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.
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.