Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ironman Boulder 70.3 Race Report

I signed up for Boulder almost a year ago.  I was in the process of moving from Calgary to Phoenix and  I thought it would remind me of the mountains and trees I was leaving, it was relatively close to AZ and  a popular race.  Other than that, I didn't know much about it.

As race day approached, I was pretty relaxed.  I had done all the training on my plan.  I had gained a little weight but not too much (chips, salsa, Carolina's tacos... need I say more).  I was in good shape and this would be my fourth 70.3 so I knew the routine.  After signing up, I read about the altitude change affecting athletes from closer to sea level - Boulder is 5,400 ft.  Not a big difference coming from Calgary, however, from Phoenix it is a big deal.

Still, I had dealt with altitude before and other than a headache, I was always fine.  Advice varied on-line: Some said to get there early and acclimate, others said arrive just before and plow through it.  I decided to pair this with a business trip and get there 4 days early.  Altitude be damned!

I drove up and stayed with some friends in Red Feather Lakes as well as a hotel in Loveland and finally Boulder.  BEAUTIFUL location.  Gorgeous mountains and places to see.

Like other Ironman races, this one was well planned and organized.  The Ironman 'village' is right at the Boulder Reservoir and was well attended.  Newton is based in Boulder and had a nice tent as well as other local shops.  Training Peaks and a couple of bike shops.  All and all, pretty good.  The Ironman store was fairly well stocked but didn't have a lot of IMBoulder stuff.  The athlete check-in was easy and organized.

This race is not point to point.  It revolves around the Boulder Reservoir outside of town.  Single transition area.

Race Day

Had a great nights rest the night before (that is always my plan, as the night before the race is a crap shoot).  The race started at 7:00 AM in a wave start so I was up at 4:30 to get everything ready.  Boulder allows you to bring everything race day so I had to haul my bike and everything else out to the car.  Parking was ample and well policed.  We got right in and I was at transition setting things up by 5:30.  Transition closed at 6:20 and my wave entered the water at 7:35.  This ended up being a bit of an issue later on....  The water temperature had been above the limit for wetsuits but the night before it got a bit colder so wetsuits were legal.


The swim is one lap in sort of a triangle.  A series of white buoys with red ones for the turns.  I really like that setup because I find it keeps you straighter and provides small milestones within the swim.  You just keep the buoys on the right the whole way.  In the water start.  Water was very murky and brown.  It was kind of gross.  I could feel the lack of oxygen in the first bit and had to stop a couple of times until I got a rhythm.  Breathing every other stroke was the best I could do.  I was out at 44:53 which is right at what I expected.  No wetsuit strippers.


I loved this course.  It was a two lap course around the reservoir but was fairly flat with some wonderful downhill stretches.  Because it was two laps there was a lot of traffic and it was fairly crowded.  I did see the leaders come by, Matty Reed was very noticable.  Lap one went great.  My nutrition was good and I was trying to stay hydrated in the altitude.  Then I got a flat!  It was right before the big downhill and I knew I had to fix it.  It seemed like an eternity but I fixed it and moved on.  Probably cost me 8-10 minutes.  At that point, I knew it wasn't going to be my day.  Still, I was on pace and felt pretty good.  I shook it off and moved forward.

It started to get hotter as the day progressed but I was used to this, being from AZ.  So I thought...  I got in at 3:08 including transition and a flat tire so a pretty good time, considering.  At least for me.


Left transition and started the run.  The run is a two loop course around the reservoir.  There is absolutely NO shade.  It was starting to get quite hot - 90+.  I got into a good pace (for me) for the first two miles and then I came undone.  My heart rate was high and I felt like crap.  I walked a bit trying to listen to my body.....  It was saying STOP!  This was nothing new but it was powerful.  I developed a plugged ear (I assumed from fatigue and heat stress) which scared me a little.  Aid stations were every mile and I drank a lot of water and carried ice between stations.  I had purchased the Zoot cooling sleeves 'in case I needed them' and they went on about mile 5.  They really helped to lower my body temperature - I recommend them.  The second lap looked daunting.  I saw a couple of people quit and they pulled some people out with an ambulance.  I knew I would not be getting a PB.  I decided to learn from this and finish as fresh as possible.

I met a very fit and chipper 58 year old named Keri walking.  She was having some exercise induced asthma.  We decided to talk and encourage each other, which worked most of the second lap.  She was weaker than me but I found the discussion distracted me from all of my issues (there's a life lesson there somewhere).  I probably could have gone faster but stayed with her until the final bit.  Finished as fresh as possible, plugged ear and all.  Run was a horrible 3:02 including transition.

Final time, 7:03:01.  My worst time at this distance.  133 out of 200 in my age group.  797 in my gender and 1165 overall...


One of the reasons I am a triathlete is what it teaches me about life and myself - things that are applicable beyond any course or race.  There is no such thing as a bad race - all races teach you something if you let them.  Here are my Lessons Learned or Re-learned from IM Boulder 70.3:

  1. Pick your races carefully and understand what you are getting into.  When I signed up, I didn't realize the altitude combined with the heat would be such factors - something I could have researched before.  Not that I would have avoided the race, I just would have been more informed.  Altitude and heat affect people differently so no recommendation here.  Just be aware.    It ended up catching up with me.
  2. Listen to your body, always.  Triathlon for me is a hobby and is fun.  I race and train to be able to race and train for years.  One race or workout is NOT the be all end all.  My body told me to take it easier than I expected and I respected that.  Our sport is full of Type A's who beat themselves into injury and self destruction in situations like this in the name of "toughness."  That never works, long-term.  
  3. Sometimes it isn't your day / Be in the present.  I found out everybody has a bad race despite preparation and good intentions.  Accept it and adjust your goals and expectations.  By all means,  don't let it ruin things.  Deal with what has been dealt to you and roll with the punches.  I finished with a smile on my face and that means I accomplished my goal.  


  1. Great life lessons! My first half I walked in with someone else and I'm glad she came along. It can make all the difference. I'll have to look into the cooling sleeves, there are some hot days up here, hot for me. When are you next in Calgary? Any further thoughts about tackling the full iron distance?

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. I found out the TriSports store manager down here (they are AZ based) did the same race and had the same report! Great swim and bike and his first lap on the run took him and hour and the second lap took him 2 hours! He is very seasoned. I guess I am in good company. I have signed up to be a volunteer again for IMAZ this year which will give me first dibs at signing up for 2013. I will do it. Not sure when I am in Calgary next but will let you know. All the best!