5,280 is the number of feet in one mile; it also coincidentally is the elevation of the city of Denver, CO. My travels, along with the race being the 2nd stop in the USA Paratri Series, brought me out to the beautiful city of Denver; which has always been a favorite of mine, for the 2nd annual Denver Triathlon on June 10th.
The weekend started out with my flight on Thursday night. Through the utmost generosity of a dear friend of mine, I was going to be housed at her father’s house in Cherry Hills Village, CO; a mere 15 minutes away from downtown Denver and the race site. I am privileged to have such friends in my life.
Leading up to the race there was much talk and anticipation about how the altitude was going to affect me. With New York being at the main lobby of sea level, going up and racing a mile high was certainly going to be a challenge. I spoke with as many people as I could to get their thoughts on it, and the feeling I got from most (if not all) was that it was gonna be a sufferfest; which was perfectly alright with me and right up my alley! I didn’t do it intentionally, but getting to Denver on Thursday night, a full 3 days before race day; really helped my body acclimate to being at that altitude.
Saturday rolled around, which meant all the pre race packet pickup and festivities. The race was staged at Mile High Stadium; and when I was driving along the highway over there for the 1st time and the Stadium came into view in the background; it was a spectacular sight.
We had our Paratriathlete briefing meeting, which was short and sweet; compared to the drawn out one at CapTex for Nationals. The Para wave was a small one this race, with only about 20 athletes racing, but was awesome to see some friends from Austin, as well meet a couple new faces I hadn’t before.
Myself and 2 other athletes decided to drive the bike course to get a sense of the route, since from the map we were provided it was a slightly confusing. As we drove the course, we commented on how flat it was, and made mental notes where we could fly. Looking back on it, this actually hurt me on race day; as I think it gave me a sense of false confidence that the bike was going to be an easy course; which for me turned out to be anything but.
Race morning came quickly, and was up and at em at 445am packed and on my way to Mile High. I reached the parking lot and start unloading my gear and bike, and as I took my bike out and put it on the ground I noticed something a triathlete never wants to see on race day; my front tire had popped during the night. At the time I didn’t know it, but this was the start of a hellish day of bike issues. I didn’t panic and simply made my way to T1 with a spare tube and proceeded to change my tire.
I’ll get to the rest shortly; but first the Denver Triathlon is a very unique race in that it has 2 separate transition areas. T2, which we had to setup as soon as we got to the race site was in the parking lot of Mile High Stadium; while T1 was about 2.5 miles away at Sloan’s Lake, where the swim was taking place. This is obviously a challenge for any triathlete, but more so for PC athletes; given the level of equipment needs and handling during the race. I’m one of the incredibly lucky ones, who doesn’t have to worry about transferring into a chair; or putting on a leg coming out of the water; but as a novice paratriathlete I knew this was probably going to affect my time. The separate transitions also meant after setting up T2 we had to ride over to T1 on our bikes.
Back to the tire situation, I kept my cool and changed my tube, pumped my tire up and was ready to go. However, on the short ride over to T1, my tire started losing air and I could tell I had done something wrong. I stupidly kept riding on it thinking I could just make it to T1 and address the air pressure there…big mistake. Only a short way after realizing, my tube popped; and still being a relatively new cyclist I didn’t have the wherewithal to save myself, and went down on my left side. It’s a good thing I fell a lot while teaching myself to ride, cause it was almost common practice to get up, dust off and focus on the pain.
Luckily the Para wave wasn’t going off until 7:40am, since I now had to walk my bike the rest of the way to T1. Also luckily there was a mechanic on site with spare tubes. He quickly changed my tire and returned my bike and my tire issues were behind me. 2 flats in a matter of 15 minutes on race morning! Live and Learn…
The swim was in Sloan’s Lake, and was going to be a simple out and back leg. The countdown started and the gun went off, it’s race time! I dove in and immediately started getting water in my goggles, which is something everyone hates. I tried to get it out and get a good suction, but just couldn’t do it. With it only being a 750 meter swim, you don’t really have the time or luxury to turn on your back and adjust your goggles; so I sucked it up and kept moving. With my struggles in Austin with keeping my line, I wanted to focus on sighting as much as possible and swimming efficiently. Unfortunately, with water in my goggles and pretty fogged up, this turned out to be very tough. I turned the buoy marker and made my way back to the shore. I actually came out of the water with a fast time, and was very happy; but still have a lot of things to work on.
I sped through T1 and got to the bike mount area and about to take off when I realized the bike mechanic didn’t put my chain back on after changing my tire! Live and learn again, never trust a mechanic and always double check your bike before the race start…I was able to get the chain on and hopped on my bike and on my way; with frustration coursing through my veins.
The start of the bike was good and I was pushing cadence and speed; right up until we made our way around Mile High Stadium. This portion of the course got pretty technical with some sharp turns and a lot of bumps in the road; as well a nice little train track crossing to maneuver. One thing I know I have to work on are my turns, and keeping speed throughout. I lost so much power going into them, and would have to expend a ton of energy coming out of the turn to get back up to speed. The bike was not as fun (and easy) as I had anticipated, and was very happy to pull into T2 and be done with it.
If you had told me 3 months ago that during a race I would actually be looking forward to the run, I would have said you’re bananas. But during this race, I found I couldn’t wait to get running; funny how things are developing. Races are won on the run, and if I can start to love and enjoy this portion of races; it’ll certainly lead to more finishes on the podium..
The run leg was a simple tour around Mile high Stadium, and then an out and back along a run path, which was narrow and also not PC friendly. My legs felt surprisingly good, compared to CapTex and given the altitude. My pace was good, and I ran my fastest 5K to date!
After all is said and done, I came in 1st place in the Tri-3 category and took home the Gold Medal!! My first one to put up on the trophy case. It was a tough course for me, but an incredible experience. I was very happy with my performance, and made improvements in some areas, and blunders in others; but that’s the point of competing; finding out what works and what doesn’t.
You know what I say…Just keep racing
Next up is a relay with the PHLY Insurance Team for the Philly Triathlon on June 24th.