Monday, July 02, 2012

RACE REPORT: Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Part 1

It's hard to write up a race report immediately after an event for me. I have to let my thoughts about it percolate for awhile and allow all of the memories of the week and the day to drift to the surface. Like any difficult endeavor, Ironman demands a lot out of your body and your mind on race day, and I want to make sure I'm faithful to what happened and not to my immediate impressions. Yes, I know this is way too long, but Ironman is more than just race day so I've divided it up into a couple of sections. Today's installment tells the story of my Ironman pre-race week...


Our original plan was to drive to Coeur d'Alene on Monday, allowing for some time to visit my step-sons and their wives and to sight-see with the kids. Also to have a relaxed time in Coeur d'Alene with plenty of days to get everything done.

What Really Happened:

I got food poisoning on Monday. Really really bad food poisoning. I spent about 12 hours throwing up until I was dry-heaving, and the next 24 hours sleeping. I was wrecked! Finally on Wednesday we left for Coeur d'Alene, but packing felt rushed and my stomach felt tender and uncooperative. Thankfully my obsessive need to create checklists for everything saved me, as I literally packed up in a couple of hours, merely checking things off of my lists. If you really want to see my four-page Ironman packing list, here it is.


I had a good taper plan in place, and prior to the food poisoning I felt very refreshed and like my muscles and general fitness were recovering and would be ready to go on race day. So all I needed to do in race week was get some light workouts in and survey the course and transition areas. Also acclimatize myself to the lake and the cold water. I had not run a step in the 4 weeks prior to the race (still re-habbing my knee injury) and planned to keep up the pool running in the hotel and not run until the actual Ironman. Also, so exciting, my online friend Sharon, from TriFuel, was coming into town. I couldn't wait to meet her!!!

What Really Happened:

Most of race week went as I had hoped with a couple of exceptions:

Anxiety Point #1: My stomach still sucked. I needed to be fueling, and all I could manage to eat were mashed potatoes and milk shakes. I ate as many of those as I could. Hotel breakfast was great because they had some good oatmeal. I was worried though - how would my stomach fair under the incredible stress of race day if it couldn't digest normal food now? For those of you who have never done an Ironman, one of the things that makes it vastly different from other races like marathons or half-Ironmans is that nutrition becomes one of the make-or-break items of the day. Somewhere after 5 or 6 hours of racing, your stomach gets really grouchy and it can turn on you in an instant. Managing your food and fluid intake become critical, because nobody can do an 11, 12, 13, 17 hour race on sub-par nutrition or a recalcitrant stomach.

Anxiety Point #2: When I did my bike recon of The Big Hill, I wasn't too concerned with the uphill portion, I just wanted to try out my race wheels on the big downhill. What happened next frankly terrified me. As I reached 30 mph, I developed a speed wobble on the front wheel that threatened to turn into a death wobble. I braked to a stop. Started up again, same thing happened. Oh no. What would I do on race day? I couldn't keep pulling to the side of the road! I took my bike into the Athlete's Village bike shop and they assured me there was nothing wrong with either of my race wheels. I was hoping it was just the proximity of the cars and trucks whooshing by on the highway and the gusty winds that made the disc and the aero wheel so skittish. They wouldn't be there on race day, so I would be fine. Right?

Thursday dawned, and it was time to sign in for the race. Later, the kids and Wayne and I took a walk by the lakeshore. I couldn't convince either of the kids that the water was warm enough to swim in. Go figure!

This was also the day Sharon would arrive from Texas. Meeting her was AWESOME and we hit it off immediately. On Friday morning we went down to the race start and got in the water. BRRRR! Much colder than I thought it would be. People with thermometers said 53, and I'd guess that wasn't too far off. Ice-cream headache cold. But the good news was that we swam for 15 minutes, then headed over to the race start area where a large group of triathletes was doing a simulated beach start. I positioned myself right in the front and center, this was my chance to practice my race day strategy. At the signal, we all charged into the water and started swimming. People swarmed around me, but within 400 yards I was out in front of all of them and rounded the first buoy on my own. My strategy worked! Granted, there would be more faster swimmers in the race, but this gave me a lot of confidence going into it. Also, the water didn't seem so bad after warming up and getting out - another confidence booster.

Then came a big confidence shaker: after getting back to my hotel room I felt weak, shaky, and tired. I lay down for a bit and SLEPT FOR 2 1/2 HOURS! Uh oh. My body is nowhere near recovered from everything the food poisoning took out of it. If a half-hour swim does this to me, will I survive the Ironman?

Then Sharon and I biked on the first part of the course. She couldn't stop herself from saying "Wow, this is SO BEAUTIFUL" like a thousand times. Since it basically looks like the scenery here in Oregon, I had honestly forgotten how very beautiful it is. Seeing it through her eyes opened mine up to the beauty as well. Yes, it is one of the most beautiful races in the world, and I was loving it. With the sections through town with all of their crowds, and then these miles of natural wonder, this would be an amazing race.

Friday Night I got to meet up with all of the Endurance Nation teammates who were doing the race, and that was a blast. What an interesting, and knowledgeable group! I couldn't wait to see them on the course. From there, we walked to the athlete meeting, which was in a big tent. All of a sudden the skies opened up in a gigantic gully-washer thunderstorm. The tent literally had a river of water running under our feet. It was amazing. My kids called me to hurry back to the hotel room so we could watch all of the lightning strikes from our room. The rain sheeting down was stupendous, and the forks of lightning striking all around us were awe-inspiring. I simply hoped that the forecasted thunderstorms for race day didn't show up, because as cool as this all was, I did NOT want to be racing in it.

On Saturday, my kids went to Spokane. Asa went to Kristen (my daughter-in-law)'s baby shower (yes, this Ironmom is going to be an Iron Grandma) with the other women from our family. Mackenzie and Wayne went golfing with my step-sons Rick and Rob. After dropping off all of the gear bags and bikes and stuff, Sharon and I just hung out and had fun. We did some pool running and hot-tub sitting. We ate at this amazing pub-distillery called Bardenay. Seriously, if you to go Coeur d'Alene, EAT HERE. Once we discovered this place we never ate anywhere else! We took a little walk or two around the small lake.

At night, Wayne and the kids came back with Rick, Rob, Alicia, and Kristen and we ate a late dinner at Bardenay (again!). Wow, it was so awesome to be surrounded by my family and just having a great time on the night before Ironman. We stayed out a little too late, but honestly it was worth it. I wanted to enjoy this whole experience, and have a great time on race day. I crawled into bed at 10:30 or so, thinking I wouldn't sleep much but... I did! Other than the "what will happen if...." nerves, I felt pretty calm about this race. I knew what was in my control, and what was not. I promised myself not to stress about the stuff that was not, and just keep myself in a place of controlling what I could, and letting the rest be in God's hands.

Next up: Race Day!


Ironmom (Julie) said...

I'm excited to hear the rest!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read the rest! Great job overcoming the food poisoning. That is the worst thing in the world! And thanks for the checklist - I book marked it!!

Marv said...

I like the deliberate way you are doing this report. There is probably something in it for everyone. I was impressed with the confidence you had in your taper; the information about the importance of nutrition in a long event and the part of controlling what you could and leaving the rest to God. Thanks