It's one thing to write about the Ironman Blues for triathlon websites. It's another to experience them in gruesome detail. Such were the past few days following what I had perhaps erroneously concluded was a disappointing Ironman 70.3 Boise.
When I define "disappointing," I mean failing to realize either an objective, an understanding or an achievement where all signs pointed to being able to do so. In the case of Ironman 70.3 Boise, the latter part of my definition is key, as you'll see. As a result of grasping that distinction, I'm no longer as bummed about Boise.
Let's jump right in. Part I I'll focus on pre-race planning and my swim.
I arrived into Boise after midnight Thursday morning, a full two days before the race. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to relax, scout the course and just unwind a bit. My teammate and friend Steve decided to race Boise just a couple weeks ago, so we hung out a lot. It's great finding a teammate whom you're compatible with from a training standpoint, a racing standpoint and most important -- someone you plain just admire and get along with. The littlest things can throw off a racer's mojo in the days before a race. Hanging out with a cool teammate makes it a lot easier.
We talked a lot about the course, triathlon, work and life. I don't recall being quite as relaxed for a race as this one. It was almost like I had forgotten what it was like to have pre-race jitters since the last race I had was in November 2012 (Bonelli Park).
Maybe I was too relaxed. I couldn't wrap my head around the afternoon start time and the whole idea felt surreal. Even the day of the race until about 20 minutes before the gun sounded for my age group...I was waaayyyy too calm for comfort.
Steph joined me on Friday afternoon after Steve and I previewed the bike course, acclimated to cold water swimming, and ran for a bit. One quick pointer: When you're swimming in a reservoir or dam and you're not allowed to swim in the actual race site until the race day, find out from the park ranger where the closest simulation to actual water conditions would be. Steve and I swam in a particularly cold part of the nearby river, and unnecessarily freaked ourselves out about the race-day water temperature. The river was in the low 50s, while the temperature in the reservoir the next day was a soothing 10 degrees warmer.
For pre-race planning, there are a couple things I'd do different:
1) I'd bring my trusty foam roller. I just can't use a running stick and get the same results. I didn't stretch enough pre-race as a result.
2) I'd bring my own snacks in the room. I didn't eat enough fruits and veggies in the days before the race. Not what I'm used to.
3) I'd bike the run course, no matter what. The run course appeared flat, and it was. But it's better to know what lies ahead on any race course than just guess. It's simply one less thing to think about in the heat of the race. You never want to feel like, "Dude, where the hell is that mile 6 turnaround?!"
Not too much to report here, actually. The water temperature was a very comfortable 60 degrees and the buoys were always to my right, which is where I breathe. This made sighting particularly easy on the course, though I did practice Coach Gerry Rodrigues' rule about sighting at least every 10 strokes. The pattern helped me maintain rhythm and a sense of calmness despite the racing chaos.
Heading out to the first buoy felt lightning fast. No chop, still water and a smooth start. I started out fast but manageable and found plenty of folks to draft off. I did get popped in the chin a few times as I was hanging on other swimmers' hips so the end of their stroke was just grazing my face. At the first turnaround, we all experienced a fair amount of chop and some current. It was coming from our right so I swallowed a fair amount of water. This would affect my performance later. I've since been practicing more left-side breathing so I can more comfortably transition to that approach mid-race. Fortunately, I was able to stay (mostly) on course throughout the swim and made it back to shore in a water-only time of 34:29. This was a big PR for me from my last half-Ironman, in Oceanside a year ago. That water was a bit choppier but the conditions felt similar. So, improving almost two minutes in a year is something I'll celebrate and try to build off in the future.
Coming Next: Part II w/ Bike and Run