In preparation for Ironman CDA a lot of people asked me if I had a finish time that I was aiming for, I didn’t, but I had set a few goals for myself:
- Swim – I wanted to maintain a time within five minutes of my Ironman Arizona swim (1:12).
- Bike – I also wanted to maintain my Ironman Arizona time on the bike (6:35). I knew I had improved a ton on the bike, but the CDA bike course has way more climbing then Arizona, so I felt this was realistic.
- Run – Secretly I wanted to run a sub 4 marathon. I wasn’t sure how realistic this was, but I felt it was a good goal for myself, something to work towards. Most importantly I wanted to FEEL strong on the run. I started falling apart in the last half of the marathon at Ironmam Arizona, due to poor nutrition choices and the level of training I was able to put in the first time around.
Going into my taper I felt pretty good about all of these goals, I had worked really hard with my coach and my Racelab teammates and saw significant improvement in all three disciplines throughout my training. Then I found out it was forecasted to be over 100 degrees on race day! The summer temperatures in Coeur D’Alene are normally in the 70s to 80s. I wasn’t too worried about competing in the heat, but I knew I had to throw all my expectations out the window and just race to the best of my ability. I tend to struggle in the heat, especially on the run, so I had to prepare myself for a slower finish time. Then there were rumors the race might be cancelled and finally we were notified that the race would start an hour earlier in anticipation of the heat. I tried to tune out all the rumors and complaints on social media and focus on getting rest.
When race day finally came, I felt calm and ready despite the 106 degree heat. I was able to get a full night sleep and a good breakfast and got the race venue an hour before transition closed. Everything was close together and easy at this race so I had quite a bit of time to wait and get my wetsuit on. I lined up in the one hour to one hour and fifteen minutes swim wave and started chatting with a few of the other racers. Before we started Mike Reilly said, “there’s a lot of things out there you can’t control, but there’s one thing you can and that’s your attitude, you take care of that and it will take care of you.” The guy standing next to me looked at me and said, “Isn’t that the opposite of what we are supposed to do in endurance sports, ignore the mind?” I smiled, but I thought this guy has no clue, he needs to read my blogpost about mental training!
Finally we were off! The swim was awesome, during the second loop it got extremely choppy and wavy at the turnaround due to some boats, but luckily that stretch was pretty short. My Garmin didn’t work on the first loop so I really had no clue how I was doing, but it felt pretty quick and easy for a 2.4 mile swim. Turns out I had a 1:11 swim, yay!
Coming out of transition some guy fell right in front of me trying to get clipped in and I almost ran him over! Luckily I just bounced off his bike and skirted around him. The first section of the course was awesome, as it was still nice and cool. I kept my heart rate low waiting to get to the climbs to see how my body would react. Getting to the first hill I was actually surprised at how hard it felt, I guess my legs were still getting warmed up. When I got out onto the hillier section of the course, I quickly realized the second loop would be tough for me. The temperature was quickly rising and heat was radiating off the pavement. There was no shade and the air was HOT! I kept on pushing, focusing on my cadence and nutrition. My heart rate was still low, but I kept it pretty conservative anticipating that it would keep getting hotter. I also noticed that I was going through my water and nutrition faster than I planned, oh well at least I was getting my calories in. The second loop of the bike sucked! This was the worst part of the race for me. I started realizing I wasn’t going to meet my goal (which I was supposed to put aside but that was easier said than done). Every uphill was a pity party, I was so hot and running out of water before getting to the next aide station, which just allowed more negative thoughts to creep in. On the downhills I would give myself a pep talk, there was a lot of time left in the day, and I could still make up some ground. This mental battle went on for the rest of the ride, until I finally made it back to transition. Time = 6:57.
I was so happy to get off my bike! And very thankful that it was over with no incidents. On the run I felt pretty strong out of the gate, but noticed my heart rate creeping up on mile two. There was no shade and I was completely dry. I slowed down a bit to get my heart rate back down. From then on the plan was to just keep my core temperature down by staying wet. Luckily this was pretty easy as there were so many people outside with garden hoses, ice and ice water to dunk in. The first loop of the run went well and I didn’t have to walk, but by mile 11 I started feeling the fatigue setting in on my legs. I kept taking salt which seemed to work. I got to see my sister, Ryan and Jordan at this point, and for some reason all I could say to them was “this is insane!” I said that about four times and gave them hugs and kept moving. Out onto the second loop I started feeling reenergized. I didn’t feel the decline like in my previous ironman, but decided I’d let myself walk up the big hill the second time to avoid overheating. After that I was ready to run back to the finish, my legs felt fine and my heart rate was no problem, but I started to have some GI issues. I’m not sure what caused this, but I stopped to use a port-a-potty and the last six miles had a lot of walk/run going on. This was somewhat frustrating because when I was able to run I felt really strong and had a nice pace. Unfortunately, I really did not want to have explosive diarrhea, so I’d have to walk a few steps everytime my stomach started turning. Looking back I’m pretty sure downing ice cold water was the cause of my GI distress. For the first half of the run I was taking only water not ice water, but by the second half I wasn’t thinking and started downing ice water.
Finishing on Sherman is as amazing as everyone says! I high-fived as many people as I could and finally for the first time since my training began I consciously let the emotions take over. A huge smile spread across my face and I enjoyed the sweet moment! Finish time = 12:51. Seven minute PR, top 20 in my age group, top 100 women and 12th fastest run for my age group!
While I didn’t accomplish all of my goals, I did achieve the most important one. I felt so much stronger physically and mentally than I did in my previous Ironman. I think this is a testament to my training and sticking to my nutrition plan on race day (thanks Bettina!). With the harsh conditions I don’t think I was able to see what I’m really capable of time wise, which means one thing, time to find another Ironman and get back to work!
I feel very grateful that I was able to complete Ironman Coeur D’Alene this year and have my family there to support me. Many people weren’t able to finish and I hope they don’t give up on their dreams. Thanks for all the support!