Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Boulder 70.3 - take 5

This past weekend I raced Boulder 70.3, a race I’ve done 5 years in a row. Boulder is an hour drive away, making it a very convenient race. My brother, who is living in Fort Collins for the summer, was also racing. Our parents came out to watch us race before beginning a camping/bike trip through the mountains!

Boulder 70.3 attracts a lot of competition each year because of the prize purse and location. Coach Mace and I planned the first half of this season to target Boulder 70.3. 

All of our cool rides, and some pictures, are on Strava
The lead-up for Boulder went awesome. After recovering from St. George, we started a solid training block. During this time, my classes ended and Ernie moved to FoCo. We got most of the training done in the morning so I could work on my thesis later in the day. It was has been? awesome to have Ernie to train with. Most rides started with 30 minutes to 1 hr of hating life because we were so tired. We used one another and friends/training groups to get around the fatigue that the heavy training block brought.

The day before the race, we got a quick pool swim in before packing up the van for Boulder. We stayed with a friend only a few miles from the reservoir, where the race started. Everything the day before took a bit longer and I got dangerously hangry. The 90 degree heat did not help.

We got our lives 10% figured out by 4:30, ate some rice cakes, pounded some electrolytes, and went to the BASE Performance dinner. We hung out, used Normatec Boots, ate, and took in the amazing views. 

Somehow, the van made it back down the sketchiest driveway ever. The BASE dinner was in the house on the right. Up a steep, single-lane driveway.

My brother and I woke up around 4 am (7:15 race start for me). We did our MBK 15 min wake-up run, warmed up oatmeal and coffee (we’re semi-addicts now), and got stuff together. I biked over to transition and was one of the first people setting up my bike. After a good warm-up, I found Mace heading to the swim start.

The swim temperature was announced as 72.9 (F), too warm for pros to wear wet suits. This didn’t make too much of a difference for me as I’m not the weakest or strongest swimmer. I usually come out 2-3 minutes behind the front group. 


The swim was a long rectangle with two right turns.
I started towards the right, close to the buoy line, and behind some fast guys. In the water, we got a 30 second warning before the cannon boomed. As soon as the cannon went, someone I knew to be a weaker swimmer to my left took off on a line right into my first stroke. 

There was a lot of contact in the first couple minutes. I fought back, but also swallowed a lot of water. In hindsight, I should have started a bit further left, sprinted hard on my own line, then merged over into a group. Right now I am not a front-pack swimmer, but I trust my own speed enough to get into the appropriate group. 

Photo of the swim start.
It’s hard to tell exactly when things happened but the front pack quickly split away. Near the first turn, a gap opened up in our group and a couple guys swam away, but remained in sight. I was working hard, but felt comfortable and recognized a few guys around me. Mid-way through the swim, I moved up in the group to keep swimming my own pace. I tried to close a small gap to a guy just a few seconds in front of me but wasn’t able to. 

I wanted to quit several times during the swim. Instead, I went back to focusing on form. 300 meters from exiting, I was ready for the swim to be over. Eventually we got there, and ran up the boat ramp. Running to my bike, I scared a teenage girl (volunteer), asking her to unzip my swim skin. The zipper is on the back and my flexibility is awful because I’m going through a growth spurt ;) Chris Leiferman sprinted by me to his bike and we exited transition just a few seconds from each other.


Nutrition: 12 Clif Shot Bloks. Most margarita flavor and few wild berry (caffeine) bloks for the last 5 miles. 2 Bottles of Clif Hydration Mix. ½ bottle of Gatorade and ½ bottle of water from aid stations. 

Flying downhill away from transition, I tightened up my shoes and noticed the boa wire on the top of my right foot had become undone. Oh well. Out onto the first out and back, we settled into the usual suicidal pace. Chris was on a mission and I decided to do whatever I could to keep him in sight. 

We ditched a few other riders who had come out of the swim with us. We could soon see a group of (~5) riding together. We caught them and Chris, thankfully, decided to let up for a bit. I took in some liquids, checked my heart rate: 176/about to explode, then realized… I HADN’T STARTED MY GARMIN! I debated whether I should completely abandon the race or start the bike over so I had data for ALL the Strava segments. Then Chris made a move… I’d had about 30 seconds of 'chill' before it was time to start trashing my legs again. 

Riding with Chris. (PC: Talbot Cox)
Chris and I rode hard up Jay Road. I was making up a bit of ground on the slight incline and committed to making a pass when I saw a ref watching. I led us down Neva. Chris took the lead as we headed towards the uphill on Nelson. After cresting and starting the rollers on 36, Chris started pulling away from me on the downhills. I ran out of gears and spun out a few times. He quickly put 20 seconds into me as we started heading back to the reservoir. 

I cried for a few seconds, sad that I’d have to pace the rest of the ride on my own but eventually set to work. The rest of the bike was fast. I tried to make myself as small as possible while still riding hard. I’d glance ahead to check for rocks or big cracks, then put my head down and pedal hard. I’d count to 10 without looking up. 15 if I was feeling ballsy. #yolo 

Ridin' solo! (PC: Talbot Cox)
The temperature was heating up and I made sure to stick to my schedule taking in water, sports drink, and Clif Shot Bloks. The last 10 miles my legs were hurting. Michael Weiss came by me and I kept him in sight for the remainder of the ride. As we neared the end of the bike, my legs felt trashed. It was hot, and running 13 miles sounded like death. A few friends where near the bike dismount line, cheering as I headed into transition. After snapping in my Stryd running power meter, I got on all my run gear and set out.


Nutrition: I had three Clif Vanilla Energy Gels in a flask with BASE Performance salt. At each aid station I usually took in a cup of water and two cups of Gatorade. And sucked on ice occasionally.

I came off the bike in 9th position (I think), and I didn’t have to pee! This scared me as I knew dehydration and lack of energy have caused me to blow up the last 2-4 miles in the past. Directly out of transition, I was able to snag only one cup of water because I was still putting on gear. 

“Next aid station,” I thought. I knew getting in fluids was going to be key for me and everyone else. I came off the bike with Michael Weiss and Paul Matthews in sight. At the first aid station on the run, I slowed down, grabbing cups of water and Gatorade. The first 2 miles felt awful. Slowly, I was able to catch up to Matthews and passed him. 

I ran conservatively and waited for the flatter sections to find a good rhythm. My strategy for the aid stations was working out. Every other mile I took a swig from my gel flask, washing it down with water and Gatorade. Though I slowed down, I knew it would help later on in the run. The ice was fantastic. I ran with a few cubes in my hands while most went down my tri top. 

Along the back side of the reservoir, local Boulder pros were out cheering and giving splits. Tim Don told me to “keep rolling”. Up ahead, I saw Bowstead doubled over, stretching his hamstrings. He was still a ways away. I figured if he was hurting before the halfway point he was definitely in some trouble. The stoppage was quick and he kept “rolling” quickly. 

After a short out-and-back section, where Ben Hoffman was cheering us on, I saw that I had a decent gap to the guy behind me, but he was moving quickly! Passing through each aid station, I could tell the calories and liquids were helping me. 

As I ran across the grass and back onto the dirt road to start my second loop, Mace told me that Ernie was 30 seconds up ahead of me. What?! Sweet! A steady trickle of athletes were now out on the run. Bowstead was still in sight, maybe 45 seconds to 1 minute in front of me. By the hill around mile 3, I ran up next to my brother. He looked smooth and in control. I could tell he was being conservative. I ran beside him for 10-15 seconds and said/grunted something. At the top of the hill, we fist bumped, and I gradually sped up. 

In previous years, nearing mile 8, I’ve imploded. I waited for the light-headedness and dead legs. Instead, I pushed through the pain that did come. Another pro ran by me on a mission. I felt good pushing things on the flats and sped up but he quickly pulled away. I was gaining confidence that I was going to be able to run strong to the finish. In the back of my head, I knew Boulder paid 8 deep. A few people had told me I was running in 8th. I didn’t have the mind power to fact check this, but with the amount of suffering already happening, I was happy to focus on myself.

With under 2 miles to go, Bowstead and I seemed to be running a similar pace but he was still 30-45 seconds up on me. Closing that big of a gap with just over a mile left would be hard. But, I told myself to not give up, and to not be satisfied. Coming down the finish shoot, I tried to enjoy it. I saw the clock ticking and ran harder to get under 3:50. I was going to finish 8th, and earn a little bit of money! After crossing the finish and pouring water on my head, I asked Mark what he’d finished. “8th” he said. Shoot. I’d actually finished 9th. 

I was only about 10% bummed. So much had gone right. This year, we agreed to race aggressive like the past few races, but made sure to get in nutrition. 

2015 Last 10k of the run file: perfect case of decoupling pace and heart rate
2016 run file: more elevation changes but pace, heart rate, and run power don't drop. Stryd power center run file
After getting some water, I briefly talked with my parents and Mace. I then headed back to cheer on age groupers and wait for Ernie. Not long after, he came by. I could tell he was hurting, but he looked focused and in control. I glanced at my watch. Holy hell! He’d just done a 4:04. After completely erupting at Olympic distance races for the past year... On his second half-iron. My old teammate, Chris Leiferman had absolutely crushed the run, working his way up to second. I was pumped for Ernie and Chris.

Tire, but happy.
We cooled down and ate some salty food. Everyone should be proud for getting through that heat! After we cleaned up, we ate our weight in fro-yo at Ripple and then returned to the reservoir for awards.

Though I finished 9th, one place out of the money, coach Mace and I gained a lot from this race. Finally putting together a solid race for Boulder 70.3 was awesome. To do it in front of friends and family was even better, and that’s why I race. It’s not for the money and it’s not for the final result. Triathlon is such a process. I do the sport to push myself and because I love the challenging environment. Sure, it sucks and hurts in the moment, but when we look back, that is when we live. Racing as a “pro” this year has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Heck, I’m out of my comfort zone less than 10 minutes into the bike leg! In the process I’ve learned a lot. It’s hard to be so close to something, like making a bit of money, but at the same time knowing that you can’t look for shortcuts in this sport. All we can do right now is focus on what we can control; consistent, smart training. 

Thank you to Mace for guiding us through the training and always being flexible. 

Thank you to Rocky Mountain Multisport and Patrick Ray for getting me on kick a$ bike and putting up with the Mantell shenanigans.

Roka, thank you for making stupid fast swim gear and comfortable, good-looking bike gear. I'm looking forward to the tri gear!

Stryd, thanks for being out on the course, cheering and supporting. I think we got some good data from this one!

Clif Bar, thank you for fueling me and making margarita shot bloks. The new nut butter stuffed bars are incredible.

BASE, I overdosed on salt in the week leading up and took 10 licks to top off the salt levels in the morning. Worked like a charm!

Thank you to my parents, family, and friends who support me day in and day out. You’re the best motivation and thank you for being a part of this with me.

If you’d like to watch me work on my GoPro/selfie game, be sure to follow along on…Facebook, Twitter : @steve_mantell, Instagram : @stevemantell37, Strava, Snapchat: stevemantell37 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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