A few days have passed since the completion of the Boise 70.3 Half Ironman so I guess it’s more than time to get a race report out to the groups. I’ll report my perspective and Carrie and Britt can report theirs if they choose to do so.
My journey to Boise started back in January when I asked the folks on this list serve if they were interested in participating in the long course event and if so if they might be interested in helping me attempt to get ready. Several of you responded affirmatively but Britt and Carrie noted that not only were they willing to help me out but they were also planning to do the race. In a matter of minutes a partnership was formed and from that partnership I also was lucky to earn the friendship of two very remarkable people.
We started training on February 1, 2011 and as luck would have it the first day of the training plan called for a rest day….I like this plan!! Five months, 40 miles in the water, 1000 on the bike and 300 running later we found ourselves meeting in Drummond to load our gear and head South towards Boise. We arrived in Boise the afternoon of June 9th, unpacked and went to the Boise Convention Center to formalize the Ironman registration process. At that point all the training became real and I was pretty darn sure that I was the least fit person in the race based upon the apparent fitness level of the other competitors at registration. I was a bit nervous but my goal was to finish, sure I had a time in mind but more than anything I just wanted to finish.
Friday morning came and we walked around the Boise Bo Do district then around noon departed to check our bikes at T1, near Lucky Peak Reservoir south of Boise. The bike check was a pretty simple process but it was pretty clear that there was going to be a great deal of high dollar carbon hitting the road on Saturday. I’ve got a really nice bike but I felt a little bit outclassed in the “my bike is cooler than yours” department. Following bike check we visited the Idaho State Park directly below the dam since we were not allowed to swim in Lucky Peak before the event and we wanted to acclimate ourselves to the water temperature. We paid the $5 admit fee and donned our wetsuits strolling confidently to the waters’ edge. We all moved forward and universally said “SHI*this waters cold!” Now of course we are from Montana so we bravely dove in. To say the water was cold would be like saying we have had a few sprinkles in Helena this spring. I’m guessing that the water was around 45 degrees but we all swam forward into the mist of a gigantic hydraulic fountain. Once we got upwind from the fountain the water warmed up significantly, at least to the point where a persons’ face and arms no longer stung from the cold. We swam for maybe 10 minutes and called it quits, and decided we should go drive the bike course.
The Boise 70.3 bike course is a combination of hills, rollers, flats and false flats. It took us about two hours to preview the course and talk some race strategy, then it was time to get back to town for some nourishment. After a good supper we all went back to the hotel and assembled our gear in preparation for Saturdays race. Saturday dawned clear with a forecast for a high of 74 degrees and light winds, perfect for racing. After a light breakfast we gathered our gear bags and caught the shuttle bus to Lucky Peak Reservoir. Transition was full and the place was buzzing with very fit people everywhere a person looked.
The pros took off at precisely noon. Britt was the first of our group to swim at 12:13, I left at 12:29 and Carrie’s wave departed at 12:33. The announcer noted that at race time the water temperature was a balmy 53 degrees. However when I jumped in all I could think about was the shrinkage episode on Seinfeld….OH MY GOD the water was freaking freezing….but no turning back now. The horn sounded precisely at 12:29 and my wave was off. The swim was a triangular shaped course with an approximately 950 meter leg straight away from the swim start. I settled into my herky jerky swim stroke and just tried to relax following the obligatory combat portion of the swim course. After about 500 meters I noted that there were people from the subsequent wave passing me but I’m not an efficient swimmer, more of a persistent one. At the first turn buoy I received a kick in the face followed immediately by a kick to the throat…and I thought he combat portion was over. 575 meters to the second turn buoy found me resuming my stroke and taking stock of where I was mentally. I note the mental checks mainly because I was quite concerned about hypothermia, all systems seemed fairly functional so the funky chicken swim stroke continued.
As I approached the second turn buoy it was drastically apparent that the water temperature had changed, but not for the better, it had actually gotten colder. As I rounded the turn I was sure that the buoy was actually an ice berg that had been painted yellow, or maybe it was just a huge chunk of yellow snow…in either case it was freaking cold!! The last 500 meters found me struggling to keep my fingers closed and be able to cup the water. With about 300 meters remaining I realized that it simply was impossible to close my fingers anymore but the end was near, or so I hoped, one way or the other. To say I was happy to see the boat ramp would be an understatement. I wish I could say I ran to T1, but that would be a lie, I walked and kind of jogged happy to be back on land and beginning to warm up. I noticed that my hands and feet had lost all color and were hauntingly white making me think that hypothermia had in fact begun. As I climbed the boat ramp I say my youngest daughter Jeri cheering me on, Dad has time to give his little girl a kiss after all this is MY race. A few yards further up the ramp was Jacki, time for another kiss for my support crew. At the entrance to T1 volunteer wetsuit strippers were there and I’m really glad they were as I don’t think I could have gotten out of my suit with fingers that no longer worked. As the strippers pulled my suit off I got a cramp in my left calf, an ominous sign of things to come. I stretched it out and went to my bike, changed and got ready for the ride.
Leaving T1 my family was there again cheering me on…..I’ve got time for another kiss, after all it’s MY race. The bike course starts out fast with a long downhill where I reached 39 mph, frozen fingers and all, a two mile flat followed by a 4 mile uphill pull essentially move a racer up past the Micron property. I was averaging about 18.5 mph at that point and felt pretty good about the bike. My only problem was that when I attempted to get out of the saddle to climb I would experience some slight cramping in my quads so I chose to spend most of my time in the saddle. At mile 20 there is a significant hill that I really needed to get out of the saddle to effectively attack and I simply couldn’t with the cramping issue. I was jamming HEED and Hammer Jel but I just couldn’t get ahead of the cramps. At the 30 mile aid station I still had a full bottle of HEED and chose not to take on any additional hydration. That turned out to be a really bad decision as at about mile 35 I realized that I had lost about ½ of my remaining HEED when I failed to completely close my bottle. At mile 40 I was completely out of water and I was really feeling it. I stopped at the aid station at mile 46 and took on hydration, endurolyte tablets and some nutrition but I was very much bonking at this point. Around mile 50 there is a hill at the end of a residential district. I tried to shift to my small chain ring and get out of the saddle to attack but that turned out to be a fairly critical mistake. I didn’t up shift my rear cassette and my legs spun around way too fast causing a debilitation cramp in my left quad. I made it to the top of the hill but I was really struggling. For the remaining six miles I essentially had to pull my left leg out of the cleat and practice my single leg drills. Not much fun but I really didn’t have a lot of choice if I wanted to get to the finish. Honestly I have never been so happy to get off my bike as I was at T2. I hobbled to my transition slot, racked my bike and sat down on the ground. Transition was slow, about 3 minutes, I tried to eat, dump water on myself and take hydration.
I took off on the run at a slow jog, maybe 10 minute pace and I made it about 3/8th of a mile before my left quad locked up again. I happened to be near my family and tried to stretch using one of the trees available. Jacki happened to be there to watch the cramp move through my quad. Honestly it looked like the scene from the move Alien just before the little creature explodes out of the chest of the sorry fellow on the table and screams across the room. Jacki said, “oh my God Dad, that’s gross” and Tammy asked me if I could continue. Of course I could continue. NO way I’d quit in front of my kids, NO way I’d quit on my team mates, NO way I’d quit after this much training. So I tried to jog off, but the quad and my left knee simply would not allow me to run. So when given lemons….make lemonade a 13.1 mile walk lay ahead for me. I was pretty darn disappointed and I tried to stop and stretch and everything else I could think of to release the cramp and alleviate the excessive pain in my knee but nothing I did seemed to work, my only solution was to walk. I experienced a series of emotions on the run, anger, disappointment, disbelief and finally I realized that this was simply another test, did I deserve to finish?? I knew I was physically strong enough to finish but was I mentally tough enough to make it through. Then I had an epiphany…on May 13, 2010 I was hit by a car while training with Iron Mike and very easily could have not had the opportunity to see the sun come up, much less the opportunity to finish MY 70.3 mile race. So even though I wasn’t going to finish with the time I wanted, I was going to finish and I was going to learn from that disappointment after all this was MY race. So I decided it was time that the Team Great Divide colors became the course cheerleader and I tried to congratulate every runner that I met or that passed me, some I had the chance to engage more than once.
I finally crossed the finish line after 7 hours and 45 minutes finishing with a hobbling run on one good leg just so I could finish the last ½ mile knowing that I had given my all and to impress upon my kids and Team Honey Badger team mates who were about the only people left at the finish line that it’s not about where you finish, it’s about the finish itself, after all this was MY race.
I need to thank a ton of people who helped me along the way. Jason Fruh, Mike Jacobson, Aubrey Curtis all lent me their ear, their gear, their experience and their confidence without which I would have simply been overwhelmed. My family who put up with my moodiness, my early mornings, my self-centered attitude for months on end and who were there waiting for me at the finish line just like I knew they would be and who in typical fashion are ready to follow me to my next adventure be it Bozeman this year or Coeur D’ Alene next. Perhaps most importantly my greatest debt of gratitude goes to Carrie Strike and Britt Ballinger (Team Honey Badger) that I shared so many early mornings and so many LONG Saturday and Sundays with. Who through the sweat, the swearing , the bitching, the moaning and complaining always seemed somehow to find a reason to laugh and smile and who really made this experience a remarkable journey. I can never begin to express how much they mean to me now and how much their friendship will continue to mean throughout the years.
To the athletes in this community about all I can offer is a simple THANK YOU. Thank you for being great examples for the youth among us and those of us who are no longer young but still yearn to achieve a dream, we could not do it without you.
So the final question is…..IRONMAN Coeur D’Alene 2012 anyone?? I’ll be near the back of the pack, you may have to wait for me to finish but finish I will, after all it will be MY race.