Monday, July 11, 2011

Race Report - Boulder Peak

aka - my first Colorado triathlon
aaka - I left my bike legs at home
aaaka - best part was the scenery, the Left Hand beer tent, and meeting Matt Reed!

I have no specific reason for doing this race, other than I was feeling like I wanted to do an Olympic-distance tri in July (no idea why I was thinking this!).  There were 2 options, Boulder Peak (local race recently purchased by WTC for their 5150 series) or a Denver one (inaugural, 2 transitions, $25 more, but a finish at Mile High Stadium).  Even though Boulder Peak has a crazy big hill and was early in July, I decided that the venue, presence of pro triathletes, and the fact that this race had been going on for 20 years would make this a good, solid Colorado debut.  Even if it was hard - it would at least be pretty!

Will and I left early-ish and got to the expo at 11 AM to check in.  There was a mini-expo with local vendors (not overly WTC-influenced, which was nice).  Check-in had the typical WTC steps, but it wasn't crowded and didn't take much time.  We stoped by some tents, got some free samples.  I met a facebook friend who was doing his first triathlon.  Then we headed to the WTC clearance tent - compression gear for $20 and IM-branded race apparel for $5.  THIS is where I have issues.  They had a ton of gear from 2008-2009 races, including FINISHER GEAR for $5.  Its bad enough you have people buying shirts/shorts/hats for races they've never raced in - but to sell FINISHER gear which is EARNED for $5 is outright disrespectful.  I was wearing my IMTX visor, and I had some girls (who did not look like they've even done a 70.3) tell me that they liked my visor and asked me which pile I found it in (!!!!!!).  I somehow managed to just stay quiet and not give them an earful of my opinions.  UGH.

I stood in the reservoir to get a feel for temperatures - it was WARM.  Ok, maybe not warm, but certainly not wetsuit warm.  I was waffling over wearing my new sleeveless wetsuit or my Torque, and standing knee-deep in the water, I knew that I would boil in a wetsuit.  Yay - I get to wear my Torque again!  Then they had the finish line up, so I got a finish line photo, complete in casual clothes and my Chaco sandles. 

I've got the finisher photo - do I still need to race??
After the expo, we were hungry, so we went to the Boulder Brewery for lunch and beers. 
All this for $14!  Carb loading Boulder-style
Boulder is about 1 hour away from my home in South Metro Denver, so I left at 4:30.  This is probably the EARLIEST I've left for a race, but the race start was at 6:30, which is also probably the earliest race start I've had.  One of the guys from my tri-club wanted to ride up as a spectator, and he offered Sherpa duties too.  He seemed like a cool guy from the group ride we did on Monday, so I thought it would be a good way to get to know someone and have company.  And the offer to be my sherpa was awesome too.  The ride up was uneventful, except for when we were on the Diagonal waiting to turn into the Reservoir, I got rear-ended!  It was a non-issue as my bumper is solid steel and we were at a dead stop, but really???  I guess the guy's foot slipped of his clutch and he rolled into me.  I'm just thankful that my bike was INSIDE my SUV, not on a hitch.

Transition was a bit chaotic - no water to fill up bottles, 1600 athletes all trying to get ready.  The main differences between CO and Houston?  It was already light out (no need for a headlamp so I can see my transition spot) and it was BEAUTIFUL.
Sunrise on the Flatirons
Bike racking was a train-wreck.  I don't know if it was because I was racking with the 50+ men or if there were a lot of rookies, but it was so messy.  People were taking up HUGE amounts of space (they had duffel bags!) and not alternating sides.  I really wish the officials would have done something to clean it up - it was really one of the worst transition areas I've seen.  Finally left to head to the swim beach - I was happy that I was in the 5th swim wave (6:50 AM) instead of one of the last.  I put on my Scape 50 SPF sunscreen (its expensive but worth it!) and got my Torque on.  Then my sherpa appeared and I gave him my gear bag.  Perfect!  The PA system was hard to hear (something about an ordinance preventing loud noise before 7 AM), so I didn't hear the anthem, race start, or anything.  I freaked out that I missed my wave, but fortunately that was not the case.
We waded in and treaded water.  It was a bit weird as the official start line wasn't marked at ALL.  It was also weird because most of the people in my wave (W 35-39) were hanging back - far back.  I had prime front row position and no one was jostling for it.

The swim was a 1500 m clockwise rectangle.  The bummer was that the first leg was straight into the sun.  The guns went off and things were a typical wave start with some contact but nothing awful.  I couldn't see the buoys for anything.  I don't know if they just weren't very tall, if they were spaced REALLY far apart, or the sun (or a combination of all 3), but I just couldn't see any buoys.  So I hoped for the best and swam with a pack of people into the sun.  This acutally worked well as my pack stayed on course.  The turns around the buoy were smooth and I really didn't have much contact.  I swam with 2-3 people pretty consistenly, swam through some of the other age-groupers in a previous wave.  I swam a pretty consistenly T pace without really pushing too hard.  I thought about pushing more, but considering I haven't been training that much I thought it was best to swim strong but not hard to save my energy.  Also, the Torque was perfect - the water was much too warm for a wetsuit and I would have been roasting if I was in mine. It was weird being one of 2 people NOT wearing a wetsuit in my wave, but this was definitely the right decision for me.

Swim time: 29:57 - PR by over a minute!

You came out of the water onto a sandy beach, ran up a hill and into transition.  They were nice and put out kiddie pools for you to dash through to rinse off the sand.  Transition was mostly uneventful. I did well getting my Torque unzipped and pulled down to my waist, but I had a bit of a hard time getting it over my hips. Its sooo tight (which is good for swimming - not so good for fast transition times) and I don't want to tear it, so I do take a bit more care than I normally would in a race situation.  Sherpa heckled me about my slowness, and I probably deserved it.

T1 time: 3:20
running into T1
The bike course is definitely different from any other race I've done in Houston.  You leave the reservoir, ride west up to Lee Hill (or Olde Stage) and start climbing almost immediately.  At mile 5-8 you have a big hill, its steepest part being 2/3 of a mile long and a 15% grade.  From that point, you've got a SWEET downhill (that has a 35 mph radar-enforced speed limit), some more dowhills (no speed limit) out of the foothills, then back to open land with rollers.  Going into this I knew I didn't have climbing legs but I would just see how things went.  The goal was to have fun, not to torture myself.
Starting out the ride with a smile
I head out on the bike and almost immediately, I knew it was not going to be a good bike.  We were heading west on Jay Rd, which is pretty flat, and I was barely hitting 13-14 mph.  It honestly felt like I had a brake rub or a flat tire.  Only this wasn't the case - my legs just weren't doing their job.  This happened on a swim-bike brick I did a few weeks ago, where my legs were REALLY sluggish for the first 15 minutes, probably effects from IMTX recovery.  So, I just tried to keep my cadence and hope that my legs would wake up.

We made the turn onto Lee Rd and started climbing.  I don't think I made it even half way up - and certainly not to the steepest portion of the hill before my HR was at 185.  Not good.  A few people were already walking and I decided that it just wasn't worth the torture to ride up the hill.  Especially if my legs weren't working properly AND my HR was sky high.  So I dismounted and hiked up the hill.  Sucky.  Even with walking, though, my HR was in the 170's.  And all the steep walking in my cycling shoes made me concerned about potential blisters - fortunately I was ok. 

I got to the first aid station, which was on a false flat after the 15% grade.  At that point, I decided it was ok to get back on the bike and do the last little bit of the hill.  That went ok, fortunately it wasn't a very long climb.  Then the fun began. 

DOWNHILL.  With the 35 mph speed zone, I just stayed up and tapped my breaks occasionally.  They had a sign which shows your mph, and I saw 33 mph as I went by.  Close to the max but not in the danger zone.  Once you passed that area, the speed zone went away and you could just sail on down.  I'd ridden this portion of the course 2 weeks prior and its beautiful.  You're in a rocky canyon with a creek adjacent to the road and tons of s-shaped curves the whole way down.  Riding in the shade next to the creek made the air COLD.  So cold that I actually had goosebumps - a first during a race.  I definitely wasn't in Texas anymore.  I think I hit 38 mph and passed quite a few people on the descent, so that at least felt good.  I may suck at climbing but at least I can fly downhill!

After we cleared the foothills, we had ~10 miles of rollers back to the reservoir.  My stomach had been giving me issues each time I drank my Infinit - acting like it was wanting to cramp.  I took half of a Hammer gel at 1 hr and again at 1:20, just to try and get some calories in.  I also forced myself to have more Infinit, but still not enough to really be considered fuel.  The rest of the course was wide open and rollers.  By that point my legs were feeling better (but still not 100%).  It helped that I'd been on this part of the course before and knew what to expect.  The goal was to finish the bike as best I could and be set up for a strong run.  The bike was bad, but maybe I could salvage the run. 

Bike: 1:43:19 (15.1 mph)  Note: this was a 42k bike, not the traditional 40k Oly distance bike.  Not really sure why, but that's the way the race has always been.

Even though I walked the transition area before the race, I really didn't pay attention to the bike in being on the left side of transition.  For whatever reason, I got into transition and immediately ran to the center (probably because I ran to the center from the swim).  About halfway over, I realized my mistake and backtracked.  Not a huge mistake, but it probably cost me 15 seconds.  The rest of transition was very smooth.  Helmet off, shoes off, shoes on, race-belt on, grab my water and hat and exit transition.

T2 time: 1:44

The run is an out and back along the reservoir with some small hills and barely any shade.  I actually came off the bike excited to run. 
starting the run with the Expo tents and mountains in the background
Almost immediately, my stomach started rebelling.  UGH.  I was determined to NOT have another run like I did at IMTX.  Besides, it was overcast (for now) and only 6.2 miles.  I could run this.  I spent the first mile debating the pros and cons of puking.  There really wasn't a good place I could hide and puke, and I really hate puking.  My fear is that once I start, I won't stop.  On the bike, I actually thought (briefly) about DNF'ing.  Strangely on the run, I really never thought of that.  Instead, I just decided that we'll see how things go.  Slow the pace down and run 2 miles - just see if things don't improve.  I slowed my pace down to a 11:00-11:30 pace and walked the aid stations and the hills.  I wasn't brave enough to drink gatorade, but I did take tiny sips of water.  My stomach wasn't awesome, but I could maintain this pace.  Much better than the IMTX walkfest.  It was only 6 miles - I could do this.  At the turn around I felt ok and decided to up the pace a bit for a mile or so and see how things were.  I could increase the pace slightly but definitely not to the point where I felt like I was racing.  However, I also realized that as long as I was running, I could PR. I just had to keep my stomach together. By this point, when I burped, I could taste bile.  Really not a good sign.  The sun was also out now, but I dumped ice down my top and focused on the cool ice melting down my back and the beautiful mountains in front of me.  I would have liked to have run the last mile hard, but in all honestly, I was back to an ~11:00 pace.  At least I was running.  Even in the finish chute, I couldn't put it together to sprint.  But I was running, so at least there's that.  I hit the finish line and saw my sherpa (also photographer - added bonus).  I was greeted with a finish medal and a cold wet towel.  We then headed over to the expo for food and to meet other club members who were racing.

Run Time: 1:10:40 (PR!)

don't you just see the enthusiasm here?
I hit the food tent and got a variety of things to eat.  Also got a full sized blueberry-vanilla Mix1 as a recovery drink.  Then we headed over to the run course to watch the pro race.  Boulder Peak is unique, in that the pros race last (9 AM) so the age-groupers can watch the pros finish.  The pro run course was a 1-mile out and back, so you got to see the pros plenty of times as you ate your post-race food.  I managed to get down the Mix1 ok, only ate 1/3 of my sandwich (not unusual, I rarely eat much solid food after a race), and half of an orange.  We saw the pros finish and then I noticed a Left Hand beer tent.  I love CO races - no crappy Michelob Ultra at the finish line - we get good beer!  We headed to that tent and found a few other club members
second best part of the race, right here
I didn't stay and finish my beer because I was driving, and by that point my GI tract was really rebelling.  I swear, I've never had so many issues before.  Its awful!  After a trip to the bathroom I felt better but I also wanted to get home.  I found my sherpa and we headed to transition to rescue my bike.  It just so happened that Matt Reed was ALSO walking to transition to get his bike.  HOW COOL.  Matt won the Lifetime Fitness Oly in MN Saturday, hopped on a plane back to CO, and raced Sunday in Boulder.  He came in 6th overall.  I can't even imagine.  He was awesome and nice enough to endulge my fan-girl moment with a photo.  He even chatted for a bit and admitted that today hurt a fair amount.  Such a nice guy - and definitely made racing this race worthwhile. :)
Sherpa jumped the gun and didn't catch me smiling.  Bummer.  But look how tall Matt Reed is!!!
Swim: 29:57 523/1240 overall, 22/92 AG
T1: 3:20 643/1240 overall, 36/92 AG
Bike: 1:43:19, 15.16 mph, 1128/1240 overall, 80/92 AG
T2: 1:44, 640/1240 overall, 41/92 AG
Run: 1:10:40, 11:23 min/mile, 1102/1240 overall, 78/92 AG
Total: 3:29:00. 1051/1240 overall, 71/92 AG

Post-Race Ramblings
  • Swim was good, run wasn't bad (all things considered).
  • What do I do about my stomach??? I'm going to have to consult the Interwebz to see if this is a lingering effect from IMTX.
  • Strangely enough 3.5 hours of racing went by FAST.  Probably due to a combination of coming off of IMTX and the fact that this course was new to me, so I had lots to look at.  Still, except for the hill climb disaster, none of the course felt long.
  • I'm barely sore, except for my shoulders/neck.  And my abs felt like I spent all day puking.  Lovely!
  • Not sure if I'd do this race again (that hill is a big deterrent), however, I would very likely volunteer or spectate.  The list of pros racing the course is just awesome.  I'm going to try to do races all over so next year I can hit my favorites.


siberiankiss said...

I didn't know you had a blog!!! I would have been reading yours! I will now though :)

That really sucks that your stomach is giving you issues. Mine bothered me at the marathon, and it's the only time it's ever happened. I dunno if mine was nerves, or I just ate the wrong things... I sure hope yours improves though. Have you had any problems during training, or is it just race day?

Erin said...

Now you have something to occupy your work-day with :)

No idea what's going on with my stomach. It was fine until IMTX. I did a long run last Saturday (8 miles) and it got slightly cranky but not awful. I think its related to higher efforts, but I'm not sure. Prolly going to call the drink mix people (its a custom mix) and see what they advise.

siberiankiss said...

You have a custom drink mix? Do explain...

Erin said...

Its great on the bike - good for a half marathon. Still haven't figured out if concentrating it for a full marathon is a good idea or if would work better to live off the course.