Ironman Boise 70.3 or 28.3?

After a lackluster early spring of training, I was back on track at ready to really race Ironman Boise 70.3. This race had extra qualifying spots and approximately 5 girls in my age group would grab slots for the Half Ironman World Championships. I knew I was an underdog, but I knew I’d have a shot.

Kevin and I arrived in Boise and settled in for the weekend. We had been just two weeks earlier so I felt comfortable with both the town and the course. My body was feeling good and I knew this course was tailor-made for me: a semi-hard, but really windy bike ride with a nice flat and shaded run. I have a history of melting down on hot runs, so the tree-lined path along the water seemed so perfect.

The weather was great when we arrived but the forecast for race day kept getting progressively worse. Being from Seattle, I came prepared. I packed arm warmers, knee warmers, two pairs of toe warmers, chemical toe heaters, ear warmers, a wind vest, a thermal vest, 2-3 pairs of gloves, and every thickness of sock I own. This may seem excessive, but the forecast called for rain and a high of 53 degrees.

This race is a little strange because the pros go off at noon. It was so nice to not set an alarm clock for 3-4 am. On race morning, Kevin and I got up at a decent hour, packed the car with my back and all my gear, and went to breakfast. What a luxury! Unfortunately though, the weather was worse than forecasted. It was 42 degrees, raining and the wind was howling. I dressed in so many layers, I was the biggest pain-of-an-athlete when I got to the body marking station.

The transition area look liked a refugee camp—athletes huddled under trees in garbage sacks, spectators bundled in their winter coats … in June. The wind was whipping up the lake as the rain drove down out of the sky. Later, we found out that it was 44 degrees at the start of the race with wind gusts over 50 mph leaving us with a windchill or ‘real feel’ temperature of 33 degrees. At noon. In June. IN JUNE!

I had been mentally preparing myself for the conditions all morning. I’ve never done a triathlon in those conditions, but I’ve done plenty of bike racing in horrendous weather. I remembered that the only time trials I’d won this year were done in cold, rainy weather. I started to get excited about the bad conditions. What did a super-fast SoCal girl have on me that day? Nothing! They’d be too busy crying about being cold as I put my head down and got to work. I was practically beaming as I set up my transition area. The weather was so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.

Everyone put their wetsuits on really early to stay warm. Just as I finished putting together my transition area and grabbed my wetsuit, the announcer came over the P.A. system.

He announced that due to the weather conditions, that were reportedly worse on other parts of the course (read: sleet/snow with violent wind gusts), they had made the decision to cut the bike course to … wait for it … 12 miles. 12 measly miles. That is the same distance as an early season time trial or the bike leg of a sprint triathlon. I bursted into tears immediately. I was a wreck. I wanted a spot to the World Championships so bad, but a 1.2-mile swim, a 12-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run was not going to get it done.

As the rain washed my tears away, I mentally rallied and decided to do the race anyway. Maybe the strong racers would pull out because of the weather, I reasoned. And if there is one thing my pride will not allow, is to be out-suffered if the opportunity arises.

I penguined marched down to the swim start with the other girls in my wave and was so thankful for my neoprene booties as I looked around and saw numb, purple and pink exposed feet around me.

SWIM

This swim is a deep-water start in a 57-degree reservoir. Just as our wave was about to go, a jet ski zoomed past us going the opposite direction. Apparently one of the women pros had to get pulled out of the water. Not exactly the best sight before you start a race. But the race did start and I started swimming. Well, kind of. I boldly lined up on the right, closer to the buoy line and was immediately pummeled. Fail. I will go back to the outside edge and clean water for future races thankyouverymuch. I thought I was swimming strong, but when the waves go every 3 minutes, there is a ton of traffic. I found it difficult to swim straight and to stay out of the scruff. The way back was intensely physical. A girl in a pink Zoot wetsuit would not leave me alone even when I tried to swim away from her. Toward the end of the swim, she grabbed my chest. I was sure that she was going for my face! As I told Kevin, this was Ironman swim, MMA-edition. I have never been more happy to get out of the water in 36:14.

T1

My hand had cramped so bad in the swim, it was more like a lobster claw than anything useful. They have wetsuit strippers at this race, but they couldn’t get my sleeve up and over my watch, so I tried to use my new claw to get the sleeve off. It took forever. Once I was on my way, I fumbled through transition. It was hard to get my gloves on and to zip up my wind vest. Once I was dressed, I grabbed my bike from the rack and was on my way … oh, wait. No I wasn’t. My wheels wouldn’t budge. Somehow, my front wheel was completely lodged on the brake. With my very compromised motor skills, it took me several tries with the quick release to get it fixed. I did stay calm though, so that was a bit of a silver lining. 8:48 I think is the longest transition I’ve ever had.

BIKE

The race director announced the modified course to be 12 miles, but my trusty Garmin measured out a near perfect 14. The new course was almost completely downhill and almost completely in town. That means we had about a half a lane to work with and in some places were forced into a single-lane, do-not-pass situation. I thought I was going to fall of my bike in places because I was moving so slow. It reminded me of semi-trucks passing semi-trucks on the freeway. When a slow rider was passing an even slower rider, there was no space for the fast rider to pass too. The ride almost felt like a road bike race. Surge, rest, surge, rest. I even saw people who left their wetsuits on for the bike. (I later found out that Matty Reed, one of the pro men that tied for the win, also wore his wet suit on the bike!) I was actually in the water longer than I was on my bike—36:02. Second silver lining of the day? Even with all that traffic, I had the third fastest amateur woman bike split of the day, was the 6th fastest bike split if you include the pros, and I had the same bike split as super-talented pro Linsey Corbin. Boom! See? I was ready to rock that bike course!

T2

By the time I got T2, the weather was clearing. For the run, the wind was a whisper and the sun was shining. The temperature jumped to a very pleasant 63 degrees. I’m not sure how, but some sort of accident occurred in the actual transition area and I wasn’t allowed to go down my bike row. I was a bit disoriented by the change-up, but I found my rack, ducked under into my row and went about my routine. 2:32

RUN

With the shortened bike course, I wasn’t sure how much faster I should run. So, I just ran on perceived rate of exertion. I felt strong, the strongest I’ve felt for a half-iron run, which  makes sense because I skipped 42 miles of cycling! And I experienced something that has never happened to me in a triathlon race before—I passed girls in my age group on the run. It was so fun! Normally, my half-way decent swim and my strong bike puts me out in front of a race, and getting gunned down isn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ My T1 was so long and the bike was so short, that I started further bike than I normally do. One by one, I passed girls and gained a bit of confidence with each one. I knew I didn’t have a shot at a World Championship slot. But this new experience was definitely the third silver lining. 1:49:14.

My final race time was 3:12:47 … a PR at the 28.3 distance. I was an unimpressive 18th in the 30-34 age group.

POST RACE & OTHER MUSINGS

I still decided to go to the award ceremony and roll-down. With 5 spots allocated to my division, I reasoned that crazier things have happened. My friend Sarah placed well enough to get a spot, so it was fun to see her get an award, and true to my style, I cheered obnoxiously loud. (If being an Ironfan was an Olympic sport, I would be well decorated with Gold medals.)

My age group’s spots didn’t roll very far, and I know I wasn’t the only one disappointed in my age group. I could hear a couple of girls a few rows back already making alternative race plans to try and grab their spots.

Triathlon is a master class in patience for us Type-A folks. I was frustrated that the extra spots for the World Championships went to runners and not triathletes, but that is part of the sport. You can’t control the weather. We all had the same circumstances and sometimes they favor some more than others. I will not say that I would have gotten a spot had the race been the full distance. I won’t make any excuses either, I just vowed to keep working hard. But I will be honest as well, there is a piece of me that wonders, ‘what if?’

Even though this course was not spectator friendly, Kevin took some amazing photos that really captured the day. They can be found at tu.smugmug.com. Here are some highlights.

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