The 106° West Triathlon was my “A” race. This was the big Kahuna, the race I would put everything into. It was my first half IRONMAN distance race. And on top of all of that, it would be a difficult race, dubbed the highest triathlon in the world with parts of the course reaching over 10,200 feet over sea level.
The race took place at Lake Dillon which is only a little over an hour drive from where I live. But I decided I’d say up in the mountains for a few days to make things easier and possibly acclimate to the altitude. I was able to rent a condo which was only a 10 minute walk from the event site. Super convenient.
The race was on Saturday, but I arrived in Dillon on Thursday. Check in started on Friday at 1pm and you were required to rack your bike overnight. I got there at 1pm expecting to be one of the first. I was surprised to see a rather long line waiting to sign some waivers. Even with the line the check in process didn’t take very long to compete. Afterwards there was a safety meeting. The wind had kicked up and I was freezing though the safety meeting. I was worried that the race was going to be a very cold one.
After I got all registered, I met up with my parents to grab an early dinner. We went to Pug Ryan’s Brewery so I had to try a couple beers. Of course not the best idea the night before a race. But I was good and didn’t have too much. It was actually a pretty nice restaurant, I’ll have to go back.
After dinner I went back to the condo to get a good night of sleep. The race didn’t start until about 9:30am so I didn’t have to rush in the morning which was nice. I got up about 6am and had lots of time to kill. A little after 7am I walked over to the start. When I got to transition the guy next to me had taken over my entire spot. It was really annoying. I had to ask him to move his stuff so I could have some room.
At this point in the morning it was pretty cold out still. The low over night was 30°! I was not looking forward to getting into that cold water. I put my wetsuit on which I knew would warm me up. The sun was out which was nice. I decided to head down to the water, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in to warm up or not. I didn’t want to stand there wet and cold for too long.
Down by the water there was a unique sense of excitement. This was the first time they were ever allowing swimming in Lake Dillon. We were making history and they were making that a point. It was exciting. At this point I decided that I wasn’t going to get into the water. We had to swim out to some buoys to start so I figured that would be enough.
The quarter distance was the first wave to go off, which was good because I got a chance to watch them for a little while. The waves were separated by almost seven minutes which meant I was even able to watch the first quarter distance swimmer come back in. That was helpful because the ramp to get out of the water was kind of in a strange location.
Finally it was time for my wave. I didn’t know what to expect, the feeling was surreal. We lined up on the coral and the pushed us towards the water. As I got in I felt the cold, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong it was freezing but I didn’t feel too bad. The worst part was the water on my face, it took my breath away. We had to tread water for a little while was we waited for the start gun to go off. It was rather easy in the wetsuit.
Finally they counted down and the race was off. I started swimming and immediately struggled to breathe. The cold and altitude made it difficult. I slowed down and just tried to catch my breath, it wasn’t easy. While I wasn’t swimming horribly, I wasn’t swimming well either.
The swim course was two laps for the half distance. That wasn’t something I was looking forward to. As I finished my first lap I started seeing yellow caps pass me. I knew that was the wave behind me. That wasn’t a good sign. I did still see a few red caps from my wave, but I knew that I was in the back of the pack. Not that I had expected to do much better it still made me worry a little bit. The second lap went a little better. There were less people around which took off some of the pressure.
The last stretch seemed to take forever. There were a lot of people there cheering and it was very exciting. As I got out of the water I wasn’t really sure what to do. I just went up to one of the wetsuit strippers and let them take my wetsuit off. I wasn’t really cold at this point which was good. The stripper asked if I could feel my hands. They were cold and slightly numb but not that bad.
We had to run up a ramp to transition. There was an older man in front of me taking his sweet time. I wanted to get moving and get on with the race. Eventually I passed him and got to my bike in transition. It was nice having the wetsuit off already. I noticed the messy guy next too me had not been there yet. That made me happy. I got on the bike and started off on the course.
The start of the bike course took you along the damn before you had to run around and head towards Keystone and Montezuma. I was feeling strong and making good progress.
The bike course was little strange as we were on the left. It was easy to get used to though.
The stretch to Keystone was a fast ride and I was riding along passing people at a good rate. But as we started to climb things got a little more difficult. I noticed that I was passing a lot of quarter distance racers. It wasn’t too long before I reach the turnaround in Montezuma. I was surprised how quickly it came up. The way down had me nervous as there were a lot of turns and cyclist to worry about at some pretty high speeds. It was a challenge to pass people, but I made my way through.
They did a really good job of putting out cones and there were state patrol at every intersection. Most of them cheering us on. The road back to Dillon passed by the condo I had rented. I was wondering if Lauren had parked there yet. I tried to get a look but wasn’t really able to see.
As I finished the first lap on the bike corse I felt like I was in a pocket with nobody. There was this one guy that I was leap frogging with. It was getting annoying so I just passed him and was able to keep that lead.
The nice thing about the two loop course was that you had an idea of where you were in the race. The part that sucked was that you knew you had to do it all over again. And the second lap was defiantly harder. There was a short climb out of Dillon that just felt difficult. I was worried that would be a sign of what this second lap would be. Luckily I did okay.
The wind picked up as I was headed back to Dillon though. The descent from Montezuma was speedy but the wind slowed me down a little. I wasn’t bad until I got close to Dillon though. The last stretch was a challenge. As I headed back towards transition I was feeling good about my position, but afraid of the run.
I struggled dismounting my bike and stared running towards transition. I could hear my sister yelling out, but I didn’t see her. The transition went well and started the run. There was a stair case down to the trail where the run course was. I stopped before the stairs realizing I forgot to tighten my sure. I figured this would be the best time to do so.
I wanted to start the run off slowly so my heart rate wouldn’t get to high. Unfortunately, the first part of the run was a giant hill. So that strategy went out the window. As I came up this hill I could see my sister and brother in law. It was nice to see them. I thought to myself well you guys have couple hours to kill why run the half marathon.
I didn’t feel bad on the run, but I didn’t feel great either. My speed was pretty much dictated by what my body was capable of doing. I was trying not to pay too much attention to my pace. Every so often I would glance down at my watch. I didn’t seem to be going to slow but I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted to.
It was hard to get an idea of where people were on the run course. I was passing some and others were on there way for the second loop. There were still quarter distance runners out there which made it hard to gage.
The first leg of the run felt like it lasted forever. I remember getting to the mile mark and thinking how am I going to do twelve more? And it seemed like an eternity until I hit an aid station. I needed some water! It wasn’t hot out which was good, but I didn’t get enough fluid on the bike. Once I hit that first aid station the second seemed to come up fast. It was at the furthest point. As I started heading back I could see runner coming back. It made me feel a bit behind.
I just put my head down and ran the best I could.
As I made it back to the transition area I knew I was halfway done. It came as a huge relief. I saw my brother in law, Jason on the side of the trail. As I passed him I said “It Hurts!!!” It wasn’t really that bad, but it was work. The worst part is I knew I was only halfway done and I’d have to do the entire course again.
As I started back I scanned the horizon for Lauren. I hadn’t seen her yet and I was a little worried about here getting there with the road closures and such. But then I saw here standing up on the hill holding Jacob. At that moment I had a rush of emotions overwhelm me. It gave me the motivation to keep going.
The second loop seemed to go a lot faster which was good. I could tell I was slowing down though. At this point it was all about getting to the aid stations.
There were points along the run where I was neck and neck with people. Eventually we’d go our own pace. Then there were those who would just blow by. And even a few people that I remember seeing on the bike.
At the start of the run there were a lot of runners shouting out good job, which was nice, but it was hard to get the words out. As the race went on this was happening a lot less!
Finally I hit the aid station at the furthest point and I new I only had one leg left! It was a great feeling. That last leg was a hard one, but the hardest part was the hill that took me up towards the finish line.
There was a strange loop to get to the finish. I wasn’t really sure what way to go. One lady said go around this the lop and another lady yelled NO! I stopped and threw my arms up. I had no idea what to do. It was very confusing. Finally I figured it out and made it into the finish chute. I couldn’t believe it I was finished with my first 70.3! I threw my arms up again as I crossed the finish line.
As I crossed, I was greeted by a man who gave me my 106° West belt buckle for finishing and another lady took off my timing chip. My Mom ran over to give me a hug. I grabbed a bottle of water and walked over to see the rest of my family and Lauren. I had hoped more of my friends would have shown up, but they didn’t.
I was surprised by the lack of people at the finish line. It was rather packed in the morning, so I assume many of the people had just competed in the quarter distance. Or there were still many people that needed to finish.
I looked at my watch and saw my time of 5:48! I was a little surprised. I was happy that I had finished in under six hours.
There wasn’t much to do after the race so we hung out for a little bit. Then finally we saw the posting of the results. When I went over to look at them they only had the first two finishers from my age group listed. I had not expectation of placing so I didn’t think much about it. But then when I looked at the second place time I realized there was only a ten minute gap between us. I said jokingly, “well if no one else finishes within ten minutes of me I’ll be in third.” All the time thinking that there would have been three or four guys that would have squeezed in there.
We waited around for a little while and when back to check for updated results. They weren’t posting them. So finally Jason went over and asked, turns out I did place third! I was not expecting that at all. And since I did place we decided to hang around and wait for the awards. But after about an hour of waiting we decided to just leave and grab dinner. I did get my free Michelob Ultra while we waited. They said that I could pick up my award before I left. It was a sticker and a pint glass. The pint glass wasn’t even engraved though.
We were going to go over to Breckenridge to Oktoberfest and get some brats and beer. But when we arrived in Oktoberfest we realized it had been shutdown. We walked around for a little bit and I came across Mary’s Mountain Cookies. I had to treat myself to one of the delicious cookies. I had earned it. Finally we found a fondue restaurant and had a great victory meal. I did better than I had expected, and was very happy with the day.