Ironman Coeur d'Alene - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Couer d'Alene, Idaho
United States
Ironman North America
60F / 16C
Total Time = 14h 21m 24s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

Pre Event

Warning – this is very long. If you want the Reader’s Digest version here is my day in a nutshell. 15 minutes of hell in the water, followed by a fun swim, followed by rolling hills like I've never seen on the bike including multiple pit-stops, followed by my best event (running) turning into my worst event while getting to know just about every port-o-potty between downtown and the run turn around.

All's well that ends well as I became an Ironman, about one hour later than I expected, but I did become an Ironman and conquered one of my life’s biggest fears in the process.


Pre event for me begins way back in January, 2004 when I knew it was time to make some changes in my life. At that time I weighed close to 250 pounds and could barely run 2 miles. I arrived in CdA on Wednesday at 182 pounds, having completed 6 marathons to date. Like most things in my life I jumped into triathlon with both feet. I did my first sprint last June and failed miserably on the swim. Three short weeks later I registered for IM CdA without ANY knowledge of what I was getting myself into. Any one who has ever read my blogs knows that swimming and I don’t belong together in the same sentence. Before IM CdA, I had completed 7 triathlons. In 5 of those races I had panic attacks on the swim. Each time I strongly considered pulling myself out of the race, but kept pushing forward, albeit at a slow pace. Quite honestly, the IM swim and mass start with 2,200 other people has been my NUMBER ONE personal fear over the past year. I’ve lost lots of sleep thinking about Sunday morning.

My training for the IM was not ideal, but I followed the mantra that training was going to revolve around my life and not the other way around. Priorities in my life were my girls, work, Shannon, eating (lots of it) and sleeping. After that, training for the IM would fill every other spare minute that I had. On some weeks it was enough, on others it wasn’t.

That is some of the background when I arrived in CdA on Wednesday. My plan for the week was to get to know the course a little, but more importantly I wanted to get as comfortable as possible in the water before Sunday. I met some cool BTers for the first of the Gatorade swims on Thursday morning. The water was cold and quite choppy for a lake and honestly I started to hyperventilate right from the get go. After going out about 500 yards or so I turned around and tried to do it again. After 3 simulated starts from the shore, I called it a day for swimming with my confidence a little shaken. I was more worried than ever about the swim. Thursday afternoon Andrew, Jared and I rode part of the bike/run course. That is when I truly learned that we just don’t have hills in southeast Virginia anything like I was going to see in CdA.

Friday morning was another swim. This time it was much better. My plan of attack was to swim one complete lap of the course. Once again the wind had the lake choppy which made for a bumpy ride. The way the course is set up is a rectangle that goes out against the waves causing many mouthfuls of water. Friday is when I learned that other people aren’t what cause my panic attacks, it is actually a mouthful or noseful of water. To begin Friday, I had trouble breathing and did a combination sidestroke/freestyle to get going. After about 15 minutes I was able to calm down and was able to freestyle the rest of the course. One lap complete in 46 minutes – I would take that on race day. Andrew and I drove the worst part of the bike course after the swim on Friday and that is when I was introduced to the real hilly part of the course. Out in Hayden the rollers start around mile 25ish and don’t stop until mile 45ish. The term 'rolling hills' don't do this course justice for this flat-lander.

On Friday afternoon Shannon arrived – it was good to have her on site. The athlete dinner on Friday was very emotional and that was when I started to realize what I was about to undertake on Sunday. At the dinner, Bonnie won the award for most weight lost training for IM CdA – 170 pounds! She is amazing and a true inspiration!

My plan Saturday morning was yet another Gatorade swim to get myself as comfortable as possible with the water. Once again it was windy and the water was choppy. This short 15 minute swim went great given the conditions – no panic attacks what so ever. I pronounced myself fit to swim on Sunday, but I predicted about 15 minutes of hell/panic attacks on Sunday and if I was able to survive that I would survive the swim.

After the swim Shannon helped me get my transition and special needs bags in order and we dropped off my bike and the bags. Saturday afternoon we drove the bike course once again. Up until that point I was very calm. However as we left the mountains/hills of Hayden I was quite simply scared. Could I survive the swim? Could I handle the hills? Did I train enough? Was I fit enough? What was I doing here? What if I fail?


That brings us to Saturday night. I had pretty good nutrition during IM week, eating fairly well (for me) with lots of good carbs and plenty of hydration. Saturday was the same. My plan was a good pasta dinner (thanks Shannon) and a cookie and then to bed by 8 pm. Surprisingly I went to sleep pretty easily. A bunch of the race week nutrition plans I was using recommended a 2 am meal of 600 calories. What I failed to recognize is that most recommended a liquid meal. Since I've never had Ensure or Pedialyte I decided on Oatmeal as I’ve had that plenty of times in the past. I woke up at 2 am and ate 2 packs of my Weight Control Instant Oatmeal. The unsound thinking with this decision is I’ve never had 2 packs of this oatmeal at 2 am and I never considered the amount of fiber in each pack (this is called foreshadowing). After my quick 2 am meal, I went right back to bed and fell asleep right away. When the alarm went off at 4 am, the first thing I could feel was the oatmeal sitting in my stomach like sludge – yuck! Oh well, I figured once I was moving it would work its way through my system. I never really had the stomach for breakfast as I was getting ready, but I did force myself to eat an Uncrustable (yes an Uncrustable for breakfast) before I left the house.

Shannon helped me get everything to the race area early and I was set up and ready to go by 5:45 am. We had some time to kill. The only problem at this point was it was cold, it was windy which made the lake ever so choppy, and my stomach didn’t feel quite right. Honestly, I was extremely gassy. After a stop at the restroom I felt a little better, but my system still didn’t feel quite right. I figured it was just nerves.

Event warmup:

Ummmmmm - this an Ironman. No warm up. See above.
  • 1h 37m 25s
  • 4224 yards
  • 02m 19s / 100 yards

At 6:30 am they opened the swim area and I entered the beach soon there after. I heard a number of race veterans talking about how they’ve never seen the lake this rough. To me it was rough, but not much worse than the previous three mornings. I got in the water to warm up (and pee) and took a couple of strokes. I actually felt pretty good and comfortable right away. They asked us to clear the water around 6:45 and that is when I looked around the beach and noticed the sheer volume of people. That is the first time on Sunday morning that I had the “Oh Shit” feeling. The second “Oh Shit” feeling came about 6:55 when Mike Riley told the crowd that due to unsafe swim conditions they were offering athletes the option of doing a duathlon instead of the full IM tri. WTF – isn’t this the Ironman? They don’t offer duathons! That is when I started to figure that the water conditions really were pretty bad. Even with that announcement, there was NO WAY I wasn’t going to swim. I came to CdA for 2 reasons. One was to become an IM and the other was to look my swim fear straight in the eye. I later learned that 57 people chose not to swim and most of the newbies had the same swim fears that I had due to the conditions.

The starting gun finally went off a couple of minutes late and the thrashing in the water began. I started far to the right and waited about 30 seconds before making my move towards the water. Upon entering the water I was surrounded by lots of people, but I quickly found my space. I was bumped a little but nothing too bad. However, a couple of minutes into the race things started getting bunched up and I was forced to slow up and put my head straight above water. That was my first full on wave in the face/nose/mouth of the day and I couldn’t breath. Here starts the panic attack. As all I wanted to do is breath I needed to keep my head above water which lead to more water in the mouth and nose. Not good! So, I quickly flipped on my back to regain my breath. This is the first time that I considered bagging the race, but I was able to talk myself out of it. Shortly there after I rolled to my side and started to side stroke. That is when I noticed the complete carnage around me. People all over the place were getting pulled from the water and hanging onto kayaks. I could literally hear about 5 different people yelling help and saw numerous others take off their swim cap and raise it in the air. This didn’t do much for my confidence and I strongly considered swimming towards a kayak myself. However a little voice in my head said if you can swim to a kayak, you can keep moving forward. So that is what I did. After a couple more minutes of side stroke and deep breaths I was once again calm and almost dead last in the water. That is when I decided it was time to begin my day. I remember specifically looking at my watch and it was exactly 15 minutes and 57 seconds into the race. I turned over and began to freestyle comfortably into the waves just as I had done the three mornings before. So, as predicted accurately in my blog the day before – the swim would be 15 minutes of hell and then everything would fall into place.

Once I was actually swimming I found myself surrounded by people and I had zero issues with the slight bumping and kicking. When I finally arrived at the first buoy I knew the rest of the swim was going to be ok. The third buoy was the long length back to shore and was with the waves. I enjoyed the ride and was right in the thick of some crowds at this point – now I was having fun!

Finally I hit the first loop timing mat in 50 minutes and was off for my second loop. The second loop was without incident. Going out for the second loop I got a little off track and ended up way to the right (again). I joined the crowds again at the first buoy and had a lot of fun the rest of the way. However, my GI system still didn’t feel quite right and I knew this might be an issue later in the day.

When I came out of the water I was thrilled to have overcome this huge personal challenge. I let out a huge scream and fist pump as I crossed the timing mat. Not fast, but done. Let the day begin.

What would you do differently?:

Learn to swim and not have fears of not being able to breath. Considering the conditions, for me this was a good swim.
Transition 1
  • 11m 42s

Not much to say here other than I am slow in normal transitions. Give me an ironman transition and I just took my time. Oh - and this was the first of many visits to the porta-potty for the day.
What would you do differently?:

Don't know - wear Depends. ;)
  • 6h 48m 37s
  • 112 miles
  • 16.45 mile/hr

Ok - onto the bike. My plan for the bike was not to hammer and just take the ride as it came to me. I knew I would pass some people on the bike as that is an advantage of being such a slow swimmer.

The first part of the ride to Higgens Point was without incident and I actually felt very good, a little gassy (too much information?) but good. The race didn't really begin until mile 25 or so when the hills (mountains for me) of Hayden began. The first real climb of the day was just after the golf course and I had to stand just to make it to the top. After that were some pretty good downhills with S turns and I took them somewhat slow to be safe. Since I don't have a ton of experience on hills (up and down) I wanted to take things conservatively. The mile 30 aid station was my first bike stop at a porta-potty. I had been pretty good at taking in water and nutrition from mile one on the bike and it was already going through me. The rest of loop one featured many pit-stops along the way to relieve myself. The rolling hills of the first loop went without too much incident. In fact, I felt like I was taking them in stride as I only left the saddle two times during the first loop. Leaving Hayden on loop one I felt pretty good (except the GI issues) and I was happy with my pace. It wasn't until I hit Government Drive to head towards town that I realized how much the first loop had taken it's toll. One of the great things about this course is the final stretch (7ish miles) towards town is somewhat downhill. I was looking forward to that recovery. However, the same wind that churned up the big waves on the swim was right in our face on the return. This part of the ride was almost as difficult as some of the rolling hills.

I came into town after the first loop around 3:20ish and almost immediately I could tell that I was a little more beaten than I thought. I saw Shannon almost immediately going out on the second loop and I stopped to give her my arm warmers which I no longer needed. I also told her at that time that I felt like I was working too hard considering my pace. Oh well, off I went.

I arrived at Higgens Point and reloaded on my bike nutrition - Combos, Fig Newtons, and Accelerade Gel. I also ate my Uncrustable. After another pit stop, I was off. (As an aside I think that it is really cool that IMs have people designated to hold your bike while you do your business in the porta potties) At this point I was dreading the 'rolling' hills of Hayden as I knew I was doing some damage to my legs. The hills came and went as expected and I was unseated much more than I wished. A bunch of people were commenting that the hills somehow seemed harder the second time - I agree! Once I got out of the hills I tried to spin easy into town to get my run legs together, but the wind made it difficult.

Overall, I was not unhappy with my ride considering the lack of true hills in the area to train on. I finished 20 minutes off my goal pace, but that was before I saw the hills. I also figure I spent a total of 7 minutes in pit stops as that was the time difference between my bike computer and actual time on the course. I was just hoping that the bike didn't totally wipe my run legs.
What would you do differently?:

Train more for actual hills, not the small things that exist in Williamsburg.
Transition 2
  • 07m 30s

At this point - whatever! I had a complete change of clothes and made another stop at the porta-potty. My GI issues were getting a little worse.
What would you do differently?:

Give a damn about transitions.
  • 5h 36m 11s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 12m 50s  min/mile

Let's see - the run is supposed to be where I shine. I am a marathoner at heart and have a great run base underneath me. So I was off at what I wanted to be a conservative pace. My goal to start was 9:45 miles for the first loop and then pick it up from there - HA! Who was I kidding?

I started out with what I thought were decent run legs and my first mile was 8:45. I saw Jared along the way and we wished each other good luck. Mile 2 was also at 8:45 and I forced myself to slow down. Miles 3 and 4 were both sub 10, but all of the sudden the wheels fell off the bus. It was time to make another pit stop around mile 5 or so. I was in there a little longer than expected. For some reason, after this stop I just couldn't get it going again. My stomach was done and so were my legs. Honestly miles 6 - 24 were all a struggle to keep going. My stride was 30% slow ironman shuffle and 70% walk. I just couldn't get it going without my legs screaming, my heart rate spiking, and my internal system revolting. So the game became get from one aid station to another. I kept trying different food and beverage options along the way. Coke didn't help, pretzels didn't help, the thought of another gel made me sick, gatorade wouldn't stay in me, water was ok, but chicken broth was king! I've never had a craving for chicken broth before but for a while the thought of chicken broth is what kept me moving forward. However, each cup of chicken broth or whatever also featured a pit stop just there after. I kept forcing liquids as I knew I was putting out way more than I was taking in. During this time I saw Andrew, Jared, Paul, Bonnie, and Jeff. We all wished each other well.

The shuffle/walk continued until mile 24 when I hit another porta potty and I think I was in there for close to 5 minutes. That is the only time all day that I started to feel normal. I think I finally had all the crap (pun intended) out of my system. For some reason, I felt great after this stop. It was time to bring it home. I found my running legs and my internal strength at the same time - to the point where miles 25 and 26 were both flat 8's. I was passing people left and right and kinda felt bad about it. It was almost like I had been sandbagging the whole run.

When I finally rounded the turn for the finish I took it all in and passed a bunch more people to find some space for my finish. I heard the crowds as I came into the finish shoot and heard Mike Riley congratulate me as a first time Ironman.

What would you do differently?:

I really don't know. This has been bugging me since the moment I started walking on race day. Was it my lack of bike experience/training? Was it the hills on the bike? Was it the 2 am oatmeal? Did I do something else wrong with regards to nutrition? Was is nerves? Was it just not my day?

I don't know the real answer, but I know I have at least one hour plus to shave off of this marathon time. I will do another IM and hope to figure more of this out.
Post race
Warm down:

No real warm down as I didn't feel wiped. I met the catcher at the finish and he helped me to the photo booth. What great volunteers all over the course!

Shannon met me at the finish just there after and I downloaded part of my day to her. After meeting my parents I wanted pizza, but they were out. :( Oh well back to the house for a bath, some pasta, out to the run course to watch Bonnie pass the mile 25 mile mark, pack for the morning flight, and bed.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

My run of all things. Or was it the bike that lead to the poor run???? Or was it the nutrition that lead to GI issues????

To be continued at a future IM date and location to be determined.........

Event comments:

I really can't say enough good things about this race. CdA is a great town! The volunteers were absolutely fantastic - I tried to thank as many as possible along the way. NAS does a great job. I really want to do this race again, but it will probaly be sold out before I have my 2008 schedule figured out.

Wow! Wow! Wow! What an experience!

Last updated: 2006-07-04 12:00 AM
01:37:25 | 4224 yards | 02m 19s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Good
Suit: Sleeveless
Course: 2 rectangular loops in choppy waters.
Start type: Run Plus: Shot
Water temp: 60F / 16C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Average Drafting:
Waves: Good Navigation: Average
Rounding: Below average
Time: 11:42
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:48:37 | 112 miles | 16.45 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Average
Wind: Some
Course: Double loops from CdA to Hayden and back. Hayden featured lots of rolling hills (which felt like mountains to me).
Road: Smooth  Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Average Hills: Below average
Race pace: Hard Drinks: Just right
Time: 07:30
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:36:11 | 26.2 miles | 12m 50s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Bad
Course: Double loop around town with only one small hill at the turnaround. One of my favorite run courses ever!
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5] 2
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? No
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5