Friday, August 26, 2016

Guest Blogger-Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2016

Joe did the Ironman at Coeur d'Alene last Sunday.  He wrote about the experience and said I could share it.  I will post my side later this weekend.  I'm so incredibly proud of my husband, for his accomplishments with Ironman and for being such an amazing person.  I'm very blessed to call him my husband and my best friend.

Joe's account of the days leading up to the race and race day:

Ironman CDA 2016 “race
On the 21st of August 2016 I participated in Ironman 140.6 in Coeur D Alene, Idaho. Lisa and I headed out on Thursday before the race for the 8-hour drive. We didn’t push real hard and took 3-4 short breaks to get thee circulation back in the fannies and legs to keep the stiffness from setting in. We rolled into the park where the event is held about 3:30 in the afternoon. I went to athlete check-in and rolled right through as most of the athletes seem to check in on Friday. Then we checked out merchandise and ended up buying a little IM bling before heading to the hotel to unload the pickup.


For a number of reasons this race preparation was much different than the previous 2 IM races I have done.
1.      I have not done IM in back to back years before.
2.      In the past I have been able to ramp up the training over the course of 12 months.
3.      In relation to number 2 I had some injury issues that prevented 12 months and reduced the training schedule to 6 months of focused IM training. In January and February, I literally was told to take 6 weeks off of running and biking to help get injury issues to settle down.
4.      Due to above issues I decided to hire a coach this time around to take a more intelligent approach to training. Try to do more with less so to speak and have the ability for adjustments if something reared its head that would hinder training.

In April I did the Beaver Freezer Tri and came away with more doubts than answers as to how IM may go in August. The hip injury that had generated the most issues was very tender afterward. This was troubling due to the fact that this race was about 1/8 of the distance I would be doing in 4.5 months. My coach and I worked our way through the next month to the next and last triathlon I would do before CDA in August. The Oregon Dunes triathlon was done the first weekend in May. The event went very well in regard to injury management. No real pain at the end to speak of in the hip and I ended up 3rd in my age group. It was slower than the previous year, but that was to be expected due to everything going on. Overall a confidence boosting experience. The training continued on a good upward trajectory until the second week in July when we had a family camping trip. At that time, I loaded a grill into the back of my pickup and aggravated the hip injury to the extent that I was scheduled for a 4-hour ride and only finished 2 before the pain was so bad that I couldn’t continue. A very discouraging time as the race was 6 weeks out. My coach and I adjusted once more, backing off the workouts until the discomfort subsided and I could at least keep moving for the longer durations needed to accomplish an IM race. The next big event in the training schedule came the Friday and Saturday at the end of July first of August. Cascade Lakes Relay was a great training weekend for the running part of the IM. I was scheduled to run around 16 miles on my 3 legs with the hope of adding on another 4-5 miles with someone else if the hip allowed. I did get all of my legs ran and had the added bonus of running my extra 4 miles with my buddy Josh who kind of got me into this IM thing. My legs were “feeling the burn” (inside joke), but I came out of that weekend ready mentally for CDA. Now it was time for 1 last long ride and a short taper into the event.
Lots of mental and physical challenges throughout the training took their toll in regard to motivation at times but we got to the start line in pretty good shape overall. The decision to hire a coach was very good in regard to having the flexibility to adjust on the fly and get the most bang for the training buck.


August 18, 2016-Thursday

Travel and check-in to the event and hotel. Nothing significant to report other than a great travel partner. Oh, and an awesome philly cheese steak sandwich for dinner from a food cart we knew of from previous trips to CDA.

August 19, 2016-Friday

Coach scheduled me for short swim, bike, run. My awesome travel companion has the same coach that I do and imagine, we had the flexibility to do our workouts together. We found a quiet place on the lake away from hustle and bustle of the race to set up. The lake was warm enough that we swam without our wetsuits. It was wonderful. We did a short ride on a concrete trail that goes around CDA followed by a short run. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the room and getting all of my gear prepared for race day. At IM they give you five different bags so you have all of your gear collected and organized in regard to the event you are doing at the time. I had stuff scattered throughout the room and covering the bed. It looked like a sporting goods store vomited in our room. After the gear was ready Lisa and I headed for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings-the dinner of champions.

August 20, 2016-Saturday

The last scheduled training was a thirty-minute ride. I got up early to get it done so I could get my bike and transition gear checked in at 10AM before the rush of other athletes showed up. When we finished dropping off the gear we stopped by the information meeting to see if there were any last minute instructions for the race. There were not. I did a little recon on how to get in and out of transition to get a mental picture of how race day might go. We found a good wood fired pizza joint for dinner and made sure to order enough for left overs, so I could put a couple pieces in my aid bags on the bike ride the next day. Bed at 1830.

August 21, 2016-Sunday (Race Day)

0330 was wake up alarm for a 0630 start time. I got up, ate some Wheaties, a banana, and a couple of cups of coffee which did their job in generating a trip to the restroom. An important thing on race day as you don’t want to stop during the race if possible. Lisa and I got to the venue around 0445. I dropped off my special needs bags and headed for my bike to top off the air in the tires and put some extra food in my transition bags. I also lowered my seat a bit because of some recent knee pain I had been having leading into the event. After discussing it with my coach the night before he said that lowering the seat a bit may help during the race. I made a decision to do it in the morning instead of maybe waiting until I had pain which would only compound as the race went on. Generally, you don’t want to make those kinds of changes on race morning but in this case it made sense, so I did. Transition was due to close in a half hour, so one last trip to the port-a-pot and then into the wetsuit. People are funny. Standing in line at the pots and there is very little movement of the line. I start to watch and it seems that 3 of the pots in the middle are having nobody in or out for quite some time. I walk up to them and the door is not latched, but the handle is slid over showing that the pot is “in use”. Boom three more pots for use just like that. The line moves a lot faster when you increase usage by 1/3. Falls under the category of: don’t be a sheep. Think for yourself and if something seems off check it out instead of talking about how slow the lines are. Saw Lisa when I finished, changed into my wetsuit, and walked to the swim entrance with my best friend and greatest supporter.

Swim-Goal Time-1:15 or better

When we walked into the venue in the dark you could hear the water lapping on the beach, but couldn’t see the water. This was a bit ominous in that it meant the wind was blowing and making for some chop on the lake. Once we got to the start there was definitely some chop on the lake that we were going to deal with on the swim. This for me is generally not a big deal other than it slows me down a bit. For others it can be a big deal. In 2014 they had a lot of wind and people were getting sea sick on the swim.

At CDA the swim is two laps of approximately 1.2 miles. At 0600 the cannon goes off and the first swimmers hit the water. On the first lap things went really well. I only had a couple of people who swam perpendicular to the rest of us. That never ceases to amaze me. Everybody is swimming one direction and you need to swim totally across everybody. The second lap is going equally well until the first turn. At the turn we swam directly into the sun. There was absolutely no way to see the buoys. Finally, I spot the buoys for the return leg off in the distance so I draw a mental picture and head in the direction of what I think the convergence will be. There are a lot of people who just stop in the middle of everything to try to see where they are headed. Navigating this takes a bit of time, but in the grand scheme it was maybe an extra 30 seconds I’m guessing. My chosen line seems to be good when the red buoy I need to go around appears and I head for the shore.

Actual Swim Time- 1:17.16

T1-Goal Time-Under 10:00

I get my wetsuit stripped by the strippers, yes there are people there to help get your wetsuit off. If you don’t hold your shorts on they may come off also. It is somewhat violent as you have the suit down at your waist, then the strippers grab on and yank as hard as they can and before you know it they are helping you to your feet with your wetsuit inside out. Then I head for the gear bag with all of my bike stuff. Then head into the changing tent. I wore my tri shorts under my wetsuit so I didn’t have to try to get them on over wet legs. I slide my bike short over the top of those, throw my bike jersey on, helmet, socks, shoes, sunglasses, gloves, and food in the pockets of my jersey. I head for my bike and find it right away which is why I did the recon the day before. When there are 1200 other bikes it can be a bit confusing where your bike is. I pull it off the rack and head the 100 yards to the mount area.

T1 Time- 9:04

Bike-Goal Time- 7:30-7:40

In CDA the bike ride is two loops of 56 miles. In the 56 miles there is a 14 mile out and back loop in one direction and a 42 mile out and back loop in the other direction with approximately 3000 feet of elevation gain per loop for a total elevation gain of 6000 for 112 miles. I head out on my first 56 miles and have a pretty good average pace for the first 56 miles. I average right around 15MPH which is good for me. If I can hit that or close to it on the second loop I will be right in the ballpark of my goals for the ride part of the race. At the end of the first loop you are back in town and around all of the spectators. It gives a little boost to get you ready for the second loop. This year my wifey decided to volunteer while I was riding and ended up on one of the corners of the ride. I got to see her twice on the short loop of the second 14 miles. Even got a kiss the second sighting, winner!!!!!! In the middle of the short loop at about mile 63 I get to have my special needs bag that has whatever I think I may need to complete the ride: different socks, soda, sandwich, pizza, bike tube, lube, are just a few things someone may want to have. I use my 2 Advil, 1 Tylenol, 2 small pieces of pizza and throw a sandwich in the pocket of my jersey and head off.

In these races there are things you can control and things you can’t. You can control: your training, nutrition (as long as you don’t get sick), effort and ATTITUDE. Things you can’t control: other athletes, mechanical problems, gut irritability, and the weather. This year the big thing that we couldn’t control was the weather. Last year when the event was in June they had one of the hottest IM events ever in CDA. It was 105+ with little wind. It was excruciating just watching. We had friends in the race and were there to watch. This year the forecast called for 95 degrees with high afternoon winds. Early in the ride I could tell that the heat was going to get close to what they had forecast, but the wind wasn’t supposed to show until later. Well, later started at the beginning of the second 56 miles. I could feel that I was exerting more energy to get the same speed as the first lap on the way out on the 14-mile loop. That 14 miles went pretty good though, speed wise. A couple of miles out of town on the big loop it became evident that the 15MPH average I had been carrying was going to be lost in this section. It is about 21 miles out to the turn around. There are two segments that are timed. On the first segment I averaged 10MPH on the second segment I averaged 12MPH. It was also 90+degrees. With the wind, the heat, and the elevation gain it took me a little over 2 hours to go 21 miles. In normal conditions on the flat I can do 21 miles in about 1:15. There was not one person out there having much fun. Some just couldn’t make it at all and were sitting dejected against a guard rail waiting to be picked up because they had nothing left in the tank to finish the ride. One of the things I was happy with in my approach to this race was being able to adjust my goals on the fly. Being flexible and understanding what you can control and what you can’t is a skill that is developed through a lot of trial and error. I could control my hydration. I got to a point where I was taking a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade and a 20-ounce bottle of water at every aid station. The Gatorade I drank and the water I used to cool myself down. With the wind blowing and the heat the soaking would last about 15-20 minutes before I was pretty much dry. But the cooling factor was awesome when you were wet. By the time I got to the turnaround I knew the ride back to town was going to be pretty quick compared to the ride out. I was not disappointed. On the return trip I averaged about 17MPH for my fastest split of the day. Head wind sucks, tail wind rocks. That average includes a 1.5 mile stretch of uphill that averages about 8MPH. In the end the report said that the temperature got to 93 and that the winds exceeded 20MHP on the second half of the ride. I did see at least 1 person who had wrecked and was being loaded into the back of an ambulance. Tough way to end your day at Ironman. Hoping there was no long term damage done in that accident.

I was happy how I managed the conditions on the ride, especially the second half. I got most of my food down, but will be looking for a way to take in more of my nutrition through liquid versus solid food. PB&J just doesn’t go down easy when your mouth and throat are dry from the weather. Snickers bars have been a go to for me, but they have run their course also. Time to experiment a bit with some other things. I was happy with the Endurolytes. I never had any cramps throughout the event. I am glad I trained with the Gatorade that was going to be on the course. I knew how and when I needed to drink in the heat.

Bike Time-7:56.20, slower than I wanted, but happy considering the conditions on the course.

T-2 Goal Time Under 10:00

Coming into T-2 I could feel that my feet were tender in my bike shoes. The last time I did CDA I ended up with a large blister on one of my feet toward the end of the run. The blister developed in the spot where the pressure from my bike cleat was with my old shoes. This time I had a hot spot on the bottom of my left foot in the same spot where my current cleat rides. The only thing I can figure is that with the elevation and conditions in CDA that my feet develop blisters. It doesn’t happen in training and it didn’t happen last year at IM Canada which had as much elevation with wet soft feet for most of the ride.??? So, I dismount my bike and take the long painful walk to my run bag. As I go I get to have a conversation with a friend from work who came over to watch his sister finish her first IM. A pleasant distraction. I find my bag and head to the tent to change. Nothing too earth shattering in T-2 other than with the tender feet and the longer run (walk in my case) to get from the bike to the gear and to the tent my 10:00 minute transition was 11:00ish minutes.

Run- Goal Time- enough under 6:00 hours to see a 14 anything on the overall finish time.

After coming out of T-2 I knew that the ability to get to the finish with a 14 on the clock was pretty much out the window. The bike ride just took too long. So, it was time to adjust the goals. At the beginning of working with a coach he and I had talked about using a run/walk strategy for the marathon at the end of IM. I had worked with a 4:1 run to walk ratio in training and liked it for numerous reasons. The 4 minutes of running wasn’t so long that I would look at my watch wondering if it was time to walk yet and it was easy to work with the numbers and not have to do any math for the next interval. Math is not my strong suit and when you are tired it gets worse. So one of the new goals was to see just how far I could get into the marathon before that ratio went to what I call survival mode and doing what works to get me to the finish line.

I headed out on the course for the first lap of three that would take me to the finish line on Sherman Avenue. It became evident right away that the “hot” spot on the bottom of my foot was going to be an issue. On every push off there was pain and being since I had experience in this I knew it was only going to get worse through the rest of the run. I was about two miles in and started looking for a med tent to address the issue in some way, but there was no med tent until I got back to town in 7 miles. But, there was a 4-person paramedic crew sitting at one of the corners, so I walked up and asked if they had a way to address a blister. Through a little ingenuity and want to we figured out a way to take a significant amount of the pain away with a folded 4x4 and an op-site holding it in place. Because I addressed the blister early it allowed to “survival mode” to be pushed back significantly. I did pretty good with the run to walk ratio until about mile 14-16 when the outside of my right knee started to be grumpy. I am pretty sure that the tip of the road, which is pretty significant in some spots had some to do with it and that my stiff stride at that point didn’t help. But, I was close enough to the finish that I could walk if I had to. I didn’t want to but if it was necessary then I would. I did manage to keep running intervals, but they were much longer walks and slower runs to the end.

Run Time-6:04.42

Finish-Goal Time-14:59 or less

I absolutely am addicted to the IM finish atmosphere. People who don’t know you are pulling for a total stranger to accomplish a goal that some can’t even imagine attempting. And for me, I know that I get to see my best friend and biggest fan who never ever gives me any crap about the long training hours and not so happy moments that go along with those hours. I missed seeing her before the finish at my first one and have vowed to never ever do that again. We share in each other’s accomplishments and failures when they happen. We are each other’s biggest fan and when I finish one of these she finishes it also. She gets to share in that moment with me, forever. I love you, Honey.

Overall Finish Time-15:38.54

I missed my goal time by roughly 39 minutes. I can see those minutes in the bike ride due to the weather etc. on the second loop and on the run because of having to slow due to blister and sore knee. I knew it would be a push for me to make the 14hour number in an ideal world, so though I am disappointed in that, I am quite happy with the result. I bettered my time from the last one I did in CDA by almost a half hour on a more difficult weather day. I missed my best time in any of the three that I have done by about 3 minutes. And I came out of it with none of the injuries worse and in some cases better than when we began this journey in March. Considering a six month ramp up into the event I think it turned out really well. My coach and I already know some of the things we will work on for next season. Probably no IM next year, but other goals will be made and attacked. If they aren’t challenging, then they don’t make you stronger.

Final Thoughts

Athlete/Volunteer Interactions

Bike-Just seeing how some of the other athletes were suffering in the heat and wind on the way out to the turnaround was inspiring. Many people I encountered were literally just trying to keep the crank going around. Many goal times were adjusted, I am sure. We all were encouraging each other to just keep moving and not to give up.

Run- Brooke, a 36-year-old career military lady stationed in Alabama who kept me company for much of the run as we leap frogged on my run walk strategy. We had a good laugh as around just about every corner somebody seemed to know her. If I remember correctly she said she had 20+ family and friends cheering her on.

Volunteer-On the run at the aid station by the marina there was a young boy giving out water who you could tell wanted to help in any way possible. As I approached the station I was thinking I was going to get Gatorade but he had water and wanted to help so bad that I had him fill my hand-held with 3-4 cups of water. He was so proud that he could take care of my needs. It was awesome. To his parents, thank you for raising a young man that will be a success in the future.

Friends and family

It never ceases to amaze me on all the love that comes my way when I am in the middle of one of these races as Lisa keeps everyone updated. Thank You doesn’t capture how much it means to me when I read all to posts and texts, but that really is all I can say or do. So, thank you everybody for the encouragement.

Best friend, Sherpa, Wife

Lisa I can’t put into words what you mean to me in life and at one of these events. In life you are my soul mate and life partner. In triathlon you are a selfless giving helper that takes a lot of the little things off my plate so I don’t have to think of them or worry that I am going to have this or that. I love you and here’s to our future challenges to overcome.

There are a lot of people out there that have very inspirational stories for why they do endurance events. People tell me that I am an inspiration in one form or another to them. To me if I am going to inspire, I would like to inspire people to find a goal to complete that they have only ever dreamed of. Find that deep down desire in your heart, whether it’s an Ironman, promotion, long distance bike ride, marathon, new job, something that seems out of reach and figure out how to get it done. Find people who have done it. Find someone who can give advice, glean what sounds like it may work for you and just get started. It really is that simple. It may not happen overnight and there will be setbacks along the way, the wind may blow or the blister may come but keep moving forward and before you know it you are at the finish and have accomplished something that nobody can ever take away from you. When I was younger and would watch the Ironman television show I could not fathom doing anything like it. Now I have done three of them. I am nothing special in the triathlon world, but I do have the ability to keep moving forward at a steady enough pace to reach the finish. With a little motivation and determination, we are more capable than we think of accomplishing great things.

So, that’s it for Ironman CDA 2016. Here’s to future endeavors that stretch and strengthen me and hopefully inspire others to do great things in their own world.

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