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Ironman Coeur d'Alene - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
United States
Ironman North America
50F / 10C
Total Time = 11h 26m 3s
Overall Rank = 468/2032
Age Group = M25-29
Age Group Rank = 44/117
Pre-race routine:

The day before the race was a fairly relaxing day. We woke up, had a good breakfast, and headed out for a short ride on the most technical part of the course. I wanted a chance to run through my gears to make sure everything was working properly and also get more familiar w/ the curves in Hayden. We’d driven the course three times, but nothing compares to actually riding the course. Afterwards we packed the bikes into the trailer and took them into town to turn them in. The rest of the day was spent relaxing....or trying to. I ran through my plan several times and mentally rehearsed everything. After eating a hearty dinner (chicken spaghetti) I did a little stretching and headed off to bed. Surprisingly, sleep came easily...
I set my alarm for a little before 3:30 am. I wanted a chance to get some calories in my system and allow my stomach to settle. I could actually see a little light on the horizon at 3:30, which is just crazy. I ate a bagel and a half, a banana and a cup of coffee. Then it was time to settle down w/ a bottle of gatorade to relax. We headed down to town at 4:45. I like to take my time before a race, so I was hoping to get there as soon as transition opened. We were a little late, but I still had plenty of time to get ready.
First thing I did was add my bottle of Perpetuem to my bike special needs bag and then headed for my bike. Pumped up my tires, filled up my aerobottle and double checked the rest of my equipment. Everything was in order, so it really only took a few minutes to get ready. That meant I had plenty of time to stand there and get nervous. As long as I was busy, life was good, but an unoccupied mind is a very bad thing. We used the time to stand in the LONG line for the porta-poties. My stomach was surprisingly settled. This was a good omen for the rest of the day.
We put our wetsuits on and headed out of transition to say hello to our parents. I wasn’t particularly chatty (I know, I know....I’m NEVER chatty), so we made it quick and headed down to the beach to watch the pros take off...
Event warmup:

And off they went. It’s always fun to watch the fast folks. Those pros are fast, but I still think they should have to deal w/ the mass start like the rest of the age groupers. Anyway, after the pro start, I headed out into the water for a quick warm up. The water felt good, so I swam out to the first buoy and stopped to look out at the beach. What an amazing view! 2000 athletes all lined up on the beach. As seen from the water, it looks much larger. I headed back in to join the throngs trying to stay warm. It was definitely warmer in the water than in the air. I hadn’t given much thought to where I would start the swim, so I made the impulsive decision to start in the thickest part of the crowd. think that may have been a bad decision?
  • 1h 15m 44s
  • 3862 meters
  • 01m 58s / 100 meters

BOOM! The cannon went off and I started running. No waiting for the crowd to head off...just two steps and a dive into the water. Nothing an Ironman newbie does in training can prepare them for the mass start of an Ironman. I think I only got 4 or 5 strokes before the brawl began. The first 300-400 meters was a blur, but I remember feeling like there was no room to move or swim. I had to keep my head out of the water for most of it, but the biggest problem was people climbing over my legs. It was impossible to kick, so it was definitely a lot of doggie paddling. I panicked, but there was no escape. It was easier to go along with the crowd than it was to try and get out of it. I focused on breathing when possible and staying as calm as possible. I just kept thinking that if I couldn’t calm down, my day would be ending very quickly...
About halfway through the first length, things started to thin out. I could finally swim! I actually trained for swimming! Time to get moving and find a rhythm, right? Not so fast. This space didn’t last long as the crowd reached the first turn buoy. This was probably worse than the start because the crowd came to a dead stop. People were screaming and fighting and I was right in the middle of it...I’m talking right on the buoy. Definitely a failed strategy for a first time Ironman, but it was too late to change it. Once again, survival mode kicked in: ”breathe Andrew...just breathe!” My legs started to cramp as I kicked around for free space. Not a good sign this early in the race.
The second turn wasn’t much better, but it was so close that it was just a continuation of the first turn. But finally things broke into the open on the stretch heading in. I found some space and started truly swimming for the first time in the race. I found a rhythm and started cruising. I felt great....but apparently I forgot about one small detail: navigation. I thought that as long as I was surrounded by people, I’d be heading the right directly. Trust the crowd! Apparently a lot of people swung wide around that turn, and before I knew it I was probably 100 meters outside the buoys. It was too far to see the beach, so I tried to guess the direction and kept swimming. I didn’t want to turn straight back into the course, figuring that I’d already added enough distance to the swim, I didn’t need to add any more. Bringing my head up to navigate every few strokes, I made my way back to the beach. The white arch made a good target once I could see it over the waves and I started to feel much better.
I approached the shore and swam as long as possible. Once my arms started to hit the bottom, I stood up and immediately took my Gu. They were calling out times as I ran on the beach and I was surprised to hear that I was only at 37 minutes for the first loop. I expected much worse. It went down smoothly and I was back into the water as soon as possible. By this point the crowd had thinned out and I was able to swim fairly well. I took the time to evaluate my progress and realized that the worst part was past. All I had to do was continue through the slightly longer second loop and stay relaxed. The rest of the loop was uneventful. I didn’t notice the choppy water, but I heard that it was pretty bad. I focused on breathing and navigating. Before I knew it I was heading down the final stretch feeling strong. The beach came up quickly and there I was, stumbling out of the water having cleared the first event of the day!

What would you do differently?:

1. Start wide to avoid the crowd.
2. Go wide at the turn buoys.
3. Don't trust others for navigation.
4. Push harder
5. Draft
Transition 1
  • 08m 27s

Wetsuit strippers are great. That’s the fasted that suit has ever come off. I also loved having my own personal attendant in the tent. I had decided earlier in the week to do a full change of shorts so that I could wear my nice cycling shorts instead of tri shorts. Overall I took way too long in T1, but I wanted to make sure I was ready for the 112 miles. I wasn’t cold, so I decided to go without the arm or knee warmers. My biggest problem was that I’d forgotten to pack my chamois cream, but it was too late too fix that. With a little help I finished getting my shirt over my wet body, got lathered up in sun screen and found my bike. I ran well past the mount line to make sure I didn’t get tangled up with anybody else and took off on the longest event of the day.
What would you do differently?:

1. Wear shirt under wetsuit
2. Pack chammy butter
3. Have a sense of urgency!
  • 6h 13m 7s
  • 112 miles
  • 18.01 mile/hr

So my coach was careful to tell me not to start off too fast on the first 40 miles and I did a pretty good job of staying within my power ranges. That being said, I felt fast and spent the first 20 miles passing people. This section was very crowded and it was impossible to find room to maneuver. It was also tough to take in nutrition when you had to focus on the other cyclists. I waited about 20 minutes before starting with the perpetuem and my stomach seemed to handle it well. Overall, I just couldn’t believe how fast I was cruising...even at 180 watts! Man, this Ironman thing is easy!
Or so I thought. The first section of this course is fast and easy. Gave me a good chance to warm up, but reality hit quickly once we hit the first hill. It was no longer a leisurely ride where I could enjoy the beautiful countryside. I had made it through the technical sections quickly and hit the first hill right around 60 minutes into the ride. I lost my momentum quickly and crawled up the hill in my smallest gear at barely 6mph. My legs felt strong enough to hammer up, but even at that speed I was registering around 250W. I couldn’t afford to burn my legs this early, but I had to make it up the hill. So much for my power cap on climbing.
The next 20 miles or so I played a game with the cyclists around me. They would fly past me up the hills as I crawled along at 5-6mph. Then, as we crested they hill, they would stop pedaling to rest and I flew by them at 30mph on the downhill. I don’t know which strategy was right, but I was trying to follow the plan as best I could. I don’t remember much from this section except for the pain of the climbs and the cold of the wind. I must have been drinking, because my 900 calorie perpetuem bottle was empty by mile 45. I also ate several banana’s at the nutrition stations, which seemed delicious at the time. My feet were numb and I had goosebumps all over. I was swearing at myself for not wearing my arm and knee warmers, but it was too late to do anything about it. I just focused on getting up the next hill...
And finally the hills were over. I was back on Government way heading back to town straight into the wind. AARGH!!! This was supposed to be the easy section! I checked my time and did a quick evaluation. My time for the first lap was going to be solid, but as I approached mile 50, I could feel that my legs wouldn’t be able to handle another lap at that intensity. Not if I wanted to run a marathon afterwards. I kept eating and developed my plan: survive the second lap on the bike and then smoke the run. Sounds so simple.
Riding through town gave me the adrenaline I needed to make it to the special needs bags at mile 63, but by this point the wind and cold were really kicking in. I stopped at the special needs station to apply the chammy butter I had in my bag and use the porta-potty. Riding another 49 miles was daunting and for the first time I really started to have my doubts. The miles had gone by fairly quickly up to this point, but I still had 75.2 miles to cover and the conditions were getting worse. Heading north only made things worse. The crowds disappeared and all I could think about were those hills that were waiting for me. I blocked out the cold and just focused on conserving energy. Get speed and then coast the downhills. Spin up the hills. I tried not to look at my power output or look at my distance. Each mile seemed to take longer and longer and I hadn’t even reached the hills!
When I finally did reach them, I was pretty depressed. My legs felt smoked and I felt like the slowest guy on the course. That first hill seemed significantly worse than the first time around and I just kept thinking that there was no way I would be able to run after this. That’s when the bargaining started. On each hill I would tell myself that I’d stop for a breather as soon as I reached the top. Each time I crested the hill I wouldn’t stop because I didn’t want to lose the momentum going into the descent. By the second or third hill I had tears in my eyes as I climbed. I lost all sense of time. On the flats I was cruising at around 150 watts. What had I done wrong? I had nailed my nutrition plan and had followed my pacing, but my legs just weren’t responding. Worse still, my neck hurt so badly, that I couldn’t stay in my aero bars for more than 1-2 minutes before I had to get up. I use those precious minutes for the fast sections, but even on the flat I resorted to sitting up. The worse of it was between miles 80-90. I was convinced my day would end any minute.
Around mile 91 I took the time to reevaluate. I was through the worse of the hills and only had 20 miles left to ride. I tried to think of it as a short training ride. One hour (roughly) and I’d could finally run. Just let me run PLEASE!!! I didn’t know if I could actually run, but anything would be better than sitting in that saddle. So I hunkered down and found some resolve and pushed home for those last 20 miles. I was still well under my goal power, but I was moving toward the transition area and that was all that mattered. Each time I was passed by another cyclist, I said under my breath: “I’ll see you on the run!”
Coming back into town felt great. I knew my time was slower than I’d hoped, but I had finished two of the three events, and I had something like 9 hours to finish the marathon. No matter what, I was going to be an Ironman.

What would you do differently?:

1. Learn to ride hills
2. Stay focused
Transition 2
  • 03m 31s

I went through T2 fairly quickly, but still took my time to make sure everything was right. I was wishing for something warm, but all my warm stuff was in my bike gear bag and I wasn’t willing to take the time to find it. Time to suck it up.
What would you do differently?:

1. Wear warm clothes!!!!!!!
  • 3h 45m 16s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 36s  min/mile

I ran out of transition and tried to get a feel for my legs. My legs were rubber, but I felt great. And by great, I mean I felt horrible, but my legs were turning over and that was all I cared about. My coach had warned me not to start fast, but I didn’t have a good feel for my pace. I felt so slow, but my GPS was reading a 7:45 pace. That’s was almost my stand alone marathon pace! I pulled back and used the bathroom at the first rest stop. I also loaded up on calories on the first two nutrition stations, eating a Power Gel and banana at each one along with the gatorade. As I finished the first mile, a female pro (having a really bad day) passed me on her second loop. I realized that the first male finisher hadn’t even finished. Holy cow, maybe my day was going better than I thought. I did some quick math, and realized that with a 4 hour marathon, I should be able to break the 12 hour mark. I didn’t know if I could run that long, but I was going to find out.
I know I ran too fast for the first 7 miles, but I was feeling good and I kept a pace I felt I could maintain. I knew running was my strength, and I was going to play to that strength. I took it easy on the bike for that exact reason. I told myself that I wanted to at least run the first 13.1 and then I’d do some walking. I ate and drank at each water station but never slowed down. I used the fast finishers as my pacers and just kept pushing.
The halfway mark was another dark moment. You see the chute where the people on their second loop were finishing but you have to head out for another loop. The first half had gone by quickly, but the prospect of running another 13.1 miles in the rain and wind was demoralizing. I ran by my parents at mile 15 and told than I’d be done in 90 minutes. I hope I sounded more positive than I felt. The crowds in town helped, but I they melted away quickly enough by mile 16 or so. It sure gets lonely, even hundreds of athletes beside you. By this point I had been out there for over 10 hours. My entire body hurt and the conditions were getting wore by the minute.
I wasn’t stopping. Slowing maybe, but I couldn’t let myself walk. I just telling myself that if I let let myself walk for even one water station I wouldn’t be able to start running again, so I just kept pushing. On the hills I had slowed to a 9 minute pace, but the rest of the time I was able to keep an 8:30 pace. I kept doing the math, thinking that I would just barely break 12 hours. I had no idea what my bike time or transition times were, but I knew it would be close. There was no way I was slowing now.
The last stretch out to the turn around took forever. I remember drinking a lot of broth and eating oranges, but I think most of the liquids were just poured down my shirt. I looked for the turn around point at every bend but it never seemed to materialize. I noted the 20 mile mark, but 10k seems like a long ways away at that point. Plus, the 20 mile mark is at the bottom of a hill...the hill to the turn around!
When I made that turn I realized what I had just accomplished. I had a little over five miles left, and I was on pace to run a marathon almost as fast as my marathon PR. I still wasn’t sure if I would break 12 hours, but I was elated. I cruised the last 5 miles. I’m sure I was slow but I was also elated. It was my moment and I was soaking it in. I felt like my entire deployment and those endless hours spend training were all culminating in this moment. There was no wall for me to hit. I felt like a million bucks. I smiled all the way in for that last 3-4 miles. What an incredible feeling, but the best was yet to come.
It was finally my turn to break away from the course and take the turn that would lead to the finishers chute. For every ounce of bitterness I felt the first time I passed this point, I felt the same amount of joy. I made the turn and looked down at the final 1/4 mile. All downhill. The crowds were screaming and I had no one behind me. This moment was all mine and those crowds seemed to be there just for me. I ran the entire way down that stretch giving high fives to anyone who would stick their hand out. I still couldn’t see the clock, but I knew I my time would put me under 12 and I was going to take my time to enjoy the moment.
I approached the chute and slowed down to put some distance between me and the guy in front of me. Finally I looked up, saw the clock flashing 11:24!!!! I actually cried at seeing that clock. I sprinted down the chute, giving more high fives. It was such a great feeling that I don’t really know what words to use to describe it. After over 11 hours on the course, I was emotional and exhausted, but the joy, relief and feeling of accomplishment were just overwhelming. So much work and thought had gone into that moment, and it was everything I expected it to be.

What would you do differently?:

1. Push just a little bit harder
Post race
Warm down:

I felt great after I crossed the line. The attendant grabbed me and helped me get my finishers gear and finishers photo. I hugged my parents and headed straight for the massage tent. The massage was worthless, but was still nice to lay still for a moment. Unfortunately, being stationary meant my body was no longer creating heat, and in 40 degree weather with wind a rain, the chill set in quickly. I tried to head over to the food line to grab some pizza and broth, but was shaking so badly that I couldn’t hold the food. I headed back to the massage tent where I found a place to sit. An attended gave me a couple thermal blankets and grabbed me the food I needed.
Finally, still freezing, I headed back to the finishers area. I had my dad go get the car and put the head on full blast. Meanwhile I went to the finish line to watch Analise finish. I was freezing, but I wasn’t going to miss her crossing. Seeing her finish with a smile was almost as good as my own finish. We got our picture taken together and finally were able to head to the car to get warm. Even in the car, were couldn’t stop shivering from the cold, and finally decided that we needed to head home. We had hoped to watch our friends finish, but we didn’t have the energy, and our parents were starting to get worried about us.
We got home took hot showers and sat on the couch under several blankets. I think I dozed for a while and ate a little bit while we were waiting for the rest of our house mates to return. They returned, all as Ironmen. We gave hugs and tried to share our stories, but those would have to wait until the next day. We headed to our rooms, still shivering and I collapsed into the deepest and most content sleep I had had in a long long time.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

My biggest limiter was my bike endurance. That 112 miles just killed me. The rest of the day went fairly well, but I always stayed within myself and didn't push too hard.
I didn’t know what to expect going into my first Ironman. I knew what my paces were supposed to be and what I was capable of in a perfect scenario, but I wanted to be conservative. I wasn’t shooting for that perfect scenario, so I expected to finish around 12-13 hours.
The swim was tough, but my time(1:15) was right around what I expected. With the knowledge of how an IM swim start works, I’m sure I’ll be able to go faster next time. My fitness was definitely there to post a solid swim time and I got out of the water feeling fresh.
The bike is probably my weakest portion, fitness wise, so I knew it was going to be a long ride. I would have liked to be under 6 hours, but I’m not surprised by my 6:13. My legs were strong, but I just didn’t have the mental and physical endurance to push for 112 miles. With some more time in the saddle, I could go much much faster on the bike, but this was probably about where my fitness was for the day. I really only had 3-4 months to get ready for the bike and I came a long way in that short time.
I’m very happy with my run. It’s my strongest event, so I wanted to take advantage. A year and a half ago, I ran the Memphis Marathon in 3:34, pushing as hard as I could. For my Ironman, I ran a 3:45. That’s pretty good. I know my run fitness is so much better now than in 2007, but that’s still a lot of progress in a short time. I had some energy to push harder, but I paced myself and made sure I finished strong.
Overall, an 11:26 is much faster than I could have hoped for. I bought my first bike in June 07 and swam for the first real time that same month. My first triathlon was in June 07 and in October ’07, I completed my first HIM in over 6 hours. In less than two years I’ve come a long way and it’s great to know that I’ve barely touched my potential. This race validated all the work that I’ve put in, even in tough conditions in Afghanistan. Definitely a mission accomplished.

Last updated: 2009-03-11 12:00 AM
01:15:44 | 3862 meters | 01m 58s / 100meters
Age Group: 57/117
Overall: 768/2032
Performance: Average
Suit: Nineteen Frequency
Course: Two loop rectangle course
Start type: Run Plus: Shot
Water temp: 65F / 18C Current: High
200M Perf. Bad Remainder: Average
Breathing: Average Drafting: Below average
Waves: Good Navigation: Average
Rounding: Bad
Time: 08:27
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Average
06:13:07 | 112 miles | 18.01 mile/hr
Age Group: 68/117
Overall: 884/2032
Performance: Below average
Wind: Strong with gusts
Course: Two loop course with lots of flat sections and a deceptively tough hill section
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence: 67
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Bad
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 03:31
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
03:45:16 | 26.2 miles | 08m 36s  min/mile
Age Group: 26/117
Overall: 227/2032
Performance: Good
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2009-06-24 11:59 AM

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Spring, TX
Subject: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

2009-06-24 1:12 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Boston, MA
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
Awesom job Andrew, you had a kick a$$ 1st IM with tough conditions and your run was awesome!
2009-06-24 1:22 PM
in reply to: #2239819

Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Excellent execution and effort congrats. Great race report.

Ride a lot more hills in training for the next one and you will be all set for a fab time.

Congrats again!


2009-06-24 3:25 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Great job.  That is an awesome run split in tough conditions. 

2009-06-24 3:53 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Fishers, Indiana
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
WOW! CONGRATS IRONMAN! You did fantastic out there (as did your wife) and your run fitness paid off out there! It's awesome to see all that work you did in OEF pay out for you.  Great race report with tons of great details! Congratulations!
2009-06-25 9:32 AM
in reply to: #2239819

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Spokane, Washington
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Wow, great job in tough conditions.  Way to gut out the hills - and wasn't it a nice moment when you were done with them on the second lap? 

Congratulations, Ironman!

2009-06-25 11:27 AM
in reply to: #2239819

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Kirkland, WA
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
awesome job!  way to hang in there with the tough conditions - i know exactly how you felt on the bike because i felt the same way at Boise - cold, wet, windy, and just mentally drained completely.  great job!
2009-06-26 5:54 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Liberty Lake, WA
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Great race and awsome run.  Way to finish strong.

2009-06-27 12:43 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Wylie, TX
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

You are correct when you say that you have come a long way in a short time. Congratulations Ironman. Please understand that, when I laughed reading the comment about tears in your eyes biking up the hills, I was laughing with you not at you. 

2009-06-28 10:42 AM
in reply to: #2247239

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Spring, TX
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

docshock1964 - 2009-06-27 12:43 PM

You are correct when you say that you have come a long way in a short time. Congratulations Ironman. Please understand that, when I laughed reading the comment about tears in your eyes biking up the hills, I was laughing with you not at you. 

I'm lauging about it now, but at the time I couldn't find anything funny about it!

2009-06-28 3:22 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
Damn good job on the run. You are crazy fast and that is an amazing race report.

2009-06-28 8:35 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Wisconsin near the Twin Cities metro
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Congratulations on your first IM finish!

2009-06-28 9:11 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Whispering Pines, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
Great race, brother...and one of the best RR I have ever read!

And that is a KILLER, KILLER, KILLER time for a first IM.
2009-06-28 9:23 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Chapel Hill, NC
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene
Well played!
2009-09-30 5:31 PM
in reply to: #2239819

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Spokane, WA
Subject: RE: Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Andrew!  What a tremendous race report!  I've only read the swim part but I am hooked on it.  I am printing it out and am going to savor it tonight before I drift off to sleep!  Wow.   I signed up for CDA IM 2010 which will be my 1st IM and I was looking for input like yours.  Thank you so much for putting it all down on paper (sort of) as I will (and already have) share it with my training buddies who are also doing CDA.



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