After a LONG winter of training with many BAT’s at the Thompson’s and headlamp runs at the Gallagher’s, I was on my way. There were many ups and downs with successful races and ill timed injuries but all in all, when June 21, 2009 rolled around I was ready to go.
Race morning started early, I mean REAL EARLY, as I didn’t sleep much past 1:30am. The alarm was set for 3:15 but I was up and out of bed by 2:15. I was showered, had eaten and was watching TV by 3:00am. Jessi wasn’t supposed to show up until 4:15am so I had plenty of time to kill. Did you know there is nothing good on at the time? Of course you didn’t you are probably all sleeping like normal people, or at least finishing off your last few beers and really have no interest in the TV anyways.
I have to give Jessi serious props. Not only was she out until the wee hours of the morning, putting up signs and decorating my front yard but was almost weeing her pants as Tim dodged swarms of bees. She was right on-time and we were off to the unknown and my first Ironman race.
The car ride over was pretty relaxed. Just talking about Ironman experiences and listening to some awesome pre-race music put together by DJ Lil’ B. It was great riding over to Coeur d’ Alene, not only with someone who has been there/done that but with someone who has been by your side for the entire journey. We have sweat together in their basement and froze are asses off during the morning runs this winter.
We showed up in Coeur d’ Alene a few minutes before 5am and were off to get body marked and drop off the rest of my bags. Jessi had her first of who knows how many coffees finished in the car and after body marking; she was in search for some more caffeine.
I spent a few minutes getting my T1 and T2 bags finalized and headed to load my bike with my nutrition for the first loop. This is where I ran into my folks who were there before I was. I tried to tell them they didn’t need to get there quite so early but honestly; they weren’t going to miss any of this.
After getting my tires pumped up it was time to just relax and get ready to start one of the biggest days of my life. I was confident that I would make it through but it was just a matter of how and when I would finish.
When I started these races, swimming was my absolute worst event by far. Not even a close second to biking or running. But on this day, I felt very calm. I was ready for this challenge. I had heard war stories on how rough the start of an Ironman can be but I was not afraid. I was excited, I knew that no matter what the start handed to me, I was ready to take in on full force.
After a few last hugs and well wishes, I headed to the beach and jumped in the water. It felt warm. I am not sure if it was because of the cold air temperature or all the pee from the nervous athletes about to start Ironman CDA 2009.
My goal for this swim was to swim strong and stay focused. In a practice swim on Friday, I caught my mind wandering off and I really didn’t want to start thinking about what was ahead. I goal was to focus on each pull and each breath and stay in good rhythm.
The start was rough, not crazy rough but rough none the less. I was hoping to swim somewhere between 1:00-1:10 and new that I would be ahead of the main pack but well back of the leaders. As we made our way out to the first turn buoy, there was quite a bit of bumping and grabbing. I am not sure I had that much action since my freshman year in college. But the main point was that I stayed calm and composed and before I knew it I was heading back and starting my second loop.
Overall the swim went well. I was able to find open water for the majority of the swim and was able to race “My Race” and came out with a respectable time of 1:11:47. Though it wasn’t as fast as I would have like, the water was choppy and I had actually never swam 2.4 miles at one time.
I exited the water and saw many familiar faces right along the fence cheering me on. Natalie and Trish are the ones that stood out as my focus was coming back after laying horizontal for over an hour. I headed up to get my wetsuit stripped and was off to the madness of the changing tent to get on my bike gear.
T1 went very smooth and I was headed out to my bike in a matter of minutes. The bike was going to be interesting. In the last week and a half, I had only been on the bike 4.5 hours TOTAL. I was definitely going to exceed that today.
I jumped on my bike and was feeling great. I had just finished the swim of an Ironman and now onto race #2. The plan was to go out easy. I ate a powerbar requiring me to slow down and not get caught up in all the Ironman hype.
The first loop flew by. I heart rate and effort were scaled back and I still came in with a first loop somewhere around 2:45. I was right on pace. I wasn’t sure if I could actually ride a 5:30 but I knew I could be close. I felt strong but not over worked and was ready to go. And then the second loop began…
My second loop started off pretty good but soon after leaving Coeur d' Alene towards Hayden, the wheels started to rattle. They weren’t coming off by any means but something was loose. My heart rate was dropping, my legs were getting heavy and my speed was slowing. I tried to attack each hill as its own little challenge and set small little finish line at each major corner. When I came back into Coeur d' Alene for the second time, I wanted off the bike.
Having everyone out on the course definitely helped push me through to the end. They were popping up everywhere and then moving to a new location for the second loop. It was great. From the Thompsons, Byrds, Ali, Nat, Tric, Matt and Nate, to the Rupes and Virginia Knight and anyone else I forgot, it was great to hear so many familiar voices and encouraging words
I have heard people say that you should be able to ride another 20 miles when you get off the bike and there is a chance I could have but I didn’t want too. I had never run a marathon in my life, but I was more than ready as I entered T2 or at least my ass was telling me I was. I had set a goal to ride between a 5:30-5:45. I ended up riding a 5:51 that included 4 pee breaks and a slow special needs transition. Those are all part of the race but I really felt I could have gone faster.
T2 was similar to T1, smooth and fast. There wasn’t a whole lot of messing around. I was in and out of there and ready to start the LONGEST run of my life, literally.
The plan was to stay consistent throughout the run. Of all three disciplines this is where I felt least prepared. I have struggled with knee pain and other leg issues that caused me to miss a few of my long runs. I had never actually run over a half-marathon, EVER, so anything over that was just borrowed time.
As I started the run, my legs felt OK. Not great and not horrible but just as expected after 112 miles on the bike. The first two miles where around 8:30’s which was a bit faster than I expected to run the whole race but felt comfortable. At mile 7, I was running 9:00’s and still felt good.
As I entered Coeur d' Alene for the start of the second loop, it was all up in the air now. I new once I passed through the park, each step was farther than I had ever run before. I tried to stay focused and just put one foot in front of the other. It was great having all the cheering support spread out throughout the run course. I actually caught myself looking forward to seeing a familiar face and give me that little bit of extra drive.
As I left downtown and headed back out along Lake Shore Drive, the rain began to fall and the winds were picking up. It was getting cold but after over 10 hours of racing, it really didn’t matter. My hands were cold but seriously, this is Ironman and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I got to the point were I was walking each aid station and running between. I am proud to say that this was the method the entire run. I never, even though it sounded SOOO good, stopped to walk between the aid stations.
I have heard stories that a marathon begins at mile 20. I am not sure who really came up with this saying because the first 20 miles definitely happened but I understand that this is where mind over body comes into play. You have to tell yourself that you are going to finish this run and that your legs really have no say in the matter.
It was at mile 20, I found my support crew. It started off with Jessi and Tiffany running along side me telling me that I could do this and finished with Timmers voicing a few more words of encouragement as I head out for the final turn around.
It was at this point I started calculating and I figured if I can pick up the pace just a bit I might actually finish under 11:30 (my secret goal). I started to run or at least felt like a run vs the Ironman shuffle that I had been doing for the last few miles. I just told myself that this is just a 10K. You have run many of these and this is no time to think you can’t do it right now.
I am not sure how many people I passed from the last turn around to the finish but it was a ton. I don’t think anyone passed me and I felt like I was cruising. My effort was up and my legs were pumping. I am not sure how fast I ran, but I felt fast or at least compared to my previous 20+ miles.
As I turned onto Sherman Drive (the greatest part of Ironman CDA) it was going to be all about enjoying the moment. Even though this journey lasted just over 11 hours, in all reality it started 365 days ago when I signed up. But then the triathlete in me got the better of me when the nice volunteer said, 1 more minute. Huh, that’s it? Just one more minute and as I looked at my watch it read 11:18:15 and too my surprise I was going to finish in under 11:20.
To my trained eye, I knew it was a bit more that just one minute but it was going to be close. I picked up the pace and ran hard through the finish. To me that is just as satisfying as jogging down Sherman Ave. I showed up in Coeur d' Alene to give it my all and that is what I did. I ended up crossing the line in 11:20:14 but was stoked. I had just finished my first Ironman and could walk afterwards...albeit slowly.
There were congrats and hugs all around and family members and friends showed up at the finish line. Even though this day was about me trying to do something many thought was crazy, it was the perfect end to a perfect day. I was an Ironman!
I want to give a special thanks to my parents, Betty, Uncle Bart, Aunt Jenny, Alex, Joe, Erika, Jon, Jenny and Jed for all making the trip over to Coeur d' Alene to watch a long event they really don’t understand why. Their cheers were awesome and definitely helped get me through the day.
I would like to thank all my fellow Tri-Fusionites who were out there cheering their hearts out and being part of this journey. They understand all the hard work and commitment it takes and it was great to share the moment.
Also to my coach, Roger who set the path for me to get to the finish line. Though there were times when I thought he may have gone a bit crazy, in hindsight, I was prepared for this day and would not have made it through without his guidance.
And to A+! You guys are fawesome. You kept me accountable, day in and day out. You were always willing to join me for a workout and get up at zero hour for swims and runs. The support you have shown me throughout this has been the best. Thank you so much for all the memorable moments, many that should not be made public and would be impossible to actually write out in words. You guys ROCK!!!