||Ironman Coeur d'Alene
||Sunday, June 29, 2003
||Coeur d'Alene, ID
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 30 - 34
|Age Group Place:
||A very hot day!
Race Report: Ironman Coeur d’Alene (IM CdA)
Date: June 29, 2003
Location: Couer d’Alene, Idaho, about 30 miles east of Spokane, WA.
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
I was finished in a time of 9:54, 17th overall out of 1,575 starters and 3rd in my age group (30-34) on a day where temperatures reached 98 degrees on the run and ~20% of the athletes DNF’d (vs. 4-5% in a typical Ironman). The course was beautiful (especially alongside Lake Coeur d’Alene), spectator friendly and, I imagine on a cooler day, very fast. The volunteers were awesome and there were people cheering on the athletes in the most remote locations. In hindsight, I should have pulled myself together a little better on the run and squeaked out an age group win (I had no idea how close I was until after the race).
Now the details….
My taper typically starts about 3 weeks out from an Ironman race. The goal is to back off the volume while maintaining some level of intensity to give my body time to rest and gain the benefit of all the hard training. Last year, Ironman Utah was my first race. This year, I tried a different approach by doing two races as preparation for CDA: Desoto American Triple-T (Ironman-distance spread over 4 races and 3 days) 4 weeks out and Spud Olympic 2 weeks out. I think Triple-T was the right thing to do as it gave me the opportunity to do 4 races at high intensity and relatively high volume over a short period of time. Unfortunately, it aggravated the tendons on the inside of my knee and forced me to back off running for 2 weeks. That coupled with racing Spud made DATT started my taper about 4 weeks out.
Because of the northern latitude and summer solstice, the days are very long in northern Idaho. The sun was up before 5am and not down until 10pm.
The weeks prior to the race indicated that temperatures would be in the 70’s or 80’s during the day and 50’s at night…perfect race weather! As the race drew closer, temperatures creeped up into the high 70’s and 80’s. We flew into Spokane, WA on Thursday to temperatures in the mid-80’s with a forecast for race day on Sunday in the 90’s….not good…I drank a lot of Gatorade and water the days before to stay hydrated and take in electrolytes.
Jen and I met up with NOVA triathletes Dana, Tony, Bill and Donna in Coeur d’Alene. We did the pre race swim practices, biked the beginning of the bike course and loaded up on pasta at Luigi’s in downtown Spokane two nights before the race. Pancakes with fruit at IHOP were the pre-race dinner: easily digestible carbs.
The day before the race, I woke up with a scratchy, sore throat. Not a good omen. I woke up race morning congested so I figured I had a head cold that was making it’s rounds from my throat to my sinuses.
Given the 3 hour time differential, it was easy to wake up at 7am on race day. Since I had already dropped off my bike and transition bags the day before, the only thing to do race morning was to eat and check to make sure that I had everything I needed for the swim (wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, timing chip, no fog, body glide) plus special needs bags for bike and run. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which I heaved up about 10 minutes later…nerves. I managed to eat a Powerbar later and sucked down a bottle of Gatorade 1-2 hours before the start.
The swim started from the beach near the resort in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Water temperature was in the mid 60’s (cool but comfortable with a full wet suit) and visibility was excellent. The course was 2 x 1.2-mile triangular loops with a short beach section where the athletes ran over the timing mats between loops. Official Ironman races are all mass starts: picture almost 1,600 athletes lined up on a section of the beach about 100 m long…not much elbow room with everyone standing even before everyone goes prone and starts swimming. The pros started in the water about 15m in front of the age groupers. I seeded myself in the center of the beach in knee deep water, 2 rows back from the front and inline with the first line of buoys.
BOOM!!! Everyone rushed into the water. Chaos! Arms and legs were flailing everywhere. Fortunately, in addition to buoyancy and warmth, my T1 wetsuit also served as body armor. My goggles were knocked loose in the first 100m and I scrambled to quickly put them on my face. I kept my pace steady and manageable as I frequently popped my head out of the water to sight the buoys and adjust my heading. I intermittently bumped into other swimmers and constantly had people brushing against my feet. The first loop seemed like an eternity (it always does!) and I had no idea about my pace other than the level of effort felt right. My first loop was 28 minutes…not bad as long as I could keep the pace through the second. My second loop was much more relaxed as the swimmers had spread out, and I exited the water a little bit after 56 minutes. So far, so good and right on pace.
As I exited water, there were wet suit strippers to help me pull off my wetsuit. I then grabbed my transition bag then headed to the changing tent. I dumped my race bag and handed it to a volunteer who forced my wetsuit into it. I fumbled with pulling on my PBN race jersey over my wet torso then quickly put on my bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, fanny pack and race number, tossing my bag to the side as I headed out the tent to grab my bike and cross the timing mat. I mounted my bike at the road and checked my watch: just under an hour.
The bike course was two sections totaling 56-miles that were repeated twice (2 “loops”) for a total of 112-miles. The first section was a 10 mile out and back that took us through downtown CdA then along the lake (reminded me of Lake Placid and Canada IM courses) to a turnaround at a cud de sac. The second section was mostly a loop that took us on hilly back roads parallel to the Spokane River and I-90 into Washington state then back along mostly flat roads through the town of Post Falls. There were lots of rollers in the first 30 miles with 2 steep, long sections about 20/25 and 76/81 miles into the bike.
I aggressively pushed the pace on the bike at first. My goal was to maintain my heart rate around 170bpm which I thought I could sustain through most of the bike before it would drop into the 160’s as I tired toward the end. I felt strong and started passing people at a steady pace. I steadily powered up the hills, although I remember thinking to myself on the 2nd big hill that I should have left on the 12-25 (easier gearing) gearing on the back for the 2nd loop rather than the 12-23 (slightly harder gearing) which I was now using. The 2nd section also had a flat out and back off of the loop. I had been pushing a 53-12 at a relatively high cadence on the way out. On the way back, there was a huge headwind which persisted for the next 20 miles back toward town and I struggled to push a 53-18 (easier gearing) at a much slower pace. I started to feel bad which is not a good sign 35 miles into a 112-mile bike leg. My body felt overheated and I noticed the salt caking on my arms from my sweat. I started taking salt tablets and TUMS. My heart rate had already dropped to the low 160’s and I was pretty miserable.
I drank lots of fluids, both Gatorade and water, averaging about 1.5 bottles between every aid station (~10 miles). Because my stomach was upset, I ate mostly GU (aid station provided) and Carboom (self-provided) gels every 20-30 minutes on the bike some of which I spit up. Later, I managed to stomach some fig newtons and Gummi bears which were a nice change from the gels.
I caught and passed the lead woman about 45 miles into the bike. It was a real pain to pass because she had a motorcycle crew filming her so I had to ride between her and the motorcycle. Then I had to get around the timing vehicle which was a hundred meters ahead of her to mark her as the lead female.
As I finished the first bike loop, I checked my watch: 2 hours, 33 minutes. At this point, I think I had moved into the top 20 overall. My pre-race goal was to finish the bike under 5 hours…this was not likely given I was already feeling bad and would be lucky to hold the same time for the second loop.
I actually lost more time on the 2nd loop and was passed on the first large hill by eventual female winner Heather Gollnick who had taken the women’s lead. I could only watch her power up the hill as I struggled to spin in a 42-23 gearing. Oh, well, let her go. My thinking was hazy and I felt like my head was cooking under my helmet.
The headwind was still there on the way back to town on the 2nd loop. Ouch! My inner thigh cramped. I had to back off the pace, stand a little, take more salt and the cramp went away after a few minutes. Ten minutes later, it seized again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
The temperature reached a high of 98 degrees during the run as I found out later in the medical tent. The run course was also 2 loops with 2 sections each: a quick 1-mile out and back followed by an 5.5-mile and out back through town then along the lake (same lakeside road as the bike course). The second turnaround ended on a ½-mile climb. There was very little shade and all of the run took place on asphalt roads. This would have been a fast course except for the heat.
I finished the bike in about 30th place, passing a few people in the transition tent. I started running a sub-7 minute pace for a few miles but backed off as I knew it would become a race of attrition. I dropped to a more conservative 8-minute pace which I felt that I could sustain until the end. I also decided to walk the aid stations to get enough fluid and ice, typically taking a drink of water, Gatorade and coke, dumping ice down my shirt then placing a sponge under each shoulder of my jersey.
I said something like “Good job” to Bill and Tony on the run; both looked like they were in good spirits. As I headed out for my 2nd loop, I saw Dana on the sidelines cheering me on…unfortunately, he said he had fallen on the bike and broken his collar bone.
The second loop of the run was hell. I was overheated and felt light-headed. I had trouble stomaching food, but managed to force down probably a half-dozen gels during the marathon. I emptied my stomach 4 or 5 times. My right glute kept tightening and threatening to seize. I massaged it then it went away, only tighten up a mile or 2 later.
At this point, I really did not care about much about anything except getting to the next aid station (~1-mile apart) so that I could get more ice and more fluid. My walks through each transition area became longer and longer. I passed a few more people and was passed as well. Some volunteers had set up sprinklers or had hoses to cool down athletes. I graciously walked through every bit of cool water that I could find, trading my future loss of toenails (due to running in wet shoes) for coolness.
At mile 24, I realized that I could still break 10 hours so I picked up the pace and crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 54 minutes.
As I crossed the line I was given my finisher’s medal and grabbed by two volunteers who supported me on the way to the medical tent. The medical volunteers covered me in ice bags to cool my body down and gave me an IV to replace fluids and electrolytes. After about an hour in the medical tent, I felt better and limped over to the massage tent for a massage.
Now, I’m sitting here on the 4th of July finishing this race report on Jen’s laptop in a cabin on a creek in Montana. My legs are still a little sore and just feel tired in general. I bruised about 6 of them which means I will lose those nails all over again after finally growing them back about a month ago from last year’s races. I’ve heard that at some point they may stop growing back.
Time for some rest and easy recovery training before the cycle starts all over again in August for Duke in October.
1. Goals are good but need to be flexible based off the situation. 98-degree heat is not the time to set a PR.
2. Attitude is everything. Gotta keep a positive attitude. The race has it’s ups and downs.
3. Train the race. I did not take the time to familiarize myself with the race course other than to look briefly at the elevation profile. I should have worked in more flat road rides into headwinds at time trial effort. More long, steady climbs Skyline Drive would have helped, too.
4. Staying injury free in pre-race training is a key success factor. I believe I strained the tendons in my right knee back in Jan/Feb running on snow/ice. I never took the time to let my leg fully heal because it was more a nuisance and not painful. Racing DATT aggravated my leg, causing pain and forcing me to stop running completely for almost two weeks.
5. Coating my feet with Body Glide before the swim worked well in preventing blisters during the run even though my shoes and socks were wet. I also used Body Glide at Spud while running without socks: no blisters!
6. Taping the tops of gels to my top tube while using a Bento Box (small mesh container behind my handlebar stem) for other food and salt tablets worked well.
7. For hot weather races, hydration and electrolyte replacement is critical. I could have probably done a better job by eating more salty foods like pretzels in the days prior to the race while also making sure I had an adequate supply of salt tablets (Endurolytes) during the race. Although I drank a lot, I was still very dehydrated at the end. Probably no way around this but I could have still tried to take in more fluid on the bike.