It’s been 6 days and I’m still tired from the Boulder Ironman 70.3, my longest triathlon distance so far. The race is the third in the Annual Boulder Tri Series which includes a sprint distance in June (Boulder Sprint Tri), an Olympic distance in July (Boulder Peak Tri) and a half ironman distance in August. The race is 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.
I was inspired to sign up by my friend Lindsay Brust, who blogged about her training and race last year at Reaching For Ironman. Started doing sprint triathlons last year, did two Olympic distances this year for training, and was following a plan I found online. With each race, I kept thinking “well, I could go a little farther than that”.
Once you get to be a few days away from a race that long, there really isn’t any type of training you can squeeze in that the last minute that will help. The biggest things you can influence by then are nutrition, sleep, and hydration. So I tried to go to bed by 9:00pm the few days before, eat three solid meals of quality food each day, and drink lots of water. To help with dehydration on race day, I avoid salt in the 48 hours before a long race too (a tip from running expert and former Olympian Jeff Galloway).
Saturday was all about prepping. Had my biked checked out by Full Cycle in Boulder, stocked up on Clif Bars, Shot Bloks, and Gu, and calculated how much water I’d need to drink each hour. I also packed a turkey sandwich. I don’t know how endurance athletes survive on just GU and energy drinks for 4 to 6 hours because my body wants real food. So I packed the turkey sandwich as my reward half-way thru the bike ride.
My swim heat started at 7:11am, which was fantastic because my age group (45+) usually starts almost an hour later. It meant less time in the heat later in the afternoon. The swim was relaxing and frankly, didn’t seem 1.2 miles long. I was happy with my 42 minute time because my fastest mile time in training was 39 minutes and this was almost a quarter mile longer.
Since I knew it was going to be an 8-hour race, I took my time in transition. I dried my feet off, went to the bathroom, ate, and put on my heart rate monitor so I could make accurate adjustments for the heat. I even stopped for a picture (thanks, Dave!).
The bike ride was lovely. It was only about 8am so still cool and I had done this route several times so I was comfortable with the course. I’m a slow-and-steady racer so I usually find my groove on the right side of the road and let people pass. Drafting is not allowed and you have 15 seconds to pass someone or you can get a time penalty. My butt started getting sore about 2 hours into the ride but went away after about hour 3. I paid attention to the time, alternated water and Accelerade, and had my last solid food – my sandwich. That was THE best turkey sandwich I have ever eaten! Completed the bike leg in just less than 4 hours.
The run is my weakest part. I’m not fast but I can go slow forever. By now it was just around noon and starting to get warm. At transition, I put on my hat, reapplied sunscreen, and grabbed my fuel belt. Even though they hand out lots of GU and gel shots at the water stations, I don’t like to experiment during a race so I carry my own. It’s just not worth risking the stomach distress and blowing a race I’ve been working so hard for so I don’t mind carrying a few extra items. The first hour and a half of the run wasn’t bad. I felt better than I thought I would and my fuel and hydration was working. Then the heat really hit me. My heart rate started spiking into the 170s so I would slow down or walk until it went back down. I try to keep my heart rate between 145-155 for a long race. Because of the heat, my heart rate was in that zone just walking. It was hard to stay cool but the ice cold sponges they gave out at the aid stations really helped. I drank water every few minutes and ate one Shot Blok every 2 miles. I didn’t even want to know what the temperature was so I didn’t ask (it was 93). I just kept my eyes on the dirt path, kept checking my heart rate, and plugged along. I walked most of the last few miles because I just couldn’t run any more, especially on the small hills. FINALLY, I could see the finish line tents in the distance and I got loopy knowing I would finish.
Dave was at the finish line and was a sight for sore eyes. As soon as I crossed the finish line and hugged him, I broke down and cried. I hadn’t realized I was holding it in but seeing him made all the emotion and mental struggle come loose. I was so relieved to be done and proud that I finished.