Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2013 - Pre-Race and Swim
This post could definitely have been titled "It was the best of times; It was the worst of times". On Sunday I completed Ironman Coeur d'Alene (CDA). One hundred and forty point six miles of swimming, biking and running. It was tough. Tougher than I had ever expected. But I guess that is the challenge of ironman. There would be no accomplishment if it was easy. And there is a strange satisfaction that comes from doing something really hard. It seems odd to admit that even despite the low moments I faced during the day I never doubted that the end would justify the means. That any struggles that I experienced would be forgotten when I entered the finishers chute and crossed the finishline. Ironman is really about the journey to the finishline.
My lead up to the race was pretty low key. I tried to stay away from the hype and just take it easy. I was still recovering from the respiratory infection that I had picked up the week before. My antibiotics ran out on the Friday but unfortunately they didn't quite do the job so by Saturday morning all my symptoms were back. There goes any chance of a good swim! Lunch time Saturday I went to drop off my bike and gear bags and I meet up with a friend who was also racing and who had been suffering from stomach flu...(you can see where this is going). I got home from the drop off and I felt awful. I couldn't eat lunch or dinner the night before the race, I was dizzy when I stood up and all my muscles were aching.I knew I was in trouble. Why do these things always happen just before race day? Respiratory infection and stomach flu....sheesh. Not a good pre race combination. But I decided to make the commitment and try and race and see what happened. I'd come so far I wasn't going to give up without trying.
Race morning I woke up at 3:30am and tried to get some food in. My body wasn't really interested but what I did get down stayed there. Matt, our friend Ron ( who were both volunteering in bike transition) and I headed out to the race at 4:30am.We got there around 5:00am and had plenty of time to pump tyres, drop off special needs, visit the port-o-potty and get body marked. I was pretty relaxed and didn't feel any nerves.I guess that is the benefit of letting go of any performance expectations I had. The weather was absolutely perfect,especially since the previous week had been stormy,rainy and windy. There was a little low lying fog out over the water but that soon lifted and it looked absolutely perfect.
Everything was really well organized and ran smoothly. The volunteers as always at Ironman events were awesome. Before I knew it,it wa time to suit up and get ready to swim. The biggest problem I had was trying to make it through the crowd to get down to the water for the swim start. The sidewalk was full of spectators and it was gridlock. Eventally I found a way through the maze and down to the beach. And as usual for me this is the only time I get nervous. Just before the horn sounds.
CDA had a new process of swim start this year. Previously it was a race known for its mass start and stories of being swum over and pushed under. This year due to safety concerns they decided to make some changes. Now I had never experienced the washing machine that was the old swim start but I have to say I give the big thumbs up to this new process. It's really just like the start of any marathon. You line up in order of your expected finish time. The faster people go first and the slower people at the back. The different sections were under an hour, 1:00-1:15 and so on. They also had some platforms that were anchored at points around the course that you could hang on to if you wanted to catch your breath. There was some criticism that this would subtract from the IMCDA appeal but my opinion is it was a great improvement since athlete safety at these events has to be a prime concern.
So, back to the swim......I found my friend and swimming partner Ken with surprising ease. I thought there would be no way I would find him in a crowd of 2,700 people, but he was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit so he was pretty easy to spot. We chatted briefly with another friend Jeremy then lined up in the 1:15-1:30 line. In no time we heard the sound of the horn and the fast people up front were off. Official start time was 6:35am and it took 9 minutes for the line to move along before it was our turn to get in. While we were waiting Ken and I were watching everyone getting in the water and we made a last minute decision to swim the inside line along the buoys.
Once I got in I found lots of open water and it wasn't the crush I was used to at other swim starts. The only tough part was going around the turn buoys. Lots of people converging on a small space. There was lots of kicking and leg pulling but once I was around the 2 turn buoys it spread out again. There was a little swell out near the buoys but generally the water was calm and flat. I had intended to try and swim easy so as not to aggravate the problems I'd been having with my breathing during the week. I stuck a rescue inhlaer up the leg of my wetsuit just in case I had an asthma attack out in the water but luckily I didn't need it. the first lap I did in 41 mins. yikes....I WAS taking it easy. Out of the water and you have to run across the timing mat and then back into the water for another 1.2 miles. The second lap went much the same way as the first but I swam it way slower. I wasn't very happy coming out of the water and seeing my swim time but the upside was that I wasn't in the least bit tired. Ready to get out of my wetsuit and get on to the bike.