Race Priority: B
Race Execution: A-
Performance Summary, comparing Mont Tremblant 2012, Boulder projections and actual data:
My TrainingPeaks reports are linked to the hyperlinks above, where the words Swim, Bike and Run are shown.
- Breakfast: Kashi Bar, Honey Stinger Waffle, Honey Stinger (440 cals total). 2 salt tabs plus vitamins.
- Swim: 1 GU prior to swim (100 cals total)
- Bike: 3 Scoops of Ironman Perform per 24 oz water bottle, in three bike bottles. 1 GU at beginning of ride, and 1/2 at the 1 hour and 2 hour marks. Actually drank 2 1/2 bottles for a total of 725 cals and 60 oz of fluid for the bike ride.
- Run: 1 GU at miles 2, 6, and 1/2 GU at 7.5 and 8.5. Salt tabs at 2 and 7.5. At least 4 to 6 oz of water (estimated) at each aid station for a total of 300 cals & roughly 60 oz of water.
Weather conditions: Sunny skies, 81 degrees (peak) with 47% relative humidity (peak). Winds were calm. Starting temps were in the low 60’s for the swim and the run start was 75 degrees. With the altitude and clear skies, the temp felt much warmer than the recorded temperatures.
- What went well: My pacing went really well. I was concerned about the impact of the altitude, and kept my effort in all three events at projected relative perceived effort, heart rate, and power levels. I really had no issues causing any significant time delays.
- What could have been better: Overall I was very happy with the results. I should have done a better job staying hydrated on the bike, as I believe this lead to some of my slowing on the second loop of the run.
- What I learned: My biggest lesson was the confirmation that my fitness level has returned (and is higher) than pre-accident. I also learned about the impact of air density due to altitude. Riding at altitude actually provides a positive benefit on the bike, as the aerodynamic benefit is greater than the cardio loss, by a little more than 1%. The theoretical loss for running is 4%, which felt about right for me. For the swim, I assumed a 4% loss as with running, but found it probably less than 1%. I also need to stick closer to my hydration plan. I didn’t keep up on the bike, and couldn’t drink enough on the run to keep up with my sweat loss as the temperature increased later in the morning.
- Overall Age Group Rankings: Total division (45-49 male) had 134 starters. I finished the swim in 43rd position, after the bike in 15th, and finished the run in 17th in my age group (12.7%). I finished 185th overall, out of 1674 people starting (11.1%).
Race Report Commentary:
After Mont Tremblant last year, I had planned on taking a year off from long course racing. I had done long courses for three years, and felt like my body needed a little break. That plan changed with my bike accident in July of 2012. I was forced to take three months off, and then a significant amount of rehab (up to 30+ hours a week). I wasn’t sure what my body would be capable of doing in 2013, but felt that having a big goal out there would be good from a motivational standpoint. I signed up for Ironman Arizona in November, while still in a thermoplastic arm brace.
I wanted to do a 70.3 as a warm-up, and decided on Boulder. With the warmer & drier climate, it seemed like a reasonable preview for Arizona. The race is promoted as being flat and fast, even though it is at an altitude of 5430′.
On race day I got up about 4:35 am, had breakfast and started getting ready. I don’t like to think too much on race morning, so I have a series of lists that detail what to do when as well as having all of my gear packed in bags the day before (my lists are located here). At transition in the morning, I simply follow the instructions and get everything set up as planned. I had plenty of time to set up my bike, mix my nutrition, and walk back and forth from run in to bike out and back several times to avoid any confusion later. I organized my helmet, shoes, glasses, etc. the same way I do on short courses to minimize time in transition. I packed all of my run nutrition in a fuel belt, so I could just grab it and put it on during my run out of transition.
Swim start at Boulder was interesting. They made a change this year so
that you selected your own swim wave based on your total expected swim time, rather than waves based on age groups. They started at 30 minutes or less, and I believe they had waves up to 46 minutes plus. You stand around the sign and they herd you toward the start, and let about 6 people start every 5 seconds or so. Your time started as you crossed the timing mat at the start line. I considered the 34-36, 36-37, and 37-38 minute waves and decided to go with the 36-37 wave. I ended up at the front of this section, so I actually started 5 seconds behind the people in the 34-36 minute wave, which worked out well. I thought there were two possible outcomes with this type of wave start; either it would be a great drafting opportunity or I’d end up with people who were at my same speed and we’d just keep running into each other for 38 minutes or so.
I didn’t end up having either scenario. Although there were a lot of people in the water at the same time, I had very few people swimming close to me, so I didn’t get beat up and didn’t catch a draft either. Since I tend to start the swim too fast, I was really concerned about getting hypoxic and having a difficult time recovering with the low air density.
I had read that if you are wearing a wetsuit you can try not kicking at the start of swim to avoid hypoxia (assuming you are wearing a wetsuit to provide buoyancy). The theory is your legs tend to use up a lot of energy and don’t provide a lot of propulsion. With the water temperature at 72 degrees and the race being wetsuit legal, I decided to give this a try. I did this for the first 500 yards or so and it worked fantastic. I stayed in control and didn’t get the tingling legs that I often get starting races. I gradually started kicking a bit for better balance, and then just focused on trying to keep my cadence up and getting good pulls through the water. The course is triangular shaped, so I decided to try to pick up the pace a bit more after the last buoy. I sped up my cadence and really tried to focus on getting more air with each breath with harder inhale/exhale. I started passing quite a few people, which lead me to believe that a lot of people had selected faster waves with the hope of drafting to a faster swim, or they had become hypoxic along the way. I felt like I was having a good swim and expected that I had beat my 38 minute projection. As I stood up to get out of the water, I noticed my left hamstring was tight, as if it was going to cramp. I straightened my leg a bit coming out of the water, and it just stayed tight but didn’t get any worse. I glanced at my Garmin and was pleasantly surprised to see my time around 35:13… my fastest 70.3 swim. After running to the timing mat toward transition, my official time was 35:24.
T1 went well overall. It wasn’t a terribly long run to the transition area from the swim, and much of it was carpeted. Unfortunately there are no wetsuit strippers at Boulder, but I managed to get my wetsuit off without wasting a lot of time (my right hand can still be a problem at times). My only small issue was that there was a small pink ribbon on the end of the rack where my bike was in the morning when I left transition, and someone removed it so I ran a little past my bike rack and lost a couple of seconds. After getting to my rack, I found my bike, put on my helmet, sun glasses and ran out of transition. I keep my shoes mounted to my bike, which makes the transition much faster for me overall. My T1 time was 2:20, much faster than my projection of 4:00.
I was unsure what to expect from the bike leg at Boulder. The big unknown for me was the effect of the low air density associated with the higher altitude. After quite a bit of research on the web I came across the following site, which predicts the impact of air density on bike power and bike speed: http://www.cyclingpowerlab.com/EffectsOfAltitude.aspx. What was interesting was the net effect of the lower air density was positive for me, meaning that the lower drag more than offset my cardio loss. As I ran through the numbers, I expected my power output to be down 6.4% from a target of 220 watts to a modified target of 206 watts, but the net result would be a faster bike time of about 1.8% over my typical speeds at roughly 1000′ of elevation. I was uncertain of the impact on my HR, but assumed that if I kept my power at around target output (206w vs 220w), my HR should run around the same values at 206w at altitude as it does at 220w in Iowa.
I knew the course didn’t have a lot of elevation change, and had driven it on Saturday to get a preview. Basically there is a gradual incline until about mile
10, a corresponding drop to mile 17 and then just a series of smaller rolling hills after that. They changed the course this year to make it a single loop, but added a lot of 90 degree corners in the process, which tends to slow overall speed. The new section had a lot of shorter but somewhat steeper hills. My plan was to be a little more aggressive on the hills but not stupid (up to about 280 watts), and also to push the downhill sections to around 200 watts as well.
Overall, my bike went really well. I kept the first 11 miles in control at 203w average as I made the long climb, and my HR tracked right at 144 bpm as expected. The next 20 miles is mostly downhill, and again I averaged 203 watts on average. I did change my uphill strategy a bit after the initial climb. On the shorter hills I started to push harder before I
got to the hill, to allow my momentum to carry me up most of the hill. I’d recover just a bit at the top of the hill and then push down the other side. This worked well as I passed a lot of people on the hills, which is unusual for me. I was often carrying enough speed to pass them in a seated position, as they were standing and grinding up the hills. My variability index over most of the ride was only 1.04, meaning I didn’t spike too much overall taking this strategy. As mentioned previously, my most significant error was not drinking enough during the bike leg. The temperature was cool at this point and I felt like I was getting plenty of fluid at a rate of about 24 oz per hour. The problem was I was still likely deficit of my sweat loss (with the lower humidity levels), leaving me a little dehydrated starting my run. Ignoring the very beginning and end of my ride (getting on/off the bike and going in/out of the park), my average wattage ended up at 203 watts with a normalized power of 212 watts. My cadence was 94 rpm, and HR was 146 (although my HR became unreliable as my strap dried out with the lower humidity). What I didn’t expect was that I ended up averaging 22.9 mph over the total bike leg, so I picked up about 9 minutes over what I had anticipated.
T2 went well overall. I ran my bike back, took my helmet off, put my shoes on (no socks), put on my race belt, grabbed my visor and nutrition belt and ran out. I took a salt tab and grabbed water right outside transition, drinking one and pouring one on my head, with the plan to start nutrition at the next aid station.
From what I had read, the altitude impact would be 4% on my run pacing. Likewise, the temperature usually warms up quite a bit by the time you run at Boulder. Assuming 80+ degrees, the impact on pacing is typically another 5%. Assuming an unmodified pace of 8:00 per mile, this put my projection at an 8:48 pace overall.
The Boulder run course is not my favorite. Basically you run around the reservoir twice, mostly on gravel roads and dirt trails. I always feel like I run slower on gravel, losing a little on my push-off with each stride. There are also some areas with washouts and larger rocks. It’s not terribly uneven, but I did feel I needed to watch the ground in front of me as I ran. It also has some smaller rolling hills, but nothing too challenging. The biggest challenge is the heat. There is maybe one 10′ section of shade, and the rest is in the glaring sun. There are also no spectators once you get away from the transition area. They did have great people working the aid stations, with lots of cheering and support.
I started my run trying to hold myself back, and was only partially successful. When I started out, I looked down and was in the 7:40 pace range. I slowed myself down to an 8:00 average for the first mile. Shortly thereafter, I was going done my first downhill section, and ended up with a side ache. Although it started fairly intense, it backed off after a couple of minutes.
I also had my left hamstring tighten up again and felt like it could cramp. Both the side ache and the tight hamstring stayed with me the rest of the run, but ended up being mostly an annoyance rather than a significant detriment to my pacing.
Overall my first lap (and half) felt pretty good. I averaged 8:10 a mile which was way ahead of my projection. I knew I was in range of having my first sub 5:00 70.3, and just wanted to keep the wheels from falling off on my second loop. As I started on the second loop, I could feel myself starting to slow down. The temperature was increasing, and I could tell I was running low on fluid. I tried to double up on water at some of the aid stations, but could feel my stomach getting full and didn’t want to end up in gastric distress. I decided to use 1/2 a GU twice as often to try to minimize the influx of sugar at one time. Miles 7 to 11 were all in the 8:20 to 8:35 range. Around mile 8, I was searching for my salt tabs in my nutrition bag, and managed to lose my remaining GU packs. Somewhere I had lost my salt tabs messing with my GU earlier, so I was out of electrolytes and calories for the rest of the run. On mile 12, I felt bad, as I started getting a bit light headed. I could see the finish area across the reservoir, and felt that I just needed to hold it together to stay under 5:00. My 12th mile was my slowest at 8:41 pace. I looked at my Garmin as I started the 13th mile, and realized I could break 4:55, so I picked it up as much as I had in me (to a 8:28 pace for mile 13) to finish as strong as possible. My second loop averaged 8:24 with an overall average of 8:17 per mile, well ahead of my 8:48 projection.
As a whole, I was extremely happy with the results. It was a new PR for me, taking about 13 minutes off my last race, with an overall time of 4:54:17.
My pacing confirmed that my fitness has improved since my accident in all three sports, and has given me some additional confidence as I look forward to IM AZ in November.
- My family for putting up with my continued training regiment and my whining.
- Joe R. for swim coaching and all of the time trials swims early in the year, and Katherine R. as my lane partner, pushing me every single length.
- Sarah C. and Randy P. for helping me improve my biking through the Elkhart Time Trials, by sharing their data… and keeping me pushing hard at each event. Jason B. for consistently dusting me at Elkhart and giving me something to shoot for… someday.
- Sandy L. for coaching me on staying positive, despite setbacks. She overcame a broken leg and wrist (similar to mine) to go on and complete IM AZ, providing me with inspiration.
- Elizabeth W. for my overall coaching by providing the right plan and communication to accommodate my unique situation of recovering from my accident.
- Dr. Q, Dr. G, Charlie, Dan, Traci & Robin at DMOS, who helped heal & rebuild my joints so I could compete (and function) again.
Life is good! 🙂