Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene RR, part 1

note: THANKS for your patience. I know it has been a stupidly-long time since my race, but I had hoped to get the entire race report out in one bit. Lucky for you, its just so darned long that I'll put it out in bits. Today is the pre-race, swim, and first transition. Enjoy! Oh - and sit back with a cup of coffee, beer, wine, or beverage of your choice. Or all, even...

Well. I've got exactly 10:49:2? to get this race report out. But I think my Bainbridge Island friends (and family) will go nuts if I commandeer the computer for that long. So - lucky for YOU!

Here we go....

Is ignorance really bliss?

It’s a question I pondered in the weeks leading up to Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Would I rather go into the race knowing or not knowing...? I knew there would be highs and lows...I had mentally prepared myself to the best of my ability. And furthermore, I trusted Jen's plan. Completely. I felt ready, was extremely well tapered, and was chomping at the bit to GO!

I knew the energy build-up was reaching a boiling point when 48 hours before race start, I contemplated "sprinting" down the hall towards breakfast. Nope the hunger wasn't that bad and yes, I had to keep myself from running. Save it for Sunday....I kept reminding myself.

But the night before the race and race morning I felt overwhelmed. Physically I KNEW I had trained and was ready. It was just overcoming the mental hurdle...of making peace with the fact that I was about to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run 26.2. I felt silly for even thinking I could go the distance, and tried to convince Nathaniel to drive me back to the hotel on race morning. I figured that I would skip the race, hide under the covers, and drown myself in a sorrow-induced IHOP breakfast.

Instead, I woke up at 3:50, a full ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Without turning on any lights in the main hotel room, I gathered my pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with greek yogurt and dried fruit, baby food bananas, and headed towards the breakfast room at the hotel. Somehow, I met up with Tasha and Deirdre, and we all ate breakfast together – mostly in silence. Tasha looked about as cheery as I felt, and it was all I could do to force my oatmeal down.

It just didn’t taste right. I had incorrectly guessed the water to oatmeal measurement, and the stuff I was eating resembled paste. In addition, I had forgotten to add my dried fruit to said oatmeal BEFORE it got micro waved – so I hastily tossed in a handful after the fact (ROOKIE MISTAKE – I SHOULD HAVE NEVER TOSSED IN THE UNCOOKED DRIED FRUIT. IT CAME BACK TO HAUNT ME DURING MY RACE. STUPID MISTAKE #1. I’m embarrassed to admit it – but figure that if I can prevent anyone else from doing something dumb and different before their first Ironman, well, than what I did won’t be in vain. Besides, my story has a happy ending!)

Deirdre convinced me to eat all of my breakfast and deep down I knew she was right. It just tasted awful and my stomach was just full of knots.

Eventually I made my way back to the room, where to my delight – Mom, Dad, and Nathaniel were all awake and awaiting my return. I hastily threw on my race gear, said a few farewells to the parents, and Nathaniel and I headed out the door in the early morning light. The sun had already risen and the sky looked beautiful. It promised to be a gorgeous day (there – I jinxed it!)

But once in the car on the way to the race site, things went from your-typical-race-morning-jitters to horrible doubts and tears. The enormity of what I was about to attempt, the fears, the emotions – once again overwhelmed me and it was all I could do to keep myself IN the moving vehicle. Dashing out at the next stop sign seemed pretty darned tempting. I could run away and forget everything – start afresh in Alaska!

Actually – IHOP would do just fine.

The Healthy breakfast of blueberry pancakes and banannas and egg product (cholesterol free!) combined with sausage, hash browns, and bacon. We can't all be good all the time...right?

But Nathaniel managed to calm me down. He was perfect, and his thoughtful questions about why I loved the sport helped to sort me out. And THEN he suggested that I call Jen. “If you’re really feeling this bad and that you don’t want to race, I guarantee she’ll know what to tell you.”

I shrugged his suggestion off, knowing that at this point there was nothing anyone could actually DO for me, except to make me feel better. In all reality, I was terrified of the race, afraid of the swim, fearful of blowing up on the bike….For now, I would be just HAPPY to make it to the run. And then there was that marathon thing….

Somehow, after another teary exchange in the car, Nathaniel and I walked down towards transition and before too long I had deposited some last minute products in my gear bags (hello Mother Nature! Thank god for tampons and midol. Too much information, I know...but imagine how ticked off I was! Sheesh - you think you do all you can to control your body and its cycle and then WHAM! Something hits out of left field. Brilliant. But hey - a little fluid retention would be good...right?), and then added my water bottles to my bike. After borrowing a pump and getting my tires topped off - I realized there was not much of anything else I could do.

There were a few other girls from my age group in transition - we all looked pretty much the same, except for one stupidly happy one. She was bouncing all over the place, excited and ready to go – I felt like I wanted to punch her. How could she be so happy, while I felt as though I was being lead to my execution. She looked at me and commented, "Oh my gosh - you really ARE nervous! What's there to be nervous about??? You bike and if you get a flat tire, you fix it... and...."

Before she finished, I had walked away. I know it was rude, but I didn't even feel bad - besides, she had muttered the "f" word.


Thank you! If I wasn't nervous enough, now there was something else to consider. Brilliant. Perky b----.

After standing in the port-o-potty line and doing my usual morning business (thank you! thank you thank you thank you!!!!), I found my old Pensacola training partner Ludi and...basically....stuck to her side.

Ludi, I, and her friend Paula walked around the race grounds, got away from the pre-race hubub and just talked. I have no recollection of what we spoke about - I was too nervous. Eventually we applied body glide (everywhere! THANK YOU Missy! Her advice of body gliding every inch of your body where there is or may be a seam was WONDERFUL! I only had one small bit of chafing and it wasn't even bad!), chamois cream, and Vaseline to the back of my neck (in addition to the body glide...but hey - NO wetsuit bite! YEA!), and pulled on the wetsuits. I added a double cap - silicone under my race cap...the water wasn't too cold - mid 60s at last I heard - but I wanted to make sure my head stayed warm.

The air temperature was hovering in the mid to upper 50s and the wind was really picking up. Holding hands, Ludi and I made our way through the transition zone that had become a zoo of spectators, bid farewell to Paula, and made our way down towards the water. It was jam packed with spectators sitting on the rock wall, and other racers – looking as grim as I felt – heading towards the one opening that lead to the sandy beach.

It was a good 5 or 10 minute walk/shuffle until we were finally lined up on the sand. "Just hold my hand," Ludi whispered.

I was grateful. My teeth were chattering, but it wasn't from the cold. It was nerves. The water looked wavy and choppy, and I could see a few packs of various pro triathletes - who had started 35 minutes before our official start - making their way bravely against the chop. It looked rough and I pitied the small group towards the back who would surely not make it out before the masses of age groupers had their start (as it was - they didn't).

I told Ludi I was going to get in and get acclimated to the water, and she mentioned that she would look for me and watch for me when I was done. There was NO WAY that I wanted to lose contact with her before the race start - but I did want to get wet and get a feel for the water before the start. Looking back - I'm glad that I did. It felt a little cool at first, but after a few strokes I found a good groove. Very quickly a kayak approached me and told me I could only swim paralell to shore - so I turned back in. Not wanting to lose Ludi in the mess of triathletes, I returned to my starting point and climbed out.

Ludi and I quickly found each other and held hands.... We lined up towards the left side - right along the inside of the buoy line....and waited. We could hear the race announcer counting down three minutes, two minutes, and then one minute... I adjusted my goggles one last time, thanked Ludi and told her that I loved her and waited for the cannon fire. The crowd pressed in, and even though we were two or three rows back from the front, I felt myself being pushed from behind towards the water's edge.

Even though I was surrounded by thousands of triathletes and even more spectators - I had never felt so alone.

And then - BOOM!

The cannon fired and Ludi and I plunged into the water - holding hands until the very last moment.

THE SWIM (1:07):

Looking back, I know that I didn't go out hard enough. Conservative was the name of my game for my first Ironman - but in the future, I'll be sure to go out a bit harder. The water was choppy and extremely wavy - whipped to whitecaps by the wind. It reminded me of ocean swells - I thought as I swam along - except the frequency of the waves was much faster than anything I've experienced in the ocean. It was a fight to get out - fight to find a position, and more often than not I was kicked or bumped by other athletes.

I tried to remain calm - reminding myself that NO ONE was out to get me - that I should just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swim-ing, swim-img, swming swiming swiming! What do we do? We swim, swim, swim.

I could feel myself smile, in spite of myself. But then things got serious again a few minutes later. Seemingly, everyone else ahead of me had sprinted at the beginning and were all now slowing down - there was nothing I could do to pass. I tried to go through on the left, then the right, and then back on the left. But there were just no gaps.

I could feel myself getting frustrated, and for the first time I thought about dropping out. But where? There are no kayaks nearby, and if I stop, I'll get swum over by the bozos behind me. Just keep swimming...

Instead, I calmed myself down. Welcome to Ironman, I told myself. This is what the swim is like - it is tough, wavy, and there are lots of people who make contact with you. Just think of masters without the lane lines. And just keep going. Okay - you're doing great! Now, be aware that around the big red turn buoy, it will get a bit fierce - and that's okay. You're doing great - just hang in there! Okay - more wavy...make it to the next turn buoy and things will get better! Just keep swimming!

Rounding the second turn buoy and heading back into shore, I got my first bit of clear water. I was able to swim pretty well, find a bit of space and bridge up to the next larger group ahead. I did my best to pass as many people as possible - and my stroke felt a lot more fluid going back towards shore with the tailwind than going out against the waves. I had calmed down and kept it as easy, but strong as possible.

Hitting the sand, I quickly exited, ran past the timing mat without seeing the clock, and plunged back into the lake for a second loop.

More of the same during my second time around - lots of contact, but this time it was more frenzied than the first loop. Oh well - I figured that I had already done it once, and I could survive it again. Just be wary of the turn buoys, and expect a lot more contact around them - I reminded myself.

I quickly realized that as long as I focused on the task at hand (swimming!) and not the adventure, miles, and work that lay ahead - things and life got easier. My mentality was a lot more upbeat and even in spite of all the contact, kicks, waves, and wind - I was happy.

I'm doing an Ironman!

I didn't see my time as I exited the water, but I was just happy to be OUT. I didn't see as many white caps (women) around me as red (men) - but I knew there were still plenty ahead and much more work to do.

Pulling my arms out of my wetsuit I ran to the wetsuit strippers, taking special care to look for Sister Madonna Buder. Didn't see her and I figured it was just as well. Instead I aimed for the biggest guys and threw myself on the ground. PULL! they yelled - and faster than its ever been stripped off before, my wetsuit was off. Thankfully, my not-so-secret nightmare of having my bike shorts ripped off WITH said wetsuit did NOT happen. Yea! Horray for the small victories! One of my wetsuit strippers hauled me up and yelled GO!


I ran down rows upon rows of bags, located my BLUE BIKE bag, grabbed it by the strings and headed into the dark, woman's changing tent. In the future – as dopey as it may look – I’m going to add colored string or a balloon or SOMETHING to the ends of my bag so I can easily spot it among the thousands of others. I didn’t like having to rifle past one bag after another, but I reminded myself that no one looses a race because they can’t locate their gear bag. In the tent, it took a moment or two for my eyes to adjust, but I quickly found a seat and dumped my gear out. A volunteer quickly settled down by my side and helped me sort through my stuff.

Calmly, I munched on a gel and told her what I wanted. " gels and salt arm warmers....race bet....oh there anything else....? NO - okay let's go!"

I tossed my empty gel wrapper in the bag and thanked my volunteer profusely. I wished her good luck and I hoped that she would get a chance to see her friend later on. I shoved a few gels under my shorts, popped my salt container down my sports bra (plenty of room!), and carried out my shoes. I didn't want to run with my bike cleats through the soft and wet grass, and I knew I could have a faster transition if I threw them on once I hit the concrete path out of T1.

"Number 2059!" I yelled as I exited the tent. One of the many wonderful volunteers pointed me towards my bike. One, two, three, four rows down and towards the end. I saw the pink seat first before I saw anything else....Without further thought, I grabbed the bike, threw on my shoes, and sprinted past the rows of other bikes. I was happy to see LOTS of bikes on the racks around me...but also knew that it would be a long day ahead.

I saw 1:11 and something as I sprinted under the BIKE OUT banner and felt myself get momentarily upset. I had hoped to be out in under 1:10, hopefully 1:05 - but it was what it was. I had survived the swim, made sure that I had everything I needed for the bike, and was going to have a SMART, steady, strong, and solid race.

Somewhere in the distance I heard my name get called and I think I raised my hand to wave - but I had no idea who it was. I hopped on my bike and pedaled out of transition...


Mama Simmons said...

OMG I am *dying* laughing... wondering if maybe I know that perky gal in your age group?? Did you pass her somewhere on the bike? If so, I'm sure I know her. She's in your age group- she passed me on the run at Honu and I would have hit her for her cheeriness had I possessed the energy! She's actualy really nice- just young and PERKY. :)

Cant wait to read the rest of your report...

Damie said...

Okay...can't wait for part 2! Don't pull a Kerrie on me and take for-e-va! And, doesn't it make so much sense now, after worrying about the swim and T1, that the beauty of the triathlon is there are 4 more things left to do, so you can't worry too much about one or two events? Just think if you would have put your head down in defeat after seeing your (great, by the way) swim time...

runningyankee said...

ready for MORE!!

Angela and David Kidd said...

I HATE perky morning people. I can deal with them after 8a.m., but no perkiness before 8.

I think the waiting around for an IM to start is worse than any part of the IM, at least mentally. I always just want to stay in the port-o-potty and cry. And I think I've wanted to quit every race I've ever done during the swim at least once. Ready to read part 2!

Molly said...

OMG the perky bitch thing cracked me up. My friend who I stayed with also got a surprise visit from Mother Nature on race day - fun fun. I might have been one of the ones yelling when you ran out of T1 but you were whizzing by and didn't hear us!

Jennifer Harrison said...

Oh yes! MORE MORE! :))
Um, I am kinda one of those annoyingly perky pre-8am people (but Angela already knows that about me). YES YES Yes!! :))

GoBigGreen said...

I cant possibly fall asleep now..more!!!we want more!!

kerrie said...

yay - finally ;), now don't be as bad as me and take forever to get the rest out!!
i definitely wasn't the perky one - i don't think i would have even been there yet, lol, but yeah, i would have smacked her.(or let air out of her tires just to how quickly she really could change a flat!)

i can't believe you were even nervous at all!!!!

ADC said...

I am waiting for Part 2 ;)

Jennifer Cunnane said...

Great to have you back in blogland.... looking forward to more details!

Dave said...

Clearly I need to take T1 lessons from you. :)

Kim said...

FANTASTIC part 1!!!! laughing about the perky annoying byatch! glad you walked away and did your own thing!

bring on part 2!!!

Laura said...

Anxiously waiting for part 2!

You had a GREAT swim and T1 time chica! It's all relative though, isn't it? And good idea about the shoes - I totally should have done that!

Part2Part2Part2... ;)

Shan said...

More more more more more!

After reading this, I really wish I had been there to help calm your nerves with my silliness :).

Can't wait to catch up!

Caroline said...

You're leaving me hanging! But I know how u feel about the long posts...I wonder if ppl keep reading. Well I am! And the best part is yet to come (for you anyways-the bike!).
I love that your friend held your hand. Those nerves are tough to deal with. Just wait until'll be ecstatic and so excited! (and humbled). The CDA nerves and experience will pay off big time once you hit the BI!

Runner Leana said...

Yay, so excited to read your race report!!! I love all of the details. Fantastic job on the swim!!!!

Aren't you glad that you didn't turn around and just go for IHOP instead?

Beth said...

Oh man! I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels like crying before races or hates everyone in transition. :) And I don't even do IM! That swim sounds ROUGH Marit and especially because I know how strong of a swimmer you are. I bet a lot of people REALLY, REALLY struggled. I can't wait to read the rest!!!!