Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Report June 28, 2015
The weekend started out with early travel with connecting flights through Seattle from Sacramento- travel was fairly uneventful besides long layovers. Made it to CDA through the help of another athlete that shares my coach in San Antonio, TX.
I set my stuff at the house of a gentleman I met in Kona last year who is local to CDA and super generous. The house was close to the race start and was a perfect place to set up shop. I dropped off my gear and walked down to the expo where I retrieved my bike and packet. I try to stay away from the expo and focus on myself and my needs.
In the weeks preceding the race I was watching the temperatures creep up to record highs for the PNW, the house I was staying in had no AC. I was situated upstairs with a window mounted AC unit which was working great the first day until it quit under the pressure of the heat. I knew I had to find new accommodations. I had worked this hard to get to CDA, I would never forgive myself if I wasn’t rested in the few days leading up to the race. Work always makes sleeping and training difficult so I usually use the travel day to a race as my sleep day- this hasn’t worked out in my favor so far this season. I was lucky and found a hotel and was able to get out of the heat from Friday evening until race start Sunday. I quickly bounced back to life after cooling off and focused on hydrating with water and electrolytes. I had my steak dinner Friday night and was able to relax with the EPIC tri club from back home. I was exciting to be around the group of first time IM athletes. Leading into this race I lacked excitement- largely due to stress at work and home, but also very nervous being my second full ironman distance race. Many say the second is much harder mentally. The first time you complete an IM you don’t know what you are in for, you’re so excited to hear Mike Riley call your name that nothing else matters. The second time mental doubt rings high in your head and the sense of monotony overcomes many. I never felt this way during the race. Being that the temperatures were so warm and I historically destroy myself mentally in the heat, I knew this was something I had to fight extra hard to overcome… It was a challenge within a challenge for me.
The swim… nice rolling start. Self seeded myself in the swim < 60 min section towards the swim line. Got beat up the first 600 yards or so then found some open water. The run on the beach in between laps was horrible- lost my legs for another 200-400 yards and became a bit disoriented. My second swim split was slower than the first half…oh well- swam a 1:03- only good enough for 8th in my age group?! Too many good swimmers out there.
The bike… played it super conservative the entire day- until I became more conservative by default on the second half due to some interesting mirages. I let everyone pass me on the ride out to Higgins Point. Didn’t feel the altitude which was great but had some usual post swim abdominal cramps that I hoped would work themselves out. I took base salts every 5 miles on the bike and set an alarm for every 15 min as a mental check in…too many alarms on the bike made for mass confusion later on in the ride when mental strength is at an all time low. I started with a plan to take a gel every hour on the hour and sip Tailwind in between at the 15 min marks- this fell apart and just ate whenever I felt like it. I took a vespa at 2.5 hours and was feeling good. The hills kept coming out on the ride which is completely on a exposed highway. All in all not a pretty ride. The hills are gradual and long. Most if the hills I had been riding were short and really steep. I still felt mentally prepared as I rode them but they did hurt. The second loop of the bike is where things got really interesting. The first loop I encountered some groin cramping which I have occasionally which makes power suffer- I haven’t figured out what this is from- seems to be a saddle pressure issue? Second loop I had a major hot spot in my left shoe and my left calf was showing signs of a nagging pain which I have had on and off for a few weeks- no known injury just being strained. I couldn’t position the foot right and had to keep adjusting when it would heat up, the calf issue just went away with some gentle stretching. The hills were even more exposed the second time around. My mental edge was weakening from the heat. The radiant heat off the asphalt was killer. I was riding as close to traffic as I could to get a breeze off the cars passing. My bar tape is black and every time I would switch from aero to the hoods I would almost burn my hands. I was afraid I would pop a tire between the hot ground and breaking on the few downhills. Little by little the field of athletes started to dwindle. You would see bikes parked on the side of the road with no rider visible. People were leaving their bikes and passing out in the shade of the trees. Ambulances and SAG wagons were everywhere grabbing athletes. On the way back into town aid stations were running out of water and no ice. The water that I had on my bike was hot until I completely ran out of water for 20 miles. I witnessed a guy seize up riding uphill and fall over while clipped into his bike. Sh*t started getting real. It started to become almost scary out on the highway- athletes were still heading out for their second loop as I was coming into town- it was now the heat of the day. I was feeling lethargic and this is when I knew I was in trouble.
The run… I cruised into transition with a plan…that I forgot. I got out on the marathon and attempted to run- legs felt good. Belly and lungs felt destroyed. I quickly hit my inhaler- out of juice- awesome. I latched onto another girl and we decided to walk the first few miles which turned into 5 miles. I reassessed and pushed forward running the down hills and walking the aid stations. I stayed on the base salts every mile. I always use real food on the run with coke and orange slices or whatever looks good. I became overcome with nausea around mile 8 and things just went downhill- I stopped eating and stopped taking salt. I looked around and ever the fittest looking athletes were walking the marathon. I did everything I could to stay cool. The majority of the run along Lake CDA is exposed. The temperatures when I left town said 105f. I was now getting cooked alive. Again athletes were falling out- laying lifeless on the side of the road. Spectators and ambulances running around trying to help people. I never though about quitting but I knew I had to walk to try to make it safely to the finish line. The run I broke down into four segments of out and backs. I latched onto a few people here and there and did little running. There were hoses and people splashing water everywhere which made it difficult to keep the feet dry- this would eventually lead to a world of pain with trench foot similar to Oceanside 70.3 earlier this year. There was no aid between mile 12 on the run and mile 14. This was unacceptable. At the turn around (mile 13) in town the temperature cooled to 103f (arg!) and I set out for segment 3 of 4. The rest of the race is fairly uneventful. Found a first time IM athlete and pushed him to the finish line with a series of walk runs to various landmarks on the course and sucked all the first time IM energy out of him as I could. Really I used him- thanks JB!
The finish… the last mile of an IM event is magical. I always relate it to fish swimming upstream. All the hard work and dedication from the last few months come bursting to the surface with emotions. The run down Sherman Street to the finish line was lined with crowds. It felt like a party for me! A gradual downhill and all the pain seem to disappear- there was the light of the finish line at the end and I just stared to cry in joy. Ironman is life changing. The day of CDA I won. I was able to put mind over matter. I virtually walked the entire marathon and not once did I think of quitting. I watched my fellow athletes go out with real medial needs. I raced for them. I raced for my inner demons. I overcame something inside me. That day I won.
Reflection… I know exactly why I do Ironman inside my head, however if you were to ask me why I put my body through the pain I am not sure how I would answer you… there is something about IM that is life changing, however, I cannot tell you what that is. You must experience it for yourself. I am not trying to keep a secret but there is not a single way to express how IM will change your life, it just does. I approached this race as my last IM- time to focus on my personal life at home. I walked to the recovery area of the race and said to myself “never again”. Here I sit less than 48 hours after the race overcome with emotion and figuring out how to bounce back to heal my body and get ready for Ironman Tahoe. I made a decision to finish what I started when Ironman Tahoe was canceled last year. I will give myself a solid 2 weeks to rest and reflect on if Ironman Tahoe is really in the cards for me this year- I am already signed up but it is important to realize that Ironman is sacred- like the body. You must take time to respect it because each race is a journey not a destination.
Thank you to all my friends, coach, family and especially my husband for believing in me and remaining patient with me!