2012 Ironman Coeur d'Alene
Where to start with this race? I think I better start 2 years ago. 2 years ago I qualified for Kona and had a lackluster race. From there I set in motion a 2 year plan to race and get back to Kona via a qualification at Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2012. I raced 70.3's in the 2011 season and achieved pretty much everything I had wanted to. Unfortunately I started to feel that little seed of doubt in the back of my mind that had most likely been planted because of mental burnout on long course racing.
I had a great winter spending long hours in the basement of The Bike Hub and really improving my bike and swim. All the while I felt I was building my run in a way I had never done it before. With a consistent day in and day out easy running.
This all lead me into a spring in which all things were pointing to some pretty good fitness gains. I started with the Rapid Rabbit run at East Valley High School. I finished second overall in the 5 miler and improved upon my 2010 time by 10 seconds. Not an amazing amount of improvement but still really solid nonetheless.
After that came Bloomsday. I finished that with a 15 second PR and I really felt things were coming together. Up to that point I had been hitting a consistent 14 hours a week of training for about 8- 10 weeks. This is not quite the amount of volume I had hoped for, but I have a 17 month old daughter now and 8 hour training days on Saturdays aren't as appealing. In addition I can't take off and ride my bike on my day off unless my wife happens to be off as well. That doesn’t happen very often.
At the end of May I decided to test my triathlon fitness at Onionman. It's an olympic distance race about 3 hours south of Spokane in Walla Walla. A town sooo fine they named it twice.
This is the race I've used every season to see where I'm at. It was a super windy morning on race day and the swim buoys must have gotten blown in a bit, as the swim was a bit short. Looking at my placing coming out of the water it was obvious that I was faster than I had ever been at this race and I felt great.
The bike was tough but I came into T2 with a bike split that was 1.5 minutes faster than last year at 1:02:30 and more importantly I was 5 minutes faster than 2010 (the last year I did Ironman). The run came together just fine and I was able to run my way into 4th place overall with a 15 second PR on the run course.
So, as I said everything was looking good for a stellar race in Coeur d'Alene. At this point I was 4 weeks out from Ironman and May had already seen some reduced training volumes for me. I was only averaging 13 hours a week and these should have been my biggest weeks. I got sick a couple of times and struggled to make it to the pool early in the morning as I had all year. From there I ended up coasting into Ironman with some okay workouts, but I just didn't have that fire deep in my belly. Last time I raced Ironman all I wanted in life was to qualify for Kona. This year all I wanted was to get through it. The original goal was to win my age group, but I wasn't sure I had a shot at that anymore. If I did it was based on 1. luck and 2. experience.
Lets skip ahead to race morning.
I had a pretty bad head cold for about 2 weeks leading into Ironman. By the time race day came around my body felt okay, but I was still super congested. I figured the cold water would help clean it out and I would move along with my day.
Race morning started out at it always does at 3am. I hadn't been sleeping well in the week leading up to the race and had been depending on Nyquil to get me through the coughing fits I would have so I could get to sleep. The night before the race unfortunately I had to depend on the Nyquil again to quell the coughing fits. It did the trick but I was afraid it would leave me feeling sluggish.
Thankfully when I woke up the excitement of race morning seemed to kick all that drowsiness out of my head no problem. I was still congested but it really didn't matter. I headed to Cda by myself for the first time ever and quickly moved through body marking and getting my bike set up. I met with my parents briefly and got the wetsuit on and headed down to the lake.
I had about 25 minutes to mess around down by the water and I ended up swimming around for about 5-10 minutes just to get used to the cold water before heading up to take my place on the beach.
While waiting and looking for a place to start I was happy to run into Martin Scates. He sort of indirectly taught me how to swim a few years ago by organizing a masters swim and I've always looked up to him and his experience as he is a 29 time Ironman and multiple time Kona qualifier. Shortly after Troy Nelson and Conrad Band ended up standing right next to us and we sat there and waited for the gun to go off.
It was a weird feeling this year. I just did not have the nervous excitement. I had more of a feeling of dread than anything else. Not good when you have nearly 10 hours to go from there. The cannon fired and I dove into the water with the three local Spokane guys around me. I honestly thought I should swim 1:05 pretty easy and I took off relaxed, but still pushing hard to try and get out front of the majority of people.
It didn't work. I was swimming in clean water for what I would guess was 300 yards and then I was trapped. I couldn't go forward and there were people climbing all over me. For the first time in a mass start I was panicking! All I wanted to do was stop, but that was not an option. I knew stopping would only cause the next 1000 people to swim over the top of me. So I continued to plug along but I never really go to swim the way I wanted. I started to let those negative thought creep in and I should have known that I was in trouble for the rest of the day.
The rest of the 1st loop was quite physical and I came out in 34 minutes.... Not a good start at all.
Cda is always a few minutes slower the second loop. Especially if the wind kicks up. Of course it did and I really struggled that second loop. This was partially the weather, but also partially my lack of dedication to the swim in the last 8 weeks leading up to the event. My own fault...
The last 100 yards of the swim my legs started to cramp pretty bad and I was feeling really cold. I remember thinking if I could stop here I think I would. Obviously that wasn’t an option. It’s funny how many times I thought about quitting during the day only to realize I had no other way to get where I wanted to go other than to continue on.
Thankfully I made it out. I ended up at 1:12 and I was demoralized. You always tell yourself Ironman is a long day, but this was not how I wanted to start. The swim should feel easy and the last thing I wanted to do was feel like I had to start chasing on the bike to make up for a lackluster swim. That is exactly what happened though.
If anyone if reading this and thinking about racing strategy. It should be obvious that you shouldn’t care about the swim. A couple of minutes lost here are really not a big deal. If something goes wrong just move on and forget it.
What would you do differently?:
I needed to stay consistent with my swim. I had made huge strides in the winter, but I pissed them away at a critical time.
Wet suit strippers always make this easier. Running up to the strippers I saw my friend John Martinek and I really wanted him to strip me ;). Unfortunately he was occupied and stripping someone else. Just then I heard my name. I looked over and saw a friendly face in a crazy wig. Nate Duncan was there and he ripped the suit off of me no problem.
I popped up and I was pretty dizzy. I also couldn't see out of my right eye as it had filled with water for both loops and was very irritated. The eye didn't really bother me though. Thankfully I have 2 of them and lefty never lets me down.
I got my bag no problem but the change tent was super full, dark and I couldn't see. I ran in 5 feet and turned around and ran back out. I changed in the grass outside and skipped the change tent all together.
I also skipped the sunscreen on accident. I would pay for that even though it was overcast.
Ahhh. The bike. Over the years this has become the place where I go to work and make up a lot of ground. I had a lot of work to do too!
I got clipped in and took off! I was riding a much faster setup than I had ever ridden in years past. As some of you may know I rode for Planet X last year and was planning on staying on my Exocet even though the team was no longer in existence. Last September my first frame cracked at the seat post and this year about January I had my replacement frame crack in the same place.
I rode it for a couple months with Duct tape holding it together. I was teased mercilessly every time I took it into The Bike Hub, but they always fixed it for me no problem, and they had to fix it a lot. I think they started to hate that thing as much as I did at the end.
I waited for months and months to get a new one and finally gave up around May and asked for a refund. The search for a new bike ended with the Trek Speed Concept. The Bike Hub helped me make sure it would fit and I got a pretty good deal from a guy on Craigslist who had barely used it. It's funny I feel like the guy I bought it from (Tyler) became a friend and was one of the best cheerleaders on race day.
In addition to the Speed Concept I had borrowed a disc and Zipp 808 front from my training partner Jon Moen. I only carried an aero water bottle and the profile design between the bars aero bottle. I don't think too many people had a more aero setup than I did out there.
This set up lead to me catching and passing a huge amount of riders. I made up 32 spots in my age group and really felt great coming off the bike. Sure I went through a couple of rough patches but I took it easy going up the hills and felt that I rode the course the very well.
On the first loop I caught Troy Nelson early on and eventually caught Conrad towards the turn around on 95. I thought that was odd, because he rode a 5:02 to my 5:09 in 2010 and I know he's a monster on the bike. I talked to him briefly and continued on.
At about mile 45 someone came riding up next to me and paused to talk. I turned and sure enough it was Conrad. He explained to me that he realized once people started to pass him that he must be riding too easy. With that he took off up the other side of Micah grade and disappeared really quickly. I didn't see him again until they failed to get him his special needs bag and we started riding together for a little bit through town.
After we got back on the highway he dropped me again no problem. The second loop the wind picked up a little, but honestly this was the least wind I've experienced out on the course. We really lucked out with a mild day. Everyone was telling me how much faster this course was going to be, but it turned out to be much slower for everyone. The top amateur times were around the 5:10 to 5:20 range. On the other course they were closer to 5:00.
In the end I finished up with a 5:16 and made up 32 spots in my age group. I came off the bike in 8th in my age group and 61st overall. I was actually feeling pretty good too.
Straight forward T2. went through pretty quick.
The run started off not too bad actually. I had a plan to run 7:30 per mile for the first 20 and then if I could drop it from there. Right out of T2 I was running with Troy and one other guy. It was awesome to hear all the yells from family and friends and I wasn't feeling too bad. I quickly realized that Troy and the other guy were running much faster than I planned so I decided to stick to what I had planned. It stayed that way and I let Troy go and at about mile 1 I found out I was in 8th in my age group. I was disappointed and I let it effect me. To make matters worse I had quickly had 2 guys in my age group run by me like I was standing still at mile 3.
For some reason this made me completely shut down mentally. I don't know why but I began doubting my plan and thinking there was no way a 3:15 marathon would be fast enough. In reality it may not have won my age group but I would have been much happier with my race. As it turns out the two guys that blew by me at mile 3 went 1 and 2 in my age group.
My pace slowed and people started passing me like crazy. I didn't feel great physically but it was 75% mental. By the time I made the turn around my pace was 7:55 and I just didn't care anymore.
I was contemplating quitting but I knew I needed to get back into town.
So I continued on slowly and made my way back only to find that coming into town I started to feel okay again. I picked up the pace again and I was passing people like crazy. I was back BABY!!
Don't get too excited though. That only lasted about 4 miles then I shut it down for good. I was headed back out of town and at that point I decided I would finish but it would be a long sloooowww run.
I walked a lot that second lap but was able to start running again for the last miles. On the way back to town I had a number like 12 hours floating around in my head, but I made the decision that I would enjoy the finishing chute. I would high five my friends, kiss wife and daughter and just soak it all in. I've always been in such a hurry at all my other races and never taken the time to high five people and enjoy it. As it turns out I went 10:30.
It doesn't matter how bad your day went, when you run down Sherman Ave. it is the greatest feeling! It really doesn’t matter how fast you finish. When you’re at your hometown race everyone is cheering for you and they don’t care that you didn’t win your age group.
I found friends and family all the way down and couldn't wait to see Morgan and Amelia. When I finally came across them I gave Morgan a big kiss then went to kiss Amelia. She was so excited and she was squirming all over and hard to kiss. It was an awesome moment and one I'll never forget.
While I didn't accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish it is still a tremendous achievement to finish an Ironman. I hope my disappointment does not come across as arrogance.
This race is a ridiculously long race. It doesn't start at 7:00 am.... It starts January first. You train and train and some days things don't go perfectly. Actually they never go perfectly. It's really how you deal with the adversity that makes a fantastic Ironman. I did not deal well this year and ultimately that did me in.
After the race I never wanted to think about another Ironman. As I sit here a week later, my negative feelings toward the race have subsided. I will not be racing one again for a long time but that is not because it’s not an enjoyable experience. I just plain don’t have the time to do it the way I want to do it.
I've found that I really enjoy 70.3 and olympic distance racing. I will continue to race but my love for my family and my desire to spend time with them outweighs my need to train at a really high level.
I will race a few more times this year but I think I'll wait to do the next Ironman when I have a mid life crisis like a normal guy.