Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lessons Learned from Boise

It seems the more things that go wrong in a race the more you learn about what to do or not to do for next time.  Given that definition Boise was a HUGE learning curve for me.  So I thought I'd share some of my little snippets of wisdom.  I'm sure a lot of you have already learned these lessons for yourself:

Don't get Sick
OK....yes, I know this is obvious but next time I will make sure to really be super careful in the lead up to a race to keep myself healthy.

Race Nutrition
I know everyone talks about this being the 4th discpiline along with swim/bike/run but I'm not just talking about race day nutrition.I'm talking about what you put in your mouth (or what you don't in my case) in the week leading up to the race.

Have Access to a Kitchen and a supermarket
My hotel had no kitchen so I couldn't prepare any of my own meals, and because I couldn't find anything I wanted to eat I went without.  This leads back up to the previous point about race week nutrition. If possible try and book a hotel with a kitchen or food prep facilities and make sure you can either drive or walk to a supermarket.  711s just don't seem to cut it.

Give yourself some head space
I booked a hotel room for myself but plenty of other people were sharing their rooms with up to 4 other people.  Come the day before the race when tension and nervous energy levels were high it was really nice for me to be able to escape and relax and have some time to myself.

Chill out in the week leading up to the race
This runs along similar lines as the point above, but I made the mistake of filling up the week before my race with a thousand errands that had me running all over the place.  Next time I will try and tie up as many loose ends as possible before race week so I can relax a bit and not feel exhausted going into the race.

Give yourself plenty of time to get situated for an out-of-town race.
I know people who got into Boise the afternoon before the race.  As soon as they arrived they had a very stressful few hours making sure they got to registration, the athlete briefing and getting their bike into transition before the cut off. Make sure and give yourself 2 days to do all this.  If your race is on Saturday get there on Thursday.  If you are racing on Sunday get in no later than Friday.  This may sound like a lot of time to sit around before the race but I saw so many people really have a stressful time because they got into town so late.

Check in early
If you can manage to get into town early go ahead and go through race check in as soon as registration opens.  I did and then went to the first athlete meeting, so I got it all done on Thursday and spent Friday relaxing.  some of my friends skipped the athlete briefing because they had left in so late to check in and they ran out of time.

Premedicate with Immodium to aviod GI problems.
 For someone with GI issues on the run, Immodium can be a race ( and dignity) saver. Nuff said!

Don't try and put on compression in transition
I don't know about you but I find it super difficult to get my compression socks on at the best of times but during transition when you are trying to be as fast as possible is definitely NOT the right time.  If you can wear compression under your wetsuit ( like calf sleeves for example) do that but don't try and wrestle with it in transition.  I wasted 10 mins in T1 trying to get my stupid socks on and then went without them.

Go sockless on the bike
After not being able to get my socks on in T1 I went without and it worked so well that I won't be wearing socks on the bike at all during a race anymore.

Use shoes with speedlaces
This is similar to going sockless on the bike.  When your fingers don't work doing up shoelaces is impossible.  Wearing speedlaces eliminates the problem and is much quicker anyway.

Pre-roll socks and armwarmers
Pre rolling your socks and arm warmers makes it much easier to get them on especially when you are wet.

Stuff to add to my packing list
I hadn't anticipated the severity of the weather conditions on race day and as I was huddled under a tree trying to get out of the wind and rain I was making a mental note to include the following things on my list for future races:
1 - Hand and foot warmers:  These would have helped keep my hands and feet warm while I was waiting to start and I could have put these in my bike shoes so they would have been warm coming out of the swim.
2 - A rain poncho with a hood:  I had a plastic bag over me but it was next to useless in keeping me dry.  Once my clothes got wet I just couldn't warm up again.
3 - Sharpie: we had to put stickers with our race numbers onto our gear bags but the rain made all the stickers fall off so when it came time to pick up the bags at the end of the race their was a bit of confusion about who owned what bag.  Next time I'll use a sharpie to mark my gear bags with my race number in addition to the stickers - just in case.
4 - Tape:  there were a couple of times when having some tape would have been really helpful. Bright colored tape would have made it easier to identify my gear bags and it also would have come in handy to keep some flat repair stuff on  my bike.  It fell off somewhere along the way and I lost it.

Do a transition walkthrough
When I went to rack my bike before the race I did a walk through of transition from the swim exit all the way up to my bike. I found some landmarks near my bike that made it easier to find it on race day.

Practice leaving bike shoes on the pedals.
This would have been really helpful if I could have done this coming into T2.  My rack spot was near the run out so I had to run all the way through bike transition with my bike shoes on.  It would have been much quicker to have my feet out of my bike shoes and be able to run through transition in bare feet.

....and my last gem....

Check race logistics
In future BEFORE I sign up for races I will be checking the logisitics of the race.  Boise was a difficult one because the race was point to point and started way out of town.  I don't think I would do one like that again.  Its much easier if all transitions are in the same area and the race itself is in a centrally located place. The swim location in Boise was way out of town, so if you forgot something there was no going back and dropping off and picking up gear bags etc was complicated.

Anyone else have some tips that they can share?

Thursday, June 14, 2012


This is what happens when it's your birthday and your little brothers are put in charge of decorating.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Boise 70.3 or thereabouts - The Race

I woke up on race morning to rain and wind. Not exactly perfect race conditions but that's life. I dropped my run bag off at T2 which was conveniently just outside the front door of my hotel and then headed off to catch the shuttle up to Lucky Peak Reservoir. The race start was 12 noon but the shuttles left downtown Boise at 9:15am and 10:00am. I got stuck with the early shuttle and so by the time I got to the swim start it was only 9:35am. I still had nearly 2 and a half hours to wait for the race start.

And that's when things started to go downhill.

The rain picked up.

Then the wind

The air temp dropped below 40F

The water temp went from 59F down to 56F

Wind chill was in the  low 30s

And there was no where for athletes to get out of the weather. No tents, or cover to get out of the wind and rain. We were all huddling in pods like penguins trying to keep warm. People were shaking uncontrollably from the cold. We all got our wetsuits on 2 hours early because the clothes we were wearing were soaked through and freezing. At this point I should have been drinking and taking in my nutrition but I was so focused on keeping warm I forgot.  This would come back to haunt me on the swim and add another chapter to the "What NOT to do Before a Race" files

...and then people started to drop out of the race. Hypothermia was a serious concern and the wind was so bad that we had heard there were gusts between 30mph- 50mph out on the bike course.

The race officials made the call to cut the bike course short out of concern for athlete safety. Lots of people were unhappy but really how can you argue when the conditions were so bad and there is no doubt that there would have been a load of accidents out on such a windy slick course.

After they made the announcement more people started to drop out. By the time the race started one quarter of the pro field had pulled out of the race. But I decided to just go for it and see what happens and headed down to the swim start.

This is where I got THE best surprise of the day. My friends, the Sidles and my husband Matt had flown all the way down from Spokane to cheer me on. They totally surprised me. I had NO idea they were coming. Such a great boost before I had to get in that freezing water (Michelle contributed most of the amazing photos for this blog post - It was so nice to have these so I can look back and remember the day - thanks Michelle)

I got in the water with my swim wave. The water wasn't too cold but I think that is because I couldn't feel my hands and feet. Once we got started I found it really hard to get in a groove. To give you the short version of the was tough. Really tough.

There were people holding onto kayaks everywhere. There was wind and rain and chop on the water. When I turned my head to breathe I would get slapped in the face with a wave and swallow water. My left calf cramped up all the way to the first turn buoy.  Then my right one ...I knew that lack of nutrition would come back to haunt me. Then there were the panicy swimmers and I got swum over and pushed under by a couple of them and when I popped back up I had to flip onto my back to get my breath back. All I could think of was just making it out of the water. Finally the last buoy came into site and we were all funnelled into the small exit which seemed to be full of panicy swimmers. I've never been so glad to be finished with the swim.

I stumbled up the ramp and out of the water and I just couldn't make my legs move I had to settle for a walk instead of a run. I got up to the wetsuit strippers but they whipped that baby off me in half a second.

And that's when the cold really hit me. In retrospect I should have done what a lot of people around me were doing. They put on their helmets and cycling shoes and took off riding with their wetsuits still on. really was that cold.  But instead I tried to put on my socks and my gloves but my fingers just wouldn't work.  I spent nearly 15 mins in T1...crazy!  Finally I just ditched all my gear except my jacket, helmet and shoes and went sockless on the bike.  On the way out of transition I saw Matt and Michelle and I had to get them to take my swimming ear plugs out of my ears because I couldn't do it myself.  Michelle told me later I was slurring my words and weaving all over the place like I was drunk.  I didn't realize it at the time but all signs of hypothermia.

Anyway, on to the bike.  The course had been shortened for safety reasons so now we just had a straight shot right into downtown Boise. Because I couldn't feel my hands, changing gears and braking provided a unique and terrifying challenge, but somehow I managed to make it without crashing or taking anyone else out.

(This photo makes me looks like I was scared out of my mind.  I think I was actually just squinting to keep all the rain and tire spray out of my eyes.  I tried to wear my sunglasses but they were getting all wet and fogged up and I couldn't see out of them)

When I hit T2 the wind was starting to die down and the rain had stopped. My bike to run transition was another comedic performance.  I spent at least 5 mins trying to tie my shoelaces with fingers that still wouldn't work and I had to use my teeth to unclip my bike helmet.  Somehow I managed to make it out of transition and onto the run.  It took a good 3 miles before I could feel my feet again and then there were all these weird pains in my feet as they thawed out that felt a lot like there was a rock in my shoe.  I also had to stop about 3 or 4 more times to attempt to retie my shoelaces.  Honestly I had to just laugh at this point.

Once I had started to defrost I caught up to my friend and Team Blaze founder Tristin.  Her husband Scott our coach had passed away only a little over a month ago and she was racing in his memory with his bib number.  To tell you how gritty and inspirational she was to be out there at all but especially given the challenging conditions is an understatement.

I was so glad to have caught her on the run and so we decided to run together for the remainder of the half marathon. When we were coming around the last corner on the course we could hear the crowd and it was amazing to run down that last half mile in front of family friends and team blaze supporters, thinking about our coach and knowing how proud he would be to see us all out there doing what he taught us to do.  Racing, cheering and supporting one another.

{Thanks to Kyle and Lee French for this great pic of us just before we crossed the finish line}

So the bottom line.  It wasn't the perfect race by any means, it wasn't even a full 70.3 but it was a great race and one I think we will all be talking about for a very long time.

Thanks to all my great family and friends for all of your support and encouragement during the long hours of training. IMAZ here we come :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Boise 70.3 or thereabouts - Pre-Race


I feel like I could write a book after my experience in Boise. Lucky for you I will only write a few blog posts about it instead.

The lead up to the race was less than ideal. In fact I think looking back now my pre-race week was a lesson in what NOT to do.

I had come down with bronchitis on the Sunday before the race. My doctor put me an anitbiotics just in case it was bacterial but she was sure it was viral in which case I would just have to wait it out. She told me not to race but after months of training the thought of not racing was a real stink.

Each day when I woke up I felt worse than the day before and by Wednesday I was worried that I wouldn't be able to race at all. I was due to fly out to Boise on Thursday morning and because my flight was non refundable I decided to just go and make the final call on Friday.

{Welcome to Boise}

Thursday I got to the hotel and just felt horrible. I checked into my hotel (The Grove is awesome and right at the finish line) and just went straight to bed and I slept until it was time to get up and go to registration.

Registration was fun...lots of energy and excitement. At the Athlete's briefing race officials said they were expecting water temps close to 64F which was a big relief considering last year it as 52F.


By Friday morning my tri team friends starting arriving in town and at last I began feeling better. It still felt like I was breathing through a straw but I decided that I would toe the line come race morning and hope for the best. I knew it wouldn't be the race I was hoping for but finishing became my only race goal.

{Some very serious pre race strategy talk going on here}

On Friday afternoon we headed up to Lucky Peak Reservoir where the swim and T1 would be to rack our bikes and scope out the swim course.


{ A little windy and cold but not too bad}

After a team dinner ( there were 38 team members doing Boise).....

......I headed back to my room to pack my race bags and get a good nights sleep.


Phew....who knew a PRE race report could be this long. Next post a real race report. I promise :-)