This is my first race recap. Some friends told me I should do a race report so I can go back and learn from the race in the future. Well, I learned a lot in the process of training for and completing the Ironman, so here goes!
Note to future Craig: Ironmans are hard.
I believe the first words after finishing the 2015 Boulder Ironman was “I’m never doing that again!”. It was long. And hot. And painful. What was I thinking?
Well the next day that all changed. When I look back and think when the training started for 2016 Boulder Ironman, I would have to say it was at the awards ceremony on August 3rd, 2015. That day I found out I missed out on a Kona slot by about 2 minutes. I never really had aspirations to go to the Ironman World Championships in Kona until then. The excitement in the athletes earning an entry to the race was like nothing I had seen. Sure, they had to pay hundreds of dollars to do the crazy race again but they were sooooo excited. My friend Matt Britton was especially amped about Kona and his enthusiasm got me thinking more about the island race. The excitement of all the athletes was contagious and it was there I made it a goal to experience Kona and the Ironman World Championships.
With the confidence that I could finish an Ironman under my belt, I set out a year long plan for the 2016 Boulder Ironman. That included a marathon in New Orleans in February (where my wife and I qualified for the Boston Marathon….another athletic bucket list race!).
Future Craig: marathons are hard.
I had a hard time recovering from the marathon. I may have over done it a bit in training and my legs were sore for way longer than I planned. It was a blessing in disguise, however, as I really got to focus on my bike and swim.
Last year my weakness was the bike, so it worked out well to have some very focused bike time after the marathon. I essentially turned in to a cyclist with as much biking I was doing. The wet and cold spring meant a handful of 5+ hour indoor rides where I was able to really focus on quality efforts on the bike (bonus: blew through The Flash, Arrow, Daredevil, and just about every modern action movie on Netflix!).
With the outdoor pool open year-round at Miramont, I got quality sessions all spring and early summer with the Miramont Swimming Chickens (the masters swim team at Miramont).
The 2015 Boulder Ironman was hot and I wanted to be ready for the heat. Every long ride this year I wore long sleeve Under Armour to prepare for the warm weather. We did brick sessions in 95+degree heat and ran in the neighborhood on black pavement to further prepare the body for the heat. I was lucky to have Nicole Callan do crazy long workouts with me…she was the only person as crazy as I was to do this stuff with.
2016 Boulder prep also included the Carter Crossing, a 3 mile swim across Carter Lake. That was another big confidence booster as I felt strong towards the end of the lake and felt good about my time and effort. My Tuesday and Thursday mornings often included a long spin class at the gym followed by an interval or tempo run. These harder efforts on the spin bike and run really boosted my strength while I continued to develop my endurance. My former co-worker Becca cranked out many of these workouts with me and I was thankful for her company. Once we get her swimming, she is going to crush triathlons!
All-in-all, I had a number of solid training days leading up to this year’s Ironman. It gave me confidence that I could push the effort during the Ironman distance and still survive.
IronWoman superstar Amy Lichon sent me a great text the day before the race: “You have your reasons for racing, it’s time to show up and follow through on all the hard work and sacrifice. There’s gonna be tough moments, stay with it and it will change in your favor.” She made me remember there will be (multiple) tough moments during the Ironman and I need to stay mentally strong and trust my training. I was thankful for her reminder text and I read it again race morning.
Another motivation came from my Mom when we talked Saturday before the race. Usually she will say “be safe, have fun” before a race. Well, she said that and also something else that really stuck with me. She said, “Craig, I have a really good feeling about tomorrow.” That was huge. My Mom is probably the wisest person I know and I take what she says to heart. What she said stuck with me all day and helped me get to the finish.
Eric Smith was nice enough to pick Nicole and myself up 3:15a.m. race morning in what was either a pick-up truck or mobile spa-limo, I’m not sure. It was early. What I do know is that the seats had this amazing massage function that totally got my muscles ready to go.
The morning of the race they announced wet-suits were allowed this year which seemed to make everyone happy. The race start was one of the more chaotic and aggressive starts I have been a part of. Lots of wrestling for positions the first 500 meters and people swimming on top of each other. There were more than a few that probably shouldn’t have been starting right at the front…
Future Craig: Get closer to the front at the swim start.
I tried to get out from the chaos quick and settle in to my own pace. Had a hard time finding some good feet to hang on to as it seemed a lot were not going in a straight line (it was probably really me swimming all cattywampus!). Just before the first turn on the north end I found a good body to follow and settled in. Many athletes were talking about the north end of the lake and the vegetation that we swam through. Wasn’t the worse I have swam, but made for an interesting section of the swim!
I kept the effort fairly comfortable as I know I had a long day ahead of me. I came out of the water feeling good at just over an hour. I had my compression sleeves and arm coolers on under the wetsuit, so it made for a quick transition. The volunteers were AMAZING and made us feel pretty special. I chugged a bottle of Accelerade in the transition tent then was off to the bike.
I was looking forward to settling in on the bike knowing I had put in many long rides in. Patrick Ray at Rocky Mountain Multisport was able to find me some long-spindled Speedplay pedals to better fit by bow-legged-ness. This made my Tri bike infinitely more comfortable and I felt much more powerful on my bike. My bike was set up so I would feel strong turnin’ the pedals all day.
Despite how much I prepared for the bike, it was not without a few mishaps.
Mishap #1: Water bottle loss at Hygeine. I have been over the train tracks near Hygiene hundreds of times. The first crossing of the tracks during the race I must have hit the them a little to fast and my front water bottle launched out of my holster. Had to stop and lost half of the contents but overall not bad as I new an aide station was coming up.
Mishap #2: Just after special needs (thanks NoCO tri!) as I got off 63rd and on to the newly paved Diagonal Highway, I hit the curb of the new asphalt and boom! lost my bottle again. This time it completely emptied all of my nutrition that was recently replenished at special needs. Had to stop and bike back to get it. This was one-sixth of my planned nutrition for the day. Part of my brain was thinking “this isn’t good”, the other part thought “just keep pedaling”. So I did and made a mental note to take 1-2 extra Gus to supplement the nutrition.
Mishap #3: Attack of the bee! Somewhere around the mile 70 mark a bee decided to dive-bomb into my helmet and sting my forehead. This was quite unpleasant. Once it stung I started hitting my helmet to try and kill it. This, combined with some audible NSFW words, probably had the cyclists around me thinking it was a weird way to motivate myself during an Ironman. The dead bee eventually fell out and I was left with a stinging pain on my forehead. My first thought was “I have been stung before, right?”. You hear people have terrible allergic reactions to bees and I did not want to experience that. The other part of my brain said “just keep pedaling.” So I did.
In a somewhat sadistic way, the bee sting helped. It woke me up, gave me a shot of adrenaline and helped me focus. The sting burned pretty good for the remainder of the ride and it just reminded me to keep pedaling.
Future Craig: you have been stung by a bee.
Mishap #4: Visor down! I have one of those fancy helmets with a visor that attaches to the helmet via magnet. Well, going up Nelson road the second time, I must have hit my visor on the straw of my front bottle. This caused my visor to come off and slide along Nelson road. Had to stop and bike back (down the hill!) for the 3rd time!
Mishap #5: Luckily this was at the finish of the ride. As I dismounted and swung my leg of the back of my bike, I knocked my back water bottle off and sent it flying in to the crowd. Had to stop and dig it out of the gutter. #Amateur. All the while Todd Mellinger was recording it on his phone.
All that said, I was happy with the ride. I was aiming for a 5 hour ride and I came in about 5:02 still feeling good. Their were mishaps, but I was thankful none were all that bad. No flats, breaks, falls, etc.
I knew from last year my stomach would feel somewhat upset for the first part of the run. The combination of already moving for 6 hours and taking in 2,000+ calories in chemical form leads to an uneasy feeling in the stomach. During training runs leading up to the race if I felt my stomach being queasy I would run harder till it passed. Yes, I am a little crazy. I think it paid off as when I started to settle in to the run and my stomach was saying “what the heck, bro?” I kept cruising knowing it would pass.
The run is incredibly mentally challenging. The pace is not that quick, but you gotta keep telling yourself to keep going despite the rest of your body telling you to stop and soak in the creek. Three things got me through the run: 1) The thought of “OMfreggginG I AM DOING AN IRONMAN THIS IS SO COOL!”, 2) My Mom’s thoughts on how this was going to be a good day, and 3) Smiling. PMA all the way!
I really like the Boulder Ironman run course as there are a bunch of out and backs where you can see and cheer on your fellow athletes. There are also crowds of people lining the course so you never feel alone. The hardest part of the course is the west end where the path pitches up and it feels like your run slows to a crawl. Luckily the Eric and Celeste Smith as well as Rob Price and family was at the far aid station to really motivate me through that section.
At mile 16ish I came up on a very fit-looking individual with a cowboy hat. As I passed him the following conversation occurred:
Cowboy: “How old are you?”
Me: “Um, 32.”
Cowboy: “Aww SH#T! Oh, well good job man. You are now 11th overall and 3rd in our age group.”
I was shocked. At that point I thought if I was in the top 50 that would be sweet. There seemed to be so many 30-ish looking fit athletes around that I thought for sure my Kona dreams were not to be true. I was elated. Then I realized I still had 10 miles to survive and so much could happen then.
I kept thinking of my 3 things plus what Jonathon Mason texted me the day before: “Have fun, execute the plan, race hard, and finish strong!”. Gotta stick to the plan. My plan was 2 cups of Gatorade, 2 waters, and ice every aide station. Plus a gel as my stomach allowed. I stuck to the plan, kept thinking positive thoughts, and enjoyed the experience.
Running down the final stretch giving high-fives to the spectators and having the announcer proclaim”You. Are. An IronMan!” is truly an amazing experience. One that I hope I will never forget.
Future Craig: It was really cool.
Two years ago I never thought I would be able to do an Ironman. 2.4 mile swim. 112 mile bike. 26.2 mile swim. That is just crazy. Now I am fortunate to have done 2 and punched my ticket to the World Championships in Kona on October 8th. Not sure how well my body will recover and be ready to do another one in 2 months, but I will enjoy the experience no matter what. Looking forward to the trip and to experience the Aloha spirit!
I am truly grateful to have some really amazing supporters in my life. I was lucky enough to have many friends and family make the trip to Boulder to cheer me on and share the experience with me. Thanks to my training partners Nicole Callan, Becca Rauch, Eric Smith, Eric Nielson, and the Miramont Swimming Chickens. Thanks to Runner’s Roost for the support, being such a great local company, and letting me be a part of such a fantastic group. Another shout out to Eric Nielson for guidance and sharing his wisdom. Great coach and even better person.
Finally, big thanks to my wife, Abby for all the love and support the last two years. I don’t know how she puts up with me! Abby, we will have our weekends back after a little trip to Hawaii!
Thanks for reading! Next report will be post-Kona and with hopefully less mishaps!