Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Boise Race Report

Parking Lot Below Lucky Peak Reservoir

1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run.

WOW what a day in Boise on June 9!

Like my two previous half iron distance races this one will go down in infamy due to weather and "drama" not within my control.

What WAS in my control I handled in order to:
  • Squeak out a slight PR on the swim
  • Pull out a HUGE run PR while nailing my pacing, and 
  • Once again come through for myself in a big way (the heart of why I do this sport)
Let's start from the beginning:

I registered for this race in June of 2011 originally to verify the Ironman 70.3 World Championship Lottery slot that I planned on going for in 2012. If you've been reading for a few months you know that I did win that slot.

I love it when a plan comes together.

But Boise turned out to be so much more than that (of course it did this is me and this is triathlon!).

I grew up in Owyhee, Nevada on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in northern Nevada, 148 miles south of Boise, 4 miles south of the Idaho border. It's basically as far north as you can go and still be in Nevada.

On June 23, 2004, my mother died in Owyhee, the night before my parents were due to move to Las Vegas to begin their retirement years. Eight years ago is the last time I'd been to the area.

So as the race grew closer, I grew more and more emotional -- in a good way. I've learned since leaving my job as a lawyer in 2005, discovering triathlon in 2006 and starting my business in 2009 NOT to stuff down or ignore my emotions (good or bad). It's ultimately easier to move through them. Not only do I get lots more accomplished that way but it feels better.

Mom had multiple sclerosis, but her death was unexpected. It threw everyone for a loop and tore the family apart. It was one of the worst times in my life and I all but stopped talking to two of my brothers.

After we got home from the memorial service, I desperately wanted to get over the entire ordeal. So I went back to the law firm where I worked after taking next to no time off and figured I had moved on. Not. So. Much.

Time does a decent job of healing things on the surface but if you're ignorant enough to believe you can just move on like nothing happened you'll never completely heal and you'll never be able to live up to your potential. EVER. It will Wear. You. Down.

Looking back I believe Mom's illness, death and its aftermath had a lot to do with why I eventually turned to triathlon.

Things seemed to pile on after that, I was angry much of the time, and felt like a complete and total loser at life. With Glenn's support I made some major changes and one of those changes landed me as a volunteer at the 2006 Silverman -- which is when this blog really started.

As the years went on the family managed to patch a lot of things up and it gradually got to the point where I didn't cringe upon hearing the names of my two youngest brothers.

Today all four of mom's children are on speaking terms, we get along and we may actually be getting closer.

Even so, I was flabbergasted, a few days before leaving for Boise, to receive these:

My brother Dylan sent these because they were Mom's favorite flower. The card read:
Stef: Good luck in Boise! I'm really disappointed I can't be there but will be with you in spirit and know you'll do great. I hope these mom-inspired sunflowers further brighten the next few days as you prepare. Love you and good luck! Love, Dylan
These big races are so much more than races to me. And I know Mom is proud of me for doing this.

So the flowers made the long drive up to Boise with Tony and me. Glenn couldn't make the trip so I'm grateful Tony wanted to. He showed up in our driveway, we loaded up the van and were on our way.

With the flowers and the Silverman backpack how could I lose? I couldn't!

Tony and I got to Boise a couple of days early and checked everything out. I've always liked Boise as a city and it lived up to my memories. Of course we drove the bike course -- I was super excited to ride it! For reasons beyond my control, though, I would not get to ride it this year.

Race Day

We woke up on race day to a steady rain. Because the race started at noon I figured it would blow over. It didn't. It got worse. It also got windy.

We brought my bike and gear up to transition at Lucky Peak at 10am and spent the next two hours wet and cold. The temperature was 46 degrees! I later heard reports of it being colder than that and also that there was snow -- I personally didn't see any snow but temps were certainly right for it.

I put my wetsuit on early to try and keep warm and huddled under a tiny tree with others who were doing the same thing.

Smiling but I'm damn uncomfortable here!

With less than an hour before the start they announced that due to high gusty winds on the bike course they were cutting the bike portion of the race from 56 miles to 15 -- so we'd be riding from Lucky Peak Reservoir into downtown Boise and that's it. The start was delayed so they could set up the run course early and otherwise implement this last minute drastic course change.

The reaction to the news ranged from surprise, to relief, to YAY! Some people were angry. Some (like me) were nonplussed. Some decided not to do the race. One of my first reactions was: damn, now we have to WAIT to get in the water! The "official" water temperature was 57 degrees -- quite a bit warmer than the air.

When we lined up for the swim start I was shivering. Involuntarily. Cannot remember the last time I shivered involuntarily.

My Swim Wave!! Women 40-44!! Waiting to start. Photo Credit: Ironman 70.3 Facebook Page

Smiling and shivering. These 40-44 ladies seemed to take it all in stride. Great group of women!

Normally 57 degree water would feel really cold to me. By the time we got in, it felt like bathwater. Tony snapped this priceless shot right before we started. I look really crazy here. I guess we have to be (at least a little) to do this sport right?

So glad to be in the water!

The Swim (1.2 miles)

The swim was excellent! The water was surprisingly flat for a nasty weather day. The rain, the mist and the big yellow buoys gave me flashbacks to Silverman 2008.

Tony got a couple of great shots of our wave starting!

Our wave wasn't huge so there was very little body contact. Every two minutes or so the fast peeps from the waves behind would come through. I held my steady 1.2 mile pace and came in with a time of 50:11 which is over a 1 minute PR over my last full half iron swim!

Very happy with that it's about what I expected. I'd love to eventually get my 1.2 miles down to 45 minutes or less but that's coming. :-)


I felt nice and warm coming out of the water and they had wetsuit strippers. Score! After my suit was stripped off I trotted to my bike and got down to business.

Tony was waiting for me at my bike and snapped this lovely shot
Boise is a "clean" transition, meaning nothing gets left on the ground. Rooting through a transition bag when you're already wet and it's cold out is a bit of a pain in the ass -- but you deal with it. Everyone has to! I got transitioned in what felt like a decent time, was nearly to the Bike Out, when I realized:

Oh F*&K! I forgot my GPS!!!!!

Rooting through the bag in a hurry . . . . . UGH!! For a split second I considered just leaving it but . . . NO!! Not only did I pay for it but I WANTED my friends and family to track me!

I ran back to my spot, screaming "Tony I forgot my GPS!!" He pointed me to my bag, I found the GPS, put it on, and was out of transition for real this time.

The Bike (15 miles)

The rain had slowed by the time I got on the bike -- but the combination of riding on wet roads with the wind blowing and what felt like a billion people passing me made me eager to get it over with.

I hammered as best I could and came into T2 with a time of 49:27 (only time in history my bike time beat my swim time LOL). I felt very "off" my usual rhythm during the just under 15 mile ride. I came into T2 glad to be DONE with the bike -- not the ride I trained for but it was what it was.

It did throw me for a loop though for the first few moments of the run.

The Run (13.1 miles)

My mindset transitioning from bike to run was not the best. My stomach was feeling very unsettled and stressed, which is so NOT normal for me during a race! It made me really nervous and even scared.

The mean heinous part of my brain capitalized on that stress and fear:

"Bah, this race doesn't really matter anymore with such a shortened bike. All you have to do is verify your slot to worlds. Just take it easy, you can't run that well anyway."

"You're not strong enough to do this -- you didn't eat right before the race you'll never have the run you visualized here."

I stopped in a porta potty just outside of transition faced with a choice: I could either go after the run the way I do in training, and the way I've visualized for this race many times . . . or I could half ass it. I got briefly angry at myself.

After all these years I'm still facing asinine choices like this???

Crap like this is still running through my head?????

Obviously yes.

I started running and my stomach protested. My entire torso area felt discombobulated, sloshy and started to ache. Having no choice but to take it easy I jogged at a snails pace until it got to be too much.

As I slowed to a walk within the first mile the decision was made. 

I was going to run 4 minutes, walk 1 and do the best that I could with what was going on! Once the decision was made the mean part of my brain shut off for good and I was back in control of my own destiny. So grateful for that!

The first three miles were a 12:42 pace which is about right for a super easy run for me.

After that my stomach settled down and I was able to turn it up -- mile by mile I worked it, going by feel, doing the 4/1 run/walk combination for the entire run! Brought the pace down to 12:01 and held it there for the rest of the race. I'm super proud of this because never in a long course race before have I finished stronger than I started!

I always follow my fuel plan -- which worked for me here as it always does!

The Boise greenbelt is wonderful! Most of the run was along the river (you can see it in the two shots above) and it was nice and cool out! The sun came out too and we had some wind gusts . . . but overall these conditions were ideal for me to have a great run!

[I used to never ever walk during races because once I start walking it's all over for me mentally. Not anymore! I typically do not train run/walk style but it's what saved my run here and kept me going].

Run time: 2:39:53. This decimates both run times from Silverman and the Utah Half! What a great baseline to work from now! I could not be more pleased!

The actual time for this run fell a bit short of my time goal for this part of the race -- but honestly, I don't care. I pushed myself harder than I ever have in a race like this and I came through on the pacing. A faster overall time would have been gravy. I'll get there! My goals are within reach!

The Finish

Having never done an "Ironman" branded race, I was not prepared for the volume of people lining the finish chute. Typically when I finish a long race the finish line is a ghost town. Not sure whether it was the crowds, the inner sense of absolute accomplishment I felt, or the fact that I had a little more in the tank but in those last few long blocks I passed about ten people and ended up with the best most jubilant finish photo ever!

How I know I finished the way I wanted to: immediately after this picture was taken I was "caught" by a volunteer -- he had to hold me up for a few seconds as I felt wobbly and disoriented. He told me I felt cold, put a blanket on me, asked me if I felt nauseous (I did not) and supported me while I got my bearings.

Tony found me a few moments later and took these photos.


We liked the Capitol building in the background. Downtown Boise is really cool!

Then we went to the athlete food area where I practically inhaled two sliders and a slice of pizza.

The next morning we packed the van and headed for home.

On the way home we stopped in a place that has special meaning for my mom and family:

The beautiful Snake River
And we stopped in Owyhee to get this shot of the post office. Where my father was postmaster for 23 years.

I'm glad this race turned out the way it did. We all have our struggles. It's so important to roll through changes that are beyond our control, even when it's not always ideal, don't you think?


Molly said...

What a wonderful race report!!! I am SO happy that you put together such a solid well paced run, that's so key and should give you a LOT of confidence going into your next race. I hope you are recovering well!!!!

Liz Waterstraat said...

Those flowers almost made me cry! Congrats, Stef. Beautiful and bold!

Northstar702 said...

It's the best part of what makes us human.

Karen said...

Loved your race report! What a great experience. You know if you survived those race conditions, the next one should be easy! :)

Debra said...

Thank you for sharing your report,Stef. The flowers from Dylan moved me to tears, as did your courage, determination and fortitude. You rock, in every possible way!


paulag said...

Love your race report! First a huge congratulations! Love the photos and the whole story. Grateful you shared it in this way. Yay for the huge confidence builders in so many ways.

Wes said...

nice work, chica! I've already begun the process of making sure you have PERFECT race weather for Worlds. No need to thank me :-)

You found you liked the run/walk cycle quite by accident? I always say if you're going to walk in a race, do it on a schedule. I'm always so pleasantly surprised how well it works out.

Congrats, Stef!!

Calyx Meredith said...

Thank you for sharing all the layers of your triathlon experience. What an amazing sport/life triathlon is. :D So excited for you and Worlds!! Go Stef!!

Unknown said...

I'm proud of you Stef, your training paid off. Had a great 1555 mile road trip!

Next is championships at Lake Las Vegas!

Kathy said...

Wow, so much emotion coming forward to such a huge day.
The weather conditions sounded fierce! You know it's bad when they choose to shorten the bike route.
Argh, don't get me started on GI issues and running - great job pushing through!!
You finish photos is fabulous!!

Anonymous said...

Completely loved your race report! I really like how you break everything down in the details. It makes the reader feel that they are right there with you in the moment. The flowers and visit to the special place gave me goose bumps and a bit teary! It's really not just a race is it? It's about life, our lives and how we choose to live them everyday. We make good choices and bad choices and while sometimes we may lose other times will be sweet victory. I think it is the unexpected thrill of it all. How will I do? How far can I really go? I am a tri newb and I am thankful to read these posts as it helps me to not only learn more about these events, but the amazing people that complete them.