Category Archives: Races

Information and reviews on triathlon and other endurance-related events.

Race Report: Steelman Olympic 2015-Finishing on a High Note

This year hasn’t really been one of my favorites. It started off finding out that our dog Yuki had Lymphoma two days before we were supposed to leave for Sedona, AZ. We then had to cancel our trip only to find out that his cancer had spread throughout his spleen and liver. Fortunately, we were able to have 5 months of quality time with him while we battled his disease. During that time, he had returned to the vigor he had as a puppy while we fed him with the best home-cooked meals we could make. This extra stress on top of my heavy training load was surely not optimal.

In June, we traveled to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho so I could compete in my “A” race of the year, Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I had spent the past 8 months busting my ass to prepare for what I had hoped would be my best Ironman performance yet. Then, a freakish heat wave moved into the Pacific-Northwest just in time to peak out at 107 degrees exactly on race day. The result was a DNF.

After returning back home, we saw a very quick decline in the health of Yuki. On August 3rd we then had to say our last goodbye to my little pal after almost 13 years. Six days later I had my last race of the year, Steelman Olympic Triathlon. I was determined to put forth my best effort in honor of my little buddy and finish off the season with a decent result.

Me & Yuki-Hiking Three Pond Loop, Adirondacks, NY

Me & Yuki-Hiking Three Pond Loop, Adirondacks, NY

The last time I competed in the Steelman Olympic was back in 2012 where finished in around 2:43 and 23rd in my age group. I was eager to see how much I had improved since then and my hope was to finish in the top 10 of my age group. After IMCdA I figure I had plenty of endurance built up, so I focused on speed and instensity in the 4 weeks prior to the event.

Pre-Race

One thing I hate about Steelman is that you have to be there so early and then you are stuck there until at least 10:30am or whenever the last cyclist finishes. So, I was up at around 3:30am and we had left for the 45 minute drive to Lake Nockamixon by 4:15 so we could get there by 5:00am. Well, that was until I realized I had left my water bottles with Skratch Labs in the frig when we were about 5 minutes away from home. Ugh! Nonetheless we still made it to the marina by 5:10a thanks to my wifes’ lead-foot. We were early enough to still get a spot in the main marina parking lot and avoided the long trek from one of the overflow lots.

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Pre-race sunrise on Lake Nockamixon-Photo compliments of Sports-In-Motion Race Photography. Straightened and color corrected by me.

I quickly setup my transition area and there was some good real estate on the rack too. I was only about 4 bikes in from the main aisle too. Usually Steelman transition is crazy since there are no assigned spots on the racks.

I ran over to the single port-O-John line and waited my turn. For some reason people form only one line for about 20 port-O-johns at this race. Every other race has several smaller lines spread across the toilets. So annoying!

The morning went pretty quickly and before I knew it we were all gathering at the swim start for the national anthem and the start of the waves. I somehow ran into my wife amongst the masses of athletes too. I also ran into a guy I met at Todd Wiley‘s LP camp this past Spring and chatted with him for a bit. Before I knew it they were calling my wave. Swim time!

The Swim

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Getting ready to start – Photo by Denise

I was one of the first few guys to get in the water for my wave. I quickly moved up to the front and outside of the lane which was on the right side for the counter-clockwise odd rectangularish swim. There were tons of guys streaming in behind me and I think they were still coming in when Dale the RD blew the start. And we were off.

I started off a little faster than I nornmally do, with thoughts of getting out ahead. I quickly realized that I am still a slow swimmer as I never really made any progress doing this only managed to hold my own. I settled into a pace which was a bit faster than my IM pace but still fairly comfortable.

The only issue I had was in between the first and second left turn when I swallowed some water while spotting the turn buoy and had a bit of an choking episode. I think I have had one in every race this year! I eventually calmed down enough so I could breathe again and returned back to my pace. I felt as though I was have a really good swim and was thinking of possibly being around 25 minutes. I didn’t look at my watch at all during the swim as this would lose a few seconds and could play with my head a bit.

The last couple turns into the marina area were a bit hard to navigate since I was having trouble seeing the buoys. I think they were smaller ones too. Eventually, I reached the slippery boat dock platform and exited the water with the help of a throng of volunteers. I glanced at my watch while crossing the timing mat…27:53. Eh!

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Steelman Olympic-Swim Exit

At first I was a little disappointed with that time. But after comparing it to my 2012 time of 32:05 I realize that this was a 4 minute improvement on a 0.9 mile course. Not too bad! 🙂

T1

The 1st transition went pretty smoothly. I did struggle a bit with my wetsuit, but nothing major. I chose to just put my bike shoes on in T1 and skip the attempt at a fly mount with shoes pre-mounted and rubberbanded. I hadn’t practiced doing that in a long while, so no reason to try it here. Onto the bike in 1:53

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Steelman Olympic-Bike Exit

The Bike

The start of the Steelman bike is always a little tricky. While it starts out pretty flat, it quickly shoots up to a dandy little climb after the left turn out of the marina parking lot. It is usually quite the jolt to the legs after you have been swimming for 25-30 minutes and all blood is still working its way out of your upper-body. My advice is shift to our one of your easiest gears as you make the left turn and spin your way up the hill. You can easily burn some matches on this hill very early.

The park has decided to add these really obnoxious yellow plastic speed bumps to the road in and out of the park. They are not rounded and more like a triangle coming to a point. I have never tried to ride over one and can’t imagine that being a real pleasurable experience. They also stretch across most of the road only leaving us about 10 inches skirt around them. If there is oncoming traffic that only leaves you one option. So, unless you have supreme bike handling skills you have no choice but brake to get around them. If there are other riders near you you will have to go through single file.

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Steelman Olympic-Bike

Eventually I survived the obstacle course of exiting the park and made my way onto Route 563 where the majority of the bike course is. The first section is mostly downhill and pretty fast to the first turnaround near the Haycock boat access. Unfortunately the condition of Route 563 has really deteriorated in the last couple years. They also patched and oil & chipped a bunch of potholes which are right in what was previously the best line. Now the best line for riding is basically the shoulder of the road now. The main part of the road is really bad and the surface in general is much rougher than the shoulder surface.

Riding on the shoulder was not an issue on the first lap of the course since it was mostly just the Olympic distance athletes. The second loop is a different story. Now you have all the sprint athletes to contend with and the slower riders blocking the left side of the shoulder. Not fun.

The longer stretch from turnaround to turnaround seems to be a mix of ups and downs. There is one tricky stretch right past the main marina entrance that forces you into a little passage on the right of the whiteline because of the hideous condition of the road covering the entire lane. I didn’t get past a slower rider quick enough on my second loop here and was forced into a very bumby ride.

I had gotten behind another guy in my age group and we played hopscotch a bit for most of the bike. I also got stuck behind another younger rider who would speed up everytime I would try to pass him. He would give this quick turn of his head when I was coming up past him and then he would then take his cadence from 110rpm to 130rpm. It was so annoying. I then finally passed him after the 2nd turnaround and then I didn’t see him again.

The stretch from the 2nd turnaround back to the marina entrance starts out with fairly decent climb. I usually go right down to my small chainring here and get into nice easy spin. Once you crest the hill it is pretty flat most of the way and then you hit a pretty fast downhill which seems fairly long. You quickly ascend again and then there is a section of patched road that covers the entire right side of the road but a small little opening on the side. You really have to make sure you are single file here or it could be a bumpy one. It will definitely cause you to lose momentum doing up the incline.

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Steelman Olympic-Bike

I felt really good the entire bike and I think I picked up a little speed on my second loop. I had two bottles of Skratch Labs hydration and one Amrita bar for nutrition. How easy is that?!

After a little over an hour, I was headed back in to the marina entrance towards T2. There was another yellow plastic speed bumb ahead which I had planned to go around on the inside of the lane again. When I approached it there was a pylon on the inside and I had another rider to my left taking the other side. I had no choice but to brake and go behind him. I then had to speed up a bit to get back to speed since there was a little incline ahead. It totally threw off my momentum. I grumbled about the pylon to the other guy as I sped by.

I cruised in to the dismount area, calmly dismounted and crossed the timing mat in 1:10:20, about a 20.6 mph pace. In 2012, the same course took me 1:17:27 at 19.2mph. So we gained another 7 minutes over my previous PR. So, now we are up 11 minutes total. Looks look it is going pretty good so far!

Looking at my Training Peaks actual bike stats, I managed a Normalized Power output of 224 watts with an Intensity Factor of 0.89 over the 24.6 miles(not sure why TP only has 24.1). Comparing that to my Bike Plan on Best Bike Splits(below), you can see I was just a little under what that predicted for watts and intensity, but time-wise was pretty much dead on there. I found BBS’s to be a little high on my IM Coeur d’ALene project too, but at least it is consistent.

 

 

T2

T2 went pretty well. I put socks on for the run, which cost me a few minutes but still better than dealing with blisters later. Despite that I was still 15 secs faster than T2 in 2012. I also had to take my bike shoes off and in 2012 I slipped out on the bike and dismounted in barefeet. I thought about doing this this year, but said the heck with it. WIth my luck this year, I will probably stub my toe or something. Better safe than sorry. Gotta run!

TheRun

The first quarter mile was a little rough as I worked the bike out them. I finally settled into a about a 7:45 pace which would be great for me. My PR pace for a lone 10k is only a 7:42, so trying to hold this for a olympic triathlon 10k would amaze me. I heard someone yell my name as I popped out of the trees along the first part of the path. I looked back and it was Todd Wiley from the Lake Placid Camp I went to this year. Always nice to have some unexpected fan support out of the course! Thanks Todd!

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As I meandered through the winding and more uphill sections I settled back into a more of a 8-8:10 pace. The run course is pretty narrow. It gets very congested when you have a few hundred people trying to run both ways on the same 6 foot wide path. Passing people forces you into more of karaoke or grapevine motion instead of a run. You defintely lose time as you get later into the run.

After the first turnaround I heard one of the volunteers at the aid station yell “hey bri-tri!” as I ran by. I was past them when I realized what he said but gave a “hey!”  and a wave while turning around. I wasn’t really sure who said it either, but was anxious to see who it was on my 2nd lap. Anyway, it was kind of cool to know I had some supporters out there that I wasn’t expecting.

Things were really starting to hurt by the end of the 1st lap. My legs were screaming and it seemed to be more uphill. I saw Denise standing along the side right before the turnaround for the 2nd lap. I was struggling to put a smile on my face as I was really hurting now. I think I managed to squeeze one out but it wasn’t easy.

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I made the turn and headed back onto the second lap. I really don’t remember too much from that second lap other than it really hurt and I had this inner dialogue going on where I was just fighting with my mind to keep pushing as hard as I could. I was trying to think of things to really push me harder. I was thinking about Ironman Coeur d’Alene, my dog Yuki and that this was my last race of the year. Leave nothing on the table today! I really think I gave it all I had.

Noone, at the aide station where someone yelled to me, ever said anything when I went by again. I don’t know if they left after that or were maybe embarrased to admit they knew this guy struggling to run an 8:00 min/mi or what. I did end up finding out later in the week that it was one of my Strava buddies, which was cool. I have the greatest ways of meeting them!

I ended up running the last mile with a young girl in front of me. She couldn’t have been more than like 11 or 12, but she was running a solid 8:00 pace. I passed her once and then she came by me again, so I decided I was going to let her escort me to the finish. She ended up making the turn around for the second loop and I kept on going. I finally made the left to the gravely road to the finish. My legs were smoked and I was slowing down before I reached the finish. I crossed the line in 49:31 which was about a 7:58/mi pace. It was a little over a minute faster than my last Steelman 10k, but an improvement nonetheless!

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Steelman Olympic-Run Finish

Race Finish: 2:30:47

Previous PR: 2:43:40

Overall Race Summary

 I would have to say it was a pretty successful race for me. I succeeded in getting in the top 10 of my age group with 8th place and I PR’d the race by about 13 minutes over my 2012 result. I improved in each discipline, except for T1 was 3 secs slower. So I may be getting older, but I am still getting faster, which makes me happy. I can safely say that I ended the season on a high note, but there is always a lot of things to work on going into next year.

I don’t really have anything planned for the rest of this season, but I may pick up a running race before the year ends. We have some vacation plans too, so I want to enjoy that a bit. Thanks for reading along this season and I hope that if you are reading this you got some enjoyment and maybe a few tips out of this. I would love to hear from you if you are reading and am open for suggestions. I hope to do a few reviews on gear and the books I have read throughout the year.

Enjoy your off-season!!

Bike Course Comparison: Ironman Lake Placid vs Coeur d’Alene

IMLP vs IMCdA BikeSeveral people have asked me how Ironman Coeur d’Alene compares to Ironman Lake Placid, namely the bike courses. So, I decided to attempt to answer that question with a bit of a comparison of the data that I accumulated from the last two races. It was fairly difficult to find any one tool that conclusively compared the two courses, so I used a few different methods. It is a bit off-the-cuff, but it might help to give some people a little idea of how similar or different these coursed really are.

First off, I tried using Garmin Connect. While it is pretty easy to select two rides and click compare in GC, having IMCdA recorded as a “Multisport Activity” from my Garmin 920xt proved more difficult to compare since IMLP 2014 was recorded as just a single ride. Then I had to export the IMCdA Ride as a TCX file from the MultiSport activity and re-import it again by itself. When I did that, it didn’t calculate my Normalized Power watts at all and my average watts were off by about 3 watts. I then filled them in manually. So I finally got them in a table format which is below.

Garmin Connect IMLP vs IMCdA Ride Compare Table

Garmin Connect IMLP vs IMCdA Ride Compare Table

So, these courses above look very similar. The only major differences was my power output for Coeur d’Alene was about 20 watts less on average and normalized power. Note that I used the same Stages Power Meter for both races. The corrected elevations here show only 400 more feet of climbing at Lake Placid and about 500 more feet of loss as well.

Next I jumped over to Strava where I have the Stravistix extension which provides some more information on the grade of the courses. Thanks to the Stravistix Google Chrome Extension for Strava from Thomas Champagne for the statistics below…

IMCdA 2015

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2015 - Bike Course Grade Stats

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015 – Bike Course Grade Stats

IMLP 2014

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Ironman Lake Placid 2014 – Bike Course Grade Stats

Here again, the courses are very close. The only thing that really stood out to me was that IMCdA has a little more flats and IMLP has a little more downhill.

Equalizing Course Profiles at 0 Elevation

I also was able to import the original Garmin FIT files into Golden Cheetah, which allowed me to the export the raw data points from each ride/course into a spreadsheet. I then imported those rides into my favorite analysis tool, QlikView.

I equalized the starting elevations for each course to zero for each race profile. Next, I adjusted the rest of the points elevations’ by the difference from that starting elevation to zero. Plotting this way then moves the course profiles on top of one another(below) as if they started at exactly the same elevation. This gives us a interesting perspective of the courses that I would not have seen looking at the numbers above. While the numbers look the same the profiles are very different.

The Coeur d’Alene course is much more up-and-down in the range of 0-500′ climbing. Lake Placids’ long downhill section into Keene provides you with a nice long and speedy descent, but then you pay for that later with the very a very long, gradual climb from Jay all the way back to Lake Placid. This climb continues on into your second loop at LP too after heading through town. So if you like a constant gradual climbing then Lake Placid is more your style, whereas CdA is more for the folks who like big rollers.

Equalized comparison of IMLP vs. IMCdA Bike courses

Equalized comparison of IMLP vs. IMCdA Bike courses

The one thing I didn’t take into account here was the wind. For Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015, the wind was coming out of the NNE mostly at around 7 MPH. This provided a nice tailwind from mostly the first turnaround at Heggins Point all the way out to the second turnaround. Coming back to town thought was obviously a headwind. Not a bad one, but I could definitely feel it. Lake Placid in 2014 was a little higher at around 8+ MPH out of the South. It always seems to just whip right up through the Wilmington Notch as you are grinding your way back to Lake Placid. 2014 also had a the nice edition of nasty thunderstorm on the first half of the first loop too.

EFD -Effective Flat Distance Overall

For one last comparison, I had stumbled upon the Flacyclist.com site by Tom Jordan. Tom has a calculator tool he put together that figures our what the Effective Flat Distance(EFD or EDO) of a ride is. This is basically how long the ride would be if you took into account the climbs and descents and just flatten everything out. It seems pretty complicated, but probably a more accurate way to equalize different courses for comparison.

I downloaded Toms’ spreadsheet version of the calculator and filled in the data. Getting some of the required fields tooks some data wrangling. I used the ride extract from Golden Cheetah and then did some Excel magic to figure out the climbing(> 1%)/descending(< -1%) distances. I had also downloaded hisorical weather info from Weather Underground site. I used some default values for area of rider and things like that. I set the wind direction at 45 since both courses were basically out-and-backs so there was a combination of headwind and tailwind. You can view the calculations here…

Looking at the two course calculations above, you can see the (EDO or EFD)Effective Overall Distance for each ride is in the 2nd to last row of each image above. The first distance value is taking wind into consideration the other is not. Based on the no wind calculations here, the IMLP was equal to about 121 miles in EFD but the IMCdA course was just a couple miles more at 123 giving it a very slight edge in difficulty. But not much

Taking the wind into consideration, IMLP 2014 averaged about a mile or so more per hour(8.24mph) over the time on the bike course than IMCdA 2015(7.4mph). With an equivalent amount of head vs tailwind, this effectively evens both the courses out at about 142 miles and some change.

This comparison also seems to point to both courses being very comparable in difficulty. The only difference being what type of ride do you prefer? Do you like to maintain a steady uphill climb over a long distance or do you prefer more shorter ups-and-downs?

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

Personally I liked both courses in their own way I guess. I really feel like I could have PR’d the Coeur d’Alene course under normal temperatures this year. Once that heat kicked in, the wheels just fell off. Despite that I was still able to come in only 5 minutes later than Lake Placid the following year. I was under 3 hours for the first 56 miles while the temperatures were still reasonable.

I hope that was somewhat helpful to anyone considering either of those races. They are now moving the full Ironman in Coeur d’Alene to August next year, so 90-100 degree temperatures may be the norm for that race now. Some locals told me that that weather is more typical at that time of year there. That pretty much takes that off my list of races to try again! Hopefully next year I can compare the Ironman Mont-Tremblant course to these two courses.

Thanks!

 

Race Report: Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015

Last year at Ironman Coeur d’Alene the weather was pretty windy and cool. The water temperatures was in the 50’s and it was cool and windy. I signed up for this race specifically because that type of weather suits me well. Cool, damp and even a little rainy. I don’t like the heat. So, when the weather forecast was predicting temperatures of 107+ for raceday, I knew my perfect race day was not to be.

My goal for this race from the minute I finished Ironman Lake Placid last season was to go sub 12 hours along with around a 4 hour marathon time. That goal went by the wayside in the last two weeks leading up to the race. I knew from there it was going to be a matter of just surviving at that point.

Pre-Race

We arrived in Spokane, Washington and made our way to Coeur d’Alene, ID, which is about an hour drive, on the Thursday before the race. We settled into our AirBnB accomodations which were about about 20 minutes northwest of town and about 10 minutes from the bike & run course on Coeur d’Alene Drive.  It was nestled on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding mountains. A perfect location to get away from all the Ironman drama that goes on in town. I have to say though that I think Coeur d’Alene is a little better than Lake Placid in this respect since it is larger and more spread out. Lake Placid is so small and there is just such a high concentration of athletes there, so you can’t get away from overhearing all of the pre-race chatter.

We headed down to Tony’s Restaurant for dinner which just down the road on Coeur d’Alene Drive and overlooks the lake. It is nestled in cove which is great because it gets shaded from the sun in the evening. They have a big outdoor deck and  the food was great. We were fortunate to get a table since we didn’t make any reservations. We ended eating here twice during our stay.

On Friday, we headed over to Post Falls and had a killer breakfast overlooking the Spokane River at LePeep. Then we headed over to the race expo area in City Park for athlete check-in and to check out the expo. I had “All World Athlete” (AWA) status this year, so one of the perks is that you get to go to the front of the line for check-in. This was nice at first, but then you end up having to stand in the regular line with everyone else once you fill out your waiver forms. When I went up to register, I handed the girl my drivers license and she said “Pennsylvania?! There was just another athlete from PA.” I said “is her name Megan?” Sure enough it was Megan, who I met up at the Todd Wiley Lake Placid camp a couple months before. I spotted her ahead in the line and we chatted a bit while waiting in the line. This would be Megans’ first Ironman.

The other AWA perk was that you get an special swim cap for the race. I thought this would be great for my wife to pick me out from the other swimmers. When they gave it to me it was a black cap and the volunteer said that they prefer you not wear them since they are hard to see in the water. Who the hell came up with that color??!! They gave me a typical bright green one along with it which is what I wore anyway. This AWA thing isn’t turning out to be any big deal so far.

One nice thing was the swag backpack they gave out this year. I really liked it since it was kind of a duffle/slash backpack and very functional. I will probably a lot more use out of this than the other ones I got in previous years. I also like the Seattle Seahawk color scheme too!

Ironman Coeur d'Alene swag

Ironman Coeur d’Alene swag

I decided to attend the pre-race meeting this time since it was a new race venue for me and with all the heat concerns. They really didn’t say a whole lot about the heat other than they would meet with local emergency officials on Saturday night and determine if any other changes to race would need to be done. They had already announced that we would be starting an hour earlier at 5:45am for age groupers to help get out of the hottest part of the day. Personally, that would not help me much since I would be getting more run time in the hottest part of the day. I would rather be biking during that time.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Pre-Race Meeting - Notice how everyone is sitting in the shade?

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Pre-Race Meeting – Notice how everyone is sitting in the shade?

I had used TriBike Transport to ship my bike to the race along with a gear bag to put my aero helmet, bike shoes, tools & spare parts and my wetsuit. We were staying in CdA for vacation the week after and I didn’t want to be lugging this stuff around. TriBike Transport is a great service and I will be doing a separate post on that with more details soon. They allow you to check your bike in and out as needed in case you want to take it for a spin before the race. This was great cause I didn’t have any way to transport my bike back to our apartment. I also checked my gear bag out and left my bike with them. They also had mechanics there to pump tires and put your pedals back on.

After the meeting I did a short swim in the lake just beyond the beach swimming area. The water was quite refreshing since it was already around 100 degrees out. I was surprised how cool the water had remained despite the heat of the week.

For the rest of Friday and Saturday I pretty much laid low. I did take my bike out for a ride down CdA Drive on Saturday afternoon to make sure everything was working correctly. It also gave me a taste of the heat and I tested out my new cooling sleeves. I was surprised of the cooling effect that the material provided. It felt like I had menthol on your arms. Ride went well and then I checked it into transition for the race. I had bib #462 for this race so I was pretty close to the bike exit in the transition area. I also checked in my bike and run bags with the essentials in them. I left out any nutrition stuff which I would put in before the race.

On Saturday night we cooked at the apartment and I made my traditional pre-race Chickpea Sweet Potato Coconut Curry. It is just packed with good stuff, but I usually cut back on the spice a bit when I make it before any races. After dinner I prepped and packed all of my race nutrition so it was ready to go in the morning. I loaded up two ziplocs full of 4 chopped up Amrita bars each, 5 bottles of Skratch Labs hydration, 1-3hr bottle of UCan SuperStarch, Base Performance Salt, and 2 PB&J sandwiches to put in special needs bags. I didn’t get to bed until around 10PM though, so with a 3am wake-up 5 hours of sleep is not great for the night before an Ironman. I did sleep fairly solidly though.

We got to downton CdA a little before 4am and found a good parking spot on the Coeur d’Alene Ave, just off of 1st Ave. This would give my wife the ability to not be trapped in by the race course and it was very close to the transition area. At 4am I walked down to transition, dropped my special needs bags off, got body-marked, and loaded up my bike and bike & run bags with nutrition. All in about 15-20 minutes. The transition area is nice and compact so you don’t have to hike all over the place like you do in Lake Placid. I even managed a couple Port-O-Can stops in there too. I headed back up to the car and relaxed with my wife for the next 45 minutes or so until it was close to race time.

Denise and I headed back down to transition about 5:20am. We said our goodbyes and I then made my way into the herd on route to the swim start. I also dropped my swim cap along the way and another athlete was nice enough to grab and run it up to me. Thanks dude! The first cannon blast fired as the male pro’s started their swim promptly at 5:30am.

The Swim

I made my way down to the beach and saw there were a ton of people trying to do a warm-up swim. It was so packed I didn’t know how they could actually swim. I wanted to get in the water though, so I waded in up to my shoulders. There was a bit of an opening at that point so I did a few strokes just to make sure everything was working right and my goggles were not leaking. The cannon went off again as the female pros went splashing into the lake. I had a good perspective on that being just out from them.

I got out of the water and then situated myself at the very front of the 1:16 – 1:30 finish corrale. I figured I would split the difference between my last two IM Swims(~1:17) and my goal time for this race, which was ~1:15.

Eventually the age groupers were started and we steadily moved towards the start archway like a herd of cattle. Before I knew it, I was heading into the water and on my way. I b-lined for the outside lane which was on the right side of the counter-clockwise course. I had a pretty open lane to swim in with minimal traffic. The only bad thing about this location was I had to spot to the left to see the pylons and the sun was coming up in that direction. I seemed to manage ok though by utilizing the kayakers and paddleboarders on my right.

The water was mostly smooth until we got out to about to pylon 6 or 7(of 8). The water got a little more choppy out there and there a few more boats around. There was also the taste/smell of gas out there too. Yuk!  From the first left turn until the second where you start to head back was really difficult to see since we were heading right into the sun. It also seemed to be more congested with swimmers here too, since the boats were up close the pylons.

The swim back to shore was fairly smooth, especially after the light chop smoothed out. I stayed on the outside all the way in. When I finally touched sand with my hand, I popped up and made my way down the beach for lap #2. I checked my watch and it read 0:35:40…Sweet! I quickly multiplied that in my head and thought “a possible 1:12 finish?!!”

Now with a boost of confidence with my first lap split, I decided to swim on the inside lane this time to hopefully gain some more time by staying closer to the pylons. I was actually swimming inside the pylons at some points too. This approach actually backfired on me though. The additional traffic in this area actually slowed me down a bit. I do get a bit flustered when there are other people swimming in front of and around me and this happened much more on this lap. I probably would have done better on the outside again and I probably would not have had to go as far out this time too. Oh well, lesson learned.

Eventually I was coming down the home stretch. Not before seeing a big beach chair on the bottom of the lake though. I had to do a double-take under water. The water in Lake CdA is pretty clear and there is always things on the bottom to look at and help pass the time away. It is not quite as clear as Lake Winnipesaukee(Timberman 70.3 in NH) though.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Swim

I finally reached the sandy bottom for the last time and exited the water. I looked at my watch and saw 1:14 and some change…not the 1:12 I was thinking but still under my goal of 1:15. Mike O’Reilly called out my name and town at about the same time I was looking at my watch too. As I made my way up the beach, I heard Denise yelling my name. There was a buffer area between us and the spectators so I could not reach her, but gave a wave.

Offical Swim Time: 1:14:57

T1

The 1st transition went rather smoothly. I headed over the wetsuit strippers and got stripped. Then down the nearby row of bags to collect my bike bag and into the tent. Tent was pretty full but I quickly found a couple empty chairs. I got my shoes on, helmet on and my new arm cooling sleeves. I had to pack my wetsuit and everything into the bag myself since most voluteers were pretty busy at this point. Then out of the tent to the sunscreen applicators.

Wetsuit Burn-Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Wetsuit Burn-Ironman Coeur d’Alene

The lady said I had a bad wetsuit burn on my neck it was going to hurt. She said something like “better to have a little burn now and not a sunburn later!” As she padded the suncreen on the back of my neck it instantly started to sting. I let out a long grunt of a yell and it eventually subsided. They lathered me up quite well and even got my bald head so I wouldn’t get racing stripes fromt he vents in my bike helmet. I left my helmet off until after they put the sunscreen on. I then headed down the rows of bikes to the last tree on the right and halfway down the row instantly spotting my black and yellow Quintana Roo. Unracked her and out the archway.

This was one of my fastest Ironman tranistions so far. Partly due to the compact transition area of this venue, but I think I did go quicker than usual.

T1 Time: 0:05:55

The Bike

The start of the bike weaves through town and eventually heads up Lakeside Ave paralleling Sherman Ave, which is the main street in town. People line the road cheering as you head up the slightly inclined street. It surely gets you fired up to get moving on the bike . You then make a few sharp turns zig-zagging through a few other back streets in town before heading out onto Coeur d’Alene Drive. This first out-and-back 14mile section to Higgens Point is pretty flat and you get into a nice steady cadence with speeds well into the 20’s. You surely don’t want to get too carried away here since it is just the beginning of a long day. There is one smaller climb on this section right after passing Tony’s restuarant, but it is over pretty quickly. The wind was out of the North-Northeast that day, so the way back to town was a bit easier I felt. This wind would also help on the first out section after heading back to town too.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

I settled myself into a nice easy pace and immediately started taking on hydration and nutriton. My thought was to try to take in as much as I could early since I may not feel like eating much once the heat kicks in. I had about 4 cut up Amrita Bars and 3 hour bottle of Ucan SuperStarch, plus two bottles of Skratch Labs hydration mix. I also purchased some Base Performance Salt a week before the race due to the iminent heat. I heard about this stuff from Christine Lynch on the ZenTriathlon Podcast, who spoke very highly of it. I had not trained with this stuff so it was a bit of a gamble. I figured it was just salt so it wasn’t that big a deal. I had used salt tabs in previous years without any issues.

The 1st 14 miles went by pretty quickly and I was heading back into town again. I was scanning the streets the whole time for Denise but didn’t see her until I was heading out. She didn’t even see me as she was trying to get her iPhone setup to videotape me. I yelled to her as I passed by and she looked up with a look of surprise on her face. Next it was up the ramp and over the Spokane River bridge in a single file, no passing zone line.

There is a about 2 major and 1 minor climb on this next section. The first one, Cougar Gulch, is the toughest one at about a 6% grade for a mile and half. You hit this one at mile 21 and 77 on the course. I was able to pass a bunch of people here by spinning a high cadence in a easy gear. You surely don’t want to burn yourself up in a big gear here as you have to do this again at mile 77. One guy I passed was nice enough to tell me the back of my tri tank was riding up exposing my lower back to the sun which was cool. I surely didn’t want a trampstamp sunburn!

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

The next climb was Mica Bay to FIghting Creek which is only a 2% avg grade, but it is 3.3 miles long. Seems a bit worse than that, but that could be since there is another climb right after from Fighting Creek to Sun Up Bay Road which is another 2% for 2.1 miles. So basically you are on a average 2% grade for over 5 miles here. The nice thing is what comes up must come down and you get some pretty good downhill speeds on these descents since the road is in good condition and you have a good amount of room. I stayed in the aerobars for most of them and just let it rip.

There is a smaller uphill section right before the turnaround at 37.5-38, but it isn’t bad in relation to the others. Some say that this back to town section is easier, but on this race day we had a bit of a headwind out of the North-Northeast, so it wasn’t as easy as I expected. The climbs were still pretty decent on the way back, but probably not quite as bad.

I continued to drink and feed often on this first out-and-back. I went through my hydration bottles and started taking water from the aid stations. I finished my 3 hour Ucan Superstarch bottle in less than three hours (hmm?) and ate almost all 4 of my Amrita bars. That is a lot volume to put in ones stomach. One thing too is that the Special Needs station is at the Higgens point turnaround at around mile 66, so you have 10 more miles after the halfway point until you can refuel again.

I passed by Denise again, now ready for me and situated on the median by Northern Idaho College just before the halfway point. I flipped my Garmin to the total bike time screen and saw I was just a few minutes under 3 hours…Sweet! I surely didn’t feel like I overdid it so far and my watts were below my goal watts too. I thought…”Wow! I could go under 6 hours maybe?”

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

I cruised out along the lake again to Higgens Point to pickup my special needs bags, which had 3 bottles of Skratch Labs, a big bag of Amrita bars and a fresh tube of Base salt.  I think I may have had more than 4 bars in there since I had trouble squeezing it into my bento box. I also had packed a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, which was cut into quarters. I grabbed a quarter of that and stuffed it in my mouth. I am really getting an huge amount of calories in so far here.

Everything was going pretty well despite the heat really kicking up now. That was until about mile 85 of the bike on the South Whitemire Drive climb. I had taken a big lick of Base Salt and a swig of my water bottle with my very hot hydration mix in it. It immediatly turned my stomach. It was imminent that I was going to puke. Do I pull over and do it? I was in the middle of the highway so that was not that easy to do. I was on a hill too, so if I stopped, getting moving again would not be easy. I could not stop it now and it just came out. Once …. ugh… OMG! …and another wave… blah! all that food and drink gone…to the pavement..and again! Three times!

Things kind of went downhill from here. The heat was really kicking up now. The ambient heat coming off the black pavement was like being in a sauna. My stomach was still a bit queasy, so I wasn’t able to replace the lost nutrition right away. I ended up just ditching my heated water bottles and just getting cold water bottles from the aid station. They didn’t have any electrolytes in them so now I was going be depleted there. I was not going to do Gatorade either. I couldn’t bear to do any of Base Salt either. Just a bad situation here.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

My pace on the bike slowed from 19-20mph to around 16-17mph now. As I made my way on the last leg back to town, the carnage on the road was everywhere. Bikes were laying on the side of the road and people were just sitting in the shade under trees behind them. People were cramming underneath the tents at the aid stations. Athletes walking their bikes up the big climb. The heat shimmering off the road ahead was causing a mirage above the road. It was all starting to play on my mind.

I finally hit the bridge over the Spokane river and made a sharp right down the ramp and headed for T2. Finally, the bike was done. Surprisingly, I still managed to pull out a decent 6:20 bike split. Only 5 minutes off my PR of 6:15 last year in Lake Placid. Had this been a “normal” weather day in CdA, I probably could have pulled off a new PR bike split. Not to be. I swung into the Bike In chute, dismounted and handed off the QRoo to a volunteer.

Bike Time: 6:20:13

T2

I ran through the racks of bikes and picked up my run bag and then off to the changing tent. A big burly guy was standing outside the entrance with a big bucket of ice cold water. He asked if I wanted to get dumped and I said “Hell Ya!” Aaaaaaaahhhhhh! That was freakin cold, but man did it feel good.  There was not very many people in the changing tent. I figured there was a lot of people still out on the road. One guy came in behind me and just laid on the ground. The volunteers came running over to him and then medical staff came over and started asking him questions about where he was and what his name was.

I really took my time getting changed. The volunteers were bringing over ice cold towels over and draping them on my head and neck. It felt so good. I was in no hurry to leave. I ended up changing my race kit tank top. My black Amrita jersey is mostly black and is really hot in the baking sun. I had the wherewithall to stick my white Sleeping Dog Bike Shop tank in my run bag and it was a smart move. I ate something out of my bag and had some water too. I also took a leak which was really dark. Not a good sign. I eventually got done changing after about 15 minutes in transition. A new record long time in transition. I stopped off at the suncreen stand and let them lather me up again and then headed out of T2 running.

T2 Time: 0:15:02

The Run(?)

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Run

I started off on the run and through the spectator-lined chute heading to the run course. I started taking inventory of my physical ability to run and everything seemed ok. I was running, not very fast, but I was running. I eventually saw Denise about halfway up Lakeview Drive and stopped to chat with her for several minutes. I told her about the conditions on the bike and she couldn’t believe I was doing this. My Dad called her while I was standing there and I answered the phone. I think I suprised him a bit . I told her I was going to go out and see what I could do. We said goodbye and I’ll see ya in a couple hours..hopefully.

Chatting with the wife on the Ironman Coeur d'Alene run course

Chatting with the wife on the Ironman Coeur d’Alene run course

It was around 1:30-2:00PM at this point and it was REALLY freakin hot. I continued to mostly run for the first several miles which meandered through some smaller backstreets in town before turning right back onto Coeur d’Alene Drive. Many of the people that lived there were out hosing us down and cheering us on. I didn’t realize it but my socks and sneakers were getting really wet. A sure way to cause some blisters and foot problems. I didn’t care. We passed by a small beach and there was an older Ironman athlete coming out of the lake in his running outfit. I was entertaining that idea and thought maybe on the next loop.

Once out on Coeur d’Alene drive people were actually running in the grass to the right of the path. It was next to the golf course and it had some trees lining it giving some shade. it was like a mad hunt for any shade you could find. That ended shortly when we hit the large condo building. The running trail that parallels CdA Drive and runs along the lake is very exposed with minimal shade. It was so hot. I ran through the first aid station and the stench of the port-a-johns’ was brutal! I took ice and water at every aid station and walked through each one. I filled up my handheld water with ice and water and would just constantly drizzle it over my head, back and arms as I ran.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Run

Walking became more prevalent as I go closer and closer to the turnaround point. I had a pain on my toes of my left foot. I stopped at a bench and took off my shoe to see what was going on. Meanwhile, Denise is seeing me stopped on the athlete tracker and starting to freak out a bit. I apparently didn’t cut the toenail on my “pinky” toe and it was cutting into the side of the toe aside of it and it was bleeding all in my sock. I got some Ruby’s Lube out of my FuelBelt and rubbed it on it to ease the cutting a bit. it helped but I could still feel it. I wished I had some nail clippers!

By the time I reached the turnaround at mile 6.5 I was doing more walking than running. My quads were cramping up whenever I tried to run. I started taking some Coca-Cola and potato chips along with water & ice. Some aid stations had ice in the coke, but others didn’t. I asked why and they said Ironman said they are not allowed to put ice in the coke and gatorade? WTH? Nothing like 106 degree coke! Ugh. What is the purpose of that WTC?

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
– Harry S Truman

I pretty much walked the entire way back to town. The heat was unbearable and I could barely maintain a trot for more than 10 yards now. Throwing up on the bike had really taken its toll on my now. That was just too much lost hydration and nutrition at a key time in the race. My quads were now starting to cramp just walking up any incline in the path. I started entertaining the  idea of dropping out. This was becoming not fun and the thought of having to walk another 13 miles out-and-back again was not something I wanted to do.

I passed my friend Megan from LP Camp near the big condo buidling. She had just started the run and was actually running. Denise was tracking her on MyAthleteLive and had told me that she saw her bike splits really slow down when the heat picked up. This was her first Ironman, so I really hoped she would finish, so I was glad to see her still going.

At this point I am not being at all competitive and it would be just finishing for the sake of saying I finished. I also thought that I could end up doing more damage to myself and screwing up the rest of our vacation or maybe worse. I have finished two of Ironman events already, so just finishing doesn’t really appeal to me now. I wanted a sub 12 hour finish and now that that was out of reach, I was lacking the desire to finish. It just seemed like a waste of another three or more hours. I also didn’t want to Denise to have to stand around worrying for another possible 3 hours.

I walked the 2 miles back through the neighborhood streets again into town. The spectators were still cheering away and but it didn’t help me. I made a right turn and saw Denise sitting on the curb ahead. She had a bit of a stressed look on her face and asked how I was doing. I said that I am thinking of dropping out and I could easily see a sign of relief on her face. That pretty much made my desicision for me. She said that she could hardly bear walking around out here and she didn’t know how I was managing to do this.

There was still another .5 mile to go to the turnaround point down at City Park. The worst thing was I had to walk down Lakeview Drive again which was still lined with spectators cheering. You could also hear people finishing on Sherman Ave. which was a block over. I walked down to the turnaround and just kept going straight through a small opening in the fencing that lined the course. It was a fairly easy decision at this point. But it still sucked.

Run Time: DNF

Post-Race

I found a nice shaded spot under a tree near the transtion area and took relief. I was bummed to not have finished, but also relieved to be out of the heat. Trevor and Heather Wurtele were sitting not too far away and Trevor was looking pretty wiped out from the race, which he finished 3rd overall. I eventually gathered up enough energy to get up and go gather up my bike and transition bags. I found some Ironman staff people and handed them my race chip. I just wanted to get out of there at this point and go get something to eat…and have a cold beer. It really sucks that Ironman does not even give you any food unless you finish. $700 should atleast get you a slice of pizza, regardless of finishing.

I'm Done! Ironman Coeur d'Alene Post Race

I’m Done! Ironman Coeur d’Alene Post Race

I keep thinking back on the day and having some regrets of not finishing, but I quickly remind myself of why I think I made the better decision. If this was my first Ironman, I probably would have pushed through it, but it isn’t and my goals are different now. So, time to re-focus on my remaining races this year and then on to next year.

I also started thinking of Megan who was still out there. We were tracking her on MyAthleteLive and saw she was walking a lot based on her splits. We drove out along the course after getting some food to find her. Her family had stayed at the home they rented and tracked her online and would then meet her for the finish. We figured she could probably use some encouragement. We finally spotted her at mile 19 on the course and she was looking pretty deflated. She said she was considering dropping out, but I told her she was almost to the turnaround and that she can do it. I think it helped her because she seemed a little more uplifted when we left. She was also afraid she would not make the cutoff.

We tracked her the rest of the night and I was happy she finished in a little over 16 hours. Probably not her goal time, but given the situation finishing is a huge accomplishment. I was happy for her and she texted me the next day thanked us for coming out to cheer her on. She said it really helped her finish. If I am not going to finish at least I could help someone else to.

 

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015-My Tracking Info

My Bib #: 462

Race Start Time(Age Group): 5:45 AM PDT (8:45 AM EDT)

MyAthleteLive IconMyAthleteLive Tracking Info

I decided to rent a GPS tracker from MyAthleteLive.com so Denise can more easily plan her day and also so any family & friends can track my progress throughout the day. You can view the live tracking info through the following ways…

MyAthleteLive Event Web Site(requires Adobe Flash) 
MyAthleteLive iPhone App
MyAthleteLive Android App

Ironman Tracking

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race WebSite
IronTrac iPhone Application(in-app purchase of $0.99 required)
Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015 Pro Bib List

Local Coeur d’Alene Info

Lake Coeur d’Alene Water Temperature


Adapting and Readjusting Your Race Day Goals

An Ironman is such an unpredictable event. You never know what kind of things are going to come your way on race day. You try to mitigate as many possible issues as you can think of, but you can’t control everything. One thing you certainly cannot control is the weather.dartboard, target, bullseye, darts

Last year I competed in Ironman Lake Placid with the intention of going sub-12 and was faced with a brutal thunderstorm. The race officials eventually forced many people out of the water on their second loop of the swim and subsequently only counted half the swim and no T1 transition times. Since I felt I had lost some time on my first loop of the bike, I went a little too hard on the second loop of the bike to try to gain lost time and ended up hurting myself on the run. While officially my time was under 12 hours(11:52), I know that the real time was still a 12:40.

Heading into this 2015 season I signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene with the goal of a sub-12 time again. I have trained all season with this intention in mind too. I chose Coeur d’Alene because of its northern location and typically cooler climate which I prefer. Sometimes when you become so focused on a goal for so long, it becomes hard to give that up and change. Change is never easy.

Today we are faced with temperatures reaching solidly into the triple-digits in Coeur d’Alene, ID on race day. This is unheard of for this part of the country.  But, just like when you have a tire go flat or losing your bottle of nutrition, you must adapt. Therefore, my sub-12 hour goal has now changed to more like a sub-17 hour goal, or just plain survival. We can whine and complain about it all we want, but I think a true “Ironman” accepts the challenge in front of him/her and figures out how best to deal with it. The obstacle in front of us has changed, we must figure out how to deal with it. Speed becomes a relative term at this point. It may end up being our most demanding event ever and the one we will never forget for sure.

CdA 10-day Weather Channel Forecast

CdA 10-day Weather Channel Forecast

Dealing with the Heat

Nothing like an post-race ice bath! Ahhh!

Nothing like an post-race ice bath! Ahhh!

I am started thinking about some some tips and things to help deal with the heat, so here they are in no particular order…

  • Hydrate early & Often – start taking in electrolytes the day before the race as well as race morning. Severly limit or avoid alcohol too. 🙁 I will save that for after the race I guess.
  • No wetsuit if over 76.1 def F – Although it may be cooler in the morning, if the water temp is over 76.1 you risk dehydration earlier by wearing your wetsuit. Not to mention that you are inelidgable for any AG awards( I don’t really have to worry about this).  This was a lesson I learned from my coach who wore his at LP a few years ago and was dehydrated when he got on the run. No sense starting out with a large hydration defic
  • Extra salt pills or Base Salt – I usually never do anything new on race day, but I just heard about Base Salt from Base Perfomance from zentri-598-christine-lynch-and-time-trial-tips.html” target=”_blank”>Christine Lynch when she was recently on the ZenTriathlon podcast. I did previously use salt caps, but this is absorded quicker through the mouth which I think is more effective. Jury is out on this one, so we’ll see how it works.
  • Cooling Sleeves – I recently picked up a free pair of cooling sleeves from the Todd Wiley Lake Placid Triathlon camp I attended last month. I didn’t realize how essential these might become to reflecting the sun off my arms and also provide some material to keep moisture close to the skin. I will pick up water at each aid station no matter what and pour it over them and the rest of me.
  • Nathan Handheld Bottle for Run
    Nathan Handheld water bottle

    Nathan Handheld water bottle

    This is another ZenTriathlon tip(I am going to owe Brett some donations after this race). I will keep this bottle filled with ice water at each aid station and slowly drip it over me during the run. The coolness in my hand should also help keep my blood cooled too.

  • Jump in the Lake?! – The run course at IM CdA is on a path that follows the shoreline of the lake. Perhaps we will be able to just jump in the water every so often and cool off. Not sure if that would break any rules, but it might be an option.
  • Eat Amrita Bars! – Sorry I could not resist this one! But seriously though…it becomes very difficult to want to eat when it is really hot, but not doing so is a sure way to a serious bonk. Plus, Amrita Bars are even more yummy when they are soft and gouey!

Also, here is a great little Ironman Coeur d’Alene “Cheat Sheet” from Coach Jen Rulon

Be Safe out there! Any other tips are greatly appreciated too. Use them in the comments.