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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com
With a fourth place finish in Kona 2011, a win at the 2011 ITU Long Course World Championships, a fifth at 2012’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and a sub-nine hour second place finish at the inaugural Ironman Melbourne, Rachel Joyce has made numerous triathlon media headlines in recent months. But this year marks the first time Joyce will make her home base in Boulder, Colo. I caught up with the newly arrived Brit over an afternoon coffee – a favorite local pastime that she’s embraced with ease – to learn about her first impressions of triathlon’s high-altitude haven.
Triathlete.com: What drew you to Boulder? Is it as you expected?
RJ: I was here for two days in November to scope out the town. That was the only time I’d been here until now, but I really liked the feel of the place. The trail runs and cycling are actually better than I had imagined. The climbs are just amazing! Coming from London I just love the fact that I can ride out the door straight into good riding. In London I have an hour’s commute before the ride really starts.
Training at Flatirons [Athletic Club] is as I thought it would be – it’s the who’s who of triathlon. It hasn’t freaked me out too much! Everyone looks so fit there, whether they’re a professional triathlete or not.
Triathlete.com: Who have you been training with?
RJ: I’ve been doing a lot of swims with Julie [Dibens] and a few with Rinny [Carfrae], plus joining in Dave Scott’s sessions. I’ve done a lot of swimming on my own and it’s a lot more fun with other people. I swim much better as well. Of course Julie may only be just off her crutches, but she’s still swimming rings round me!
Triathlete.com: Is the training competitive between all of you?
RJ: No, I don’t think so, especially at this time of year. Maybe it will get a bit more tense in the build up to Kona, but I don’t think so. It feels pretty relaxed. It’s just training as far as I’m concerned.
Triathlete.com: Do you have any favorite rides yet?
RJ: I haven’t done enough to have a favorite! I’ve just been taking a different road up into the mountains each time I ride, then kind of winding my way around. I haven’t done any really long rides yet, but I’m looking forward to that.
Triathlete.com: How has your adjustment been to the altitude?
RJ: Difficult! I flew into Colorado three weeks ago. I spent a week in Winter Park, so I was really high up [9100 ft.] and I was struggling. I just felt terrible. I had really achy limbs. I use Restwise, which is a way of monitoring your recovery – you take your pulse in the morning and it also measures your blood oxygen saturation. My SPO2 was down at 89 – when usually you want to see it over 96%. Someone told me that if you’re in hospital [and it’s that low] they give you pure oxygen! The analysis from the Restwise guys was: You must have been feeling pretty awful! I thought it was just me being a slow responder to altitude, but I actually had an infection. Once I found that out and was taking antibiotics, I started responding.
I’ve also been monitoring my iron levels since arriving as I am susceptible to low iron, so I wanted to make sure the additional stress of being at altitude didn’t make that worse. Luckily I seem to have responded well in that respect. I can now climb the stairs without wanting to pass out!
Triathlete.com: What’s your living situation?
RJ: I’m staying with a local guy called Adam Chase. He has an incredible house and has been really hospitable. I think every pro in Boulder has stayed with him at some point! Right now there’s a great mix here: a student who just graduated, another girl who is writing a book and guides hikes and then two French people who are visiting to promote their running website, Goodpeoplerun.com. Over the past few years I’ve done lots of homestays. It’s a really nice way to get introduced to a place, meet more people and make new friends. The only awkward thing was that I was sick for the first week so I spent a good deal of time sleeping. Now they’re all saying to me, “Wow, you’re actually quite bubbly and you do train!”
Triathlete.com: It must be difficult to pack for a season overseas. How much stuff did you bring?
RJ: Probably not enough winter stuff, given the weather lately! I actually worked it out that when I got here, because I’d moved out of where I was living in London back in June and was staying with various friends, I hadn’t actually unpacked my bag for about eight months. My wardrobe is very limited! I’ve been on a long trips and just worn things to death so I end up never wanting to wear some of my clothes again! Coming here I traveled pretty light – I had a bike box, a wheel bag and one suitcase. I need to go shopping!
Triathlete.com: How long will you stay in Boulder?
RJ: I’ll probably stay through November or December. I’m keen to come back after Kona, whether I decide to race post-Kona or not. I want to be here when it’s snowing, after the season is over and everyone’s ready to have some fun!