Every now and then everything comes together on the perfect day for the perfect race. The weather is clear, the course is fast, and everything just clicks into perfect mechanical form.
This was not one of those days.
This race was the kind where you question your sanity and find out how tough you really are. Does your training stack up? What about nutrition? Can you handle everything Mother Nature has to throw at you, and then some?
Before I start, Boise was great. I loved the town and the residents are some of the most friendly people I have ever met. I saw a few of the trails and John was able to do some serious trail running. I highly recommend it to any outdoor enthusiast and would return in a heartbeat. I also got to meet Sam in person, which was cool to make a cyber friend a real-life friend.
The race itself was great as well. It was a challenging bike course for this flat-lander and nice run. The organization was great and the volunteers were fantastic. But apparently Mother Nature thought that doing this 70.3 race in good weather would be too easy.
The professionals started at 2 pm. An afternoon start threw a monkey wrench in my normal eating strategy. The extra time awake to think about the race made me nervous and I had a hard time eating much of anything. I managed to down a piece of zucchini bread and a Cliff Bar in the morning and half a Cliff Bar around noon. Having that much time before a race start reminded me of the Pepto Bismol commercial: nausea, heart burn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea.
We made it to the lake and I went through the final rounds of tire pressure and triple-checking everything I could think of. What I have noticed is that when I enter T1, my nerves evaporate. There is something about T1 I find incredibly comforting.
It was a clean transition, so nothing was on the ground. I kind of liked the simplicity. It forced me to whittle down my routine to the bare minimum. This would cause a riot among the local Johnson County triathletes. "What do you mean I can't spread out my beach towel and have to pick up after myself!"
At the start of the race, the reservoir looked like glass. But there was a storm blowing in and by 2:30, the water was choppy. We were called in the water at 2:35 for our 2:40 start. I had to pee and figured I would use that to warm my wet suit. (Don't give me that look, everyone does it) I couldn't do it. So the gun goes off and I still have to pee.
About a quarter in, I get hit in the face and my goggles come off. I had to doggy-paddle to fix them and calm myself. The cold water and waves were taking a toll. At about 3/4 through I realized I had sighted a kayak instead of a buoy and I was WAY off track. Damn! That cost some time. When I came out of the water, I was much more tired than usual. 46 min on the swim gives me a 2:25 min/100m, the slowest I have ever done. However, given the cold water, waves, goggles and sighting issues, I can't complain. It was over. At least I don't have to worry about drowning. Or so I thought.
I forgot to go to the bathroom, and took off on my bike. It was still clear, but that didn't last long. By mile 10 the rain started and it didn't let up. Kansas is hilly, but it is rolling hills and at a low elevation. The bike course was between 3800 and 4200 feet and there were sections of climbs that literally went on for miles.
Towards the end of the bike, a well-meaning spectator yelled "Come on ladies, pick up the pace!" I almost reached out and clotheslined him. If you want to cheer, never tell someone to pick up the pace, push harder, or almost done. Saying these things to someone who has been racing for hours could get you punched in the face.
I was hoping to average 17.5 mph given the hills and elevation change. I finished in about 3:07, which was 18 mph. Add in the weather, and I was stoked about my bike time.
Happy as I was to finish the bike, I was so cold from the rain and wind that I couldn't feel my hands or feet. I could barely get my socks on or tie my shoes. My T2 time over 3 mins, much slower than usual. Again, given the weather and that I couldn't feel my appendages, I can't complain.
I took off, once more forgetting to pee. Funny how that works. When I had nothing to do except pedal and look at the countryside, all I could think of was going to the bathroom. I get into transition and I forgot. Again. By mile one, there was no forgetting but there was a porta potty. Thank God.
On the bike, I had started to have pains in my chest. Not that kind of pain, but from my diaphragm. This was a new one. I was low on food and fluids, but with the cold weather I also knew I wasn't losing much. It felt like I had a racquetball stuck in my chest. I think it was from the cold water and cold weather, I was breathing too shallow and it screwed up my diaphragm. That's all I can come up with. Every few miles I would hiccup hard, that kind that hurt. I sucked it up and kept going, thinking "The faster I run, the sooner I'm done."
Then I saw one of the physically challenged athletes on a titanium leg and chastised myself for my silent complaints. I am thankful for all that I have and I race to fully realize what I can do. My plight is easy compared to others. The racquetball shrank to a ping pong ball at mile 9 and the last 4 miles were my best.
Finally, I was heading in to the finish. For the first time in a race EVER, I heard my name announced, followed by "from Prairie Village, Kansas. That's one more state to check off the list." Once I crossed the finish line, a woman wrapped me in a Mylar blanket and put her arm around me. A guy took off my chip while the woman gave me a bottle of water (already opened), put my finisher's medal around my neck, and gave me a finisher's hat. She was the best finish line volunteer I have ever encountered. After 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 59 seconds of racing, having someone to give you what you need and steady you makes a good race experience great.
John and I hung around to watch Sam finish. We were too far to see her cross the finish line, but we did get pictures afterwards. I showered and we decided to get a pizza from Flying Pie before they closed. We shared the elevator back up with a guy holding an award. Thinking he must have won his age group, I said "Congratulations". He asked if I raced and we chit chatted until we reached his floor, where he wished us good night. After he got off, John says "Isn't that the one guy in all the ads?" So we flip open Triathlete magazine, and sure enough, I was talking with Craig Alexander, professional triathlete who WON the race in a very dramatic manner. I'm just glad I didn't put my foot in my mouth.
Here's the difference between me and Craig Alexander: while taking the elevator back to our rooms, he was carrying a trophy and a check for $15000. I was carrying a pizza.
It was a tough day, but given my training and the weather I raced the best race that I could, and really that is all I ever expect. It was a great course with wonderful volunteers and I can't say enough good things about Boise. As much as it hurt and as happy as I was to be finished, the first thing that came into my head after I saw my time was "I know I can do a sub-6". I guess this means next year I'll be back at Kansas.
I think that's one thing all endurance athletes have in common: the finish line does not mean the end.