I’d never been to Boise before this weekend, even though there’s a half-ironman race there and it’s only a 5-hour drive (read: Easy, logistically). There are primarily three reasons for my absence: I didn’t think there was much to the town (read: Snob factor); the weather has been notoriously bad for the race (2 years ago, it was so cold and rainy, I hear athletes were riding their bikes in their wetsuits. The bike leg was lopped off.); and it has a noon start. Turns out reason one was incredibly wrong, reason two was mostly wrong, and reason three was real and partly led to reason two only being mostly wrong.
The town of Boise is fab. There are dozens of restaurants with outside seating downtown. We loved Bardenay so much, we stayed for 3 1/2 hours, much to our server’s chagrin. We are good tippers, though. And my Team Chocolate Milk teammates Apolo Ohno and Craig Alexander (!), and Apolo’s coach, the incredible Paula Newby-Fraser came in. You know me, I had this photo within minutes. I’m not afraid:
As long as we’re talking restaurants, before I move on, don’t miss Goldy’s and Big City Coffee in the Linen District for breakfast. But either go hungry (REALLY hungry) or with a friend if you’re eating at Big City. Their cheese scone could easily feed a family of 6. I think 3 of us polished it off. (read: Oink!)
Boise 70.3 is another two transition race, which means the place that you switch from the swim to the bike is different than the place that you switch from the bike to the run. And you have to drop your stuff at both places before the race. I will say having a noon start made it less of a logistical challenge than usual, but the number of transition spots will be a factor in how I choose races from now on. Race set-up takes a while.
We found an outdoor pool to burn off some excess energy, which was fun. My coach, Dan, and his wife, Elisa, came in from Portland and met us at the pool. That meant my usually mostly leisurely pre-race swim included group race starts in which I cheated and jumped the gun repeatedly, and a game where you swim in a line and the last person passes the first, and in which I also cheated and then quit because I was laughing too hard. That game is an exercise in futility when you’re the slowest swimmer.
Race morning broke, and I woke up at my usual race day 4:45 am…… and laid there for another hour and a half. Then I got up, ate, went to Goldy’s for coffee… came back, ate some more, messed around on the computer… announced that the day was taking forever to START… left early for the race start… waited around some more…and got to see another Team Chocolate Milk teammate, pro triathlete Craig Alexander (3x Kona Ironman Worlds winner and record holder and 2x Ironman 70.3 winner… and really cute and nice).
For the first time I can remember, women 45+ went off in the swim right after the pros, at 12:07. As we were waiting to go, one of the women asked another, who was treading water in front of her, whether she was fast. That woman responded, “No,” and the first woman said something to the effect of, “Then get out of the way, you’re blocking.” Uh oh. That definitely set the tone for the day. (read: Aggro.) The gun went off and within 50 yards, someone had kicked me in the head hard enough to knock my goggles off. Then it happened again. I haven’t been pummeled so hard in a triathlon swim since the Disney Danskin Women’s Sprint Series in Orlando in the mid 2000’s (Seriously. Those women had sharp elbows). Between that and the cold water, I started having a panic attack. Well, that’s a first. I was more than a little stunned. 24 half Ironman races, 5 Ironman races, and a good number of Olympic and sprint distance races and that had never happened. I tread water for a bit, hyperventilating and considering turning around and swimming back to shore. I also decided I hated this race, no way was I doing Ironman Coeur D’Alene in 3 weeks, I hate triathlon, and in fact this sport is so stupid I can’t even believe I put myself in this position voluntarily. Then I decided I was the one who was being stupid so I swam on and actually got my rhythm and was feeling pretty good. Til we hit the turnaround buoy of the triangular course. That’s when the chop and the waves and the swells came (the first fall-out from the noon start. Usually the water is calm early in the morning when we swim and gets choppy later in the day. LIKE NOON.). I couldn’t figure out why I was drifting to the left, as I’m a good sighter in the water, usually. I also wasn’t going anywhere. Then I got that little twinge of seasickness and realized how bad the chop was. It was taking forever to get to the shore. I stopped again to have this conversation, “Self, there’s no other way to get back to the shore except straight ahead. Even though those buoys look like marbles in the distance, you must swim to them.” Onward.
Now it’s closing in on 1:00 and the wind is starting to really wake up. As my friend, Taylor, said, it was not a good day to be a small person on a TT bike. (Read: A wind foil. A sail. A paper airplane.) Headwind, crosswind, occasionally a tailwind. But there was also a lot of wind coming at me from the other racers, many of whom were passing me like I was standing still. When you start in the 3rd wave, it means that there are about 10 more waves of people, many of them incredibly fast, behind you. How fast were they passing me? Well, my bike speed average was 18.25 mph. Coach Dan’s was 24.07. Really fast. Although not so fast that I didn’t hear him shouting “Ride hard! Keep riding hard!!” to me. Racing with your coach will keep you honest. It was a long ride, but the miles were actually clicking off. I was looking forward to the 8 miles back into town and T2, because Dan had said it’s a screamer if there’s a tailwind or no wind. It wasn’t a screamer.
So now I’m lacing up my shoes and wondering how Leg 3 is going to be after challenging Legs 1 and 2. I started to run and amazingly, felt pretty good. Then I continued to feel pretty good. If you remember, I promised after St. George 70.3 that I wouldn’t walk in mile one. I didn’t… In fact, I never walked with the exception of rest stops, getting water, coke, etc. The Boise run is terrific and perfect. I think it has a total elevation gain of 74 feet, and it’s shady and all along the river, so you hear water the whole time. Plus, it seemed like there were volunteers and rest stops every half-mile. And Paula Newby-Fraser was standing along the course and cheered me on when she saw the Team Chocolate Milk uniform. In fact, wearing that kit pretty much ensured that I wasn’t going to walk. It’s, shall we say, recognizable? When Dan passed me with his 6:49 pace, he said, “Keep working hard!” “Keep working hard,” not “If I see you walking again I’m going to make you run a lot til June 29.” This was good. My run wasn’t as fast as it’s been in a half iron, or even as fast as I thought I was running on this day, but a 9:58 pace after that swim and that bike made me happy.
I ended up in 10th in my age group and gained ground as the day went on, instead of losing ground when the run starts like I usually do. That’s a great sign that I’m moving in the right direction, with Ironman CDA less than 3 weeks away. I’m not sure what to expect from myself there for many reasons. It will be almost 7 months to the day after radiation/chemo ended. I still have a weird cough and incomplete lung function (although my O2 level is fine) and I’m still lighter than I want to be. I think I could, truthfully, use another 6-8 weeks of training. And really, a panic attack in the water? Save me from myself. No excuses, though, I will charge ahead or plod ahead toward the finish line. Someone asked me today whether I was still going to do that race and I said, “Of course, what’s the worst that could happen?” I may live to regret it, but it won’t be for not standing at the start line. Livestrong.