Well, that went better than expected... guess 747 was a lucky number indeed.
While I fell short of my best scenario goal of a PR, I came DAMN close to it. And considering the difficulty of the course (not terrible, but also at elevation and certainly not as flat as Arizona) I think I crushed it pretty hardcore. My total time was 11:52, with a 1:26 swim, 5:59 bike and 4:13 run. Ummmmm what? Guess the minimal training-Muay Thai-sleeping in an elevation training tent approach worked out.
Of course now I'm kicking myself for not putting in more time on the bike... I bet with more intervals and more than once a week I could have shaved a solid 30 min. But now I'm just being silly.
So let's revisit the day.
We-- being myself, Andy, and select members of our support crew (aka Andy's mom Pat, he-Pat, and sis Laura) all woke up well before the buttcrack of dawn (4AM) to try and get our breakfasts down and our BMs out (the most important moves of the day, of course.) As is normal, I had a panic moment where I realized (again) that I'd forgotten my special needs bags, which was fine for the bike, but I had my whole second pair of shoe plan for the run, and I was pretty committed to it. Thank God for awesome Sherpas-- with Laura accompanying us on the shuttle to the start, she was able to reach the Pats and they got the shoe bag in before the 6AM bag drop cut off. Phew. So my one forgetful eff up wound up being AOK because of my support crew. It takes a village to do an Ironman.
Once we were on the shuttle bus, we learned the lake had increased to a balmy 78 degrees, which is most assuredly a nonwetsuit temperature, so my stomach was a ball of knots, since I'd foresworn wetsuiting in said situation. Blerg. I also realized my DZnuts wasn't in my bike bag, and what with my chammyless shorts situation I really needed some nonchafe in the crotchal region, so I just put some on my bike in a little dollop with hopes of just wiping in on before the bike. The volunteers were on point, and it was, for once, a total breeze to get my bike all ready to go in no time with dudes offering to pump up the tires to whatever desired pressure. (I got documented during the process... while documenting the process.)
(You can see my massively overstuffed Bento Box in that shot... I was very hopeful about my food consumption on the course, but only pulled off eating about a third of what I brought. Whoops. Luckily I didn't bonk and had enough calories to do my thang.)
So after a most glorious sunrise over Boulder reservoir, and everything in place, there was nothing left to do but get seeded in the few brave souls who were wetsuit free and await the start. Eeeeep.
Before we knew it, 6:30 had arrived, and we were off to the swim slog. Oh good Lord, was it a slog. So, generally there's a lovely phenomenon of when you crawl through the pile of bodies in a mass swim, the field spreads out, and eventually you get your happy little groove on, stroke-stroke-stroke-sight-stroke-stroke-and so forth, and if you're lucky you find a swimmate who's got a good pace going, you sit on his hip (statistically it's gonna be a him) and you cruise his draft through to the end. Yeah-- no. This was full-out water polo the whole time. Not only was there the usual chaos of the start, but a few minutes after we set off there was a whole crush of wetsuited sons of bitches crawling all over us for the rest of the damn time. And not only was it the usual rude foot-grabbing and zig-zagging (WHY ARE YOU SWIMMING DIAGONALLY IN FRONT OF ME, YOU ASSHOLES) but I got full punched in the head twice during the crush at the turn buoys. ARGH. I essentially doggy-paddled half the freaking swim because I kept having to look up and look out for getting kicked or punched by those d-bags in their wonderfully buoyant rubber suits that I didn't have the luxury of wearing. So, yeah. Slowest IM swim to date, but considering I wasn't wearing a suit and all that bullshit, 1:26 is perfectly acceptable. It really wore me out, though, so I'm surprised I didn't feel more gassed on the bike. I guess I was just so relieved to be done with that crap. There was no zen moment available this time... so much for the visualization of the "image of the deer"-- it was mostly me visualizing how, when I peed, it would go straight into the water and hopefully in the the mouth of the dickbag who was grabbing my foot at the moment. KARMA'S A BITCH.
The one cool part of not wearing a wetsuit was that I blazed through transition right quick, tossing on those shoes and helmet and getting lathered up with Bullfrog sunscreen like nobody's business. (In spite of the intense sun, I didn't burn AT ALL-- that stuff works ridiculously well!) Of course, like a dingus, I forgot ALL about my dollop of butt butter I'd left on my bike and got it all over my hands instead of putting it on my tender loins, so I had the double issue of a.) trying not to slip and slide off my handlebars and b.) ...my tender loins. Without a proper chammy cream, friction was inevitable. And yeah, it was some straight bike assault on my nether regions. Tears for days. In spite of that, generally speaking, the bike was a dream come true. It was a lot of steady uphills with decent averages and then BOMBING THE HELL out of the gradual, lovely descents and yelling "left" all the way. I had a strategy of just keeping my HR at a steady 155bpm, with occasional increases to 165 permitted in the last stretch to get warm for the run. Any time I would drop below 150sish, I'd pick it up, and if I went over 160, I'd calm it down. I just put my head down and said, "now's the time to do work." It was a weirdly effective strategy. Instead of thinking about anyone else's race, I was totally in my own happy world of business time. I kept hearing entire songs play through my head that I'd trained to, which put me in a great mood. And when I had gravity on my side to help me move up in the field without putting me over my zone, I went straight Valkyrie on it, blasting away and hearing Wagner in my mind-- and some Led Zepplin, too ("Immigrant Song" all the way!) What can I say? With race wheels on, me and Grane are a match made in heaven-- or Valhalla, as it were. Jon Nathan saw me on the course and said, "Nikki Da Hammer!" Damn right... Hammer of the gods. Funny moment-- he passed me, and then some 15 minutes later, passed me again. I think I went through a wormhole because I don't remember catching him AT ALL. But like I said, I was just there to put my head down and do work. And I done did it. It felt really good, even though we hadn't even put in a full century ride during our training.
The course itself was kind of amazing. Yes, it was hot as hell, which was unpleasant, and there's no shade on the course, which made the lack of cloud cover rough. Plus, sweat evaporates faster at elevation. So it was important to remember to take salt and drink as much as possible. (I was alarmed to have only peed on my bike once at mile 75 or so. Usually my pee game is strong.) That also made it a little harder to keep up an appetite. As mentioned, most of my food went uneaten... I had to straight force-feed myself the mammoth Rice Krispie treat from Whole Foods I'd bought, which was the most joyless dessert experience of my life. But I'm glad I did, because I definitely wasn't able to do any solids by run time. I also lost my bottle of Skratch early on, which was a bummer-- there was this giant "bump" at the bottom of a hill where we had to cross railroad tracks that was LITTERED with bottles and gear that flew off of everyone's bike as they crossed. I was no exception, and the delicious and hydrating mango Skratch upon my bike was jettisoned off with the other dead soldiers. So I got stuck with joyless Gatorade from then on (and at one point, a totally useless bottle, since a volunteer forgot to open it. D'oh.) Perhaps next year they'll find a better way to cover those tracks than with a sad carpet... that ish was whack.
The bike course was definitely not 5k of climbing-- only clocked in at 4k-- but a buttload of effort came in at the 11th hour (or, as it were, 5th?) since the biggest climbs were, apparently, what the locals refer to as "two bitches and a boyfriend"-- two really big climbs and one kind of okay one with a sweet descent. These are located on the final, shorter loop, and it's kind of depressing, because before you get to the first "bitch," it's a sickass speedfest of glory, and then you look up, mile 90 on your GPS, and you see this bigass climb ascending in the distance, and it's like "aww hellllll no." But hell yes, climb it you must. And climb it we did. It's funny, one middle-aged dude was huffing and puffing alongside of me and made some kind of small talk, and in the spirit of commiseration I said, "I think this is the first bitch" and he was like, "wtf" and then I had to explain what I'd learned of the local slang.
Bitch hill numero dos came after a glorious descent and rounding of a bend, and was met with groans galore from us all. Joyfully, there was a snowcone distribution at the top of the hill with Skratch on it (Skratch, you're back!) which I shoved in my face and tried to get the rest of into my Speedfill as much as I could before hammering the descent to try and make up some time. Boyfriend hill was last, and was way more gentle, and then it was back into town, where I chased some dude who was going for gold, and we passed everyone on the way in and got our legs good and woken up for some marathoning. Because what's better after six brutal hours in the sun of riding like a fiend than a marathon? Oh, right: ANYTHING. Nah, but for real... my HR strategy seemed to have paid off, since saving my big effort for the end left me feeling right fresh for some running, and I was able to dismount and immediately start trotting in at a decent gait, where I ran into Will, who I hadn't seen yet that day, which was a happy reunion. Or you know, a tired sweaty reunion. You decide.
I had another speedy transition, moving steadily through and making sure I vaselined up my HR strap and potential hot spots (as it was already too late for the tenderloins and bike seat assault situation-- oh the humanity) which paid off big, because other than a black toenail, I've got basically no run wounds-- woot woot! I guess you do learn something by Ironman number six? I added ice in my water bottle of Skratch, took one last mouthful of neglected bike food plantain chips for the salt, and off I went to start the run course, a winding maze of three out-and-back prongs (called "the flux capacitor"-- oh, all your local adorable nicknames!) beside the Boulder creek. Or "crick" as the race director would pronounce it. Which apparently you were allowed to "cool down in" if you wanted, and I legitimately saw a few racers straight up lying in the grass to regroup with a snooze. While that looked massively appealing, I had a job to do, and didn't want to let myself or my teammates down with anything less than my 100% for the day. So I set a heartrate goal again for 160 and off I went, super stoked to be on the last leg of this mother of a race.
Now, y'all know me by now... I get mad stoked to be on my IM marathons. I know all I've got to do is put one foot in front of the other, and then I'll get to hear those words again: "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" And this time, I had a sweet idea for my finish to shout out my Muay Thai homies in LA who helped me get fit, and I was seeing myself getting to that finisher chute and throwing a sweet flying knee... though when I thought of finishing, it got me so emotional I'd choke up and almost start crying, ergo I couldn't think about it too much. So my mindset was posi as hell per usual, but maybe even more so this time around, since I was already outperforming my expectations to such a great degree. Just like I was determined to do work on the bike, I knew the run would be fine if I just focused on the moment, keeping my forward momentum and being present. And being present made me think of how lucky I was to not have flatted (or crashed for that matter) and to be here and healthy, and to have people rooting me on at home and a group of people cheering for me here-- actually, a couple of groups, with the giant LA contingent, I had repeated morale boosting, and for the first time, I actually had my own sign!!! The Pats and Laura waved it at me when I first came out and it made me beyond happy.
It was painfully hot on the run, though the dappled shade of the course helped, and it was quite lovely near the "crick." I kept it together by refilling my bottle with ice and water at every station and drenching myself constantly (I'm so glad I carried that thing the whole time, I really think that helped.) I discovered quite quickly that 160bpms was too much to ask of myself for the run, and my body was saying, "Nah man, fuck you" to that level of effort, so my pace slowed from the too fast sub 9 to a more conservative 9:30 pace for most of the time, until my digestion started to rebel and I needed to start walking through the aid stations for some regrouping, especially on the second out and back, which is an unshaded, hot son-of-a two bitches and a boyfriend (see what I did there?) As my superpower is running descents, I was grateful for the few little dips in the run course that took us under bridges, since those gave me a quick free boost in speed, but I was really looking forward to switching out my shoes in my special needs bag by mile 15, because it was getting harder and harder to stay at race pace. I did, however, never stop smiling, even though I was starting to hurt quite a bit. Because-- hey, I'm becoming an Ironman, badass!
It's funny what a huge impression my smiling made on everyone... I suppose because every other face was a portrait of human suffering. But half the time random spectators would start whooping at me "YEAH, I LOVE THAT SMILE!!" especially when they remembered me smiling on the first loop and were then super stoked, i.e. "YEAH 747, STILL SMILING!!!" Though one guy said, "That smile is too big for mile 10!" Nah, bro. That smile is just right. Because if you give in to the pain, it controls you. But if you smile through it, you remember: pain is momentary, glory is forever. And you smile for the glory. And it makes you go faster.
So after doing the mini bitch of the third prong (you have to climb a hill twice-- the second time RIGHT before the finish of the run course-- WHYYYYY) I hit up my special needs bag, removed my shoes and put on my Newtons, all while artfully peeing myself on the side of the path. Wastes no time, this girl. So that was pee #2 for the race (not counting swim revenge pees) proving that, even with all my water intake, this was a pretty dehydrating day. I tossed my bag with former shoes back to the Pats and Laura (almost taking out a surprised racer-- sorry, bro!) and took off like a turbo jet to take down this run course once and for all, and SMILING BY GOD. (Keeping positive almost became its own kind of battle against my sad feet.) Happily, my Newtons did their forward fulcrum thang and, as can be seen in my splits, at mile 15 my pace dramatically improves, so the strategy was on point. Interestingly, I did not find that I was getting any shin pain on the run in the first half with the new shoes, and since the race, those shin splints disappeared, so I guess it was just a temporary thing. (Phew). Even so, I'm glad I switched out shoes, because I don't know that I would have been physically able to pull off that boost in pace without the mechanical aid of the shoe design. It was kind of miraculous. In spite of being wiped, I kept my sub 10 pace up. Sure, I'd prefer to have been sub 9, but that was not realistic at this stage of fitness, and dudes, I was slaying mad hoes with that pace, and kept moving forward in the field, and caught multiple laydayz in my age group. Plus, the extra speed I put on made me all the more excited: I was going to finish in daylight! Which I've never done! Or... well, CDA I guess I kind of did. But this would be a sub 12 daylight finish! And... flying knee! So even though I was starting to go kind of into a delirium, and my stomach was not pleased with being overwhelmed with sugary Roctane gel packs (because I stuck to a pack every 45 as I was not about to let a bonk slow me down) I was feeling determined to keep that fighter spirit up and finish this mother STRONG. After mile 20, it was just a 10k left, and I knew if I just got back and up that hill, I could take down those last two miles like a wobbly little rocket and negative split my way to glory. It was just a shade too hard to push through to a 11:46, but I was gonna give it my all and catch as many of my age as I could.
The last few miles of the Boulder run course will legitimately drive you mad if you aren't already feeling crazy from exertion: with all the out and backs, you start to feel like you're in some level of hell, where you'll just be running by a creek for the rest of time and nothing will ever change or end. It's like the MC Escher of Ironman run courses: it folds back in and over itself and you have to do it twice, and it's not entirely clear how you'll ever get out of there and onto Pearl Street for the finish. So once I was up at the turnaround and bombing down the hill for mile 25, making dying sounds with every breath, all I could think was, WTF- Where's The Finish (as so many ironman spectator signs say.) I was determined to finish strong, even though I honestly didn't know where that freaking finish even was by this point, and ran my ass off: whenever I could gain speed, I took it-- I flew down the little descent under the bridge before the final turn to the finish line, and got a straight up "woah" from a fellow racer. Yeah, dude. I come correct. Plus, there was a VERY strong looking 30-year old who I passed up a few miles back, and for all I knew she was straight on my ass. So I was not about to take 'er easy.
At last, it was time to leave the purgatory that was that insane tricuspid run course (I'm probably using that word wrong, but fuck it) and with a quick veer off onto the streets before I knew it, I was coming up on the finisher's chute. The sweet, sweet, much awaited chute. OH, YOU BEAUTIFUL CHUTE HOW I DREAMT OF YOU ALL DAAAAAAY. So after peering ahead-- no ladies in sight-- and paranoidly looking behind to see if I was about to get caught by an age grouper-- nope-- I took my glory run down the chute and sopped up the cheers and beauty of this moment (as I often over-sprint the end and wanted to assure a sweet and memorable finish this time around). I understandably got overwhelmed with emotion, and finished with magnificent flourish, if I say so myself.
And of course, the moment I'd been waiting to nail all day: Muay Thai homage!
So... I was WIPED out. But DAMN, DUDES look at that AIR! Not really sure how effective that knee would be in battle... as was pointed out to me, it sort of looks like a Mario Bros. move, like I should be getting a coin, but I'm most definitely cool with that.
I immediately started SOBBING when I landed and was caught by a volunteer, so vast were my emotions of relief and pride and exhaustion. My catcher was sweet, and ushered me towards pizza, which is the best of Ironman friends. And then I got to sit in a chair with some cold compression wraps and chat with fellow warriors. And then I ate some CBD/THC weed liquid we'd bought-- because, Boulder-- and most of my pain was forgotten. And also like... where I lived and what I was supposed to be doing, because I was high as hell-- apparently when your metabolism is revved into overdrive, edibles will eff you up right quick. Though I did remember that it would probably be funny to take a selfie of super-stoned postrace me trying to keep her eyes open.
Somewhere in the fog of finishing an Ironman and getting hella blazed, I wandered back home, took a fantastic bath, changed, got Andy and my bike claim tickets, some changes of clothes, and came back to town, where I waited with the Pats and Laura for Andy to finish. (Though granted it took me at least an hour to figure out what I should bring back with me, and I totally walked in a confused circle before finding the restaurant I was supposed to go to. Oh, lost little ironlamb.) As mentioned, Andy had never even done a triathlon before, but his greatest concern was making it out of the swim, which he'd done, so it was just a matter of time now. Having suffered through a bike trip from LA to Rio and multiple Goruck special-ops type challenges, he was confident of toughing it through the other two legs. I saw him at the beginning of his run, and he was looking super happy and positive. It got a little tougher, but he still had plenty of time, and once we caught up to him, he had figured out how to speed walk a faster pace than most people were running. So after around 16 hours, he made it to the finish line, and I was there to catch him. Go team! (Andy did mention that, while always thinking it was badass that I did Ironman races, he now has a profound new respect for my ability to be competitive at it, now that he has grokked the true lived experience of such suffering. Word.)
So; that was Ironman Boulder. A hugely rewarding, though tough day at elevation. And legalized weed products. My burnout-related apathy towards the multisport has now been replaced by the usual WHEN'S THE NEXT RACE?! and a desire to renew my vows of love and devotion to Grane, in spite of the vicious assault that was visited upon my loins during this race. You may ask, "does this mean more normal training, then?" Aww helllllls no. You better believe as of Wednesday my ass was back in the gym, punching shit and hugging my teammates and teacher, Santi. I don't think I would have run half as hard without them.
I finished 9th in my age group, which is an Ironman first for me-- if rolldown had been unexpectedly extended, I alllllmost could have had a chance. Well, probably not. But hey, I was closer to Kona this time than I've ever been, and I wasn't even thinking about that. So obviously... I've started thinking about that again. Eeep.
So what's next on the docket? Looks like it's time to revisit IMAZ come 2016. And a little bit of a refresher course on racing short and fast with the Nautica Olympic this September, since it would be foolish to let all these gains go to waste. Let's see if we can podium, shall we? In the meantime, I'm going to continue to kick and punch things, and try to get my foot health up so I can get that run securely under my belt again. Because as much as I might stray, once an Ironman, always a competitor. I've always got to be moving towards something.