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Ironman Boulder- No Fear

Fourth place can be one of the hardest outcomes to face. After all, it’s well off the pace of the winner and it’s the first position that misses the podium. For me, however, the outcome of Ironman Boulder was worthy of big-time celebration. Not only is it my best finish to date, but I experienced both a mental and physical performance that previously only existed in my heart.

I opted to tackle my first Ironman a bit later this season (as opposed to last year’s Ironman Texas in April). I had hired a new coach, Marilyn Chychota, in January and I wanted to give the two of us time to settle into our groove before ramping up for Ironman. Boulder is an easy flight, I’ve got some great local support and logistically it was a cruise. Thanks to Dan Markowitz (Ironman rookie no more!) and Allison Moore for driving my bike down from Boise, I needed merely to do a final check and load it up with Clif product for race morning.

Swim

Photo courtesy of 303Triathlon

Race morning gifted us with one of the most memorable sunrises I’ve seen. Shades of purple, orange and magenta graced the final transition prep and gear bag drop. I knew a few of the ladies with whom I was racing, and I had the pleasure of chatting with Sarah Jarvisprior to the start as we headed down to the water. Pre-race camaraderie always helps me remember that we’re all human, and places an emphasis on racing with integrity, professionalism and respect. I will see these women again after our day is over and at future start lines.

Above: Women's Pro Swim Start (Photo by 303Triathlon)

My plan for the swim was to go out strong enough to find a fast pack, but “nothing bananas,” as Marilyn likes to say. Boulder has about 2700 ft of elevation on Boise. It wouldn’t crush me, but I had to consider it and race intelligently.

From the gun, I found myself swimming in a group of four who held a steady pace with minimal surging or shuffling. It turned out to be one of the most relaxed Ironman swims I’ve ever had, thanks to Sarah’s reliable sighting and riding the bubbles in Angela Naeth’s wake. Breaking an hour swim in Ironman would please me to no end. I was within 30 seconds of this at IMAZ last November, and my swim fitness has improved since then. I exited the reservoir not knowing what my time was, but aware that I was with some real contenders in my group. I felt relatively fresh, which put me in a great mindset to start the bike. (After the race I learned that I swam a 1:00:29- so close!!!) Left: Exiting the swim and moving through transition (photos courtesy of Finisherpix and 303Triathlon)

Transition was a blur, although I vividly recall running across what felt like broken glass all the way out to the bike mount line. Yowch!! Next time I’ll walk around transition in bare feet prior to the race to determine whether running in bike shoes might be quicker and less painful than tip-toeing barefoot over sharp chipseal.

Bike

Starting the bike leg with competitors in sight is always motivating. Boulder has several out and back sections on the rolling course, so it’s easy to keep tabs on the other racers as the day goes on.

I had two objectives for the bike course: 1) execute my fueling plan (which has been revised but practiced ad nauseum in training) and 2) stay in the game. Everyone has power and heart rate targets to give objective feedback during a strong but sustainable bike effort over 112 miles. But I also had my coach’s voice in the back of my mind saying, “Don’t wait for things to happen. MAKE them happen.”

It was with this resolution that I made some efforts to challenge the ladies around me- namely Sarah Jarvis and Kim Goodell. We all played a little leap-frog throughout the day. I’d push in a section where I felt particularly tenacious, and they’d answer down the road with a strong surge. This game of cat-and-mouse yielded some honest racing and kept me engaged throughout the bike leg.

Above: Moving for a pass on Kim Goodell (photo by 303Triathlon)

The rolling terrain was a true test of fitness and discipline on the bike. Pitchy climbs were peppered in with flat or descending sections that allowed for a little recovery and rhythm. Dan and I had driven the course a couple days prior, and he reminded me that when you’re heading west toward the hills you’re generally climbing, while easterly travel has you generally descending. This helped me adjust my effort and my speed expectations accordingly.