Monday, September 19, 2016

IM Boulder Race Recap 2016... 3.0 The Bike, The Back...The Beautiful Bella

I really liked the bike course design.  I thought is was laid out really well and hoped that I would be able to make it through.  I was particularly worried about the, I'll say, 5 hills that were out on the course.  My back truly feels the extra strain when climbing.  I wasn't sure if I'd get through the 1st hill let alone being quite concerned for hill #5, going up Nelson Road for the 2nd time. I was pretty confident in my strategy to manage the course but it all means nothing if those Demons catch up and my back begins to seize up again.  The bike section for me was going to be the real test if I could finish or not.  I was happy with my calorie and hydration intake during TA1 and planned on drinking every 15 minutes on the bike with extra endurolytes every 30 minutes on the 15+45 along with more calories every 30 minutes on the 30+00.  Exciting stuff right??  A similar game plan has worked very well for me in my past races.  I tweaked my calories and electrolytes for this race increasing them ever so slightly.  Any extra water in my bottles when I get to a fuel zone gets dumped on me to keep me cool and my bottles get refreshed with new fcool iced down water.  Again, this was all part of my comfort plan.  I did not want to have a deficit in the slightest bit with my nutrition.  I couldn't afford a mistake in this category.    At each Aid station, I would refresh myself by pouring water over my head and gathering up 2 more bottles of iced water to carry around as a pack mule to drink and cool myself off a little later.

I appreciated how the course set itself up after getting into the saddle at TA 1.  You had close to 7 miles of warming up on the newly paved Diagonal Highway before making a right onto Highway 52 in preparation for the first hill of the course.
About 2 miles into the hill, I noticed a gal walking her bike.  As I approached, I asked if she was ok and if there was anything I could do to assist.  "Nah, just gotta walk my bike up this hill.  Once I get to the top, I'll be fine" was her retort.  You'll be fine??? I thought.  Fat chance in hell.  If your walking your bike up Hill #1 what's gonna happen at mile 80 when you're making yourself up Nelson Rd for the 2nd time?? I figured this gal A) is under prepared for this race and B) is going to have a very, very long day.  I wished her well and kept on peddling by.  In the aftermath, I wished I would have caught her bib number.  I would have loved to see how she finished her day.  I thought I handled the hills on Hwy 52 and then again on Lookout Rd at miles 10 & 15 very well.  Once I felt a bit of an incline, I would get out of the areo position and ride straight up and down to relieve some of the pressure from my lower back.  Most of my rides leading up to IM Boulder had been straight up and down and just recently, I started to put myself in the more aero but also more back/spine stressing position.  In the past I would have ridden these hills in the aero.  But my race management mindset had me be as comfortable as I could and I took it nice and easy on these inclines.  
Pack mule with 4 bottles of water
Soon there after, I thought about stopping as I started to get that feeling that perhaps I needed to let out some of the fluids that I have been ingesting. I opted not to, thinking I could hit the next one in about 15 miles or so.  TMI????  Nah.  A left turn put us on 57th St and hill #3.  This is the shortest hill on the course but perhaps the steepest grade.  I pulled my psoas muscles on this hill during IM Boulder 1.0 at mile 100 or so.  Ever since then I have had this slight fear of this little hill though I've ridden in a gazillion times over.  But today is different, I am back in an IM, injured and trying to manage my way through the course.  For all my worrying, the incline by the airport, was in my rear mirror and I was about to start the 2 lap loop section of the course.
IM Boulder 2015~ Family & Friends at Jay & 36
I turned right onto 36th at Jay Rd and I had my first Boulder IM flashback.  This is where I saw my family each loop of last years course and I was hoping that I might see Jessica's face here this year.  I made the turn.  No Jessica, no smiles, no hugs or kisses.  I was a little sad but I kept on riding.  I wonder where and when I will see her on the course.  Oh well, I put my head down and kept peddling about 5 minutes later I looked up and what did I see???  On a relatively abandoned section of the course at approx mile 23, there she was, all smiles and standing next to two other people that I had no clue who they were.  The three of them were cheering and shouting at me.  I pulled over for some kisses and hugs.  I learned that the elder couple was from Oklahoma and usually scout out the race course the week prior but didn't have the opportunity to this time around.  They just got into town and pulled over on the side of the road as they didn't want to miss their racer ride by.  Jessica saw them and joined along.   So there they were.  We all chatted for a few minutes I said my goodbyes, grabbed another set of kisses and hugs from Jessica and Bella and I were off with smiles on our faces.  
Jessica & I at mile 23ish
Passing my old stomping grounds in the Holiday section of N Boulder, I noticed the car traffic starting to back up.  I thought traffic must be building up for people heading up to Rocky Mtn National Park and Estes.  Another moment later, I understood why.  There on the ground was a fellow athlete (Michelle Walters).  Two or three cars were pulled off the road and an athlete or two were also standing over her body.  I saw the pool of blood and immediately thought it was her head.  I've taken a knock to my noggin before and new how vascular it was.  My next thought was to stop.  There was already 5 or so people around her and I wasn't sure exactly what I would/could do.  I was sick and saddened to my core.  Not knowing what to do I felt like quiting. Getting off my bike and call it a day.   Emergency personnel must surely be on their way.  I wondered how she got hit and I thought that she was behind me.  I recognized her kit and knew that we passed each other a few times but last I knew, I was in front of her.  I then thought of my stop with Jessica just moments before and realized she must have passed me at that point.  What if I didn't stop?  Would that have been me?  Would I have witnessed what had taken place live?  I said a prayer and asked for God to look over her, her family as well as anyone else that witnessed the actual occurrence.  Bella and I solemnly peddled off.
Heading down Neva Rd
We zipped down Neva and turned onto 63rd.  Another aide station was coming up.  I have to say that this may have been the best functioning aide station that I have ever seen.  I remember peddling up to it thinking it was being hosted by the Marines.  Then I realized it was younger boys and a few families and fathers or troop leaders.  I wish I could recall the name of the group, ROTC, or Scout Troop but they were kind, encouraging, efficient and kept the area free of debris and bottles from the ground.  I still hadn't taken care of business but needed to since I hopped on the saddle.  I've never stopped at an aide station while on the bike to relieve myself.  I've heard stories of people going while peddling but I couldn't bring myself to do that.  I figured this was a different kind of race for myself and stopping at around mile 33 or so might be a good thing to keep my back/spine loose.  To alter my bodies position and get off of Bella for a few minutes.  Waiting on line, I saw many of the people I had passed , now passing me.  I got anxious for a Milli second.  Let it go, I thought.  Let them ride and you manage and ride your race.  So I did.  I released them and went back to chatting with a few of the gracious volunteers.
Hanging Loose

The hill up Nelson Road was next and one I was a little nervous about just because it went on for a few miles at varying degrees of inclines.  I went back to my game plan of getting out of areo to relieve some of the lower back pressure and took Nelson predominately upright with a few times getting out of the saddle and standing up just to mix it up a bit.  That wasn't all that bad I thought to myself.  I managed it much better than I had anticipated.  Passing aide station #3 and mile marker #40 brought me back onto Hwy 36.  The next section is a great ride.  Almost 10 miles of  decline or "flat" road.  A chance to air it out, recuperate, hydrate, take in nutrition.  Just a real nice fast section of the course down to Route 66, east to 75th St and through Hygiene.  More kudos to DC and his race crew as the train tracks through Hygiene were covered with mats.  The last two years this area was a yard sale with water bottles, nutrition and anything else not tied down to your bike all over the road from that "bump" going over the tracks.  This year it was nice and smooth and nothing on the floor.  As I passed aide station #4, I thought to myself, I think that was the 303 Sno Cone tent.  Dang, I wanted to stop but I wasn't going to turn around at that point.  For some reason, heading south on 65th (Approx mile 53) is maybe my favorite part of the course.  The foothills and Flat Irons are to your south and west and the road is just a nice rolling country side road.  Esthetically a great part of the course for me.
Hmmmmm....what a lovely day for a ride.
On the slight hill of 75th and Plateau Rd, I was passed by a fellow EK Endurance Athlete.  I realized I was being lapped on this 2 lap course.  I immediately thought it was Kenny but in the aftermath of the race, I don't think I saw a Fu Man Chu Beard and believe it may have been Conrad.  Perhaps Ed??  This is pretty funny because they all have very distinct looks and body types. It is still kinda silly that I don't know who it was to this day.  (Hey guys....if you read this and remember passing me, let me know!)  I cheered to whoever it was on as they past me.  
Winston "A celebrity along the course."
I gave another shout out this time to Winston and soon I was pulling into the bike special needs  area.  Here I knew I was going to see many fellow  BTCers.  I saw Patricia and continued to add to my daily hug and kiss total.  Of the 6 IM's that I have done only on my first have I ever stopped at the bike transition.  Today is a different plan and it was part of my race management.  I had stuck a sugar free Red Bull in the freezer last night and thought it might be a cool refreshing drink and break at this point in the race.  Stealing a page from Coach EK, as I believe he always does a Red Bull in his special needs bag.  It was a far cry from cool and refreshing as it was a HOT Red Bull at this point.  Note to self......don't do this again.  I  had gotten off of my bike and just sat along the fence and chatted a bit with AiT Director Dennis.  I started to laugh at myself at this point.  Here I am in a "Race" and I am sitting down chatting with people and truly enjoying the company and companionship of our Boulder Triathlon Community.  I typically enjoy myself in a race but this was definitely different.  As I sat there, I watched all the people I passed on the bike, pass me once again.  I let it go and laughed to myself again.  I got up, shook some hands, gave my deepest gratitude to the volunteers and away Bella and I were again.
Silly face at the cameraman time
Down the Diagonal, west on Jay I was now on the second loop of the course.  I said hello, high fived people, yelled for more cowbell and had a blast with the spectators.  Always mindful of thanking the volunteers, police offices and fans for being out there.  Mile 66  or so was where a few hours ago, I saw a young woman lying in a pool of blood along the side of the road during lap #1.  She was gone, but a few Accident Investigation cars were still there.  I saw her mangled bike off to the side.  I sensed she was no longer with us and said another prayer.
Hwy 36
Whipping down Neva and Niwot a left turn and I was back at the aide station of the day the ROTC/Boy Scout/Marine Aide station.  Offering my thanks and gratitude.  No bathroom break for me at this time.  Hello Nelson Road for a 2nd time.  Fingers crossed, riding in the upright position, back don't fail me didn't.  Then back to the fastest section of the course.  Through Hygiene and turning onto  St. Vrain.  If this is where the 303 Sno Cone tent is, I am going to make sure I stop and chill with my peeps.  Mile 93 it is them!  Hugs around and I chat with Nicole and Khem for a bit.  As I sat under the 303 Snow cone tent relaxing and stretching out my back/spine at mile 93 of the bike section of Boulder Ironman, I thought to myself, I am living proof that you do not have to be physically in shape to complete a Full Ironman.  I've said it before, that anyone that sets their mind to it, can finish an Ironman.  Today, I thought, I am that experiment come true.............Piece by piece, I have thus far taken this course apart and managed it and my back/spine to work with one another to be as comfortable as I possibly could.  I had gotten word that while I was sitting there Jessica was at mile 95 waiting for me. Hugs and kisses around to the 303 staff and off I went.  My girl is just a few miles away and it's been over 70 miles since I last saw her.  
It's time for some KISSES!!!!
I sped down the road and there she was at Nelson & 65th.  I spent a few good minutes with my gal.  I was feeling great.  We made a plan to see each other on the run course and away Bella and I peddled.  Mile 95 or so, the IPA guys were great in cheering folks up the little hill.  High Fives with my buddy John.  Another shout out to Winston and I was at the special needs area.  I didn't feel like stopping at this point.  I have a great rest at the 303 tent and then again with Jessica just a few miles ago.  I noticed that my power output was much higher than it normally is during an Ironman race and could only attribute it to the amount of rest I was getting.  My time all in all was a little slower but my wattage was greater.  Through the special needs station, whoops  I suddenly make a u-turn.  Susan, Kerry and the crew were like, What the???????  I realized I had passed Patricia up with no hug or kiss.  I get off my bike and run back to her for one more along the bike course.
"You da man" pose
Heading down the Diagonal I have a nice conversation in Spanish with a racer from Mexico that I had continued to leap frog with during all my stops and starts.  Jay Road to Folsom.  Heading into town and the High School.  Tons of cheers and spectators and cowbells.  One can never have enough cowbells.  I remind them of that and they roar.  Bella and I did it.  We avoided the Demons for 112 miles.  We had a great managed ride.  We enjoyed every moment, every peddle.  After 10 months of having that failure in Los Cabos and having to dismount and quit after 5 hours in the saddle with almost as many hours struggling with back/spine pain, we just spent 7:19:19 together in harmony.  No pain to really speak of.  Some stiffness/tightness but I will easily take it over how I felt getting off the bike last year at IM Boulder '15 having raced injured and then having to quit in Mexico because of that injury.  Not this time.  Not in IM Boulder 3.0.  No Demons, just love and support and smiles.
Gun show...."I'm da man" pose

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