I'm still recovering from Boise 70.3. It was a difficult, hot day, but also one of those days that reaffirms an athlete's belief in his sport. No, I didn't win, despite my upraised arms in the photo, but I did hold on to finish 10th in the professional field. I was left feeling proud about my effort and my result for the first time since Canada IM 2009. Here's how the race went:
Swim: I learned a lesson in this swim, although it's not really the lesson I'd liked to have learned. It was a lesson about integrity, following rules, and how to interpret the rules to your advantage. Seconds after Tom Ziebert admonished us to "Keep the buoys on your right," the gun went off and the pack swerved to the inside of the buoys, keeping them on our left. After swimming in what I felt was an illegal position for a few hundred meters I left the pack and went to the left of the buoys. I lost the pack and Ben Hoffman's feet—I went on to lose 2 minutes to the pack. Afterward, talking to my coach and my teammates, they all averred that I should have stayed with the pack no matter what. I'm not happy about it, and I'm not happy about saying "That's sport," but turning happenstance to your advantage is part of sport, and Michael Jordan made himself better by sometimes going right to the edge of what was "legal." The responsibility is on me, not my competitors, to work within the gray areas of the rules. To their credit, they did go around all the turn buoys. I came out of the water 2 minutes to the big pack, where I really needed to be.
The Bike: Ooh this was hard. The bike course changed at Boise this year, removing a climb, but the course was still rolling (1500 feet of climbing) and a brutal headwind made things difficult. I worked fairly well, posting the 13th best ride, but with 10 miles to go I was caught by Karl Bodine. He's a former professional cyclist, I thought, I'll let him lead me home. The problem was is that Karl seemed to shut things down as soon as he caught me. After rolling along at 20 MPH for 5 miles or so, I decided to leave him. I think I lost another 2 minutes there.
The Run: This is the first time I've ever been able to say that I didn't do anything wrong on the run. I posted the 8th fastest run split (rare air for me) and only gave up 3 1/2 minutes to Craig Alexander. It was a hard day for everyone, with only a couple of runners going under 1:20. I came off the bike feeling good, and my turnover was quick and my strides strong. I ran the first mile in 6:10, the rest of my splits going as follows:
Mile 2: 6:17
Mile 3: 6:35 (this mile hurt—stomach issues and a side cramp)
Mile 4: 6:37 (strangely, I thought I was picking things up here)
Mile 5: 6:34
Mile 6: 6:12 (I had to catch and pass Chris McDonald here, and I knew I had to pass him convincingly, or he'd come back on me—he hung very, very tough, though; more on that later)
Mile 7: 6:20
Mile 8: 6:20
Mile 9: 6:17
Mile 10: 6:35 (I started to hurt again after a very good stretch of four miles)
Mile 11: 7:01? Hard to tell, my watch was a bit messed up.
Mile 12: 6:15
Mile 13: ~7:00.
I think I negative split the run, which is a great accomplishment for me. The run was very hard, and I knew a lot of people would fold up their tents, but all I had to do was to stay strong, keep my turnover high, and suffer. That was put to the test when I tried to put Chris McDonald away; he's a champion, and hung strong at St. George to finish 3rd. When I passed him I thought Good, he'll be gone. When I hit the turnaround he was only 34 seconds behind and still running hard. The next guy was two minutes behind, and I wasn't worried. But Chris McDonald is a competitor, even for 10th place. He made me work for it.
It was a really hard day, but it reminded me of how good hard work can feel, especially if that hard work turns into a good result, and it re-energized me about triathlon and my place in it.
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