I have so many stories – I’ll save those for other posts. This is strictly a race report. But I must say, I had a ball. This was my first Ironman and truly, it was an exceptional experience.
Alarm went off (well, my body got up at 2:30am) at 3am. Dressed, had a quick breakfast and headed to the high school (about 4:15am) to drop off the special needs bags and jump on the shuttles to the swim start. This went exceptionally smoothly – buses loaded expediently and we made it to the reservoir right around 5am. (that’s travel to the high school, drop off bags, port-o-potty break, lines, load and get off to the bike by 5 or 5:15am) Pump up tires, put nutrition and water bottles on the bike, another port-o break, chatting nervously with fellow athletes, wet suit on, swim warm up (they did have a small roped off area) and line up in your expected wave – plenty of time and I never felt rushed or desperate. Kudos to the organizers.
Gun for the pros went off at 6:30. You were lined up in your expected wave marked by 15-minute intervals: 1 hour or under, 1:00-1:15, 1:15-1:30, and so on. I lined up in the 1:15 to 1:30 group – after debating going into the earlier wave and I’m not sure I made the right choice. It was slow trudging into the water down a boat ramp, but once you got in, I had quite a bit of free space for the first line of buoys. An occasional kick or bump of another person, but nothing worse than any other race I’d done. At this point, if the swim was going to be this clear – it would be a breeze. The usually glass-like Boulder reservoir was a bit choppy from all the swimmers, but nothing impossible to overcome.
Once I hit the first turn, though, the action heated up. A lot of congestion on the turn and a solid elbow in the back of the head; people grabbing legs; swimming diagonally and cutting you off and people seemingly standing still. I believe I was catching the slower folks who were ahead of me in the wave or those who wrongly seeded themselves in the 1 to 1:15 wave. For the next line of buoys, I swam toward the outside to miss the traffic, and at the second and final turn – the traffic wasn’t as fierce. Coming down the final stretch, crowds again re-emerged. I felt it was a more crowded, combative swim than I’ve ever done; however, I’ve heard stories of much more aggressive ones at venues that have mass starts. I also heard post-race that Garmins were reading 2.6 or more miles for the swim – it did seem long. Swim time: 1:25: 23. Somewhat slow for me, but I’ll take it.
Soon as I hit the shore, a volunteer called me over and stripped my suit. I grabbed my bag and ran into the tent where I was handed water while I sat down and slipped on my shoes and helmet. Ran to my bike, which another set of volunteers helped unrack for me, and I was off. The temps were still cool. The transition area had seemed long when we set up our goodies the day before, but during the race – I welcomed it. The time helped me become accustomed to being upright and vertical again after a horizontal swim. Transition time: 6:35
The ride was a single 112-mile loop with almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain. It’s pretty – views of the mountains and lots of farms, with a bleak final 40 miles through cow pastures and oil fields. The biggest hill comes at mile 100 – actually 3 hills, the 3 bitches, which if they came at mile 10 wouldn’t be such a big deal. By mile 100, you’re just ready to get off that bike.
I felt great the whole ride – followed a nutrition strategy of eating something – an endurobar square or gel or several shot blocks or a banana – every 45 minutes. I also drank lots of water, took salt tablets three times (a handful of 4 or 5) and sucked down a concentrated bottle of scratch (diluted it at every rest area). I felt strong the entire ride and for me, rode fast – an average of almost 17 mph. Plenty of folks out on the bike course outside their homes, cheering us on. Those stuck in traffic at intersections were not so chipper (but, frankly, there’d been signs up for weeks – so they should’ve known) Given it was the longest ride I’ve ever done, I was super pleased with a finish of 6:45: 03. I was feeling really good.
When you dismount at Boulder, you have a fairly long run up a side walk, around a bend, over a bridge (not through the woods) before you come to the bike catcher at the high school track. Lots of debate the day before whether to leave shoes on the bike or not – I left my shoes on my feet and was thankful. The black top of the track was scorching – at this point, the temps were around 89, but with altitude and lack of breeze – it certainly was hot. I grabbed my bag, changed my shirt pretty quick (why I chose a black run shirt, I don’t know), took a quick porto-break and was off on the run course – immediately downhill and into the shade. The roar of the crowd was energizing. Transition time: 7:48.
The run course is a 2-loop, winding out-and-back, out-and-back, out-and-back along the concrete bike path of Boulder Creek. Lots of mild up and downs, around and arounds – but tons of cheering fans (who chant your name since it’s on your bib) and constant views of your fellow runners. The first out and back is great – people on their lawns, spraying you with hoses and displaying signs. Plentiful and frequent aid stations – I never felt alone on this course. The second out-and-back goes out past the Courtyard Marriot (my hotel) – which requires you to go up a hill (minor in reality, big for Ironman) and into an exposed area of the course. It was around 3:30 or 4 pm at this time – so the sun was starting to shift by time I got out there the first time – but a person I ran with was on his second loop and said during his first loop, this part was brutally hot. The third out-and-back- takes you mildly uphill into a playground and picnic area – the smell of grilling burgers was not appealing at this point. Athletes were starting to drop for sure – lots of walkers, several pukers and some simply laying along the side of the road. I felt really strong through mile 10, then my stomach began to rumble. Nothing race-stopping, but not pleasant. At the half-marathon point – which I reached at about 2:20 – I was feeling good enough that I thought I might just hang on to the pace. My strategy of running between aid stations seemed to be working, but I didn’t have the clarity of mind to figure out how long I was spending walking through the stations. I wished I had worn my Garmin at this point to get a sense of where I was slipping. My stomach forced a long wait and stop at a port-o-potty around mile 16 (not a place you want to be late in the race – ripe), but I kept going. By mile 18, which was back up the hill into the exposed area of the course, my walking had increased. For some miles, I’d still manage a bit of a jog – but for many it was short walking and running intervals. For the most part, I felt good though. Soreness on the bottoms of the feet from continuous pounding on concrete and a little ache in the hips – but I’ve felt far worse in a regular marathon. The last 10-12 miles, I couldn’t face any nutrition except for cola. I believe I had a little Powerbar Perform around mile 16 or 17, but my last gel was at 15. I sucked down a bit of water too, and salt pills, but it wasn’t pleasant. Even the jelly beans I stashed in my run belt as a last-resort food went untouched. The thought of a gel or a banana was truly sickening.
I realized at mile 18, I could push and it would hurt a lot and potentially risk a complete wall-hitting, but I would finish close to 13 (maybe even break 13 hours), or I could enjoy the race and settle for something a little slower. Since my goal all along was a solid 13 to 14 hours, I decided to aim for 13:30 – I had about an hour to reach it come mile 19.5. That was doable and not daunting. After all, I had nothing to prove — I knew I’d finish and that’s what counted. In these last miles, I found athletes to hang with and laugh with, cheer on and commiserate with in those last miles. Any amount of jogging at this point got a “good job” or “looking strong” from fellow athletes and cheerleaders. Most were walking at this point in the race – some just beginning or finishing their first loop. I appreciated all those folks telling you how good you looked…beautiful liars.
Coming down the hill in the last 1.8 miles was such a relief. I thought I could run the whole thing – stuck with a fellow athlete and we chatted a bit, but I had to stop and walk again for about 100 meters. Once I turned off toward the “finish,” though – I found my kick. There was an arch ahead, so I pushed – but it wasn’t the finish…just the pre-finish finish. When I came down the finish shoot – the roar was loud and I couldn’t help but grin goofily. I was so thrilled – this was really happening. I was finishing Ironman. If it’d been any other race, I’d have sprinted past the guy in front of me – but I didn’t want to photo bomb his finish. I held back and came in right behind him. Mike Riley “Andrea Cespedes, you are an Ironman,” was such a glorious sound to hear.
Run time: 5:04:25. (darn it, out on the course, I told myself I’d break 5 hours)
Total Race Time: 13:29: 14.
My catcher met me right at the finish, got me my medal and water. She deemed me okay and set me free. Only pizza at the finish, and chocolate milk – I don’t do milk, I don’t do gluten — so I grabbed a bunch of fruit. After one-half a banana, the uncontrollable nausea started and I headed to the med tent. They handed me a coke, a blanket, a bucket and a chair. I kept everything down and the dizziness subsided. We decided it best not to stay for the midnight finish. By time we got out of there, the clock was somewhere in the 15-hour finishers. Another 1 to 2 hours of standing was not in the cards for me.
I was just tired. Slow walking back to pick up the bikes and bags, and when we returned to the hotel, we ordered food – but it took more than 90 minutes to get to us. Note to future Boulder Ironmans – have a plan for post-race eating. Only pizza and a sub shop deliver late on a Sunday night. I drank very little water that night, showered – got to bed around 1 am.
Monday, I was stiff, sunburned and suffering from lots of abrasions – saddle sores, wet suit burn along my neck, wrist band scrapings along my wrist and some chafing from my sports bra. (yes, I do know what glide is, no I did not use it everywhere I should have). This morning, Tuesday, my muscles are still talking – but I’m certainly feeling good. I even feel like I could go for a workout – I’m not going to, but I could. Mostly a little ache in the quads, calves and hips – but totally manageable. By tomorrow – I’m guessing I’ll be pretty much ache-free. The lack of life-altering soreness is probably attributed to staying within my limits on the race and proper training. I feel like my plan set me up for success.
So much so, that I’ve already committed to Ironman Boulder 2015. Can’t wait.