I was in a porta-potty line at the Boulder Reservoir at sunrise Sunday, nervously awaiting the start of my first triathlon, when I overheard a guy say something that sort of captured the spirit of a glorious morning.
This 46-year-old guy was chatting up a young woman in line behind him and mentioned he’d just reconnected with an old high school flame who lives on the East Coast via Facebook. He was relating how he’d told his Facebook friend that he was getting ready to do the Boulder Peak Triathlon, and she replied she was amazed he was into “extreme” sports.
“Hey,” the man told the woman behind him, “this is Colorado. This is what we do.”
Yes, it is. We run races and ride bikes and run relays and climb mountains and ski the backcountry and, yes, we do triathlons. And now, after 13 marathons and well over 100 running races, I can call myself a triathlete, too.
I was one of the 1,400 men and women, amateurs and pros, who finished the Boulder Peak Triathlon — an Olympic distance event comprised of a 1,500-meter swim, a 26-mile bike ride and a 10K run — and I had a blast.
I had a bad swim (just over 37 minutes), a wonderful ride (just over 1:31) and a reasonably satisfying run (55:25). With transitions it added up to 3:12:53.
There were some stressful moments. I’d been warned that a first-time triathlete’s first open water swim could be a freaky experience, and it was. After maybe 20 seconds of swimming, I was out of breath. It was almost like a panic attack, even though I wasn’t scared. I just couldn’t get my breath and get into a swimming rhythm. Good thing I was a breast-stroker on my high school swimming team. I did the breast stroke probably two-thirds of the swim — I was able to crawl a bit on the second half of the swim — and was shocked to get out of the water only five minutes slower than my average times for the mile swim in the pool.
It was a great relief to stagger out of the reservoir looking forward to the bike ride and run. I dawdled a bit on the transition — almost seven minutes — and headed out on the bike.
I loved the bike ride. The Boulder Peak bike ride is notorious for a climb up Olde Stage Road in the foothills about a quarter of the way through. There the course climbs 600 feet in less than two miles. Lots of people rue that climb and many walk their bikes, but I actually enjoyed it. It’s physically demanding and mentally challenging, but that’s what competing is all about. It’s a mark of honor to say you survived Olde Stage, that you pushed it there and did not back down.
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