I got into Boulder on Wednesday afternoon. I was very anxious about the altitude because that's what everyone talked about. Basically 3 weeks leading up to the race, anybody that knows triathlon I talked to, told me that it's gonna suck. While there were some people said that it wasn't going to too bad.
So being a trained engineer, I did a bunch of research and here were what I knew going in:
-aerobic power will drop by 9%. (aerobic power will be 3% lower compared to those who live there)
-air density is lower, so as speed pick up, the gain in speed is greater.
The 2 extra days that I spent in Boulder really helped as I knew what to expect and also things weren't as bad as people said. My bike and run weren't affected that much. But my swim, oh boy, I had to take a break after 100 yards. Seriously. Going into the race, my plan was to limit my damage on the swim and not start out too fast that would mess me up for the rest of the day. Bike negative splits ideally, and run like Forrest Gump but breathing really hard.
I was kinda happy that I didn't swim a 30 minute 1.2 miler because that's like my worst fear lol. I also wasn't too happy with the swim because I may have picked the wrong group to swim with. I knew a couple guys that I was gonna key off during the swim and during the last minute, for whatever reason the pro men split in to two packs. One on the very left and one on the very right. I, like many other pros, I followed like sheep and went to the one on the far right. I was so fixated on keying off the guys that I should draft off of that I did not realize that all the heavy hitters were in the left pack...which ended up all swimming 24s and 25.s
As we got 400m into the race, I realized that we were probably swimming too slowly. So I made a surge to get past the group I was with. Once past, I realized that I was going to be in no man's land for the whole day. The whole swim I tried to catch another ronery (lonely) swimmer ahead of me but we were literally swimming the same speed the whole time. So two kinda cringy moments right here:
1. To the lonely man: bro, if you just slowed down a bit, and we could have worked together, we would have swum 30 seconds faster man. We can both get a beer afterwards. Think about the possibilities...
2. To myself and that right pack on the swim: if we stayed together as a pack to the top swimmers, there won't be a huge split between the 24-25s and then 27-28 swimmers. and the second group wouldn't be as slow. We won't be barbecue chicken..no body wants to be BBQ chicken.
Cool thing about having Polar's V800 watch is I can check out my effort during the swim. As you can see, I was very conservative in my pacing, my heart rate started off at 156 bpm(????? it should have been at 170+) and my highest heart rate was 168 bpm toward the end. I think I made the right overall decision to back off during the swim, since it's my first time racing at altitude not being acclimatized. But had I gone a bit harder, I may have gotten in the 27s and save a minute.
BIKE: 2:09:49, that bike course is fast.
After the swim, I quickly got on my bike after a smooth transition, and instantly felt good. It wasn't long before Matthew Russell, a top American cycled past me like a motor bike. His pace was way too strong. Normally I would BBQ chicken myself and go with him but decided to hold back and go at my own pace, applying lessons learned from previous races of me fading toward the end of the long 56 mile bike leg. Two more cyclist came through and their pace wasn't as bad so I decided to try to stick with them. I stuck with them for about 10 miles but their pace was just a tad too strong again. I fell back and started holding my own pace again. The bike course was really beautiful and I really enjoyed myself out there. Before the race my friend Bryan just told me to enjoy myself because that's why I got in the sport in the first place.
I had around 10 minutes of "fade" during the 75min mark but stayed calm and got in my grubs (clifbars and gels) and the power came back about 5 min later and I was able to push all the way til the run. I was able to catch a couple dudes toward the end and was half excited and half petrified to run.
RUN: 1:22:50, getting back on track with my half ironman run shape.
I know I've mentioned it before, but I haven't had a good, or even decent half ironman run since Lake Stevens 70.3. That run I actually bonked in the middle and ended up running a 1:22. So coming into this race, with the extra stress of everyone telling me how much it's going to suck at Altitude, I wasn't particularly not-sh*tting my pants about the run. But I marched on, and got in a good rhythm. I was able to pass two dudes in the first 3 miles of the first of two 6 mile loops. The rest of a mix of pain, lack of oxygen, trying to save enough energy to yell for coke and water at aid stations, and passing 2 more dudes toward the end. I was able to hold on during the second lap, fading a bit, to complete the whole race in 4:04:03. My best Half Ironman time.
One funny thing about running at altitude is the discrepancy in how you're feeling and what you're actually doing. The run started off fine, my heart rate was 156s, and my pace was 6:10s. But as you can see from the chart, toward the end my pace dropped to 6:30s, and even 7:00s, and my heart rate climbed all the way to 168 toward the end. A complete dis-coupling.
Though my result wasn't that impressive in a stacked field (pro and amateur alike), I placed 12th in the pros, and got beat by three age groupers, one of whom was the collegiate national champ back when I was racing. Honestly for myself, I think it's a great result and I can build on it for the rest of the season. I was at a disadvantage racing against the best guys in the world who all lives in Boulder, and I held my own pretty well. So I'm stoked. What did I do to celebrate? I watched Jurassic World by myself! it was a great movie.
I would like to thank my big main sponsors, Bizlink Technology and Accell. As you all know, triathlon is an expensive sport, and this trip wouldn't have been possible without my sponsors' help. P-fits, and Pedro for the bike fit, what can I say, I feel so comfortable in the aero position that I PRed! 2:09:49 baby! Polar as always for the heart rate and great watch. Wattie Ink for the great kit. Enduropacks for the support, your supplements keep me healthy!
I would also like to thank Keith, for coaching me in the past 12 months. I've learned a lot under you and this result wouldn't have been possible without your help.
I would like to thank my Air BnB host Jeremy, your cat Max was very friendly. I never liked cats until I met Max so it was fun staying at your place!.
My mom and dad, and sister for their unconditional support. They texted me right after the race and were like "You PRed!! 4:04 fastest time ever!"
Nicholas Thompson, for helping me out before the race, and letting me know that there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing pursuing my dream in this sport. Really appreciate it and looking forward to working with you and Tridot!
My next race in Vineman 70.3, so see you all there!