The Boulder Half Ironman this past weekend was my “A” race for the 2017 season. It’s THE thing I’ve been working towards since coming back from breaking my rib late last summer. I had other important races and goals this year, but nothing was as important to me as this race (as far as athletic goals are concerned). Even my goal to run a sub 2:30 half marathon was just a step towards reaching my longer goals this weekend. I put a lot of pressure on myself for this one and I’m pretty sure I drove Coach Mark crazy the day before as I was starting to completely stress out and melt down. The effect of this stress was clear as I was trying to text him and couldn’t manage to put a coherent thought together without a typo (those of you who know me understand my obsession with grammar and spell check).
On Friday, Zach and I attended the athlete briefing, did our modified pre-race day workout, checked in our bikes, and then had dinner and relaxed the rest of the evening. Friday was actually out 5th wedding anniversary and we celebrated by going to bed at 8:30 so we could be fresh to race the next morning.
I slept off and on a few hours at a time and was already awake when my alarm went off around 5 am Saturday morning. Zach and I were up and out the door in less than 30 minutes. Our hotel was only 4 miles from the reservoir, so we figured we would get there with time to spare. Unfortunately, there was something funky going on with how they were parking cars and traffic was basically at a standstill on the road to the reservoir. We crawled slowly and made it to the reservoir around 6:15. I hastily set up transition and then headed towards the water, texting my handler Sasha the entire time because she was still trying to make her way to the reservoir due to the traffic. Luckily, we met up around 6:50 near the swim start and I ran through what I needed her to do to help me when I got out of the water and throughout the rest of the race. My wave was supposed to start just after 7, but then they delayed the start due to the problems with people getting into the reservoir, so I ended up having time to do a warm-up in the water. The weird thing with my nerves on race day is that I will throw up at the hotel the morning of a race, but I’m cool as a cucumber once I get to the start line. This race was no exception and my friend Becky and I hyped each other up just before the cannon went off.
My swim went as planned and hoped – it’s my strongest discipline and I swam straight and strong without going too hard. I felt great getting out of the water and was so happy to have my friend Sasha there to help me pull off my wetsuit and throw on my running leg so I could make my way to transition.
T1 (transition from swim to bike) went well and I was actually faster than planned getting through there. I hopped on my bike without incident and set out for 56 intimate miles with my bike and the course.
The waves after mine had been delayed an additional 10 minutes, so there was a huge amount of time where I was just alone on the road before the age group athletes finally started passing me. It was sort of surreal, but I just kept reminding myself to stay in control and not push too hard because I still had a long haul ahead of me. I rode smart and despite a left glute that was tight the entire ride, I finished the bike right around my more ambitious time goal.
T2 (transition from bike to run) also went pretty quickly, but I forgot to throw on my running belt with my number. Luckily, although this leads to a more difficult time locating race pictures, it does not lead to disqualification – thank goodness!
The run ended up being my downfall, and not for the normal issues I have with my residual limb when I run distance. Normally I deal with pain in my residual limb and issues with my leg falling off due to sweat, but my leg held up beautifully and the Certain Dri I used every day the week before kept me from sweating… so, my decline on the run was purely due to heat and issues with nutrition. I knew between mile 1.5-2 that this run was going to be a sufferfest, but by mile 4 I knew I would be gutting it out if I wanted to finish. I ended up walking a lot and my run time was almost 30 minutes longer than my goal, but I still managed to finish in under 7.5 hours. I was feeling a little disappointed, particularly because the run is something I’ve been working so hard on for the past year, but then I went to the medical tent for ice to put on my knee and there were quite a few athletes there who hadn’t finished due to heat exhaustion. So, even though I raced slow on the run, my flexibility on race day allowed me to race smarter and that is the reason I was able to cross the finish line despite challenging conditions.
One thing that really rings true to me after this race is that we have to remember that obstacles – be that heat, nutrition, missing a limb, or something else – are only barriers if we allow them to stand in our way rather than finding a way around, over, or through them, and the only way to do this is to be flexible with our goals and readily forgive ourselves if we have to adjust those goals on race day. This is true in racing, but I also think it applies to life more generally, so remember to be kind to yourself when you face challenges!