Tuesday, June 13, 2017

IMCDA 07-17'

I planned on signing up for my first Ironman after I successfully completed my first 70.3 in 06 (one year to the day post IT band surgery). I was thinking in 2008 when I would be turning 30 at the end of the year, but some friends convinced me, why wait?!  So,I caved an signed up a year early!

We had a group of 7 of us racing, 5 first timers.  I chose CDA as it felt like "home" to me. Growing up in Spokane we spent the summer going to the lake as much as possible. I figured if I was going to swim that far in open water, it needed to be at a lake I loved and felt comfortable in.

I had no goals going into the race other than to finish! The bike was my favorite part. The old bike course was stunning looping around Hayden Lake with treelined streets, views for days and rolling farmland. The run course was challenging. 2 loops, 2 out and backs. The first out and back was along the lake towards the river. This is where my childhood memories were! Next you went back through transition through the Sanders Beach neighborhood full of partying locals in their yards cheering then outalong the other side of the lake where the infamous Bennet Bay hill climb was the end of the out and back. The swim in 07 was the most challenging. It was so choppy they actually gave athletes an opt out of the swim. If you chose to not do the swim, or end it early you could wait until the 2:20 cutoff time and continue the course. Not an official Ironman finisher, however, you were given the ability to complete the bike and run. Nothing beats the memory of heading down the finish shoot of your first Ironman ;)

Still on a race high, I signed up the next day for 2008. Not much changed that year. I learned to train a bit smarter, and with more experience. Another crazy year with the swim where the water was SO cold. I had trouble taking in fuel and finished just a bit faster than the previous year....

In 09 we rented a house for 8 weeks in CDA, but we didn't race. Shane had just sold his company and was furiously working (in circles) to get something new started. We spent the (early) evenings having happy hour on the patio and enjoying the weather and a few gained lbs, lol.  2010 we headed to Ironman Canada, but in 2011 we decided to come back (well I did). I had hired Michelle that year and was seeing new gains in my training like never before!  I was PR'd my 70.3 running ~1:50 OTB for the first time and had really high hopes for this race!

The weather was near perfect that year for Ironman. Sunny, low winds and 60-75degs. Unfortunately the water was barely 50degrees. I didn't realize it then, but remembering back to 2008 when the cold water shut my system down unable to take in calories, the same thing was happening again to me.  I had a 7' course swim PR, ~30' course bike PR (and still my fastest in CDA) and 30' run PR, but I ended the race disappointed. I was unable to get down my nutrition and did the whole race on about 1k calories. I was so bonked to start the run I started dry heaving. With some tough love from Shane, I puked and rallied and got through the day just shy of 12hrs.  I swore I was done with this race for a while.... All fun after though as we got to hang out with Michelle for the first time at our post race party!

A group of us from AZ decided to head back to CDA to race in 2014. The bike course had changed completely eliminating the gorgeous hills of Hayden and moved out to highway 95. We had rented a house for the whole summer so I was able to get out on the course to train. The course seemed much less technical, climbs not as steep, but the elements are what changed as we were now exposed to sun and wind for nearly 40 miles of each loop.

Speaking of elements, this year brought the most epic wind I had ever raced in (up to that point). I was getting to check points 10-15' SLOWER than in my training. I'm a pretty confident rider, but boy was the wind whipping me around!  I've never been so happy to be off the bike and onto the run in my life. I had nailed my nutrition on the bike (control what you CAN - 1800 calories for the win!) and started settling into my run pace, clicking off the miles and feeling bulletproof. This was my strongest finish and fastest IM marathon to date (3:52!). I missed the podium by just one spot finishing 6th, but on cloud 9 as I executed my perfect race on this course (finally!)

We rented another house for 2015 and I decided "why not,"  when in Rome.....  Arriving in CDA at the beginning of June temps were unusually warm. Typical PNW weather can change in an instant, but this time it didn't.  All of June was 80-95degrees. Growing up in the area I don't remember this EVER happening. The water was warmer than ever, and I was actually swimming in a sleeveless wetsuit.  Race week temps were almost comical. The race day forecast was changing between 98 and 110 at the peak.  I didn't believe it, but started to prep myself and the 5 athletes I was coaching for this race for the conditions. We made plans for extra hydration and electrolytes. Backed off pacing strategies. Purchased cooling towels for the run and placed extra sodium replacements in transition.

I made stops on the bike at multiple aid stations to replace my fluids. I dialed back my effort and watched as people were starting to crumble. On my way back into town for T-2 I saw people sitting on the shoulder of the highway seeking any square inch of shade. People walking their bikes up hills (these aren't short steep hills, think 1-3 mile long 3-5% grade climbs). It was devastating to watch.

As I started my run "I pulled back my pace by 1' per mile" to assess how my body would handle the heat.  I made a porta potty stop at mile 1, and then after that something clicked and I just started plugging away not too far off my goal pace. I ran 8:50-9' pace, but stopped at every single aid station to get water for my body, ice for my top. I carried my own bottle of hydration and refilled as necessary.  I had a cooling town that I kept wet. I went through every single hose/sprinkler offered and did whatever it took to stay wet and cool). I passed several people in my age group that had flown by me on the bike, and finished with the 3rd fastest run split in my AG. I had hoped for a podium at this race, but too many gains were made on the bike from me and I finished in 7th.

In the fall of 2015 we purchased a summer home in CDA. A long time dream of ours come true!  I decided to give IMCDA another go for 2016. The race had moved to August, so I was curious to see how the conditions would differ. Truth be told this wasn't my smartest idea. After the loss of my two dogs and a job gone to hell I was on the verge of burnout. My workouts weren't as quality and my recovery was not a priority. It was once again another year of adventure on the bike course with winds worse than 2014. I've never truly been scared on my bike until that day, but there were times I was legit scared I was going to be blown over. I had the BFF racing who's biggest fear is wind on the bike so my mind was able to transfer to her in hopes she would be able to get through the day. Nothing too amazing to report about this day, I gave what I had and the result was what I deserved.  I once again, retired from this race and venue (bahaha!).

With my job status pending, I didn't want to commit to another full Ironman if I didn't have the time and energy to put my all into it. Finally, in May my new job became effective and official. My stress levels decreased and my ambition to train again came back. Because I had spent the winter running and training for marathons I had a lot of work to do to get my bike back. I was toying with the idea of racing IMCanada (Whistler), but then as the weeks flew by I wasn't sure I wanted to make the 9hr drive for the race and started on a fall back plan of IMCDA. I realized I wanted the extra 4 weeks to get ready so at the end of May I made up my mind to sign up. We headed to Idaho Memorial Day weekend for the summer and have now been here for 2 weeks. Last weekend while heading out for a training swim a local news reporter was interviewing some athletes to get their thoughts on the rumor that the full distance would be going away after this year's event. I was stunned as I thought the contract was through 2018. As rumored, the official announcement came out last night that this will in fact be the last run of IMCDA. My heart sank as I read the article. This is such a special town and community. The venue is like no other. Yes, the course is challenging, but it's really the elements that make and set the tone of the day. As athletes we train our bodies to go the distance. We learn how to pace, how to fuel ourselves, but not every day is perfect. Storms and and heat and rain, these are things that we can not control, but what we can control is how we handle them. We train ourselves to problem solve, to adjust to what gets thrown at us on race day, not fold.

I'm so thankful that I get the opportunity to race this last run of Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  The race is 11.5 weeks away and still open, so if any of you are out there and have a solid base fitness and want to take on this challenge with me, I would love nothing more than to help you get there!  Please reach out to me with any questions or if you are looking for help preparing to race and participate in one of the most gorgeous and epic Ironman venues.