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 :-)


  1. Oh wow what a tough day, my fingers were in sympathy for yours looking at them bare on the bike (I always wear gloves, can't handle cold fingers!); I think it truly awesome and inspiring that Tristin was out there too for her husband, Scott; that is really touching. Well done, onto IM training???!!

  2. You are the toughest person I know. Seriously. I am proud of you ... and dumbfounded still by the Boise "Experience."

    You will take all these lessons to IMAZ and have such a good experience there. :)

    Way to Get Er Done, Melville!!!! :)

  3. Congrats Donna, for being an amazingly tough lady for tackling that experience in such a fabulous way! Humor takes us through a lot!

  4. Seriously crying reading your post. I am so proud of you.

  5. Great job toughing it out on a seriously crazy day. When I did Boise in 2009 it was insane as well...that is just not a good weather race, it seems. You can take all that mental toughness and bank it for IM!

  6. aunty donna, you are an absolute inspiration. a little crazy, but definitely an inspiration.

  7. Congrats! That will be filed under "great race stories"!

  8. wow, what a race! i heard the stories about the crazy conditions and was eager to hear how it went for you. despite the challenges, it sounds like it was a memorable race! certainly made for good mental toughness training which will come in handy at IM!

    btw, love the pics, especially the one on the bike! and so so inspiring that your friend raced in his honor, and that you could share this experience with her.