Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ironman CDA Race Report

Race: Ironman Coeur D’Alene
Distance: Full Ironman (2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, 26.2 Mile Run)
Date: June 21, 2009
Race Strategy: Survive the swim, push hard on the bike, and survive the run.

Swim: During practice sessions, I was coming in at around 90 minutes per 4K so I was anticipating a swim slightly less than 90 minutes. My strategy (after watching some youtube videos of previous CDA starts) was to give the fast swimmers a few seconds and then swim slightly on the inside of the buoys, making sure to get out and around the corner buoys to stay ‘legal.’ Compared to starting in the middle of the pack or way out on the outside, this would allow me to sight easier, stay out of the madness, and not add any distance to my swim.

My strategy worked. I was able to get out to the first turn without much more fighting than in a typical tri. Things congested around the turn and my momentum was killed but I got it started up again and was soon headed back to shore to complete the first loop. With the lake temp around 65 degrees, breathing wasn’t a problem. I took a breath every other stroke and, at times, was able to alternate. The chop picked up during the second loop and I found myself failing to see buoys when I went up to sight. It wasn’t a big deal but I didn’t swim as straight as I would’ve liked. I got a nice cramp in my calf midway through the second loop. Don’t ask me how…I wasn’t even kicking! I swam through the cramp and the other random shoulder pains and general tiredness. Soon enough, I was out of the water. I survived the swim (#1 goal of the day) and came in under 80 minutes, which was a pleasant surprise. I was very happy that I maintained the perfect mindset during the swim…focused, calm, and patient.

T1: Nothing special. Took my time, knowing it would be a long day. Tried to empty the bladder as much as possible before the long ride.

Bike: The first goal I had for the ride was to finish it. If that happened, I also wouldn’t have minded finishing in less than 6 hrs (based on examining 2008 results.) So I used the first hour to warm up draft a bit off the mass of bikes (unavoidable, of course). I was fortunate to ride with some friends off and on during the first hour or two (Murray and Tsunami Tri Club peeps)…familiar faces just added to the overall enjoyment and excitement of the race. I battled a side ache for the first 1.5 hours but knew it would eventually go away and it did, right before the hills. I ripped through the first set of hills, thankful I had been up training on them the prior month and knew exactly how I wanted to approach them mentally and physically. The first loop was solid and I was somewhere around 2:45 at the halfway point. Coming through town on the bike was exhilarating. I don’t think I’ve ever participated in a sporting event with so many spectators. I was surprised by the energy the crowd put off.

I pushed it on loop two despite all the recommendations to hold back and save something for the run. My take was that I’m weak on the run and decently strong on the bike so I’ll take advantage of my strength. Makes sense to me. Note: Once my run improves I will change my strategy here, maybe. I passed a grip of people on loop two and felt perfect through the hills. At about mile 90, I was feeling light headed and hungry and slowed way down for a mile. With 5 or 6 100+ training rides under my belt, I knew exactly what to do. I munched on my spare Cliff Bar and downed a PowerGel (both on hand for this purpose). Soon I was back at it and feeling as good as one can 90 miles into a ride. I did a rough calculation and I had an outside shot of coming in under 6 hours so I continued to push all the way back to the lake. I came in at 5:57. Definitely satisfied with that split. I was mostly grateful that I had an uneventful ride and came through in one piece.

T2: I didn’t relieve myself during the entire bike so I spent a little extra time in the bathroom again, emptying that bladder. Not to dwell on the pee but I was pretty amazed that I held it for so long on the bike. Probably not too healthy…

Run: Goal for the run: Finish. I was most concerned about how my IT Band would hold up considering my long training run was about 9 miles. So leg pain and cramping were my main concerns. However, with the lack of training on the run, I had no expectations for time or the amount of running or walking I’d have to do. The only marathon I’d finished before was the Mid-Mountain trail marathon. It was a hard run and I finished in 5 hours. I figured that might be a good time to try to beat (I know I said my goal was just to finish but I find it hard not to have any loose time goals and figured 5 hours wasn’t putting on much pressure).

My calves were so tight the first 3 or 4 miles that I thought they’d never ease but soon they loosened up and my mind shifted. I ran a few 9 or 9:30 miles and was getting passed by most people. This usually happens to me when I get off the bike. I slowed a bit more but tried not to walk, figuring I would hold out on the walking as long as possible (I was already running slow enough). I made it through the first loop, albeit slowly but didn’t stop much for water or other nutrition. Miles 10-14 were the biggest struggle. I posted a few 12 minute miles and was now slowly walking the aid stations while I grabbed water, bananas, and pretzels. By then, I was in town starting the second loop and just picked up my special needs bag. I took the twix and kit-kat out of the bag. Right then, I tossed out the ‘healthy’ nutrition plan I was trying to stay on. In a quick turn around, my nutrition went from water, bananas and pretzels to twix, kit-kats, and cola. I didn’t forget the warm chicken broth either. That was a nice touch since the rain and wind picked up during the second loop. Around mile 16, it all kicked in and I picked up the pace. I should mention that at this point I hadn’t felt any pain in my leg but I’d stretched out a few cramps. Luckily, they didn’t stick and I was feeling probably about as good as I could’ve 10 hours into a race.

So once I kicked it into high gear and managed to sustain the pace I finally started letting loose and really taking in the excitement (I’m really only talking 9:45-10:15 minute miles so it wasn’t too high of a gear so, if you have a mental image, it looked nothing like BJ from SLC or Paul from PDX). Up until this point, I avoided thinking about what it’d be like to finish the race. The last thing I wanted was to think I’m going to finish and then have a huge let down because something happened out on the course. I decided then that it was actually going to happen and I was going to cross that finish line, no matter what, so I was able to let loose a bit and take it all in for the remainder of the race. So as everyone on the run course was grabbing their Mylar to stay warm and dry, I was pushing, passing as many people as I could, and trying to smile and say thanks to the volunteers who were feeding the athletes with food and energy.

As I made the turn and headed down to the last few blocks towards the finish, the crowd was incredible. I was enjoying the moment in my own way, which was to run as hard as I could and trying to look like a racer who was competing for a Kona slot…it didn’t matter if I needed to cut a couple hours off my time to seriously have a chance. My quad was cramping and it probably looked more like speed walking than running but, to me, I felt like I did back in the 7th grade when I was coming out of the blocks during a 100m sprint. I focused intently on the finish line. As I passed a few racers skipping with their hand in the air elated to be finishing, I thought to myself “Fools. They just let me beat them. Who races for 12 hours and then stops 100ft before the finish line to celebrate?” Of course, they were taking in the moment the way they wanted and weren’t really fools. I felt kinda bad thinking that. Oh well. Somehow, I managed to sprint to the finish line without tripping or having my leg seize from the cramp. I heard my name called and I was finished.
Run time: 4:37 Total Time: 12:06

There were two points during the race where I was almost overcome with emotion: once around mile 16 when I allowed myself to think about the finish for the first time and once when I crossed the finish line. In the end, I held back and gave a little fist-pump down by my side acknowledging to myself that I was now an Ironman.

Right away, I was hugged and kissed by my wife, mom, and aunt. My dad was following religiously online with the Athlete Tracking and still knows more about my times and splits than I do. It was a great race and even better experience. I definitely couldn’t have done it without all of the support, advice, and encouragement from my family, friends and training partners. So a special thanks goes out to the Desert Sharks Tri Club family as well as the Tsunami Team up in PDX and the Murray Tri Club guys. Thanks for letting me be a part of your communities. I really appreciate it.

PS – Can you say addicting? On the long drive home, I was thinking the entire time about my NEXT Ironman and where I should focus my training to shave off the most time. I love it.

Breakfast: 1 banana and 2 packets of instant oatmeal for breakfast
Bike: 2 bottles of Perpeteum with 5 scoops each (Only went through 1 full bottle), 1 Cliff Bar and 1 PowerGel (straw-banana), 1 Endurolyte pill every hour.
Run: Minimal water, 2 PowerGels, 2 Endurolyte pills, banana, and pretzels over the first 2 hours. Cola, kit-kat, twix, chicken broth over the second 2.5 hours.


  1. Dude, killer race! Strong bike and strong finish...all at 12hrs for your first ironman? Can't ask for more.
    Thanks for taking the leap with me a year ago, I wouldn't have signed up if you hadn't as well. We did it!
    CDA 2010? I'm signed up.

  2. Damn! Nice work! I was just pleased to beat my time in the Half Marathon this weekend, but reading your challenge makes mine seem like a walk in the park! holy $HIT! CONGRATS!