Race Coverage

Sometimes It's About What Goes Right...

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By Aaron Wilson

 

Ironman Boulder Race Report - I have been on a long journey to achieve the goal of qualifying for Kona. I started out my Ironman career by crashing on my bike and finishing at 15+ hours. I have been on the side of the road or worse, in the Port-a-Potty’s throwing up. I can tell lots of stories. This one is a little different than the rest....

 


Bad luck seems to have been following me around. I have learned how to deal with it and try to keep a smile because I am always thankful to be able to finish an Ironman. June 10th was my seventh event. The venue was Boulder, Colorado. I went out there to try my hand at getting one of the coveted Kona slots. Having missed my chance by 1 position at IMWI the previous fall I felt like I had the abilities to do it.


My streak of bad luck seemed to be continuing starting with the weather. The forecast kept increasing the temp daily to a high of 97 and sunny on race day. Its ok because it’s a dry heat, right?
The night before the race I settled into bed and was off in my own dreamy world when it came to a crashing halt. I was woken up by my alarm, way too early. But this alarm didn’t shut off by beating the alarm clock. The noise was screaming loud and piercing my eardrums. Turns out that bad luck was back. The fire alarm was blaring throughout the hotel. After waiting 45 minutes outside with the other guests we were allowed back to bed. Well, at least I can still get 4 hours of sleep.


3.5 hours later my real alarm went off and I was eating and preparing for the race. I got to the shuttles ok and made it to the reservoir without hassle. I planned on stopping at my transition bags to put in extra nutrition and wait... I was still holding my special needs bags! I was supposed to drop them off before getting on the shuttle. I started to have a slight panic attack. I need the things in my special needs to get through the race. I found a volunteer to ask if they were able to bring them out. They said it’s highly unlikely. Oh boy, now what? I gave the bags to my wife and she ran off with them toward the shuttle in hopes of getting a ride back to drop them off in time. Well at least I have half of what I need for my nutrition. I can still do it with half, I hope.


Finally the moment had come. Tires were full, wetsuit was squeezed into, and the anthem had been sung. It was race time! I waited to get into the water since IM Boulder is a self-seed one by one start it seemed to take forever. In the water I found some space and stroke away. After only 0.1 mile I was starting to breathe heavily, much more than normal. Its ok I thought I can do this. Another 0.1 mile in and it turned bad. I started to dry heave in the water. Stroke, heave, breathe, stroke heave breathe. I thought about pulling off my cap and giving in. Its only 2.2 miles to go. I can handle this, right?
The rest of the swim was spent breathless but I survived it. The heaving only lasted for a couple of minutes. Heading into T1 I got my bag and found an open seat. I launched myself into the air to claim my spot and start opening my bag at the same time. When I landed on the seat I promptly slid 4 extra seats over and almost onto a guy’s lap. He gave me the WTF look as I apologized. I put lots and lots of body glide on my chamois the night before. I guess it was well lubed and slick. After sliding around on the chairs for a while I got out of the tent, grabbed my bike and ran to the top of the hill.


Finally the start of the bike, check the heart rate wow that’s high! I checked my body and was starting to have a cramp in my left quad. No problem, finally something I know what to do about it. Salt to the rescue! I grabbed my faithful Base Salt container, popped the top, slammed some salt, closed it and put it back on my bike….almost. Right when I was reaching for my bento box I hit a bump and lost my container of salt. A whole .5 mile into the race and I lost my salt. Its ok I have 1 more on my bike and an extra in special needs. Oh right special needs, hopefully my wife was able to get the bags there in time. At least I still have 1 more with me. I can still do this.


About 50 miles into the bike I was coming up to a small hill with another competitor on it. I decided to take the opportunity to rest and not pass him on the hill. I stopped pedaling, started filling my water, grabbed some extra salt and solid food. Special needs was coming up so I was setting up a plan to stop there to hopefully find my bag waiting for me. A guy on a motorcycle came right beside me and told me I was too close to the guy in front of me when I was on the hill. He didn’t give me a card or tell me to stop at the next tent. But I did notice he wrote my bib # down. Well what the heck, did I get a penalty? Do I have to stop? How close was I? I didn’t know any of these. I have never gotten a penalty so I wasn’t sure what to do. I stopped at special needs, finally a bit of luck!! My bag was there for me; my wife made it. Oh finally something going right.


5 miles later I stopped in the penalty tent. More good luck because my wife was right next to it cheering me on. We got 5 minutes to sit and chat about the race. I still didn’t know if I had to be in there but wanted to make sure I stopped if I needed to. The longest 5 minutes ever passed. I gave my wife a kiss and away I went. Turns out I did earn the penalty so it’s a good thing I stopped or I would have been disqualified. More things going right, sort of.

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The wind picked up significantly on the second half of the bike. At one point I coasted for 5 miles with the wind and downhill while maintaining 35MPH! Some of it I was quite nervous because I was at about 45MPH and getting hit with intermittent side gusts. Made for some scary yet adrenaline pumping miles. Eventually I made it all the way back around to the spot I received the penalty. I planned to take some ibuprofen I had in a small Ziploc. The wind made it nearly impossible to open the bag without dropping it. Oops, getting close to another person while distracted. I pedaled past this time and got the bag open on my 15th try. Within 2 seconds a gust hit me, reached in my baggie and stole my pills right out of there. How the heck??? At least these were precautionary and not necessary. I can still do this without those little pills.


The last water stop, I could really use some extra fluids to get ready to run. There were only a few miles left on the bike so its great timing. I see the stop and there are people on their first lap standing over their bikes waiting for water. I ride by slowly calling for water, desperately searching for 1 person to be out still handing out water to people passing by. Someone anyone with water, ice, anything. Alas no water for me what luck. I have 1 or 2 sips left in the bottle. Its ok, its only 94 degrees out. I should be ok with the water I have left. Good thing its downhill to transition.


Coming back in on the bike and going through transition I remembered sliding into another guys lap so I sat slowly this time. I was still sliding around in the tent but was ready for it. Finally, I am learning how to transition better! Grabbed my fuel belt, shoes, and hat and was out the door. Immediately I could feel the heat so I grabbed a cold soaked wash cloth that was offered to me. Running is my strength so I was happy to be on my 2 feet. What is that noise? I looked down to see less than half a mile out my shoe laces were untied. I debated about going the rest of the way without tying them. Instead I made it to the top of the first hill, took the time and double knotted them for good measure. It only slowed me down a little bit, I still have a shot.


The washcloth I grabbed turned out to be the best thing ever! I molded this into a U on my chest under my jersey. Every water stop I would toss ice down my shirt and this would hold it in place. I hit the first water stop filled ice, got water and more water. I knew it was going to only get warmer out there so I wanted to keep those liquids flowing.


5 miles in I came up on a pair of guys, and one had my age group on his calf. As soon as he heard me coming he yelled back “you better be a pro”. As I passed him he saw my age group and started cussing and tried to speed up. There was no way I was going to let him pass me, so I keep the speed going until I lost connection with him. Ok luck might be changing in my favor.


At 10 miles into the run I was wondering where I was in the placings. I was thinking somewhere around 15th. With the rolling start there is no way to know during the race. At least that’s what I thought. My wife saw me and let me know I was actually in 4th place with the 3rd place guy fading fast. Holy buckets!! 4th place!! Last year the slot for Kona went down to 5th. I have a chance! Oh, but then again IMWI I took 4th and didn’t make it. Means one thing, time to find and pass the 3rd place guy. I took off with renewed determination and a target in mind. I had no idea how far ahead he was but I was going to pass the 3rd place guy.


After my special needs stop to refill my nutrition I was on the hunt. My legs were getting tired, I was getting hot but it didn’t matter. I was determined to catch the guy in front of me. Every person I passed without an age on their calf I would ask their age to see if it was them. Around mile 16 I passed a male pro. I just passed a pro! I asked what happened on the way by; he said the wind got him on the bike so he is blown up for the run. Wow I passed a pro. Even though he was having troubles it gave me a little pep to my step. I can do this!
18 miles in I started to have some stomach pain. It happened before I knew it was bloat coming on. My wife insisted I carry some meds with on the run. One was Gas-X. It took me quite a while to remember to take it, but within 5 minutes I was good to go. No more feeling like my stomach was going to explode or like I needed to make an emergency potty stop. Remind me to thank my wife after this race I kept thinking. Then back to the hunt. Thank you wife!

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By mile 19 I was thinking I might have passed the guy I was hunting without seeing him. Maybe he was in the port-a-potty or something. I almost had to stop so he could have. This area was particularly brutal out on the course. There was no wind, full sun and tucked between buildings. Needless-to-say it was a tad on the warm side. I was really feeling the effects of the day and was slowing down. Each water stop took longer and longer. Plodding along I saw 2 guys walking. As I got closer I saw the one on the left had the age 36 written on his calf. I couldn’t hold back the smile. I finally found him, the 3rd place guy. My legs were struggling but I tried to regain my composure and pretend I was starting my run and looking fresh. I sped up and passed to be in 3rd with less than a 10k to go. I can do this!!
Holy buckets, I am in 3rd place. I AM IN 3rd! It kept repeating through my head over and over through the next couple of miles. I realized I wasn’t in the clear yet because I was struggling now. I forgot to take my nutrition for le last 4 miles and was behind. Less than 5k to go for a Kona slot. Come on legs give me what you have! I saw my wife at about mile 24. I couldn’t stop smiling. She knew I was in 3rd too. There was a 0.75 mile out and back then come back to the finish. It was the longest 1.5 miles I have ever run! It seemed to take hours. I finally made it back to the turn toward the finish line. I was so excited I forgot to slow down to hug my wife and high five my support crew. The crowd at the line was cheering. I was filled with joy and excitement. I tossed my arms up as I crossed the line at 9:38!! 3rd place in my age group. Finally I have a very good shot at getting one of those Kona slots. I was on cloud 9000. Finally, I have a chance.


It felt like I had a qualifying race. I felt great about my effort out there but I had to wait for the slot allocation numbers to show. 9AM came and went; I got my age group award. 11AM passed. I swear I could feel every second tick by. I saw someone hang the slot allocation paper. I was so nervous; I couldn’t look. If there were only 2 slots in my age group, it would crush me. I watched my wife go over in slow motion. Why was she walking so slow?!?! She looked at the paper for a lifetime. Am I in? Does she not want to tell me there is only 2 slots? Why is she still looking at it? Is that even the right piece of paper? Then she turned with a huge smile and a thumbs up. It was official; 3 slots in my age group and I took 3rd. I qualified for Kona.


Some people say you have to have a perfect day out there to qualify. I had one of the sloppiest races in my history, even got a 5 minute penalty. I made lots of mistakes out there. This race it was all about what went right and forgetting about the wrong. It’s my first Kona qualifying race in 7 tries over 5 years.

I need to give a very special thank you to my wife!! She is the reason I was able to do this. She has supported my efforts all these years and helped me improve every race. Without her I would have been lost during this race. Thank you to the group of athletes and friends that make up the TC3 triathlon team. Thanks to my mom and sister for your support and encouragement. Thanks to my coach Kortney Haag for getting me here! Thank you to Now Bikes for keeping my bike race ready and keeping my wheels under me. Definitely thanks to the volunteers out there! They made the day tolerable. Next stop: Hawaii!!

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