Ironman Boulder 2019

I was visiting Boulder to meet an alumnus of the Illinois Chemistry Department, but he unfortunately had an accident and could not meet, so the Ironman tag-on over the weekend became the main cause for the trip. Racing the bike leg on a borrowed road bike did not speed things up. 12:19 rather than the 11:56 from 2014 left me nice and fresh at the end.

After all, Ironman Boulder was the “C” race to ramp up for the “B” race (Devil 100 ultrarun in Nevada), to ramp up for the “A” race – Badwater 135. The plan was to ride non-aero on a road  bike well sub-6 to expend some energy, then do the marathon at Badwater starting pace (10-11 minute miles), to see if my heat acclimatization was working. It was a bittersweet farewell to Boulder: I did the inaugural IMB in 2014, and 2019 will be the last one: not enough participation (only 1400 this year) to keep it going. Hopefully they’ll have a new one in the Midwest instead!

I arrived Thursday, and stayed at my friend Maciej Balajewicz’s place, only about 1.5 miles from the Boulder High School IM registration and finish line. He and his girlfriend Yujia (a philosophy professor) were wonderful hosts, taking me on local long climbs by bike on Friday, and feeding me nice Polish stews, steeped veggies and fish filets. I registered and we built up Mike’s road bike with my seat and pedals. On Saturday, I dropped off the bike at the Boulder Reservoir (swim start) and did a lot of work on the computer. I slept pretty well Saturday night despite the altitude (5000 ft) and got up just minutes before my 4:45 alarm, dressed in my Wild Card triathlon suit, took 2 ibuprofen, and Mike dropped me of at the school for the shuttle ride to the reservoir start.

It was very cool (45 °F) and a bit windy, so I wore my wetsuit to keep warm. The start was grouped by expected swim time, and I lined up in the 1:21-1:30 group, since that’s what I was expecting without swim training. It was a one-by-one start, so it took from 6:30 until 6:50 before I got to the dock. The concrete pier was pretty rough and full of sharp pebbles, they could have added mats for the barefoot swimmers! Off into the water, the triangular swim went as expected, with about 35-20-35 minutes for the three legs. It was freezing cold (~48 °F) when I got out and stripped my two-piece wetsuit. A quick pouch of baby food, shoes and helmet, and I hopped onto Mike’s road bike. I was freezing in the wind, which only enticed me to work harder – easy to do on a road bike. Then began the inevitable passing of cyclists on expensive triathlon machines. Normally I hear “good job,” but this time it was more “grr” or “what the f…” as the road bike zipped past $10,000 Cervelo P5, Dimond, and Trek TT bikes. I had my fun on the two loops, which passed uneventfully. By the end at ~2 PM, it was warm (~70 °F), and I was glad not to have donned Mike’s bike jacket. I drank plenty of water, some Gatorade (yech), and ate 6 gels/bars on the bike to remain fueled.

On to the run. I warmed up with 11 minute miles, and slowly went to ~10 minute miles as planned. It was getting quite warm, so I had aid station volunteers drop ice in my hat at every station, sipped a cup of water, and ate a cookie or pretzels. I was well hydrated and had to visit the bathroom about every hour. Around 11 hours, the fatigue did get to my stomach, and I was down to water, pretzels and Coke, no more cookies. I drank and ate to the end. Mike and Yujia were waiting on a bridge as I ran by and I shrugged at them while jogging to the finish. (Photo)

The Finish crowd was hyper as always, and Mike got some great snapshots of me in the finish chute. After donning my medal and getting my finisher’s hat and T-shirt, we picked up bike and transition bags and walked the 1.5 miles home. I was feeling quite energetic since I had not killed myself on the run (although I worked hard on the road bike). My eyes got a bit irritated from the dry thin air (bring eye drops for Badwater!), and my stomach felt a bit queasy after downing a dinner of fish and sweet potatoes plus some brie sandwiches. But I did eat, a good sign. I did get a bit of left leg tendonitis in the same spot where Keys 100 got me, but nothing serious. So my worst fear of doing bad tendonitis damage after too short a healing period did not materialize. A solid race, upper 30% of age group on a road bike and without swim training, so I sent IM headquarters my qualification info for October: Kona, here I come!