Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ironman Coeur d'Alene (Idaho)

June 25, 2006
Marathon 36, State #30 (Age 38)
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
14:17:54 (Marathon 6:05:05)
4th Full Ironman Triathlon

Race Swim Bike MPH Run Pace State Country Date Time
Ironman Coeur d'Alene  1:16:05 6:46:09 16.55 6:05:05 13:56 Idaho USA 6/25/2006 14:17:54

My family, including mom & dad, Homeyra & Parisa loaded up and headed out from Seattle on a clear and sunny Friday morning towards CDA.  The 325 miles took about 5 hours.  Beautiful scenery from start to end.  First there was the view of Mt. Rainier to the south as could be seen from the I-90 bridge across Lake Washington and only on the best of days also a clear view to the north to see Mt. Baker across the lake to the north.  Through the cascades and over the Columbia River Gorge.  Next through the Washington plains and finally back into the foothills of the Rockies where we entered into Idaho.  

Friday afternoon our first stop was athletes village.  Right on the the lakeside where the swim and transition were located were multiple tents set up for registration/sign-in, vendors & sponsors, and of course the official Ironman merchandise.  Friday night was pasta dinner / welcome ceremony for all the athletes, so after dropping parents and Parisa off at the Hotel (thanks Bob for fine recommendation!), Homerya & I headed to off to the the big tent for the festivities.  As many time as you go to these, they are always exciting.  They asked how many Ironman everyone had done and slowly increased the numbers and people remained standing.  One guy had done 47 of these!  Also gave us the run down on where all the athletes came from, which countries and states were most represented.  Panama was 3rd largest showing after US and Canada.  California was the largest represented state.  The event was MC'ed by Mike Riley, the voice of Ironman.  I even caught him during a break and got a picture with him!

Saturday after dropping off bike and gear bags and another visit to the official Ironman gear tent again, was pretty much relaxing all day long.  I exchanged my training wheels for my race wheels a week before the race, but was having problems getting air into one of them.  Also knew my rim glue was weak or non existent, so vistied bike repair and doctored up both wheels.   We made an early dinner stop to Outback Steakhouse and drove around the city and partly around the lake.  Back at the hotel the plan was for early bed by 9:00 which we made after Parisa having the time of her life in the swimming pool!  Sunday alarms went off at 4:45 followed by breakfast and arrival for body marking at 5:45.  I had just enough time for all my morning rituals like pumping up tires, bathroom, etc.  My last Ironman and for that matter last triathlon and actually last open water swim was 2000 for Ironman USA.  With nearly 2,500 athletes crowding the beach, I knew the swim was going to be chaotic.  After the pro-women (only) start 30 minutes prior to the age group mass start, we were off with the singing of the national anthem and a canon shot.
Part of a strategy on a mass start like this not only picking the right spot on the beach to make your angle to the first turn of the swim, but also to gage the athletes around you to see where you think you might rank as far as swim speed.  Even with all that in mind, this many swimmers struggling for so little real estate is aways room for disaster.  I knew the 62 degree water would be cold compared to my heated pools I'd swam for the last 6 months in preparation, but the water was so cold when I put my face in the water it was hard to breathe!  For nearly the first 10-15 minutes and most of the way to the first turn my only mission was to find open water in front of me to swim towards.  This wasn't an easy task, I'm sure a gps route of my swim would have been far from a straight line!  Like it really mattered, but strategically there was a tall sail boat mask positioned as a perfect target to focus and lead you in the right direction.  This worked well, but as soon as you make the first turn we were heading directly into the sun, so there was no way to navigate other than swim between the people on either side of you and hope they were going the right direction.  At last the last turn back to shore and the beach exit turn around.  Again I could see where I was going and everyone had fallen into the right pace, so for the first time I actually could break into a good rhythm with my swim stroke.  It was a joy to know you were getting close with the faint sounds of the announcer back at the swim finish.   What was really interesting to me as I neared the beach, how much the draft of the water was prevalent.  Even when I would look up to navigate and hardly swimming the water just pulled me to shore.  The same thing when we jumped back in the water.  The flow of the water leaving towards the 2nd loop of the swim just sucked me outward.  Believe me I wasn't complaining.  On the second loop I did get my goggles kicked 1x, but other than that I was very pleased with my swim.

Leaving the water and making my way to the Swim/Bike transition I took advantage of the "strippers" who helped peel off my wet suite.  I found my helmet, changed, got squirted with some sun block and ran out towards my bike.  We had to run through the Bike/Run transition area where all our running bags were lined up, so for some strange reason I started yelling out my number hoping someone would help me find my bag, then one of the volunteers said you don't need that till later.  Of course I was like, "Oh, yeah, good point"  I also needed to pee and should have taken advantage of the many port-o-potties, but for some reason my mind was racing ahead and I ran right past them.  I heading to my bike and got a smooth start, however in the tire repairs the day earlier, I just realized my wireless computer somehow had the sensor knocked out-of-wack and all I had was speed, no cadence.  I prefer cadence, so reached down to make the adjustment while riding, but couldn't get a happy medium.  Either I had speed or when I got both my magnet would rub on the sensor each turn, so decided to live with just the speed.   There are two out and back loop that make up the course on the bike.  The first one is 5 out 5 back.  In my first 10 miles my stomach was killin' me, and decided to stop at designated port-o-pottie, and after all really did need to go.  My stomach still had a lot of air from the swim so was uncomfortable for a little longer, but soon started to feel better.  Since I'd never had a practice ride of the course I decided to take the first loop easy.  Also which was part of the overall day strategy, especially hot, not to go too strong to fast because a long day awaited.  The second out and back is more like a big loop which has two decent climbs.  The first one longer and less steep, the second one shorter and much steeper.  I climbed each hill very conservatively.  Now done with the hills of the first loop, only left about 20 miles of very light rollers and really nearly flat, unfortunately lots of heat and 15-20 headwinds.  Sticking to my strategy of taking easy on loop 1 I was happy with 15 mph into the wind.  What I wouldn't have done to have had someone to draft at this point!  
On to the second loop of the bike.  Our special needs bags for the bike were not at the start or half way point, they were about 5 miles out of town.  I'd packed potato chips, pretzels, and pb&j sandwich on a bagel, and a red bull.  I made my 2nd stop of the bike to drink my Red Bull and chips, and stowed the sandwich and pretzels so snack on the rest of the way through the bike leg.  The aid stations were pretty much set up with every else you needed all along the way.   I felt strong as I climbed the first long climb into the mountains.  On the first loop I'd pretty much coasted down any descents, but this I thought I could make some time if I pushed a little down hill.  To my surprise while pushing on the downhill my left quad locked in full extended position.  At first, I was like, "this hurts".  Then I was like, "ok, this can stop anytime now".  I couldn't move my left leg, so somehow managed to stand.  Not sure if this was a mistake or not, because now both left and right legs were locked straight as could be.  Keep in mind I'd just pushed part way down a hill and was moving pretty fast.  I'd already seen someone else pulled away on a stretcher from a nasty downhill crash on loop 1 and ruled this as not an option for me.  My next task at hand is how to A. slow down my bike to get off and B. get off my bike without crashing.  I'm sure this was very entertaining for anyone behind me that didn't know what was happening, but managed to slow down, go through the gravel next to the pavement, into some weeds and stop directly next to a tree that I could fall on.  After 10 years of biking and some grueling climbs on CFC and around the Seattle area, my legs cramping on the bike had never happened to me before.  Even stopped I couldn't rotate my legs to unsnap my cleats from my petals.  Finally my muscles relaxed and I sort of took a deep breath happy to come to a stop without any serious injuries.  I took nearly 5 minutes break road side and ate some more of my sandwich and 1/2 my bag of pretzels.  This is all happening about mile 80, which means I have 32 miles to get to the run and one major and hardest climb (followed by a dangerous twisty decent).  I tested my legs to see just how much they had left and realized that whenever I pushed at all, they were on the verge of locking again.   At this point I threw in the bike hard the second loop strategy with the new strategy of just finish the bike.  At the base off the big climb I really didn't think I could make it, but used the strategy as necessary for very steep roads to zig zag up them to take some of the steepness out of the incline.  I was the only one doing this constant weaving, but worked great, not a single person passed me up this hill.  (or I would have probably ran into them!)  On the decline I my goal was just to keep my legs moving so they wouldn't have a chance to lock again.  The wind died off a bit for the 2nd flat section back to town.  I was so relieved to make it back to the transition area.  I was able to exit the bike and hobbled through the transition area to begin the run.  This was the first time I saw my family that all had been out in the sun now for 7.5 hours cheering.  
I had another full change of clothes for my run.  From experience I know having a slow run start wasn't too bad because my legs would eventually come back.  When I tried to run, my quads simply said, "no way Jose".  I was able to take a nice long walking stride, but jogging was out of the question.  This went on for several miles, trying to run and not being able to run.  I managed to as they call it, "marathon shuffle" all the way through about mile 15.   I had to use the restroom for the first time all day so stopped at a port-o-john next to an aid station.  It was not shielded from the sun, so the 5 minutes I spent in there I must have sweated another pound of water, it was absolutely miserable.  (lesson:  always look for them in the shade on 95 degree days!)   My usual run strategy is to run as much as possible, usually walking uphill's and water stops.  My new run strategy was to run in the sun and walk through the shaded sections.  There were parts of the run without much protection from the sun, so this meant even walking in the unprotected areas from the sun.  Downhill running of any kind was also completely out of the question.   The run was also two loops, so the second loop I was reduced to only a walk.   By mile 19 I could no longer run at all.  Even my walking stride was reduced and I could only take small steps.  I had many times I wondered if I was really going to finish.  Although blistering hot, I never felt that I didn't have enough nutrition or fluids.  Everyone was walking the marathon, so pretty much find someone walking your pace and share stories!   My latest problems occurred with my feet.  I never get blisters.  I even brought a change of shoes and socks to change into in my special needs bag, but neglected to change.  Looking back, I wish I would have because about mile 20 I felt like both feet were fully blistered.  I've run a lot of marathons and sometimes will get small hot spot and can just ignore it, but this time I knew I had some serious issues.  I even tried to adjust where my feet strike the ground so I wouldn't further add to my discomfort.  I walked for nearly 7 miles now towards the finish line, hoping for just a brief bit of legs to help me stride across the finish line.  Between my quads not bending and my now my feet blistered, it wasn't going to happen.  I tried 2-3 time and every time my feet hit the ground I would break back into my walk stride to keep the pressure off the painful spots on both feet. 

I was so happy less than a mile to go hearing the announcer saying, "your name is an Ironman".  This of course didn't help my pace.  I ran into Homeyra and my mom who were near the gates of the finish shoots.  They were relieved to see me still standing and moving step by step closer to my goal.  Yes, I did finally finish, but was one hell of a long day!  I hooked up with my family and my father had even moved the car to 1 bock away from the food tent.  I was tired and soar, but no trip to the medical tent, a good night sleep, and a hot tub in the morning I was a new man.  Of course the usual aches and pains in the legs and for that matter the whole body.  Ends up had two identical blisters on the ball of each foot.  Not sure what caused them, maybe 26.2 miles on the hot pavement, or that on top of the 112 miles of biking?  Monday back to look at finish photos, pick up finisher certificate, and one last stop at official Ironman store for all new clothing that says, "Finisher".  We did some sightseeing on the return home, but at nearly 100 degrees tried to spend most of the time in the air conditioned car.  It was nice to be the passenger and sleep most of the way home!

Next adventure?  A couple weeks ago drove my parents up to see Rainier.  On the way home stopped for food and ran into a guy I'm trying to sell copiers to, who had spend the day climbing to Muir as preparation for Mt. Baker and eventually Rainier (all the way).  Now two weeks later, his strong climbing group successfully climbed Baker, now they are going back this weekend to climb Rainier.  Stay tuned!  We'll see how fast I recoup and if I can join them?