Ironman Boise Recap Part II: Reality Bites

Ryan | Thursday, June 20th, 2013 3 Comments

Hanging out w/ my buddy Steve, filled with optimism pre-race.

T1: Upon exiting the water, I ran to the carpeted ramp towards the bikes to have my wetsuit stripped.  And was dragged along the carpet at least five feet by two teenagers who couldn’t get the suit off my feet! I don’t have particularly large feet either.  The spectators roared with laughter and I did too. Hilarity amid total intensity. Perhaps this is the final sign though that I need to trim my wetsuit at the calves to make it easier to remove.

T1 took longer than expected but as a hint of things to come in this post, I should have seen the warning signs.  First off, it’s a “clean” transition area, meaning nothing can be left on the ground as it’s a point-to-point bike course.  That in turn means you need extra time stuffing your wetsuit, goggles, and cap(s) in your emptied bike gear bag.  However, you can gain some time if you are comfortable mounting your bike with the shoes already clipped in. I’d like to learn how to do this more effectively. It’s more difficult now to clip in with my new Fizik cycling shoes as there are two straps instead of one. Total T1 time was 4:14.

Bike

I had some anxiety about my bike ride going into Boise. For starters, I had charged the Cervelo P5 Di2 battery weeks prior but remembered my friend and teammate Dave’s advice about always charging said battery before a race. However, I heard other advice and read online that the batteries are good for several months and not to mess with the back wheel alignment unnecessarily. I chose the latter option and hoped for the best.  Second, I recently bought a new pair of Speedplay X-2 Zero pedals because you can order custom spindle lengths –helpful for people with leg-length discrepancies like me.  The result though is a tighter fit with my new shoes, and it’s harder to clip and out. I literally practiced on my trainer at home for 30 minutes when I first bought them and it was as if I had never clipped into a bike before.  Therefore, I was worried I’d lose precious time trying to clip in while leaving the Lucky Peak Reservoir.

Fortunately, neither problem materialized. My ride turned out as my coach largely predicted — a fast PR (but not quite as fast we both wanted).  I rode 10 minutes faster than my previous fastest half-Ironman, which was at Oceanside last year.  Of course, the race in California had 1,000 less feet climbing and was much colder, not to mention I didn’t race with a power meter there.  So it’s very hard to compare the two.  What I can compare is heart rate.  And it’s clear I worked MUCH harder in Boise than I did in Oceanside. The majority of my ride in Boise was spent in HR zone 3, where as the vast majority of my time in Oceanside was in HR zone 2.  Further, my estimated power at Oceanside was dramatically higher than my actual power in Boise.  I’m not going to read too much into that but I found it interesting.

Overall, I felt good on the bike…until I didn’t at around mile 50.  Maybe it was the heat, or the wind, or my nutrition (I swallowed a bit too much water in the swim, forcing me to eat less on the bike), or the un-rhythmic nature of the course that started to catch up with me.  But it wasn’t until the last 10 miles or so that I started to get passed by the fastest 40-44 age-groupers.  I didn’t feel like I was going any harder than I should have, and my .72 Intensity Factor indicated as much, let alone my overall wattage output (172 watts, compared to a 254 FTP).

My coach and I are learning that perhaps my training data going into the race was a bit misleading. I didn’t use a power meter for many of my initial rides this winter and spring while I was waiting for a new tri bike after the accident. I used my road bike, and although it has a CycleOps PowerCal reader, it fluctuates too much to be very useful.  Without a full slate of data, my TSS chart may have been inflated, giving us a false impression of wishful fitness versus actual fitness.

I struggled a bit in the final couple miles to downtown Boise, mercifully entering T2 in around 2:39. A PR to be sure, and 15th off the bike in my age group after having passed eight people in my division.  I’m proud of that feat, but a triathlon is about three sports, not two. Which brings us to the run.

Run

T2 was a breeze. Rack the bike quick, slam on my running shoes, grab my visor, race bib and go.  In and out in 1:47.  Could have been even quicker had we not been required to keep our equipment inside the red run gear bag.

I started off running at a sub-8 minute pace and felt great. That was for the first 3/4 mile. Then, the twitching in my adductors began. “NO. This is NOT happening to me. Not today.”  More twitching, getting worse. “Breathe through it.”  Twitching becomes pulling.  ”It will loosen up once I cramp.” BOOM.  Both legs lock up simultaneously. I’m waddling like I have no kneecaps.

Any chance I thought I had to miraculously qualify for the 70.3 World Championships vanished at Mile 1.  I walked for a few minutes and tried running again.  BOOM. More cramping.  My body had shut down. My day was over.

Not since my first Ironman had I been confronted with the serious threat of quitting.  And without a doubt, this was the closest I had ever come to doing just that.  I had planned to take off my timing chip at the six-mile turnaround — I had walked three miles at that point and couldn’t fathom walking another 10 in the 85-degree heat.

Then, a fellow competitor from Seattle walked up next to me and asked,”Well, what do you want to do?”

I said I wanted to quit and I was planning to. He was too.

After a few moments of back-and-forth about our failed dreams of glory, Darren asked how I felt about running for four minutes and walking for one.  I figured, why the heck not.  And that’s just what we did through mile 7 — at which point Darren got his mojo back and I had to practically beg him to continue his race. This man was so unselfish about supporting me that he was willing to give up the rest of his race to walk alongside me. I’ll never forget that.

I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I walked the rest of the race, five painful, slow, hot miles punctuated only by the briefest moments of levity.  One came in the form of a beer offered to me at Mile 11 — it was my birthday, after all, how could I say no? I trudged into the finish shoot with the saddest of faces. I didn’t even look at the clock nor did I want to hear my name called as I crossed the finish line in a miserable 6:14 — with a 2:54 half-marathon.  It’s the world’s saddest finisher’s photo — so bad I didn’t even bother to buy it! Yet my wife embraced me as the conquering hero — reminding me that I was finishing a half-Ironman less than six months after getting knocked out of racing for half a season because I got hit by a freakin’ car!  This is what amazing wives do. And oh how I appreciated it.

Conclusions

What will I do different? How will this race affect me?  What did I learn?

  • Recovery from any kind of accident is a PROCESS.  It takes time. Lots of it. More than you expect. More than you like. Deal with it. Work harder.
  • With running, just because you have good training runs doesn’t mean you are ready to race a half-marathon — let alone after less than 10 outdoor running sessions total.
  • I need to more realistically manage my expectations!  It would have been more reasonable to target a swim and a bike PR based on all the work I’ve done in the pool and on the road — and simply been happy with that. Perhaps with the thought of not running at all and just enduring a DNF for long-term success and less mental anguish. Letting myself dream of a Vegas roll down added pressure to myself that probably sapped me mentally. It certainly drained me emotionally in the days following the race. Motivating to return to training wasn’t easy.
  • On the upside, I’ve managed to lose seven pounds of unnecessary weight the past few months from a more disciplined diet (fewer calories pre-workout) without losing watts on the bike. I feel leaner and lighter, which I can take with me into my summer training. Thanks to Corey Enman at Fitamorphosis for teaching me more about how to eat right.

Now 10 days later, I’m training back to my normal capacity. After my first “real” trail runs in six months I’m realizing how foolish I was in expecting big things from my run. My legs are heavy, sore and tight — despite what people say, fitness may transfer to running but you still need run legs to run.

In the end, I’m no longer disappointed in the performance itself. I’m disappointed that I let my fantasies get in the way of reason. My training and racing are right where they should be given the time off I had to overcome. Now comes the toughest part of all — re-calibrating expectations for the rest of the season.

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3 Comments

  1. [...] to the Sierra Nevada range for the June Lake triathlon.  Expectations got me in trouble for Ironman 70.3 Boise.  I’ve since learned that when coming back from an injury of any type, expectations are [...]

  2. J.L. says:

    Just found your blog. I was reading your Boulder race report and saw the references to Boise. I did Boise this year. And the term reality bites is so true! I’m no where near your level of racing…40 year old mom of 2 who was chasing her own time goal and saw it fade (not fade really but crushed) after the first mile of the run. Thanks for sharing! And congrats on qualifying!

  3. Ryan says:

    Aw thanks for the reply, JL! That was indeed a rough one. I wasn’t prepared yet on so many levels, which I’ve since learned through more racing later this summer. I just came back a bit too soon from my accident. Keep at it! And stay in touch!

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