Boulder, CO. Triathlon mecca where most US pros are training. Blue skies, mountain backdrop, and hipsters.
Pre-race days consisted in short walks to take in the Flatirons, shopping & dining around pricey pedestrian Pearl Mall, some pool time, and discovering the famous farmer market.
It is quite hot in August in Boulder. 90F+. But in the days leading up to the race, a mixture of altitude sickness and flu leaves me exhausted during my short bike / run trainings. We’ll see, I always feel like crap before racing anyway.
The race logistics are complex, with two transitions, which means that I spend my Saturday dropping bags and bike around town and the Boulder reservoir. With traffic I almost miss the bike dropoff cutoff. Then time for a last pasta dinner in town, and off we go (to bed).
Early start: drive to T2, park car, get into bus shuttle, go to T1, check bike, discover that the race is non wetsuit legal and do not have your swimsuit. Let it go. Rolling start, slow swim with the rising sun in the face (and lots of zigzaging on my end), no wetsuit of course. I exit the water in 1hr16mn, seems like an eternity. Long gone is the time when I swam in 59 minutes …
Long T1 due to the transition setup. Guy next to me in T1 has a blown tire, I am always surprised to see how many people face this issue. Anyway I am off for 112miles of biking. I love the first loop, approximately 45 miles, plenty of rolling hills but a good pace and it is not too hot. I get a yellow card for not passing within 20 seconds, unhappy about it but what can you do ? This main loop is much faster than I thought. Not flat but if you ride strong, you can push on the downhill and stay aero uphill.
Middle of loop 2, I cannot take any nutrition in. No solids / liquids. Not good. I still carry on with my momentum to finish the 2nd loop.
The last section back into town is called “the three b*tches”, for the three hills we need to climb. Well the name has been well chosen. They hurt after 5 hours on the bike. The field is scattered away and this is when the race starts becoming an Ironman triathlon, with the prospect of a 42km run, when sun is high and strong. I reach T2 in 5hrs 27mns, within my objective of 5hr20mn once the penalty is taken into account. Sun is high and it is time to start the marathon.
The first kilometer will be my fastest of the day. Unfortunately it will be a 10mn / mile. My stomach is destroyed and I have no energy. Flat. I just try to survive. Coca-Cola when I can and that’s it.
The atmosphere is phenomenal along the Boulder Creek. I am sad, not being able to enjoy it. I see myself finishing in 6+ hours the marathon. I suffer so much, it seems so long, so slow, but that is what the Ironman is all about.
Pace, nutrition, mental strenght. Running by the creek and seeing families eating barbecue and tubbing in the cold water make normal life seem like a distant dream. The second lap on the run witnesses my stomach empty itself, which ultimately helps me feel better, if not faster. I feel bad for the spectators watching this, but heck, this is an Ironman race, not pretty.
Temperature and altitude make this a long marathon for everyone, but the last 5 km out and back is (almost) pleasant, if you can use that adjective to run 5km in 36mn while digging deep.
The chute is great, that feeling when you head towards the finish, leaving all regrets, all “what ifs” behind, just running towards the arch, having done it, having raced 140.6 miles in 12hr 17mn.
The magic of the brain is such that 2 minutes later, pain is forgotten, disappointment as well, and what matters is that medal and the memories …
We spend the next day in the Rocky Mountains National Park, beautiful and so wild, forgetting about the aches and small blisters of the previous day, already thinking about the next race…