It's what you've been waiting for. My full race report of Ironman 70.3 Boulder.
Amazing race day full of fun and challenges. My goal going into this race was to redeem myself from last year's swim. So for about 24 weeks, I focused on the swim to get more confident with time spent in the water and strengthen my mental game during that portion. That's what was missing in my training last year, a strong mental game and trust in my ability to swim. So with a stronger mental game and the right training for me, I finished the race with an official time of 7:58:56.
The BEST THING about this race, besides finishing with an official time, was the self seeding for the swim start. But before that, there was bike check-in and setting up transition. Both were standard processes, but the day of bike check-in, it started to rain pretty heavily so people had covered up their cockpit/head/handle bars to protect their electronic shifting. I didn't because I trusted my Di2 waterproof/water resistant casing to protect it. What we didn't expect was the 60 mph wind overnight that could have potentially ruined all the bikes on the racks. But again, it's the beauty of the sport, prepare yourself for anything and adapt to what the race has given you. No race day is perfect as the Pro's say. I'll be throwing in some TriTips below that really changed my approach from last years race.
So race day was here. TriTip: Got up early to be one of the first people in transition and had a light breakfast of a coffee, PB & honey sandwich and a hard boiled egg. TriTip: Started up the car and played my Island Mix playlist on the car radio and we were off. It was easy this year getting into transition with our athlete pass because we chose to get their early and transition opened at 4:30 AM instead of 5:00 AM. TriTip: Before leaving the car, I put in headphones and started playing my Island Mix playlist. This helped keep me in my calm state, but most of all block out the noise from other Triathlete's that get my anxiety up. It was a trick I learned from my Coaches and from the book Brave Athlete: Calm the F* Down and Rise to the Occasion by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson which I recommend reading for anyone (Pro or newbie/n00b). My transition spot was waiting for me. Set up was going to be easy, but the first thing I needed to do was to get my biked checked just in case anything shifted from travel or from the night before. All was well and I continued to keep my head down and set up my transition. I had so much time before the start I just kept listening to music and at times singing. This time it was my Ukulele Song To Learn playlist.
TriTip: As transition was about to close and off came the headphones and in went the ear plugs. I steered clear of any negative high anxiety people and went right to the swim start. I took a small short warm up to get some water in the suit and get acclimated. TriTip: I'm glad I did a shake out swim the day we arrived because I already knew the feel of the water and my second swim during the shake out I had a break through. I felt like I was "playing" in the water and everything just instantly came together. So today wasn't as scary to me as my 2017 race.
I said my good lucks and good byes to my teammates and Fiance and seeded myself with the 55-60 minute crew. TriTip: I also took my first GU of the day as part of my nutrition plan to keep me going. I have to tell you, self seeding myself where I did was the best decision I made that morning. TriTip: Stick with MY race plan. My goal was to make it at 1hr, but my overall goal was to not go over the swim cut-off. This group was the most joyful group I've ever started with besides at my first triathlon with my Team Challenge family. One woman named Molly shared with us her story that she was in a coma 6 months prior to this race and nothing was going to stop her today. She also told us that because of the coma, she wasn't supposed to here, but she and everyone around her deserves to be here. Incredible joy to start with right?!
Behind us was the "60 minutes and more" sign held by a kid with no one behind him. None of us wanted to stand behind him and teased him about it. I ended up giving my Ironman Spirit bracelet to him for his patience and willingness to be alone holding his sign.
It was our time, we passed under the swim out arch, I pressed my Garmin to start once we crossed the chip buoy and off I went. TriTip: Did I mention I love self-seeded starts?! I knew know one was behind us that could swim over me so it was set in my mind to go slow and steady. My first few strokes weren't perfect but I was finding my groove. What surprised me is that I didn't lose my breath like last year. I felt like an equal with the water at the start that my anxiety didn't get the best of me. Slow and steady. Slow and steady. I felt my watch vibrate with every 100y so I knew I was making progress. TriTip: With every wake that rolled through I chanted "PTP" actually more like "P2P" to cheer on my alter ego "Pia The Punisher". It worked because I believed this character was me who had all the confidence and skill in the world to get through this swim. If anyone stopped swimming ahead of me and I passed them and I kept chanting to myself. Nothing was stopping me from swimming. I poked my head up Tarzon style to maneuver around lifeguards with athletes who paused, but I purposefully put my head down in the water to keep a good swim position and kept swimming. Once in awhile kicked and made stronger pulls to make sure I was keeping on pace. But slow and steady was the best for me and my heart rate.
The whole swim was pretty much me swimming on my own, meaning there wasn't a lot if any people around me while I was chanting in my head. The last 400 yds turned was a different story. Suddenly I caught up to other athletes who had started ahead of me. Everyone was swimming in different directions and lifeguards were floating around so much that it was hard to sight a good swim line. More chanting was happening in my head to calm myself. "You got this. P2P. PtaP. PTP." Any form of the acronym was going to keep me swimming. At one point an older male athlete I've been leap frogging was behind me and his finger caught ankle chip. I kept swimming and felt that it may fall off, but not before I crossed that line.
The last 50 yds we're the best. I could hear the crowd. I cheered another woman on in the water to share my excitement. TriTip: I FINALLY peed in my wetsuit which I completely forgot to do in the beginning...sorry to the finishers behind me. I touched the boat ramp 3 times with my fingers as Coach Skip always said and I was up and out of the water with the biggest smile and so full of excitement that I was ready to cross the finish line right there. But of course I first had to get past the swim in arch and mark my official swim time under the cut off and stop my Garmin.
TriTip: Let the wetsuit strippers do their job. One flagged me down, had me sit on the ground and in one swoop got me out of my suit. I was able to adjust my chip that was barely on my ankle. And then I was up off the ground and into transition.
TriTip: I waddled myself through the grass and towards my transition spot as I had practiced the earlier that morning. I was so happy about my swim that the rest of the race was pretty much a victory lap. I took my time to change into my bike gear and put another GU in my back pocket for later.
BIKE The bike I knew I had this down. This is how I would make up time in my quest to finish this race. But who do I see on my way out the main bike course, Shana and Kat. And what do I yell at them...."ONE-O-FOUR!!!!" With my hands up and I was ecstatic to share the news that I did it under the cutoff time! They cheered me one and then suddenly I was out on the bike course ready to take on the next event.
I had one hiccup in the beginning, another athlete asked me during one part of the race where we turn off the course and for some reason I doubted my memory about the street I knew we was waiting to turn on to get to the rest of the course. TriTip Learn and memorize the critical turns on the course and don't doubt your course knowledge. I found my way right were I knew the turn would be and I had to make up the time I spent doubting myself on the climbs that were ahead. I have to tell you, Di2's were a smart decision for me this time around. I was smart about my shifting during the rolling climbs and managing my fatigue, but those rolling climbs, that's where they really came in handy. Shifting while climbing was efficient and I knew I was transferring all my power and keeping forward momentum which I probably was losing when I had a mechanical gear set.
The roughest part of the bike was the no pass zones and being stuck behind slower cyclists as I was climbing. The craziest part of the bike was after the 35 mile mark where it was all downhill and a bee or some other crazy insect flew down my Tri top while I was in aero and stung/bit me. My chest was on fire and I was digging what ever was in my top out with one hand on my bars. I did feel something in my hands that I eventually pulled out, but that moment really slowed me down and I didn't want to get into aero any more for fear of catching another critter.
The last 10 miles of the bike is where I really opened up. The cross winds were picking up and the clouds were rolling in. The afternoon was going to be a different race from all the sun I had during the swim and most of the bike. The course folded on itself before you went back into transition so for one stretch I had a little head wind, but for the second stretch I had a strong tail wind that I took full advantage of knowing I'd have a more head wind coming into transition.
Coming back into transition. I yelled at the volunteers that they were some tough people living in this area and making them laugh helped me smile even bigger. As I was climbing the last little hump towards the dismount line, my thoughts about finishing the swim started to flood my mind again and welp, ugly crying face came into affect. I dismounted my bike happy crying about my accomplishment in the water. I was still very very proud of myself of getting through that portion. Transition was slow for more. I followed most of my nutrition on the bike except the moment I had to dig the critter out of my top, but my stomach was not having it at the start of the run. Again I took my time in transition knowing it was going to be a long run course for me.
RUN As I started getting out of the run I saw more and more of my teammates and that made me happy and excited to finish this race strong. I walked the first lap (6 miles around the lake). It was hot and muggy and my body was overheating as it had been all summer. I purchase some DeSoto Cool Wings sleeves that worked really well for me during the bike but the run was where it was going to do most of it's work. It didn't fail me. Every aid station I doused myself with water and threw ice in my top, sleeves and shorts. When it came to the second lap around the lake, that's where trying to run was a better idea for me. TriTip: So off I went chunking the course into sections where I would run then take a walk then run again. I walked the climbs to keep cramping at bay. I took one GU once I felt my stomach felt ready to take in some nutrition. I had my hydration vest with water and Nuun Performance with me the entire time because it was a long, hot day at the office. A decision I made a couple days prior to the race.
The final 3 miles of the course were brutal. The winds picked up really fast and what started as a nice beautiful sunny day, turned into 60 mph gusts of winds, overcast and some rain drops. The wind was so strong that the trail I was running on was sandblasting me at first from the back then from the side and then from the front. Aid stations were reduced to on demand pouring because the wind was sweeping all the cups and nutrition away. It was fun for only a moment when I had the gusts of wind on my back, but when it hit me on the side, I was fighting not to get pushed into the street or get in the way of a tree branch waving in the wind looking like it would snap. When we got back on the trail closest to the lake, I thought it would get better. It did not. Wind gusts blowing right into me made me grab my hat and lean into it while climbing a small hill. It was brutal. While running alongside the lake with water splashing back at me and I said to myself "why do I get all the fun races with all the weather changes?!!" At this point I was 1 mile out from the finish and was ready to get my medal and call it a day. I did manage to jog in front of the last camera before the finish to get proof I was getting through this race.
That last rush to the finish was epic. I was running and I made the final turn into the shoot. I heard the crowd cheering for me. I smiled so big that I'm sure I was running blind at that point. I couldn't believe I did it...again. I felt strong and accomplished and crossing that finish line and hearing my name was total bliss. What a tough race that I don't think I'll do again any time soon, but I can't say never. The scenery, the challenges, the spectators, the athletes, the swim. What an epic day and great feeling to know I accomplished what I came here to do.
I want to first thank those that believed in me and my abilities before I even knew what they were. Thank you Coach Skip and Coach Linda of Slade Coaching and Training and Kat my Crohn's and Colitis Foundation Team Challenge Ironman Team Manager. Without these three people believing in me from the very beginning when I walked into a kick off meeting at Rock Bottom Brewery 6 years ago not knowing how to swim and getting by on the bike, I wouldn't be who I am today as a proud Ironman 70.3 finisher loving a sport that will continue to challenge me and have a team that would be my rock through the toughest times of my life. I race with joy and gratitude because of them.
I want to thank all my San Diego Team Challenge TRIbe who I trained with or were in my thoughts this summer: Bev (who's Kona bound!!!), Neil, Kristine, Maria Elena, Earl, Dani, Carmen, Cyd, Debbie, Leigh, Genna, John, June and Justin. Thank you to my extended Team Challenge Family across the country cheering me on (Robin, Deanna, Luke, Judye, and Shana just to name a few).
Thank you to my family and friends who have supported me through this journey. Thank you for the words of encouragement and for being flexible and forgiving when I had to say no to plans because training comes first.
A very BIG thank you to my wonderful Fiancé who stuck with me through the long workouts on a trainer or around the lake and managed to somehow open up two gyms (Rock Steady Boxing Poway and R3 Boxing) and crush the same race. Thank you for the at home support of making coffee, breakfast and dinner to ensure I'm getting enough calories in the day to get through my workout. And for pushing me to stay positive and reminding me that I'm tougher than I give myself credit for.
IN HONOR OF
I do triathlons in honor of all the Crohn's and Colitis patients living with this disease. I hope every dollar I raise gets you closer to living your life to the fullest. I dedicate all my hours and miles of training to finding a cure. I toe the line wearing my Crohn's and Colitis Foundation Team Challenge tri kit to build awareness about this disease, this organization and this team. I've found my purpose in life and I hope others find comfort in knowing that they're not fighting alone. They have me in their corner and I'm motivated to keep getting my finisher medals because of them. Considering supporting me by donating today here.
Until next race...CHEERS!
-Pia The Punisher
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