Ironman 70.3 Boise 2012
June in the Pacific Northwest can be volatile. Thriving in such conditions is tricky.
June 9th, Boise, Idaho; low 40’s with heavy rain and fresh snow above 5,000ft and areas where the storm’s energy centered, like on the bike course, a combination of rain and sleet. Being exposed in weather like this makes one vulnerable. Up at Lucky Peak Reservoir there is a sold out Ironman with spectators freezing while athletes contemplate swimming, biking, and running (essentially in their bathing suit is the ‘normal’ protocol.) Many of the athletes had stoic looks of despair, some were crying, some expressed their panic angrily (all appropriate responses to unfamiliar and unexpected extreme weather) Then, some gals from the Boise Y Triclub came over and it was like a breath of fresh air; all smiles, with encouragement and support being their foundation allowing them to have fun. They were thriving on the challenge and reveling in the extraordinary elements. After all, these events are little more than a celebration of our vitality.
June 9th 7:15am
Jumping on my beat-up-commuter-bike to go the Y I can’t help but flash back to the Camel’s Back Duathlon exactly 2 weeks prior. An unusual sustained and heavy rain with temps hovering in the low 40’s makes this race tough to enjoy. The runs were fine, but my attire was not appropriate for the bike and I froze! The energy to stay warm equaled that of the race effort and my performance suffered. Conditions this morning are almost identical and even though I’m riding in full on winter gear for my short commute to the Y; I get a little cold.
I get to the Y’s morning Swimfit session a little late and jump into a slightly aggressive workout. I finish up about 2000 yards with some fast 100’s before donning the winter attire for the ride home to have a big breakfast.
Then, a special time with the family occupies some quiet moments in the morning. I’m not overly excited or anxious because I’m present in the moment with my family with my senses and body functioning at close to full capacities. These little moments between the ‘big’ moments are sometimes the sweetest of all.
Arriving late, I get there just in time to hear the announcement that they are changing the bike to a 15mile route. OK. There’s no use getting upset, sure there was a tinge of disappointment. I was one of the few ready and willing to thrive on a 56 mile cold a$$ bike ride. You have to accept it and adapt to the game change. I thought seriously about wearing my wetsuit on the bike, but in the end didn’t feel comfortable trying something new on race day and I did have a thermal jacket and gloves with hand warmers to dissuade me from trying it. Matty Reed jokes with my wife and me about wearing one; he was one of the athletes reveling in the conditions too.
A little past high noon.
I’ve been in the 59 degree water for a good 20 minutes before the gun goes off. Nick Thompson and I were the only guys to get in when we were allowed. I kept pestering Heather to let us get in, “can we get in the water now?” Doing the math, low 40’s ambient temp and high 50’s water temp; I was ready and willing to get in the water.
It is thrilling to be starting the race on so many levels. I yell, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” into the dark water abyss. My goal is to go hard and get warm. I pull into the lead immediately and feel limitless in my power output. It is still raining sideways and the water is choppy but for the first of 3 legs to this swim we have the current with us. You can feel a surge as wave after wave rolls through you. I utilize my preferred hip drive to sustain my flow and find the best rhythm. I love it. Being a swimmer you always yearn for a little more weight in the swim. It’s already the least important element to a successful Ironman race, having the chop made for a more eventful swim. Starting the 2nd leg after making a hard right in the triangle swim we now have the chop coming at us from the side. I play with my stroke, breathing and cadence to find the best rhythm. I fall into a hybrid freestyle doing hip drive while breathing and shoulder drive with the head down. I motor through the current and hold a good line with my body at the surface even though the conditions tried to make my core soft. Aqua Sphere’s Core Power System plays a roll with this!
I love it.
I love it because at my core I’m thriving in conditions others might find atrocious; my heart warms up the water.
The real toughness of this swim starts on the last leg when we take another hard right turn straight into the current. Again, I take a few moments to feel out the conditions and make adjustments to my stroke. This is not a thought process. It’s more of an automatic re-adjust. I’m flowing with the conditions taping into a source of boundless energy. This time my stroke settles on yet another distinct style; a fast turnover shoulder drive propels me best through the oncoming wind and waves impeding my progress.
Only a month before at the iconic St. Anthony’s Triathlon 3 swimmers in this race had put 10 to 20 seconds on me. Since, I’ve adjusted with more lake swimming as opposed to 100% swimming in a 25 yard pool. The difference is telling. I string out a field with exceptional swimmers with only Tim O’Donnell enjoying my draft.
Leading out the swim on this day means a lot to me. I knew that many of the athletes I coach at the Y are on the side freezing, waiting for their wave. I want to motivate them; I want them to see their coach, friend, neighbor, flourishing and light a fire under their butt so that they can do the same. My smile is huge coming out of the water. You may never have another race like this, ever!
The swim was one of the most satisfying in my experience with 28 years of competitive swimming.
It feels comfortable, running to the bikes, and for a moment, think I won’t need the extra gear to stay warm as I strip the wetsuit to my waist. But I know this is adrenalin and think better of it. I get to my bike and do something I try never to do when racing other pro athletes. I donate time. A calculated risk to stay warm; I put on a thermal vest. Being wet, this simple task takes much longer than it should. Both O’Donnel and Millward pass me while I’m standing next to the bike. I haven’t finished with my warming gear once I mount the bike. It takes me even longer, while narrowly avoiding a crash, to get my wet hands into the gloves (with hand warmers!). Both riders are now quite a ways up the road as finally, my focus narrows to riding strong and fast. My legs are freezing.
My cold muscles, like everyone else in this race, don’t want to go fast. They are tight and cold and I’m asking them to move violently. I catch and pass Tim after he nicks a red cone, zipping up a vest and goes down on slippery roads. It is a ‘gentle’ crash and he’s back on his bike right away.
I settle in behind Miilward, who I’m sure is going to freeze as he is racing only in his bathing suit! This is a mistake. Settling in might be the right thing if the bike is still 56 miles, it’s only 15 though. Getting comfortable is not the goal when trying to do well racing professional athletes. Like that, Millward pulls away and just out of sight. He warmed up!? With only a few miles left in the bike I try to close the gap and in the process create a 30 to 40 sec gap on 3rd place O’Donnell.
After less than an hour of racing we’re already heading into downtown Boise. Many of the spectators are not aware of the shortened course and therefore the huge number of people you would expect, have not arrived yet. Bummer. One thing Boise excels at for this race is the large number of spectators. It is awesome to come into T2 in second place with so many talented athletes racing. Taking off my jacket and gloves completes my time donation to the other pros. Seconds that always matter.
I focus on catching Millward and at times catch glimpses of him just up the Greenbelt. The weather has now completely shifted like it only does in Boise. The rain seems a distant memory? The sun is out the paths are drying and the temperature shoots up 10 degrees. Leery of attacking a 13 mile run I clip off at a pace that feels right. The comfortably fast pace from moment to moment.
At around the 4 mile mark there is an out and back turnaround and I’m able to get a sense of the gaps. Millward is lingering about a minute ahead. Behind me are three of the better runners on the planet. And they are way too close for comfort. O’Donnell less than a minute back with two Kiwi’s (not related) Matty Reed, then Tim Reed.
The first to catch me is Matty Reed and he is moving. I up my pace a little to about 5:20 per mile to try and stick with him but he is relentless. Matty’s pace is probably just under 5min miles at this point. Stunning how fast he is running and dangerous for me to even attempt to match. Matty will go on to a world class 1:10 half marathon run while catching Millward and actually tie for first place!
Now running in 3rd place , O’Donnell catches and quickly surges away, then Tim Reed does the same and I’m running in a solid 5th position well into the 2nd lap. I’m running well and feeling good and confident about holding my position. But as I’m running past mile 10 I hear some fast foot steps closing in. Trevor Wuertel (running a 1:11 of his own) makes a dominant pass. Arrgh.! Now I’m in 6th position, the final money spot.
I pass mile 11 and Kirk Nelson has made up a lot of ground. He’s going to catch me but I brace for a battle. I turn myself inside out trying to stay with him. Going from 1st to 7th makes a really sweet race from my performance standpoint, a little less so. I’m determined to make Kirk work for it and maybe I can put some kind of surge on him? I hang close, but the ex-college runner closes well and holds me off by 17 seconds. Tim Reed finished in 4th only a minute ahead. It was a close hard fought race with a lot of talented runners stealing the show.
My race is excellent and I’m thrilled when I cross the finish line. For a race that was 65% running and stacked with some run specialists I hung right in there. Taking 5min off my best half marathon at 37 years old is fantastic! I’ve been working on my run, chipping away at year after year. It’s fun to see continued progress after about 9 years of running.
The conditions in that race ranging from 37 degrees and rainy to 65 and sunny by the finish made this one of the harder 70.3 (29.3) you’ll ever do. It took a lot of energy to fight the elements, which always requires respect from the athlete. It’s worth noting that a 2pm start (3yrs ago start time) would have missed almost all the bad weather and that the entire week before and after the event the weather was close to perfect for racing.
I need to thank my family for all their support. Hortense, you are an amazing wife and mom!
Thanks for the support from SCOTT, Aqua Sphere, CEP, Bandanna, ASEA, Restwise, The Swim and Run Shop, Idaho Mountain Touring, and the Y!
2012 Ironman Boise 70.3 Results: