The BIG EVENT of the summer was here for the Ricci Family. It was one of THE most important events on the Ricci calendar. 1:20 pm on Sunday we were going to see “Cars 3” There was no taper for this and I had to race the Boulder Peak beforehand. And that meant getting the car packed up at the Res, unpacked at home, showered and to the theater in time. I know you’ll be glad to know we made it with time to spare. Now, onto the 2nd important event of July 9th.
I first raced Boulder Peak in 1996 and then raced it every year until 2001. Looking back historically I’ve raced it 7 times, including this weekend. I’ve always loved the challenge of Olde Stage, the steep competition and the fact that it’s a strength course. The swim is usually choppy, the run up the beach takes some strength (in the old days we used to run up the big hill on the North side of the Res – a good 90” run from swim exit to transition), you have Olde Stage on the bike and most of the run is on gravel with some small rollers. There’s nowhere to hide on this course – you are either fit or you’re not. Unfortunately for me, going into this race, I’m was somewhere in between.
In 1999, the race was an Ironman Qualifier and I was pumped to have a KQ in my backyard. The competition was tough that year! I swam around 23 minutes, biked 1:09 and ran under 39 minutes, yet I was still 14th in my AG, even though I went 2:14. That was my fastest time as it was the only time I picked the Peak as my A race. For historical perspective, this year, a 2:14 gets you second in the 30-34. In 1999, the 1st slot in my AG went to a guy who went 2:01 or in that range.
Although this wasn’t an A race for me, I was pretty happy to be racing the Peak again, the first time since 2009 (2:24 and 11th AG). The fact that Barry Siff was back and Olde Stage was part of the bike course played a big part in my decision. Besides my 14th AG in 1999, I’ve had a few 11th and 12th places along the way, but I’ve never cracked the top 10 in my AG. The competition is always tough and it’s not a course that suits my style of racing, but I enjoy the challenge anyway. I’ve always been a bit of a 2nd half racer, usually peaking late in the season for an out of town race.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had no intention of racing the Peak in 2017, but I wanted to challenge myself and I knew I would train hard knowing this is a race that is serious and like I said above, there’s nowhere to hide out there.
Since I haven’t really trained since 2011, my ‘ability to suffer’ is really my limiter. So, I set out to do that these last few weeks with some shorter races and putting hard workouts back to back. I’ve seen a nice progression and I had a few small goals for the Peak.
1) Was to break 2:30 for the entire race.
2) Be top 10 in the AG
3) Run a strong race in the 7:20 range off the bike
While self-coaching, I’m usually able to look at things clearly and I have plenty of good coaches and resources to ask if I get stuck on a problem.
The one part I usually get wrong is doing too much, too close to a race. Take Friday as an example:
Swim: 4×200 descend and I hit my best swim times in 4 years. Probably a mistake.
Run: 8×400 at 5k pace. Felt easy and gave me some confidence that things are trending correctly.
Bike: Olde Stage, Jamestown, and then back side of Lee Hill – ended up riding almost 3 hours, but the legs felt good, so why not?
On Saturday night as I was going up the stairs in my house, I realized my legs were pretty empty – but that’s ok! I kept telling myself that this season isn’t about the Boulder Peak, and it’s not.
So, the only real challenge that I find to being self coached is knowing when to say ‘enough’. I could fill Training Peaks with 6 hour training days every day and as much as I’d like to bounce back day after day, it’s not going to happen. Not with 2 small kids and a business to manage. So, I do what I know works, and constantly work on the weaknesses as I see them. For me, the joy is in doing workouts I enjoy – hard short swim workouts – 100s, 200s etc: hard bike workouts with high power and burning legs, and running decent speed sessions where I see progress each week. Otherwise, I lose focus, do the same workouts over and over and end up bored and sitting on my toukas vs training.
I got there early, warmed up and the legs felt tired, but that was to be expected. Everything was smooth and to be honest without as much pomp and circumstance, the race lacked some excitement and the ‘edge’ was missing. I was ready to roll though and fully cafienated.
I started at the front of the swim and knowing that I needed everything I had for the run, I swam one speed the entire way and that was ‘easy to moderate’. I had clean water the entire way, the buoys were visible to me, and I stood up at about 24:10. That was more than I was hoping for and I was off to a great start. I was 6th out of the swim.
I eased into the bike and felt strong going out Jay and onto 36. The climb was solid and I matched my best time from my repeats these past few weeks and all was going according to plan. The canyon was as fast as always, Nelson was awesome, and the rollers on 63rd, well they chewed me up a bit! If I had listened to one wise soul, , I would have saved some of my energy going up Olde Stage. But I’m too stubborn for that. I rode steady along 63rd hoping to minimize any damage, and whenever I tried to lift the effort, I could feel my legs say ‘no thanks’. As much as I would like to say this is a fitness issues, it’s not. It was more of a recovery issue. Had I done my Friday workout on Wednesday or Thursday I think I would have felt different. But the circumstances are what they are and I had to get ready mentally for the bike. I had a few guys in my AG blow by me on the bike, but only a couple and I wasn’t about to chase anyone down. I ended up biking my slowest time and off the bike in 7th in my AG. I only lost 1 place, when it felt like I lost 5. For those keeping track at home, watts were in the HIM range – 83% of FTP. Not stellar by any means. Still doing ok mentally and ready to move up on the run.
I took my time in T2 and put on socks. I race with orthotics now and if I race without socks, I get nasty blisters so better to be safe than sorry! I took it out way too fast, after telling myself not to all week. I was hurting 800m in and I knew I was in for a tough run. I only had one gear and just ran easy to moderate – I wasn’t cramping or having nutrition issues, but I was just cooked. Moving forward was easy, but moving faster wasn’t happening. It was a slow, easy run, but just in the middle of a race. Sometimes, that happens! I saw Jim Hallberg coming in strong, 2nd in the Elite wave, as well as Julian Wheating who is part of our . Very happy to report one of my athletes, Greg Lindquist, rocked the race as well coming in 4th Elite. Just as a side note, Jim, Dore Berens, and Casey Fleming all hit the podium too – and they are part of our Elite Team. Good to see the focused training paying off! D3 Coach Dave did race with Athletes in Tandem, hit the podium, and was 3rd as well. Of course, I’m biased, but I think we have the best group of coaches in the business – they can walk the walk and talk the talk. And I don’t mean by just being quick on race day but their athletes all improve, race to race, season to season.
Back to the run: I had quite a few people come around me on the run, and that’s something I’m not used to, but when there’s nothing you can do about it – you just keep plodding along. I came into the finish zone and ran in with my 9 year old Hope who was kind enough to slow down for me and we finished together and jumped into the slip and slide. That was awesome. My run time was close to 50 minutes and if you told me I’d run that slow pre-race, I would have laughed, but on second thought, maybe I wouldn’t have! You reap what you sow and since I’m in that in between place with my fitness, I can accept it. It’s up to me and no one else to change it.
I ended up at 2:34 and change, my slowest BPT, and of course I missed the top 10 by 30 seconds. I remember being passed along the dam before you hit the Marina and I had one of those moments where I said “Dude we are in 19th and 20th place, so who cares” Well, I guess I care because I’ll be back as a 50 year old next season, and I’ll be on a mission to get even further into the top 10.
The Boulder Peak is back baby and I am for the time being as well!