Triathlon is a sport that causes you to make friends with early morning sunrises. Not only in training do you get up before the crack of dawn but pretty much every race is met with an alarm clock barking before the usual time. But not in Boise! Here you get to sleep in and I mean really sleep in if you like... say 9:30? I was told the reason for this is after the first year the race organizers were forced to a 12 noon start which made for a unique feature to this half Ironman distance race and it stuck. At first I thought I was going to like the later start but in the end, I'm not sure...
I must say it is nice to wake up at a normal time (7am) to have breakfast and wear shorts not sweats to the race start... but it does give you a LOT of time to wait and wait... and... wait. This seemed only to be worsened by the constant reminder by the race announcer that the water was 53 degrees and you couldn't get in the water prior to see what that was like, nor would you want to. All you had was the luxury of what seemed like hours to think about how you'd freeze into a popcicle.
So, here's how it went down
Pre Race Day: two days travel by car from San Jose, CA with a stop in Reno. Oh was that ever interesting... I was expecting something like Las Vegas and it was more like Leaving Las Vegas. I won't go into detail but the Biggest Little Town in America could use a face lift! Okay, next day we traveled to Boise via Winnamuca, through So.E Oregon and into Idaho! It was raining! sometimes hard. But making it into Boise we quickly found our hotel; the Hyatt Place and we were pleasantly surprised of it's value and amenities! It is near just about everything but not necessarily everything you'd want. Downtown, or what the locals call the Bodo, is about a 10 minute drive and has everything you'd want! When we arrived we checked in, got in our car and drove to the Boise Center quickly and smoothly registered and returned to the hotel all within 30 minutes... On our way, we stopped by REI to pick up Joy a pair of sunglasses as hers went missing in action last week. Now time for dinner we walked across the street to Macaroni Grill for some grilled salmon and pasta then walked back to our room all within 90 minutes... as you can see time was on my mind. We were in bed and ready for a good nights sleep setting the alarm for... oh wait. No need to set the alarm. We'll get up "whenever."
Up at 7:30 we strolled over to the breakfast area which was already bustling with compression sock clad triathletes eating bagels, cereal and eggs. We did our share of eating then back to the room to prep bike, get gear in respective Bike, Run and morning cloths bag, which should have been aptly named afternoon cloths bag. We jumped into the car drove back to downtown, dropped of the run bag in transition (all of 5 minutes and now with nothing else to do we plugged "Lucky Peak State Park" into the GPS and drove straight there... when we arrived Joy dropped me off at the top of the dam where I unloaded my bike and road across to the parking lot. Joy drove down below to the lower parking lot and walked up. when I rolled in it was 9:50 and it was clear the volunteers were a little flustered that athletes were already there. After getting everything set and settled at my appointed bike rack I now had a whopping 2 hours before the race to wait. I chatted with a few other athletes a couple of the pros coming in. One was wearing a brand new SKIN Strong kit and we chatted a bit about John and Chandi and their fabulous product. Next I saw Heather Jackson and wished her well remembering back when she was just an upstart age group athlete I used to train with. When Joy arrived we walked down to the dock. Here with nothing but time I decided to lay out in the sun and warm up a bit while getting in a short nap. It felt good to just lay out and relax... when I came back to consciousness there were a lot more people down at the dock and it was time to say goodbye to Joy as she wanted to get back to town before they closed the roads out. Now on my own, I check, double checked and checked again everything on my bike. Then with 30 min to go I drank a Gaterade 01 Prime Carb drink and put on my wetsuit, walked down to the staging area and realized I was still wearing my sunglasses... so I walked back put them inside my helmet where they belonged and walked back down to the water, into the crowded choral of people and waited for our chance to jump into the deep freeze.
Swim: 70.3 racing is generally a wave start by age group. Over the years I've been so fortunate (sarcasm) to be left to the penultimate or final wave. Yet, today we were going off in wave 4! only nine minutes after the first wave (pro men) start. Now given clearance to jump into the water it's a matter of get in early and get a good position and toy with hypothermia or wait till just before the gun and stay warm but be in the back. I chose the former and from one moment of sweating and overheating inside a polystyrene cacoon to the shock of getting a 55 gallon drum of slushy thrown all over you the water filled my suit and eventually warmed... kinda. There are ways for warming your suit but I won't go into those details.
The start was crowded and because it was so cold there was more movement under the water than usual so there was some unintentional kicking and hitting going on with lots of, "oh, sorry." "Excuse me!" "sorry." Soon the countdown, the horn blast and the splashing was on! And to my surprise a very smooth start with no traffic. The first point of congestion happened about 300 meters from the first turn where we started to swim through a lot of the 40-44 women who went out in the wave before us. It's a triangular, clockwise swim and with the sun way up over the horizon sighting was never a problem. The water which was pretty choppy when we arrived had calmed down significantly and the only chop came from the athletes themselves. Now making the 2nd and final turn you're left with the shortest stretch of the swim and getting to the dock seemed to come quickly. Could it be a fast swim? Pulling out of the water I looked down to a 33 on my watch... hmph, not that fast! Oh well still felt good and the water wasn't nearly as bad as 53 degrees sounded but trust me... it WAS cold!
Total Swim time: 33:34
T1: it's a long run up to transition and I was surprised to see wetsuit strippers at the top of the ramp! who hoo! yes please "get this thing off me!" At the bike everything went on smooth but getting my wetsuit into the bag left for collecting and bringing back to town wasn't so elegant, I mean how hard is it to put a floppy thing into a floppy thing? T1 time - 3:42
Bike: The ride begins crossing the dam and then about a mile of easy decent. I like this allowing for blood flow and breathing to normalize. At the bottom we begin to slowly turn back uphill so, as my climb began I am downshifting to keep my heart rate steady and now shift to my small chain ring where the chain starts to rattle on the frame letting me know the shift didn't quite make it. Looking down I realize this is going to require a dismount and getting my fingers grimy. Now losing a whopping 30 or 40 seconds and seeing riders I had just past ride on by I jump back on my trusty steed and get going again... telling myself in the course of a day that glitch will amount to nothing in the overall. Been there before and all I need to do is simply ride and run according to plan and the result will be there.
The bike course isn't really anything to write home about, fairly open with few trees or terrain it was a meandering road through industrial parks and short byways making it moderately breezy going out to the turn around. Thinking since we had some winds cross over to this point I was looking forward to a little tail kick back home... not so. Apparently the wind doesn't know which way to blow in Boise. Oh well, now nearly back to downtown the crowds were forming along the way and I could see I was coming in pretty much where I wanted having kept my heart rate and RPE at both moderate to moderate hard levels. Crossing the bridge on Capital you could see the bike finish just ahead and the vibe coming into town felt electric... almost Ironmanesque!
Total Bike Time: 2:34:17 (official time from race timer - yet my time on bike showed a 2:03 second difference at 2:32:14 ???)
T2: It's always fun coming into T2 as one of the first people in... I could see only a handful of bikes among the sea of racks. As I approach, I dismount in professional fashion, run my bike across the timing mat and turn down my aisle and in movements of economy I reach up with my free hand and unclick my chin strap... "Hey his chin strap is undone!" My heart sank as soon as I heard this. You can be assessed a penalty for having your chin strap undone before you rack your bike. I thought, "Great... a penalty. I wonder how that's gonna hurt?" But undeterred I had a mission to do... run! T2 time - 1:12
Run: Coming out of T2 running in those light KSwiss Kwicky Blade Light shoes my legs felt strong and snappy. There is a short jog over to 8th street where it definitely felt Ironman like. Already there was a huge crowd gathered and for the start of the second loop a bit later it was crazy crowded! Now beginning the first loop I'd no idea where I was going or what to expect not having done this race before. All I knew is the that the run would be around the river park on run/bike paths and it should be pretty shaded with trees, not that it was necessary that day. The weather report called for thunderstorms, which never really materialized but left the sky grey and keeping the sun hidden and temps cooler than usual. One thing I didn't expect was to have so much "local" traffic on the run course. In other words, it is a public park and there were public out there enjoying it! While most were politely staying out of the way there were the occasional "this is my park and you'll work around me succa!" types but with the litany of turns and chicanes it wasn't going to be the fastest course on record but I could tell the legs were gonna give me a good effort. The aid stations were well placed, stocked and volunteered. Most offering encouragement as well as nutrition. Starting the second loop I had realized having done the first loop I had not been passed by any guys in my age group and I couldn't tell if there were any I had passed but now I'd not be able to tell since first loopers would be mixed among 2nd loopers and oh, it's just confusing at this point so I just kept on my race plan to run 10 beat above AeT and monitor a relaxed breathing and body posture. by mile 10 I could see I was still holding 7:30 pace per mile and was happy to feel still quite snappy. At the turn around there is a little over two miles to go and I thought this is going to be a fast run for me if I can hold on and I then started staring every guy who looked my age down who was approaching the turn... so far, so good! I kept my pace up and quickly made the left turn around and up then a right back onto 8th St. where you had about a quarter mile straight to the finish. The crowds were awesome and again I felt like it was an Ironman finish and coming into the finish shoot along I could hear my name, my age being declared "52 years young!" I could see by the time I had done exactly what I intended to do and the race plan executed perfe.. well, with one little chain thingy... perfectly!
Total Run Time: 1:37:15 = Total Race Time: 4:50:00 / Age Group 3rd place. Qualified for Ironman World Championship 70.3
Post Race: Boise is a cool town! After a quick massage and paying for my Vegas slot, we went back to the hotel, showered up and returned for the awards ceremony held at 8pm. They did a great job of moving that along allowing us to get into the Bodo for dinner. I had previously did a little restaurant research on Open Table before leaving for Boise and found a standout among Boise eateries. The Bitter Creek Ale House and Red Feather Lounge are known for outstanding food made from locally produced ranchers and farmers and excellent service and ambiance. When we stumbled upon it we could see it was a crowd favorite. The Bitter Creek was packed with a "seat yourself if you can find one" option while the Red Feather was a reservation kinda place and very tiny! Thinking there isn't a prayer in the world I decided to ask the maitre d' if there was any possibility. He said, "Give me your number and I'll call you in about 15 minutes." Are you kidding me? Here in the Bay Area it would take 15 minutes just to get the maitre d' acknowledge you! Sure enough my phone was a buzzing as we sat at the bar waiting to be seated and soon we were walked up the stairs to one of the hippest and most comfortable dinners we've had in a long time! I can't say enough how much we enjoyed the food, service and vibe of this place. Oh, and I forgot to mention... It was really REASONABLE as in price! Let me put it to you this way... the night before a basic dinner at Macaroni Grill, this night a phenomenal dinner at Red Feather; guess what the difference in price was? NOTHING! it was the same. Should you get the chance to go... everything we tried was awesome but may I recommend the Lamb Burger... OMGsh!
Thanks Boise. We had a great time and will return. Oh... and I've decided. I like the noon start but 10am would be awesome!