With the Armed Forces Championship and subsequent Military World Championship, I've spent my last five weeks on a road bike. My TT bike had a few adjustments while gone, so all I was able to do was do an easy ride to familiarize myself in the two days I had here at home after all that traveling. I was really worn out, but Ironman Coeur d'Alene was about finishing without an epic story of overcoming disaster after disaster. Racing ITU is about the swim and run, which is where my focus has been all year. Ironman is about going long, which is something I haven't had time to train my body to do.I was aware going in that it was almost like doing an Ironman without training. I avoided thinking about the race or even prepping my gear until the day we headed to Coeur d'Alene. I was worn out from being away from home since May, so prepping for a race and being gone for another four days wasn't appealing to me. Why is it that a race that takes an entire day also has to take the two days before and the day after from check-in to awards? Amanda was on the ball and my laziness was probably aggravating, but she handled it like a champ. Honestly, if it weren't for her, then I would not have made it to the start line. She nudged me along, right up to the race start. She gets a gold star for making sure I had the opportunity to beat that old memory.
The cold water wasn't going to bother me. Compared to Armed Force's 52 degrees, this would be a lot better. I even opted to leave the aqua socks behind. I walked in, submerged myself and let water into the wet suit a couple times before the start. I was right on the line and planned to blast out of there to avoid being drowned in the masses. The start was smooth for me, but I had a rare breathing problem that I've only experienced one other time. In swimming, on a scale from good to bad, it's bad. I breathed on both sides, but felt like I was about to drown, which is pretty scarry. Knowing the majority of 2300 people are behind me and would swim right over me, didn't make it any easier. I tried to signal for help, but none was in sight, so I had to keep going. Switching to backstroke didn't seem to help. Maybe the anxiety caused a temporary conversion disorder. Though I was initially off the front, I was quickly swallowed by the field as I tried to settle down and get my breathing under control. It took a half lap before I started to settle down. At that point, I just found some feet and followed at a very easy pace for the remainder of the swim. My time was 1:04:27, which was good for 177th overall. I stuck to the plan, kept it easy and was glad to be on solid ground. I really don't like swimming. It's the only sport that if you stop in ... you'll die. I didn't do a warm-up swim due to being terribly undertrained and didn't think I could afford to waste any energy warming up. After that experience, I'll make sure to do a warm-up for every race in the future. That was scarry. Also, the swim may have been a little long.
T1 was somewhat amusing to me. As an ultra-competitive racer, I've wanted for years to have just one race where I could cruise along and enjoy it. That's what this race was for me. Since I was on the sharp end of the field, people were in a hurry. I actually had to tell my helper to slow down. I soaked in the atmosphere and watched others briefly before I finished up and got on my way. My time showed it too. It took me 6:29 to get through T1.
The bike was my biggest worry. It would be my longest ride since 1999 and literally more twice my weekly average. My legs are trained for about an hour in the saddle, while my system is only trained for about three hours of work. Today was going to be three to four times that, so I couldn't afford to get caught up in the highly charged atmosphere. People were cheering machines, but I resisted the urge to ride in the moment. My body was telling me I could go faster, but my mind said absolutely not! Trying to keep track of my fueling and making sure my average stayed under 20 MPH kept my mind busy when I wasn't chatting or joking with other riders. At mile 40, I was feeling a bit over my head. Despite the easy effort, I was spent by mile 75. I struggled to the finish of the ride. My time was 5:43:18, which is better than I expected. To my amusement, I actually ended up injuring my right wrist from shifting for nearly six hours. Since I haven't been on my TT bike for weeks and certainly don't have much practice shifting gears for more than an hour, my wrist swelled up and is very weak and sore. So, if you're like me and just don't get much time to ride, make sure you practice your shifting.
In T2, I was prepared to take whatever time I needed. My only goal was to shoot for a sub 3-hour run. I'm absolutely certain I can do it, especially now that I'm looking back on the race. I changed clothes, socks, watches, fueled up, went to the rest room and did a quick stretch. T2 was 6:00. Oddly enough, my cumulative time was 7:00:14. If I ran a sub 3, then I'd also have a sub 10:00:00 overall. That gave me a little extra motivation since a finish time hadn't even crossed my mind. The only time I thought about was the run.
So I go busting out of T2 and onto the run with the Garmin helpning me keep pace for a sub 3 (sub 6:52/mile). After busting out of the gates, I needed constant pace checks to keep my legs under control. The McCoy family, Bob and others were out there cheering like it was an Olympic sport and had a gigantic chalk sign for me that took the entire road! They had one for Amanda too. It took a couple miles to find my pace, but I was flat out exhausted. Seven hours of exercise was too much, but I really wanted to give it an honest effort. Somewhere around 5.5M, Tri-Fusion was cheering for me like I was winning this thing. I was still very focused at this point, so I don't remember who all was there and don't want to leave anyone out, so thanks to all of you. I remember Tiffany nearly bringing me to laughter and Jessi cheering like a champ. At 10K, the pace felt comfortable, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd love to lay down and go to sleep. It was really fun flying past all those other participants. It took me back to grade school when I simply had fun going fast.
Normally a hill like the one at the turn wouldn't bother me, but I was nearing 8 hours of racing and it was just too much. I slowed up to save my legs for the rest of the run, but it wasn't enough. Despite fueling so well, I just didn't have the range. My average pace was 6:40 at mile 8, so I decided to ease up and see if I'd recover by running 7:15 for a while. At mile 12, it was apparent that I was fighting a losing battle. I could have made mile 16 at 6:52 pace, but would be completely spent. The other option would be to slow to 7:30 and cruise on in for a 3:05 to 3:08 marathon. To do that, I would have had to be concerned with my overall time, which I wasn't. That had nothing to do with my goals, so I shut it down and walked a while as I tried to figure out what to do. A brisk walk would put me in around 12 hours, which got me thinking that I could cross the line with Amanda. I would be fine with that time, which would be almost 5 hours faster than my only other Ironman. Throwing around the numbers for a while, I figured it would be cool to make my goal to beat my PR by six hours. Unfortunately, I didn't decide that until the turn on lap 2, so I had to run sub 8:00/mile. It would have been a lot easier if I made that decision before I burned so much time walking. I measured the course at 26.36 miles, which is .14 longer than the standard 26.22 (26.21875 if you want to be more precise). Yes John, I ran the tangents.
In the end, I managed to get my adjusted goal of 10:51:16 for a 6-hour PR. I don't think Ironman keeps track of the biggest improvement, but I'm sure 6 hours is right in there. My marathon time was 3:51:02, which is 4:30:57 faster than my first Ironman marathon, more likely to be a record. My final resting place was 191st. That's a lot better than my 1646th place in my first try. I didn't leave with another story of stories. The Ironman beat me the first time. It's all tied up now. We'll see what happens next time. I hope it's not any time soon. Amanda set a 2 hour 38 minute PR, so we can both leave feeling good about it. I hope she hasn't signed me up for any more of these things. There's an outside chance that I'll be picked for the Air Force Team to race in Hawaii. If that's the case, then I won't have the luxury of going easy.
For now, I'm feeling good about my performance. Pulling up on the run before I annihilated myself was the smart thing to do. I'm still able to walk around and even keep my running streak alive at 1,636 days in a row. On some days, it's not the most healthful thing to do; however, it's the long-term change in lifestyle that makes it worth the trouble.
Ironman Canada 1999 vs. Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2008
Swim: 1:01:59 vs. 1:04:27
T1: 3:39 vs. 6:29
Bike: 7:01:12 vs. 5:43:18
T2: 22:13 vs. 6:00
Run: 8:21:59 vs. 3:51:02
Total: 16:50:51 vs. 10:51:16