Ironman Blues and Emerging from a Dark Place to Tackle Haute Route

By Bill Plock

Do you have the Ironman “blues”? Do they happen or even exist? I’ve decided the blues are a result of losing a very predictable slice of life in the form of calculated training replaced by general life with full unpredictability. Now we are left with a void of something known transformed into the unknown and the anxiousness that happens. Is it that??

Each race, each event teaches us something. For me, Ironman Boulder came with a few surprises and one dark moment that almost resulted in a DNF next to my name. An unusually relaxed and well navigated swim led to a good start on the ride. But then the wheels fell off.

About 65 miles in, I just wanted to lay down and sleep. I kept looking at each shady spot on the side of the road like it was the most amazing bed to ever greet my eyes. I became obsessed. I slowly crawled into a dark space of quit and craving sleep. Just quit. Go away. Be quiet. Rest for another day. The bike is where I usually do my best. My legs wouldn’t push, my heart began to slow. My speed dropped.

Then my guardian angel, and as it turns out, a baby was born to her only 7 days after, saved my race.


303’s long time ambassador and Kona qualifier Kirsten Smith, obviously quite pregnant, stood on 65th just north of Nelson road. She greeted me with a cheer and uncharacteristically I stopped to say hi. Just an excuse to stop, I was looking for any excuse. She crossed the road and grabbed my shoulders felt my gritty hot skin caked in salt but with no moisture at all and told me to get going—emphatically! I think she wanted to slap me noticing I had a bottle and a half of water on my bike that could’ve been used to douse my body. The next aid station wasn’t that far so why have so much water? She urged me to continue and use that water. She shook me from delirium and onwards I went. I clipped in and continued, head pounding and feeling frustrated but so thankful for Kirsten’s intervention.

This is where the dry air deceives you. I was hydrated, but with humidity of less than 10% and 96 degree heat with a hot wind blowing in our faces, our sweat immediately evaporated starving our bodies of any way to cool naturally. I decided to stop in the shade and took all that water and drenched myself. Then I started to ride. I started to cool and feel more normal. The next aid station, an oasis only a couple of miles ahead greeted me. I loaded up, drenched myself more and continued on regaining my normal pace. I had done it, I crawled out of the hole and knew, even if I had to walk, my day would finish hearing Mike Reilly proclaiming my name as an Ironman.


I’m confident I now have more confidence when adversity strikes. Now I have Haute Route in three days with its daunting week long, 523 miles and 52,000 feet of ascension staring me in the face. The ride starts in Boulder, heads to Winter Park, then to Avon, off to Breckenridge with a final stage riding up Pikes Peak.

Seven days of early starts, possible cold rain, steep roads, and who knows what else will greet us. I’m hoping my “dig out” from Ironman’s pain cave will push me through any difficulties and hopefully I won’t need a guardian angel, but if so, I hope there is one somewhere. Kirsten is a little busy being a first time mom, with all kinds of unpredictability!



We at 303 send her our best wishes of course and I’ll sprinkle those with an amazing amount of gratitude I’ll never forget!

Onwards….and upwards! Stay tuned for daily coverage of the Haute route and a course preview in the next couple of days

2017 Harvest Moon Long Course Tri Race Recap – What a Difference a Year Makes!


By Kirsten McCay

Wow! What a difference one year makes. The Without Limits/5430 Sports Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon was a completely different race than it was one year ago. If you saw any pics or read any race recaps from last year (2016) you’ll have seen bikes blown down in transition, the slip and slide blowing away, and white caps in the reservoir. The wind was insane last year.

This year, however, the temperatures and weather were pretty much perfect. It was slightly chilly in the morning but about 15 minutes into the race the sun popped out from behind the clouds, warmed up the air, and then went back behind the clouds, staying there for most of the rest of the day.

Photo by Susan McNamee

These conditions made for PRs by almost every single athlete that I talked to who did the race last year. I know the race companies and race director have nothing to do with the weather, but it was a pretty perfect day and both newbies and experienced athletes both agreed that this year’s race was one of the best ever in the 18 years since the race started.

The race this year had 8 waves, including a first-timers wave which helps introduce newbies to the sport and ease them into a less intimidating and less aggressive swim start. They are also recognized for their accomplishment as there is an entire category of awards just for the first-timer. This is a positive way to introduce new triathletes into the sport. I love that Without Limits has this option in all of their races!

The swim this year was ideal. The water was calm and the buoys were easy to spot as the sun stayed mostly tucked behind the clouds. I don’t wear a Garmin, so I personally don’t know the actual distance of the swim, but I heard from several athletes after the race that the swim with a little bit short of the 2,000 m standard for the long course distance. Most measured it at about 1500 m.

Photo by Bill Plock

The bike course was also very easy thanks to partly cloudy skies, cooler temperatures, and very little wind on the course. The course is one of the fastest in Boulder, so for triathletes looking to ride a high mph average, this is a great course to test your speed on your bike. It’s also a perfect course for beginners who are doing their first half ironman distance triathlon, as the ride will leave your legs feeling a little fresher than many courses out there of the same distance.

We were also very fortunate on the run course as the temperature stayed in the low 70s. And the run being on hard-packed dirt was more gentle on the joints and muscles of the legs so again, a little easier for first timers, beginners, and those athletes wanting to test their speed. I also heard later in the day that the run course was about a half mile shorter than the standard 13.1 miles.

I spoke with 2 women after the race who used this as their first triathlon at this distance, and both were extremely happy with their experience. This race is small enough to make everyone feel included and a part of the community, but competitive enough to push even the most experienced athlete. I had a girl who I thought was in my age group blow by me on the 2nd lap of the run. I picked up my pace to try to stay with her, but couldn’t keep up. It ended up she was in the age group below me (phew) but that push helped me get to the finish line more quickly and took my mind of my hurting legs for a while!

There were a record number of Aqua-bikers at the race and this is the only Colorado race that includes a long course duathlon as an option!

There were 116 women, 218 men, 19 duathletes, 79 aqua bikers, and 17 relays who finished the race this year.

This was my 6th year racing the Harvest Moon Triathlon. I love that it’s in Boulder now and I love what Without Limits has done with the race. I will DEFINITELY be back next year! Hope to see you there!

Women’s Wednesday: Overcoming Obstacles – 303’s Kirsten McCay’s journey from disordered eating to the Kona World Championships

303Triathlon is super proud of Kirsten McCay

She has overcome a lot in her life, and is now reaping the reward of the Big Island.

Kirsten McCay from Big to Little on Vimeo.