Ironman Coeur d’Alene

A week ago Thursday I got an early start for Idaho. It was a 4:30am wake-up call followed by a quick breakfast, grabbing last minute items, and heading for the door. Scout and I were headed for Coeur d’Alene for a long weekend of car camping and exhaustion.

We were on the road at 5:30, wanting to finish the 16-hour drive before the sun set. Before another long drive with my bike on my roof rack, I have to get a bike bra – it was plastered in bugs, requiring some extra cleaning I hadn’t planned on (it was even worse on the way home). Thanks to the unexpected time zone change, we arrived in Coeur d’Alene at about 8pm. I looked around and found everything I’d need to get to in the next couple days before heading to The Moontime for a beer and some live music before finding a dark street and crawling in the back of my car for some sleep.

Friday I grabbed breakfast at Jimmy’s Down the Street (where I would have breakfast every day except for race morning, and which was featured on Food Network this year) before going for a very short bike ride and jog, registering, and going for a swim in the 58F lake. In the afternoon I rode the marathon course on my bike before getting ready for the welcome dinner. Saturday was bike check-in and transition bag drop-off, followed by another swim in the cold lake. My parents came out to cheer, so they took Scout for the off my hands after dinner until after the race Sunday. I had some time to walk around and soak it all in before getting a few hours of sleep.

Sunday morning I woke up earlier than turned out to be necessary. I went to Denny’s for breakfast (and was clearly the only person there who had already slept for the night and was starting the new day), got a parking spot near the start/finish/transition area, and listened to news on the radio for an hour.

Shortly after 5am I went down for body marking, final transition bag organization, and got in my wetsuit. I would hear that the water was 54F (official number from later: 54.7F, a good 10F colder than most years) and that the air temperature was 39F. Not a warm morning in the least. I put myself in a spot towards the front of the swim, hoping to get out in front of the inevitable washing machine that is 2,430 athletes all trying to swim a fairly narrow line at the same time.

At 7:00 we were off, thousands of the fittest people on the planet voluntarily rushing in to frigid water where most would spend over an hour swimming. I feel bad for the slower women pros who are just starting their second lap when the age groupers go. You can see them in the following video, and they just got swallowed up by the mass of racers.

The cold was rough, and by the second lap my form had gone way downhill. I narrowly avoided some bad calf cramps from the cold, and finished the swim in a satisfactory 1:11 (roughly equivalent splits). I was shivering mildly, and had a very slow T1 (over 12 minutes) as a result. It could have been worse – over 100 people DNFed right out of the water due to the cold. I need to do more open water practice swims to speed that up, plus more intensity in the pool. I could easily chop T1 to under two minutes now that I know what I’m doing, as long as I’m not too cold to properly function.

I warmed up as soon as I got on the bike, though my legs never felt quite right. By the start of the second lap, my legs felt fried, and my splits show it.

It’s a beautiful course with plenty of challenging hills, fun turns, and great scenery. Unfortunately, there are rumors that it’s changing next year to something flatter and straighter. If I want to improve my times, there is quite a bit of speed I can buy, and increasing my training volume on the bike would certainly help things.

I had visualized my T2 countless times – hop off the bike, sit down to change in to my running shoes, take a deep sigh thinking “well, time to run a marathon,” and head out. This is more or less how it happened, but I could still save some time there. Regardless, once T2 was over, I ran.

And I ran.

And I kept on running. Not quickly, with short walking breaks at each of the aid stations, but one foot kept going in front of the other.

The aid stations were great – every mile, a cup of ice down my back (which stayed in thanks to the race belt) to keep my temperature in check, a chunk of banana, a sip of cola, a sip of water, and the rest of the water going over my head. Even better than the aid stations were a few parties to celebrate the race. One house was blasting loud music for the racers and the several dozen partiers there. Each of the four times I passed it, my spirits lifted beyond where they already were. The last time by I high-fived a couple of the partiers, ready to head in to the finish.

Although the running had become essentially effortless by that point on account of the endorphin rush, the last several blocks in to the finish just floated by. As I entered the finish chute I put my hand out for high fives from the crowd, and easily received a couple dozen.

And then it was over.

And that was it. Twelve hours and forty-seven minutes after diving in to the frigid water that morning, I was done. Seven months after starting training, it was over. I convinced myself that I was finished with the full-Ironman distance, as it was just too much. Too much in training and on race day. After being whisked away for another photo, a quick sports massage, and some pizza, I got changed in to my street clothes and headed out.

A snack of a huckleberry milkshake and some fries later and I reclaimed Scout. It wasn’t long until I was out cold once again in the back of my car. Scout found a little better spot this night, and seemed comfortable when I had to coax her out for a walk in the morning.

I went to Jimmy’s once more for breakfast before buying a few items at the Ironman store, and hit the road.

By the time this picture was taken, I was convinced I was doing it again next year, and that I’d find a way to cut my time significantly. At the time of this writing, I’m not sure. IM St. George is earlier than I’d like, but it seems to not sell out – and it has an awesome bike course. So in a few months I’ll probably get training, keeping my options open. But whenever it ends up happening, I know I’ll be back for another 140.6 miles.

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3 thoughts on “Ironman Coeur d’Alene

  1. Congratulations on a significant achievement! You have shown you can do anything you set your mind to. Way to go!

    -M&S

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