FYI… It’s a long post…. but so was the race.
Race: Ironman Boulder
Date: Sunday, June 10, 2018
Location: Boulder, CO
Start time: In the water at 6:26am
Overall: 17:35.14 // DNF
Starting BG: 93mg/dl
Ending BG: 105mg/dl
Highest BG: “HIGH” on Dex… aka: over 400mg/dl
Lowest BG: 93mg/dl
After maybe 4 hours of interrupted sleep, my alarm goes off at 3:30am. The combination of a fear of being late for the shuttle bus to Boulder Reservoir and my immediate interest in a strong cup of black coffee get me out of bed.
Getting ready and out the door is fairly easy as everything has been set-out the night before and bikes and all transition gear was dropped off on Saturday. I put on my gear, braid my hair and join Kelly in the kitchen for oatmeal, Ucan and COFFFFEEEEE. yes. No one else is awake. We’re out the door by 4:15am. During the short drive to Boulder High School, where the shuttle buses are waiting, we try to find a good pump up song, but somehow land on Butterfly by Crazy Town. Just wait until you do a 17 hour race and have “you’re my butterfly, sugar baby” stuck in your head. Avoid this song.
We’re at the Reservoir by 5am. The next hour goes relatively quick. We pump up bike tires, put nutrition on our bikes, and in our bike and run transition bags that were waiting for us at the Res. We hit the bathrooms, put on wetsuits and run into the fam (!!). We hand them our bike pump to carry around for the rest of the day 😉
At this point, I’ve been sipping on a sports drinks, Generation Ucan, since we left home. Ucan is a slow-acting carbohydrate that typically keeps my blood sugars in a beautiful range but usually spikes them a bit in the morning. I also had Ucan in my oatmeal — a VERY common breakfast for me, because you don’t want to change anything on race day. At 3:30am I had woken up with a BG just above 150 and felt good about it. I turned my the basal rate on my pump down by 60% (meaning I told my pump to give me 60% LESS insulin than it typically does). I did give myself a little insulin to cover the oatmeal and try to avoid a crazy blood sugar spike from the carbs I would be eating over the next 3 hours before the race and the adrenaline that can cause BS spikes. WELLLL apparently, nothing was going to spike today. I had been steadily dropping since waking up and it never plateaued before the swim. My last check was 93mg/dl when I left my Dexcom receiver in my Transition 1 bag. Knowing that I should have had enough carbs in my system for the 2.4 mile swim but not really feeling comfortable enough since I had never been this low before an hour swim before, I killed another Clif bar and hoped for the best!
The Boulder swim course is a one-lap, counter-clockwise rectangular-ish loop. Buoys kept to your left at all times. This is good for me because I only breath to my left 🙂 **note: as a sometimes-swim-coach, I cannot endorse only breathing to one side. Do as I say, not as I do.
It is also a rolling start. This means that everyone self-seeds themselves based on their time and they let one or two athletes go every one-two seconds, as opposed the the “mass-start” (everyone in the water at once when the cannon goes off) that has been traditional for many Ironman events. Of course, I wasn’t ready to line up any sort of early, but with the swim being my strongest leg of this race, I needed to make my way to the front. And by the time Kelly and I were ready to line up, we had about 1400 athletes to push our way through. Kelly took the lead and continued to yell “1:05 swim coming through!” until we made our way up front. This was met mostly with positive/impressed remarks and with one “get here earlier!” Okay, okay lady… chill out. We weren’t the only ones pushing our way to the front. Once we got to the front, we noticed a nice break in the fencing holding us all in line. We could have just walked along the outside. Go figure.
Nothing crazy to report on the swim. Felt good, despite forcing myself to wear a wetsuit (#teamnowetsuit) and quickly passed many athletes… which definitely made me question as to whether or not they were self-seeding correctly…
I finished the swim in one hour and 5 min. Kelly in 1:04. I only died inside a little when I found out Kelly beat me on the swim… I didn’t find out until a week later when she was not sober that she was SO JAZZED she beat me on the swim and that it took willpower to hold back not rubbing it in my face. So… next time…. I guess I’ll get in the water more than 10 times over 6 months of training. 😉
TRANSITION 1: SWIM TO BIKE
Wetsuit Strippers. This is a job you can volunteer for at Ironman. Praise these humans and their amazing talent to pull a wetsuit off you in 2 seconds.
I put on a dry bike tank, helmet, shoes and socks. Volunteers bring water and set all your things out for you so you can quickly go through transition. When I get out of the changing tent, 3 woman come at me with hands white with sunscreen and smear it on my legs, arms, face, neck, etc. When there is extra on my own hands, one offers me her shirt and quickly yells, “Here, use my shirt! USE MY SHIRT!” Amazing.
I get to my bike and check my Dex — my bloodsugar is a beautiful 150. I foolishly think to myself, “oh! Maybe this is going to be a great blood sugar day!” Shoulda knocked on wood.
The bike course is a 2-loop course through quiet farm roads in Boulder County + a little extra ride along Hwy 119.
I’m feeling good. We do a quick lap around the Boulder Reservoir parking lot before leaving the Res and heading out onto Hwy 119. I get past the first u-turn and see one guy on the side of the road already checking his tires. Yikes. a few miles later… something is def. not right with my back tire. But it doesn’t yet feel like a flat. I keep going, hoping it will go away or I can make it to the first aid station at mile 9. Nope. I pull over and see that my tire is pretty flat. Cool. Kelly rides by on the other side of the highway (ahead of me on the course) and yells hey. I yell to her that I have a flat and she is like YOUGOTHISBYEEE! When we’re recapping the race, I would find out later that a mile after Kelly saw me, she too would get her first flat of two for the day.
I tell myself to stay calm. I had just changed a flat on a training ride a few weeks earlier so I knew what I had to do and wasn’t even terrified to use the CO2! I pull the tube, check the tire for signs of debris and get the new tube in. I even got my tire back on without tire levers and much quicker than I had the last time. Then I went for my CO2… well despite that the nozzle had worked a few weeks back, it decided it wasn’t going to work today. CO2 sprays out the sides of the nozzle. I quickly try to get it on the tire, but only got the tire half full. I try again with my 2nd CO2 thinking it was maybe user-error… nope. Same problem. Tire half-full. New Tube. Un-rideable bike. Aid station is 4 miles away at least. Then, out of nowhere, a local angel human who was spectating appears with a hand pump. He takes the wheel from my hands and goes to work. He fills it enough and puts it back on my bike. He takes the old tube from me and tells me I got the flat-karma out of the way for the day. This time, I think to myself “knock on wood..”.
It took about 25 minutes out of my day for this whole flat endeavor. Kelly put it best when she said, “time flies in an Ironman.” I made it to the first aid-station where they had an actual floor pump. Another volunteer pumped the tire up for me and I was on my way.
By the time I hit the 3rd aid station, 30-ish miles in and after 1 out of 6 climbs, my bloodsugar was 400+ and rising. The Ucan, pre-swim Clif bar, were catching up. Combine those carbohydrates with me unexpectedly stopping all physical activity for 30 min to fix the flat and probably a little concern/adrenaline from the flat and my body was like WOAH SUGAR, PLZ PROVIDE INSULIN. And, I was FEELING IT. I felt so sick and was riding very slow. I’m typically hesitant to dose a lot of insulin on long rides, knowing the exercise + insulin combo could make me tank, but in that moment I was ready to do anything to get my blood sugar down. If I lingered high I also wouldn’t be able to eat enough calories to keep moving forward. So, I took a solid dose of insulin and headed out for the second climb (another activity that makes my blood sugar drop). By the next aid station I was coming down nicely. By the back half of the first loop, I’m feeling good again, not sick and pretty strong, The climbs aren’t too intimidating and the descents that follow are AWESOME. The last 12 miles of the loop are tough… headwind + rollers. My bloodsugar has caught up to itself and now hovering around 100… too close for my personal liking when I’m trying to workout all day. I get a lot of slightly down arrows which make me nervous and I consume more bananas and gatorade and spend more time at aid stations than I would like. This is all fine even though I know it’s increasing my planned bike time and cutting into the time I have to complete the marathon.
The second loop goes by relatively uneventful. I see more and more athletes stopped with medical teams. Athletes I’ve been playing leapfrog with all day. No matter how much extra time I added to my bike during aid station stops, I’m happy to still be out riding and not ending my day yet.
I make a new friend in the last mile of the bike. It’s 4 or 5pm or something and we’ve been riding bikes for about 9 hours and SO over it. We talk about how great it was when the sun went behind the clouds for 30 min and the temperature dropped 10 degrees, and how slow his bike split was and that his friends were going to give him a hard time. We joke that now all we have to do is go run, walk or crawl a marathon! Hah! Jokes after a 10-hour day. He was cute and I develop an immediate, heat-induced crush on him. But I know I’ll never see him again as he speeds ahead. He will make it into and out of transition before me. Didn’t even get his bib number!! 😉 #trijokes
TRANSITION 2: BIKE TO RUN
As we stop at the “dismount line” before heading into transition, the volunteers run up to take our bikes. The woman grabbing mine notices my Omnipod insulin pump on the inside of my arm and smiles and says, “are you type 1?!” “yeah!” … her husband and two kids are type 1. She gets it and gives me extra props for being out there. I ask her to send good blood sugar vibes my way for the run.
Most of the Res is a ghost town at this point… most spectators have made it back to downtown Boulder for the finish as athletes would have started finishing by now. But not my fam! They are there and loud and snapping *cute* pics of me looking great after a 112-mile bike ride in 95 degrees and wind. I walk into the transition tent. And sit. It’s dark-ish and volunteers bring me water and ice and dump out the contents of my transition bag. I change into my run gear and they put my race bib on my race belt. I test my blood sugar once with real blood to make sure Dex is still giving accurate readings. He sure is! 168. Nice. The girl helping me with
all of this sees me checking and asks if I’m feeling okay. And, I really was. I mean I wanted to sit there for a bit instead of heading out on that run, but my BGs were good and I didn’t feel like death yet. She mentions that she is the only one in her family that doesn’t have Type 1 or Type 2. Wow! More proof that SO many people in this world are affected or connect to diabetes somehow. She goes and dunks my running hat in ice water before she hands it to me. PRAISETHELORDBABYJESUS. Pretty sure it was dry within 30 seconds of walking outside that tent.
I see the fam again and walk with them for a hot second before making good on my promise to myself to at least run out of the Res before walking again. I would have 6.5 hours to complete the marathon to finish under 17 hours.
Okayyyy the run. Ugh. Honestly, nothing was enjoyable here. You know that feeling of “hurts so good”. That was the bike. Hard and challenging, but like in a good way. The run? Nope. All of it was hard. Which is a bummer, because I had actually been looking forward to the run. I really learned how to run this winter/spring. Every weekend when I would do my “long run,” it was always my longest ever run. I ran my first half-marathon in Boulder in April. And my long training runs had been feeling good. I had dropped 4 minutes/mile off my pace time since February. And I felt ready for the run and ready to see what I could do. Now, I knew not to expect to go the the pace I usually went on fresh legs (12min/mile), but I felt confident that if I kept to my plan of “run for 1.5min, walk for 1min,” then I could keep things at an average of 15min/mile. Had I been able to do this, I would have completed the race in under 17.
Buttttt….. not in the cards that day. I started out good with this plan and did my best to stay hydrated, but not overly full on water. Honestly though by the time you hit the run, nutrition is all a nightmare. I didn’t want to eat another Gu or Shot Block or Clif bar or Gatorade. Chips sounded great for salt, but a nightmare with my mouth being so dry from the dry heat of Boulder. It was a tough nutrition game at this point.
My BGs also began to climb. I had spent most of the day cycling and now I was switching things up on them! How dare I. By mile 6, I was 320mg/dl and rising. And felt like garbage again. I felt so nauseas, I couldn’t run… only a slow walk. My pace went to 18min/mile. I switched the temporary basal rate on my pump again so that I would be getting more insulin in my body to counteract the activity change and I could eat more if I needed to. I also took a dose of insulin to bring me down from the high. It took a few miles to get me feeling better again. Around this time of the day, the aid stations also started serving chicken broth. OMG A LIFE SAVOR. This was amazing. A salty, warm liquid that didn’t spike my blood sugar?? Count me in! My new best friend was that chicken broth. By mile 13, I was back in okay-ish spirits. I was back to my 1.5mile run / 1mile walk routine and kept moving forward.
Somewhere along the south-bound course out-and-back I hit a wall and entered a dark space. Like pretty sure at some point I acquired one of Voldemort’s horcrux’s and it was sucking the soul out of me. The southbound out-and-back was just a litttle more south than I thought it was. And when I got to the aid station where I thought it was the turn around, they DIDN’T HAVE BROTH, and they told me I had another half-mile before I could turn around. I was not a happy camper. I started walking. A slow walk.
I made it back from the southbound leg and used the bathroom — first time the entire run actually. I sat there for maybe a moment longer than I needed to. haha. When I got out and headed north to start completing the last part of the first loop — and the last 8 miles of the course — my sister appears OUT OF NOWHERE. Like literally out of the trees along the path and was like, “Abbey! Hi! Where are you going…?” Me in my head: “um… I’m doing this ironman…?” She didn’t know we had to go back north before we could go west again to the finish line. I was not talking a lot and not in a great space, but she stuck with me FOR THE REST OF THE RACE. She offered conversation and jokes and motivational musings. It was very dark on that path aside from my headlamp and I was so grateful to have someone with me.
We made it to the north turn-around at mile 20, right at the cut-off time of 10:25pm. They informed me I would be the LAST ATHLETE to cross that turn-around with a timing chip. With a “go get it girl” they told me I had an hour and a half to finish the race. Then they radio’d to other race crew that “bib 671 is our last athlete”. WOAH. Then they drove behind us in a golf cart basically the rest of the way. Nellie saw this as an ideal opportunity to really make a long day and DNF-finish a spectacle… she immediately turned to me and said “you’re the last athlete… do you know what that means!? It means we’re gonna SHUT BOULDER DOWN!” So, we did. I started jogging/”shuffling” again for the next few miles. Then walked again for the another couple and then walk/jogged the last. Just before the last 3 miles, I would see my mom appear on the trail out of the darkness and she joined Nellie and I for a bit. Then Kelly showed up. Then my aunt and uncle and Kelly’s family appeared and stuck with me until mile 26.
Three of us [athletes] left — me, Jay and Alecia — would be the last athletes with timing chips and would run that last mile together, and with our humans. Alecia with two of her girlfriends and Jay with his son. Me with Nellie and Kelly (who came back to run the last 2.5 miles with me AFTER she had finished her own 12-hour race day). I ran the last .1 by myself and into the chute.
I felt like death. I’ve never felt so awful after a race. It was not awesome.
But guess what — my blood sugar was 105. Of course right?! A nightmare blood sugar day, but if you look at the starting and ending BGs — 93 and 105 — you’d never know it!
I went to bed at 1:30am feeling like garbage. I woke up at 7:30am feeling fine. A little sore, but not like death. No more sore than a long training run. Walking a little weird due to blisters, but otherwise not in rough shape.
Kelly and I went back to the Ironman village to hit up the swag tent one more time and buy some “Finisher” gear. Then we wandered over to Pearl street for a bloody and some french fries, ’cause SALT. We ran into 3 lady-boss triathlete, one of whom we had met while we were in line for the swim! Small and inspirational world.
Kelly’s family headed out of town, so we spent the rest of the afternoon napping and I largely ignored all the messages and texts I was getting. THANK YOU for everyone who sent notes — I read them all, but just couldn’t respond right away. I would literally have been on my phone all day haha. 🙂 We spent the evening with the fam in Golden, discussing every bit of the race — from an athlete and spectators perspective — over beers and food truck burgers. A perfect way to end the trip.
My biggest regret is not buying the “Ironman Boulder” sticker for my water bottle before they sold out.
But am I…?