PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN
Location: Boulder, CO
The “to race, or not to race” question was answered on Friday morning, when I finally realized I should get off the fence, and race the local event. I had been deliberating for a while, as I wasn’t sure I’d be rested enough to race, or if I’d be smart racing back-to-back weekends (with Vineman coming up).
In the end, I figured it’d be a great way to have a hard workout, to have some fun, and hopefully to make a bit of cash.
Boulder Peak always draws a tough field, mostly because half of triathlon’s worldwide elite lives here or in Colorado Springs. It’s a tough race, with tough competition: lots of fun! Plus, it’s really the only short race I do these days, so it’s hard to miss.
After truly enjoying the opportunity to sleep in our own bed the night before a race, Amanda and I rode over to the reservoir early Sunday morning; we were caffeinated and ready to roll. We got there with plenty of time to set up, and still get a nice warm up.
It’s funny to note that as early as we arrived, nearly the entire women’s bike rack section was full. These women were prompt! On the other hand, the men’s side was very empty! Why were the men the procrastinators? And how did I end up on the early side of the equation that morning? Oh yeah, Amanda was with me!
After a nice bike ride, a short run, and a good long swim, I truly felt as ready as I was going to be. I watched the women start (they had a 14:45 head start on us), and I got myself ready to really pound out a great swim. I was practicing the old school tactic of tucking my singlet into my shorts, so I could pull it on post-swim, and avoid wearing the unitard/ one-piece/ speedsuit thingy. Everyone else seemed to have one of those on; perhaps I had misjudged. Oh well, my bare chest felt good in the slightly warm reservoir waters.
At the gun I was in position. 2.3 seconds after the gun I was still in position. 2.4 seconds after the gun, I was in dead last. Ok that’s an exaggeration, but I was not in the front. It was strange how quickly I was gapped. Normally my problem with the swim is NOT the first few hundred meters. Normally, I excel at that part. This time, however, I was getting dropped. I fell in line with someone, and hoped to hold onto his feet. Sure enough I held his feet; however, what I had not counted on was that he lost the feet in front of him. We were dropped for real.
I exited the water unsure of my deficit. The encouraging words sure did encourage me: I thought I really was “just a bit behind”. People sure are optimistic, and I love that about them. Turns out I was 60-90 seconds behind all the contenders. Not good. Not good for a two-hour race anyway. Ah well, the dismal swim was behind me!
Onto the bike I began my assault. My primary performance goal was to break an hour on the tough 26-mile bike course. I felt like I could do it, and I set out to prove myself right.
About two-thirds of the way up Old Stage ( 14% grade hill of about a mile), I realized I would not be able to sustain the torrid attack I was dishing out. I had passed two or three guys on the first bit of the climb, but the strength it took to push the massive 42-tooth chain ring up that incline was too great for my muscles to sustain. I needed to sit down and rest a bit. I sat and rested a bit.
I regained the momentum near the top, and set myself back to the task of crushing the bike course. Could I still break the hour with this short break? If my equally massive 55-tooth chain ring had anything to do with it, yes. I pushed and pushed and passed and passed. Before I knew it, I was gaining on the front group.
After jumping off the bike, I headed out on the run with last year’s 3rd place finisher (so the race announcer informed me). I was feeling great, and surprisingly was not feeling the effects of the hard bike ride. It goes to show that all this IM training does wonders for the strength!
Within about a mile, I moved into fifth place. I was running well, and I thought I’d be able to perhaps close on fourth. I rounded the first of five turns (triple out-and-back run course), and made it most of the way back before “running well” turned into “running? well, barely”. Ok not barely running, but it felt bad. I realized that I was in serious oxygen debt. It sure felt like asthma, but I think it was just me suffering. I eased up, and let the breathing return to normal. After an easier mile, I tried to build back to my fast pace for the next three or four. This time the breathing problem converted itself into some sort of diabolical side stitch. It had been a while since I had one of those (at the last Boulder Peak I raced), and I forgot how to handle them. OUCH. I realized there would be no catching of fourth, and it didn’t look like there’d be any catching from behind, so I dealt with the last few miles, and the cramp.
I crossed the line in fifth, one spot better than I had ever finished at Boulder Peak. I was pleased with my effort; happy that I got some speed work in, in prep for my upcoming half; and glad to have participated in such a great local race. The run course was lined with tons of my friends, all screaming and yelling for us. I loved that part, and I look forward to doing another hometown event!
As for the bike time, well, I almost did it: 1:00.23. Next year I won’t take that break part way up the climb!