Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer in Colorado

Since racing Boulder 70.3, I've been thoroughly enjoying  the summer in Colorado.

Steamboat Tri the Boat
The last weekend in June, I raced a half-Iron distance race in Steamboat Springs. Last year was my first trip to Steamboat. The town and race are beautiful and challenging.  After hearing from friends how how challenging the half was, I really wanted to race it this year.
The day before the race was spent getting in a few short workouts with Geneva. After picking up packets with Erik (another MP athlete also doing the race) I was able to relax and try and get ready to race. David, a CSU teammate, showed up around dinner time after riding to Steamboat from Fort Collins - a truly epic ride. He was training for IM Canada and the ride (~175 miles, >13,000 ft gain) capped off a big week for him.  Since the main focus of my training for this year has been IM Boulder and Kona, the training plan had only had a few easier days before the race. I wasn't sure how things would go but I was willing to push hard and learn.  

Since Boulder 70.3, I'd changed a few things with my nutrition / hydration strategy and was looking forward to putting them into place.

After setting up transition and a quick warmup, I lined up in the swim right next to Erik. The field was relatively small and there wasn't much contact at the start. I quickly found Erik's feet and we began to pull away with another guy way off to our side. I stayed on Erik's feet for 2/3rds the swim then tried to let him know he could swim off me if he wanted - we were swimming a similar pace. The other guy who was with us took some crazy lines around the buoys but still ended coming out of the water with us.

Onto the bike, I was happy I had come out with Erik on the swim. He is a great swimmer and biker and I wanted to be able to at least have him in sight starting the ride. We quickly went past the other swimmer and settled in.  The bike course was a 14 mile out and back x 2. As we neared mile 10, the pace felt a little too easy. I knew there were some strong riders and runners behind us and I didn't want to let them get too close. I went around Erik and started setting the pace. I wanted him to stay with me so we could continue working together. However, when I reached the turn around, there was a sizable gap back to Erik. I kept pushing, trying to keep an even pace and ride steady.

I began to focus on my hydration and nutrition heading back. The ride felt hard but not blow-up hard.  I got a big boost of energy riding back around transition and seeing Geneva and David.  I also knew several other MP athletes and teammates racing and tried to yell them words of encouragement during the bike.  The second lap went by relatively quickly. On the way back to transition, I estimated I had a gap of around 4 minutes to Erik and 6+ to some other strong riders.

As I got off my bike and put on my Saucony Fastwitch 6's. Things felt good. I tried to  relax for what I knew would be a challenging run. The run course was two loops with a lot of hills and no shade. All at a elevation of over 8,000 ft.  I brought a water bottle to run with and was very grateful I did. The aid stations were spread out and it got hot out there.  The first 2 miles were straight uphill to a campground entrance. My stomach tightened up like crazy but I kept running. I've experienced the feeling several times before and I think it's mostly from not stretching out enough on the bike and trying to cram down too much food at once. I also had gone out much too fast at Boulder 70.3 and so my goal was to pace this run better.

The first loop was tough and I did my best to hold back because I knew the second time around was going to be worse. I completely stopped at an aid station before starting the second loop to refill my water bottle. My stomach was still very tight and felt a little bloated but I tried to get some calories and fluids in while running. Running was uncomfortable.  As expected, the second loop was hot and hard.  With about 4 miles left, I saw I had a big gap to the next runner and knew I could win. I had to power hike up a steep hill for 5 second bursts (which was demoralizing) but eventually I made it to the top and refocused for the 2 mile downhill / flat section to the finish. When the suffering got really bad out on the course, I just remembered that I partially do the sport for those exact experiences. You learn so much about yourself when your body wants to stop.  
After the race, I hobbled around for a bit and jumped in the lake to try and cool down. I tried to drink some fluids but my stomach still felt pretty bloated. Before we left, someone from the local paper wanted a quick interview which you can read here.
Geneva, Erik and I quickly packed up our gear from the hotel and got something to eat from downtown. While Erik headed back to Fort Collins, Geneva and I went up to the hot springs to relax for a bit. After a few hours, my stomach and body started feeling much better.
Ironman Training and Hiking
Since Steamboat Tri the Boat, I've been focused on training for Ironman Boulder. I've gotten in some big rides with friends. July 4th, I went from Fort Collins to Estes to Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake and back. The ride took just under 10 hrs and was around 160 miles with over 14,000 ft of elevation gain. An Ironman will never be that long of a ride but the main goal was to be exercising for about how long the race will be.  MP Multisport has quite a few athletes training for IM Boulder and we've also done some great long runs incorporating speed. 

I've also worked on trying to figure out what nutrition works for me.  The race in Boulder will be much different from my IM Florida experience. For one, I have more confidence in my bike and run and will be riding at a higher effort level. This make digesting certain foods more difficult. And, more than likely, it will be much warmer which also influences what can be eaten on the bike. One of the things I'm most looking forward to for the race is getting to see everyone out on the course. Having all the support and encouragement helps a ton.  No matter the scenario, I'll do my best to work through the ups and downs and enjoy the day!

Training for an Ironman takes a lot of time and makes you very tired. After a solid block of training, Geneva and I went camping in Aspen, Colorado to relax for a few days. The trip was amazing and something I really needed. We did a good amount of hiking in the Maroon Bells area. The Maroon Bells are arguably some of the most photographed mountains in America. After a few miles from the trail head, the crowds disappeared and we were hiking through some amazing landscapes. I definitely hope to be back to explore more some day.


We worked in a photo shoot for Boco Gear (a Team EMJ sponsor) at one of the more stunning snack break stops.

Doing fun things outside of training helps remind me there is more to life than training and racing.  With that being said, if you're not busy August 2nd, come out and cheer on the thousands of athletes competing in IM Boulder.  You can find course maps here.  We would all love to see you out there!

Thanks to my parents for always supporting me. Thanks to everyone who has trained with me and pushed me this summer. It's been a great time and you make the workouts that much easier. Big thank you to Team EMJ and all the team sponsors for helping us do what we love.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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