Boise 70.3 Part 2: race strategy

Can I call “not dying” a race strategy?

I only have three goals for each race of new, long distance:

1) Finish.
2) Do not finish last.
3) Do not get a permanent injury. (Optional.)

To be honest, I only added the third goal on pressure from the wife. We can’t afford helper monkeys, which means a disastrous accident puts my quadriplegic body in her hands. I am somewhat useless without my legs and hands, and since I’ve now built up my heart through endurance training my limp, immobile body would be hers and I make for a beastly “living doll”.

Ironman provided athletes with three plastic bags for use race day: green for morning clothes, red for run gear, and a large black bag to be used both for bringing in gear to T1 race morning, and for after the swim stowing the wetsuit and swim gear. Anything needed for the race had to go into one of those bags, and the red bag had to be dropped off the day before at T2.

I packed the red bag with: shoes, 2 band-aids (for my left heel), running hat, race belt with 5 Gu shots attached, and Coppertone sport sunblock SPF 50. This was dropped off Saturday.

The black bag was packed with: cycling shoes, socks, helmet, gloves, sunglasses, 4 bike bottles (2 water with electrolyte drops, 1 bottle CorvalenM, 1 bottle Endurox R4 recovery), bento box with 5 baggies semi-frozen yam mix, 1 extra baggie yam mix, mustache wax (yeah, mustache wax), plastic earplugs, wax earplugs, goggles, Hawaiian Creations SPF 50 sport sunblock, and a race belt with my number attached.

The green bag contained my wetsuit, and would be used to put my sweatpants and shoes into once I got changed for the swim at T1.

I assumed I would be on the course for up to 8 hours. I came to this figure by taking my longest times to complete each event, since I figured stacking them wouldn’t give me my fastest times. My slowest mile swim in the pool was 50 minutes (rounded up to an hour), slowest bike was 4 hours, and I figured there was no way I’d run a fast half marathon after all that, so I allowed three hours for the run. It turns out I was way off, which I will address in Part 3, the race. In short, however, I raced exactly my training pace’s best days, not my worst days. I was off by over an hour. This affected where my spectators would try and see me come through, and it affected my calculation for food and liquid intake.

Friday I had the opportunity to drive the bike course with my friend, a local, who also gave me pointers to the terrain and climate throughout the course. He had advised me early on that dehydration was going to be an issue because Boise’s climate is 35% humidity. Sure enough the moisture had been sucked out of me within hours of landing and I started chugging water for the rest of the weekend. The swim course was in Lucky Peak Reservoir, and I was eager to see where I’d be swimming the longest open water swim of my life. Lucky Peak is gorgeous and on Saturday the practice swim went great. At 59 degrees Fahrenheit the water felt warmer than the Pacific on my Wednesday swim, there was not a single swell in sight, and not even a remote chance of toothy animals in the water. The only fins in my peripheral vision would be my elbows coming out of the water.

The bike course was beautiful with a few challenging climb areas, but nothing lasting more than a half mile. Seemed pretty easy, other than what I would come to refer to as “the big Nothing”, which is the miles and miles of agriculture in south Boise. My friend called some of this area the desert, which only means it’s higher than the water flow system so agribusiness can’t water the fields. There’s still stuff out there and it certainly isn’t Joshua Tree. It’s just a giant expanse of mind-numbing Nothing, until you hit the two state prisons.

The run course was two loops through downtown Boise’s Greenbelt, a bike/run path on either side of the river running through the city. Fast, flat, and lush. Sweet.

Two weeks prior I had tested my nutrition plan and had a slight problem – I experienced an electrolyte crash. But I hadn’t had a successful test using new electrolyte drops in my water bottles. As a precaution I salted my yam mix generously and used the drops in the water bottles just to make sure I had enough sodium in my system. It wasn’t exact, it wasn’t tested, but it was better than crashing out from salt deprivation (which was imbalance, followed by leg cramps, headache, becoming nauseated, and then a desperate need to STOP MOVING).

Therefore my strategy was simply not to mess everything up. A perfect course with enough challenges to keep me working throughout, but not so difficult that I might drop dead. After the practice swim and driving the bike course I went to bed with a small confidence I would actually meet goals 1 and 2.

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