Boise 70.3 Recap

I apologize for it taking so long to get this post up, but I guess it’s better late than never, right? It’s taken lots of different sessions of typing to get this post up, so here it goes!

What an emotional rollercoaster this last weekend was. I competed in my first 70.3 race. Thursday I drove up to Boise, ID with my dad so that I could do the half Ironman up there. First off, what a LONG, boring drive that is. I hate it. Lucky for me, I get to make that same trip in 1.5 months to do a triathlon up in Burley, ID.

Prior to leaving to go up to Idaho, I double checked my hotel reservation and I made a mistake. I had us checking in on Friday and leaving on Monday, but we were driving up on Thursday. So, we ended up staying at the Shilo Inn on Thursday night and then transferring to our other hotel on Friday.

After we got up to Boise on Thursday, we just chilled. For some reason, Thursday, the race day nerves started kicking in. I got hardly ANY sleep that night. Usually race day nerves kick in the night before, not 2 nights before.

Friday we got up & headed in to Downtown Boise and went to athlete check-in. It was official. I had my wristband. No turning back now! Nerves started to kick in. We walked around the expo and I bought a t-shirt and a 70.3 sticker for my car. I saw a bunch of stuff at the Ironman store that I really wanted, but it’s SO super-duper expensive.

I met up with my friend Jeannie at athlete check in and we went to the athlete briefing together. That’s where I got REALLY nervous. They started talking about the penalties you can get and the time cut offs, etc. I knew I would be fine with the time cut offs, but it still lingers in the back of my mind, ya know? Thankfully the guy that was doing the athlete briefing was pretty funny and made it humorous. It put me at ease a little bit. At athlete briefing they went through all of our gear check bags and told us everything and then sent us on our merry way.

Me & Jeannie after packet pickup & athlete briefing
Me & Jeannie after packet pickup & athlete briefing

After athlete briefing, me, Jeannie and my dad walked around to find T2. They had moved it and we needed to know where it was. It was a REALLY nice T2 area. It was at a park. Lots of room, lots of grass, etc.

The park where T2 is.
The park where T2 is.

I then chose to drop my bike off at T1 the day before. If I didn’t, then I would have had to drive up and walk about a 1.5 miles the next morning to get to T1 and parking was limited. I tried to remember to drop off as much stuff at T1 as I could the night before. I had a pretty good T1 spot. It was right by a tree and cement island in the parking lot, so as I’m running out of the water, it would be easy to find.

Dropped my bike off at T1.
Dropped my bike off at T1.

After athlete check in & briefing, my dad and I went and checked in to our new hotel, the Residence Inn by Marriott. Such a NICE hotel. May I suggest if you’re doing a half or a full Ironman, you stay at one of these. It’s nice because it has a full kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal. We got settled in to our room and went grocery shopping. We made a BIG pot of pasta for dinner that night. It was a good way to carb load and it just hit the spot.

Everything I need laid out the night before.
Everything I need laid out the night before.

Oddly enough, that night I slept really well. Usually the night before a race I sleep terribly. Even though the race didn’t start untilNoon, we got up at 7:30 a.m. and went downstairs for breakfast. I had a big bowl of oatmeal, some eggs and toast. I’ve found that oatmeal is the best breakfast before a race for me. It sticks with me for a while.

We headed to T2 to drop off my run gear bag and I had the IDEAL transition spot. I was at the very end of a row and right by the “run out” area. It was awesome!!! Then we decided to chill for a few minutes before it was time to load the shuttle. This is when I realized that oh shit! I left my timing chip back at the hotel! Promptly go in to panic mode! My dad and I piled in to the car and hurried back to the hotel to get my timing chip. It was exactly where I thought I left it.

The perfect T2 spot.
The perfect T2 spot.

Finally got my time chip and headed back to T2 to catch the shuttle to T1. We all finally piled on to the shuttle bus to head up to Lucky Peak Reservoir. I got a preview of the bike course again on the way because the bus took all these back roads, which happened to be the race course.

Finally made it up to T1 and now it was time to play the waiting game. I made sure I had all my gels on my bike. I filled up my water bottles. I even took my bike over to the maintenance tent to have them top off the air in my tires. It’s a good thing I took my bike over there because unbeknownst to me, my front brakes were loose & needed to be adjusted a little.

Standing in T1 the morning of the race.
Standing in T1 the morning of the race.

My swim wave didn’t start until 12:39 p.m., but we had to be out of transition at 11:45 a.m. They had a gear bag that you could drop off with your morning clothes in it, but I didn’t use that bag. I just wanted to have my bike bag. So, that meant that I had to start putting my wetsuit on at 11:45 a.m. All I have to say is putting a wetsuit on is a pain in the butt!!! I only put my wetsuit on up to my waist & hung around that way for a while.

I got kind of emotional as we all stood there and sang the National Anthem. It was really cool to see the pro’s start. The first pro was out of the water before I even started. The first pro was out of the water in 24 minutes!!! One little interesting thing…right before the start, one of the pro’s ripped their wetsuit, so they made an announcement to see if anybody had an extra wetsuit & a guy standing next to me did! Who carries around an extra wetsuit? Not me. Lol.

Finally it was almost time for my wave to start. We were all standing around zipped up in our wetsuits on the hot pavement. Thankfully the guy that was corralling us had water & he kept pouring it on our feet.

We were finally able to get in the water 4 minutes before our wave start. Queue panic! I was literally shaking. I had to keep telling myself out loud “I’m ok. I can do this. If Chrystel (my coach’s wife) can do this, I can do this.” I just kept repeating that over and over. Finally the air horn went off.

I’ve learned that for the first minute or so of open water swimming after the gun goes off, I need to keep my head above water to swim to get acclimated and then I can go full on and I’m ok. My group seemed to stay pretty tight together throughout the first 1/3 of the swim. I took it easy the first little bit of it and then opened up full throttle on my swim stroke after that.

One thing I like about an Ironman is they have A TON of buoys out in the water. It makes it a lot easier to sight while you’re swimming. The buoys are numbered too so you know when you’ve reached the last buoy and when you need to turn.

The first 1/3 of the swim was fine. The water was calm, but once I made the first turn on the swim, it’s like it turned in to a washing machine. The waters were pretty rough. I drank a little bit of Lucky Peak Reservoir. It wasn’t very tasty. After the first turn, the side of my head made contact with someone’s elbow. That didn’t feel too good. But, I just kept swimming. On the very last stretch of the swim, heading back in to shore, My eye made contact with someone else’s elbow too. It did NOT feel good. I’ll admit, I said some curse words, but I kept swimming. However, I had to stop & tread water for a minute & fix my goggles because the second time I got hit in the eye, they knocked my goggles loose and water was just flooding in.

Self portrait of my black eye from the open water swim.
Self portrait of my black eye from the open water swim.

I was really hoping to finish the swim in less than 40 mionutes, but I did it in 45 minutes. I’m pleased with that. That’s an average pace of 37:11/mile.

I'm one of the many swimmers out there wearing a white swim cap.
I’m one of the many swimmers out there wearing a white swim cap.

I got out of the water, and this is the strongest I’ve felt running out of the water. I was able to get my wetsuit down to my waist by the time I hit the wetsuit strippers and I hurried & sat down and they yanked it off me. Wetsuit strippers are MUCH faster than me wrestling to get my wetsuit off.

I ran in to transition, shoved my wetsuit in my bag and got my helmet on. My helmet has a little bit of a weird fastener to it, so I struggled with that for a minute, but I finally got my helmet on and headed out of transition. T1 was only 4 minutes.

Heading out on the bike.
Heading out on the bike.
Only 56 miles to go!
Only 56 miles to go!

Usually right out of the swim and on the bike, I struggle a little bit, but I did pretty good, I thought. I thought I was going to have a good bike ride. Right out of transition you have a hill to climb. It’s not a super steep hill, but it can be a struggle. I made sure my bike was in a fairly easy gear so that it was easy to climb the hill.

The first 6 – 7 miles of the bike is downhill. This makes me nervous. Downhill makes me nervous just because I’m afraid I’ll get going too fast and hit a rock or something and crash. Crashing isn’t fun.

There were REALLY BAD crosswinds on the bike and that made me nervous too. But, once I got out of the canyon it wasn’t too bad. I tried not to look at my speed too much, or I think I would have got frustrated. There was a lot of headwind on the bike as well.

My bike tends to make a rickety little noise and it’s just because one of the decorative washers on the front spindle thingy is a little loose. It’s nothing to worry about. Well, as I was about 10-12 miles in to the bike, one of the cyclists passed me and told me about the noise & wanted to make sure I was ok. I thought that was really nice. I just hollered at him that I was ok and that my bike was ok and would make it all 56 miles, but thank you for his concern.

I’m surprised the bike route didn’t get overwhelming. I’m sure part of the reason is because I had come up 6 weeks earlier and rode the bike course, so I knew what to expect. One thing I didn’t expect though was almost immediately after getting on the bike, my shoulders and back seemed to be really tight & tense, so I couldn’t get comfortable in the aero position on my bike. I know that caused me to lose alot of speed.

At almost the 1/2 way point on the bike you have to climb a REALLY big hill. How some cyclists can go 20 mph up a hill, I’ll never know. Maybe one day I’ll be able to. But, I was plugging along pedaling my heart out heading up this hill and this one guy starts to pass me and says “I hope the 20 second passing rule doesn’t apply to this hill.” Lol. We both chuckled and I said “I know, right? This hill is a bitch!” The one thing that kept me going climbing up the hill was knowing that I could possibly fly down the hill on my way back.

I ran out of water at about mile 30 on the bike and there wasn’t a water aid station again until mile 40 – 42. That was the longest 10-12 miles on the bike. I was SO thirsty. When I finally saw that water station I was ready to praise Jesus! Lol. I didn’t know if I could do it or not, but I got ready & threw my one water bottle that was on my bike and managed to pick up another full water bottle without having to stop. That cold water never tasted so good.

The last 10-12 miles were starting to get frustrating just because I was in pain on the bike with my back and couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t know why. Right as I was getting ready to round the corner to go in to transition, I slipped out of my bike shoes and pedaled barefoot the last 1/2 mile or so to make for a quicker transition.

I felt pretty strong getting off the bike and running in to T2. I had THE BEST T2 spot. It was at the very end of a row. So, I had lots of room and it was easy to find. Plus, my dad was right there on the other side of the fence cheering me on. It only took me 2 minutes in T2.

Racking my bike in T2.
Racking my bike in T2.
My legs were too jello-y to stand & put my running shoes on.
My legs were too jello-y to stand & put my running shoes on.

As I was getting ready to leave T2, they hold folks there with latex gloves on ready to smear sunscreen on you if you wanted. I remember saying to the gal to put it on my back because I could tell I was already starting to burn back there. Sadly, I don’t think the sunscreen worked at all.

Only 13.1 miles to go!
Only 13.1 miles to go!

Now it was time to head out on the run. By the time I got to the run, I had a screaming headache. I think part of it was from dehydration and part of it was the heat. I tried to start running, but with every step I took, it felt like my brains were like a pinball in a pinball machine ricocheting off my skull. It did not feel good at all.

I ended up walking alot more of the run than I wanted to. It was a 2 loop course. Surprisingly, the run wasn’t overwhelming either. I think because it was so long of a run, it was pointless for it to be overwhelming.

One thing that did help is they had aid stations every mile. So, I used that as my goal. “Just make it to the next aid station.” I would keep telling myself that.

Shortly in to the run, I heard my friend Jeannie call me from behind. She was already on her 2nd loop. She says she was struggling with the run, but I think she did awesome! We were able to run with each other for a few hundred feet, but my headache just held me back.

One thing that was nice about the run is you’re physically closer to the other athletes, so you’re able to talk with them and root them on as well. There was a camraderie out there that I didn’t expect. Even folks that were running past me and were obviously better and faster runners would still cheer me on and tell me I’m doing great.

At one point during the run I stopped and walked with this old fellow. I noticed that he had a Kona 140.6 hat on so I started talking to him about that. He is the oldest man to complete an Ironman. He’s 76 yrs old and has been to Kona 25 times! How cool is that? I was struggling with the run and it was hot and he was joking about it about how this isn’t very long and it’s not too hot….maybe he’ll do a 3rd loop. He doesn’t/didn’t know it, but he pushed me to be better. If he can do it, so can I!

Right as I was getting ready to do the 2nd loop of the run, I was at an aid station looking for Tylenol, Excedrin, anything to help my headache. One of the volunteers tried to hurry and find some for me, but to no avail. 😦 I even put more sunscreen on at that aid station too, but it didn’t work.

Sunscreen didn't work.
Sunscreen didn’t work.

At the start of the 2nd loop of the run, I’d finally found my “running legs”. Too bad my head was pounding too bad to run for long periods of time. But, I told myself I only had 6 1/2 more miles to go and then I’d be crossing the finish line of my first 1/2 Ironman.

The 2nd loop of the run seemed to go faster. I just wish I could have run more of it. I was stopping at every aid station. I’d eat a banana, cookies, pretzels, refill my water bottle. Pour water over my head and shove ice cubes down my bra! The volunteers were AWESOME at the aid stations. They had anything/everything you needed. It was great! They always had awesome words of encouragement too.

Before I knew it, I was coming out of the Boise Greenbelt and heading up to the finishers shute! Everybody was giving high 5’s and I tried to give everybody a high 5 that gave me one! I got to see my dad & my friend Carisa & I gave them a high 5 on the way down the chute too!

Better late than never, I crossed the finish line with a time of 7:13:56! It wasn’t the time I hoped for and I was really disappointed for about a week, but I’m at the point now where I can look at it and see what I did right, see what I did wrong and prepare better for next time. Yes, I’m now proud of my time! I finished a 1/2 Ironman and I honestly can’t wait to do another!

I finished my first 1/2 Ironman!
I finished my first 1/2 Ironman!
The beautiful finishers medal that I display proudly!
The beautiful finishers medal that I display proudly!

P.S. As soon as I can afford to purchase the pictures of me crossing the finish line, I’ll post them on here.


20 thoughts on “Boise 70.3 Recap”

  1. This was a great entry! I felt like I was there! I’m glad you stayed in the Residence Inn. 🙂 Great job, Ara, you are my hero!

  2. Congrats on an incredible race! Such a strong time too! I cheered at IM 70.3 Syracuse yesterday and it was so fun and inspiring! I am doing my first 70.3 in 3 weeks (Musselman 70.3, not IM brand), thanks for adding to my inspiration!

  3. Congratulations! Finishing a 70.3 is a huge deal! You had an adventure out there, a black eye?! You’re tough! Very cool to talk to the Kona guy too, it’s things like that that you’ll always remember.
    You did amazing! Congrats!

  4. Congratulations on your first 70.3! And you even got the battle scar – a black eye! Fantastic job!

    I’m curious, why did the race start at noon? I’ve never heard of one starting so late.

    1. Thanks! One of the reasons they start so late is because it tends to get pretty chilly up in Northern Idaho, so if they wait for a Noon start, it warms up a little bit & the water isn’t quite as cold. Plus, it just makes for a unique experience with this race.

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