Boxford Distance Triathlon
Stiles Pond, Boxford, MA
Saturday, May 9 2009
Distance Triathlon Course
Swim: 1.4 miles – Out and back to lifeguard stand.
Bike: 84 miles – 3 loops of 28 mile rolling hills course (many long flats to rolling, two steep hills).
Run: 13.1 miles – 2 loops of a rather challenging rolling hills course.
Swim: 37:12 (splits 17:55, 19:16)
Bike: 4:14:36 (19.8 mph – splits 1:21, 1:25, 1:27)
“All roads to Coeur d’Alene go through Boxford…”
Several months ago a few of my Trifury teammates discovered that one of our token training races was downgraded from a half Iron distance triathlon to a half Iron LITE. Since the race was supposed to be a key event in our build up to Ironman Coeur d’Alene, the lowered distances rendered it not worth our while. Chatter of other possible races ensued, which in turn led to discussions of winging our own simulated race. With no other race nearby, and many of us unwilling to travel for one, the Boxford Distance Triathlon (BDT) was born.
The BDT was a brainchild of my teammate Robin, who unselfishly took the reigns in organizing and directing this simulated race. She did such a phenomenal job that what could have otherwise been a low key solid training day instead turned into a signature, fun event that had race flair on the swim, bike, and run courses. Her attention to detail – kayakers on the swim course, volunteers with water bottle exchange on the bike, fully stocked aid stations on the run, commemorative tech t-shirts, a post-race party – made it easy to get into race mode.
But none of this would be possible without the amazing support of the volunteers. From husbands and wives to children and even mothers and grandmothers, the helpers made it special.
All I had to do was race. And race I did!
With ten official starters standing attention in waist-deep water, Robin started the day with a “Go!”
Right away I fell into pace behind Robin. The other eight were somewhere behind. The water was cold at first, enough to rob a few breaths, but within a few minutes settled to comfortable.
Out to the lifeguard stand, I continued to trail Robin by several strokes. I was never close enough to draft, but I was close enough to contemplate a push to catch up. Being my first open water experience of the season, I was worried about going too hard in the beginning, so although we were swimming a similar pace, I decided to keep effort steady.
Just as I touched the lifeguard stand, Robin started back. Not long after, I made a push to catch up. Now with us swimming side by side, I remembered how Robin and I were pretty well matched in the swim, usually with me always chasing her.
We pushed each other for a short while longer before we each took a different path to the beach. Still pushing hard, near all out and feeling good but fatigued, I fell a few strokes behind Robin and, when we climbed out of the water, she proved too strong, taking top honors by several seconds.
Transition was the parking lot to the beach. I was slow, but this not being a race, I took my time. Having the bike stuffed in the car wasn’t exactly ideal anyway, so I had to pull it out, stock it up with nutrition and Gatorade bottles, and set the computer.
The bike was two loops of a 28 mile course for 56 miles in all. Since I had lost many weekends due to an injury, I needed this weekend to be more than just 56 miles, so I decided to do three loops for 84 miles.
I purposely started out fast. I wanted to break into the lead, free and clear of others, so that I could slip into the feel of the race. Plus, whenever I start on the hard side, I always continue the same effort throughout. I had a secret goal of catching the slowest rider, but I knew it would be a steep, even unreachable, goal.
The first loop was, as expected, fast. I tried to keep cadence well above 90 at most times, and I was sure to get on top of my nutrition. Although every now and then rain would spit from the sky, the course was otherwise dry.
Another goal for the bike was to have as even splits as possible. I knew this wouldn’t happen because of how hard I was pushing. And on this course, one with a little bit of everything – flats, gentle rollers, steep rollers, short hills, long steep hills, even windy sections – it would be nearly impossible.
Impossible it was. First loop was 1:21, second 1:25, third 1:27, and I did not catch anybody. Which by then was cool because even though I knew I wouldn’t catch anything but maybe a fly between my teeth, I let myself believe someone was just up the road for the motivation it gave. That enabled me to hold strong mentally and physically on that last lap even when it started to get ugly.
As I rolled toward the end of the bike, now 84 miles later, although my legs were fried I knew I’d be able to run. Experience told me so. In fact, because this was not an official race, I didn’t even think twice about it.
Best part was that I felt I could have done another loop of the bike course, which would have given me the 112 miles of Ironman, but I know it would have gotten much uglier, especially on the hills, because the hills were already getting pretty pathetic in my ability to climb efficiently.
Coming into Transition I saw a Trifury member heading out onto the run course. I gave encouragement and promptly tossed my bike in the car, downed a salt tab, and slipped into my run gear. Just then Daysman came over to tell me of the woes that cut his day short, a completely severed bike tire. Poor guy. I know it sucked for him, but of all people for this to happen to, he has the best attitude. In fact, it’s something I draw on time and again, because I’ve seen it from him time and again – always quick with a smile, looking at the bright spots, noticing the good.
The run course is where the real fun started.
Where in most races the run, for me, signifies the beginning of the fun because I can usually run at pace, this time it was that plus the fruits of Robin’s laboring as race director coupled with seeing teammates on the course and getting on the catch.
Quick on my feet, in no time I settled into a pace a bit faster than Ironman pace. I had wanted to work on race pace but felt much better than expected so decided to pick it up so that my breathing was as labored as it could be without getting out of control. It was more like half Iron race pace, but just a touch slower.
Out to the turnaround over this rolling hills course, the humidity and heat turned up. I stayed on top of hydration and nutrition and was able to stay focused throughout. It was fun seeing others coming and going all over the course.
Aid stations were an unexpected treat; they were fully stocked (although I didn’t use them but for water since I went into this expecting none at all) with both water and Gatorade and bananas and Gels oh my, and even more fully stocked with the energy of enthusiastic volunteers cheering, waving hands, standing ready with cups of water, asking well in advance what we needed so that by the time we were at the table, are requests stood tall.
As I neared the end of the run, up the last climb I went, now only a half mile from the finish, I made a fist and thrust it in the air. It was not for the completion of the long day but rather for the feeling as if I could easily do this loop at least one more time. And if I could do it for one more time, I could certainly dig deep for yet another – a full marathon. The pace would likely turn to plod, but I knew I could have done it.
Tony, who took first, looked strong and always had words of encouragement, if not quick wit. Veronica looked fast! Lisa, focused and definitely in a zone, was steady and nipping at Tony’s heals by 4 minutes. At one point I told her to put on the catch, “Tony’s ahead by 4 minutes. If you got it, put on the chase now.” She gave me a smile back that said, ‘Whatever, dude.’ Robin, sturdy and consistent as ever, gave her usual smile. Then was Terry, marching along looking relaxed. And Joceyln, who never fails to amaze me with not only her attitude but also her consistency. She hits the finish line looking as if she had just started. Her expression says, ‘One more time… who’s with me.’
They made it fun. Robin’s detail made it fun. The volunteers being family and totally getting this made it fun. And my teammates. Fun. All pushing ourselves and each other. Even more fun!