Monday, June 13, 2011

Goats Can Swim

So this report isn't about how knarly some trail race was, how pretty the scenery was, how much vert, or any of that stuff.  This goat swam, biked and ran and managed to complete the Boise Half Ironman Triathlon.
Sally is a friend that I’ve been bugging for years to do an ultra. She’s always put me off saying that they’re too difficult. Meanwhile, she’s been doing lots of marathons and tris, and last year did her first full Ironman. Finally, last year she agreed to do an ultra, but the catch was that I had to do a tri. Hmmm, didn’t really see that coming, but I agreed. Then she asked what distance I wanted to do. Since I run ultras, it really didn’t seem right to do a short little sprint or Olympic distance tri, so I told her I’d do a half Ironman. I figured doing that would make me expend enough effort and require enough training to qualify for an ultra level effort.
Last November we decided to do the Boise Half Ironman as our tri. That meant that I had plenty of time to get back in the pool swimming laps and to at least figure out how to stay upright on a bike for 56 miles.
Training for this silly little race began back in December. The first time in the pool had me worried. No upper body strength at all. Technique from my swim team days was there though. Within a couple months, I knew the swim wouldn’t be an issue. Check that off the list. I started attending a spin class once a week and stationary biking on my own at about the same time. Finally bought my own road bike and started using that to ride into work once a week. Ok, check that off the list. I’ll survive 56 miles, but it won’t be pretty. The run? 13.1 miles? Big deal, I’m training for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning this summer. Check that off with no worries.
I was intentionally going into this race cold, I did no other tri's prior to Boise.  I think I wanted to add the unknown factor and see what it would do to me
So, Friday my lovely wife and I drive to Boise. We manage to check into our hotel and find the race check in. I was expecting the water temp in Lucky Peak Reservoir to be in the low 60’s. Then I saw this posted at check in.
Holy crap! 53 degrees? That’s way colder than the average tap water. That’s way colder than I was expecting. Wow! I was not looking forward to the swim at all.  Here's a nifty little link on cold water survival.
We met Sally and John, her boyfriend at check in and she was even a little worried about the water temp.

T2 on Friday
Anyway, we did pizza and brews for dinner, went back to the hotel room to get my transition bags set up. That’s when I discovered that I had left my wetsuit, my tri shorts, and my goggles at home. Damn! Now what? There was no way to do the swim without a wetsuit. I looked online and found a dive shop that rented wetsuits and was open Saturday morning. So, Friday evening I head out to REI and bought tri shorts. Sally had an extra pair of goggles she let me borrow. And the next morning my wife and I camped in front of the dive shop until they opened. They just happened to have a tri wetsuit in my size. Thank goodness, the race is on. Now it was get back to the race HQ to catch the shuttle to the start, drop off transition bags, and generally start to get nervous about the whole thing. The nice thing about this race was the noon start. That meant I had time to go into a full on panic then figure out a solution and get another wetsuit, etc. It also meant that the day would warm up a little bit to help offset the cold water (dream on). John hauled our bikes to the T1 area for us. Lucky Peak is about 15 miles east of Boise and 1000’ higher, meaning the bike ride would be a net downhill. Nice.
The swim start was in waves rather than a mass start. This meant that my wave didn’t actually start until 12:09. So we had to stand there sweating in the sun in our black neoprene wetsuits until it was our turn to jump in the water. We all herded on to the dock by the boat ramp and jumped in. The water was refreshing for about 0.2 seconds, then it took a couple more seconds to catch my breath. The cold literally took your breath away. Every time my face got water on it, my chest would tighten and I had a hard time breathing. While I was treading water waiting for the start my thought was that this swim would not be a good thing. How was I going to survive for 40-45 minutes in this cold of water, let alone swim decently.
So the gun goes off and it’s a mad dash out into the lake.
My wave start, I'm somewhere in that thrashing mess
The course was triangular, with the first leg being about 850 meters. This looks like a long ways when you’re used to swimming in a 25 yard long pool. Nonetheless, I took off. For roughly the first 2/3 of the first leg, I was borderline panicked. Every time I put my face in the water to swim, my chest would constrict and I had a hard time breathing. I discovered that rolling over and doing backstroke really helped. Kept my face out of the water and I could make good progress. Finally, my face got used to the cold, my chest loosened up, I warmed up and I rolled back over and started really swimming. That’s when I found out that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, I started motoring past people at a pretty good clip, I felt good and had a good rhythm going. The remainder of the first leg and the last two legs went very smoothly and I actually finished the swim a little quicker than I was hoping. I wanted a time with a 4 in front of it and my swim time was 40:18. I was happy. When I stood up to exit the water though, I was so dizzy and disoriented I almost fell over twice. That was weird. I still had to make my way up the boat ramp, run a hundred yards to the T1 area and get ready for the bike. Needless to say, my T1 time was a very slow 8+ minutes.
Goat skin on and ready to go
The bike ride was actually the most boring part of the race. 56 miles, a little over 3 hours in a saddle and my ass was sore. We did have a screaming downhill start off the dam. I hit 30+ mph, but I still had people flying past me probably doing close to 50 mph, maybe more. Too scary for me. Sally went flying past me at about the 32 mile point. She started the swim 20 minutes after me, so she was that much further ahead of me. Sigh! Getting old sucks, can’t keep up with the kids. Ideally I wanted to go under 3 hours for the ride. Realistically I knew I wouldn’t. I did manage a 3:04 for the ride and was happy about that one.
My T2 time was a little quicker, about 3 minutes, but the same thing happened as I got off my bike and started walking. I was a little dizzy. I managed to get to my spot, rack my bike, put on my running shoes and head out on the run, but it didn’t feel good at all. I thought it would end up being a sufferfest. It took me about a mile to start to feel good about the run and then I discovered that I had some legs.  The other thing I noticed was how slow I seemed to be running after the speed of the bike.  The run was the best part of the day for me. 13.1 miles in two loops and I pulled a negative split by about a minute. It felt really good just cruising on that course. I think I made up around 100+ places during the run. I know I was passing all sorts of people. Some of them looked pretty rough. It’s like the run got rid of all the negative thoughts I had been having during the day, even thought it wasn’t trail, I was in my element. Sally had left T2 about 10 minutes before me and by the time I hit the second lap I had gained several minutes on her. She ended up crossing the finish line about a minute before me, but still kicked my butt because of her swim start time.
#999 Sally Shadle nearing the finish
Me nearing the finish, #270 is in my age group and I managed to outsprint him to the finish
So, how was my first experience with a tri? I actually had a good time. It was something out of my element, new and different. Would I do another one? Probably. This race forced me to expand my exercise options beyond running. I think the biking and swimming has definitely helped my running fitness.
It was fun to do the event with Sally and catch up. My wife and I have known her and her family since she was 14 but haven't seen her for several years.  She’s grown into a wonderful lady and an amazing athlete. But I’ll get her back. She has to do an ultra distance run now!
Sally and I the next day feeling much better
Stats-Since this was an official Ironman event, the competition is much stiffer than a more local half distance tri. Having said that, I think I did reasonably well.

James Skaggs

BIB     AGE             STATE/COUNTRY                                        PROFESSION
252        53           MARRIOTT SLATERVILLE   UT USA              Engineer

SWIM     BIKE       RUN        OVERALL       RANK       DIV.POS.
40:18      3:06:29    1:54:58           5:53:15             573                32

LEG                 DISTANCE                 PACE                         RANK      DIV.POS.

SWIM                1.2 mi. (40:18)            2:07/100m                     599             34
BIKE                 56 mi. (3:06:29)           18.02 mph                     750             48
RUN                13.1 mi. (1:54:58)          8:46/mile                       573             32

T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 3:12
There were 1420 athletes that finished. There were 74 in my age group.