Leading up to the Race
I can’t believe it’s almost July already, it has been raining so much in Boulder, it hasn’t felt like summer racing season yet. I was a little concerned as the whole week leading to the race it had been a little on the colder side, but at least the forecast for Saturday (race day) looked good. I didn’t expect it to get as hot as it ended up getting but I’d rather have it a little hot than rainy and miserable.
As it’s customary for 70.3s now a days, Ironman makes you check your bike in the day before. I had been working all day, and finally was able to go to the Reservoir to pick up my packet and check my bike in at around 4:30pm. When I got there, I couldn’t believe the amount of people that were there, but I guess everyone has jobs also and they had to wait until the last minute to check in. Process was very painless and for the first time ever I was glad to have “All World Athlete” status as the line was a fraction of the regular line. This was the first time that it felt like a frequent flyer program and not waiting in line felt like priority check in at the airline counter. It had rained so much the night before, that the grass was really wet and my shoes got pretty muddy, especially inside the tent. Once inside it took about 10 minutes to go through all the stations, then I stuck the numbers on my bike, made sure everything looked OK, once I double checked everything I went back home.
Ironman Boulder 70.3 Race Report
For some reason I woke up on my own, about 15 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off. I took the extra time to make sure I had everything, I didn’t want to forget my shoes or anything again. Had a quick breakfast and headed to the reservoir, I remembered how long the line had gotten the previous year, so I decided to go the back way. I was so glad I did as it paid off big time, I was able to park immediately. I heard that people stuck in traffic had to get out of their cars and walk from very far away to make it on time. They also didn’t close transition at 6:30am as they had said they would, simply because there were too many people still stuck in traffic waiting to come into the Reservoir. I went to my bike, prepared everything for T1/T2 and went back to the tent, where Chris and the girls were waiting for me. While I was putting my wetsuit on I could hear the Pros start their race, I didn’t go watch as we were far and there were too many people to getting there would have taken a long time. Instead I finished putting my wetsuit on and I went to the warm up area and swam a little. After having felt awful in the water a couple of weeks before for a sprint triathlon I did, I was a little nervous because this time I wasn’t only going to swim 750 meters, but a 1.2 mile swim. I was relieved when got in and felt pretty good. After the women pro started I still had to wait another 22 minutes or 4 waves, so I took my time and swam a little more. This year they spit up my age group into 2 different waves, in the first wave all the athletes, whose last names start with an A through K and then my wave from M-Z. While waiting for my swim start I was able to see my coach Eric to talk just a little more about the race. Right before going into the water saw Christelle, which was super nice, usually I never really get to see her right before the start.
The start was in the water, between two buoys, if you wanted to be in the front lines you couldn’t touch the ground, so I was just floating as usual, waiting for the horn to go off. As soon as it did, I sprinted for about 15 meters, to try to get away, as this is usually the time I get kicked and punched the most. I was surprised to see that right after the 15 meters I really didn’t have anyone around me. I looked back quickly and it seemed that everyone was behind me. I was glad to have clean water in front of me. Approximately every 100 meters they place a buoy, for sighting mostly but also so you know how much you have swam or have left to swim. After passing the second buoy, I was really happy to be by myself, I didn’t have to fight anyone and I could control my swim, the happiness didn’t last long though, before getting to the 3rd buoy I started seeing orange swim caps, which was the color for the wave in front of mine. Which mean that I was going to have to start swimming around people if I didn’t want to get kicked. Before getting to the first turn I started seeing yellow caps, which is the age group that had left 6 minutes before and the space started to feel a little crowded. Surprisingly I was very relaxed throughout the whole swim. I think the fact that I didn’t get kicked or punched once had a lot to do with it. Once I was about 100 meters from the finish I looked around and I was almost by myself.
As soon as my hands started grabbing sand, I stood up and started running to my T1, as I was running and trying to take my wetsuit off, I heard a good friend of mine, Russell, say that I was the first out of the water in my wave, that made me feel good, although I kind of suspected it. All World Athletes get 2 color caps, the color for your wave and then a black one that says All World Athlete. I decided to wear blue so that Christelle could recognize me as I was coming out as I hoped I was going to be one of the first blue caps out of the water. As soon as I got to my bike I remembered to take my wetsuit completely off, put my helmet and made sure my shoes were clipped into my pedals. I grabbed my bike, ran to the mounting area. Did a poor running mount of the bike and was off.
I was expecting to get passed by a lot of people on the bike as it usually happens, especially at the beginning of the bike, to my surprise I was still catching people from the previous waves and I didn’t get passed until mile 10. I was very excited, although I had been passed by one of my age group, in fact someone from the same wave as mine. I didn’t really care because this time I was passing more people than people were passing me. I got caught by a couple of other guys in my age group but these guys I found out later were in the wave before me, so when the passed me I still had a 3 minute lead. Eventually I got passed by the winners of age group 35-39 but for most of the race I was by myself. Nobody really around me, which felt a little weird. I got to the halfway point and my watch said 1:10 minutes, I started doing the math and for the first time I thought that I could bike under 2:20, which for me would have been over a 6 minute PR on the bike. I got excited but tried to continue to control myself, so I didn’t blow myself up. After I passed the entrance to my house I got really excited, yes my house is basically on the 70.3 course 🙂
I knew that I had less than 25 minutes to go, a couple of minutes later I passed 1 female pro, that had never really happened to me before, so it felt really good. Right after that, I turned right into a short out and back, I have ridden on that street hundreds of times, so I didn’t expect to happen what happened next. As I did the U-turn to head back, my front tire grabbed some gravel that was on the pavement and my front tire slid from under me. I tried to unclip but wasn’t fast enough, my fall was broken by my left hand, elbow and leg. I tried to get up immediately but it took me a second. As I got up I heard one of the volunteers ask me if I was OK and if I needed anything. I didn’t want to look at the areas that were stinging as I wanted to finish the race. So I quickly thanked the volunteer, told him I was OK, got on my bike and started to pedal again, hoping not to hear any weird noises coming from the bike. At that moment I heard Kenny’s voice, I had no idea he had been there the whole time and he just said: “Relax and concentrate”. It was nice to hear him say that, but at the same time I knew he had been filming and taking pictures so I thought: “Oh great, my fall is on video, forever now!” That made me laugh and helped me forget the pain. The remaining 5 miles or so were uneventful. When I finally got to T2 I heard people tell me that I was still in a good position, I racked my bike grabbed my number and hoped that my leg wouldn’t hurt as I had no idea of the extent of the injury.
I felt amazing starting the run, felt light on my feet and my legs felt great. I was running a little faster than planned but my HR was low and I was feeling good. Right before mile 1 I got passed by Ben Hoffman (Pro who got second at Kona last year) starting his second loop, as he left me behind I started to feel a pinch on both my quads, I started to freak out internally as I knew that after the pinch come the full on cramps. I immediately grabbed my hydration mix from the back of my kit and took a big gulp to see if that would get rid of the pinches. It didn’t, right after that both my quads started to cramp, it wasn’t as painful as when it happened for the Ironman the previous year so I just ran through the pain, hoping it would go away. This made me slow down about 30 seconds per mile though. I took water and started taking Gatorade also at the aid stations. The pain would eventually subside a little and I then could go back to running on pace, the leg cramps started to come back and would force me to slow down again. I was a little frustrated as this had never really happened in a half Ironman, so I wasn’t really expecting it. After taking a bunch of stuff at the aid stations I finally got to the turn around, the run is 2 loops so that meant that I was 1/4 of the way. While running back I saw Kenny again and he took this picture of me.
I don’t remember giving him the thumbs up, all I remember is telling him that I needed salt, he gave me the most confused look I have ever seen from him and then he shrugged. To this point I hadn’t stopped, just slowed down every time my cramps would start, but with 1 mile to go before the halfway point my right hamstring cramped so hard that I had to immediately stop, I couldn’t take another step it was so painful, tried to stretch but it simply wouldn’t go away. Luckily I heard someone behind me say, “just relax and walk it off”. I did that and started walking, the pain was still there though, I couldn’t get rid of that, finally the pain started to go down and I started to run again, shortening my stride hoping it wouldn’t happen again. Finally I got to the halfway point where everyone was, that lifted my spirits as everyone was cheering. I was able to recover mentally, I also grabbed some pretzels and sucked on them so that I could get more salt in my body. The rest of the run was very crowded but uneventful, I kept taking everything I could at the aid stations and luckily my stomach didn’t get too upset until after the race. It is so nice racing where people know you, as I saw Kenny and Sasha a couple of more times, I saw Ryan from Roka and heard other people cheering for me as well. It is so uplifting mentally, I think it really helped to distract me from the cramps. The temperatures had risen quite a bit, so I was just trying to stay cool. I didn’t cramp again the second loop, but every time I tried to push it a little I could feel the cramping coming back, so this forced me to slow down a little. At the end of the run, where they separate you to either do the second loop or head to the finish, I was running with around 10 other runners, it was so nice when all of them went left to go run their second loop and I went right to finish. Looked back one more time as I knew my legs wouldn’t let me sprint, I could feel them wanting to cramp again, saw I was by myself and felt really relieved. Finally I was close to the finish line and nobody was going to force me to sprint to the finish. You can see my smile in the picture below.
As soon as I heard my name and crossed the finish line the volunteers asked me if I was OK. A felt a couple of them around me and ask they asked again, they also asked if I needed to go to the medical tent. I thought, “I must look really bad” as apparently getting admitted to the medical tent is one of the hardest things ever now. Finally I figured out why they were asking me. They asked me if I had fallen during the run or the bike. I was bleeding everywhere, so before heading to the tent I saw Christelle and the girls, gave them a big kiss and headed to the medical tent.
My road rash was a little more than I had thought, but it wasn’t still terrible, they cleaned it up, the cleaning process as the most painful think. As I was about to leave my stomach started complaining that I had eaten and drank too much, so I had to sit back down and wait for it to calm down. Eventually my coach, Kenny and Christelle came to see me and that’s when I finally figured out that I had gotten 8th place in my age group. I was a little surprised as I didn’t think that I had gotten passed by that many people. My official time was 4:25:55 with a 25:53 minute swim, which was good enough for the fastest swim in my age group. a 2:19 bike split as I mentioned above and a terrible 1:38:08 run with all the cramps. I was happy with my PR (personal record) and I knew that some of the guys that had beat me were not going to go to Worlds, so I figured I’d wait for roll down to see if I could get a spot. Luckily I got the last spot after the 5th place finisher took the first of two spots.
All in all I’m happy with the race, concerned that I haven’t figured out how to not cramp during the run, but it was a great learning experience. Need to have a clean race one of these days (not forgetting my shoes, not forgetting to take my swim skin off, not falling off the bike), one of these days I hope, one of these days…
Below you can see how the road rash looked like later that day (after I cleaned it, again)
As usual I’d like to thank everyone that somehow has helped me through this awesome race, starting of course with my wife Christelle, for her unconditional love and support, my parents, coach Eric Kenny, Kenny Withrow for documenting my journey with 5280 Elite also my team Kompetitive Edge. Newton Running, Roka Sports & TritTats for all the cool products. Finally thanks to all the people that have followed me through this journey. Next up Whistler Ironman, see you guys soon!