This is the third year that I’ve raced IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder. Each year the course has been a little different, but always at the Boulder reservoir. Originally I signed up in 2019 and planed to race in 2020 but when the race was canceled due to COVID-19, I deferred to the 2021 race. It’s local so it’s an easy 70.3 to do. While the course is similar to many local races IRONMAN gives this race a pizzazz that the other races don’t have.
Going into this race my training wasn’t exactly on point. While it wasn’t bad, life had gotten busy and I hadn’t been hitting my key workouts like I would have liked. While my cycling felt good my running top end had been suffering since IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene. I realized going into this race I didn’t really have any clear goals. Of course I wanted to break the 5 hour mark again, something that I hadn’t done since the first year I raced IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder.
I had to check in and get my bike racked the day before the race. Team Zoot had made plans to meet at IRONMAN Village at 10am. I struggled to get there on time and missed the team photo. But I got checked in and was ready to race. While I was walking up my bike to rack it, I ran into Rich. We chatted and I am considering being coached by him.
For some reason this race was big! IRONMAN makes a big production, but there were a lot of people, and the selection of pros made this a special race. I also think I was really ready to race and I knew I had a chance to make this a fast one.
Race morning I was ready to go! I had my plan to get up to the Boulder Reservoir and skip the crazy traffic line. And my plan worked perfectly, I must have saved at least a half an hour. I parked and walked to transition. I saw Rich there and he introduced me to one of his athletes Matt.
I lined up for the swim. There was talk that it might not be wetsuit legal, but it was, which was a good thing for me.
As we waited to start the swim the pros started their races. It’s always fun to see them start. Then men were off and then the women were introduced. The most exciting part was that Taylor Knibb was starting the race. There was talk that she would, but no one had confirmed it. This was her first 70.3 and she was just off of the Olympics where she took sliver in the Tri Relay.
To be honest I don’t remember too much from this swim. It was a good time for me, nothing spectacular, but better than average for my 70.3 efforts.
When I came out of the water I noticed how foggy it was. Although it was not fog it was smoke. It didn’t smell like smoke and I didn’t feel it at all, but the grey brown haze should an eerie light on the horizon.
I got out on the bike and started hammering it. I was feeling good and putting it all out there. The Boulder bike course is really fast. There are some sections along the diagonal highway that you can just scream on. And then once you get away from the reservoir there are some nice hills where you can pick up some really good speed. Of course there is a fair bit of climbing too.
While I was riding I passed a couple people that I knew, which made me feel good about my position. As the bike progressed I started seeing the same people over and over again. We started this leap frog action where I was in front and then they were in front. It was difficult to get out of and I was stuck in that situation for almost the whole second half of the bike.
And we were coming back into town close to the reservoir you head down 75th (I think) where there is a small hill, followed by a big turn. Then there is a bit of a downhill followed by a long strait away. I know this section well, and while it’s close to the finish it’s also a little bit of work.
I got got with a group going up the hill and then was stuck in a pack as we went around the corner. I saw a race marshal come up and sit behind me for a moment. I knew I was in a bad place, so I made an effort to pass to get in a clear area. There was a guy in front of me from my team, team Zoot. I gave myself plenty of space to follow. I wasn’t going fast enough to pass him, but it was easy for me to keep his pace. Regardless a crapy place to be, especially with a race marshal on your butt.
After a few minutes I thought the marshal has passed and all was good, but that was not the case. They pulled up next to me and showed me a blue card! A penalty, I got a penalty. I was in shock. However I knew that there were crowded sections where I was a little too close. It sucked because I didn’t want to be in those sections, but there wasn’t a lot of options of getting out of there either.
I was pissed, I was having a great race and now I had a penalty.
I turned my anger into speed and raced back to transition. I figured if I had five minutes to rest I might as well put it all out there. And that’s just what I did.
Right as I got back on the diagonal highway the winds started to pick up. I was so glad that I was about done with the bike. I made the final stretch into transition, but not before I stopped at the penalty tent.
I sucked having to stop, but I took the time to drink the rest of my fuel and relax before the run. I was one of the first people in the tent, which made me realize how good of a place I was actually in. While I sat there and waited I got to see Taylor Kinbb start her second loop of the run. The turnaround was right next to the tent. It was cool because she had the cameras a motos following her. I didn’t know what place she was in but I knew it had to be the top 3.
After five minutes my penalty was up and I headed into transition to start the run.
It was a little eerie. The smoke was thick, even though I could only see it. The wind was blowing and I knew that this might be a challenging run. I was feeling good though, those extra five minutes made a big difference.
The run course was a little different than in pervious year. While it was still all on the same areas around the reservoir, it was more of a lollipop shape this year. I have to say I kind of liked the layout. There were no major hills which was a nice treat.
The start of the run was good, and I could see several male Pro’s finishing up their run which is always exciting to see. But about a quarter of the way it I started to feel it. The winds was pretty intense at this point, and while I was glad I was not on the bike, it make the run all that much more difficult.
I turned onto Monarch road which is a dirt road just north of the reservoir. This road usually finds it’s way into to this race somehow. I actually volunteered along this road back in 2014 at this race. We were running west, directly into the wind. Normally we get to run east. This was a long stretch that really started to hurt. Right as I reached the end of the road, there was a turn around where you head back west for a short while before going back into the reservoir on an access road. That turn around made all the difference in the world. The wind was at my back and I had a slight downhill. My energy was back.
Just then I saw Gerard from Pro Triathlon Training. He was on a bike grabbing footage. I yelled out to him and he was surprised to see me. He said I was looking good and those were the words I needed to hear just then.
I kept my pace and made it through the first loop of the run. Then I was on to the final loop. I knew what was ahead and I knew that I had some work to do. As I made it around the turn around on Monarch road the second time I looked at my watch. I saw that I was on pace to break five hours. But I knew it was going to be tight. This motivated me to keep up my pace, but as I approached the last couple miles my legs were starting to give up.
I pushed as hard as I could knowing I couldn’t let my pace down. It hurt, but I knew I was close, so close. It hurt but it was worth it, I made it across under 5 hours!!! I was very happy with the day despite the penalty.
After the race I talked to some of the team members that I was riding by when I got the penalty. It seems we were all kind of stuck in a hard spot. They all had great races too and I could not have been more excited.
A few days later I got an interesting email form IRONMAN. Turns out I qualified to the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. Unfortunately, it was just a little over a month away and I already had a ton of racing going on. I turned down the spot. Something that was very hard to do. But It gave me a goal for my next 70.3.
IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder was an incredible race for me. I was able to push the pace and get a sub 5 hour time! Sure I got a penalty, but now I have a story to tell and I got that 5 minutes to rest my legs which I do think helped me on the run. On top of all of that I got to see my favorite professionals race, they give me such incredible motivation. But the kicker was qualifying for a Words spot. Even though I didn’t not take it, the fact that I finally was able to get one warmed my heart. I work so hard in this sport and to see the results pay off is one of the best feelings.