Wow - what a day that was in Coeur d'Alene! I went into race day the most relaxed I think I have ever been before a race - heck I even slept well the night before and when does that ever happen?!
I was travelling with my friend Suzanne and after a nice early night Saturday, we got up at 4am to get to the race start.
We were staying in Spokane Valley which is about a 20min drive into Coeur d'Alene but at that time in the morning we had a clear run in and then managed to part within about 200m of transition which was awesome ! Even better was the clean porta-potty at the baseball field we parked at (if you race, you know the value of a clean porta potta on race day!!)
So we then strolled over to transition, got body marked right away, no lineups, I topped up my bike tires, loaded my water bottle onto 'Precious' and then was good to go!
I met my tri sherpa (otherwise known as Marie :-) ) just outside transition and she took my pump and all my stuff so I wouldn't have to worry about van keys or cell phone falling out and getting lost.
She helped me into my wetsuit and then it was time to get down to the beach for the start.
The lake in Coeur d'Alene is famous for being VERY cold, but I had been in for a swim Friday and it wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered it - chilly for sure (I think race day temp was about 57F/14c so chilly, but manageable with wetsuit and double cap). Last year I got caught up in the middle of the pack and it was a DISASTER so this year I made my way to the beach a little earlier to get a good spot and actually ended up right at the front, and took as far to the left as I could so I could stay out of trouble. And the plan worked perfectly! There was the usual Ironman swim start chaos, but I was able to steer to the left and pretty much had clear water the whole way - a few bumps (1 from 1 of my team-mates - thx Ty!), but nothing bad at all and was thrilled to exit the 1st loop at around 34 mins (fast for me!)
We did the run around the marker on the beach and then back in for loop # 2 and thats when it got a little more interesting...! The wind had picked up and there was SIGNIFICANT chop going out - I don't want to think how much water I swallowed! But I was able to stay in the moment, calm and relaxed and just focused on a smooth steady stroke and was over the moon to exit the water with a 1:13 time (I was hoping for anything sub 1:20) - so off to a great start!
I like to take my time and be really deliberate through transitions both to avoid spiking my HR and to make sure I do everything properly.
The volunteers were AMAZING in the change tent so I jest methodically went through drying off a little, putting on my bike stuff, then it was off out for ride!
I was chilled when I started - shivering in fact for the 1st probably 30km or so as it was overcast, but it wasn't unmanageable and I knew I would warmup so I just kept truckin' along.
The new part of the bike route was an out and back along a highway - was AWESOME to bike on the road rather then the shoulder as that made for a nice smooth gravel free ride and I just focused on staying in my zone and pedaling strong but comfortable.
There are significant climbs on this portion (in fact the whole bike I clocked at 184km - the pro womens winner recorded 113mi so definitely a little long - but also 6600ft of total climbing... thats a LOT!) At the turnaround on the highway there is then a net downhill back into town, to begin the 2nd loop!
I was feeling OK still - I could see that my pace was not where I wanted it to be, but I really concentrated on instead of getting frustrated with that and pushing too hard, accepting it was what it was and STAY IN MY ZONE! So glad I did... on the 2nd out and back the wind was BRUTAL! We were going straight into a headwind and basically uphill of varying degrees (worst was a 6% climb for 2mi) the entire way - lets just say I was VERY happy to see the turnaround finally (which I swear the moved further out on that 2nd loop by the way!) and then enjoyed the downhill tailwind back into town and T2.
For the 1st time ever on an IM I finished the bike feeling I had a little more in me. Usually I am dying and just want to get off the bike, but this time I was feeling OK so took that as a sign that I had biked smart.... as there was the small matter of a marathon I still had to run!
My bike split time was 6:14 when I was hoping for closer to 5:50, but I knew I had biked smart given the hills and headwinds, and that to come off with still some life in them was a good thing - besides which, nothing I could do about it now so no point stressing over it - my head was in a good place to stay in the moment and focus on the task in hand which at that point was the run. And as it turned out in retrospect, it was actually a great ride relatively speaking being 8th fastest in my AG!
Again I took my time through transition - made sure I got all the grit from the beach off my feet as I know I am prone to blisters and then headed out on the run.
I focused on keeping my pace in check initially as I knew from last year there was a few nasty hills on this run (that you have to do twice as its a 2 looper) and I wanted a solid run.
So I just kept on truckin' nice and easy soaking up the positive atmosphere and great vibes from the crowd.
Seeing my teammates out supporting both on the bike and the run was amazing and I really fed off them to give me energy.
I kept checking in with my body and I felt great! I took it nice and easy up the hills and was right on target was back in town and heading out for the final loop.
This is when things slowed down a little but I was determined to run the whole thing - by this stage I had handed off my fuel belt to my team-mates so was using the coke and water at the aid stations, so did walk through those to make sure I got those drinks on board, but was mentally strong enough to force myself to run again at the end of the aid station. For me, walking is the kiss of death - I lose my rhythm and I am done - I just can't get going running again so I knew I had to power walk through, get the fluid on board and get going again and actually each time I restarted it got a little easier mentally because I knew I could do it.
I had brought along notes from my kids that I planned to put off reading until things got bad, but you know what? Things never did get really bad! Looking at my splits, the 3rd 10km was my slowest, and I felt that, but I also felt I was managing my effort. I wanted to run the whole marathon and knew at that point I needed to slow down just so I could keep running and it worked as the last 10km I was able to pick up the pace again (by this stage my Garmin had died so I was running purely on feel and gauging pace from my watch from 1 mile marker to the next). I did of course read my kids notes though - between about mile 19 and mile 23 - they made me laugh, I kissed each one and picked it up a little more!
The final stretch back down to the finish line was AMAZING! I took the time to high 5 the crowd and I tell ya.... the there is NOTHING like the finish chute of an IM... :-)
My run finished at 4:05 (was hoping for a sub 4 marathon - 4:05 close enough for me - I hit my main goal which was to run the whole thing!)
Final time was 11:46.
Again I was hoping for faster, but IM is a loooooong day where you have to race to the conditions and your ability/body on the day and I felt I did that.
I moved up another place in my AG on the run to finish 7th.
When I found that out, I knew I had a choice.... I could have been bummed that it wasn't good enough for a Kona spot, or I could have been thrilled that it was an 11 place improvement from last year. I was also 57th woman overall (including pros) and 478th person (out of over 2400)! So it was pretty easy with stats like that to take the latter route and be absolutely over the moon!
This race I felt went very well - I raced as well as I could, I stayed in the moment, I was smart and have made HUGE improvements over my last outing at this distance - I am so happy. My muscles... not so happy right now! I hurt more than I ever have before after a race which tells me that I did race physically as hard as I could, but mentally am so much stronger than last year as I never caved and started walking on the run.
I am so grateful for everyones support, so happy with my performance and final result... and can't wait to do it all again soon!