Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene was a race I will always remember.
There were quite a few lessons learned in this race! You would think after all of these years racing I would have it figured out by now. I had a lot riding on this race. My hope was to have a good enough race to qualify for Worlds, or at least have a stellar race. I plan to retire after this season, at least for a while, and wanted to go out with a bang. Race day can bring much different plans.
I had a pretty good season of training. I had the usual setbacks; traveling, being sick and even a bike crash, but I managed to get through it all and felt pretty good about my training headed into the race. My swim has never been fast, but I have come to accept that. My bike is my strong sport, so I expected a good race there. I have been working hard on my run the last year, and was anxious to see what was going to happen. I have struggled in the run in every triathlon I have done, and wondered if the work I put in would pay off.
Race morning was perfect. Low 60s for temperature, calm winds. The water temp was 64 degrees, so very ideal. We stayed at a hotel really close to the start, so didn’t have a long drive in the morning. I woke up at 4am, which felt like sleeping in for a race! I have coffee every morning, and didn’t change that for race day as I have never had issues in the past. However, I didn’t take into account that usually I have my coffee about 4 hours before race start, not 2. This would come back to bite me later.
70.3 Coeur d’Alene has a self-seeded start, which I loved. I put myself in the 36-40 minute group, as I know I consistently fall into that time range. The race started at 6:15 and I was in the water by 6:30. The swim was very uneventful. No punches to the face, or claws at my ankles. The only bit of discomfort I had was having to pee. I thought it was just race jitters, so expected it to go away. I swam very straight and finished right where I thought I would in about 39 minutes. This includes a short beach run to the timing mat, so my swim alone was slightly faster. It is frustrating to always be stuck in the 38ish minutes, but that just is what it is for me! They had wetsuit strippers there, which was a really nice bonus. It made for a fast transition to the bike.
A few months before the race, I decided that I was going to race my road bike instead of my tri bike. Kind of as an experiment, but also for the fact that this race had about 3500 feet of climbing in it and I climb much better on my road bike. I had lots of doubts leading into it, and hindsight I wish I would have listened. This bike leg was the worst and most frustrating bike I have ever had. Usually the bike is the easy part for me, and where I can gain a lot of ground. It didn’t take more than the first 5 miles to know I made the wrong choice. The first out and back section rolls along the lake. It is absolutely stunning. There are a few climbs, but none are too bad. I found I was working really hard yet my speed was not where I thought it should have been and I was getting passed. I tried to not let it get to me and just take in the scenery. This helped for a little while.
The bike passes back through town, which was full of spectators. Jarom was there to cheer me on as I headed out for the longer, harder portion of the bike. It’s pretty fast for another few miles on nicely paved roads. Then the first climb comes. It is long, but not horrible. I am able to fairly easily spin up it and passed a lot of people. This brought my spirits up a little bit. That didn’t last long, because they all passed me back on the descent. I tried to tuck as much as I could, and still pedaled my heart out, but just couldn’t keep up. I wished for my heavier tri bike. The next hill comes, and again, I pass lots of people up, and get passed once it levels out. I could tell my quads were working harder than I wanted them to. And I still had to pee. Never again will I do coffee that close to race start! The course rolls until the turn around point. There was a lot of leap frogging going on, and my frustration was mounting. Again, I tried to take in the scenery, because it was absolutely beautiful. Tons or trees and clear blue sky.
Headed back to town I felt deflated. It was a little faster that direction, so a lot of the people that I was leap frogging stayed ahead of me. My legs were tired and my knee was really bugging me. My goal time came and went at mile 50. I knew then that my shot at a slot to Worlds was gone. My final bike time was 3:05, a good 20 minutes off of where I felt I should have been. I was beyond frustrated in transition, and wondered how I was going to run. My quads were shot, and my knee was in a lot of pain. But, I had a huge cheering section ringing their cowbells, which brought me up a bit. Jarom’s sisters, his dad and his wife and some nephews and niece were there in homemade t-shirts to cheer me on the rest of the way. I had to get through this run!
My transition was pretty quick to the run. I dropped a gel on the way out, so had to go back and get it. I still had to pee really bad, but somehow missed the port-a-potties in the transition area. My quads were on the verge of cramping and my knee still hurt. I didn’t have high hopes for the run. About ½ mile in was the first aid station, so I stopped to go pee. That alone helped! Another gel fell out of my pocket so I had to backtrack for that, so my frustration continued. At mile 1 I looked at my watch and was really surprised to see a 9:03. Surely, I thought with 2 dropped gels and a pit stop that seemed to take forever, I would have been at least 11 minutes. I realized I actually might be able to run! I was able to settle in and relax a little bit. My quads were still just on the verge of cramping, but the knee pain went away.
I took a little bit of gel at every aid station to try and keep the cramping away. This seemed to help a lot better than a full gel every 4 miles or so. It was hot by now, probably close to or above 90. At first I ran through the aid stations, grabbing one water to sip, and one to pour on my body, but I found that wasn’t enough as I was starting to overheat. I went to walking through aid stations just long enough to get enough water and ice to cool me down. The volunteers were absolutely amazing. So upbeat, and really took care of us.
The run was 2 out and backs. The first couple miles winds through neighborhoods which I loved. It turned so much that it seemed to go by fast. There was a lot of shade as well. Lots of people were out with hoses which was amazing. The last bit before the turnaround is along the road by the lake. It is an up and down to the turnaround and a lot more exposed to the sun. It was the toughest part for me on the first lap, but I just pushed through it. Miles were ticking by and I was at a good pace- right around 8:30 minute miles.
The start to the second lap circles around a large park that was packed with spectators. I was so excited to see Jarom and his family again. They were the best motivators and cheering section anyone could ask for! I was ready for that second lap. My run seemed to feel better as I went, other than the quads. I was worried they were going to give out on me at any moment, but the slow intake of gel kept them at bay. Soon I hit the far turn around and was in my last segment home. It felt great to make the turn towards the finish line. It is a long stretch down through town to the finish. Lined with spectators it really gives you time to soak it all in. I hit the stretch at the perfect time, as there were not a lot of competitors around me. Jarom and his family were along the side, cheering loudly. I gave them high-5s and ran through the finish. Andy Potts was there to give me my medal, which just made my day! I was then greeted by lots of hugs and smiles from my cheering section. My run time was 1:52, beating my last best 70.3 run time by almost 15 minutes. My run training did pay off!
My quads were spent. I have never felt so much muscle soreness after a tri before, and I knew I would feel them for days to come. The race didn’t turn out as I hoped it would, and mostly at the cost of the mistake of using the wrong bike. My final time was 5:42, 14 minutes slower than my fastest time and about 25 minutes slower than what I was aiming for. I missed a slot to Worlds by a long shot. I left this race feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. There is unfinished business on this course and I want another chance. Now I don’t feel the need to make it to Worlds anymore, but I do feel a deep need for redemption on this bike course. So my retirement might need to wait for another year.