Posted by: bradhammond | July 6, 2011

Race Report – Coeur d’Alene Ironman

Prerace:

I got up at 4 and ate breakfast – granola with milk and banana, then did my usual routine of  back exercises and stretching. At 4:45 I woke up my daughter Kayla so she could have some breakfast and get ready to drive me in. I started filling a plastic shopping bag with items that I needed to put on my bike before the race – my bike shoes, bottles of sports drink, and packed my swim stuff into my “Dry Clothes” bag. I usually use a rubber band to keep my bike shoes from dragging on the ground while I run out of transition, but I didn’t have any with me and finally decided to just use some dental floss.

We rented a house about 30 minutes away, and we left at about 5:15 so that I would have plenty of time to set things up in transition and change into my wetsuit. I had Kayla drop me off a few blocks away, and walked to transition. I had a moment of panic when I realized that I had left my bento box nutrition at the house – I cut caramels and shot blocks in half, and coat them with dextrose so they don’t stick together, cutting the caffienated ones diagonally so that I can recognize everything by feel. I had two bottles of sports drink, but I knew that I needed more calories and electrolytes. I relaxed a bit when I realized that I could get into my “Bike-to-Run” bag and get the smaller sandwich bag of nutrition I had put in there. I snapped my bike shoes onto the pedals, tied one in place so it wouldn’t drag, and hurried over to get into my transition bags. I got what I had, put it on the bike, noticed that the floss had come untied from the bike frame and spent a few frustrating minutes getting it to stay tied.  I had hoped to borrow a good pump from someone near me in transition and make sure my tires were fully inflated, but didn’t get a chance. I squeezed and thought they were probably hard enough. I changed into my wetsuit and got my “Dry Clothes” bag dropped off just before the Pro start.

Swim: 


I thought the fastest and most aggressive would swimmers would line up at the left side, near the line of buoys, so I tried to head over to the right. If I could swim in a straight line to the buoy we turned around, I though the distance would be just as short. I waded in and submerged my face a few times, blowing bubbles and trying to get used to the water temp – that was my whole warmup! I got back out and found a spot about 3 rows back. Several times I heard that we were going to start in 8 minutes. I’m not sure whether we were starting exactly at 7 or whether they were waiting for the slowest pro swimmers to finish lap 1 and get away from the beach.

Finally the cannon sounded and we surged into the water – hooray, I’m finally swimming! The swim was incredibly crowded. I didn’t mind too much when people whacked my legs, but sometimes I’d get an elbow or arm from the side that hurt. I’m not sure of the exact cause/effect order, but my goggles let in some water on my right eye and I kept getting blindsided and getting the unexpected shots to my head and goggles from whoever was swimming on my right. I didn’t bother trying to sight, just going with the flow of people, until we were near the red turning buoy.

I had planned to go wide around the turns to avoid some traffic, and I did, but it was still crowded. I sighted more often on the way back in. Finally I got to the end of lap 1 and walked out of the water and across the timing mat. (I’d have run, but it was too crowded.) I reset my goggles, and noticed a big clock that said 7:38. Doing the first swim lap in about 38 minutes was right in line with my expectations, so I was in pretty good spirits as I started lap 2. I had some swims last year where it felt like my throat was constricting a bit, and it was hard to get enough air through. I thought it might be an allergic reaction, so I made sure to take my allergy pills before the race, but it still bothered me in this swim, too. I sighted a lot on lap 2, got clobbered a few more times, and tried to finish strong. When I got out, the clock said 8:20, so I must have slowed down a bit on lap 2. I think the wind had picked up and created some waves, as I noticed going up and down with swells during lap 2.

T1: 

I grabbed my “swim to bike” bag and jogged into the changing tent. I got my wetsuit stripped and found a chair to sit and change a bit. I took some time to towel off and I put on my bike shirt, socks, and gloves. I made a spur of the moment decision that it was warm enough to skip the windbreaker, so I put on my helmet and stuffed all my swim stuff in the bag. I didn’t see a volunteer to take my bag, but I saw a pile near the tent exit, and I tossed it there. I asked for sunscreen, and found out that I had some huge raw spots on the back of my neck – chafing from my wetsuit had taken off a lot skin, although I barely felt it during the swim. There were some empty port-potties, so I peed for the first time since leaving the house. I found my bike and ran it out to the mount line. It was probably a pretty slow T1 time. I was wearing my Garmin and trying to time my race, but I hit the start/stop button (stopping timing for a while) at the end of the swim and had it stopped for most of my time in T1. I did get it restarted and advanced it to start timing my bike split before I got on the bike.

Bike: 

I think the first part of the bike course is really easy. I started drinking and eating right away, and tried to hurry along without over exerting myself. We went past the “bike special needs” bags before the 10 mile mark and I was a bit surprised that they were yelling about the bags and some people stopping so soon. At the first aid station I tried to grab a gel, but I missed connecting and didn’t get anything. I realized that my mini-bottle of EFS syrup (400 cal, lots of electrolytes) was not in the back pocket of my shirt, but in the side pocket of the windbreaker I had decided not to wear – it seemed like I was subconsiously determined to screw up my nutrition!

Coming back through town I saw a bank thermometer that said 60, and the weather was really perfect for riding. There was a second aid station near the 20 mile mark, but it was flat and I had a lot of momentum so I stayed to the left and sped by without getting anything. I still had stuff of my own and was keeping up the eating and drinking, figured I could stop for stuff later. The toughest hills are between miles 20 and 30, and I worked really hard going up the hills, standing for part and sitting for part. The 3rd aid station is just after the top of a hill, maybe mile 29, and I grabbed a gel from one volunter, and a gel + banana piece from a second volunteer. These went down pretty well, but it was a lot trash in my bento box, making it harder to get to my own stuff. The banana peel was the biggest, so I didn’t take any more banana pieces.

A little ways before the bike split timing mat there was mile marker that said 90 – I thought “I’ll sure be happy when I see that on the second lap, with only 22 miles to go and all of the toughest hills behind me!” I glanced at my watch to try and figure out how fast I was going, but my watch was showing total time for the race, and I wasn’t sure exactly how many miles I had gone. I poked a button so that my watch was showing time for the bike leg and waited until mile 40 to check again. I think it was about 2:05, which would be slower than 20 mph, but probably a bit faster than 6 hour pace for the bike split. I threw out all my trash as I got to the aid station and grabbed a gel and bottle of cold water, managed to refill my aero bottle and toss the empty water bottle by the end of the aid station.
The rest of lap 1 went very smoothly; I could hear the announcer saying my name and where I was from as I started out on lap 2. My legs were not terribly tired, just a little fatigued, and I was happy to see that the first part of the bike course still seemed easy.

I passed tons of people at the turn-around / bike special needs area, and continued to get 1 or 2 gels at each aid station. I kept seeing the same people passing me as earlier in the race – some people are faster uphill, some  downhill, so even though we averaged about the same pace we’d pass a lot and get quite a bit of separation on the varying terrain. When I got to the tougher hill sections on lap 2, I tried standing up a bit, but my quads basically said “Sit back down, or we might cramp up on you!” so I was just getting in lowest gears and spinning up all the hills. I got to that 90 mile sign, and grinned happily!

It was short lived – a few seconds later my little pump bounced loose from my bike frame and I ran over it with my back tire. Oh crap! With over 20 miles to go, I wanted the security of having a pump with me, so I went another couple hundred yards to the turn-around / timing mat and decided to try and grab the pump on my way back. I biked into the middle of the road and slowed down, then took advantage of a big gap to get my pump back. I snapped my pump on and clipped back into my pedals. It seemed like I was still on pace for about a 6 hour bike split, so I was pretty happy with that, and my legs felt as good as they’ve ever felt after biking that far.
The rest of the bike ride was very uneventful. I managed to pass one guy wearing a tri-suit with USA and his name on the back – I figured he probably had been on the team for age group worlds some year. I turned onto the path to the finish line and pulled my feet out of my bike shoes. I knew that no technical difficulties would keep me from finishing, and I felt great! I checked my watch, and it was 5:58 as I approached the finish.

T2: 

There was a volunteer who took my bike as I entered transition. I had a little trouble finding my bag – there were all arranged in numberical order until 2700, then over 2700 were in a different area. Eventually a volunteer found my bag and I went in the changing tent – I pulled out my
running shoes and a fresh shirt, quickly put them on, and stuffed my helmet, gloves, and bike shirt in the bag. I found a volunteer to take my bag, noted the line for porta-potties, and decided to wait until the first aid station. As I was leaving, I felt like I’d had a very fast transition,
but I was forgetting the search for my bag. I still passed some people though, as I remembered a woman who passed me in the last 2 miles of biking and then passed me again after a few miles of running.

Run: 

I felt pretty good to start the run, or at least as good as you can expect after an Ironman swim and bike. The last 10 miles of biking I could feel a blister on my left foot, and I worried that it would hurt a lot on the run, but it didn’t bother me in my running shoes! I was just a few minutes out of transition when I heard a cheer and spotted my family on the sidewalk, waving and cheering. I yelled and waved back, and kept on running. I ran down a little hill and through a section where they had the “run special needs” bags, and soon after my watch told me that I had run the first mile in about 9 minutes. Soon after that came an aid station, and I decided to take a pee break. There was no line, but I had to wait around for someone to come out. I got a sponge and cooled off, then went in and emptied my bladder.

As soon as I started running I was feeling hot and thirsty – on the bike I can take a sip whenever I want, but on the run I had to wait for aid stations. I think I drank at every single one. At 2 miles, I was a little over 20 minutes, including my pee break, so I felt like I keeping a pretty good pace. I took another pee break at the aid station after mile 4 – I didn’t want to get dehydrated, so it was very important to drink, and it’s harder to feel like drinking with a full bladder. It seemed like when I was really running and not taking a break I was between 11 and 12 minute miles. I expected
to slow down a lot, so it seemed very doubtful that I’d be able to do a 5 hour run split.

Soon after 5 miles my perspective and goals changed a lot! Until then, the run course had been very flat, but there is a big hill between miles 5 and 6. I had run all the way until then, but I thought I would walk part of this hill. Strangely enough, I had been ok running, but on my first or second step of walking my whole right leg cramped up – groin, hamstring, calf – and I keeled over onto the ground in pain, trying to massage out the cramps. Someone asked me if I was alright, and I gave the honest answer “Not really!” I had barely run 5 miles, and my body seemed to be doing the Julie Moss thing – not a good sign. I had some serious thoughts about dropping out, but I really wanted to finish. After about a minute I had rubbed the muscles a lot and gotten back onto my feet. I was afraid that walking might not work I went into a slow, painful jog and tried to will my muscles into staying relaxed and not going back into a cramp.

Somewhere near mile 9 I decided to throw in some walking breaks. At one point when I went from walking back to running I got about 30 steps and some muscles in my lower back started to seize up a little. Some of the pain was near my kidney, and having had a couple of kidney stones, I got quite scared and went back to walking. From that point on I would spend a lot more of the time walking and a lot less of it running. Some miles were about 15 minutes, but some were taking 17 minutes or longer. Near the finish there is a place where people turn left to go to the finish and right if they are on their first loop, I was hoping to see my family again as I
finished the first loop, but they didn’t know the course very well and were watching in a spot where they could only see people heading to the finish.

When I was running east the sun was righton the back of my neck, so I stopped for medical attention to see if they could tape some gauze over my raw neck wounds. They did their best, but I think it came off within a few hundred yards. I hadn’t seen anyone that I knew while biking, but during the run I think I saw everyone else I knew who was doing the race. I was
hurting a lot, but I enjoyed seeing people I knew, even when they were gaining on me and passing me by in the second loop. By the time I got to the big hill for a second time, I wasn’t even sure that I could finish the run in under 6 hours, but I really wanted to finish and I kept on going.

On the way back towards town the sun was right in my eyes for a few miles, but it was starting to get cooler. Finally the sun dropped low enough that I was always in the shade and I managed to make my running parts a little longer, and the miles went a little bit faster. I saw a runner wearing a shirt that said “It doesn’t hurt to tri!”, and I thought “They sure got that wrong! At least it hurts plenty when you try as hard as I do.” Finally I got back to the finish area. If my watch and calculations are correct then it took more than 6 hours to do the run, but I still managed to finish in under 14 hours.

Conclusions: 
I was very happy to finish, and a bit disappointed with my time. In my first ironman distance triathlon I knew I had pushed a bit too hard in the first half of the bike ride. I’m sure some people would say that since my bike split was less time than my run split I must have been biking too fast, but I’m not really sure that’s the case – maybe, but I wasn’t being overly competitive, wasn’t trying to push hard except up the hills, and my legs felt pretty good when I finished biking. My absent mindedness disrupted my nutrition plans, but I felt like I did a pretty good job during the race – it might be a factor, but certainly not the only factor. I trained pretty hard and I didn’t get injured, so I wouldn’t want to change a whole lot about the way I trained for the race. The weather was perfect, and I still ended up having a really tough day. It does seem like a little more evidence that I’m not really well suited to the long distance races. I’m not totally satisfied with my results, but I’m not so confident I can do better that I’m itching for another chance. Maybe I will try a marathon or a 70.3 race later this year, but I’m not in a big hurry to sign up for another full ironman right now.

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Responses

  1. Congratulations Brad, you are one tough dude. The whole dental floss thing thing is a great touch. Take a well deserved break and I look forward to what is in store for you next.
    Paul

    • Great job, fascinating to hear all the details (gear, equipment, pace, nutrition). Feel like I was there watching… Ken


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