Monday, June 18, 2012

T-Minus Two Hours to Boise 70.3

Trying to act brave
I stood in the wind and rain, soaked to the bone.  This was not how I had envisioned my first 70.3.  Temperatures in Boise were record low.  There were reports of temps ranging from thirty to forty degrees depending on the wind chill factor.  All around me were shivering athletes, some with blue lips, crouched behind dumpsters, tucked under trees or huddled together trying to stay warm.  Most of us put on our wetsuits early in attempt to stay more dry and warm.  This wasn't the typical jovial pre-race scene.  It felt more like a funeral march.  We were all in for a day much tougher and longer than we had anticipated.

Lucky Peak the day before
T2 Race Day

Heading out to Lucky Peak on race day
My husband and I had used up our precious personal days from work to attend this event.  We spent nine hours driving ourselves and our two kiddos 850 miles to Boise where we would stay in a hotel for three nights.  This was my A-Race of the year.  I had thought, trained, talked and planned for this event nonstop.  It was finally here and frankly, I didn't want to do it in these shitty conditions.  It was cold, wet, windy and miserable out there.  WTF?  Did Mother Nature miss the memo that there was a race today?  Race directors had urged athletes to wear booties and neoprene caps on the swim for extra insulation.  I had neither.  They cautioned against disk bike wheels due to the high winds.  They created a warming tent for folks to drink warm broth and thaw out in after exiting the lake.  I was supposed to swim/bike/run 70.3 miles in this?  What the hell was I thinking? This is insane!

We parked here then walked almost a mile up the hill on to T1 and the start of the race.

I'm sorry but what am I doing here and why didn't I pack my and the kids' suitcases more carefully?

This is not a smile. I'm clenching my teeth to keep them from chattering.
It certainly wasn't a place for my seven year-old daughters and husband.  I urged them to leave me and seek warmth and shelter.  I would see them at T2 or on the bike or run course if the weather decided to calm down.  At the very least, I would see them at the finish line.  I knew that my husband was reluctant to leave me alone in these elements but with two little ones, he had no other choice.  He zipped up my wetsuit, snapped some final pictures and with the tightest hug ever, bid me farewell. 

My sweet girls when they were dry and warm and exciting about cheering their mom on.  One daughter requested that I come in at least second place. *snort!*

I had approximately an hour and half to kill before my wave started.  I had no shelter, raincoat,  umbrella or garbage bag to protect me from the elements.  Very few of my fellow competitors did.  I found what looked like a friendly group tucked between a pair of dumpsters and decided to hole up there, until the race.  I looked out into the rainy, fog-banked Lucky Peak Reservoir.  Big yellow and orange buoys marked what seemed like a ridiculously long swim course.  Jet skis zoomed about the lake in an onerous manner.  Kayakers and paddle boarders flocked the edges of the swim triangle that we would soon be making our way around.  Things were so urgent, gray, drizzly and surreal.  Was it really race day or was this a bizarre pre-race dream from which I would soon wake? 

The more I chatted with the fellow athletes, the more real it became.  We were all in this together.  We would face the same elements.  We were in for a heck of a day.  There were lots of first time triathletes.  Some hadn't even done sprint triathlons let alone half ironman distance ones.  Others had never swum in the open water.  One advantage I had was I trained like an obsessive compulsive beast for this thing.  I had a great group of folks to keep me honest about my workouts, accompany me while I swam, biked or ran and encourage me along the way.  I appreciate them SO much!

Jen helped me build my speed, endurance and sighting skills in the pool.  She gave me the fantastic advice to circle swim without breaks or touching the sides of the pool in my final stages of pool training.  The other Jen enthusiastically joined me and helped me out for my first open water swim and was there again when I plunged into colder lake waters and followed a long swim with a long run.  Kristi, my half iron friend and I swam together twice a week.  We compared notes and vented about how hard it was juggling full time jobs and motherhood with our multi-sport training schedules.  With so many hours in the saddle, I relied on my cycling group GEARS and cycling pals for motivation, safety and companionship.  Lastly, my half marathon training group and coach were key in my gains in speed this last year.  They, along with my various running buddies kept me running and excited about running.  I had blabbed to them, co-workers, family, friends and social networks about this race.  I had to do it.  I would give it my best shot.

1700 of us were voluntarily standing around in the cold, wet, wind waiting for the chance to swim 1.2 miles in 57 degree lake, ride up and down hills in the blustery wind for 56 miles and then run 13.1 miles to the finish line.  We actually PAID $300 to $350 to do this?  A trip to Vegas, would have cost less, been more relaxing and enjoyable.  What was I thinking?  I was scared.  Could I possibly pull this off?  My confidence was wavering.  My spirits were plummeting.  We waited for what seemed like forever.  A half-hour before the swim started, the race director came on over the loud speakers.  He announced that due to 45 mph wind, risk of hypothermia and overall safety of the athletes that the bike course route and distance would be reduced to 15 miles.  We would go from Lucky Peak directly down to downtown Boise.  Dumbfounded silence followed the announcement.  My half Ironman dreams were crushed.  I had trained so hard and long for this event.   Through no fault of my own and for reasons completely out of anyone's control, my opportunity had been snatched from me.

We had twenty minutes or so to get used to this new shortened bike plan.  Bike portion would be the same or shorter than sprint distance.  Some athletes were celebrating the fact that their day would end forty one miles and several hours sooner.  Considering how cold we had been for so long, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.  Many, like me were mourning the loss of the true half Ironman distance and already trying to figure out how they could get a second try at the distance while they were still 70.3 conditioned.  Those with cycling strengths and fancy bikes, were bummed that they wouldn't have the opportunity to hammer out the miles and edge their way up in the pack.  Runners were thinking they had an advantage because they would have fresh legs to make those miles fly.  Once I wrapped my brain around this, I realized that my husband and kids weren't aware that this change had been made.  They wouldn't be expecting me three hours earlier.  I borrowed a cell phone and tried to call but was out of range.  My honey is a pretty smart, resourceful guy.  I assumed that he would check the Boise 70.3 webpage or follow me on the Ironman site.  I prayed that he and my daughters would at the very least be at the finish line for me.

The rain and the wind were relentless.  I couldn't wait to get my body moving and warm.  I wanted nothing more than to get out of these elements.  Let's get this race started already!

It's so wet.   I'm so wet.  Would anyone notice if I peed now just to keep myself warm?

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, this sounds brutal, Leah. But we can't predict conditions on race day. Hope you get your 70.3 in someday. Looking forward to part 2.