Race Report: Boulder 70.3 August 7, 2011

Hometown Race.  Well, Boulder is not literally my HOMEtown, but it’s where I’ve lived for the past seven and a half years, so these roads, trails, and lakes are very familiar to me.  I have never participated in this particular race, in all these years that I’ve been in Boulder and have trained and done other local races, so I was excited to actually try my hand at it and see where I stand among all the solid competition that trains, lives, and/or travels to race here in this triathlon mecca, or the Boulder Bubble to which it’s been referred.

The swim portion of this race (1.2 miles) takes place in the very familiar Boulder Reservoir.  I say very familiar because if you live here, or come here to train, the “Rez” is the main place to practice your open-water swimming, and there seems to be at least one event per weekend of the summer that utilizes the facilities there.  Throughout the summer there are the weekly Boulder Stroke and Stride Series, there are a few organized long-distance open water swim practices such as the Boulder Aquatic Masters (BAM) Bare Bones Swims, and the Racing Underground 1.2 and 2.4 mile Open Water Swim events, just to name a few.  There are also numerous triathlons of varying distance that take place at the Reservoir.

The 2-loop bike route of the Boulder 70.3 race (56 total miles) has a few very fast portions that range between nominally rolling hills, to actual downhill.  Click here to see the bike route.  These roads are very familiar to local cyclists and triathletes, where many a training ride has been logged.

The run portion of this race holds its challenges in that it is very exposed with zero shade, and the road surface is almost all dirt and gravel – not exciting, fun, rocky trails (there are many of these in and around Boulder), but just hard-packed dirt and small rocks and a whole lotta big sun beating down on a tired athlete.  It’s mentally challenging.  Click here to see a map of the run route.

I have been working on my open water swimming a bit more, after I was pretty unhappy with my performance at the Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 race at the end of June.  First of all, I got a new wetsuit (thank you, TYR), and secondly I began a weekly practice of open water swimming.  It’s kind of surprising how different it is than swimming in a pool.  I needed to hone my skills at sighting buoys, swimming in a straight line (without being able to see the tiles or the line at the bottom of a pool, it’s harder to maintain a consistent direction), and also swimming in a wetsuit.  All these factors make a big difference in how it feels to swim a long distance.  I do think I am seeing some improvements, but feel I have some more work to do.  However, I was more satisfied with my Boulder swim performance than I was at some of my other swims this season.  I came in 6th out of the water with a time of 30:26, and headed into transition.

She looks so hot with her fast shoes on

The bike portion is for sure my favorite part of triathlon, and with my new Rolf Prima race wheels (2nd race on them), I felt like I was flyin’!  It’s certainly an advantage to have ridden so many times on this bike route, and I felt confident that I would have a strong bike on this day.  I had gotten some race prep talk from my coach, Curt Chesney, about how to not go out too fast on the first loop – which is an easy mistake to make with all the race-induced adrenaline you have flowing through your body, and because it is a fast route – if you burn up your legs going into the second lap, your whole race will suffer.  So I heeded his advice and felt like I paced myself well, taking advantage of those slightly downhill sections, and pushing the pace on any inclines as this is a strength of mine.  I came in 4th off the bike, with a time of 2:22:22 (no, that’s not a typ-o) (23.6mph average pace).

Going into the run (13.2 miles), I knew there were a few girls not too far behind me.  In fact, Marilyn McDonald biked two minutes faster than me, though I had come out in front of her on the swim.  I barely passed her coming into T2 (Transition #2), but got out and onto the run course faster and left her behind.  Jessica Chong, Caroline Gregory, and Uli Bromme were also not too far behind me coming into the run.  Uli made up quite a bit of time in the first three miles of the run, and as I saw her on one of the short turn-arounds on the course, I had to make a decision:  Run faster, or run smarter.  This is a huge challenge in triathlon, well, I’d say in many kinds of races, but in tri’s you have to know your body’s limits and it’s potentials as you move through the three sports, racing each one knowing that there is another following…and sometimes that just takes some guessing and some faith.  This day, I got to challenge myself to find strength in believing in myself.  In this race, it turns out I am the most proud of the opportunity I received to practice and accomplish this.  Uli is a more seasoned professional triathlete than I, and she is a very good athlete – one I look up to.  She swims and trains at Flatiron Athletic Club (where I do too), and I have met her on a few occasions.  I know she is a talented runner, and has a lot of grit as well.  But this day, I resolved to have just a little bit more.  She almost passed me twice, but I was able to hold her back by slightly picking up my pace, and continuing to run with strong form.  I learned a long time ago, from my junior college track coach, that the mental games of running hold huge power:  Run with form that says “I have plenty of gas left in my tank”, and if you pass someone, do it with strength and hold it together with confidence, at least until you’ve left them behind, because you will be able to steal some of that person’s confidence as you bound past them with seemingly endless energy.  I didn’t get to pass Uli, but I got to fend her off.

I saw Lucas around mile 7 and Uli was hot on my heels.  This was right after she had tried to pass me for the second time.  I chuckle

Running out of T2

when I remember his face, because he didn’t say a word to me…he saw her right behind me and I’m sure he was thinking, “uh-oh”, and couldn’t really cheer or coach me in any way because of her positioning.  What do you say, “Great job, you’re right in front of her”, or “Keep it up, baby, you have half a second on her”, or “Nice try, but you’re about to get passed”, or “It’s okay, at least those tri shorts look really good on you”?  Well, he didn’t choose any of those phrases, for which I am rather thankful, and he kind of gave me this look like, “uuuuhhhh” and I smiled at him and just gave him a thumbs-up sign.  Which sounds really cheesy but it was exactly how I felt at that moment:  ”Don’t worry, I’m happy doing this thing, I have it under control, and it’s gonna be allllllright”.  And the cool thing is, I totally believed that, and it gave me confidence to see him and run past with that kind of peace and know – really know! – that I was going to keep it together.  And, well, if I didn’t end up holding her off, I knew that I was doing my best and that if she passed me, that she would deserve the better place.  ’Cuz I was about to give it all I had.

Men and Women's winning pro field

Going into the second lap of a hot, exposed, dusty, gravel-y trail loop with a seasoned athlete right on your tail is fairly daunting and has the potential to steal your peace.  But I set my jaw, and I focused on my form; I sipped water and poured it on my head at every aid station to stay as cool as possible, and I motored all the way to the finish, finally breaking away from her probably about halfway through the second lap (not very far, but maybe 30-45 seconds ahead of her), and maintained that gap until the finish line, where I secured my 4th place overall female, with a run split of 1:30:11 (6:54 min/mile avg pace), and a total race time of 4:26:10, a personal best for me.

Then, I was whisked away by an official to be drug tested.  This was a new experience!  They explained to me that the first and second place finishers were always tested, and then a couple more athletes would from places 4-10th would be chosen randomly, and I was one of the lucky girls today!  It was actually quite an interesting process to me, never having gone through it before.  I had nothing to be scared of; the strongest thing I had put in my body being calcium and iron vitamin tablets, which I’m pretty sure are still very legal.  The woman who escorted me to the testing tent had to stay with me at all times from the moment she told me I was to be tested, to the time she turned me over to the nurse who then went with me into the toilet to give the sample.  I had to fill out some paperwork, show my I.D., and then urinate in a cup (with the official being present with me in the port-o-potty; that was a little awkward).  Then they send the sample off to a lab and I will never hear from them.  Which is good.  The whole process took about 25 minutes, though I have heard from other athletes that it can take much, much longer.  For one thing, I was hydrated enough to be able to even give a urine sample.  I overheard another athlete in the tent saying he’d been sitting there at least a half an hour and had gone through three bottles of water, and still wasn’t hydrated enough to produce a sample.

New experiences all around.  I’m starting feel a little more “pro”, if I do say so myself.  ;)


One Response to “Race Report: Boulder 70.3 August 7, 2011”

  1. aunt Lynnie says:

    Hi Whit,
    Really enjoyed reading about this race. I can just imagine you smiling at Lucas and giving him a thumbs up! You go girl!!
    love you!!