New Peaks to Climb in the Backyard: Ironman Boulder 70.3

My attention finally returned to writing this weekend (sorry about that – sometimes, a girl just has to focus on sleeping in, organizing recipes, pondering fall boots…) and I realized that I never published my little race report on the Boulder 70.3 a few weeks back. Perhaps this is a good thing for the race – and the goals I started to set after it – look much different further in the rearview.

When I set out to publish about this experience – just after returning home from Boulder, and setting a new sub 5hr pr at this distance – I was all riled up. My body was preparing for the Bridger Ridge Run the following weekend, and I was pleased to see that it had held up during the racing trifecta that I had designed for it and really, I was still just amped to be in one piece and looking already forward to the next test. ( In the months spent preparing, I had always imagined that my body would go before my brain, that I would be exhausted, hungry, and physically spent long before my spirit would tire of trying to meet the races ahead.) So, when I arrived in Boulder – feeling fresh as a daisy and ready to lay it all out on the course for the last time in the triathlon season, I was, needless to say, surprised. The truth is that my focus on this particular race drifted in and out of clarity as race weekend wore on – my entire family had traveled to cheer me on and pack my three days in town full with gatherings, celebrations, and…ya know…whatever families do when they are all together at last. Saturday night arrived, and my brain could hardly believe it was time to take the course again. When I wrote a few weeks back about the ITU World Championships, I was hoping to describe that there was something within me that was clawing, wanting, ravenous to take my racing to the next level – rather than merely being present on the course in fast company, I wanted to take the whole cake – to break my tradition of sitting on the edges of the absolute BEST and each race realizing that there is more that I have to give – that I can dig deeper. The well seems to get deeper as I go and this is the buzz and excitement in racing for me…or at least it had been until this Monster arrived.

It kept me up at night the night before the race in Spain -The Monster Athlete in the Closet – whom was analyzing each element of the race while the Mostly Zen Athlete I’ve Always Been tried to sleep. When I realized it was there, I thought a new element of athlete had been discovered, and I was certain that these two parts of my competitive being were going to have to meet to move towards my next goals. Would this meeting be the gnarly, teeth-gritting, screaming-internal-monologue, bleeding rage breakdown of personal barriers that I imagined it to be? Ouch – I really wished not. I don’t have many pre-race rituals. I don’t do insane visualizations, chant mantras, or perform rituals. And while I do usually spend months at a time between big races preparing, and zeroing in my training my only starting line requirement is that I have time and space to  tap into the quiet, and turn on that inner voice that usually whispers, but sometimes yells as I lay down what I have. So, Boulder wasn’t any different.  I was literally just floating along, checking off pre-race events and obligations without paying much attention to the matter at hand. As I tucked myself into bed and tried to sleep that night, I found myself quietly determined to close the season with a bang in the morning – I had been hunting a sub-5:00 hour finish all season and half-promised I would aim for it tomorrow. But, I made the full promise to dump everything I had on the course in Boulder. And, in the event that I didn’t find much to be there (due to distractions, overwhelming amounts of intense travel, a body that had been hiding its exhaustion with exuberance,) to give myself a break and chalk it up to an experience. (As if that would be so easy.) In the back of my mind I knew that all I really wanted was to finish this race happy, healthy, and knowing that I had emptied my tank out there so that I could rest up and start to imagine the next challenge – in whatever form. All that I had to give would have to be enough.  And so, the gun went off and this – my hometown race – released its athletes onto a flat, fast, beautiful and hot racing paradise. From somewhere, my arms found their strokes through the sun-dappled water. My legs found their push on the bike. And my heart, and belly, felt every bit of the run – moving from the core, towards the finish line in a negative split half-marathon. From somewhere within; without a gritting of teeth, self-deprocating inner voice or inferno of rage – the goal came. The course – though challenging, (I needed to wear a sports bra filled with ice on the run) didn’t wear me thin. the field, though stacked, didn’t surprise me. And my own strength, though deep within, was there – as I knew that it had been and it came flowing out from somewhere beneath the screams and cheers of friends and family. I cruised across the finish line and smiled – having coaxed out each little bit of power I had. And then, I looked at my watch: a 4:56. Mission accomplished. Tears of joy streamed down my face.  In that moment that I looked down and saw my new PR, saw that I again had the ability to set my mind to something and push to meet that goal, something clicked over in me — like the mileage in a little car. I knew that I have the capability of going faster than I ever have before, of more than I ever imagined when I took off to be an endurance athlete. There was an ease in this success – it came straight from the core, without much coaxing (no gritting, ripping blood-thirsty breakdown.) No, this came from the place where my body is far more powerful than I give it credit, and my mind thinks nothing of previous impossibility. There isn’t a gripping fear that I won’t achieve my goal, but rather an understanding that setting the goal and attempting it is the achievement. And with this combination, there are lots and lots of things that body/minds can do…raw things that go beyond closed courses.And so, I’m plotting – planning 2013. Doing so has been harder than I thought – I suppose I could aim at the World Championships again, continue to push my PR lower into the 4hr realm. I could try racing on other continents, see other parts of the world through triathlon glasses. I am awfully thankful for the way that triathlon has helped me learn how to face challenge, approach and succeed in competition and I will always enjoy events where I get to be an ambassador for these gifts. But there is something bigger looming. Quite literally, I feel like there might be oceans to swim, mountains to overcome, deserted trails to conquer. My triathlon hat and squeezy-suit will be hung up for a few months now while I regroup and look forward to whatever these new goals may be – and as I figure out how to tangibly fathom and face them. In whatever light it is cast, 2013 will be a year of traveling fast + far with that full belly + soul for sure.

The photos in this post were taken by my brother, Evan, whom flew all the way from Chicago to cheer and take embarrassing snaps of me in sweaty, squeezy clothes. These are some of my favorite shots/moments but he took over 360 images. I cannot express how WONDERFUL it was to have my entire family on the course – to hear their voices and see their smiles, and to share this personal victory with them. Over the moon!!