IRONMAN Boulder 2014

IRONMAN Boulder 2014
IRONMAN Boulder 2014 - Photo Courtesy of Nils Nilsen @N2PhotoServices
former professional couch potato and dorito eater with no fitness background to 4 x IRONMAN triathlete. blogging so you can be inspired to be active in your life! there's no 'can't' - just think of when you will take that first step!

Monday, August 18, 2014

IRONMAN Boulder - The Never Ending "False Flat"

I am far enough removed from race day so I can rationally reflect on it.

The morning of August 3rd, 2014, was great! The temperature seemed perfect and the Boulder reservoir was so calm that it looked like glass! The latter was a VERY important detail!!!

During my pre-race activities of pumping up my tires, loading my nutrition, dropping off final items into transition bags etc, I had a couple friends come to say hello and wish me luck. Andrea is a great friend from Chicago that was suppose to race but still came out even though she got injured a few weeks before. She crutched on over in her brace to find me and wish me luck--it was SO great to see her because it had been a while since we saw each other last in Chicago! Another friend was from Twitter; her name is Jennifer and she is, coincidentally, the sister of a former neighbor and friend of mine, Dana. It was really great to meet her in person and wish her luck - she ended up coming in 3rd in her age group and is on her way to KONA! CONGRATS, JENNIFER!

One particular hello and wish of luck came from #TriTeamForGood teammate Pam. I nearly lost it into her shoulder when she gave me a hug
because I was scared $HI7L3SS about the swim! Since IRONMAN Wisconsin last year, I have referred to me being disqualified after missing the swim cut-off by 20 seconds as a dark cloud following me whenever I get into the water. She quickly told me to snap out of it and reassured me. Of course, I was thinking that she HAD to say that, but what could I REALLY do about it at this point? I did all the work to improve my swim and now I just had to apply it. Thanks to Pam for allowing me to have that moment and for the motivation!

IRONMAN Boulder's swim was not a mass start - we self seeded based on our anticipated finish time. Of the last couple groups, there was one that started with 1:50. And, I thought it was a healthy group to choose (even though it felt lonely because there were practically no athletes back there!). My swim at IRONMAN Kansas 70.3 two months earlier in June was about 48 minutes. So, I thought that doubling that time and adding some would be a good estimate of my potential.

When I entered the water, I walked as far as I could before I HAD to start swimming. And, all I can remember from that start, other than the IRONMAN Foundation Executive Director, Dave Deschenes, calling me out as the "Asian Persuasion," was a darn SNORKEL zooming past me! I have ALWAYS wanted to use one, especially because I will NEVER be in the running for Kona, and you can't qualify if you use it. I remember smiling and chuckling to myself as I started to swim. I so wanted to try to find snorkel guy/gal's hip so I could try to draft, but they got away too quickly!

NUMERO UNO concern for me for this race was the swim because of that dark cloud. But, add to that concern the ELEVATION! So, a slow swimmer being further slowed by the effects of elevation made that cloud look QUITE stormy - I believe I saw lightning! That is why I arrived a week early. (Thanks to #TriTeamForGood teammate and brothah from anothah mothah Scott for allowing me crash!)  I knew I wouldn't acclimate perfectly that week but all I wanted to know was how it was going to feel swimming at that altitude by doing my final workouts there. And, I am glad I did! I found myself resting a LOT between laps in the Scott Carpenter 50 meter pool so my heart rate could come down and my breathing wasn't labored anymore. That was the indication that made me decide to breath every two strokes instead of every three on race day. I would just switch sides occasionally.

So, back to the race...

It took a while for me to feel like I found my rhythm during the swim. My sighting was horrible and I was in and out of the buoys like a snake. But, after the halfway point - when I peaked at my watch and saw 58 minutes - I had to tell myself to focus and think about good form because I was only going to slow down as the distance got longer. Then, on the final stretch leading to shore, I found an AWESOME rhythm.

1:52 - a negative split swim. 28 minutes faster than the year before. 13 minutes faster than my fastest IRONMAN swim. SUCCESS!!! THANK YOU TO FITZ & KORDIAN OF CHICAGO BLUE DOLPHINS!!! And, there was Pam at the swim exit welcoming me to shore and reminding me that it was all dry-land from there!



After a long transition, partially my fault and partially because the transitions were actually really long in distance, I was on to the bike. That 112 mile journey can be best summed up as an oven that took about 7+ hours to pre-heat before putting the turkey in. But, I was in it the WHOLE time.

I knew that there were false flats throughout the course. And, the start of the course was part of that. So, I knew to take it easy, keep the watts and heart rate in check. In fact, that was my plan for the whole race. I just reminded myself not to get too excited to be on my bike at the start. I chugged along and was to the halfway point in about 3:20. Great - I think I can do sub 7!

But, the day grew warmer and warmer and it didn't appear that any "dreaded winds" - which I would've welcomed to cool me off - were on the agenda for the day. At mile 98, I remember "doing a tripod" and pointing to the temperature reading on my Garmin to my friend Nicole that was there cheering...

106.6 degrees! Yup, I was a cookin' out there!!!

There was a point during that bike when I started to feel nauseous and dizzy. I can't remember when that was. I couldn't eat anything and felt like throwing up whenever I forced myself at the 30 minute mark instead of my planned every 15. I chalked it up to me taking in too much nutrition and that it was because I had done such a great job becoming more of a "fat burner." But, in retrospect, I really think that was only partially true, if at all. I think the heat, combined with the never-ending "false flats," the elevation, and the inability to eat or drink more - only able to consume about 1/3 of my nutrition - really killed me. Based on other race reports I've read, it appears I was not in the minority and that it was quite possibly some type of dehydration. 

I went into survival mode. I got tons of energy thinking of all the great organizations that get to benefit from my fundraising for the IRONMAN Foundation, particularly the Environment Learning for Kids organization in Denver, with which we worked during a service project the Thursday before the race. I had such a bigger purpose and had to finish for them! So, I took it really easy and got myself to the end of the bike and was glad to be there. And, yes, Dear "Three 31tches," I won't leave you out of this write-up because, yes, you did suck in that 100+ degree heat!

Bike done in 7:20.


Another long transition later, I was finally onto the run. And, it was easy to run that first 25+ yards because of the huge crowds cheering. It was AWESOME! There was the huge Ohana of Khem's that was out there cheering me along. I had Chicago friends, Wendy and Ryan, just happen to be in Denver for the weekend and wanted to come cheer me on. And, my Chicago friend now Colorado resident, Sue was there rooting me on as well. It was great! I really had something to look forward to during the various loops!

My dizziness continued and I noticed my heart beating rapidly, even as I jogged easily up the little climbs from going under the roads on the path. So, survival mode continued. I changed my watch from a 5:1 run:walk interval to a 1:1. That seemed to work pretty well. I just skipped a few run segments. Then, it was obvious that I should stop running period. That was when my vision became blurry and I almost fell to the ground. Yes, I had to walk or else risk becoming a DNF.

During that walk, I started to feel better. My pace had gone from about just under 13 minutes per mile to almost 15. I kept at it and had soda, Perform, chicken broth, and water at all the aid stations. That seemed to help quell my dizziness overall.

At one point, my friend Nicole, which is my friend Fireman Rob's wife, jumped in from the spectating lines to walk with me a bit. She has this awesome smile that gives you such great energy. So, that definitely helped along with her encouraging words. She eventually ran ahead to find her husband. Thanks, Nicole!!!

I then eventually caught up to Rob. Like myself and other athletes out on the course, he didn't look good. However, he had an even better reason not to be looking great because he was doing this marathon, as in all races, in full firefighter gear! He told me that his exercise induced asthma started to kick in around mile 77 of the bike and didn't really let up. I was worried about him. So, I told him I'd stay with him through the finish. Unfortunately, our journey together didn't last very long. We eventually got to an aid station where he wanted to sit for a bit and I asked for medical to check him out. Eventually, they both agreed that his day was going to end at that aid station - about 12 miles into the race. It was a tough decision to make because it was his first DNF in an IRONMAN ever, but it was a VERY wise decision! So, I called his wife to give her the heads up on the situation and where to meet him. Then, when I knew he was in good hands, I told him that I was going to finish for BOTH of us. Rob's race report can be found here.

I DEFINITELY couldn't DNF now! I promised Fireman Rob!

So, I chugged along. I looked at my watch and started doing the math because I was around 16 minute pace now with that stop. If I continued that pace or got slower, I would risk not finishing within 17 hours. And, I actually had NO idea what time that was for me because I couldn't figure out exactly what time I started. I just knew it could possibly be some time between 11:30 and 11:45pm. My goal at that point was to aim for 11:30pm.

So, my walk became a POWER WALK. I was walking with so much intention that I heard one person say, "Whoa...that's one serious walk!" Eventually, I brought that average pace to just under 14:50 and held on. The average continued to actually drop so I was pleased with that!

I'm out on the course long enough to get chicken broth at the aid stations and party favors in the form of a headlamp and glow ring. I also get to witness everyone else's glow rings and headlamps bouncing along during the course - it's the little things like these that keep you entertained on a pitch black path. There are also your thoughts that keep you company, especially when the headlamps and glow rings are nowhere to be seen, and mine included all my #TriTeamForGood memories and teammates cheering me on when we saw each other on the course, my overall journey since 2007 from doing nothing to marathoning to this craziness, and, last but not least, my awesome partner and love of my life that supports my craziness, Anthony.

In the middle of those thoughts bouncing around in my head, I eventually got interrupted by the noise of the finish line, inclusive of Mike Reilly's welcoming and announcing of each athlete becoming an IRONMAN. Then, Khem's Ohana - now such good friends of mine - saw me nearing and loudly started to cheer once again. They then joined me on my power walk and escorted me off the Boulder Creek Path toward the finish on Pearl Street. And, before you knew it, I started to jog once I got to the Newton Running arch. All the spectators lined up and in the viewing stands started to cheer and yell so loudly that I got goosebumps from all the energy and excitement. And then as I started to tear up from the excitement and sense of accomplishment, I SAW THE LIGHT... the blinding lights at the finish that are needed so you can get the best glamour shot ever! ... Then, I heard Mike Reilly say, "KEN CHIN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

Photo Courtesy of Nils Nilsen of N2PHOTO SERVICES