 km) and clocked in at around 22 minutes… from there I just settled into an easy pace, hitting the 10 km mark in 45 minutes or so. It was a two loop course so at this point I was back at transition. It was completely clouded over and the temperature wasn’t really a factor at this point. I did grab coke and water at each aid station and ate 2 gels on the run. I also dumped water on my head to cool off each time… it was still just under 30 degrees. Knowing that I was using this as a training race, I tried to push but wasn’t willing to suffer too much with the 5 hour mark out of reach. In the end I came in at 1:37 for the run, 5:15 for the whole race, and 32 female overall (including 11 professional women). I was 187th of 1435 racers overall. This was a great result for an early season race but I was still disappointed in that it was a good 25 minutes off my PB. In the end it is this disappointment is what drives us to be better next time around so I now welcome it.

I saw Danielle as I was coming in for the final couple kilometer of my race. She looked super strong. Afterward she commented that “The run seemed easy, the aid stations were luxurious and were spaced out perfectly about half way between the mile markers, the volunteers were amazing, I passed a lot of people, one guy wearing a tu-tu, which I had to give him props for… and I sprinted to the finish line, and got a few extra cheers for that.” With a solid 1:38 on the run Danielle was the 90th female across the line and 403 out of 1435 racers overall!

Next up Race Recaps from Ironman Coeur d’Alene at the end of June where I raced and Canada at the end of July where both Danielle and I raced again.

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