“After the llamas, after the goats, take a right turn…. Oh wait. It’s the other way… A LEFT past the horses, THEN the goats.”
These are directions I received for my first bike ride into downtown Boise from my cousin’s home. As a ranch girl, I was instantly in love with this quintessentially Western town nestled in Idaho’s foothills.
In describing the weather here, however, my cousin said, “In Idaho, if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” And I knew from my sister, who recently raced the Exergy Tour, that the weather was bound to change. And change it certainly did. Arrival weather: warm, big puffy clouds, giant blue sky. Race day forecast: wet, cold, windy. This pretty much sums it up:
But, armed with my new Shiv, dubbed a “Super Hero Bike” by my cousin’s 4 year old daughter, I was excited for the race. Bring on the wind!
I heard rumors that the swim may be canceled due to the cold and stormy conditions, but also heard that they “NEVER cancel the swim in Boise.” It was a “wait and see” kind of outcome.
The cold, crisp air greeted me like a slap across the face when I poked my head out the door on race day morning. I was heading out for a pre-race ride and quickly retreated to put on more clothes. Two jackets, gloves, leg warmers: hardly my anticipated “summer” cycling attire. I guess this is Idaho.
The ride that was supposed to serve as a “warm up” only prepared me for what was to come: a long, cold, wet day. After flatting mid-ride and having to be rescued, my relaxing pre-race morning was spent fixing the flat, shivering in the shower trying to warm up and then racing to the start line.
The weather was progressively getting worse as we got closer to race time.
Shortly before the race, we heard the news: much to my surprise, the BIKE would be cut short because of the cold and wind, essentially canceled. The swim was on as scheduled, despite the frigid water and air, and the bike segment reduced to a mere 15 mile ride into downtown Boise to start the run. Disappointing, to say the least. But, as it is in racing: things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes, you just have to roll with it.
It was the kind of scenario, though, that left me for a moment rethinking my life plans that had oh so intelligently led me to line up with almost 2,000 other shivering athletes and dive into a 50-something degree, white-capped lake on a perfectly good movie-watching, couch snuggling, rainy Saturday.
I was more thankful than ever for my BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit. My feet were numb, my body tense, my “warm up” as much trying to stay warm as getting ready to race. I huddled together with the other girls on the start line, quickly forming that camaraderie that only comes with shared misery. We laughed, we clumped together like penguins, we danced, and then we – begrudgingly – got in the water. This video clip is sort of like our pre-swim huddle (though luckily not nearly as cold):
I am relatively used to cold water from swimming in the Pacific Ocean with Coach Gerry Rodrigues at Tower 26, but coupled with the air temperature, this was a new level of pain, the kind that sticks with you the day after. My hands lost feeling, and my face stung from the cold.
When the gun went off, I was controlled, paced. I surprised myself by feeling pretty good! Like Gerry emphasizes, I was comfortable being (very) uncomfortable!
Then, the waves started tossing my body around; I got hit in the face a few times by flailing arms, swallowed about 1/3 of the lake water (at least it’s clean Idaho water) and had two distinct “panic” moments, both of which left me wanting to quit. “This is not safe!” …. “I can’t breathe,” as my chest constricted around my heart. I went vertical in the water, hyperventilated for a second, then focused, “Relax, Jen. Absorb the pain, be empowered, keep moving!” After all, if everyone else was still swimming, I could too. (I seriously wonder how many of us were bolstered by that same thought…Crazy triathletes).
Narrowly escaping my “All Done!” moments, I realized I was right in the mix – at halfway, comfortable with the pack I wanted to swim with! While the times don’t reflect it, I would consider this my best swim yet. Progress.
We dragged ourselves out of the ice bath, my fingers so cold I couldn’t buckle my helmet or put on my race belt. My feet felt like stubs. So. Cold.
My shiny Shiv was ready to race, and I was reeeally wishing we had all 56 miles to play on our first race together. But we would have to settle this time for the 15-mile jaunt into downtown Boise. The Di2 shifting was perfect and quite manageable for my frozen hands, and the bike itself felt like it was slicing the air. So. Much. Fun. (the latter part, not the frozen hands part).
Essentially disarmed of my weapon, I still put up a solid bike split (2nd fastest). Unfortunately, there just wasn’t time to do much on the bike in such a short distance, and the “no pass zone” added a few precious seconds. Oh well… On to the run.
“I can’t feel my feet!”
The race announcer, Dave Ragsdale, assures me, “Don’t worry, they’re still there!”
I missed my transition spot, lost my cycling shoe and ran back for it, couldn’t get my running shoes on my numb feet, and thoroughly experienced the delirium that comes with suffering in the cold.
I didn’t feel my feet until about 5-6 miles into the race. It was fun doing the second lap with all the age groupers out there. I’m not sure if it was their added energy or the fact that I could finally feel my appendages that propelled me to the finish line with my fastest 13.1 miles of the year and in 7th place. And the best part (besides finishing): having my cousin Melody and Ben at the finish line. It made me happy. :)
The Sum Up
This was my best swim/run I’ve put together yet this year. So, I am happy for that and know I’m on the right track! Was I disappointed? Yes. I really had wanted to ride my bike, but I also respect the decisions of race coordinators to make the best choice on behalf of us all. Would I come back to Boise? Absolutely. Not only do my cousins and aunt and uncle now live here, but it really is a phenomenal town and race. And I want a crack at that bike course!
Oh yeah, and the men’s race had a dramatic photo finish with Matt Reed and Callum Millward that ended in a first-ever tie. I missed it, but it looked pretty epic from the recaps.
Congratulations to winner Jodie Swallow, my speedy purplepatch teammate Linsey Corbin on her 5th place, and everyone else out there braving these conditions! Always an honor to compete with such amazing athletes. :)
- For as frigid as I was, I can’t even imagine how cold the volunteers must have been, paddling around on the water, checking our gear bags, and doing everything they did to make this a very smoothly-run “70.3″ race. Thank you to the race organizers, coordinators and volunteers!
- Huge shout out to purplepatch’s Matt Dixon for the motivating note about being a warrior out there and guiding me with the plan that had me ready for this race. And all this while becoming a first time Dad this very weekend! Puts a whole new meaning on the Dixonism “Daddy knows best…”
- This was my first time making it up to the next pack in the swim! And I tribute it to a lot of hard work with Matt and Tower 26′s Gerry Rodrigues. Being in the mix after the swim is a whole lot better than entering a bikeless ghost town in transition… ;).
- Specialized Bikes helped make sure my Shiv was ready and FAST on race day. While I was disappointed to have not had my “weapon” to take on the full 70.3, I am excited for the Shiv’s next debut (Lifetime Fitness Philadelphia Tri).
- I seriously couldn’t have survived that 50-something degree water without my blueseventy wetsuit. What a fast (and warm) suit!
- I’m thankful for my family. What fun to spend the days surrounding the race with cousin Melody and Ben, their kids, and my aunt and uncle! Family really is awesome, and I’m glad Ironman has decided to strategically place races around the country where they live. ;)
- And, as always, a huge thanks to Tri Lab for the support and awesome race day wheelset, Rudy Project, Endurance Shield (yes, I wore sunblock – UV rays go right through the clouds), Garmin and my amazing support out there! Couldn’t do it without you!