Boise 70.3 Race Report

I've been putting off writing this up, as I was trying to think of a catchy title that summarized the race.  So far I've come up with:

Blowing in the Wind
Thar She Blows
The Wind in my Hair

and then I thought the title really should be 

Blow Me.

One of the reasons we chose Boise was the noon start.  We thought it would be fantastic to not have to get up at "dark-thirty" and rush to a race start in a half-asleep state.  Indeed, it was a pretty relaxing morning, perhaps a bit too relaxing as I was almost napping in the sun before my wave start.  We had a regular breakfast, went downtown to check in our run gear, and waited around for our shuttle bus to the race start.  It was hot and getting hotter, and windy and getting windier.  By the time we got up to the race start area, it was pretty dang windy; one may say downright blustery.

We didn't have much set-up to do in transition, as all of your gear has to be in a bag hanging from your bike.  It took me about 2 seconds to set that up, and then began a lot of waiting around.  In the heat, with basically 1000 people crammed under 3 10x10 tents for a bit of shade.  It was already over 30 degrees C and the race hadn't started.  Let me tell you how excited I was to pull on my wetsuit in that heat.  One smart move I made was to bring a pair of socks to throw away at the start.  I do this normally because the damp grass in the early morning makes my feet cold (what a princess), but it saved me as we spent a long time standing on really hot blacktop with many people complaining of the bottom of their feet burning.  Yay, me!

My wave hit the water at 12:15 (Jason and our friend Joel would follow half an hour later).  The water was cold, but it felt good after sweating in the heat in my wetsuit.  I figured I'd have a good swim as I've really put the time and effort in the pool this year.  I started right on the start line, and when the horn sounded there were only 2 girls ahead of me.  I hung on to the feet of the second one for almost the whole swim.  We were getting bashed around by the chop and white water, pushed off course by the wind, having to swim our way through really slow swimmers in the waves ahead of us, and basically it felt like we were swimming forever.  My goal time was 32:something minutes, and I was kind of bummed when my Garmin said 35:something when I got out of the water.  And - weird that the timing mat was way up the boat ramp after the wetsuit strippers, so my official swim time was 36:20, but I was totally pumped that I was 3rd in my age group.  The best I'd done before that was 9th, so although my time didn't show an improvement, my placing did.

I also didn't feel too bad when Jason and Joel were also about 3 minutes slower in the swim.  Joel normally swims sub-25 in a half (yeah - he's that fast!) and was over 28... tough conditions slowed us all down.

Out onto the bike course, and I was looking forward to the first few kms as they are straight downhill.  But the winds were so strong that I had to death-grip the bars, and even still got the speed wobbles a few times from being pushed around by the gusts.  That basically set the stage for the bike... so windy and it was all I could do to hang on.  I tried to stay aero as much as possible, as the winds were either right in my face or to the side for probably three-quarters of the course.  It really sucked.  Or I guess it really blowed.  Ha ha.

Trying to stay relaxed and aero.

The winds just kept seeming to pick up.  It was hot, but I was managing the heat ok by pouring water on my back every time I went through an aid station.  I didn't really feel like the heat was getting to me, but the wind was.  It was almost impossible to drink or eat, as the winds were so gusty that there were rarely opportunities to take a hand off the bars.  I knew I was really thirsty and the wind was drying me out, not to mention the dry midwest air that this coastal girl is not used to!  I tried to drink a whole bottle each time I got the chance, but really had the feeling I wasn't drinking enough.  I also knew my effort was waaaaayy higher than it should have been on the course, but those were the conditions we had to deal with.

A long climb before halfway.

At around the half-way mark, Jason passed me and said "Tough conditions Alison, hang in there!"  Just knowing he felt it was tough made me feel better.  I continued wrestling my bike against the gusts, and just kept turning the pedals.  Joel passed me about a half hour later, and it seemed from that point on there was a headwind no matter which direction we were heading.  It took forever to get back to town... and I wondered if I had anything left.

I pulled into transition in 3:09 for my bike split.  I was really hoping to ride under 3 hours, and feel like in better conditions I could definitely ride in the low 2:50's on that course.  I didn't really care about the time anymore, I was so shelled from the wind.  But - I was in 8th place in my age group, which is the best ever I've done coming off the bike.

I sat on the grass in T2 for awhile, wondering if I actually had the energy to go out onto the run course.  However, my desire not to quit was stronger... so I told myself to walk through transition and completely finish the bottle of Vega in my gear bag and get going at that point.  The run was actually quite pretty, two loops through a park around a river.  There was a lot of support at the aid stations, so mentally I just told myself to get to the next aid station, stop, and drink and eat.

It was really hot by late afternoon, but I kept dumping ice in my top and I never felt like the heat was a huge factor for me.  I just burned way too many matches on the bike, and didn't have enough in the tank for any sort of decent run.  Plus, I have been having some trouble with a recurring knee problem lately, and my knee decided after about 15 km that it didn't want to run anymore.

Everyone was completely shelled on that run course.  The last 5 km were like an Ironman death march. Usually runners back in my area chat with each other, run together, encourage everyone... not that day. Not a word was being said to anyone, and we were all just trying to get to the finish.  It couldn't come soon enough.  And it didn't, I posted my slowest "run" time ever in a half, but I didn't care.  Somehow I ended up 20th in my age group which I was pretty surprised with.  There were a lot of pretty slow bike times, and I think people used up so much energy on the bike, that there weren't a lot of good run splits.  Even the pros ran a few minutes slower (hey, it's all relative) than usual.

Happy to be done is kind
of an understatement.

Of course, Jason absolutely dominated his age group.  He went hoping to qualify for the Vegas World Championships, and he did that by taking his age group win by 14 minutes.  And a bonus of having him be so fast is that he had my bike and gear checked out by the time I'd finished, so I didn't have to do any of that.  Which was good, as I was out of it!  My head felt like I'd just raced an Ironman (at least my body didn't feel that bad).

My overall thoughts on the race: I doubt we'll be back, despite the super-friendly people and a course I would really like under different conditions.  I thought I would love the noon start since I like to sleep in, but honestly I didn't at all.  There was too much waiting around, and too much time for the wind and heat to pick up.  By the time the race started, I wanted to have lunch and a nap.  Had the race started at 7 a.m. like most 70.3's, we would have been off the bike course before it was too bad.  Plus, once you finish, chill out for a while, get back to your hotel, and then go for dinner, it was after 10 by the time we'd eaten.  Way too late!  With so many races to choose from, I'm glad we tried this one but it will go down to one-and-done.  Boise 70.3, you can blow me.


  1. Great race report. I'm glad you didn't quit. Boise Blows.

    1. Thanks Ken. I wanted to quit, but I wanted not to quit more.

  2. Good for you toughing it out. Really sounds like you killed the swim and the bike. I guess Boise is just a real b**ch every year. Most of the people I know who have done it think the same thing as you....never again. Plenty of other great Halfs to chose from....hmmm...which one next:)

    1. Calgary? Lake Stevens? Vineman? So many options...

  3. Wow- sounds like a tough day from the heat to the wind. Congratulations! Your placings sound awesome, especially the swim!
    (And seriously, Jason normally swims under 25!?)
    So bizarre that the weather was so extreme from last year to this year.

    1. No, Joel usually swims sub-25. Jason usually swims around 28. He was 31 in Boise. So I'm not sad I was 35 something when I wanted 32!

  4. Wow! That wind would have freaked me out. I love that you wanted to NOT quit more than you wanted to quit. That is awesome.