July 28, 2008

Boulder Peak

Don't let the title fool you, this is not a post about Josh's climbing adventures. Boulder Peak is a local olympic distance triathlon, comprised of a 1500 meter swim, 42K bike, and 10K run. About 1600 people participated this year. I was slightly more apprehensive about this race than my last triathlon. Partly because of the longer distance and tougher course, but mostly because it seems everyone in Boulder is an extremely talented and dedicated endurance athlete.

The day started off with the first swim wave leaving at 6:40 am, but unfortunately I was in the last wave and did not start until 7:40. After sitting around for what seemed like forever, I eventually put on my wetsuit and immediately headed for the water, as it was already too hot out to stand around in neoprene. I did a quick swim warm-up and then stood with my fellow women 25-29 to watch the wave before us begin swimming. I had just begun to think maybe I had overestimated how insane people in Boulder are about triathlons, when I had an "oh-crap-what-am-I-getting-myself-into" moment. The two girls next to me were discussing their Kona training (Kona as in Ironman World Championships, as in not only do these girls do insanely long triathlons, but they are also do them really fast to qualify for a race that some people devote their whole lives to qualifying for). Luckily, I was soon distracted because it was time to line-up and start swimming.

The start was the usual cluster of kicking and grabbing. My goal was to find someone early to draft and stay with them. In most triathlons, it is illegal to draft on the bike (although people have been known to do it ... you know who you are ... Jake), however it is perfectly legal and a good strategy to draft in the swim. This is a little more complicated in Boulder Reservoir because the water is so murky. You can't see your hand 10 inches in front of you underwater, so of course you can't see anyone's feet, that is unless they are kicking you in the face. About 300 meters in, I found a girl with a strong enough kick that I could easily see where she was going by the bubbles trailing her feet. I had no idea how fast she was going, but she swam in a fairly straight line, so I figured by staying with her at least I didn't have to do any sighting to stay on course. It worked out well, as we soon started passing stragglers from the waves ahead of us and then people from our own wave. In the end, I had a much faster swim time than I could do on my own.

The swim start

I transitioned from the swim onto the bike and was ready for the crux of the race. This course is famous for the hill on Olde Stage Road that occurs about 6 miles into the bike. This hill has 600 feet of climbing in 2/3 of a mile, peaking out at a 15% grade. My weekly training rides on Flagstaff prepared me well and I cruised up the hill, past many people who were walking their bikes. Then came the steep downhill, where they impose a 35 MPH speed limit (checked by police with radar guns at the bottom of the hill) for safety reasons. Safety from other riders and safety from bears - three years ago someone hit a bear during this triathlon and about a month ago a cyclist hit a bear on this same road. Luckily, there weren't any bear sightings this day. The rest of the bike was rolling hills leading back to the reservoir.

Returning from the bike

The run was an out-and-back on the gravel roads around the reservoir. No one from my age group passed me after the swim, except one girl in the last mile of the run. I thought about staying with her, but I was feeling the effects of the heat (it peaked at 100 degrees later that day) and didn't have it in me, so I let her go. Since I was in the last wave, there were a lot of racers ahead of me, so I had no idea what place I was in the entire race. Turns out, if I had been one place better, I would have really been kicking myself for letting that one person go.

The final stretch to the finish

I am fairly happy with my race, especially as my first olympic distance. I did a pretty good job of staying hydrated and taking in calories without any stomach issues or cramping. My biggest issue came when I put a Clif Shot (energy gel) packet in my mouth to hold it as I ran my bike out of the transition and mounted it. I guess getting out of the transition was stressful, as I bit a hole in the wrapper. I didn't realize this until I had a gooey mess all over my hands and, therefore, all over my handlebars, aerobars, bike shorts, and I even found some on the back of my helmet later (I really can't explain that one). The only bike picture taken of me by the race photographers is me licking my hand ... don't think I will be purchasing that one.

The stats:
Time: 2:32:35
5/101 women 25-29
32/527 women overall

The pro triathletes started an hour after my wave and I finished in time to see them transition from the bike to the run. The pro's raced a different run course that was made of three loops, so we watched them run by us multiple times. The field was comprised of olympians, world champions ... you know, just your typical Boulder resident. The men's winner will represent the US at the upcoming olympics and I feel more inclined to watch the olympic triathlon now that I have seen him race in person.

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