Phew. Made it home! Yesterday was one of the longest travel days of my life... I was up for almost 23 hours and on planes and in airports for most of that. It takes a long time to get back to paradise. ;) While the vacation was fun and all, I was very happy to wake up in my own bed this morning. My to-do list today is about a mile long but what the heck, I'll go ahead and blog before I tackle it.
So Boulder 70.3 was good! I wouldn't call it a dream race performance or anything but given how I felt going in, I'm super happy with the results and think I learned a couple valuable lessons that I will carry forward with me. I'll see if I can communicate them here...
~Being super relaxed and laid back going into a race is the way to go for me. I definitely perform better when I put very little pressure on myself and just go out and do my thing.
~I was pretty cooked a couple weeks ago- like to the point where I wasn't sure if maybe I'd take months to really bounce back? I had some thoughts that maybe I risked too much and pushed too hard and that scared me into doing next to nothing for a few days. In good news I have a pretty good recovery profile and after a bit of panic resting my legs came back so clearly I hadn't fallen quite as far off the cliff as I'd feared. Phew.
~For the first time (maybe ever?) in a race when it got really really hard, and I was really really hurting, I did not cave in. This is huge. More on this in a bit...
So the story of the race...
Race morning was fine and uneventful. When it was time for my wave to go, I lined up right on the front line with a gal named Jen who is a friend of Kerrie's... Kerrie had mentioned to both of us that we might swim together so I was glad to know her. Sure enough, the horn went off, we swam side by side for maybe 100 meters, I liked her pace, no one else was around, so I eased up and got on her feet and stayed there for the next 28'. The effort felt very controlled- never strained at all. We had to negotiate around a bunch of men who started in waves ahead of us but it was never too bad. I had the thought that while I did not feel like I was working very hard, I was confident that our swim split would be fine. It didn't seem like a prudent thing to go any faster/harder primarily b/c the lack of oxygen up in Boulder (for me) was something I should probably respect. Staying controlled was the way to go for me on this day. I was also a bit surprised to find that I was feeling no need to 'prove myself' on this swim- no ego- no need to try to sprint around Jen and have the fastest swim split in our age group. I'd get around her later. I knew I did not have to win the swim to win the race, and this was comforting in some way.
I passed Jen in T1 and was out on the bike first in our wave, but there were probably a thousand people already out there riding from waves prior. It felt way more like a time trial than most races I do which tend to be mass starts because all these people starting at different times and you never really knew where you were. So blah blah blah I settled in on the bike and felt like I was riding fine- not working too hard but was passing a lot of people... was going back and forth with a guy dressed in white 2UX for most of the first lap and it was fine. The Boulder course is not anything too challenging and honestly I didn't even feel like my breathing was challenged at all. Muscularly I felt like I was being challenged a bit (seems like lack of oxygen causes muscles to not function as efficiently as what I'm used to) but I was staying within myself. I finished the first loop in 1:14 on my watch and figured if I held pace I'd come in at ~2:28 which would be a bike PR for me so I was happy enough with that. Looking at splits from last year I thought I'd be able to bike ~2:30 so this was within my expectations. A few miles into the second loop I got passed by a gal dressed in red Kompetitive Edge. I didn't know who she was BUT I was guessing she started 5' behind me (W30-34 were behind us) and that set off a little alarm bell in my head. Mostly like WTF?!? I thought I was doing well but she started 5' back and has passed me already??? I predicted that this gal would be the amateur winner... I could see how she was riding really well so then I had a choice. Go with her or no?
At that point I remembered my advice to Nalani (who was racing in the Philippines that weekend) and I told her to Be Brave! Take Risks! These races were about finding our limits... With nothing on the line we had nothing to lose... so go for it! If we blew up, we blew up... but you never know where your limits are if you don't try to push past them... so I went with the red KE gal. I had to work outside my comfort zone to stay within range on the uphills, but on the downhills I was making up time on her and even ended up in her draft zone a few times on those downhills... was thinking that I did not want to be a total idiot and pass her back so on the downhills I started sitting up and using that time to stretch, hydrate, take a gel, etc. Then we'd go slightly up again and I'd have to work hard to keep her in sight. Around this time another guy dressed in Specialized passed us both and made a comment about how well we were riding... so that was encouraging... and then he passed red KE gal (later I found out her name was Katie) and she used him as a rabbit so we were simply hauling ass by now. And you know what? I was LOVING IT. I actually physically started to feel better and mentally now I was RACING for the first time all day, which is probably a good time to start racing in a 70.3 (after ~30 miles on the bike). We hit a longish downhill section at the top of the loop and I thought that rather than sitting up and being on my breaks, I was going to go for it. Be Brave! Take Risks! So off I went and I passed both red KE gal and Specialized guy and felt like whooping out loud! This was so much fun!!! It might have been the best I've ever felt in a 70.3 race.
So now I felt like were were racing a 40K TT on our way back to T2 but I felt awesome and was not afraid I was being an idiot. Then it happened. A car went by in the other direction and hit a big rock at just the right angle so it came flying over right toward my line... my reaction time was not good enough to swerve around it and I hit it and BAM. Flat front tire. SHIT! And yes, I yelled that out loud. Several times I'm sure.
Red KE gal rode by and asked if I needed anything but of course I said no and just set about fixing the problem. I glanced at my watch as soon as I stopped bc I wanted to know how long this was going to take and I saw 1:55 (ride time- I was about 45 miles in). I did not check for thorns or anything b/c I knew it was a pinch flat from the rock... so I replaced the tube and then went to inflate it with my CO2... Luckily though I was smart enough to check to see if the tube was seeded correctly and when I did that I saw that there was a huge gash in the sidewall of my tire. ARGH! The hole was big enough that a tube would have popped right though so I was not going to be able to fix this without something to plug that hole. ARGH. Take the tire back off and pull part of the tube back out... So you know what else Powergels are good for? Their wrappers. I took a powergel and folded the used wrapper in half and stuffed it into my tire so it would block that hole, then replaced the tube and crossed my fingers as I inflated it with the CO2. Looks like it was holding so maybe I'd be good to go? Just then tech support came up and offered to help... I told him I thought he was good but then we looked at the hole in the sidewall and given that we could clearly see the powergel wrapper thought maybe it wouldn't hold for 11 more miles? He offered to replace the tire for me but I looked at my watch and saw 2:01... I'd already wasted 6' with this flat and I didn't want to waste any more time unless I needed to so I told him I'd try it and see... The mechanic was awesome though and he told me he'd follow me for a while so he'd be right there if it blew again and would help me change it again. So that was comforting.
I got back on my bike and hauled ass to the T2. I cannot believe that tire held. After the race I took a picture... Nice, eh? That rock also put a nice little dent in my (brand new) Zipp 404 rim so I'll always have a nice reminder of this incident.
I could not believe my watch when it read 2:32 bike split as I entered T2. 2:32 with a 6' flat?? Holy crap. My best ever bike split is a 2:30 so this was just super. And running into T2 my first thought was Sweet. My legs feel WAY better than they did at Honu. I took my time in T2 and peed and then jogged out to start the run. Stay relaxed Michelle... 13 miles you can do this... positive self talk, etc. Unfortunately it did not take long before I could feel the effects of the altitude. I actually, on purpose, did not run the 2 days prior in Boulder b/c I didn't want to freak myself out about not being able to breathe or HR being high or whatever... I just figured I would deal with it during the race if/when I started to feel it. So ya, I was running ~8:25 pace but I'm sure my HR was as high as it's been all year on the run and my breathing felt labored and I knew this was not going to be an easy/relaxed run. Decision time again. How much pain was I willing to put up with today?
And in my mind, this next part is the coolest part of my day. I started with the Tough Love technique on myself... You're not going to die. Quit being a pussy. You're not going to die. Yes it hurts. Get over it. You're not going to die. Shut up legs. You're not going to die. Etc. It was the most interesting internal battle I've ever had with myself and I felt like I was winning it. This has been my weakness in the past I think- when I'm hurting I tend to back off and let myself get comfortable again... but on Sunday I'd say that pretty much that whole damn run was incredibly uncomfortable but instead of caving in and walking, I just dealt with it. I allowed myself to be uncomfortable and you know what? I didn't die.
So I was not really thrilled with a 1:52 run split, but I think given the lack of oxygen I was experiencing, that was the best I was going to get out of myself up there with no acclimatization. I did get passed there at the end of the race- that gal went SPRINTING by me so I was guessing she was in my age group (that was the smart way for her to pass me!) though I did not know that I had indeed been leading the age group since T1... I just assumed a couple gals prob passed when I was changing my flat? Anyway, I was pretty stoked to see that I still broke 5 hours with 4:57.. and minus the 6' I would have been more like 4:51 which would have been a 2' PR for 70.3 so there's no complaining about that! I finished this race feeling good about where my fitness is right now and feeling like maybe I finally figured out how to really execute a 70.3... I stayed relaxed through the swim and first half of the bike then increased my effort which is a strategy that is WAY easier said than done... and I talked myself through more suffering than I've previously put up with on that run which again is WAY easier said than done. I stayed calm through the flat episode which I've done before so that was more like confirmation that a flat tire (or any other minor mechanical) does not have to completely ruin your day. So lots of good stuff out there on Sunday.
Less than 3 weeks til Ironman Canada.