Ironman Coeur d’Alene was one of the hardest and definitely the hottest thing I have ever done. And, although not the outcome I trained for – 106F = goal paces out the window – it was a huge deposit in the mental toughness bank and big fuel on the fire. Onward to Ironman Wisconsin!
Because of the record hot forecast, race officials moved the start up an hour to 5:45a, which meant a 3a alarm. Up and at ’em and race morning rituals later, my amazing sherpas Nick and Sonia (seriously, no way I would have made it to the race without them) and I headed to city park.
Pre-IM ritual… wise words from Lynne Cox.
Nothing fancy once we arrived. I checked my bike special needs bag, calibrated my Garmin and loaded my bike with nutrition. And, because I’m not a bike mechanic, I handed my bike over the fence to Nick so he could pump my tires… because presta valves! Good thing, too, because the rear one unscrewed, which would have made me panicky had I done it.
The best sherpas ever!
SWIM // 1:09:49, 1:48/100m, 16th AG
Amid the sea of wetsuit-clad triathletes, I somehow found Monica and we chatted for a bit before a quick warm-up swim. After that, I positioned in the 1:05-1:15 wave and after standing on the right for a bit, decided that wasn’t where I wanted to line up, so ran through the masses to the left side so I’d hit the inside of the buoys easier.
Lake Coeur d’Alene didn’t disappoint… perfect temp (72F!), so clean and clear you could see the bottom for a good portion of the swim. Both loops cruised by and not once did I run into anyone. Maybe I swam a bit too far inside the buoys?! (I’m still learning how to swim harder.) Regardless, it was lovely. I didn’t even mind the quick run on the beach between loops. My only complaint: the swim out arch was black and nearly impossible to see against the backdrop of pine trees.
As I exited the water, I stole quick glance at the clock – 1:26 – and my oh-this-felt-like-a-decent-swim thoughts dissipated. When a volunteer told me it was the AG time, my heart sank. It certainly didn’t feel like that (it wasn’t, obviously, and was instead an IM swim PR!). Brush it off, I told myself… go get ’em on the bike. My swim time didn’t cross my mind again.
Nick managed to find me in the sea of swimmers, all the way to the first red buoy!
Nutrition (pre-race): two black cherry Clif shot blok chews (forgot to bring a Gu), bottle of Osmo Hydration active, Imodium (lifesaver on the run… no GI upset).
T1 // 3:15
Aero helmet (coach and I went back and forth about this vs. my road helmet… he won), tri shoes and sunnies on, and out the door (close to bike out!).
BIKE // 5:53:35, 19.01 mph, 172w avg, 8th AG
From the get-go, my legs felt great, as in riding 15 watts higher than my target great. I knew I had some time to make up from the swim, so I went with it, knowing that I could dial it back a bit if needed. It was early and cooler, so the first out-and-back to Bennett Bay was still shaded as volunteers set up the run aid stations that would later be in full sun. I waved to Sam running along the path here, and as I cruised back through town, saw my sherpas and parents cheering.
The first loop on 95 was fantastic and so much fun! I settled into the long climb, legs still feeling great, so took it all the way to the top in my big ring, never going over my target peak watts. This loop zoomed by and before I knew it, I was back in Bennett Bay picking my up still-icy Osmo in special needs… such a treat! (One of the best decisions of the day to stop in SN for these.)
By the time the second loop on 95 came around between miles 70-90, it was almost like Mother Nature flipped a switch for the inferno. Pavement temps soared to 146F, and no lie, it felt like my entire body, especially my face, was on fire. I took two water bottles at every single aid station (the entire bike) – one went into my aero cage and the second to douse my entire body. And, while the volunteers were incredible – I cannot say enough good things about these folks! – there weren’t nearly enough aid stations on this stretch of the bike… because more water!
By the time I reached the turn around at mile 90, I was beginning to question my sanity for continuing to race in such ridiculous weather. It was awful. The descent back into CdA improved – except for the sketchy single file bridge crossing – but man, I felt so bad for the folks just starting that section… so many walking their bikes up the climb, looking so defeated.
Gear: Argon 18 E-118, Cobb Cycling Fifty Five JOF saddle, Zipp Firecrest 808s, Garneau Vorttice aero helmet, Castelli T1:stealth top (this top saved my back from frying and helped keep me cool), Coeur Sports tri shorts, Sidi T3 shoes, Oakley Miss Conduct sunnies (so much better than the clear helmet visor).
Nutrition: Eating was next to impossible because of the heat; I had no appetite and had to force myself to take in calories. And, even then, most bites took a couple minutes to chew and swallow (which is why so low in calories). What I ate: one Ally’s Bar + one bite of a second one, one maple pecan Bobo’s Oat Bar, one pack caffeinated black cherry Clif shot bloks (easiest nutrition to eat), BASE Performance salt (click it, flick it and lick it every five miles), four bottles Osmo Hydration active, water at every single aid station. (I peed on my bike somewhere on Highway 95!)
Garmin note: As I rolled into T2, I consciously reminded myself to look at my average watts on my Garmin. Good thing, too, because when I went to upload my data, it wasn’t there. Chalk it up to it not working properly the day prior to the race; every time I turned it on it said “working.” It worked fine race morning, finding satellites and calibrating immediately, so I’m not sure what happened. Super frustrating.
T2 // 4:11
I’m not a quitter, but in T2, I was thisclose to handing in my chip. I had no idea how I was going to get through a marathon in 106F and full scorching sunshine. After taking an extra couple minutes to collect myself and get a pep talk from super sherpas Nick and Sonia, I put one foot in front of the other and started the run. Because never give up.
This sums up the run pretty well… haha!
RUN // 4:19:22, 9:53 pace, 6th AG
There isn’t much to say about the run other than it was survival mode punctuated by all the ice down the kit, every single garden hose to the face (not kidding), cold towels, squishy shoes, seeking out every single slice of shade, running the mile I was in and putting one foot in front of the other. Forward IS a pace. I walked the giant climbs to Bennett Bay on both loops (as did everyone else) as well as through every single aid station so I could load my kit with ice and sponges and down cola and water.
Survival mode also kept my focus away from my right ankle. Some posterior tibial tendonitis flared up during my last long run, so playing it smart, coach had me take a solid eight days off from running two weeks out from race day. That rest, combined with a few ART treatments at Orthology, helped get me back to running relatively pain-free.
I’m incredibly grateful for John, the guy who ran with me and motivated me during miles 5-10… perhaps the hardest miles of the marathon. He kept my mind off the heat as we chatted about triathlon, training and life. And, for the BASE Performance guys at the halfway mark; pretty certain the amino drink Ryan gave me saved my second half. And, the volunteers! THE BEST. It was brutal running, but I cannot imagine standing there all day on that frying pavement.
Throughout the second half of the run, I went back and forth with three or four ladies in my AG. I’d pass them between aid stations and they’d pass me when I walked to load my kit with ice. They all kept me motivated to keep going – I knew Kona was so close! With two miles to go, one of my friends was within eyesight just ahead, so I dug deeper than I ever thought possible and dropped my pace to 7:45 (while my HR shot up near 170… worth it for the Strava QOM of the last mile!). I had to get to that finish line and get into the Lake CdA to cool down… that’s all I could think about… just stopping, cooling down, and drinking the ice cold Mexi Coke and Osmo recovery shake waiting for me at the finish.
The last six blocks on Sherman were quiet, and I remember thinking… wow, this is a wide street to run down, and where IS everyone?!
Gear: Coeur Sports kit, Hoka One One Clifton 2 and trucker hat, Feetures elite socks, lululemon flow Y sports bra.
Nutrition: Osmo Hydration preload + active mix (in my handheld at the start of the run), three black cherry Clif shot blok chews, cola starting at mile 3, BASE Performance amino and electrolyte salt. Again, not enough nutrition.
OFFICIAL RESULTS // 11:30:12, 6th AG, 39th OA
And, just like that, there was the magical finish line. After such a brutally hot day, I’ve never been happier to cross one!
After a quick visit to the outdoor med tent to cool down with icy towels and just sit, I made a beeline for the lake. Taking off my soaked shoes and sitting in the cool water… amazing!
This guy ♥
One of the highlights of the race: turning my “fake friends” (as Nick calls my twitter friends) into real life friends! So fun to meet these two ladies, Liz and Christine, and catch up over Mexi Cokes post-race. Christine rocked it, and after being sick, Liz made the tough, but smart decision to not race the entire thing; she’s going to crush IM Canada, no doubt about it.
And, so grateful my fantastic parents were there to cheer me on – and, support me through this crazy lifestyle (when I know they’d likely rather I settle down and have babies!). Thank you! ♥
And, icing on the day (after sitting in the med tent for an hour or so… because delayed race hangover): cheering Monica down Sherman and across her first 140.6 finish line during the final minute. It’s been such a treat to coach her this season, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. So much grit, determination, heart and courage!
The best (and only) picture of us post-race.
A huge thank you to my team, Coeur Sports, for all their incredible support this year. It means the world! And, to Osmo Hydration, ROKA Sports, Cobb Cycling, Sound Probiotics and Pure Clean Powder… THANK YOU! I couldn’t race without any of you ♥