Soul Racing

2013 Ironman Boise 70.3

In the days leading up to the Ironman Boise 70.3 I yearned for a test of the heart.  I was going to take the big leap and go deep into the heart.  Here, I was going to discover more about whom I am and what I’m made of.  My body was primed and my awareness felt present and focused.  I was ready. 

Then, I felt a cold coming on the night before the race.  A range of negative emotions stormed my psyche.  I did not deal with this well, going through some rough denial and anger stages.  Mostly, I ignored the obvious, wishing the ailment away.  I did a decent job of fooling myself on the surface, but deep down I knew. 

In the race, I got the test of heart alright, just not the kind I was envisioning.  

Stopping the race was a painful experience emotionally and will probably always hurt.  I will never know how well prepared I actually was for that day or experience the celebration of fitness I yearned to have with family and friends.  

For weeks now I’ve been reflecting on the lesson.  Allowing your errors to instruct you will give them value.  This feels like a big failure on some levels but understanding the value of the experience makes it a big success for my soul. 

My fears became exposed and this helped take my ego down a few notches.  I’d like to say it snuffed it out altogether but I still hear that voice every now and then. 

In a short time I’ve become more and more grateful for the failure that was my Ironman Boise 70.3 race.  I know that sounds strange but it taught me to be more balanced to appreciate what really matters and to continue to grow. 

High Noon:

The water is aqua blue clear; looking down into the depths of the lake you see sunlight piercing far below but it’s too deep to see the bottom. It is refreshingly cold, a sharp contrast to the warm summer like day. I love being in this water knowing it is some of the cleanest on the planet; all of it coming from the snow run off from the remote mountains surrounding Boise.  Snowflakes coming from weather systems off the vast expanse of the mighty Pacific.  Sitting on the start line for the few minutes before the start chills the limbs, and I do some aggressive egg beater kick to warm up the blood. The count-down begins, and you can feel the excitement in the body break to the surface. When the cannon sounds Josh Amberger and I shoot to the front like we dove in and everyone else started in the water.  We drag race for about 50 meters. It’s too rich for me so I get behind his feet and tuck in nicely in his draft. Perfect race start.  Problem is; my body gives me feedback I’m not use to so early in a race, regardless of the output. The cardiac productivity is impressive as he pulls away, I don’t even try to get back on. Josh proceeds to pull away from the pack. It was my first queue that my body was sputtering a bit, not because Josh pulled away, just how my body reacted to the effort. I took notice and tried not to test myself too much for the rest of the swim.


The water was choppy but not so much that you had to alter your stroke too much. I prefer the conditions like this, even though on one occasion sucking down a breath of nothing but water had me doing some extra hydrating in the swim. I spent the second half of the swim sitting in the second position of our group, consciously conserving energy for the bike and run. Bevan got very aggressive at the end of the swim and charged into T1.


I had a pretty good transition and passed Brent at the mount line to start the bike in 3rd position right behind Bevan. Turning West onto Highway 21 I immediately knew this race was going to have a ton of headwind. I was expecting and wanting these settings. The hot and windy circumstances gave me flashbacks to 2010. This time I came in with experience to excel and get a second chance at conquering Ironman Boise 70.3 when it brought its meanest conditions.  I hydrated well and rode conservative enough, appreciating this fact. One thing was clearly bothering me, my airway felt raw, dry, and scratchy. I ignored this and hoped it was just the hot dry air coupled with massive amounts of oxygen being sucked into my lungs.


I was able to ride fairly comfortable despite the wicked winds; however, Bevan and Brent were now getting up the road and out of reach. I have ridden with Bevan several times and on good days I can ride as strong or stronger.  I didn’t dwell too long here and just chalked it up to Bevan having a great day or going out too fast.  I was in great company with Millward and Reed (last year’s winners). Things were going well enough until the first aid station where I went for water and plunged at least 8 bottles to the ground getting none. I slowed down a bit but not enough to obtain the water, it cost me several seconds on my competitors who I seemed to be riding comfortable with. Alarms were going off due to the fact that I did not pick up any water.  Not only that but now, I was off the back and unable to close the gap. I fought aggressively to catch back up.  I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but part of that fight was futile anger being worked out. Climbing the gravel pit was definite belligerent racing tactics. I raced silly and sporadic. Deep down I think I knew the race performance I had trained for had long since slipped through my fingers.  But I was going to fight tooth and nail for it.


I rode for several more miles just lingering slightly behind.  At the turn around I noticed I was still squarely in the mix with the boys at the front of the race.  After taking the 180 turn just past mile 25 we began sailing with the wind.  The calm quiet helped me to reflect and pause; to listen and feel my breathing and heart-beat.  Something deeper was drawing me out of the race situation and I focused on the body.  It had been sending we warning signs for a while now.  I had done a good job of ignoring and rationalizing them as we endurance athletes sometimes do. But these were a layer apart from the effort. I felt like continuing the challenge was going to send my body into a tailspin of trouble. I became honest with myself.  I knew in an instant…I had to stop racing today.


It broke my heart to come out of the aero position up to the hoods of my bike and stop fighting but I quickly accepted it.  It is a second that branded itself in my mind for eternity; I can still feel every sensation.  In a way, this challenge was harder than the race of heart I had envisioned.  It may seem odd to read this, but in a way this race was gratifying.  I played my best hand on the day and was able to move on and enjoy the day despite what most would see as a setback.  I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t any disappointment but I’m OK with it.  I learned a lot about myself and the things that we think matter and the things that really matter.


In the end, I have what is most endearing about our sport; supreme health.  Add to that the health of my family and my city and getting a little head cold that takes you out of contention in professional race is no big deal.


I found myself at the farthest point on the course from town, out in the middle of the desert baking in the sun, wanting really badly to find some shade and stop moving. I ended up soft pedaling all the way back into town.


It gave me time to process and funnel the disappointment in and out of me.


I showed up at T2 as a spectator and a coach and enjoyed the show. It felt great to sit under the shade trees next to the river, very comfortable with river breezes. It was impressive to see the guys working hard on the run, everyone drenched in sweat and water. I couldn’t help but have subtle regrets and wonder what might have been.


Then, my spirit lifted as athletes I’ve trained with and coached began running the course.  They were taking an impressive contest head on, and thriving.  I loved seeing all the smiles.  I marveled at their expressions of pure joy; even though the body was clearly suffering.  Awesome, how the human spirit can flourish in a challenge.


I morphed from an athlete to a spectator to a coach and finally to a cheerleader as wonderful story after wonderful accomplishment entered the finishing chute down 8th street.  A run I had trained countless times imagining a powerful surge of emotion and satisfaction with family and friends as I strode across the finish line.  Peculiar how I felt the same powerful emotions as my friends finished what I couldn’t.  Thanks for lifting me up.  We are all in this together.

Growing the next generation of Triathletes with the Y’s Summer Triathlon Camps

Boise Youth Triathlon

Summer 2013 Dates:

June 24-28 Dt Y   July 8 -12 Dt Y July 22 -26 Dt Y   Aug 5-9 West Y   Aug 19-23 West Y

Click to Register Now Online

Mission: To promote a lifelong passion for activity while focusing on swimming, biking, and running. We look to enhance fitness skills with the larger goal of developing self-esteem, teamwork, goal setting, self-discipline and friendly competition. This Youth Program will be both an introduction to sport for beginners and a challenge for the serious competitor. Experienced coaching with a flair for kids will guide the program. The Youth Triathlon Program will strive to create a healthy and safe environment for kids to learn, laugh, and grow.

The YMCA is a non-profit organization.

*Financial assistance is available*


About the Camp
The Boise YMCA Youth Triathlon Camp is a non-profit group focused on healthy lifestyles for kids. The age range is 7 – 18 years old. This program will offer swim, bike, and run training with safety, sound mechanics and fun being a major theme. We welcome all abilities. There will be several informal and formal kids’ triathlons throughout the year to race in at the local, regional, and national level.


Camp Benefits
· Structured group workouts for all abilities
· Beginner/Intermediate & Advanced
Training groups
· Gaining lifelong skills for an active lifestyle and love for the outdoors
· Social aspects while playing fun games
· Professional Coaching
· Free T-shirt
· Kids Triathlon on last day

Monday-Friday 7:45am-11:30am (be in pool by 8:00am)
$99 for Facility Members and $145 Program-Members
Financial Assistance Available


Specifics for camp:
*Participants should be able to swim 1 lap on own in the pool
*Need suit and goggles
*Need any bike that meets safety standards
*Need a helmet that fits correctly
*Need shoes for running
*Need a water bottle
*Participants remember to bring your own snacks


Schedule for Camp:
1. 7:45am participants arrive and sign in
(lock up bikes and get ready for swim)
2. 8:00am-9:00pm: Pool
3. 9:00am-9:30am change and snack
4. 9:30am-10:30am: Bike
5. 10:30am-10:45am change and snack
6. 10:45am-11:30: Run
7. Pick up at 11:30am
 **Light day on Wednesday**


Thursday (Transition Clinic)
1. 7:45am participants arrive and sign in (lock up bikes and get ready for swim)
2. Transition Clinic: T1/T2 (practice over and over)
3. Race Day Preparation: course location, distances, age groups, start time, directions etc.
4. 11:15-11:30am: Camp Review
5. Pick up at 11:30am

Friday: Race Day
1. Participants arrive at 8:30am
2. Race starts at 9:00am
3. Following Race: Awards

Race Distances:
The swim will be in the West Y pool with all the lane lines removed.  One loop around that pool will be about 150 yards (we’ll put buoys in each of the corners).

Red Race Option: Swim (1 loop) 150 yards, Bike (2 loops) 2 miles, Run (1 loop) 0.5 mile.

White Race Option: Swim (2 loops) 300 yards, Bike (4 loops) 4 miles, Run (2 loops) 1 mile.

Blue Race Option: Swim (3 loops) 450 yards, Bike (6 loops) 6 miles, Run (3 loops) 1.5 mile.

 Click to Register Now Online

Life’s Lessons at the Ironman Boise 70.3 and now, some Wide-eyed-wonder.

An hour into the bike leg of the Ironman Boise 70.3.  That is where my race finished.  About as far south, as the race course goes from downtown Boise.

Hortense zipping me up just right…

Turning the 180corner on the out and back section of the bike; we start sailing with the wind.  I use the moment to self check the body.  I’m coughing up phlegm, my airways feel raw, scratched and dry even though I just gulped some fluids.  My energy level is getting low.  It hits me like the wind a few minutes before; hard.  I accept the fact that I am dealing with an infection.  The decision is a painful one because the body feels soo good underneath the illness and it would have been enriching to celebrate some vitality with my family and friends lining up the course.  I slowly experience a visceral pause as I go from an aero position up to the hoods of my stem and begin soft pedaling.  My number one goal for the first 6 months of my 2013 season was to reach a satisfying self performance at this race.  My number one goal in triathlon is to be that 60, 70, 80 year old guy that makes other people wonder, “how awesome is that…”  A quick self assessment emboldened me with the wisdom that to continue racing would mean sacrificing my health.  My main goal for racing as a professional triathlete is supreme health.  I’m grateful for the experience of toeing the line and getting a chance to give it a go but I probably should have been wiser and pulled the plug very early in the bike.
Today, it’s clear I have a fairly typical cold which is no big deal unless your racing the world beaters in an Ironman event.  I’ve processed it and got over it the second Lola gave me a big hug, while my competition completed the first loop of the run.  Guillaume and Lola were just happy to see daddy for no particular reason.  I love that.
The plan all along has been to take a two week break from focused triathlon training before gearing up for the second half of the season; I’m going to stick to that, even though I didn’t run in the race Saturday and I have all sorts of urges to start now.  There is a deeper wisdom quietly saying, “Patience.”  Hortense is starting her summer break as a teacher so I feel a little giddy too with excitement at having some extra time to be with the kids.  This weekend we’ll be heading to the expansive Idaho Wilderness for a camping trip with Lola and Guillaume.  They will be 1 and 3 in July and for all the days of my life I can think of few things I would rather do than go camping with my family.  It will be Guillaume’s first time and Lola, well, at 3 she is going to be all wide-eyed-wonder.

CapTex 2013 Racing with a smile

12:12pm Memorial Day

I hand my ticket to the flight agent with a smile and she says, with a grin trying to lighten the mood, “Sorry sir, you missed your plane, we just shut the door.”  I can’t accept this, “But the plane is right there, it will only take me a second to be on it.”  I plead with her for another few moments not willing to endure the situation without some protest.  She does not and will not yield.  The plane sits at the gate for another 5 minutes before taxing away.  I want to roll on the ground and kick and scream and throw things but instead I just jump up and down.  I feel like crying.

I had just lost the chance to fly from Austin to Boise and have dinner with my family that night.  That bothered me a lot.  So I took it all in and focused on the emotion.  Let that process.  My grief was eased by the fact that I would just enjoy seeing my family that much more the next day.  Now, I had to tackle my ill feeling towards airports because I was on standby for 2 more flights that were already booked full.  Tall order for a guy who just lost his iPhone (no distractions), causing him to miss his plane and was still wearing his very awesome and very stinky race suit, while missing his family.  I could see this turning into some sort of Homer Odyssey.   Luckily, I had two New Yorkers with a lot of long articles to read.

Aqua Sphere powered

One article I read entitled, “The Walking Alive” Don’t stop moving, by Susan Orlean discussed the research by Dr. James Levine on ‘inactivity studies’.  Basically, sitting a lot, even if you are in good shape, is bad.  The worst news is that hard exercise for one hour a day may not cancel the damage done by sitting for 6 hours.  Check this stat out: Men who sit more than 6 hours a day have an over-all death rate 20% higher than men who sit for 3 hours or less.  It is 32% higher for women!  I stand up and start pacing up and down the entirety of the Austin airport…no excess sitting for me.  Good thing I have a crawling 10 month old and an active 34 month old at home.  I can’t sit even if I ‘could’.

I reflected on this article a lot over the last few days.  You assume that being a triathlete makes you healthy by default on varying degrees.  But are you?  How well balanced is your training?  Are you so tired after your session(s) that you sit or lie down the whole rest of the day and assume you are recovering? Do you ‘earn your laziness’?   I used to do this, but I can’t while being a dad and husband and coach at the Y.  I am forced to move all day long.  I sure do sleep well.

As a professional triathlete my training has ‘suffered’ from any conventional wisdom’s view.  However, at 38 I’m racing better than any of my previous 10 years in triathlon.   Finishing 5th at the CapTex Lifetime Series Triathlon is a wonderful result for me.  On top of my normal training (swimming, biking, and running) I also commute everywhere (15 months and counting since using my car; it’s for sale by the way; 99 Alero Deluxe with 89 thousand miles with ski, bike and kayak rack), I’m coaching on my feet several times a week, I’m biking and playing while coaching our Youth Tri program, and when I go home, well, I have Guillaume and Lola to interact and grow with.  I’m almost in constant motion.  I think this is quietly optimizing my health more than I can appreciate.

6:45am Memorial Day

To my surprise a less than 100% effort has me at and near the front of the swim for the first few moments of the race.  Just before the first turn buoy I settle in on some fast feet and get a little too comfortable.  I keep having to close small gaps and it’s burning up extra energy.  Drafting in the swim takes a laser focus in the Olympic distance when the pace is almost always on and several surges intensify the cardiac output.  Usually my strength is closing out the swim but today I’m falling off the back of the main group.

Taking over the streets of Austin

I rip T1 trying to make contact with the fast riders just in front of me.  Matty Reed and I are about 20 seconds down and he takes the charge in trying to close the gap.  We ride the first lap in proximity and lose a touch of time to the leaders.  In the second lap I go for broke on one of the short but steep climbs and create a gap that would grow to about a minute by the end of this fun bike course.

I start the run in 5th place seemingly out of reach to Olympian Hunter Kemper and super bikers Ben Collins and Cam Dye and up-and-coming stud Joe Malloy.  I know from the out and back sections on the bike that I have at least 30 seconds on the next racer.  This gives me just enough of a cushion to start the run at my comfortably fast pace and not a screaming fast sub 5min pace like many of my peers.  I respected the humidity as much as possible by drinking water at every aid station and also pouring it on my head.

Racing with a smile

I run with a smile and enjoy the race situation.  There are several Para triathletes racing in their national championship and I get inspired by all of them.  For most of the athletes I passed I tried to give out a shout or two of encouragement, “good job / nice work / keep it going / go xnamex go” etc.

With a mile to go I feel great.  This is a huge win for me to be not just surviving the Austin humidity but thriving.  I’m grateful for my health and move my feet as fast as they will carry me.  It feels great to be aware of the body’s effort and I’m grateful for its efficient movement.  An unusual race, in that, I spent most of it alone, 75% on the bike and 100% on the run and was able to hold my position.  I crossed the finish chute thinking of my loving family back home in Boise, kissing my ring.

Feeling the love and support of the family

Thanks Alisa for hosting with an unexpected 2nd night!  Thank you SCOTT, Aqua Sphere, CEP, RestWise, and Asea for keeping me at the top of my form.

Slowtwitch article

Triathlete Magazine photos

Triathlete Magazine article

CapTex Results

Pro Men

1. Hunter Kemper (USA) 1:49:09 – $6,000
2. Joe Maloy (USA) 1:50:06 – $3,750
3. Ben Collins (USA) 1:50:36 – $2,000
4. Cameron Dye (USA) 1:51:32 – $1,125
5. Kevin Everett (USA)1:54:47 – $750
6. Jon Bird (CAN) 1:55:05 – $550
7. Matty Reed (USA) 1:55:57 – $375

The podium I missed trying to catch the plane that I missed 🙂