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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Race Report: Boulder Peak Triathlon

I should really label this race "Reality Check" because that's what it was - read on for more.

The Boulder Peak Triathlon is a prestigious race. I have no idea where it ranks on a national list of Olympic distance triathlons, but I'd bet money that it's at or near the top. It's prestigious enough that the top 3 amateur male and female athletes can automatically obtain pro cards if they so choose. This means the race is competitive - very competitive. To give you an idea of how competitive, in the 5430 Sprint and Loveland Lake-to-Lake triathlons (in which I competed four and three weeks ago respectively), I placed 20th and 16th, respectively, in my age group. In the Boulder Peak Triathlon, I placed 39th.

While the race started at 6:30 and although my wave didn't go off until 7:05, I woke up a little bit on the early side - partially due to setting the alarm incorrectly and partially due to traditional pre-race night, poor sleeping. One positive fallout from this, however, was that I was able to find a decent racking spot for my bike. I ran into Rob and Oier in the parking lot and Rob again in transition. After setting up our gear, we went for a warm-up run. We ran into Oier about the time we were turning around and checking out the far East side of the swim course. We ran back and said good luck to each other as we split up at transition. I finished setting up my gear and got in line for the toilets.

I made it out of the toilet with about three minutes to spare before transition closed. I then realized I hadn't put on body glide or sun screen so I quickly did both attempting to be sure that I didn't miss any glaring spots as the sky was cloudless and while it was still pretty chilly, it's rather easy to get sunburned here if one isn't careful. I grabbed my wetsuit, cap, and goggles stuffing a Gu into my cap (knowing I'd want it before my wave started but not needing it so early before my wave start time) I made my way towards the water. I found a grassy patch and methodically put on my wetsuit.

I had plenty of time to get a decent warm up in on the swim and while it was ok, for some reason I didn't feel like 100% in the water. I don't know if it was nerves or something else but it was definitely something. Less than 10 minutes before my wave went off, I got out, walked over to the water station and ate my Gu. I then went over to the front of the corral where the people in my wave were grouped. A minute or so after the wave in front of ours went off, we were let in and I went out and practiced a swim start before turning around and lined up with the start buoys.

A few minutes later we were off and as is typical with triathlon swim starts, the first 50 meters were a churning mass of arms and legs as people jockeyed for position. I swam over people as people swam over me. I expected it to settle out after a few hundred meters, but for some reason it wasn't. As I turned to breath or lift my head to sight, I saw many other swimmers with the same colored swim cap as myself and my first thought was that I was swimming a lot slower than normal. My other thought was that somehow I was with the lead pack. The pack of green caps lasted until the first yellow turn buoy when we started mixing with swimmers from earlier waves. That helped break everyone up and I thought I finally had some open water to swim. Rounding the second and last turn buoy, I accidentally swam up over someone else in my wave because he decided to take the turn tight and cut me off. As I slid off him to the right and kept swimming I felt a hard blow to my head and after a second realized that the guy had actually punched me. I was shocked but as I kept swimming just let it go because I found a pair of feet to draft off. As is typical with drafting in the water, it's so much easier to swim behind someone one has to watch their speed to keep from swimming up on the person one is drafting. Additionally, several times I felt he was going too slow and tried to pass only to find that I was unable. All of a sudden, the guy stopped and started doing the breaststroke and I wound up getting kicked pretty hard in the face. I remember yelling out "Fuuuuck!" as I turned to breathe. My jaw is still sore a day later.

I came out of the water and my run up towards T1 was without incident. I ran straight to my bike, pulled off the remainder of my wetsuit, put on my shoes, helmet, and glasses, grabbed a Gu and ran out mounting at the line. I consumed most of the Gu before exiting the res but wasn't able to wash it down with anything until a few moments later. As soon as I hit the first hill out of the res, my rear derailleur started jumping gears. I'd put a new chain on last week and while I ran through the gears on Saturday to ensure smooth shifting, apparently it was quite different when the chain is under a heavy load. I managed to figure it out soon enough so it wasn't driving me crazy (though it still skipped around at times) and was officially cruising along on the bike.

The first five or six miles are all uphill with only slight reprieves along the way - false flats, if you will. However, once you turn onto Lee Hill from 36, the road noticeably tilts upwards. The closer you get to the mouth of the canyon and Old Stage, the more it tilts up. In fact, before you even hit the Lee Hill and Old Stage intersection the road sucks. Crossing through the stop sign at the Lee Hill begins the brutal climb that is Old Stage. As I did in training, I refrained from standing on my pedals and just pedaled up. I was being passed by guys in my age group, but I had a disc wheel and they didn't and I knew I would catch back up on the way down. Finally, I crested the first and hardest part of the hill and cranked into a higher gear to get some speed for the next section. The speed served me well and I was able to fly up the second section as it wasn't nearly as steep. Upon cresting the top of Old Stage I took some deep breaths and let it fly keeping my eye open for the speed trailer and the cop with the radar gun.

You see, due to several folks ending up under cars in 2005, a speed limit of 35mph was instituted by the race organizers. I remember the 2005 race and specifically the ambulance flying past me on the steep part of Old Stage. Additionally, I remember seeing the body under the car as I flew by the accident. Amazingly the guy survived.

I saw the trailer and that I was going too fast but still didn't see the cop. I slowed down and as I rounded the slight left bend at the bottom I saw him. Once I passed him I really opened it up and started flying by people, including those who passed me near the bottom of the front side of Old Stage. The rest of the bike is just a blur, but I remember hammering most of the way.

Having royally screwed up my dismount at Lake-to-Lake, I kept reminding myself to pull my feet out of my shoes before getting too close to the dismount line. I remembered far enough in advance to where I was able to hit the line and into T2. I knew where my racking spot was but I couldn't find it. I actually had to run back out to the end of the row and make sure I was in the correct row. I was, and just simply didn't see it. I should have, as my stuff was in the first rack of the row but I just missed it. Once I found it I dumped my helmet, got on my socks and shoes, grabbed my visor, race belt, and Cliff Bloks and got the hell out of T2. I popped a blok immediately and followed with some water right at the T2 exit and as I rounded the first corner to head out on the road portion of the run, I noticed my knee was bothering me.

It was my left knee and it hurt in the exact same spot as it did months ago. I was given an exorcise to do to strengthen my gluteus medius muscle (basically, the outside of the butt - in this case to the left of my left butt cheek). After the pain went away then, I stopped doing the exercises. However, during the early part of the week before Lake-to-Lake, the pain came back and I did the exercises enough to have it go away in time for the race. This time, however, there was no pain during the week and so I didn't do the exercises.

The pain was pretty bad and I didn't know if I'd be able to finish. After dwelling on that for about 10 seconds, I told myself to just take one step at at time and not think about it. I was hoping it would go away or at the very least I would forget about it. But something even better happened. As soon as I hit the dirt section of the run, about 2/3 of a mile into the run, the pain went away. Since the run was out and back, most of the course was dirt and I wouldn't be back on the pavement until I had less than a mile left. I wasn't sure how hard to push it on the run. I felt ok, but there was no cloud cover and the run is completely exposed. It wasn't hot yet, but it was getting there.

About the time I reached the first water station, a little past mile one, I was warm and while I popped another blok and took a sip of water, I dumped the rest on my head. I repeated the process at the second and third aid stations. On the way back, I saw my sister (whom I passed about 1/2 mile before the Jay Road and 51st intersection) and Oier. Approaching the middle aid station (a little after mile four) I stopped with the bloks and just did water and a sip of Gatorade. I repeated the process for the last aid station at mile five. I was running pretty well but I saw a few of the people in my age group pass me. I wanted to catch back up but I just couldn't will myself to go any faster.

I hit the end of the damn and ran onto the road for that last half mile. My knee was fine and I wanted to finish strong but found I wasn't able to up my tempo much before feeling the effects. As I approached the last turn to the finishing chute, I made a quick glance back to make sure no one was on my heels and cruised down the finishing chute where I saw the clock. Knowing I started 35 minutes down I realized I just missed my goal of breaking 2:30:00 by around 20 seconds - most of which, I realized later, were wasted in transition. What hurt a little more, however, was that there was only 22 seconds separating 35th place from 39th place in my age group. I got 39th.

Now, out of 163 in my age group, that's not bad and it shows just how competitive this race was. But after placing 20th and 16th at the sprint and Lake-to-Lake, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed with the placing even though I was totally stoked about the time.

The Stats:

39/163 AG; 187/1363 OA; 162/812 Male

Swim: 25:41 (1:42/100m; 22/163 AG; 143 OA)
T1: 1:15
Bike: 1:13:58 (21.1mph; 46/163 AG; 190 OA)
T2: 1:20
Run: 48:12 (7:47/mi; 52/163 AG; 316 OA)

Total: 2:30:23


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