15
Jun
10

Boise Half-Ironman 2010 Story

This year is “the big year” for me. It started off with my first marathon in April and will end with my first full Ironman in November (assuming the oil spill doesn’t prompt a cancellation). I’ve already completed a half-Ironman in Oceanside, California, but that was back when I didn’t know what I was doing, plus that was over two years previous and I felt doing another half-Ironman (or Ironman 70.3 as they officially call it) would be a good step on the way towards my first full Ironman. Given my wanting to have plenty of time to focus exclusively on training for the Florida Ironman, not wanting to fly or drive too far, and other scheduling matters, the Boise half-Ironman was the event that fit the bill.

When I did Oceanside, my training plan was “each week swim a little farther, bike a little farther, run a little farther.” It worked, in that I finished the half-Ironman, but it didn’t work very well in that it took me over 7 hours. In preparation for Oceanside all I had under my belt were two sprint-distance triathlons. This time I had those events, plus another sprint, my first olympic, and a full marathon. Having done one half-Ironman already, I had a good idea of what I was up against, where I needed to hold back, and where I could let loose a bit. Also, I was weighing in about 15 lbs lighter than at Oceanside, and this time had a new tri-bike instead of my old road bike. This new bike was a disadvantage as well as an advantage, since I had only got it a few weeks before, and therefore wasn’t completely adjusted to riding it. But I figured that overall it would be a benefit. Given these improvements in my training, physical condition, and equipment, I decided to set a goal of finishing the race in under 6 hours.

Brynn and I made a family trip out of the event by driving up with our two-year old daughter and 4-month old son. The plan was to drive up Thursday, check in and prep for the race on Friday, race Saturday, relax Sunday, and drive home Monday.

The trip from Salt Lake City to Boise is about 6 hours, and fortunately both kids slept most of the way, or at least didn’t scream. Unfortunately that pattern didn’t hold the whole time we were in Boise, but I don’t believe in giving kids opium so what’s a parent to do? We stayed with my wife’s second parents, the Newby’s, who treated us with the utmost hospitality and Joan, the mom, was an absolute life-saver the day of the event as my wife tried to enjoy things while herding the two kids and their diapers. But let’s get on to the details of the event…

Friday – Athlete Check-in

Friday morning we woke up, and I got ready to drive from Meridian, where we were staying, to downtown Boise to check in. Thus began what turned out to be a bit of a nightmare, the only silver lining of which was that I was able to familiarize myself with a large portion of Boise. Getting downtown wasn’t a problem. I quickly arrived and found out where the Qwest Arena was. The problem was finding somewhere to park. The information packet, unless I missed something, had no information or recommendations on where to park for check-in.

There were plenty of spots in the area, but they were all taken. Even the “No Parking–Loading Zone Only–Tow-Away Zone” spots were taken by what were obviously athletes checking in. I should have grabbed one of those, but decided I would find a metered spot somewhere. In retrospect, I should have paid for parking in a garage, but I was set on not spending $4, and at the time I didn’t think it would take me 45 minutes to find a spot.

One of the problems downtown Boise shares with many other metro areas is that those who founded the city did not plan for our modern day, meaning their streets are not wide enough to accommodate two-way automobile traffic. The city therefore has no choice but to make all the streets one-way streets. This meant I couldn’t just circle the block until a parking spot opened up, but rather I would drive by the arena, want to turn left, but be forced to go straight or turn right. I would turn right, but then I couldn’t turn right on the next street either, but I certainly didn’t want to go left, not that I really wanted to go straight either, but if I went straight then theoretically I would be able to turn right at the next street. I would turn right, but then realize I was now too far away from the arena to park, so I would try to find my way back. Whoops, I turned right again too early, and wasn’t able to scope out a block where parking would result in a reasonable walk. That meant repeating the process all over again, but turning right one block later so that I could have the right approach to the arena. Of course a parking spot would not be available, so then I had to repeat the process again or try something else. You know, I’m not sure it took just 45 minutes. Maybe it was an hour and a half. All I know is I am now quite familiar with all the streets of downtown Boise.

My recommendation for future Boise half-Ironman participants? Be prepared to pay to park in a parking garage. Or…Google the OfficeMax store. There’s a small, almost hidden street there that is metered, and there were several open spots, and it’s just a one-block walk to the arena. There’s just one problem–you can only pay for an hour on the meter.

As I exited my car, there was a parking meter cop printing out a ticket and putting it on an athlete’s car. This probably should have been a warning to me. But in my mind I thought “They must just be hanging out and forgot they only have an hour to get back to their car, it couldn’t possibly take a whole hour to walk to the arena and check in.”

I jogged over to the arena, and found a half-hour line for check-in. Let me say right now that the volunteers were wonderful. But someone, somewhere, could have made some small changes that would have eliminated this check-in line, or at least cut it in half. You see, the first booth was the primary bottleneck, because there was only one person there. There were actually three volunteers there, but only one of them was checking people in. Why the other two weren’t, or couldn’t, I don’t know, but it seems like giving them the ability to check people in would be fairly simple.

As I stood in line and got a sense of how slow it was moving, I started to sweat a bit. Maybe I wasn’t going to make it back to my car in time to avoid a ticket, and instead of paying $4 for a parking garage, I was going to pay $25 for a parking ticket. I tried to mentally will the line to move faster, but it slowly shuffled along, as though everyone in it were saying “Hey, there will be enough rushing around tomorrow, today we can just relax and take it easy.”

Once I got through the first station, things moved a bit more briskly, but I kept checking the time nervously, and as soon as I had my gear bag and everything in hand, I ran through the area where they try to sell you stuff and jogged back to my car. Turns out I had 8 minutes left on the meter, but better safe than sorry.

Friday – Getting Home

If finding parking in downtown Boise was an exercise in frustration, the drive home was quite a bit worse. As I drove off, leaving the parking meter cop disappointed at his loss, I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. I knew I was supposed to go up the street on one side of the Qwest Arena and get back on the 84 to go back home, but I found myself on a one-way street that took me by Boise State University. Then I was going around the University. Then I was driving through old, tree-lined streets. A few more attempts to get back downtown and I was thoroughly lost. In my head I kept thinking “I just need to get back downtown, then I can get on the freeway” but the more I thought “I bet if I turn here I’ll end up there” the more I ended up in what appeared to be suburbs. The tall trees and lack of huge mountains, like we have in Utah, made it so that I had no idea what direction I was really headed in.

I tried using the Google Maps application on my Blackberry, but it was loading too slow and it was dangerous to try and make it work while driving. And I didn’t stop to do it because I kept thinking “Oh, right over there, I think I can see downtown!” I think it took me about an hour to get back on the freeway. Then I missed my exit, got off on the next one, and got lost in an industrial area. By the time I got home, I had been gone for 4-5 hours, and this ate substantially into the time I had wanted to spend dropping off my bike at the first transition area, driving the bike course and seeing the run course.

I arrived home, we put the kids in the car, got my bike on top and the other gear in the trunk, and took off to Lucky Peak Reservoir.

Whoops – Shuttle Tickets

In my rush to not get a parking ticket, I had forgotten to ask as check-in about tickets for the shuttle. You see, the transitions for Boise are different than many other triathlons. In most triathlons you have a transition area that is near the swim area, and after you swim you go to transition and get on your bike, leave, and then return to the same spot, get in your running shoes, leave, and finish back in the same spot. At Boise, you bike from the transition area, but you never return there. Instead, you bike to a second and separate transition area downtown. Now, just save this information in the back of your mind for later.

T1 (the transition area from which you swim and then start your bike course) does not have a lot of room. There is virtually no room for parking. The information packet says you can buy shuttle tickets online prior to the end of May so that you don’t have to have someone drive up and drop you off. If you don’t get them prior to the end of May, the packet says you can get them at the “Information Booth” the day before race day. I hadn’t planned on using the shuttle, figuring my wife could just drive me up, but then we decided that due to the late 2 pm start and the napping needs of our children it would be better for me to take the shuttle up by myself, and my wife and kids would miss the swim start and just see me later on at the bike-to-run transition and then the finish.

I assumed the information booth was located somewhere in the Qwest Arena where check-in was, but I hadn’t seen it while checking in, and in my rush forgot to ask someone. But no worries, the information packet said the information booth was open on Friday until 8 pm, so we figured we would drive the bike course, which ends up downtown by the arena, and then I could run in and see if I could buy a shuttle ticket. More on how this worked out below.

Friday – Bike drop-off

You’re allowed to drop your bike off at T1 the day before the race, along with your helmet and shoes and anything else you can attach to your bike. I did this and tied a garbage bag around the seat, and another around my handlebars and helmet in case it rained, which I believe it did that night.

T1 is located to one side of Lucky Peak Reservoir. To get there you drive across the dam. As we neared T1, there were cars parked along side the road with people getting their bikes off of or out of them, and more people parking in a line behind the cars already parked. I decided to drive on past all these cars and see if there were some spots at the very spot. There were plenty of open spots at the front, which saved me from an extra five minutes of walking in the hot sun.

The spots are all assigned in T1 and T2, which is kind of nice because it means it doesn’t matter when you get there–it’s not as though all the good spots will be taken. It turned out I had a pretty good spot, right on the end of a row, and instead of another row behind me, there was a tree planter which meant I didn’t have to worry about bumping into people behind me as I got my bike out after the swim. I set my bike up, used the restroom (I was a quite hydrated at this point and having to pee every hour), and went to check out the swim start. Having satisfied myself, we left to drive the bike course.

Friday – Driving the Course

When I did Oceanside I’m not even sure I looked at a map before the race. I just showed up and did it. This time around I had checked out maps, and decided to drive the course so that I would know better what to expect.

Driving the course was fairly uneventful, but one note about the Micron Property. The information packet tells you that you cannot bike it the day before the race, but you can certainly drive it. The only problem is that the street names on the bike course map don’t conform to the names on the Micron Property, and thus we got lost on the Micron Property and drove all the way around it. It appeared several other cars were equally confused as they were also driving all around and criss-crossing paths with us.

We had gotten a ways away from Micron when we realized that due to our late start driving the course, our kids were going to need to eat soon, we needed to eat soon, and we didn’t have time to eat before going to the information booth downtown. So we cut the bike course trip short by not driving to the turnaround point, and we started on it towards downtown.

Friday – The Information Booth

Rather than messing around with parking, I parked in the “No Parking–Unloading Zone” parking right outside the arena. My wife was in the car, so if they really wanted to tow the car she could just drive away and pick me up.

It was a little bit after 7 pm, well ahead of the 8 pm closing of the information booth, but when I got inside the arena the inner doors were all locked and nobody was around. Two female athletes came out of an elevator and  asked me if I knew how to get in. They said they had taken the elevator to see if they could get in from another floor, but had met with defeat (one of them was missing the bib number stickers from her race packet and was trying to get them). Unable to get in, we left to see if perhaps there was an information booth outside somewhere. They went one way and I went another. I found an Ironman staff member (not a volunteer) putting banners on the fences for T2, and asked him if he knew where the information booth was, the one that was allegedly open until 8 pm. He called someone, and that person said I could buy shuttle passes the next morning. Apparently the information booth was a hoax of some sort, only referenced in the information packet for entertainment purposes.

Anyway, we decided Brynn would just drop me off at the reservoir, and then take the kids home for a nap. Forget the shuttle.

Friday Night

We found some food and comfort at Golden Corral (I wasn’t the only athlete eating there, I noticed from the blue wristbands others were wearing), went home, and got to bed. I have to admit it was nice not having to stress out that evening since the race didn’t start until 2 pm the next day. Leave the stressing for the morning.

Saturday Morning – Gear Bags

I suppose it’s clear once you’ve done it, but I think the information packet could explain things a bit better. In the first paragraph of the shuttle tickets section above, I explained how there are two transition areas. You leave your wetsuit and other swim gear at the first transition area, and you never go back there. So how does your stuff meet up with you again? You’re given a swim transition bag, and after you’re done with your swim you stuff your wetsuit, goggles, cap, and everything else you’re not going to take on your bike into that bag, tie the strings, and drop it in the appropriate box. The bag is numbered (if you got your stickers and stuck one on), as are the boxes, and that evening you pick up the bag at the second transition area where your bike is stored during the run.

But wait, there’s another bag! What about the stuff you wear before the swim? Like shorts, a shirt, a hat, etc.? There’s a “morning clothes bag” for that. You drop this bag off with volunteers prior to beginning the swim.

Yet one more! The final bag is your run gear bag. You see, you’re going to come in to T2 on your bike, and now you need to put on your running shoes, socks, hat, sunglasses, etc. Where is this stuff? It’s in your run gear bag, which you drop off at T2 Saturday morning.

Saturday Morning – Pre-race

So on Saturday morning I got all three gear bags ready, and we drove downtown to T2. There was a small parking lot on the corner right next to T2, so we quickly pulled in there, I ran into T2, found my spot (which again was a great spot, right at the entrance of T2 which meant I could quickly get off my bike and into my running shoes rather than having to run the length of T2 in my bike shoes), left my bag there, and got back in the car. It all took about two minutes, which in part made up for the hassle of the day before.

We then drove up to Lucky Peak Reservoir so that Brynn could drop me off there with my other two gear bags. As we got to the reservoir and turned right to drive across the dam, we were stopped by a man of the law. He informed us that there was no traffic allowed across the dam the day of the race. Uhhh…could I get out and walk? Nope. Uhhh…did this mean the only way to get to the race was to take the shuttle? Of course not, the man informed me, all I had to do was drive to the bottom of the reservoir, and my wife could drop me off there.

“But how do I get to the top of the reservoir?”

“You hike up.”

“I hike up?”

“Yeah, see all those people on that trail down there?”

“Yeah…”

What I saw was a dirt trail extending from a recreation area at the bottom of the reservoir and winding up and around it towards T1. It looked pretty steep, and pretty long. And the day was already quite warm.

We drove down, I got all my gear, and I started following the others up the trail, carrying my heavy gear bags, the strings on which were cutting into my hands, which might be the cause of my pinkies being numb for two days afterward. The hike was hot, dusty, steep, and about 1/2 mile long. I also think it may have re-strained my left soleus which slowed me down during the run portion later.

In other words, taking the shuttle is a good idea. If only the information packet had informed us that not taking the shuttle meant you get to start your half-Ironman off with a 1/2 mile hike in the hot sun.

Pre-race Excitement…and Sunburn

T1 is an asphalt parking lot without much shade. Getting there early means waiting around in very hot sun, and this is when I got my feet burned walking around in flip-flops. At least I was smart enough to put sunblock on my neck.

I chatted with a few people, kept drinking lots of fluids (which I was losing rapidly in the hot sun), and waited in the potty line. One more complaint–why are there only 4 porta-potties in T1 where everybody is hanging out, but 40 of them down the hill towards the swim start where nobody hangs out until right before the swim?

One great thing they had in T1 was a guy with an electric pump checking tire pressure. I don’t remember seeing this at Oceanside, and it was great to be able to pump up the tires quickly and correctly without having to bring your own big pump.

A new rule was announced, apparently created within two hours of the start, that only pros can have their shoes clipped onto their bikes. Everyone else has to put their shoes on prior to exiting T1. Since I’ve never gotten on my bike with the shoes already clipped on, this wasn’t an issue for me, except that I had been feeling a bit adventurous and had thought of trying it this time around. The rule put an end to that which was probably a good thing.

As I waited around in the sun, trying to find some shade, I realized I was still wearing my sunglasses. The sunglasses I was supposed to wear on my run. The sunglasses I was not going to wear on my bike because they’re not made for biking and get in the way and slip down my nose. The sunglasses I don’t wear on my bike because I have a super neat LG Superleggera aero helmet with a visor on it. The sunglasses I had meant to leave at T2 that morning when I dropped my run-gear bag off there. I quickly realized there was no way for me to get my sunglasses down to T2 without carrying them on the bike. It took me a few minutes more to realize there was no way to carry them safely other than to wear them. I considered the pros and cons, and decided that wearing the sunglasses on the bike would be more detrimental than not having them on the run, and so put them in my morning gear bag. 1st mistake of the day–darn.

Pre-Swim

Normally I’m pretty nervous in the hour or so before a race, but this time I was feeling pretty relaxed. After all, this was just a warm-up for the full Ironman in November, and I had already done a half before, so what was there to be nervous about? I was so relaxed, in fact, that I wasn’t keeping track of time and hadn’t had my tires checked yet when the race announcer yelled out “T1 closes in 5 minutes!”

I grabbed my bike and ran over to get it checked. Then ran back to my rack, stripped off my shorts and t-shirt to expose my black superman one-piece underneath, and ran with my morning clothes bag, wetsuit, goggles, earplugs, and swim cap to join the throng over in the swim area. After using the bathroom again, I gave my morning clothes bag to a volunteer, put my wetsuit on up to my waist, and go in line with my wave.

As we waited for the swim we struggled to keep our feet cool by standing in the shadow of other people or standing on the white painted lines that were cooler than the black asphalt. It really was quite warm, and the people who had fully suited up and put their swim caps on too early were sweating profusely. I decided to wait until the last minute.

The Swim

The race has a wave start, and having turned 35 in May I was just barely in the men’s 35-39 wave, which started at 2:25 (the male pros were the first wave, at 2:00). We made our way towards the front of the line and the water as wave after wave started every five minutes. When the last wave in front of us went in the water I started getting my wetsuit, goggles, earplugs, etc. in place. I checked the seal on my goggles several times, not wanting to repeat my last half-Ironman experience in which I put sunscreen on my face which prevented my goggles from sealing and ended up swimming the entire 1.2 miles with goggles full of water.

We walked into the water and swam to the start line where we floated, treading water and waiting for the horn. Somehow I had ended up right where I didn’t want to be–right in the middle. Not only the middle from side to side, but the middle front to back. But I didn’t have too much time to correct things because the horn sounded and we were off.

In every other triathlon the swim start has been hectic. Feet in my face, people swimming over me, my own feet kicking other people, swimming too hard and getting out of breath, etc. A few days prior to the race I asked Heath at PowerTri what his #1 swim tip for racing was, and he said “just relax”. As I started out, I thought “Ok, I’m just going to pretend I’m doing a normal workout at the pool.” I started swimming slowly, focused on my form and breathing, taking breaths on both sides every three strokes.

Soon, my muscles started loosening up and I started pulling a little harder and breathing on the same side every two strokes. As I would lift my head to sight, I kept seeing people to my right, people to my left, but nobody directly in front of me for 25-30 meters. This was great because I could swim straight ahead with my head down and not worry about running into someone. I’ve never had this happen before and it seemed strange since I was right in the middle of everyone at the start. But every time I sighted I had a clear path ahead, and I didn’t touch a single person’s foot with my hands until the very end of the race.

As we neared the first turn, I could feel my strength really coming on and I started pulling a lot harder. Apparently I pulled too hard because a minute after turning the buoy I noticed I had passed everyone. Not forwards, but to the side. I was 25 meters outside where everyone else was swimming. Not far enough that a kayaker had to come steer me back on course, but far enough that I felt a bit lonely. I was having some issues seeing clearly with my goggles (the lake water seemed to be sticking to the insides in big drops), but I thought I could see the next turn and so decided to go in a straight line towards it, rather than returning to the crowd, which would only make the distances farther and put me back in the crowd. I didn’t want to be that close to everyone else.

I was feeling quite good as I made the last turn. I’ve never been able to focus so well on swimming and ignore the giant fish and snapping turtles in the murky water that want to eat my toes. I know there isn’t any such thing in this lake, but somehow not being able to see the bottom always makes me feel like something is going to bite my foot off. Must be that book I read when I was a kid about the old man’s pond with the giant snapping turtle in it.

As I neared shore, I realized I should have been swimming harder. I was feeling great and not at all tired out like I normally do at the end of the swim. Normally I get out of the water and feel like I’m going to pass out. This time I just felt great, and wished I had pushed just a little bit harder. But it was too late for that. I stood up as soon as I could and started getting my wetsuit unzipped as I ran up the boat ramp.

T1

Something else Boise has that Oceanside doesn’t–wetsuit strippers! I’m glad I didn’t try to take my wetsuit off by myself right out of the water, as I would have had something not tickled the back of my mind. No, it wasn’t a line in the information packet informing us that there would be wetsuit strippers (that would have been nice), I just didn’t feel like I should take it off immediately out of the water because it seemed like I’d be in everyone’s way. When I saw the strippers I couldn’t help but grin, and I ran over, laid down on the carpet, and two guys grabbed the waist of my wetsuit and ripped it off my legs in a flash, pulled me up, and shoved the wetsuit into my arms and I was off running towards my bike.

Once at my bike, I realized my spot wasn’t as fortunate as I thought it was. I had mistook which side of the rack I was supposed to get my bike from, so after I was all changed and ready to go, I realized I had to run around the rack to the other side because my bike wasn’t going to fit under the rack. This only added a few seconds since I was at the end of the rack (thank goodness I wasn’t in the middle of a long one) but it was a mistake nonetheless that I should have noticed during the hour and a half I was standing around in T1 before the swim, doing nothing.

I got everything on, including my Garmin, and ran towards the bike start. I hadn’t worn a watch nor seen the time when I came out of the swim, so I had no idea what my time was at this point. But I was pretty sure I had beat my previous time at Oceanside of almost 41 minutes.

The Bike

The bike starts out with a short downhill, which is nice to get firmly on the bike, and then a small climb to the dam, which is flat all the way across. At the end of the dam you start the downward descent out of the canyon. I was looking forward to hitting 40 mph, but as the road turned we were hit with a gust of wind so strong that it started slowing us down and required us to put some effort into maintaining speed–even on a steep hill. This would be the beginning of what turned out to be the windiest bike ride of my life.

I’m not sure what details to share about the bike ride. It was on roads, there were some decent hills (nothing like The Big Hill at Oceanside), and the volunteers, spectators, and traffic control were great. What set this ride apart from any other was the WIND! I’ve hit some pretty good winds before, but this was like nothing else I’ve experienced. I figured the winds were around 30 mph. They were brutal. On areas where we should have been riding at 20-25 mph, we were going 5-10 mph, in aero position, in low gear, just trying to dodge the wind and keep moving. A slight downhill felt like a steep hill because of the headwind. A steep downhill felt like flat. Fortunately, there were a few times when the wind was at our backs and so going up a steeper hill felt like a mild hill, and a mild hill felt like flat. Flat felt like downhill as we rode 30 mph and couldn’t feel a trace of breeze because we were moving with the wind. It was at these times that my aero-helmet started feeling pretty warm, and it almost felt good when we would hit another headwind that would cool me down.

During the bike I had the new experience of feeling like I couldn’t take in any more liquids. Normally I can drink quite a bit, but my stomach was feeling just a tiny bit queasy, and I didn’t want to be the guy on the side of the road hacking up his stomach and being taken out of the race. I didn’t feel thirsty, but I did feel like I needed more energy, and much of it was stored in my drink that I had made extra goopy for this purpose. I trusted my gut instead of my head, and I think that was the right decision, even though at the end of the bike ride I hadn’t finished off my first drink bottle and hadn’t touched the second. All I took in during the bike was two packages of Gu Chomps, two Gus, and perhaps 18 oz of EFS sports drink.

As we neared the final stage of the bike, I realized I was ahead of where I thought I would be. I was thinking 3 hrs at the fastest, but more likely 3:20 or so. I knew that a 40:00 combined swim and T1 and a combined 3:20 bike and T2 would put me where I needed to be to run a 2:00 half marathon and reach my goal of doing a sub-6 hour half-Ironman. As I saw that my bike ride was going to be closer to the 3:00 side of things, I started to feel pretty good about reaching my goal, or maybe even coming in 10-20 minutes ahead of it.

My one concern was how low on energy I was feeling. As I was about five minutes from the end of the bike, I started feeling tired. The kind of tired where you just want to lay down in bed and go to sleep. I did NOT feel like running a half marathon at this point.

T2

I pulled into T2 at just over 3 hours. That felt good. At this point I realized I was on the wrong side of the rack again. I ended up having to lift my bike over the rack to put it on correctly.

I took my bike shoes off, put my socks on (I was planning on going sockless but changed my mind the morning of), and got my shoes on. I stood up, and jogged through the transition area towards the run start, turned the corner, ran through some buildings, and out into the start area that ran parallel to the finish.

The Run

The bib numbers we wear have our names on them, but they must not have at Oceanside, because people were calling my name out. I couldn’t get used to this, because I kept thinking somebody I knew was there and recognized me. I’d look at the person who called out “Way to go Josh!” and I’d think “Who in the world is that? Do I know this person?” Even after I realized what was going on, it would still catch me off guard. But I think it was a great thing in that it helped make the race feel more friendly and personable. I’m guessing it made the volunteers feel more of a connection as well.

This is where I first saw my wife and kids and Joan Newby who had come along to help out. They waved, I waved, and ran on. Due to the nature of the run course they were able to see me several more times during the run.

As I started the run I realized I needed to pee. I saw one guy peeing in some bushes in a highly public area–I guess he had to go so bad he couldn’t worry about propriety, or rules, for that matter. I found a porta-potty at the first aid station next to the river along which the run course wends its way, and decided it was worth the 1:00 to 1:30 I was going to lose by going, since the potty was quite a way behind the aid station, plus I wasn’t counting on this being a quick pee.

Upon exiting I did feel quite a bit better, and lighter. I took my friend Te Koi’s tip of filling my cap with the ice handed out at the aid station, which felt great on my head and seemed to do a good job of keeping my body temp low. At this point the temperature was around 77 degrees, and even though much of the run is shaded, it was still plenty warm.

Did I mention I didn’t feel like running? It wasn’t getting better as I ran more. The first half felt pretty brutal. Whereas I normally run 9:00 min miles if I’m doing a 13 mile training run, I was now struggling to keep 10:00 miles, and I knew that whatever advantage I had gotten on the bike was now being eroded away. But I didn’t know exactly how much. I didn’t have a total time for the event so far, and I had forgotten to start my watch immediately out of T2, so I knew things were a little bit off and I couldn’t depend on my Garmin to tell me whether I was 1-2 minutes from goal. I knew it would tell me if I was 10-20 minutes away from my goal, but I couldn’t trust it to be more precise due to my haphazard management of it.

As I finished the first half of the half marathon, I started to feel a little better. My running muscles seemed to be picking up energy, most likely from the aid stations, and I was getting into a better rhythm. But I was also experiencing some pain in my lower left leg, the soleus area, and I was still tired.

It’s hard to express in words how hot and tired I felt. As we crossed over the large, fast running river, I kept feeling the temptation to jump in and float down. Sure, I’d probably drown, but that water would feel sooooo good.

The time dragged on, and I wished I had my iPod and a good book to listen to. Most of all, I just wished I had the stomach to swallow another Gu or two, but I felt like if I did I would vomit for sure. All I could handle were small amounts of Gatorade, orange slices, sips of water, and chewing on ice. A small piece of banana took me five minutes to get down and I almost lost it once or twice while trying to swallow it. My stomach just wasn’t in the mood.

I started to wonder how close I was to meeting my goal. I knew my run time wasn’t going to be close to what I wanted it to be. But would my good bike time make up for it? What if I finished and I was 30 seconds past 6:00? What a bummer that would be, eh?

I walked the aid stations, and a few of the small hills (there are only very, very small hills on the run, it’s mostly quite flat–I probably shouldn’t even call the bumps “hills”). But mostly I just ran slower than I normally do. Keeping a 9:00 pace just seemed too hard mentally.

The two final miles seemed to drag on forever. But it felt a lot better than Oceanside, where by this time I was running all by myself for the most part, the majority of other participants having finished. This time I knew I was doing better than many, if not most of the other racers.

As I rounded the final turn and heard the crowd I picked up the pace to run to the finish. As it turns out, I was mostly alone, having nobody for a long ways in front of me and nobody I could hear behind me, so I got a healthy dose of cheering from the crowd and people calling out my name.

I looked up at the clock as I ran across the finish line and was able to make out three numbers; 6:26. What?! I had started 25 minutes after the race start, so this meant my time was…6:01 and some seconds. You gotta be kidding me! I wasn’t ticked, I was laughing. I couldn’t believe after all that I had come to within a minute and a few seconds of my sub-6 hour goal. All it would have required for me to make my goal was to have picked it up slightly on the bike, on the run, or on the swim. A few seconds here and there was all that had put me over the 6:00 mark.

I was thinking all this, but I was also desperate to find a porta potty, because now I realized I was seriously close not only to vomiting, but I could feel a massive diarrhea attack coming on. I had visions of simultaneously vomiting and having diarrhea right there at the finish line in front of the huge crowd. I caught a glimpse of two porta potties at the end and ran for them and somehow I was able to hold it until I got inside. I didn’t vomit, but…well, let’s just say when it came to the other end I did my job. I exited, feeling much better.

Now, at Oceanside you finished and were quickly escorted inside a tent full of food. Here, I finished, and stood there not sure where to go. There was no tent. There was no food or drink. There were a lot of people milling about. Where’s the darn food?! My wife found me and we ended up having to find a volunteer and ask them. We found out the food was about 100 meters down a path between two buildings. It was completely out of sight from the race finish. This too would have been nice to know beforehand.

We walked together down to the food, and after drinking a can of soda I felt well enough to eat a single slice of pizza, and 20 minutes or so later well enough to eat a few more bites of other food.

They were posting printouts of the times over on a wall, and I went and checked it out. As I read over from my name, I saw that the 6:26 time was wrong! I had actually finished in 5:57! They must have gotten something wrong somewhere, or my wave didn’t start on time, or something. Only after getting home to Utah and checking the website would I find out that no, the first time was right, and the 5:57 was wrong…at least I think it was. I swear that’s what my time was on the printout, however, so I’m still not entirely sure. But here’s what the website says, and what would seem to be more likely to be correct:

JOSHUA STEIMLE

BIB AGE STATE/COUNTRY PROFESSION
723 35 DRAPER UT USA Business Owner

SWIM BIKE RUN OVERALL RANK DIV.POS.
36:35 3:01:38 2:15:28 6:01:43 435 91
LEG DISTANCE PACE RANK DIV.POS.
TOTAL SWIM 1.2 mi. (36:35) 1:55/100m 372 68
TOTAL BIKE 56 mi. (3:01:38) 18.50 mph
TOTAL RUN 13.1 mi. (2:15:28) 10:20/mile 435 91
TRANSITION TIME
T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 4:54
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 3:08

What’s the lesson here? For me, I think I learned something about really giving it your all. If I had known I was going to be that close, I would have tried harder. I should have assumed it would be that close, and I should have tried as hard as I could. On a technical level, I should have worn a watch in addition to my Garmin, so that I could have known exactly how close I was.

Another lesson, however, is that you can’t make up for this type of thing in the last minute or two. In order to have met my goal, I would have had to run faster throughout the half marathon, or at least over a few miles. I couldn’t have made that up in the last mile or two. Maybe in three. Probably in four. Definitely in five or six. But if I had just maintained 10:00 miles instead of 10:20, that would have kept the run fairly easy, and I would have easily have made my goal.

Well, live and learn, kids. It’s all mental.

Summary

Overall, the race was great. The volunteers were great, the course was great, and things were very well organized 95% of the time. Where there is room for improvement is mostly in the information packet which often left me feeling confused, and which didn’t contain certain information that would have been quite helpful. Oh, and the t-shirt sizes, which are all too small (I know I’m not the only one with this problem). Normally I fit into a large just fine, but the large I’m wearing as I type this is smaller than some mediums I’ve tried on. I would have gotten a different size when they were handing them out, but I was in a rush to not get that parking ticket…

Thank you to the race organizers, the volunteers, PowerTri, my coach David Warden, the Newby family, my friends and family, and especially my wife for putting up with all my training.

Placings

#447 out of 784 participants.

#93 in my age group (male, ages 35-39) out of 175

  • David Warden

    Josh,

    Well done! So close to sub-6 hours, and without the wind you would have had it for sure.

  • Larry and Corinne Steimle

    After reading your account I almost feel like we were there! Being a witness to your Carlsbad 70.3 helped with the mental images for Boise. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din! Your mother would appreciate it if you didn’t kill yourself in November.

  • Larry and Corinne Steimle

    I meant Oceanside. Honest.

  • Larry and Corinne Steimle

    Hey, I’m an old man. I get confused!

  • Sunny

    Wow. You are totally making up for not being on the swim team as a kid. So what was up with your stomach?

  • Larry and Corinne Steimle

    Dear Brynn and Joshua, Good for you two for making this iron man a family trip. It was sure interesting reading all about it. It was fasinating. I read every word like an exciting novel. That is great to have bettered your time. Thank you for taking the time to tell us all about it. I hope you write up the Florida trip and all too.

  • Joshua

    @sunny – I’m not sure exactly what was going on with my stomach. One thing is that it was a 2 pm start, which I’m not used to since I normally try to work out in the morning. I was also drinking a new drink that I haven’t acclimated to, so that may have had something to do with it. Hard to say. The pros deal with the same problems though, so apparently an occasional upset stomach is something even the best training, diet, and exercise can’t fully cure.