Monday, August 11, 2014

Coeur D'Alene 2014 Race Recap

Ironman Coeur D’Alene was my third Ironman in as many years. Crossing the finish line of my first, Ironman Mont Tremblant in 2012, is a moment I will never forget.  A switch to coach Russell Van Every in the year leading up to Ironman Florida in 2013 resulted in a completely different approach to Ironman training and I went into that race feeling strong and confident. An amazing day, coupled with a very defined plan resulted in a two hour Ironman PB!

Training for Coeur D’Alene was a tough one, given the horrible weather we endured this past winter. Still I felt ready to see what I could do after having had some good results during tests done as part of my training.

Travelling to and from Coeur D’Alene is not for anyone who gets travel weary or irritated easily. Each way was a long day of flight connections, cancellations, delays, rental cars, and an almost hour drive from the closest airport in Spokane, WA. Travelling with Matt and Blaire helped and we made the best of it. I even got to see the strip in Las Vegas for the first time during a 3 plus hour layover!

Coeur D’Alene itself is a beautiful area with gorgeous views of mountains and the Ironman race site on Lake Coeur D’Alene is idyllic. Unfortunately the two days leading up to the race were cold and rainy but race day was projected to be cool and dry which is perfect for Ironman racing.

Nerves coupled with a marathon of MTV’s Ridiculousness made for a tough time falling asleep and the 4am alarm came way too early (as 4am alarms usually do). Toasted English muffin with PB and banana was forcefully eaten and before I knew it the shuttle taking us to the race site was there.

Body marking, tire pumping, and special needs bags drop off was uneventful and then commenced the dreaded waiting. I hate this part the most. Finally it was time to get the wetsuit on and make our way to the beach.

4am wake up does not look pretty on me!

The super windy conditions made for very choppy waters in the lake. Seeing this, I seeded myself in the back section of the 1:16 – 1:30 swim start group expecting a bit of a slower swim.  After more waiting, and the usual tears as the magnitude of what I’m about to do hits me one final time, the first AGs entered the water and we started the slow procession to the start mat to kick off the day. Unfortunately not everyone took the conditions into consideration when seeding themselves (or people are delusional) as within 100 meters I swam into a wall of people swimming slower than me (and that’s a feat) and panicking from the cold/chop. It was trying to get around this group where my timing chip was pulled off by someone in full on, arm flailing, panic mode. This swim overall was tough for me. Super choppy water and traffic everywhere on both loops meant I never got into much of a rhythm. The cold water started to really affect me too and by the half-way point of the second loop my body was doing that weird, uncontrolled spasm that happens when you get really cold.
Finally out of the water in 1:42 by my Garmin, which also showed I’d swam 4,500 meters (I’m notorious for this – you’d think I liked swimming or something), I told a volunteer that my timing chip was gone. After a bit of confusion (almost 12 minutes worth) I was given a new chip and sent on my way for the bike leg.

The Coeur D’Alene bike course is challenging in it’s own right - two out and back loops with the majority of climbing on the out portion of each loop. Couple that with tremendous headwind (45km/hr at some points) on the out sections and it was like climbing uphill into a wall. Other than that, it’s a beautiful course with really nicely paved roads, and on any other day I might have actually enjoyed it as much as I did IMMT. Unfortunately, the bike did not go well for me and by the time I hit special needs I was talking myself in and out of quitting. The only thing that kept me going was that I couldn’t come up with a reason that I felt was good enough to tell my coach. What was I supposed to say? I was tired? It was hard? I got a flat? It’s Ironman and you’re supposed to be (somewhat tired) and it’s supposed to be hard and flat tires happen to a lot of people. Looking back I was unrefuelled as it was a very cool day and I’m not the most disciplined at keeping up with my nutrition when it’s like that. I’m like a cranky five year old when I don’t have enough food in me so I blame part of my unfocused and dramatic mental state on that. 

Men's socks cut to make arm warmers. All kinds of hot looking!

Throw in a flat tire and it was like the sky was falling. Anyhow, a very long amount of time after I started the bike I finally rolled into T2 and gladly handed my bike off to a nice volunteer who could have pitched it in the lake for all I cared at that point. 

I grabbed my bag and entered the change tent feeling pretty disappointed about how the day had gone so far. A quick change into my socks and shoes and I was ready to get moving. On my way out a volunteer was piling gummy bears into little snack bags and I grabbed one on the way out. Not sure why since I’m not even a huge fan of them. These were the best gummy bears ever made and were just the boost I needed. Mental note – gummy bears in T2 bag for future races.

Nursing my bag of magic gummy bears I headed out onto the run course and honestly started to run angry. I knew what pace/hr I was targeting and although my pace was right there my heart rate was reading higher than it should be. I debated slowing down to get into my target heart rate but the effort didn’t feel above aerobic pace so I decided to throw caution to the wind and keep at that pace for as long as I could. I felt like the worst that could happen was that I would blow up on the run and just add to the gong show of a day.

The run course at Coeur D’Alene is a double loop with a hill at the halfway of each loop that you get to go up, come down, turn right around and go up and down again. It runs along the lake in parts and is all paved. Of the three Ironman races I have done the crowd support on the run course of this race is by far the best. There is almost no part of it that doesn’t have people lining it to some degree. I was trucking along and feeling really good passing tons of people that were walking. I think that bike course really chewed up a lot of legs and racers were paying for it on the run. Having had the issues I did on the bike I ended up biking at under my target watts so at least my legs were “fresh” for the run. I made a point to take a little something, anything that looked good at every aid station so that I stayed fueled. The first loop flew by and heading back towards downtown and the turnaround I spotted a guy up ahead with a 44 on his calf. I’m not sure why this guy stood out to me but as I passed him he told me that he had been going back and forth with me all day and that I looked really strong and his goal was to keep me in his sights for the run. I thanked him and wished him luck and saw him not far behind me at the turnaround downtown and again coming back after the last turn around at the hill. This is where things started to really get hard.  The last 10k of the Ironman run is where I really need to dig deep to keep things together both physically and mentally. I was keeping my goal pace and finally reached the spot where you go one way for the second loop and the other to head towards the finish. 1k to go! Right here was the tiniest incline that caused an injury that I’d had a few weeks earlier really rear it’s head. It had started to creep up but something pulled and the pain stopped me in my tracks. I started to walk and try to stretch it out when that same guy pulled up beside me, put a hand on my back and said, “Oh no, I never thought I would see you walk one step. You are running this in and crossing the finish line in front of me where you belong.” I thanked him and we ran side by side. Coming around a corner the entire downtown is closed off and the streets were packed with people screaming like we were the winners. I’m not sure what my pace was but I felt like I was sprinting a 5k. About 100m from the finish that guy touched my shoulder, high fived me congratulations, and dropped his pace a bit so I could have the chute to myself. I crossed the finish line with a run time of 4:15. A 15 minute run PB from Ironman Florida and exactly what Russ had predicted I’d run. A very nice volunteer caught me, put a Mylar blanket around me and asked me if I needed medical. I told her that I just needed to stop moving and could I please sit. I sat on the ground for a few minutes and she stayed with me to make sure I was ok.

At the half way point. Before shit got real.

In the end a 14:05 wasn’t the race I wanted to have and that’s a tough pill to swallow when you put so much time, money, effort, and focus on one day. I’m glad I didn’t quit though. As disappointed as I am about my swim and bike times I’m super proud of the run I put together and as a sign on the run course said, “Pain is temporary. Results on the Internet are forever.”

Thanks for reading.

One day I will finish as Ironman in the light of day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Catching Up

The last couple of weeks have been busy with training and racing. Here is a brief recap of what's been up.

Time Trial #1 - April 22nd was the first in a series of 5 time trial races that I'm signed up for again this year (I did the same series last year). The TT is 4 loops of a 6k course out in Essex County. There is an aero and Eddy (road bike) division and I'm racing aero. The weather on the 22nd was brutal. We're known for wind here (in the absence of hills it's our own special Hell) but this night was ridiculous. Coupled with the freezing temperatures it made for a slow and painful night. Here's hoping the remaining dates see some decent weather!

Ciocaro Race #1 and 2 - Here's Mary getting out of her comfort zone. A couple of years ago I joined a local cycling team called Tower International. It's a group of about 20 guys who are road racers that were looking to start up a women's team. There are five of us girls now and in addition to having some fast guys to train with we race in the local crit series (the guys also do some other Ontario Cup and Michigan races but I only do the local stuff). These races are every other Thursday night and I'm not gonna lie - I am not good at this type of racing. It's 20 minutes of gut busting, all out racing where you need to be comfortable racing your road bike elbow to elbow at speeds of 30-40km/hr around a 1.5km circular track. I'm way more comfortable on my tri bike, cruising along at a brisk pace without having to worry about anyone else's sketchy moves.

Le Chocolat 1/2 Marathon - On Sunday I raced the Le Chocolat 1/2 marathon here in Windsor. I like to do a spring 1/2 every year and was stoked that there was finally one in my city - 5 minutes from my house to boot! I usually have to hop across the border to Michigan which means super early mornings, crossing the border, etc. Let me say that the convenience of the location of this race will never be enough to entice me back. I'm spoiled perhaps with having run some pretty well done races and this was just not even close. $90 which I thought was really steep. The "swag" was a 3L bottle of wine in a box shaped like a purse. I'm not a drinker so this was totally lost on me. And a box shaped like a purse? What possible good is that? There were also aid stations manned by local fireman and "all you can eat chocolate" at the finish line. Unfortunately the course was really convoluted and boring (2 and half loops plus the last portion back on a walking trail) and worst of all the course was long by 230 meters! For someone like me that races for the thrill of training and trying to improve on times and not for gimmicky things like firemen at aid stations and all you can eat chocolate I was pretty bummed about that! I ended up doing not bad, especially given that I was not at all tapered and had ridden 4.5 windy hours the day before. My official time was 1:49:48 which is a 7 second PB. In actuality though, if the course had been the correct length my time would have been 1:48:34 - a 1:21 improvement! Incidentally the "all you can eat chocolate was a lunch bag with a brownie and a danish, some warm containers of chocolate milk (don't eat dairy so no good for me), and a plate with half a banana, a pretzel stick, and a paper cup with about a tablespoon of chocolate sauce for dipping. To add insult to injury anyone that finished over 2hrs didn't end up with any of the chocolate treats because they ran out. Not cool.

Epic week of training coming up which I strangely look forward to, gearing up for the first race weekend of the season in two weeks, the American Tripe T. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 20, 2014


As Ironman Coeur D'Alene gets closer the long training weekends are returning. Unpacking the car this afternoon I was reminded of just how much stuff a day like today generates and how much planning goes into it!

On today's schedule was an hour swim, followed by a four and half hour endurance ride, followed by a brick run. Since my house is at least 45 minutes in city traffic before I can get anywhere decent enough to ride I take everything with me in the morning.

The list -

Swim - suit, towel, swim bag with all the gear, water.

Overnight oats to eat afterwards.

Bike - helmet, bike shoes, three different options for bottoms and tops because Mother Nature cannot make up her damn mind about what season we are in, three water bottles with Roctane mix, 4 gels, bike, heartrate monitor, Garmin.

Run - running tights, running shoes, hat.

After - recovery drink for after the run.

Now, granted, the amount of stuff I'll have to lug around will get a bit lighter as the weather becomes more predictable but what a pain in the neck!

In the end it all went pretty well today. The pool was quiet, except for the guy in the lane next to me had the loudest watch I've ever heard. It was constantly beeping and I could hear it when I was at the other end of the pool - weird! The ride was pretty quiet too which was probably as a result of all the people doing Easter Sunday things and not driving around the county in their cars. It also ended up being a beautifully sunny (but as usual for Essex county windy) day. The run was kind of a bummer. I was terribly overdressed and felt awful. My Garmin also crapped out on me just over half way into the 30 minutes making me have to finish by feel. No idea if I hit the paces I was supposed to.

When I got back to the car I had a message from my mom that she was making my favourite stuffed artichokes! I dragged my tired, sweaty self over to her house and had a delicious dinner, got some leftover artichokes for dinner tomorrow, and dragged myself home to unpack, get showered, and revive the old blog :) Tomorrow is Easter Monday and I have the day off as a holiday. God bless the government.

Happy Easter everyone!

And, She's Back

Well friends, I'm back. It's been two and a half years since my last post. Is it ironic that on Easter Sunday that last sentence sounded like the beginning of a Catholic confession? No? Anyway, yes, two and half years. Time flies and I'm constantly reminded of how true that saying, "The days are long but the years are short" is. In the time since I've been gone, in case any of my tens of followers are still out there and interested, there have been a handful of half-marathons, two(!) Ironman races, a few 70.3's, a broken finger from a crash that required surgery, some triumphs, more than a few disappointments, a new house, and a job change. The one constant has been triathlon. Other than a couple of scheduled rest weeks after Ironman racing, my training has continued as I'm always looking forward to the next race. This year the two biggies are Ironman Coeur d'Alene June 29th and Ironman Maryland, September 20th. Hopefully you'll follow me on my journey.