Ironman Coeur d’Alene – The Race

The water was a semi-chilly 68 degrees, but I warmed up pretty quickly in my long-sleeved wetsuit. Somehow while trying to warm up and not panic (cold water and wetsuit restriction sometimes gets me panicky) I had managed to get to the left of the buoys. For the entire swim out, I kept trying to get to the right of the next buoy and failing every time (I’d get close and think, eh, I’ll cross over after the next one, it’s crowded). I did make it around the red buoys at both turns (because you have to!) but going back towards shore once again I was to the left of them, which is fine as long as you go around (to the right of) the red buoys but it was driving me crazy. There was also a lot of chop near the first turn that made sighting and even swimming a struggle. By the time I headed back to shore I began to think that this loop seemed very long, so much so that I was wondering if I was wrong and it really was just one loop, not two. When I finally ran out onto the beach after my first loop, I saw other people running back in, so it was definitely still two loops. I looked down at my watch and saw 38:xx, and thought ‘not too bad’ since it had felt much slower, and I was certain I could pick it up the pace on the second loop and come close to 1:16 (my goal was 1:15-16).

Once again I spent the loop trying to get on the right side of the buoys but never making it except for the red turn buoys. I guess I really need to work on sighting. The chop near the first turn was even worse this time and I really struggled to get around the red buoy. I also noticed that my wetsuit was really starting to rub my neck despite the glob of body glide I had rubbed all over it, so then I started to stress out thinking about how it would sting the rest of the race between applying sunscreen and salt from sweat. Between the buoys, chop and rubbing wetsuit and being unable to turn them out, my mental game was not strong on the swim. By the last turn I was so ready to be done, and I just kept focusing on swimming towards shore and tried not to think about my wetsuit rubbing with every stroke. When I got out of the water and saw 1:21:xx I just thought, ‘Crap. What a bad swim’… all of that pool time to have such a slow swim really bummed me out, and let it stick with me longer than I should have. I still ran through transition and tried to be speedy getting out of my wetsuit and bike gear on, knowing the I still had other goals I could achieve, and then after a very long run through the bike-out I finally got on my bike and was ready to ride!

Swim: 1:21:45, T1: 5:55

As I settled in it occurred to me I completely forgot to calibrate my power meter that morning. Ugggh… the numbers probably weren’t too off but I never feel like I can trust them unless it’s been calibrated before my ride. In Chattanooga 70.3 I also forgot to calibrate it that morning and made the call to get off my bike during the race and calibrate. Since it was going to be hot and I wasn’t sure how meaningful the numbers would be, I decided against stopping and rode on. I also couldn’t remember how to calibrate in race mode and was a little afraid to mess with my watch. Although in retrospect it probably would have been good to have the numbers to also make sure I wasn’t overdoing it, so lesson learned.

The out and back was pretty uneventful, there was one slightly steep hill, but nothing terrible. One thing I noticed right away though was how smooth the roads were! So many of the country roads I train on have been paved with chip seal and are definitely not smooth, so the ride was nice and quiet and felt fast! Soon I was headed out of town for the main loop and started mentally preparing for the big 2ish mile climb and then several other smaller ones before the turnaround.

Once I got to the base of the hill a guy passing said ‘here we go!’, and I prepared to get ready to grind. Surprisingly the hill wasn’t terrible, but I’ve noticed that my back seems to get tight when riding long-ish hills, so that really was the worst part and I went back and forth from sitting up to riding in aero to give my back a break. I was relieved when I reached the top and after a little flat stretch I was able to cruise downhill. It felt warm out but not terrible and there was a slight cool breeze which helped. I hit the turnaround happy to be 1/4th of the way done…it had been awhile since I’ve raced an IM and 112 miles was feeling long. Also another thing I was worrying about was my arms getting sunburned. I had gone back and forth as to whether I should put armcoolers on in T1, since I train in them and they work since I burn easily, but I was worried it would take too long and instead sprayed sunscreen on them.

Going back into town to start the second loop I was feeling a little tired and nauseas. I was trying to remember to keep drinking water but the water was so warm in my aero bottle which made it hard to drink. I would grab a cold water bottle at each aid station, chug at least half, fill my aero drink and if there was any left I would spray the rest on my head and body. I was also taking base salt occasionally and drinking my Skratch Superfuel (200 calories/half a bottle an hour) that had calories/electrolytes. So I knew I was taking in the right stuff, but probably could be doing better on water since that usually creeps up on you especially in drier climates. The ‘little’ hill on the out and back was much more noticeable now so I figured it was going to be a tough second loop. I stopped at special needs at mile 66 to get my third bottle of Skratch which was still cold from freezing and wrapping in foil (yay!) AND the volunteer had spray sunscreen, so I gave her a big thank you while she sprayed my arms and neck. The worry about burned arms quickly faded.

By the time I got out of town and started the big climb again I was feeling the heat, and the nice breeze was now like a hot fan blowing in your face. I had fond memories of that same feeling at Chattanooga. I tried to sip more of my hot water and began to take Base salt every five miles as I had only taken it a few times during the first loop and knew I needed to be more proactive with the temps rising regardless of what I felt like drinking or taking. As I made the big climb again I was happy that my back seemed to have loosened up and felt better this time, but it was definitely a much slower grind. I do love hills though and passing people gave me a little encouragement, despite feeling a little nauseas and starting to get hot, I was still doing ok since I wasn’t killing myself going up the hill, just taking it easy and getting into a manageable rhythm.

By the turnaround I was ready to be done… but I still had 22 or so miles left. As I kept riding I could feel the temps rising and now the hills seemed never ending. I didn’t remember the hills feeling tough on the way back to town but they did this time. Finally when I got to the huge downhill during the last five miles, which was a no passing zone, I and at least six others were stuck behind a cautious rider braking the whole way. The rules are the rules, and we all stayed single file but I wanted to cry because of all of that lost free speed from the hard work we did on the hills earlier. After the descent and no passing zone ended I realized I was going to be off the bike soon and started to get worried about running a marathon after this hot second half of the bike. I came into T2 and saw JMR and could feel the tears behind my sunglasses and said something to him while walking my bike to my rack, I’m not even sure what I said but I’m sure it included ‘it’s so hot’.

Bike: 6:35:00, T2: 6:21

On my way to my rack two different volunteers stopped me to see if I needed medical, to which I said no, but was wondering how bad I looked. I felt pretty terrible but not bad enough to call it a day. I racked my bike, sat on the ground, put on my hat, swapped into my running shoes, grabbed my baggie with nutrition and walked out of transition not wanting to run a marathon. I walk-jogged the first mile while trying to stuff my nutrition into my back pockets and thinking how crappy I felt. I passed some porta-potties around mile 1, and since I really had to pee I decided I didn’t care how long it would take to get out of my one-piece kit. I quickly unzipped the top and wrestled to get out my arms out, knowing it would be just as fun getting them back in but if it would make me a little more comfortable then that’s what I was going to do. I also managed to flash a few volunteers as I thought I got locked in the porta potty and pushed the door open in panic, thankfully it opened, but my tri kit wasn’t pulled up yet! Once back in my suit I walk-jogged some more, feeling lightheaded and hot, and wondering if I could walk this whole thing. As I kept walk-jogging I did the math and realized it was going to be a long ass marathon at the rate I was walking it (like 7 hours), but I wasn’t sure what else to do because running felt awful in the heat. All I could do was try and keep my HR down, take in ice and water at the aid stations and keep moving forward.

Along with feeling pretty crummy my right hand was ON FIRE. I had put sunscreen on my hands along with my arms in the morning before the race, but I guess it had rubbed off and I completely forgot to spray them in T1 and didn’t ask the lady to spray them either at special needs, and both hands were red but the right one was bright red. I had sewed the bottom of an arm cooler to make a little ice wrap/tube I could fill and put around my neck during the run and decided to wrap the arm cooler around my hand to keep the sun off of it and from it feeling on fire. Right away after I wrapped it around my hand it felt much better and it freed my some the mental energy I was spending on it to focus on running. Next race I am wearing bike gloves!

After several miles of stopping at each aid station to dump water on head/ice down suit and drink water I was starting to feel a little better. At the mile 6 aid station I made the decision to drink some coke. I usually wait until the second half of the run, but all bets were off and I had to see what might help, and that did it! Shortly after drinking it I started to feel better and was able to turn my walk-jog into a run. Ok! From here on out I was going to add coke into my mix of water/skratch/salt/gel and hope that kept me moving forward at a 10-11min pace.

As I was finishing up the first loop I saw JMR and told him I was feeling much better and gave him a high five. I also soaked up the energy of the big crowds on this part of the loop which kept me moving at a good pace. I had gotten in a good groove of running to the next aid station and then walking through it to get ice/water/coke, and that strategy made running a 10ish min pace sustainable. I did have a few aid stations where I drank too much water along with coke and had to walk a little further beyond the aid station to try and let my stomach settle. My mouth was just kept getting so dry between aid stations that by the time I got to them I wanted to chug all of the liquids there. I also sipped on my Skratch hydration in my handheld in between aid stations and took in salt as well. As I hit the mile 13 marker I looked at my watch and thought, well hey, I can finish this in under 5 hours, that will be my new goal (I had switched to FINISH THE RACE as my goal once I started the run). Then I realized that 4:45 was probably close in reach if I kept moving since my first 6 miles were really slow, so my second half should be much faster.

My new goal, which seemed achievable, gave me focus to just keep moving. Soon I was finishing the second loop, saw JMR again and told him I was still doing good, and kept on moving. When I hit mile 20 I decided I wanted to see where I was on race time. I flipped my watch to race time and saw I was close to 11 hours, which meant unless I magically started running 9 minute miles I would be pretty close to 13 hours. I knew my goal of sub 12 hours was out of the window before the race had even started with the heat, but I wasn’t sure how far off I would be. Well, I was going to be very far off, and probably finish close to my first IM time. However, I reminded myself that this heat was no joke and it was a mini miracle I was moving at my current pace considering how terrible I felt at the start of the run. And I also knew that every race is different and has its own challenges and you can’t really compare them, BUT it’s still nice to have some time goal to chase. I changed my watch back to run time, and moved on with the goal of finishing the run sub 4:45, I had no more mental energy to waste on things I can’t control at that point!

On I went, making the last turn around on the third loop, less than six miles to go. I just kept counting down the miles. Finally with 2 miles to go I started to feel all of the emotions, I was going to finish, I could feel the happy tears starting to come and almost felt like I had goosebumps and chills (the good kind, not the hypothermia kind). I passed through the neighborhoods high fiving people, running close to a 9 minute pace, pushing harder and feeling good, and when I got to the part of the loop where you turn to the finish or keep right to go do another loop, I turned to go to the finish and got even more emotional. And then a lady dared to say ‘Good job! 9 more blocks!’…9 more blocks? I have like .3 miles to go, what kind of blocks are we talking about lady?

I kept running, over the little bridge towards Sherman Ave where I would turn left and run down to the finisher chute. The crowds got larger and a guy shouted at me as I turned left ‘you have been racing all day for these three minutes! enjoy them!’ It’s true, the rest of the race was a blur and and all I could feel were the emotions of finishing. I was overcome with happy tears behind my sunglasses, ugly crying while sprinting down the the finish (why I sprinted, I do not know, and now all of my finisher photos I have 3 chins from making quite the face while sprinting), and finally crossing the finish line. Holy crap, that was HARD. I’m pretty sure I said that out loud too. #5 was done.

Run: 4:43:37

Total Time: 12:52:37

I got my t-shirt and medal, took a finisher photo and then met JMR after. I’m pretty sure I said again ‘that was so hard!’ and then went on to say how I thought I wasn’t going to finish when I got out on the run course and was struggling, but then rallied at mile 6 and finished strong. I asked what the temps were and he said at one point his phone said 102, phew, it was hot! JMR recapped the events of his day while spectating and then after grabbing a coke from the athlete food tent (the thought of food made my stomach flip) we headed back to the house. What a day! It’s crazy how the day starts out feeling so long (at least for me), especially when you’re suffering, but once you cross the finish line it’s like you forget all of that and only remember the good and it seems like it went by just in the blink of an eye. Good thing I feel that way, since my next Ironman is in less than 10 weeks! Ironman Wisconsin training starts up next week! 🙂 However this week is definitely a recovery week!

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2 Responses to Ironman Coeur d’Alene – The Race

  1. Pingback: Ironman Coeur d’Alene – Pre-Race | Running in the Moment

  2. Jamie says:

    I mean!!!! Incredible. I simply do not know how you do it. So proud of you😍

    Take Care, Jamie


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