Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rocky Mountain Triathlon: The Highest Tri In The World

I arrived in Colorado on Tuesday evening. Sherrie picked me up from the airport and drove us up to her parents' cabin in Silverthorne, Colorado. I have more or less become an adopted grandson to Francine and Tom. I can't remember the last time I had this many consecutive home-cooked meals prepared for me.

Anyways, on my first morning in Silverthorne, elevation 8730 feet, Sherrie and I took advantage of a pond a few blocks from the cabin that allows swimming. It is about 250 meters long, so it's perfect for some high-altitude open water practice. And boy oh boy does that altitude make me suck wind.

Anyways, we did an easy 1000 meters in the cold waters of North Pond. As I was leaving the water, I walked by a woman who was headed towards the water wearing a wetsuit. She asked me if I was practicing for the race this weekend. And I said, "What race?" She replied that there was a triathlon in this very pond on Sunday. Sprint and Olympic distance.
I'm listening...go on.
I mentioned it to Sherrie and she sounded excited. Upon returning home, I checked the website only to find out that online registration had closed the night before. I emailed the race director and got a SCARY fast response indicating there would be registration at packet pickup and on race morning. Seriously, she responded in under a minute. And so we planned to sign up for the sprint distance that Saturday at packet pickup. It would be a good chance to do a final run through and iron-out of our transitions and systems. One final short, hard effort before Ironman Boulder seemed like a great idea.

And to think if I had come out of the water 5 minutes earlier or later, I wouldn't have even KNOWN about this race. And that would have been a shame.

After signing up on Saturday, we woke up early Sunday morning, ate breakfast, packed our bags, and hopped on our bikes for the 2 minute ride from Sherrie's parents' house to the race site. Seriously...most convenient triathlon EVER. We set up our transitions and mingled with a few other racers. This was seriously the smallest triathlon I've ever entered, as there ended up being only 125 finishers for the sprint distance. This made me wonder if I might have a shot at an age group award. It would just depend on whether or not any fast folks my age showed up.
Sherrie and I ready to rock!
For once, my swim wave was the first to start. I had decided, despite the altitude, to go out hard and try and stay with the race leaders if possible. Why the hell not, right? Before the race, they announced that the singer they had lined up to do the national anthem had come down with laryngitis and were asking for a volunteer to do it instead. I ALMOST raised my hand, but another girl beat me to it and went up there. She completely owned it, much better than I could have. Hell, I'd have probably forgotten the damn words or something. In any case, I just love little races because stuff like this NEVER happens at big races.

BAM! The swim started! I charged out and swam hard. It was only 400 meters, so even if I got winded, I could suffer through. 50 meters in, I was in the front group of 5, and then I decided to inhale some water instead of air.

Cough. Cough. Sputter. Wheeze. Cough. Cough.
(repeat for the next 2 minutes)

I was dead in the water. I was sidestroking and moving at least, but the lead group was long gone. What's more, I was so out of breath and wheezing from the coughing fit that I couldn't put my face back in the water for more than a stroke or two. I made the turn and continued swimming crappily and gasping for air. Final turn back to shore and I was starting to recover just a bit. Finally was able to swim freestyle for the last 50-100 meters, but the damage was done. The lead group was likely on their bikes by now.

Oh well, it was a nice thought. Swim time was 9:22.

I came out of the water and booked it into transition. Not my most graceful transition ever, but I got the job done in just over 2 minutes. While in transition, I was still wheezing quite a bit from the water down the wrong pipe and from the intense effort. For good reason, a medical volunteer came over and asked if I was ok while I was getting ready to ride. I told him about what happened in my swim and that I was fine. I really was and I could feel my airways getting rapidly better. Apparently this dude didn't believe me because he stood about 5 feet away from me for the remainder of my transition, just staring at me. Like he thought I didn't know my own damned lungs and would surely collapse and expire if nobody was around to assist. I am thankful for the was just amusing.

Once I settled the debate of gloves vs no gloves(ended up going without because I kept fumbling trying to get them on my damn hands) I grabbed my bike and exited transition.

I hit the road and immediately accelerated to...woah...28 mph! Ok! Actually, the bike was out and back, downhill on the out and uphill into the wind on the back. So yeah, my first 6 miles were gonna be speedy. On the way out, I passed one guy and got passed by another, neither in my age group. Sweet! As I approached the turnaround, I'd have an opportunity to see how many guys were ahead of me. I counted 4 or 5 before I headed back uphill. On the return journey, I slowed down but was still moving pretty well. I got passed by 6 or 7 riders, but none were in my age group. So I estimated that overall, there were maybe 11 or 12 people in front of me by the time I rolled back into transition. My 12 mile bike split was 32:37, averaging 22.1 mph! My T2 time was 1:30, which is pretty awful for a sprint tri, but I didn't have my quick laces on my shoes and fumbled greatly tying them.

I kicked out hard on the run, and was crushing a sub-8:00 pace for the first quarter mile until the altitude reared it's head and got me breathing way too hard again. Additionally, the run course trended uphill for the first half, so I slowed quite a bit. I was absolutely sure that I'd get passed at some point in the run and I kept checking my six to see if anybody was gaining. Coast was clear for the time being. My first mile clocked in just over 8:00. I made the turnaround and got a good look at who was chasing me. I had a decent gap between myself and the next racer, though I wasn't able to see his age on his calf. Just to be safe, I pushed a little harder into the downhill section to maintain that gap. After a while he didn't seem to be gaining any ground. Mile 2 was just at 8:00. At some point, a spectator informed me that I was in 13th place. Seeing as how 6 or 7 of them were definitely not in my age group, I started to wonder if I might end up placing after all. The final mile opened up into a straightaway alongside the road and I could see the guy behind me. He was within striking distance, but I wasn't slowing. I charged in, finishing Mile 3 in 7:30 and finishing the 5K run in 23:22, an average of 7:32 min/mile.

DAMN I was breathing hard, but DAMN it had felt good! Sherrie's mom in law, Francine, was at the finish line and captured my post-race face. There were event photographers, but I have yet to see anything posted from them.
This man needs his inhaler, please and thank you!
Sherrie did awesome! She would've placed in her AG, except she flatted on the bike.

Final time was 1:08:49. Not too shabby! Sherrie and I stuck around to see if I'd get any awards, and to drink some free Sam Adams summer brew that they had on tap. I talked with some other racers who were waiting around for awards and met a nice guy named Derek who is also racing Boulder on Sunday.

Finally they announced the winners. Overall winners had come in around 1:01, which is ridiculous. They finally got around to my age group and wouldn't you know it, I won the damned thing!
There's a first time for everything.

Can you believe this shit?!?!?

To be fair, one of the overall winners was in my age group, but I guess they decided that they would get overall awards and then the NEXT person would get age group awards. That was me. So technically, I was 2nd in my age group. Still happy!
Two Buck Chuck w/ a custom label. 
Super happy with how I raced. Super satisfied with my physical state of being and the training I've put in for Ironman Boulder. I've been mostly just relaxing this week with the exception of a quick swim today, and yesterday we went whitewater rafting, which as it turns out is kinda sorta maybe just a little bit fun.
Ghost-face Loental crushes some Class V rapids.
Tomorrow we head to Boulder for the final leg of my Colorado journey. We'll pick up our race packets and swap our wheels out for some Zipps we rented for the race. After all, Isabella can't go to the ball without some pretty shoes. I also anticipate a quick spin Thursday or Friday and possibly a run on the Boulder Creek path where the run will be held.

I'm not sure if I'll have wi-fi at our hotel. If I do, I anticipate a final pre-Ironman blog entry to happen Friday or Saturday night. Just in case I don't have wi-fi, or if I just get lazy, I'll now give you the low down for what I expect to happen on Sunday. It's basically the same splits I needed to get my sub-12 that didn't happen at Ironman Florida in 2012.

Swim: 1:10 or less
Bike: 6:00 or less
Run: 4:30 or less

With a liberal 20 minutes budgeted for transition, that's a sub-12. The swim should be right on the money for my goal, possibly less. Boulder Reservoir should be wetsuit legal and calm. The bike is more of a question mark. Currently, the weather is forecasting clear skies, light winds, and a high of 81 degrees and negligible humidity. That's basically perfect race weather. So having had almost 2 weeks to adapt to the altitude, really the story will end up being told by my legs. The bike course has rolling hills, but should be pretty fast, especially since they rerouted the course to avoid some road repairs from last year's mudslides...which conveniently removed the largest climb on the course.

And of course...the run. If I don't torch my legs achieving my bike goals, the run goal really really should happen. If I can run 20 miles at WyCo and average 10:30, maybe just maybe I can eke out a similar pace on pavement after a whole bunch of swimming and biking.

In any case, I'm super excited for this race. I'm keen to hit my goals, but I'm more jones-ing to simply race well and have a damned good time! I have daydreams about coming off the bike well hydrated and well nourished and just blasting out onto the run with a smile on my face and a comfortable pace, high-fiving everybody I pass and just enjoying the shit out of the whole freaking thing!

That, my all I've got to say. This will be Ironman #3 for me. T-minus 3 days!

Bib #1560, killing bears every way, every day!


My brother Chris caught the Ironman bug again. He has signed up for Ironman Canada 2015 in Whistler, BC. Wouldn't you know it, he went and convinced me to sign up as well! So Ironman #4 will commence in T-minus 359 days. Mark your calendars. I may need Matty Mullins to make me another race poster because this is gonna be an epic throwdown for one of the bigger Loental World Records, and of course to decide which of us our dear mother should love more.

THAT is all.



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