Race goals are a funny thing. Nothing is for certain in Triathlon or in life for that matter. That's why, I guess, Triathlon mimics Life. Ever since I competed in the Ironman Califonia 70.3 race on March 31st, I had the bug planted inside me to qualify for the World Championships in Las Vegas this year on Sept. 9th. I even mentioned this goal in my profile in 3/GO Magazine http://www.3gomagazine.com/. Nothing like throwing it out there in a worldwide publication!
What the heck! I have seen moderate success this season in the 70.3/Half Ironman distance with a 16th AG place in the very competitive Oceanside race and a 3rd overall at the Red Rock Co. http://www.redrockco.com/ Marquee Half Iron in April. But it's very tough to get a slot with so many 70.3 races only alloting 30 slots per event! For a 45-49 year old male age grouper, that usually means a guy has to rank in the top 2!
Enter, stage right, my One Multisport Elite http://www.onemultisport.org/ teammate, Klas Kuntze. He informed me that Ironman has allotted 100 slots at the Boise, Kansas and Syracuse 70.3 races this year! "Boise is doable", I thought. And after negotiations with my wife, I registered for the June 9th race in Idaho.
Between Klas and fellow, youngster Triathlete (and accountant) , Elliot Kawaoka (#fathervsson) the math seemed to work for a good shot at this coveted spot for Sin City! (Really, Lake Las Vegas) According to Elliot's excel spreadsheet, there could be 8-10 spots in my age group in Boise. (Elliot already qualified in Florida earlier this past month!)
I discussed the plan with my coach, Nick White, at Carmichael Training Systems http://www.trainright.com/ and we hit it running!
Upon arriving Thursday, June 7th in Boise, after a two day road trip with my middle son, 17 year old Nathan, I was so pleased with the weather and accommodations we had in the quaint downtown area. Klas has become the "Ken Glah" of triathlon travel and we were set up at the Grove Hotel which was set up right next to the expo, T2 and finish line!
Weather was even better Friday, the day before the race. (Boise is a Saturday event with a noon start time) A group of us local Phoenix tri geeks including Klas, me, Alex Russell, David Rizzi and Karl Schneider took a late morning ride/run brick following the beginning of the 13.1 run route. I actually overdressed for the workout and shed some layers after our tune up bike before the quick brick run.
We all kept checking weather reports throughout the day that had seemed to forcast rain for Friday and showed a cloudy and cool race day Saturday. There was no rain this day and maybe the weather predictions were off a bit. Just maybe! : /
Having a Half Ironman start at noon is very interesting. I have done the Boston Marathon at noon and at 10 a.m. in years past but never a 4-5 hour Triathlon. Friday night dinner was later than usual for a pre race meal; about 7:30 p.m. and we could literally sleep in race morning.
My body automatically wakes up at 4-4:30 a.m. every morning, but I was able to stay in bed until 6:30 a.m. I immediately got up and peek out the hotel curtain to view the T2 set up outside my window. It was raining and the flags were stiff on their poles due to the strong winds. Just great! "It'll be a lot like Oceanside." I thought, "drizzly and cool - fast run!" I had a shower and shave and made my pre race in room breakfast of coffee, oatmeal with sliced bananas and Gatorade Perform. All made inside my room, sinkside. Weather can change so fast and the cannon doesn't go off until 12:35 p.m. for me. A lot can change by then. And it did. I soon found out it would only get worse.
We took my Toyota Sequoia out Friday afternoon to the Lucky Peak Reservoir to drop off our bikes. School bus shuttles met us race morning Saturday at 9:15 a.m. to take us to the swim start. We arrived before 10:00 a.m. and as soon as we unloaded, the cold, wet, windy weather slapped us in the face with a fury. So different than when we were there the afternoon before! The race announcer greeted us on the PA system and I went straight to T1 to check on my bike lugging my T2 and Morning Clothes Bags. My Valdora PHX2 http://www.valdoracycles.com/ looked wet but good and ready. I took it off the rack to get my tubular tires aired up by the local bike shop. I attached my Bento Box that held my tubular spare and EFS Gel Flask. This Point to Point race called for a "Clean Transition Area" which means you leave nothing on the ground. The T1 Bag containing my new Louis Garneau Vorttice Black Knight Helmet with visor, shoes, and socks now hung from my handlebars. After the swim, it's mandatory to insert your wetsuit, goggles and caps in the same bag completely and leave it all in the transition area. All this prep took only minutes and I began to realize the weather was getting worse and worse with more rain, wind and dropping temperatures. There were still 3 hours until race time! I began to regret getting a 10:30 a.m. ticket for Nathan to come see the swim start. There may be one thing worst than waiting to race in miserable conditions. That's waiting to watch someone else race in miserable conditions! The cold wind left us with no where to hide. Karl found me and said he was putting on his wetsuit early to stay warm. That sounded like a good idea and I noticed many shivering, low body fat Triathletes doing the same. I found a small bathroom and took my time putting on my Aqua Sphere Phantom wetsuit and then still put on my jacket. Walking outside again, it didn't seem to help that much. It was later reported that temperatures had dropped to 41 degrees or below. That was without the wind chill factor. Still 2+ hours to go! Klas or Karl noticed some wetsuit clad Triathletes now climbing into the back of a large UHaul Truck parked right next to T1. We went to check it out. Looking in we saw rubber skinned refugees with teeth chattering inside. We climbed aboard and joined them inside. Over the next hour 30+ Triathletes would come in and huddle/cuddle to stay warmer than the outside elements. Klas announced to all inside that I would be putting this adventure in my Blog. So be it! We could still hear the announcer giving updates about transition closing and stupid jokes about the weather. Then the big announcement came..."Due to severe weather and 40+ winds from the NW, the Race Directors have decided to eliminate a large portion of the bike course where athletes would be most exposed to the dangers. You will complete the entire 1.2 mile swim but bike approximately 15 miles into downtown Boise to T2 and then complete the entire 13.1 half marathon." Our home away from home (UHaul Truck Cabin) digested this information and we started to plan accordingly. "It's going to come down to the run." I thought. Transition closed close to noon so I filed out of the truck at about 11:45 a.m. to make last minute adjustments to my race set up. I took my 24 oz. water bottle off the frame that held my EFS drink. and just kept the smaller 20 oz. version on my bike. I still kept my spare and tools attached. You never know.
The race was delayed by 10 minutes due to road adjustments and run volunteer set up much earlier than expected. I was so cold. I now donned my neoprene cap and beenie still in my wetsuit and jacket waiting for the very last minute to turn in my Morning Clothes Bag. The water tempswere annouced to be at 57 degrees. Much warmer than the outside air. I wanted to get in the balmy 57 degree water!
As we filed onto the boat ramp by cap colors, I made my way along with my neon green headed brothers between the ages of 45-49. Two waves to go before we would start and I had felt like so much energy was used just to keep my body warm to this point. My legs felt tight and crampy. The swim volunteers on jet skis were already bringing in swimmers in yellow caps who gave up on the day back to shore before I even got started. Not a good sign!
The water felt just fine. It should have been stinging my face, hands and feet but they were already frost bit. The horn blew and we were off at 12:45 p.m. No issues on the swim at all. Good room to find open water. Sighting was ok and I felt like I got into a groove early on. I caught white caps right away on the triangle course. At the first major turn, I glanced at my Garmin 910xt and it read 14:36. It was a triangle, not an out and back so I didn't know if that was good or not. I felt more congested and got hit more the last 500 meters as we finished the 1.2 miler running uphill to the carpeted timing mat. A great wetsuit stripper greeted me and my butt hit the ground as he pulled the neoprene from my ankles.
Swim time: 34:47 AG Rank: 13th. Gender: 163 Overall: 209.
I had been debating and discussing the use of gloves and arm warmers in the bike with other racers. I was all for it but concerned about the time it would take to put it all on in T1. I also knew once my adrenaline gets going and my competitive nature comes into play, I don't feel I need these items and just move on. That was the case here. I entered T1, strapped my helmet, put my Fitsok http://www.fitsok.com/ F4 socks and shoes on. I was required to stuff my wetsuit, goggles etc into the bag as well and I was on my way.
It was the biggest post race discussion that some pros decided to keep their wetsuits on for this short 15 mile ride into town. The pictures are amazing and funny. Personally, I was cold but I feel I have been colder. In 1994, I did the a sprint tri in Show Low, AZ on October 20th. I rememeber the date because my now, almost 20 year old son, Andrew was celebrating his 2nd birthday on that race day. The swim was 800m in a warm indoor pool and I remember seeing so many Triathletes "wasting time" putting on clothes for the 12 mile bike. I was in a speedo and ran to transition to head out. It began to snow and I got the weirdest looks from truck and car drivers as I shivered along the local roads. If I can live through that cold and embarrasment, I can do this!
The first big downhill came right away as we left the reservoir. With a combination of wet roads and wind, I was extemely nervous to take it too fast. There were other no pass zones and faster straight aways that made this bike go by so fast. I did take in 2 big gulps of EFS drink and gel as I saw downtown some into sight.
Bike Time: 38:15 AG Rank: 10th. Gender: 145 Overall: 169.
I entered T2 and overshot my bike spot and T2 bag. I backed it up to reletively empty rack. I should have saw that as a good sign but didn't put it all together at that moment. Taking off my helmet and shoes, my socks were all bunched up. I fixed them, put on Spira Stinger XLTs http://www.spirafootwear.com/ visor, sunglasses and took off.
Leaving T2 it was ironic that the weather was clearing up a little. The only thing that could have been stranger would have been a heat wave at this point. That didn't happen. It did take 2-3 miles to feel my feet though. They were still numb from the swim and short bike. I knew they were hitting the ground but I felt nothing. That may have been a good thing. At the very beginning of the run, I spotted my friend and rival, Jeff Bassett in his Team Faster kit just ahead of me. (Rio Salado all over again? See my other blog entry for the details) I knew Jeff was there and would be competing for a Vegas Worlds slot. I was encouraged that he was just right there in front of me so early on the run. I usually have to fight the entire run to get near him by the very end. I kept him in sight and put a 6:30 first mile on the course followed by a couple more sub 6:40 miles to begin the race to the finish. Still, really had no idea where Jeff or I stood in the AG ranks. If it were a true 70.3, I could guesstimate finish times. My goal was to run fast and hard and I wouldn't want to accept anything less than a solid sub 1:30 half marathon time considering the modified bike course. Upon the 2nd loop of a very picturesque trail/park course, I came upon my ONE Elite Teammate, Tour Guide and good friend, Klas. He has crashed on the steep hill right out of transition hard and was just holding on through the pain to finish. I came along side of him and he said I was in this for sure. BUT, there was no place to rest and it would have to hurt. As I asked him if he was okay, he barked, "Forget about me and MAKE IT HURT!" My next mile was 6:38. Jeff never lost ground and I truly felt like I was running faster and should be gaining ground! Dang it, He's good! He knew I was there and he just kept bringing it. He was NOT letting up. With a 5k to go, I hit it and raised my heart rate to over Anaerobic Threshold. "So what, it's almost over. I thought. "I want no regrets today." As the last turn into town approached, I knew Jeff was within a minute but not able to be caught. I hoped he didn't have the last spot but I had run very hard. As the Ironman logo carpet hit beneath my feet, I noticed the runner just yards ahead of me had the number 48 marked in black on his left calf. What? I put on the afterburners and sprinted to catch then pass him with less than 20 yards before hitting the timing mat.
Run time: 1:27:32
Total Time: 2:46:04
Overall AG Rank: 7th. Overall Gender: 93 Overall: 107.
It would be within the hour after checking posted results next to the food that Jeff was 6th, I was 7th place in our age group and the guy I out sprinted, Doug Ross from Knoxville, TN was 8th in our AG. "How many slots would there be?" I wondered. I soon found a conference room within the Boise Conference Center that would have results, Vegas slots and awards. There was a sheet of paper taped to the door showing the slot allotment for the race. "45-49 Males - 8 Slots" I made it! So did Jeff and Doug! I left the room looking for Nathan to tell him. In doing so, I bumped into Jeff and told him the news. He already knew. He congratulated me and held up a Ironman logo piece of paper. He already got his slot! Dang it again! He even beat me even in getting his award! ;-)
I learned so much this past weekend.
1. We compete in an outdoor sport with no real guarantees.
2. The ability to adapt and improvise can make all the difference.(Ask Matty Reed and his wetsuit ride into downtown Boise and eventually the win)
3. The journey is usually a bigger part than the actual race.
4. I can put together a fast twitch sprint at a finish line afterall!
5. Sometimes putting your goals out there can motivate you to acheived success.
More races, more successes, more failures, more fun and learning await this season for sure.
Thank you for being a part of it all.