We caught up with Olympian, ROKA Pro, and Boulder resident Laura Bennett to get some key race travel tips and an inside track on all things Boulder — Ironman and otherwise.
ROKA: With IM Boulder approaching, a lot of racers are starting to think about travel — something you’ve done a lot of as a pro in you career — can you share any wisdom in regards to destination racing? Hydration and sleep are the two biggest factors with travel, if you’ve got long haul flights staying hydrated on the plane is super important. If you’re flying economy, try avoid an overnight flight if possible; missing a night’s sleep and then racing in two or three days time can really hurt you. If possible, bring your own food for flights to keep your nutrition as normal as possible.
That’s great advice. Speaking of sleep, how do you tend to deal with adjusting to a new time zone? Time change can be a really big factor. You really need to learn quickly how many days you need to adjust to it [time change] and how it affects you. We’ve found that traveling west is always easier. If you go east, try getting on the time zone enough days ahead to be prepared. It’s especially tough for most people who are competing in Ironman and are balancing full-time jobs with families and don’t have the freedom to come in a week before the race to adjust, so one thing to try is start manipulating your body clock by going to bed earlier and trying to get on the time zone in advance, if possible.
Looking back, what are some mistakes you’ve learned from with respect to traveling? Well as you get older, everything gets a lot harder! We’ve had to really fine tune travel and sleep. We used to chuckle at people who would bring their own pillow on the plane, and now we’re those people who say “I wish I had my pillow!”. I don’t think you’re quite as resilient as you get older, there’s less margin for error. You have to refine and become more detailed in all those things to still get the best out of yourself. It’s not that we made mistakes early on, but we just didn’t get affected by them as much.
Anything to consider specifically for folks coming into Boulder?
Altitude can also be a factor for some people. Boulder is only at “One Increment”, which is basically 5,000 feet [above sea level]. It’s not too detrimental, especially at Ironman pace. I think what catches everybody by surprise up here is hydration, it’s so dry you don’t sweat as much and don’t feel like you need to refuel, but you do.
For people coming in to town can you recommend any local spots to get ready to race IM Boulder? The swim on race-day is in the Boulder Reservoir, and Boulder Aquatic Masters runs an open water swim on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. They mark out a 1km course, so that’s an opportunity to get a feel for the reservoir and do some open water swimming. Scott Carpenter Pool is at the Colorado Athletic Club and it’s also a great place to train. As far as riding is concerned, you can go up any of the canyons to get a feel for the elevation and terrain. Ironman has also mapped out the bike course ahead of time. The bike is just one big loop, and becoming familiar with the course is always a great idea.
If you want to run on hard-pack, the best place is probably out by the Reservoir. The run course on race day is almost concrete and is pretty rough, it’s two loops so once you get through the first, it’s all good and you become more familiar. It leaves a mark, for sure!
Can you give us some specific details on the swim course and start? It’s very calm in the reservoir, it doesn’t ever get too choppy unless the wind is absolutely vicious. I’m sure it’ll be a wetsuit swim again this year, the reservoir doesn’t really warm up too quickly over the summer. You get in the water using the boat ramp for the in-water start. The course is one big loop, you go North first, then West and then South, it’s very straightforward.
Conditions wise, what’s it like in August? It’s definitely warm, it can be windy and I’ve experienced a brutal south-easterly wind a couple times. There’s a lot of drag that runs south, but the easterly wind feels like a headwind. It’s pretty unpredictable, you can go out for a ride anytime in the summer and have a headwind going out and a headwind coming back!
What are some things you love about Boulder? We were living in Victoria, BC before we moved here. We were drawn to the healthy lifestyle, there are so many fit people here in Boulder. We enjoy being in this environment because we feel like we fit in, and it makes it a lot easier to get out if everyone else is out there exercising. Of course the altitude was also attractive, the mountain trails, and easy rides to get out of town.
Any can’t miss spots? We think of Boulder as a little piece of Europe in the US, it’s got a cute little town on Pearl Street which I would say is a must-visit. It’s closed off to cars and there’s lots of good shops and restaurants. A great post-race restaurant is Bohmeian Biergarten, on Hide and 13th, it’s a really cool pub to celebrate. Rubens is on Walnut and Broadway, which is another good pub. That area is a great place to stay, especially if you want to take in Boulder after the race. There’s a bus everyone takes to get out to the reservoir for the race. There’s also great running trails in Flagstaff which is at the Southern end of town. It gives you a great view and there’s a really pretty restaurant called Flagstaff House up at the summit.