Ironman #4. Boulder Colorado. August 3, 2014. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run in 17 hours or less. This race, this training cycle was a little different that then last three IM races--this time I was training and racing to raise money for Whole Planet Foundation and specifically as a way to give back for the magical experience I had visiting microcredit loan recipients in Peru last fall.
I decided to raise funds for Whole Planet Foundation while I was still in Peru. I remember having a conversation with my roommate in our hotel in Cuzco about how selfish and frivolous (and expensive) training and racing and Ironman can be. It seemed absurd/privileged/selfish to do something like _another_ Ironman when we were building rooms out of bricks made of dirt gathered in the yard of a home at 10,000 feet in the remote country side of Peru. "What if you trained and raised money" she wisely said. Great idea.
Long story short I ended up raising about $3800 dollars for Whole Planet Foundation. About $300 over my goal. I was thrilled. I was also really nervous--I was about to put myself out there and race with all those people who donated watching. What if I didn't make it? What if, what if...what if? All of this thinking and then my focus was abruptly shifted.
On my way to work at about 7.35 in the morning Monday July 21st I was in a car accident. Less than half a mile from home I hit a car that had run a red light. My car was totaled. I was unharmed, admittedly very shaken, but not a bump or bruise which seems rather miraculous given the shape my car was in. So rather than relaxing and enjoying my taper I was running a little north of stressed, bike commuting daily and dealing with insurance stuff. Not the best way to spend the two weeks pre-race.
Given all of that we arrived in Boulder the Thursday pre-race with no problem. J had booked us business select on SW airlines so check in and security were a breeze. We arrived in Boulder just after 9am and spent the next few days reading and enjoying the cooler air. I did the obligatory 20-30 minute swim, bike and run just to remember how and to make sure the equipment was working properly. All systems were a go and Saturday gear drop off commenced.
Boulder was unique in that it was an Ironman with two transitions areas. I had done the Vineman half that had two transitions locations, but this was my first IM with this set up. T1 from swim to bike was at the Boulder Rez.. T2 from bike to run was at Boulder high school right downtown. Logistically it sounded like it was going to be a cluster but it was actually one of the smoothest races that I have participated in.
The race director was awesome in posting videos outlining all of the logistics of the race. I was glad to have watched them as I knew where and when and how it was all going to happen.
They were not letting cars into the start area at the Rez--only school buses that you picked up at the high school so race morning was even earlier than normal so as to have as little stress as possible pre-race. After a 3.30 am wake up (I actually got some sleep), race gear on, sweats on top, starting to eat first breakfast (oatmeal--got 2/3 of it down) with coffee and out the door by 4:15am with the rest of breakfast in my pockets to try and get it all in before race start. I hugged Jon bye and he said he would see me at mile 11 on the run--something to look forward to--and headed out with Coach Carrie to the high school.
We easily found a spot to park near special needs bag drop. I dropped my bags and we headed to get in line for the bus. A quick port o potty stop while there was no one in line and on the bus by 4.25 We had a tri-know-it-all talking to the bus driver. I told Carrie I was sorry to be rude but I was going to put my head phones on--those guys, I don't like to listen to them on a regular day let a lone 4.30 on race morning. My IM mix was blasting and got me in the proper head space. Easy ride to the Rez. Dropped off, it was cooler out there than in town, the water looked calm and still, the sun was starting to peek over the horizon and races and Sherpas were flowing over to transition.
First thing after dropping my bag and bottles near my bike was to take my trusty rocketship over to the bike tech to get the tires filled. Easy. Done. Back to my rack position, checked gearing, brakes and shifters--good to go. Loaded up the ride with fuel, filled the areo bottle with water, checked electrolytes and was done with plenty of time to spare.
The rest of my pre-race was spent getting away from other people, calming my nerves and trying to get more carbs and fluids down before getting in the water. Around 6 I wiggled into my wetsuit (short sleeve), gave my morning bag to Carrie, hugged her and went to line up for the rolling swim start. This was my first IM where swim safety measures were in place. We were self seeding behind projected finish times for the swim. Also they said there were floating rafts and lots of kayaks where swimmers who were needing it could rest without penalty. I was hoping for a smoother start than my last three IMs and hoping for a much smoother start than the half IM I had done in Boulder in June. I swam out way too fast for the high altitude and spent several minutes trying to catch my breath before proceeding.
The cannon went off at 6.20 for the pro men to start. Then another for the ladies a few minutes later. Then it was our turn. We were slowly shuffling forward towards the inflatable arch that made up the swim start line. Someone said wave at the camera because it was on IM live .com everyone waved and hooted. I kicked off my 1$ flip flops as we crossed the timing mat and tossed my water bottle in to the pile that had accumulated at the start line and waded in the water. Here we go...
There were over 2500 people racing, but this was the easiest swim start I have experienced in a long time. and WAY better than the 70.3. I just started my watch, put my head down and started swimming. I try and stay focused on the task at hand...it is after all 2.4 miles of swimming so the mind does wander some. I counted strokes and breaths and buoys and got to the first turn. This was the shortest leg of the swim, but I was thrilled to be making progress without much contact from other swimmers. Most of the contact was when sighting...the person drafting off me would run into me then move on. After the first turn I found some clear water on the inside of the buoy line. Had a little pep talk with my self about half way...that actually would become a theme in my day "just keep swimming" was my mantra. Swam without incident the second turn and was on the final stretch of water. This TAKES SO LONG! you can see the arch on the shore...you can begin to hear the music fading in and out as you take a breath. You can feel the other around you trying to surge ahead then pulling back when they realize it's a lot farther than it looks. But I was making progress and swam until my hand touched the bottom of the Rez. I heard a volunteer say 'way to swim it in' I smiled and looked at my watch. I was pleased with the 1:26 I saw on there--trust me it always feels like you are swimming through molasses. I said 'oh hell yeah!' and was thrilled to be off to a good start. I ran over to the wet suit strippers and actually found volunteers I knew!! Thanks ladies :) and was off to T1 where I ran into Dina!
2.4 mile swim: 1 hour 26 minutes 34 seconds
I dumped my stuff on the ground. Dina shoved my wetsuit, cap and goggles in the bag, asked me if i needed any help. I was good so she was off to help others. Did a quick dry of the feet, socks, bike shoes, chamois butter, helmet, shades on and out the door. Hit up the sunscreen ladies and jogged over to the bike
T1: 6 minutes 49 seconds
And we were off on the bike. I jogged it up the hill to the mount line and a little beyond and I was riding. I'm always thrilled to get on the bike. We are friends, me and my bike so I knew we would have a good day together. I saw some friends cheering...always a thrill to hear your name. Left out of the Rez and it was time to take stock, see how I was feeling and start hitting up the hydration and nutrition strategy ASAP. Water first and the plan was start nutrition at the first watch beep (15 minutes in). This would turn out to be a great strategy. I knew I needed to do something more than I had on the half in June where I finished dizzy and dehydrated. The morning was cool and sunny and I was taking it easy on the front half of the course because I knew I would be tired and there would be some challenging sections on the back half of the course.
Saw Scott a couple times here and there at the beginning of the course! Yeah! and was keeping an eye out for others that I knew too. Though about 10 miles in I started to have the feeling that my rear wheel was slowly flatting. Hmm...I kept riding through to the first aid station....WEEEEE down the hill to a tight turn then through the aid station then oh crap the HUGE up hill that was so much fun coming down. Ah well. I was passing people on the hill so I figured I was not flatting and I WAS actually experiencing the 'false flats' that were all over the course. Spots on the road that look like they are flat, but are actually ever so slightly up hill that make you think you have a flat/are riding into a headwind/are tired and bonking. After that thought I just settled in for a long ride. The day was starting to heat up and I was glad to have trained in the Texas heat all summer. It got me through a lot stronger on the back half of the course. Thanks for that TX.
I focused HARD on hydration and nutrition the whole bike. I was religious about drinking my whole 22oz aero bottle every 15 miles (this was not the best when there was one aid station farther than 15 miles!) and taking in several ounces of carbo-pro every 15 minutes. I was really glad I was only relying on liquid calories. I know that I'm terrible getting solid food in on the bike (can't breathe) so I made sure to have plenty in my bottles. At one point the bottle was hot, nutrition hot, plastic tasting and I was pretty sure I swallowed a bit of mold that had been in the bottle...but I KEPT TAKING IT IN. This totally saved my ass. I did try and look around on occasion to see the mountains, farms etc. I also remember at one point, again on one of those false flat sections I said out loud 'just keep peddling' as some guy was passing me. He must not have heard me or he was having his own internal dialogue, but he said nothing.
Saw Bekah near mile 100 ish. She gave me a great tip (having been out in Boulder for a month she had ridden the course a bunch) of down shifting before hitting the three sisters/bitches climb. Spin, spin, spin it up the hills. It was HOT by this point, but it's not quite Texas heat so I was feeling tired but pretty good. I kept waiting for that fuzzy/incoherent point in the bike, but that didn't really come. I was thrilled when we started making the turns in and around the Boulder downtown. I was going to survive this bike on schedule--I had dreamed of a 6 hour bike. But on the back half of the course I knew I needed to be conservative in order to have something left for the end. Finally rolled up to the dismount line near the high school and began alternately jogging and walking with my bike. What I really remember was 'when can I take this damn helmet off.' We ran what seemed like half a mile until we got into the track of the high school.
112 mile bike: 6 hours 31 minutes 15 seconds
Got to see the wives of Chuck, Scott and Tim in the stands in the track 'HI Ladies!!' I asked if any of the boys were in yet and they said not yet. I smiled and waved and was off to grab my bag.
Quick change of shoes and hat and was off onto the run. The run was called the 'flux capacitor' basically 2 x 13 mile Y shaped loops all along the boulder creek and on the creek path. As soon as I got out on the run I was very excited to see so many people. Lots of folks cheering. Turned right and just plodded along. I felt actually pretty good. I was glad to be out of the aero position--my neck and back were pleased to be in a different position. Legs were tired but not fried--I was happy I held back a bit on the bike. My nutrition strategy was a gel every 30 minutes, sports drink at every other aid station (there was one every mile) and a salt tab every hour. Then it was 'just keep running.' Every step getting closer to completing the 26.2.
It was a hot day out there and I was glad that there was a good portion of the run in the shade. The parts that were not shaded were very, very hot and it seemed like these portions were also the hilly portions. But flat courses can be boring and my legs seemed happy for a change of pace. I'm not gunna lie...this was a tough run. A huge amount of mental toughness was on display out there and I had to repeat 'just keep running' many times over those miles. Keeping my head in the game and sticking to my nutrition plan were the steps that saved me.
Saw Jon at mile 11! yeah! It was what I had been looking forward to all day. He was smiling! and asked if i was sticking to my nutrition...yes!...okay he said...see you in a mile. Off to run through to 13. Quick out and back and saw him again. Keep going on the nutrition he said and I'll see you at the finish. Okay one lap down one to go.
I reached for my salt tabs and realized they were gone. Crap! Of all days...i needed them today. I knew I wouldn't find them so I started looking to see if I could find any on the ground. Not a mile when by until I found some! A little baggie with the same looking salt tabs that I take. SCORE! I knew someone would have picked mine up so karma right?! If you haven't figured it out by now, at times Ironman calls for doing things you wouldn't normally do in daily life like pick up and ingest random pills in zip lock baggies.
I saw some friends having fun and I also saw some friends struggling. I saw a LOT of grit and determination. I saw some crazy signs (chuck noris never did and ironman. ironwomen are sexier than ironmen), I saw athletes sitting in Boulder creek, I saw ladies in matching outfits walking together, I saw a man pushing another in a large running stroller, I saw a fireman in full fire gear--helmet and all, I saw an athlete amputee, I saw the first place female running a killer race and I saw the little kids cheering who would be out there some day too. I saw lots of Austin folks out there cheering (thank you!) I saw my name in chalk under the bridge on 6th street (appropriate) I saw a large group of gutter punks/hippies on the grass. It was quite the event. And then I eventually say mile 20, then 22, then 24. JUST KEEP RUNNING.
At 26ish we turned off the main path and back up onto the streets of Boulder. I heard a HUGE cheer from Joey and gang as I started down the (what seemed like a mile long) finishers shoot. I had a giant smile on my face and was looking around at all of the spectators. I heard all of the cheering and I was looking around to see who they were cheering for--and it was just me. They were just as excited as I was to be finishing!! Then I heard Mike over the loud speaker...'from Austin Texas, Jess Kolko, YOU are an Ironman' Woot! #4 in the books.
26.2 mile run: 4 hours 55 minutes 21 seconds
140.6 mile total time: 13 hours 6 minutes 2 seconds
(clock above shows 13.15.51 race time which means i started 9 minutes after the fastest swimmers got in the water)
Stats: 790/2788 overall
34/136 age group
It was a tough day. But I felt both physically stronger and mentally more tough through this race thanks to my work at Atomic Athlete. I arrived at the starting line much stronger than I have ever been and completely injury free. I could not have done that without Carrie Barrett at FOMO training, Jake, Kara, Brandon and the whole crew at Atomic Athlete, the magical fingers at Austin Body Worker, and last but not least the amazing PT Jessica Tranchina from Primo Rehab who kept me on the up and up.
Finally I have to thank Jon for putting up with yet another cycle of training for and racing Ironman. His support is unwavering and so very much appreciated. And bear I'm sorry for everything I said during my taper. I love you!