Boise 70.3 has been on my bucket-list for a little while now, and when planning out my calendar this year, I was happy to find it fit in quite well. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of racing these past couple months (just about every weekend) — with intention, and this race was a perfect part of my equation. I knew I wouldn’t be uber-fresh for the event given all I did leading in, but this was also strategic for my overarching season goals. Boise was not an “A” race for me, so we didn’t set up a peak-and-taper scenario for it. But it was a “B” race, meaning it was still important (not merely a training race), and I wanted to do well there. So while my whole training plan was not structured around it, I did do some specific preparation for this particular event and, especially in the couple weeks leading in, targeted my training to be successful there.
But despite the planning, my race experience would end up being a good lesson in flexibility, and adaptability, as nothing seemed to go as planned. The last weekend before the race, I’d planned to do a “double” of back-to-back local races on Saturday (a mountain bike race) and Sunday (an Olympic distance triathlon). Both of these were super low-key events where my main objective was to get in some quality intensity, and “shake things out” before Boise. But when I woke up on Saturday for the mountain bike race, I was experiencing major vertigo, and had a horrendous stomachache and headache. I could barely stand up without getting so dizzy I thought I’d fall over, so needless to say I had to skip the race. Instead, I spent the day in bed, alternating between sleep and feeling like I wanted to die. Pleasant! I’m not sure what this awfulness was, but as quickly and aggressively as it came on, it left almost just as quick. By dinnertime, I was able to eat a bit and by bedtime I felt almost totally normal. I decided not to rule out racing the tri the next day, opting to see how I felt when I woke up. Despite that being at 4:15 a.m., I seemed to feel fine enough, so I decided to go for it. In hindsight (and, okay, maybe I also knew it at the time), this probably wasn’t the wisest decision, as despite feeling fine I’m sure I wasn’t yet back to 100 percent and this probably set me back in the long run. Nonetheless, I really wanted to get in at least one of my hard efforts for the weekend as planned, and I told myself that I wouldn’t push it if I felt bad, or would even just opt for a long ride in the area if I didn’t feel good enough to start.
Tri-for-Real Olympic Distance
Ironically, I felt awesome during the race, and ended up turning in a big PR time of 2:15:21, which I was absolutely stoked about! I don’t get many opportunities to do Olympic distance races, especially when I’m not exhausted from a hard training week, so it was fun to be able to see how fast I could really go at this distance. I’m sure there’s still more potential there on a day when I haven’t felt like death prior to, but for now I’m pretty pleased with this effort. I had a great swim to take the lead from the gun, found new speed on the bike for a best-ever bike split at this distance, and felt strong throughout the run to take home the overall female win. It was another fun day with TBF Racing and an awesome group of triathletes! Total bonus was getting to watch the kids’ race before our start. ADORABLE!
(More) Unexpected Changes
Another thing that happened during my race prep was that I pulled a tick off of myself that was engorged and had potentially been there for multiple days. I was already slightly freaked out by this, but then when I got sick that made me even more freaked out. I talked with a doctor, and they ended up putting me on a course of antibiotics due to the possibility of Lyme disease. I was pretty concerned about going on antibiotics the week of my race, as I am the type of person who barely ever even takes an Advil, but I knew it was worth it in the long run, as Lyme disease could potentially end my athletic career. So I moved (hesitantly) forward with the antibiotics, just hoping they wouldn’t have too many adverse affects come race day.
With just a couple days left before my departure for Boise, I was buried in work, doing all I could to get everything done and still get in my last few quality training sessions. I’d planned to travel early on Wednesday and ride part of the course on arrival, take Thursday off (as I always take off 2 days before the race), pre-race Friday and race Saturday. This is what my body knows, is trained for, and responds well to. Unfortunately, I got too bogged down with work to leave as planned, and ended up traveling late Wednesday and making this my off day, which meant I had to ride on Thursday — another test of flexibility. This was less than ideal, as it’s different from my routine, and because I traveled on my “off day” (which isn’t exactly restful). But, sometimes you just have to go with the flow of the situation, accept things are different than planned, and do the best you can with the circumstances. You have to adapt. So that is what I tried to do.
Race morning was interesting, as this race has a noon start time. I totally dug being able to get some much-needed extra zzz’s! I woke up at 8:30 and had plenty of time to have a relaxed breakfast, get my gear into T2 in town, and then head up to Lucky Peak Reservoir to set up T1 and warm up before the swim. Many people said the late start time was challenging for them because they felt anxious throughout the morning and didn’t like the idle time. I am grateful that it worked out so well for me, because I’m generally a very relaxed racer, and actually pretty anti-type-A compared to many of my counterparts, so I found plenty of appreciation in the laid-back morning. The only downside to the later start was the wind had plenty of time to kick up for us out there, and boy did it do its job!
By far the biggest pre-race excitement for the crowds up at Lucky Peak was the presence of Apolo Ohno, who was racing his first-ever tri here in Boise, en route toward the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Poor guy was literally bombarded with people the entire morning, taking his photo, watching his every move, asking him questions – no idea how he could prepare for a race like that. Good thing I’m not a famous celebrity… I’d never survive! 🙂 But for me, the pre-race highlight was linking up with the awesome ladies of Team LUNA Chix Boise Triathlon. There were 4 of them also doing the race, and it was so great to see all their smiling faces ready to roll on race day.
A Slow and Choppy Swim
Soon enough it was time to make our way to the chilly water of Lucky Peak. I’ve been working so hard on my swim, and really felt like I could have a great one here. Unfortunately, it ended up being pretty mediocre. I didn’t get a great start, and then found myself on a pair of feet that was weaving all over the course, so I decided to forge ahead on my own to take a more direct line, and wasn’t able to make contact from there on with any of the women ahead of me. Part way through, the water got crazy choppy, probably from the wind, which made the whole swim feel really tough and loooong. I was so ready to get out of the water! When I finally made it back to the exit, I saw 33 minutes on my watch and felt completely disheartened. I was aiming for 29 minutes. As it turns out, the first pro out of the water swam over 29 minutes, and I was actually in 7th at the swim exit, so I guess it was just a rough day out there for everyone. Or perhaps the swim was in fact a little long…?
A(nother) Disappointing Bike
Onto the bike, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect out of myself. I hadn’t had a great bike in St. George a month prior, but I’d been working incredibly hard to try to improve, and was also continually working on adjusting my bike fit, with the help of bike-fitter-extraordinaire Dave Eastwood and the team at Paco’s Bike and Ski. Thanks to Dave’s diligent effort, I felt sooo much more comfortable on the bike going into Boise than I did at St. George, and that makes a huge difference. But while my bike fit was much better, I unfortunately was not. The course was very flat, and very windy, and actually felt much harder than I anticipated because it was just so relentless. Give me a climb and I can suffer with the best of them, but I’m generally not super strong on flats, as I just don’t seem to have the top-end speed needed for that. And with the seemingly endless flat stretches on this course, I couldn’t find my groove at all and just felt very out of my element. I like lots of transitions (like mountain biking), and lots of climbs to use my power, but unfortunately didn’t get much of either out there. Anytime we did get a little bump, I could see myself steadily reeling back in a gal or two up ahead, but then once the incline dropped off again, so did I. This was super frustrating for me.
But while I know I’m not the best at riding flats, I still expected more out of myself here, and I’m not sure why I’m struggling so much with TT riding right now. I feel like I’m mountain biking very well, but I’m just not there with the TT for whatever reason, and it’s frustrating. I simply did not feel strong, and I don’t know why. Perhaps I just don’t have enough miles in my legs yet. Or maybe I just felt generally crappy from the antibiotics. I’m sure that played at least some part in me not feeling quite like myself throughout the day. But at any rate, something is definitely missing for me right now with this discipline, and I haven’t put my finger on it. But I’m determined to find out, and doing all I can to get better. Hopefully my next 70.3 ride will feel much less like a struggle-fest. All said and done, my ride time was (a brutal) 2:45:40 – ouch! I got off the bike in 10th place among pro females, ready to do some serious work on the run.
A Satisfying Run
Fortunately, I felt much better as soon as I got two feet back on the ground. I was so ready to make that transition. Unlike the bike course, this run course suits me perfectly. While I love a hilly bike, I totally dig a flat run, where I can utilize my long stride and power, and am not so limited by being non-tiny as I am when trying to run uphill! It’s also a two-lap course, which I really enjoy, probably due to my many years of ski racing on multi-lap courses. The run goes all along the greenbelt next to the river, right in the heart of town. It is a beautiful, calm and shaded run – ideal if you ask me. To make things that much sweeter, spectators came out in droves to line the course and cheer us racers on. Thank you Boise!
I really wanted to prove to myself that I could turn in a good run time at this distance, and was aiming for a sub-1:33. The first few miles I felt strong and was able to get into a really good rhythm, although a little slower pace-wise than I was hoping for. The first person I passed on the course was Apolo, so I got some camera time as I ran by! 😉 He looked strong! (But I would end up beating him by just 1 minute on the day — small victory!) By the first turn-around, I had passed the next female pro ahead of me, and was now into 9th. I continued to feel good and steady through the rest of the lap and the first couple miles of lap 2, but around mile 9, things took a turn for the worse. My stomach started really hurting, and again I’m not sure if it was from the antibiotics or something else. Throughout the race, I’d eaten way more than I normally ever do at this distance, but I continued to feel hungry and depleted, so I continued to eat. It seems like I wasn’t really absorbing the energy like usual, so this may have been part of the problem.
I started to feel worse and worse, and my pace slowed. These were some seriously dark miles, and I was honestly not sure if I’d be able to finish without walking. I tried to eat some more, and drank everything I could at the aid stations, just telling myself to keep truckin along, and praying my body would come back around. Thankfully it did, and by mile 11 or so, I started to feel better – or at least less in pain! I was still tired, but I gave every last ounce of energy I had until I crossed that line. I ended the day with a 1:35:28 half-marathon. Slower than I was hoping for, but I knew I’d left it all out there, and it seemed like times were slow across the board and I was not too far off the leaders. So I was not at all disappointed. I was completely worked after the finish, and could not get up for a while – the worst I’ve felt after a 70.3 in a long time, but obviously my body was just struggling and had to work that much harder today to push to the limit.
Post-Race Perspective and Some Much Needed THANK YOUs!
My total time on the day was 4:58:23. I was 9th female pro, but with some incredibly outstanding amateur performances on the day, I got pushed back a few more spots in the overall. The time and result was not at all what I was hoping for, and I’m honestly pretty disappointed with it. I felt like I’d set myself up to have a much better day, and I’m not entirely sure why things went wrong for me. I know a lot of the circumstances I ended up dealing with heading into the race were less than ideal, and I’m sure they played a part in my generally not feeling great — particularly the antibiotics. But while I was definitely left wanting more, I came away from this race with a lot of positives, too, and some great lessons. I was once again reminded of the importance of being flexible and able to make changes on the fly when things don’t go as planned. I was also reminded how important it is to stay calm and positive when things don’t seem to be going your way, because you never know what’s happening for anyone else out there either (like my seemingly slow swim and run times that were actually much closer to the leaders than I have been). I also learned, yet again, that even at the darkest points, if you just keep pushing through and stay tough in your mind, your body will get through it and there will be a light on the other side. I learned that I have a lot of work still left to do, especially on my bike, but that I’m still very excited to do it. And I learned how incredibly awesome Boise is, and how very lucky I am to have had such an amazing time there, with amazing people.
I absolutely loved this place, and while the course seems to have gotten the best of me this time, I will definitely be back, because the whole experience was fantastic. The best part of this trip for me was getting to share my race experience with the Boise LUNA Chix. They are truly some of the most wonderful people I have met, and I felt so welcomed and supported by them; like I was part of a family. After the race, we all enjoyed a celebratory dinner together at team leader Hilary’s house, and it was so fun to have people to hash out the details of the day with. They all raced so strong, and it was inspiring to see the focus, energy, effort and positivity they put into this day. On Sunday, I led a group clinic where we did a recovery run and drills, and talked about race prep and analysis. It was super fun for me, and hopefully everyone learned a little something! This is a special group of women with a special bond, and I’m so thankful to have been a part of it for the week. Thank you to all of the Chix for everything you did to make my time in Boise great. I want to especially say a HUGE thank you to Aline Butts and family, who welcomed me and August into their home during our stay. The feeling of being at a homestay is so much better than any hotel, and I know it made a tremendous difference for me on race day. Thank you also to August for once again traveling with me and supporting me. Makes every trip SO much better!
All in all, it was a tough race for me. But I know it’s all more experience in the bank, another chance to give it everything I had, and ultimately it’s all progress. The steps were smaller than I’d hoped in this case, but they were steps nonetheless. I feel like I’m still just waiting for it all to come together, and it’s tough to be patient. But I know I will get there, and I just have to keep making the most of each experience along the way and focusing on that progress. I’ll be back to Boise to try again and get another taste of this special place. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to improve, and forging ahead.