Boulder Ironman – 3 August – 09.58.34 – 35th Overall, 5th in Age Group & Qualification for World Championships in Kona, Hawaii
2343 Participants, 338 in my Age Group (M40-44))
Boulder (Colorado, USA) is a mecca of Triathlon. It has been ranked as one of the 10 happiest cities to live which is probably based on its love of outdoor activities and culture. Most of the top long distance triathletes in the world base themselves there in order to take advantage of training at altitude amongst the Flatirons and Rocky Mountains. 300 days of sunshine a year probably helps too!
I fell in love with the place….and that was way before I had finished the race and qualified for Kona, Hawaii – the most hotly contested and prestigious Triathlon race in the World.
Billed as the largest Ironman event in the world, nearly 2500 competitors lined up for this inaugural event. The organisation was exemplary which was to be expected as Ironman has its global logistics headquarters there.
The 2.4m Swim – 01.02.34 (Pace: 1.36 per 100m)
Position: 94th, 14th in AG
Set in Boulder Reservoir, the backdrop of the Flatirons was stunning. A one lap course with rolling start based on self seeding meant that although there was some rough and tumble, you swam with people of similar speeds! My time was 8 minutes slower than my last Ironman swim in Wales which had the added benefit of salt water for buoyancy. The advantage this time was the swim felt easy and did not take much out of me.
The 112m Bike – 05.09.48 (Pace: 21.7mph)
Position: 66th, 15th in AG
Met Craig Alexander (aka ‘Crowie’), 5 x World Ironman Champion, a couple of days before the event and we talked about how he won his 2011 crown by massively improving his bike split. The backdrop being that in 2010, he was beaten into 4th place due to a slow (relative, lol!) bike leg.
Apart from a new sponsorship deal that gave him a better bike, he said the most fundamental reason for this improvement was his mindset and having the confidence to really push on the bike.
Based on believing in my training, he told me to smash the bike and let the run unfold so that’s what I did knowing the marathon run, in low 30’s heat, was going to be tough. The result was a 13 minute bike PB on a harder course – 1500m or so of ascent that was undulating / draggy. The 3 biggest hills in the last 20 of the 112 total miles meant that getting off the bike and starting the marathon was a relief. This relief was doubled with feeling lucky. I had ridden the last 30 miles on a slow puncture having decided I would risk carrying on rather than wasting time changing it. In a long race where you are constantly analysing and faced with many challenges, this turned out to be the best decision of my race.
Into one of the longest T2’s I have experienced, without socks and having left my shoes attached to the bike, I quickly realised I had made my worst mistake of the race when I started burning the soles of my feet on pavement that was scorching hot. Running like a ballet dancer into the change tent, my feet had already started blistering. It was going to be a long marathon.
The Marathon Run – 03.37.55 (Pace: 8.19 mins per mile)
Position: 35th, 5th in AG
It was coming up to 1pm by the time I started the 2 lap marathon and the heat was on. Literally. In the low 30’s, it was all about trying to keep your core body temperature down. We were fortunate that the course followed the Boulder Creek Trail as that made it seem slightly cooler than the temperature was although that, in turn, meant for a twisting run with lots of little up and downhills.
At each aid station positioned nearly every mile, it was all about survival. I soon settled into a pattern that happened 20 times. Ice down the shorts and top. Cup of water or cold sponge on head. Gel every 2nd aid station washed down with a cup of water. It kept me going although more slowly than I had trained for. Still with people getting carried off the course after overcooking the bike and with dehydration caused by the dry heat and altitude, I was doing alright.
It helped seeing my wife, little girl, and Uncle on the run several times and hearing their encouragement. The spectators on the busy sections were several deep and making lots of noise.
Going down the Shute was exhilarating. There was no-one else around so plenty of time to walk and enjoy the moment having fun high fiving the crowd. I did not care what time I had done. In fact, I didn’t even look up at the clock. The elation on finishing an Ironman is massive and I just wanted to soak up the moment, take in the noise, feel the energy of the crowd and hear Mike Reilly announce my name.
The Realisation of Qualifying for Kona, Ironman World Championships
It was not until I was sat in a pub having a beer an hour or so later when my wife said, ‘well, don’t you want to know how you have done!?’ It was only then I realised I had gone sub-10 on a hard course in tough conditions against top competition and nailed a Kona spot. The Holy Grail that sits on top of Mount Everest. The big daddy of all Triathlon races. The pinnacle of our sport. It was a fabulous beer or two!
I would like to thank everyone at the club for their support and advice since participating in my first Worcester Sprint Triathlon in 2009 which resulted in a time of 1hr 36 minutes and 50th place. I have learnt so much from you all and had a blast.