Ironman Boulder [Race Report]

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Ironman Boulder [Race Report]

When news that Boulder would be hosting its inaugural Ironman August 3, 2014, Jeff (my fiancé) was so excited that he signed up right away! This would be his first ever Ironman and he was so stoked to be racing in his hometown. His enthusiasm for the race was contagious and before I knew it, I too was signed up for the race. On May 11, 2014 Mother’s Day, I had an epiphany that I would race for Mother Mary at the Boulder Ironman.

I have had a year of heartbreak leading into Ironman Boulder. My year started out with Heat Stroke in 70.3 New Orleans, followed up by a timely bike flat in 70.3 St. Croix and finally, a sickness that had me completely out of competing at 70.3 Kansas. It took me three weeks to fully recover (from the sickness) to finally start my training back up. This meant that I would have to stay super healthy for the remainder few weeks leading up to Ironman Boulder in order to get my fitness back. I took more recovery days to be on the conservative side during this training block and focused purely on quality versus quantity in my training.

I paid extra attention to recovering between sessions with the aid of Krista Lewis from Transformation Massage and Todd Plymale-Mallory at Integrative Healing Acupuncture & Wellness in Boulder, Colorado. I knew I was properly rested, primed and mentally prepared to have a great race. I had trained extremely hard and I could feel my fitness was in a very solid spot.

My Coach Darren De Reuck, always says, “If you go into a race relying on your performance to provide you with confidence you will not succeed, but if you go into a race with the confidence you will perform well, you will have a great result.” I completely agree with this statement and I went into the race with a lot of confidence that it was going to be a great race for me.

The night before the race, I had my very favorite pre race dinner at my favorite restaurant in Boulder, Colorado: Turley’s. The night before big training days, Jeff and I, would go and always order the same meal because it responds so great with both of us. We get the Turley’s Scramble with sausage, no bacon.  It comes with (gluten free) pancakes, and we substitute the potato option for swirled frozen yogurt and an order of salted French fries on the side.  It is absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend it!

After dinner, we quickly rushed home to get to sleep. I had a hard time falling asleep and kept having bad dreams that I was going to miss my start time for the swim.

Race Morning:

The alarm went off at 3:00am and I woke up feeling really awake which surprised me after the intermitted sleep I had gotten the night before. I jumped out of bed and made my breakfast while sipping on a bottle of water. Again, for breakfast I ate Scrambled Eggs, ½ a banana with almond butter, a handful of macadamia nuts and continued to drink water.

After breakfast I got changed into my awesome Wattie Ink. kit and pumped up my bike tires before heading out to the reservoir.

I had written a perfect race strategy a few weeks prior to Ironman Boulder, which I read to myself every morning and night in preparation for the race. On the way to the reservoir I recited my race strategy to myself.

Once at transition, I double-checked that everything was properly placed. I checked that my Trek 9.9 Series Speed Concept was in the proper gear to start the bike, the brakes weren’t rubbing the Bontrager Aeolus 5 wheel’s rim, the shifting was fluid, my Garmin was mounted to the bike, and my First Endurance Liquid Shot was securely stowed in my Bontrager box and my two bottles of EFS and one bottle of water were strategically placed on my bike. I had my helmet, biking shoes, socks, sunglasses and towel in my T1 bag.

After my transition area was exactly how I wanted it, I laid down in one of the corners of T1, closed my eyes and listened to some soft music while going over my perfect race strategy one last time in my head.  Finally, I put on my Wattie Ink. blueseventy wetsuit and walked down to the reservoir. The professionals were able to get in the water a few minutes before the race to warm up so I swam out to the first buoy and did some short pickups to wake up my arms.


The start of the race was promptly at 6:20am. The men went off and just three minutes later at 6:23am was the start of the women’s race. I felt ready, confident and calm. I said a prayer for a safe and good race to God, and the cannon fired. I managed to get an excellent start and was able to swim with a pack of four girls practically the whole way. We were moving at a good clip but I felt relaxed and smooth in the water drafting off their feet. Each stroke, I kept repeating in my head to think about keeping my elbows up and not crossing over. As I did this I felt that I only getting stronger as we went. I hanged with them to the turn-around buoys and as we started to head back to shore I gained more and more confidence that I would swim the whole 2.4 miles with them. The girls in front were doing an excellent job of sighting and keeping us all on track. Sure enough we hit the shore with a solid swim time of 1:03:53. I was pleased with our swim and I felt fresh exiting the water but I had a lot of time to make up! Laura Bennett, an outstanding swimmer, had put 9 minutes and 51 seconds on me in the swim alone and following closely behind her were both Carrie Lester and Christine Hammond with an 8 minute and 16 second lead out of the water. Morgan Chaffin was over six minutes in front.

Before the race, most people were predicting that both Laura and Carrie would be the gals to beat at Ironman Boulder.  They are both super strong athletes throughout the entire race so these time gaps made my a little nervous. I had three really sweet women help me tear off my wetsuit and hand it quickly to me as I made a dash up the boat ramp to transition. In transition, I hollered out my race number (22) and received my T1 bag with the best two helpers. They emptied my bag and handed me my socks and shoes to put on. Meanwhile, they helped by placing my helmet on my head, which I snapped, and I grabbed my sunglasses. I thanked them and headed out to find my bike. It was easy to find because it was the last one on the professional rack. Yes, I had swum with four girls but they all beat me out of transition. I took a deep breath to relax. At least the swim was over and I was getting on my Speed Concept (Tenacity), which I love! Now, it was time to put the hammer down on the bike while conserving for the run.

Once I exited the reservoir I could see all the girls I had swam with. I passed two females quickly but Uli Bromme was riding really strong. I had a specific watt-zone I needed to stay in for the entire bike so that I would have enough energy to have a solid run-split as well. I got in my zone right away and it must have been around the same for Uli as well because we rode within eyesight of each other, yo-yoing back and forth for about 80 miles. We slowly were gaining on most of the field except for Carrie Lester who was posting the same splits just 8.5 minutes up the road.

On the bike, I felt fantastic. I had driven the bike course twice and pre-ridden the whole bike course 5 times leading up to the race. On each of my long bike rides, I practiced my nutrition strategy that Robert Kunz (Co-Founder of First Endurance and Sr. VP Science and Technology) and I had strategically crafted. It was the first Ironman I knew exactly what to do in terms of my nutrition. I would drink (every 15 minutes) a sip of EFS with an added salt tablet for the heat, 1 salt tablet per bottle.  (4 total tablets for the whole bike portion) I took a hit of my Liquid Shot every 30 minutes and followed it up with a sip of water. I finished two EFS bottles, 2 water bottles and 1 full flask of Liquid Shot at the half waypoint and then repeated the same formula for the second half of the bike. At special needs, I picked up my other two bottles of EFS and Liquid Shot. At this point, Uli and I kept going back and forth for 4th and 5th place. There were a few age group men who also were intermixed with us. Since I knew every turn on the course I was surprised how quickly it was going by. During my practice rides, I did them in the hottest part of the day. One ride in particular the temperature hit over 100 degrees, but today the weather was warm but manageable in the mid-to-high 80’s. I grabbed as much water as I could at the aid stations to drink first, then pour the excess over my head to bring my core body temperature down. The referees kept a close eye on the entire professional field. At one point, I asked one of the ref’s how far back I was from the lead Woman but he was not certain. I thought, “Well, that’s OK. I need to stick to my power zone anyways.” So that is exactly what I did. Around mile 90-ish, I saw Morgan Chaffin up the road, struggling with her aero bar, which had become lose and was falling down towards her wheel. Right as passed, one of the bike crewmembers had pulled over to help her out. I felt really bad for her; I have had tons of bike malfunctions over the years. This put me in third place. I continued to stick to my power zone and I was still feeling great. We were super fortunate to receive a tail wind on Hwy 52. I knew I was putting in a solid bike time when I started to catch age-group men that had passed me early on in the race. The last 20 miles of the bike course is deceptively hard and if you did not pace yourself correctly from the beginning it was really easy to blow up. By the time I hit Boulder, I had closed the gap on second place, Laura Bennett, which I was now only 4:30 back. However, I remained over eight minutes behind Carrie. The crowds were incredible lining the roads for the last 5 miles of the bike. It was so refreshing to have cheers echoing across the road, it provided me with more strength and energy to really finish the bike strong. The last significant climb, The Three Sisters, resembled the crowds you would find on the Alpe D’Huez of the Tour De France including fun costumes and all.

My Speed Concept rode super smooth the entire time with my UltraFast Optimization chain. Wheat Ridge Cyclery’s Casey Montana, had my bike sparkling clean before the race and shifting like a dream. One of the countless advantages to racing in your home state is the luxury of having your trusted mechanic double check your bike right before the race.

As I approached transition, I started to unbuckle my shoes and had a clean dismount at the dismount line.  When I looked down and saw I had ridden a 4:52:56, I was stoked averaging just under 23MPH! The run to transition was about 100 meters, I ran steering my bike down through the roar of spectators. Once I arrived to transition, I handed off my bike to the volunteers and made my way for my T2 bag. I quickly called out my number (22) and had 2 women grab my running bag and escort me into the changing tent. It was shaded in the tent so the cooler air was extremely refreshing. I grabbed a chair, took off my wet socks and replaced them with a new pair and then slipped on my running shoes. I put my hat and race number belt on. I already had my sunglasses on from the bike. Once I was finished, I quickly made my way to the exit. I took a swig of EFS Liquid Shot before putting it in my back pocket. I also had my salt tablets in a container in my back pocket as well. I made my way up the stairs and out onto the race course. Right at the start of the run, Shelby Katz, a fellow Wattie Ink. Teammate who was going to be my 3rd Place Female Lead Biker, warmly greeted me. She was Awesome! She provided with encouraging words the whole time I was running behind her. She made sure the volunteers at the aid stations had water prepared for me.

Out on the run course, my legs felt pretty fresh and snappy but my first two miles were too fast. I realized I was running a little out of control and made the wise choice to back it off, back into my planned pace. A marathon is a long ways and you have to have the confidence in yourself to not waste all your energy at the beginning trying to catch your competition, causing you to run outside of your potential and ruin your own race as a result.

Every aid station, I slowed up just enough to get all the water and nutrition I needed. I had with me a liquid shot bottle, which I sipped on at each mile, as I approached the aid station. Then I wash it down with water. The volunteers on the course were wonderful! I especially loved running by Aid Station 2 at the Confluence because it was the Boulder Coaching aid station. I loved getting to see my Coach Darren De Reuck and teammates out on the course. They were so helpful giving me positive feedback and encouraging words. My parents were also cheering in this area because every athlete had to run by it 6 times throughout the entire marathon. I loved getting to see their smiling faces out on the course.

At one of the first turn-a-rounds, when I was headed back down the trail, an age group male informed me that the lead female, Carrie was severely struggling up the trail. Once I hit the four-mile mark, I saw her stopped on the side of the trail. She was experiencing G.I. distress and ended up having to pull herself from the race just 4 miles into the run. This broke my heart because I really wanted to race her all the way to the finish line. I have had my fair share of G.I issues and I know how awful and discouraging it can be.

Shelby wished me the best of races and now I was in second place. I now had a super nice gentleman leading me out on the bike. It was getting hot and I could feel the heat getting to me. I reached back in my jersey to grab two salt tablets. I was amazed how quickly they set in and I started to feel strong again. My eyes were set on Laura but she was still a few minutes up the road. I was gaining; I timed the gap between her and I at each of the turn-a-rounds. I knew I just had to be smart; I had to run my race and my paces. The crowd’s cheers were electrifying! I have never been to a race like it before. At the halfway point, I was told I was really gaining on Laura. I was in a zone at that point, almost emotionless. I was so focused that I could hear the cheers of the crowd but I could only see the back wheel of the bike rider in front of me. At mile 16, I came up on Laura (who is all class!) As I passed her, she stuck her hand out which I grabbed with my hand and she said, “Go get it, girl!” Laura is an amazing athlete and person. Her genuine act blew me away and inspired me. I have looked up to her for several years and that is a moment I will never forget.

As I took the lead, my lead biker was now Mary Beth Ellis, a former teammate of mine when I raced for Siri Lindley. Mary Beth was phenomenal and absolutely adorable. She rode right in front of me helping me navigate through the crowds and maintain pace. She provided me with encouraging words and got the crowd cheering the loudest I had heard all day. The Wattie Ink. fans, Cody and Kathy Waite, my parents and Jeff’s family were uncontrollable.

We hit a turn-a-round and due to G.I. problems Laura had lost a lot of ground. I was breaking away every mile and with two miles to go, I knew I was going to WIN the race. Other age-groupers were cheering me on as I passed them. I was so familiar with the course I knew every turn remaining. I continued to gain momentum and felt better and better along the way with the crowds roar propelling me to the finish line. With a half mile left, I was able to start my celebration, pumping my fist up in the air as I ran by the now 5-people-deep crowds lining the finishing chute.  Mary Beth kept shouting words of encouragement but I was unable to hear what she was saying over the crowd. I was able to run down the finishing chute taking in the moment.  I am pretty certain I had the biggest smile and everyone could feel my sheer elation. I jumped and skipped to the finish line with my hands up in the air. I have worked YEARS for this and finally it all came together. Once I crossed the finish line, I was greeted by my Mom, who was screaming with joy and future mother-in-law; who together put my finisher medal on me. My Dad was right there as well, which I was so happy to embrace him after the race. Jeff’s family was super cute and were all jumping up and down for me as well. The only thing missing was Jeff! He was out on the run course making his own dream come a reality becoming an Ironman before our Wedding in November. Jeff had an outstanding race and I am beyond proud of him! The finish line was packed with familiar faces and it was so much fun to run back out and give everyone high fives.

It was truly one of the happiest moments in my life! All the hard work finally came together on my home course, in front of home crowd, and it was even more emotional then I could ever imagine.

This Bible verse really speaks to me about my race!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

I was last out of T1, but kept my head up and was confident in myself and knew God was right beside me the whole time and ended up winning the race by over 24 minutes!

I could not have done it without my amazing coaches, Darren and Colleen De Reuck and Simon and Lisa Lessing. You are the best coaches anyone could ask for. I also want to extend the biggest thank you to my Title Sponsor Guy Chemical, whose faith and support is remarkable! I am so blessed to have so many wonderful sponsors, I want to thank them all; Wheat Ridge Cyclery, Z Health, Boulder Coaching, Trek, Wattie Ink, First Endurance, blueseventy, Transformation Massage, Bontrager, Friction Facts/UltraFast Optimization, Tech Guys Who Get Marketing, and 10XTalk.

I want to thank all the Volunteers, and Dave Christen for putting on a spectacular race. I want to thank Jeff, the love of my life, who has supported my dream of being a professional triathlete for years.  Thank you to my parents, who without them I would not be where I am today. They have pushed me to excel in everything I take on and helped me the whole way. Jeff’s family who was out on the course and all the fans and spectators who made it a day I will never ever forget! Thank you to God for all the incredible blessings in my life. Mother Mary, I greatly appreciate you guiding me down a phenomenal journey, I know you are with me every step of the way!

Thank you!

Danielle Mack is professional Triathlete residing in Boulder, Colorado. She found her passion for triathlons at a young age. However, it wasn’t until she turned sixteen did she really start training strictly for triathlons. Through various paths God has lead her through the years including Xterra’s and Adventure Racing she discovered her ultimate love, long course triathlons, especially Ironman’s!