Training has been moving along pretty quickly this season. Hard to believe I have already completed 10 weeks of solid training in prepping for Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. I have been slacking a bit on the blogging front and it has been around 6 weeks since my last training update post. I have been really busy at work as well as training. It is a constant cycle of Sleep, eat, train, work, train, eat, and sleep.
Overall training has been consistently progressing in an upwards fashion. Fatigue has been following along slightly above my CTL(Chronic Training Load) with no major spikes. My Friday recovery days have helped keep fatigue levels in check and my longer rides and runs on the weekend haven’t been more than 3 and 1:45 hours, respectively.
Looking at HRV(Heart Rate Variability) in the chart below, you can see that things have been progressing in an upward direction since the end of February. I have had a few sporadic low readings , but nothing compared to February. Despite the couple low data points, most readings have been in the 80’s with an occasional 90+ reading . HRV-wise, things are on the up-and-up.
My coach had recommended doing a 5k sometime in March and the St. Pat’s West End 5k in Allentown came up on March 20th. The course was also pretty flat, so it made for a good place to test my current run fitness. It was a pretty cool morning which was a little rough on my lungs that day. There was also a fair amount of people I knew in the race which would help fuel the competitive juices a bit too.
I started off a bit faster than I probably should of with ~6:48/mi pace. Although the first 1/4 mile was downhill. I was basically holding on for the next two miles, despite my lungs screaming for mercy. When I crossed the finish line my Garmin said 22:24, but the official race time stated 22:45. I was a little disappointed with the race time difference and I was not sure how they got such a different time than I did. There were some discrepancies on the course and they were scurrying at the last minute to fix things. Regardless, the slower time was still a PR for me by 1 second off my previous 5k PR back in 2013 and I finished 6th in my age group. So I can’t complain too much. And, of course, I now had a good test to setup my heart race and pace zones for my upcoming training.
I also tried to perform an FTP test on the trainer later that week, which was probably not the brightest idea. It was a total pain-fest since my legs were still sore from the 5k earlier that week, but I managed to squeak out a 1 watt improvement over my last FTP test. LOL! I really think I would have destroyed my previous FTP if I had fresher legs, but I was shocked I even improved 1 watt given the state of fatigue I was in. As you can see below, I just kind of lost it at about 15 minutes into the test
I really think I would have destroyed my previous FTP if I had fresher legs, but I was shocked I even improved 1 watt given the state of fatigue I was in. As you can see below, I just kind of lost it at about 15 minutes into the 20-minute test period but managed to recover and finish out the test without incurring a loss. Oh well, next time!
Swimming is such an interesting beast. It was always the weakest leg for me since I only learned to swim (well properly with my head under water) back in 2008. I always seem to hover around 2:00/100m while swimming in the pool, but when I open water swim I am usually around 1:50/100m. I figured this was mostly due to my wetsuit and not having to make turns since I still can’t do a flip turn.
My coach, Todd Wiley, mentioned about taking some Go-Pro video of myself swimming in the pool and he would take a look at my form. I think it was a pretty easy assessment for him since he quickly got back to me indicating that I was pushing my arm towards the bottom of the pool on my catch instead of back(See image below) and my legs were too low. He sent me a couple articles and videos demonstrating what I should be doing and I eagerly watched them.
I started focusing entirely on my catch and making sure I was pushing back instead of down. This included keeping my elbow high and using my forearm and my hand to push the water back. It was almost and immediate improvement! Now my lap times in the pool are now consistently around my open water pace times. This has been a huge improvement and I am now thinking that another IM Swim PR time could be realized this season. I am eager to get out in some open water and see how this translates with a wetsuit and not having to make turns every 25m.
I also think, but not totally sure, that my legs are higher now since I am going faster with the proper catch position. I will have take some more video to get a before-and-after comparison.
Amrita Ambassador 2016
I will be serving as an Amrita Ambassador again for 2016. As you may know, Amrita bars are my go-to nutrition in races, training, and pretty much every day. They are full of powerful nutrients that keep me energized without polluting my body without a bunch of toxic chemicals. They are plant-based, gluten-free, allergy-free, soy-free, dairy-free and they are REALLY good too!
If you would like to try them or order some, please go to Amrita Health Foods and enter the coupon code “britri16” at checkout to get 15% off.
What’s Coming Up?
Now that we are moving into race season, I have a few things coming soon. At the end of April will be the St. Luke’s Half Marathon which is always a fun local event. Although not real fun when you get a stomach bug the morning of the race like I did last year. I am hoping to get a PR time there since I challenged one of my co-workers to get some competition going.
In May, I will be racing in the French Creek Olympic Triathlon for the first time. Another local event which will be my first triathlon tune-up event. Knowing the French Creek area, it should be a rather hilly event for sure.
In June, I’ll be racing at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse also for the first time. That should be a good indicator of my fitness prior to Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. I am expecting similar terrain so it should be a good test. Should be a fun season!
This season I decided to go back to hiring a coach. After self-coaching the last two seasons, I felt I needed a bit of a change and a different perspective on what I have been doing. I have hired Todd Wiley, from Bucks County, PA. Todd has extensive coaching experience and was also a professional triathlete. I had met Todd last year through a strength training workshop he put on with my current strength coach, Fernando Paredes, at Fusion Fitness & Performance and also at a training camp he put on at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid last year. I have met a number of other very successful triathletes who have been trained by Todd and having nothing but great things say about him. Several of these folks have even qualified for Kona under his guidance. Besides his experience, Todd is a super nice guy and very easy to work with, which is so important in a coach-athlete relationship. And after working with Todd for the last 4 weeks I can definitely confirm that that is all true. I am definitely looking forward to some great outcomes in my events and also gaining some new coaching knowledge from him too.
Race weight? Not! So after having two vacations in two months(December & January), which I hope to post about soon, I started out my training season a bit on the heavy side. I didn’t hit the 2-bill club, but at the max was about 2 lbs shy of it at 198lbs. This is far-and-above my optimal 170-175 race weight for the season. I definitely have my work cut out for me. So far I am already down about 10lbs after only 4 solid weeks of training. Progress in the right direction. Keeping tabs on my caloric intake, elimination of microbrew consumption and an increase in training load should bring everything under control well before my B race at Syracuse.
One thing I really like about Coach Todd is that he stresses the importance of strength training integrating it into my weekly training plan. I used to add it to my plan, but would frequently blow it off. Lately though, I have been realizing the importance of it and being accountable to someone else helps to make sure it gets done. I have a good feeling that it will make a huge difference in my results this season. I have been really consistent with it over the last six months and have developed a good foundation to start the season.
Swimming is starting to come around finally after taking 3 months off from the pool. I kind of felt taking that much time off was a mistake since it took me a month or so to get back to where I was prior. Now I finally starting to feel stronger again in the pool. Todd has been integrating some drill work too which has helped bring back some form to my technique.
I have been spending a good amount of time on the bike trainer this season due to the weather. I did get out for a road ride a couple weeks ago and felt pretty strong out there. I think a lot of the pre-season work I did using TrainerRoad has laid a good foundation on the bike. My initial FTP test earlier this season was pretty low(~220’s), but my last one was up to 237. I am just starting to feel like I am outgrowing my power zones so I think the next test should put me back into the 250’s again.
I have also seen some recent progress in my running. Todd has kept most of my runs so far in the Zone 2 HR range and I am noticing my pace is increasing at the same heart rate. I also think that losing 10 lbs is a big help with that too. I usually do most of my mid-week work on my treadmill due to the lack of daylight and then get outside for my longer runs on Sunday. I definitely looking forward to the time change coming up so I can start breathing in some fresh again.
That’s about all for now. I have been slacking a bit on my blogging but definitely want to get back into the swing of things again. I have a couple posts waiting in the wings on our recent trips to Banff, Canada and Sedona, AZ during the off-season.
For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.
I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.
Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.
Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.
The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened! I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.
The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers. The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!
I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.
If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.
When the Ironman/WTC folks announced their new “Ironman University” coaching program there was a ton of negative comments posted all over the web and social media. The program was slated as a 14-day online program that would make you a coach, capable of training athletes to complete an Ironman event. With no prerequisites required either. So, basically anybody off the street could plop down $600(now $700), complete the course and become an Ironman-certified coach.
I have to admit, I am as cynical of WTC as many others are since they are just a corporation mainly out to make money for shareholders. Many of the negative comments were things similar to what Coach Brett Sutton had stated: “14 hours of online study does not make you a coach, and it sure as hell shouldn’t qualify you to take on athletes preparing for the biggest endurance test of their lives.” Yeah, no shit Sherlock! Obviously you are not going to become a Brett Sutton or Matt Dixon after completing 14 hours of online training. But what is really necessary to help someone reach their Ironman goals? Many people succeed with no coaching whatsoever.
I would hope that any person looking to hire a coach for an Ironman event would consider their other qualifications besides just completing the Ironman University curriculum. But, there are many peopIe out there coaching with probably less training than that. It also depends on what the athletes’ goals and their budget are. Not everyone can afford to hire Brett Sutton if all they want to do is cross the finish line in 16 hours and 59 minutes. On the other hand, I really think that WTC should have some type of requirement as to IU attendees having finished at least an Ironman or two to show they have at least have some experience and been through the rigors of completing the event.
I decided to try to take a more positive look at this course. I have been coaching myself for the past couple years after having been coached for a few years before that. My coach had passed along much his knowledge to me and I read everything I can get my hands on to build as much knowledge as I can about the sport. I have attended workshops on things like ChiRunning and functional strength training to expand on that knowledge. I would love to be able to coach other people in triathlon someday. This would be a great way to give back to the sport that has done so much for me personally. For now I just want to accumulate as much knowledge and experience as I can about the sport. Much of the knowledge I gain I put into practice myself to determine what really works and what does not.
I have also been investigating what I would need to do become a certified coach. USA Triathlon is the typical standard certification that most coaches mention in addition to their experience. Well, in order to attend a level 1 USA Triathon coaching clinic, One requirement is that you have to have a reference from someone that you have already coached. Huh? So, basically you have to have already coached someone with NO Qualification before attending level 1? Wouldn’t it be better to provide some education before certification? Why isn’t anyone complaining about that? So how do I learn the things I need to learn in order to coach someone so that I can get certified?
The USA Triathlon certification is also ~$550 plus it requires you to travel to a major city and pay for lodging for at couple nights. Surely an investment of over $1000. If I do consider pursing this coaching thing going forward, I would still look to complete this, but I obviously have to have some kind of education and experience in coaching first. I don’t see USAT providing any education before certification.
The Ironman course seems pretty expensive at $600, but I considered what I would pay for a coach at around $150/month for one season for 6 months…$900. You also have a curriculum put together by 5 of THE BEST coaches in the business and access to their knowledge. Even if I am only using this knowledge for myself, why wouldn’t I do this just for coaching myself?
I also frequently help guide friends who are training for Ironman or other triathlons. Having a good base knowledge of triathlon coaching in addition to my personal experience would highly benefit them as well. Some friends are just downloading random training plans off the web, so I would think my little bit of knowledge that can be customized for an individual would be better than that.
The convenience of the online medium for the Ironman course is also bonus. I can complete this course on my schedule at my pace and not have to fly somewhere to attend in person. I don’t know where the “14 day” piece comes in, since you have 90 days to complete the course work. Perhaps they are referring to the 12 modules included in the course, plus maybe a couple extra days? Not sure really.
Despite all the negativity about Ironman University on the web, I have decided to pursue this. Even if I gain some valuble knowledge for only coaching myself, it will be well worth the $600. If it also provides me with the ability to help some friends get through their first race and get me a Level 1 USAT certification down the road, than even better. What is wrong with learning, especially if you can learn from some of the best in the business. You have to start somewhere and I think that this is a good opportunity to do that.
The Ironman University course was opened up for use late in August and I have been using the tool for a few weeks now. It is obviously, full of Ironman propaganda, but it so far chock full of well laid out information. It also has good exercises along the way to demonstrate and further reinforce the concepts it teaches. There are also handouts for each section, with sample questions and area to make notes.
I have to say I am pretty impressed with it. Technically it works pretty well too. The only bug I ran into was when I had to exit the course in the middle of section and then tried to come back to that point later. It just showed a blank white window, so I had to start the section over again. Not a bid deal since it was probably good to reinforce that again.
Some of the areas that I am curious to see about is about teaching topics like swimming technique and nutrition. Swimming is a complex beast and I would not feel comfortable teaching someone who was not a good swimmer(like I was in 2008) to become one. This is something that should be left to someone more highly qualified for sure. I am also curious to see if they try injecting their sponsors, like Chocolate Milk, into the nutrition curriculum. I have seen enough evidence about dairy and especially milk, to know that this is NOT a food that belongs in a healthy diet. That goes double when pour a bunch of sugary chocolate syrup in it too. Stay tuned for future posts about the program as I make my way through the course.
Several 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.
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…
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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!
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?”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.