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Mother Nature's stab at hyperbole: Boise 70.3

Photo by Ben Bao Tran

My hands looked swollen and red. Just moments before I’d donned my wetsuit, clumsily, because I couldn’t exactly feel what I was doing. The light drizzle that met me as I descended from the bus had turned into a steady rain. It didn’t take long for the wind to pick up and carry it sideways against our faces. The 45 degrees my iPhone displayed felt like sub-40. My wetsuit kept me somewhat warm, and my double swim caps kept my hair from getting wet. Funny thing is, I could see my bare feet on the wet pavement, but I couldn’t feel them. Amy Wilcox turned to me and said my face had turned blue. I had no doubt, as a number of people around me had turned funny shades of white, blue, and red. An ambulance that sat idle as I walked into transition suddenly turned on its lights and started down the long road toward town. I thought that ambulance was there for those who needed it during the race. The sooner I got this race started, the better. I was ready to go! Let’s do it!

I still stood in transition.


Two weeks ago I sat in a car with Matt Beard on our way home from Walla Walla, WA. We ended up on the topic of Boise 70.3. Having just finished Onionman, a race whose conditions started out really cold and windy, we thought how funny it would be if Boise was a race of the ultimate weather extremes. No joke. Our hypothetical race looked like this:

Triathletes met 5ft swells in the swim, battled through 50mph gusts and pouring down rain on the bike, only to encounter 90-degree temperatures with blaring sunshine on the run.
My only advice to you would be this: Don’t ever plan your worst race. Ever. You may just find yourself at Boise 70.3 with conditions like this:

Triathletes were shuttled up to Lucky Peak Reservoir, where they met 45-degree temperatures, 30mph winds, and a light drizzling rain that turned into downpour by the time athletes had to leave the transition area and wait for their swim wave to enter the water. Water temperatures had dropped from a comfortable 64 degrees earlier that week to 57 degrees by race day morning, and reports of snow on the bike course—along with dangerous wind gusts—prompted race officials to shorten the bike leg. As if weather extremes couldn’t be displayed any better, athletes were met with warm sunshine by the middle of the half marathon.

In Transition 1. I think this was the only time I smiled...
only for the camera.
I thought it would be fun to write this race report in hyperbole, but Mother Nature made my job a whole lot easier by simply making it reality. Looking back, this race was more a mental challenge than a physical one. In fact, the biggest obstacle in this race was whether to start the race at all. Participants and spectators alike sought refuge behind two large trailers near the docks at the swim start. To say we felt cold would be an understatement. We didn’t shiver. We shook. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I shook so hard with cold. I watched as Wave 6 entered the water and finally went searching for someone I knew. Craig? Erica? Anyone? It wasn’t until I found Lianne Nye that I broke down. Two women pointed at me, and I didn’t know if it was because I was crying or because I had turned a funny shade of blue. I’ve never cried before a race! Actually, I’ve never found myself in a situation that I seriously questioned my sanity. Everything about this felt stupid.

Like waves do, they keep moving. Before I knew it, my wave slipped over the starting mat and my feet stepped into Lucky Peak, water that actually felt warmer than the air. Warmth also ran down my legs, and I realized with feet in the water and pee in my wetsuit, there was no reason to turn back.

Checking in the day before. Craig Thoreson, Erica Zeimer,
Natalie Gallagher, Dave Erickson, Nate Duncan, Bottom
row: Me, Amy Wilcox.

Group ride in the sunshine: Friday.

Weather on Lucky Peak was drastically different than in
downtown. Trifusion is checking out the water.
Lucky Peak: Friday night. Sunshine prevailed, but
we couldn't ignore the clouds.

Friday morning, while spending time with my teammates and checking in at the Boise Center, I had the opportunity to ask questions and receive suggestions to use for race day. Dave Erickson enjoyed joking around with me by offering “tips” the experienced triathlete would only describe as nonsense. He did preface the one tactic I began to use immediately upon entering the water with, “Now this is serious.” His serious tip was this: plunge your face in the water and blow bubbles to acclimate your body to the cold water. I did just that about 5 times, but each time I did it, the water felt colder and colder. Three minutes flew by, and I was off on my 34:05 swim through water that started off calm, but soon turned choppy.

Transition 1: Friday night.
I had plenty of time to strip my wetsuit in the long trek up to the wetsuit strippers. All through the swim, my fingers were splayed out at funny angles. I quickly realized why proper pull technique is essential. With fingers that didn’t work, I wondered exactly how I was going to get out of my wetsuit. Thankfully, it peeled right off after I fumbled around with the Velcro at the back of my neck for a time. The volunteers did a great job of making my escape easier so I could tackle the challenge of getting ready for my bike leg. I never thought I’d have so much trouble with Velcro. I couldn’t even get my shoes on. And my helmet? My race belt? You’d think I was drunk watching my failed attempts to snap together the clasps. Putting socks on cold toes you can’t feel makes for an interesting experience as well. I met Amy just as we left T1, wished her well, and headed out for a snotty and cold 15 miles of cycling.

Transition 2: Saturday morning = cold and wet
My hands never warmed so I had the same issue donning my K-Onas. I finally just had to sit down to steady myself before taking off for the course. I got into a rhythm pretty quickly, and by the time mile 2 rolled around, I could finally feel my fingers. Mile 3 brought sunshine to all of us cold-bodied crazies. Stomach cramps met me at mile 4. When you can feel the water and nutrition you consumed on your bike leg start sloshing around in your gut, you know you’re in trouble. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to affect my speed, as I was able to hold my pace at around 7:15min/mi for a heart rate around 165bpm. It kept me in the moment.

I rounded that turn to start my second loop as a pro ran to the finish line. My feet kept on moving. A group of geese and goslings ambled across the path right before the first aid station. Apparently they got a memo to join some kind of party? By mile 10 my feet ached, but a short 5k was all I had left. I let myself speed up a little and hung on until mile 12. A man I’d followed up until then ran alongside me. We held each other to a steady, quick pace before racing into the crowd.

The scene didn’t quite compare to what I’d been apart of at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Yet what a cool experience to run alongside a cheering crowd, return high-fives to the outstretched arms of little kids eagerly awaiting the finish of their parents. This race didn’t turn out to be the race I’d prepared for. I feel a little sheepish telling people I completed a whole half Ironman. Yet while each of us prepares to race a full 70.3, I learned we should all be prepared for any changes that might change the dynamics of a race. I have yet to prove I can complete a full 70.3, but I did learn that when my mind thinks enough is enough, the body can go a little further. Looking back, I’d have been disappointed if I’d stepped away from the water and chose to forgo the race. You don’t get to Las Vegas through uncertainty and hesitation. I guess it’s already time to look past Lake Stevens. Vegas awaits. 

Photo by Sophie Wilcox. Thank you for coming out and
cheering us all to the finish!


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