Ironman Boulder take 2

On Thursday, Steve and I arrived first to our VRBO house in Boulder. We began settling in and organizing our things only to be joined a few minutes later by two car loads of my family and friends. While most athletes try to maintain a calm and peaceful race week environment, this has never been mine or my family’s style. From the minute they walked in the door, the house was filled with the usual noise, laughter, unclear lines of personal space, and excitement.
We spent the evenings leading up to the race having overly competitive corn hole matches in the back yard, eating, talking, laughing, and enjoying eachother’s company. I, of course, took care of my pre race obligations during the day (bike check, workouts, ect) with the help of Steve, Ernie and eventually Heather and spent some time at the expo talking to sponsors and friends. My family spent the days exploring and hiking. While I wished I could be a part of their explorations, I knew it was best for me to rest in those final days and enjoy our time together in the evenings. In a way, it took stress off of me to know they were out having fun as I wanted them to enjoy their time in Colorado.
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Steve and Ernie helped me get my bike checked in and my transition bags dropped. On any given day, these two help me keep my sanity and push me to be my best. Race weekend was no different and I was thankful to have them both by my side!

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My family explored the area around Estes Park on Saturday while I dealt with bike check in and bag drop. Despite the fact that TWO of the six of them did not pack tennis shoes, I think they had a great time. Bottom right: My two biggest sponsors 😉 aka the best parents a girl could have.

 People came in and out of the house. It seemed we were joined by different friends almost every night. At any given time had about 10-15 people around. It was comforting to have people I care about with me as the day approached. Heather was the last of the #CheerSquad to arrive Saturday and it was game ON. After a stop for fro yo (for Ernie and Steve of course. This is not a part of my pre race routine!) a lot of laughing/catching up, and an hour or so of watching the Olympics with everyone, I headed to bed.
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H and I at Ripple frozen yogurt with the boys. BEST fro yo in Boulder. It took a lot of self control to not have any the night before the race. ok ok. I had a sample cup. and it just so happened to look like the poop emoji. Immaturity at it’s finest below

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Race morning had finally arrived. I woke up at 3:10 for an MBK shake out run. I walked outside to find the neighborhood did not have street lights. I could see every star in the sky as I began my run. It was very ominous but a very peaceful way to start the day. We left the house by 4:15 and made it to the high school by 4:30 where I took my time adding the last nutrition to my run bag. We hopped on the bus and headed to the rez soon after. It was totally silent, as the bus usually is when filled with anxious athletes on race morning, except for a few obnoxious people with way too much energy at 5AM in the back of the bus singing along to avicii with a strobe light head lamp.

Oh wait. That was us.

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Race morning with the #CheerSquad minus the three with their sanity that slept in past my 3:10 am wake up call

Wetsuit LEGAL! I was pumped to finally have a chance to race in my new Roka Maverick Pro.

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2015 race start

As I walked to the swim start, I reminisced on the feelings I had walking to the same start line last year. I remember how grateful I was to be there. I was grateful for my health, and very excited despite being a little scared for the opportunity and journey ahead. I had tears in my eyes as I joined my wave. I remember emptying my goggles one last time before the gun went off because they had welled inside. I remember the feelings so clearly, the last song that played before we were sent off (10 feet tall by afrojack), and the goosebumps I had before ever hitting the water. While those feelings were raw and exciting I, still, could not escape the creeping thoughts in the back of my mind asking “can I really do this?”

My feelings were very similar this year in that I was very grateful for my health and very excited, however, the places that were once filled with doubt were now filled with a small creeping sense of self inflicted pressure. I knew I could finish this distance. By this point, I had two Ironmans under my belt. But I didn’t want to just finish this; I wanted to race. I looked up one last time at the “one hour or less” sign in front of me, took a deep breath and told myself “you’ve got this.”
The gun went off and I moved towards the water with a handful of women and a crowd of men that towered above me. The start was rough, as it often is. There was a lot of contact in the beginning. I swallowed water in all of the commotion and found myself, for the first time, panicking. I paused, briefly, then focused on finding an opening. After calming down and finding a rhythm, I stumbled upon another issue. I found that the goggles I chose that morning not only had a hole in the left eye, but the rubber had completely become detached all along the bottom. This was my fault for not checking, but none the less very frustrating as I swam.
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Ernie taking go pro selfies with me half way through the swim. hilarious. Anyone catch Steve’s snap chat take over? Anyone who raced… did you swim through a sea weed jungle on this backside too? Our group chat on IG “It was like jumanji”

I attempted swimming with one eye closed, but quickly submitted to stopping every 400 yards or so to empty my goggles and re adjust. This helped temporarily and allowed me to get through the swim without extreme discomfort. I was able to stay with the same group through the swim. Towards the turn around, I began to fall off, but knew I would just have to extend a little more effort to make up for all of my stops. I found my friend Chris Blick amongst the group in front of me. I locked my eyes on his lime green watch, and hung on. I was, as always, very relieved to see the end of the swim as it approached. Even as someone who once spent 20+ hours in a pool week to week, the single hour of the Ironman swim always feels like an eternity.
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How I feel finishing the swim…

The day continued in my true style. I came out of T1 and started to put my aero helmet on backwards. Cool. A volunteer assured me no one saw but her. We laughed. I kept running. (I later told this to my dad and he was like “oh ya everyone saw that. And I got a video of it.. And sent it to everyone.” Like coooooooool thank you!!)
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*must be her first time*

I got on the bike and went to work. I started taking in water and toward the end of the first hour, a bit of a cliff bar. I couldn’t stomach the entire bar. I found myself putting pieces in my mouth only to spit them out so I put the rest in my bento box and kept moving. A few of my guy friends went past me on the bike saying hi as they did. It is always nice to see familiar faces on the course. …. Sometimes even my own.. Did I mention that my family made a 3 foot cut out of my face?
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If it looks like I was laughing… I WAS! My family was everywhere with my face cut out and cow bells and they were cracking me up.

The small loop with the steeper hills came first this year. I am still trying to decide if this was a blessing or a curse. I think it is much easier to go too hard on the hills when they’re in the beginning. When thinking about this loop at the end of the bike portion last year, I hardly even remember it. …. Like most things after mile 90 on a bike. (Block that s*it out!!!) I don’t remember questioning my effort or trying to be conservative because let’s be honest… at mile 90 you’re really just ready to be off your bike and hoping you can run a marathon… 😂🙏🏼
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The big loops came next. Most of the first lap felt good and we were fortunate to have awesome weather (re: cloud cover) for the first few hours. I felt strong on my bike and I remember being surprised with my speed despite trying to play things a little conservatively this first lap. I saw my family and friends a few times on this loop and hovered around sixth overall female. I finished my nutrition and tossed my bottles just in time to grab my special needs bag with the remaining bottles. At this point, my stomach had started to feel a little.. off. Things did not want to stay down.
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I continued on, and shortly after special needs, my inner quad cramped. It was debilitating. I stopped pedaling and slowed my breathing. I lightly massaged it and tried to let it relax and took every measure I could to not get off of my bike as I knew I was racing well and in a good position. After a few moments I was able to pedal again. I tried to take in more electrolytes as I realized the cramping was likely a sign of dehydration. By this point, the sun was out in full force and it was hot. I tried to be very mindful and attentive to the way my body feeling and adjust accordingly. I kept going, but the same debilitating cramping happened again around mile 85. Same leg. I went through similar measures to relax the muscle. I tried to calm my mind as well as this happening a second time put fear in my mind for the marathon ahead.
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This is the result of my inner quad cramping/strain on the bike. This has happened to me one other time in training. Sunday I believe I strained the muscle through pushing a race pace effort while dehydrated.

Going into T2, but I was excited to run. Despite my stomach and the residual soreness from my inner quad, I had far more in my legs this year than I did last year coming off of the bike. I realize even though my time looked the same, that this was a huge personal gain for me. I dismounted and ran to the end of the chute. As I was running with my bike, I realized I felt nauseous. I didn’t have time to dwell on this, however, because as I rounded the turn, a man to my right caught my pedal and we both went down with our bikes. I immediately apologized, unsure of what happened, and asked if he was ok. I was far more concerned with his status than I was with placing blame so for this reason, I was disappointed with his word choice to me… Especially since my bike was the one that was no longer ride-able and I was the one with blood streaming down my leg. We both got up and continued on.

The day continued to spiral downward. From mile 1, I was going back and forth between running and stepping off of the course to throw up. Something wasn’t right. I told myself, as I do in training, that this will pass and to KEEP GOING and it will get better. I did. I also knew if I wanted to keep going, though, that I needed to keep calories and fluids in. I threw out my time goal in my mind and readjusted my goal as I watched women pass. One mile at a time, I worked to get in a few more calories and a few more sips of water, but I continued to get sick along the course. At the turn around of the second arm, it felt as if the muscles around my rib cage were spasaming. I stopped by the creek to splash some cool water on my back.

I was taking shallow breaths and realized I was making very strained noises when I tried to breathe or move. I felt very scared. Tears welled in my eyes as I realized that my condition would only continue to deteriorate if I continued as I could not keep calories down. I flagged someone from the race staff over to notify them that I needed help. When the paramedics arrived, they asked me a few questions then removed my timing chip making my DNF official. As I laid on the ground feeling depleted, my heart sank. I remember asking them to not take me in front of everyone as they took me off of the course.

I cleaned myself up and spent my last evening in Boulder with my family. I was present and truly enjoyed my time with them. I felt very lucky to have them with me. As heartbroken I was for myself, I realized after some time that I started the day smiling and I eventually smiled again once the pain subsided and I was in the arms of the people who love me. One family was not as lucky. Our hearts go out to the Walters family as they lost their daughter in an accident on the Ironman bike course that day. While my race did not end in the outcome I wanted for myself, I understood that life would move on for me no matter how much the result hurt and for that, my family and I are thankful.

Disappointment is a difficult demon to fight. It can be absolutely degrading but it can also be a critical cornerstone in growth and ultimately finding success where you once did not. There is a progression though, I know, and one step cannot come before the other. So, Monday morning when I woke up and my family was gone, I let the disappointment sink in and I let it hurt. I cried a lot and when I was done, I collected myself and went to the awards ceremony. I have found the best way to heal your own sadness is to find joy in someone else’s happiness, so that is what I did.

I watched everyone accept their awards and Kona slots and was truly happy for each and every one of them. I remember feeling as though my dreams had come true when I accepted my slot last year and smiled as I knew this was the case for many of the athletes at the ceremony Monday morning.

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My friend Craig (red) at the awards ceremony securing his slot to his first ever Kona!

I have continued to move since the race. I have been swimming quite a bit, biking some, and enjoying lattes and afternoons in coffee shops while writing this. Moving, physically, helps to flush the body out after a race, but it is  important for the heart and soul as well.

I have not decided what my next goal or race will be. My goal may just be to find the best lattes anywhere I go. I seem to be good at that. For now, I am taking time to reset. I am very happy with the level my fitness is at in contrast with last year, despite the outcome of the race. I know that I have grown as a person and athlete and have gained so much since toeing this same start line last year. I rode my bike up mountain passes. I have run through canyons and vineyards. I have seen some of the coolest places and met some of the best people in pursuit of this Ironman. So I mean… Maybe it doesn’t work out. But maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure of your life. I am grateful. I am absolutely blessed, my spirit will live to see another day and I will fight another fight.

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Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this race season possible for me!!!!

I want to thank my family and for always being my support system from near or far and for traveling to Boulder to be my #CheerSquad during Ironman Boulder.

Also, thank you to…

-All of my friends from KC who may not totally understand what I do or why I do it, but love me the same and support me fully no matter what.

-My friends in Fort Collins on and outside of the CSU tri team for allowing me to train alongside them this summer.

-JT at NOCO Endurance center for the weekly Wahoo trainer sessions aka pain cave sweat fest.

-Patrick at Rock Mountain Multisport for taking care of Slice and all of my triathlon needs out here in Fort Collins.

-Epic Bike and sport for taking care of Slice and my triathlon needs in KC.

-Coach Erik at FAST masters here in Fort Collins for working with me, fixing my stroke and helping me to truly enjoy swimming once again.

-Coach Mace for extending his friendship and advice to me through my training here this summer.

-Steve and Ernie for waiting for me at the top of hills (there are a lot here) for loving peanut butter, puppies, and fro yo as much as I do, and for helping me find strength and consistency in my training this summer.

-Kristin at Betty Designs for the opportunity to be a part of an incredible team of women who support and encourage one another and for making all of my bad azz kits that I train and race in!!

-Roka for all of the support this season. A big thank you for helping me #FindFaster  (by 3 1/2 minutes!) with my Maverick Pro wet suit

-Hoka for my Clifton 2s!! The only shoes I will run in.

-Base Performance for all the salt a girl could ever dream of and one of the best cheer/aid stations I have ever seen on a course.

-Lisa and Green Events for providing an awesome weekly open water training environment, with puppies and watermelon 😉

-Everyone who tracked and followed along with my race Sunday!! I so appreciate all of your messages and words of support. I am so fortunate to be surrounded with a community of people who love this sport as much as I do!

 

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2 thoughts on “Ironman Boulder take 2

  1. Your resilience, grace and maturity of perspective are so inspiring, Rachel!! Thanks for sharing your experience. Keep on keeping on!

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