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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ironman Boulder 2014 Part 1: It's Acclimation Baby!

Well, we made it. After a 11:pm wake up call and one final assurance that the car was packed and ready for a 1,000 mile trip we left our home in San Clemente at a God forsaken hour to head out to Boulder Colorado.

I tried to use my experience with Ironman to soften the blow of the impending 15 hour drive through relation. "It's like a long Ironman triathlon". And certainly a drive like this with two kids would be a test of endurance. But why leave so early? Well, as with any endurance competition, you want to try to control everything you can and brace for what you can't. In this case, leaving at midnight would give us a few hours of "peace" while the kids slept in the backseat.

Fortunately, we arrived without incident, and the kids behaved marvelously. We are renting a very nice little house on the outskirts of Boulder overlooking the town and the mountains. In fact, I can just jump on my bike and be on the bike course. It's absolutely amazing. Since we arrived 10 days prior to race day, I would have plenty of time to get to know the course.

What seems like an extended vacation is actually a purposeful attempt to acclimate as much as possible to the mile-high altitude of Boulder. A month ago, while attending a training camp here, I experienced the effects of altitude first hand and found that the bike and run were manageable, but the swim was very difficult. In fact, I was on the verge of panicking a number of times. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of experience in the open water before race day.

After getting settled in and having a very, very good night's sleep, I woke up the next morning to do a 3.5 hour bike ride. Having been on the course the month prior, I was very excited to get back out there, and it was absolutely a gorgeous day for a ride. In fact, I was surprised to find very few athletes on the course that day. I knew a week later that would be a different story.

Empty Roads most of the day. I'm so not missing Southern California!

The house we are renting is right off of 95th St., two blocks south of 52nd, which is between miles 80-90 of the course. I chose to just jump on there and immediately brave the most challenging climb of the course on 79th St. (affectionately referred to as "The Three Bitches"). It was here that I could tell that the altitude was affecting me. Or maybe it was the sleep deprivation and 15 hour drive the previous day. Probably both. Hard to tell. But after that climb it was all descent back into town toward the race start where I then rode up the foothills on the first part of the course. Ended up doing about 60+ miles. Pretty good for a long taper ride. Here's a link to the Garmin file.

The next day I attended the organized Boulder Masters swim at the Boulder Reservoir to conquer my reignited fears. Those fears were further compounded by the idea that the race may not be wetsuit legal due to rising temperatures. Now "not wetsuit legal" is a bit misleading, since at temperatures above 76.1 degrees one can still wear a wetsuit, but not be eligible for awards or Kona slots. While I am not so optimistic to think that I may be part of that elite fraternity of athletes, I am also not one to back down from a challenge. It is an Ironman after all. So big deal? What good will a wetsuit do anyway? The answer, for me, is that it will give me the security of knowing that I won't die come race day.

You see, I sink like a rock.

Correction: I sink like a rock tied to a pile of cinder blocks. Yet despite my handicap I have spent the last year and a half training to cover 2.4 miles without any added buoyancy. However, all that non-wetsuit work was done in a pool, not the open water. All of my open water swims have been wetsuit legal. Hence the fear being compounded.

On Saturday morning at the reservoir I decided for my own sanity not to elevate my fears beyond working to get over the altitude adjustment. I donned my wetsuit and set out to swim a couple miles. Success! I ended up completing the swim without having a diva-esque panic attack in the middle of the reservoir, and I was only about 10 minutes off my Ironman Cabo pace.

The rest of the weekend was a real confidence booster for me. I ended up doing another 50 mile ride (Garmin File) with a much higher power output at a lower heart rate. I also got in a couple runs and another open water swim. The swim felt much better, and I completed 2.5 miles in just under 1:20. Not great, but for a land lubber like me, I'll take it.

The weather for this week could really be anything. It's supposed to cool off and get really stormy out here. The cool weather will be a God send. However, with thunderstorms a real possibility, it will be interesting to see what will happen come race day. What to do? Well, as with the 15 hour drive from California. The best thing to do is control the things I can, and not worry about what we can't. Regardless, August 3rd is going to be epic!

Marie and I just crossing over the Vail Pass. Already huffing and puffing.

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