Water, Wind, and Wonder: The 2014 Boise 70.3 Race Report
My fingers smell like bacon with a side of a hamburger. There is a growler of IPA sitting next to me. And my right foot is missing a toe nail. This means only one thing…it’s Saturday! Oh, and that I just finished a big race. Today was the Boise Half Ironman, my first venture back into the world of long distance triathlon since 2011. Pull up a chair, grab a cold one, and come along for my Idaho adventure.
Coming into this race, my taper was perfect. Also, I got in plenty of outdoor rides in to prepare for the infamous Boise wind. Well, maybe somewhat prepare….more on that later. In short, I arrived in Boise ready and more refreshed than I have for any race prior.
With a family of six, my wife and I have pretty much mastered the art and expectations of Ironmaning with kids. This time, in order to avoid being packed in like a bunch of sardines in a small overpriced hotel room, we rented a home in Boise for the same price. Three bedrooms and two baths with a washer dryer has given us a slice of heaven in Boise. And you can’t beat the large yard for the kids to run around in:
Okay, back to racing. This morning, I awoke bright and early and began the pre-race ritual I had practiced over the past few months. Breakfast was two servings of oatmeal and 2 hard boiled eggs. I skipped coffee as we ran short on time; I will need some serious caffeine tomorrow. After getting dressed and packed, it was off to Run Bag drop off and the shuttle to the swim. When I dropped my run bag off, I decided to tie it to the bike rack to make sure it didn’t get knocked away. BAD MOVE. More on that later.
I had planned on taking the second of two shuttles to T1, but as I walked by the first shuttle, I saw that there were open seats. I figured I might as well wait around at T1 rather than T2, so I hopped aboard.
Just in case people are planning on this race next year, I will note that despite what it said in the athlete guide, I did not need a ticket for the shuttle. All I needed was my wrist band After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the sun-drenched T1 at around 9:45. At this time of the day, the wind was nice and calm; this was a much needed change from what I experienced at bike drop off the day prior. Per tradition, I took all of two minutes to check my bike and get set up for the ride. The unfortunate flip side of this is that I was left with a whopping 2.5 hours until race time. After paying homage to the Porta Potty gods, I found some shade behind the backside of a trash dumpster. This may seem crazy, but it wasn’t long before the whole shaded side of the dumpster was covered in triathletes like ants on a powerbar. None of us needed any extra sun exposure for the day.
As my wave start time approached, I got my wetsuit on. This took some planning as one week prior I actually made a small tear in the seam of my wetsuit. I subsequently repaired this with Aquaseal. This in turn sealed the tear with a large abrasive ridge. I really didn’t want to swim with a cheese grater in my right armpit, so I covered the ridge with two pieces of duct tape. Then I put on a waterproof bandage on the front of my right shoulder. Surely that would protect me…..
Standing with a full wet suit and cap on in 85 degrees quickly turned me into a walking thai marinade. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we got to plunge into the 60 degree water. After peeing….it was go time.
Swim: 1.2 miles, 38:58
I haven’t been swimming much lately so my only goal for the swim was to sight well. Off we go and my body is feeling good. Despite sighting every six strokes, I had to do a lot of corrections. God knows where I would have ended up without frequent looks at the buoys. Unlike prior Ironman races, I was pretty much all alone for my swim. I dodged to the right early on, and this took me out of the draft line. This may have slowed me down a bit unfortunately. To complicate matters further, the wind certainly made things choppy and I found myself gulping water on frequent breaths.
Overall, I swam straight, but I didn’t go strong enough. My swim time was freakishly slow, even for me. I was anticipating 35 this year. Coming out in 38:58 wasn’t a good start to the race. To combat the ever deadly demoralization, I focused on the rest of the race and moved forward.
T1: 3:21. No problems here. Smooth and fast.
Remember that whole wet suit patch deal?
Bike: 56 miles, 2:48
I have never analyzed a bike course before as much as I did for Boise. I even had different wattage goals for different segments of the bike course programmed into my Garmin 910XT. Despite that, the one variable that I couldn’t reliably account for was the wind. Being a lighter rider, I get buffeted around in the wind like a pinwheel. So any wind causes me concern, and the wind today nearly gave me a heart attack. Weatherunderground.com had the winds up to 20knots today. Sure there were some good tail wind sections, but for the most part, the wind was simply mentally and physically devastating. Especially tough were the “recovery, downhill six miles” at the end of the ride. By the time I got there, a full on gusting head wind had turned the recovery section into a sufferfest.
The course itself was not to difficult. The hills were way easier than I expected. Except for the epic beginning at the dam, it also wasn’t the most scenic. The two large down hill sections certainly caused some trepidation, especially by the gravel pit, where I thought I was going to go airborne.
I had been expecting 2:40, so I am slightly disappointed with a 2:48. I would like to say that my slow time was due to the skiddish moments I had on the downhills. Honestly though, that was only a very small fraction on the ride. I think I went too easy on the hills and that I was simply not aggressive enough on other sections. I think I could have made a 2:45 today without blowing up my run, but it is what it is.
As expected, my watts were way high due to the constant wind battle. My IF (intensity factor) was supposed to be .85. The reality was .95!!!!!!
No, I didn’t really race 95% of my maximum. What this means is that my FTP is off. I was happy to see that my legs were balanced and my cadence stayed even at least.
T2: 4:19, DISASTER
So remember when I said I tied down my run bag? Well, in the heat of the day, the knot had cinched tight and with sweaty and tired hands, it took FOREVER to get my bag off the rack. During the last 30 seconds, I thought about just ripping my bag open. The only problem with that option is that I was supposed to put my bike gear into the bag afterwards. Fortunately, thanks to some apparently appropriate expletives, my bag was freed and I was ready to roll. I took 30 seconds in the porta potty (I couldn’t get myself to pee on the bike) and off I went.
Run: 13.1 miles, 1:45:13, Glory Hallelujah
I hit the ground running and I was pleased to feel some good legs underneath me. As I had experienced in training, the Perpetuem left me with a stomach full of gas and this was rather unsettling in the first two miles. Rather than panic, I trusted in my training. I knew that I would feel better by mile 2-3, and I kept on at a conservative pace.
At mile 2, my stomach was still carrying a water balloon and I decided to go early for the Coke at the aid station. I gulped it down (it was warm…eek), and chased it with some water. And just like expected, about .2 miles later, I let out a burp that could shake the pillars of heaven. And then…my body was free.
I concentrated on a quick turnover and moving my arms. Slowly but surely, the pace crept up and my body loosened up. I had told myself that if I was feeling good still by mile eight I could be more aggressive. I crossed the mile 8 marker under 8:00 minute pace and I allowed myself a big grin.
The course lived up to its reputation as being pancake flat and spectator friendly. I was slapping kids hands like a irritable nun in Catholic school; the support was great. This was truly the best run course I have experienced.
I kept sipping Coke every aid station and the legs kept turning. By mile 12, I was starting to hurt a bit in the legs…a pretty similar feeling to what I experienced at mile 13 of the Seattle Marathon last December. Fortunately, I only had one more mile to go at that point and the crowds and adrenaline were growing.
Turning into the finisher’s path, I saw the runner numbers drop off greatly and I knew I had somewhat salvaged my race. Under a sun drenched sky, I crossed the line feeling great.
Synopsis: 5:20:14, 36/172 AG, 29:29 PR
Overall, it wasn’t a perfect day. The bike and swim left something to be desired. The wind certainly made a difference in how enjoyable the bike was. Despite those short comings, Boise was my best long distance triathlon performance. I’m thrilled with my run and nutrition developments. Most importantly, I still feel I have room to improve.
But that will have to wait. For now, I am thrilled to be free of another training regimen. For now, the only thing I want to do is to be as dedicated a dad and husband as I am a triathlete. And with that…it’s time for the Boise Zoo!