Monday, July 21, 2014

Ironman CDA 2014

Its amazing when you are self employed how much time you can spend away from here.  The past year has been great, marriage, starting a business, and getting back into shape to do this "fun" little thing called Ironman!

Of course I had to drive to Coeur d'Alene, as city living restricts getting out on the open road.  Whitney was a trooper for tagging along and not taking the easy route and flying as I offered.  A little stopover in Bend, OR for the night and we made it in a relaxed two days.  Unfortunately I picked up a little bug from a restaurant in the middle of no-where in Oregon.  Luckily nothing major, but scared me for a day.

Arrive in CdA, get settled in the great place Whitney's friend hooked us up with and relaxed for the week.  My parents and a lot of friends from Scottsdale were up so there was no lack of good distractions around town to keep spirits up.
To be honest, after Wildflower I had some doubts as to whether I had it in me to get back to Kona.  Oceanside was a great race, and there was some complacency that set in for a period, thinking I didn't need as much to perform.  Wildflower showed different.  Wildflower wasn't a bad race, just not a good one.  I rededicated myself after that and had hoped it was what I needed.

Race morning comes along and I'm ready to go.  The long months of training are in, the body feels good, nervous excitement for the first time in a while, this is going to be a fun day!  Adding to this, the winds are up, and a chill in the air.  Perfect day for the big diesel engine.

Good luck kiss from the wife, parents have a good send off too and into the starting groups for the rolling start.  No mass start at CdA, you self seed yourself sort of like a running race.

I get in with the 1:00-1:15 after a short warm-up in the water.  Relaxing and talking with people around, we are all anxious for the canon.  Mike Reilly gets on the PA and counts it down.  The cannon goes off and the super A types in the fast swimmers sprint into the water.  It takes about 3 minutes to get to the "start" line, and I take a casual jog into the water, and a good dolphin dive to get away from people.  While it should be a lot mellower of a swim than a normal wave start, the wind is kicking up some good chop in the water, and people are ending up everywhere, with some poor navigation.  I decided to keep it calm and smooth for the first 10 minutes as my body and lungs get warmed up.  Still get a few mouthfuls of water, but uneventful until the first turn.  Pretty crowded, and washing machine.

Second turn is about the same until I get away outside the buoy line again.  Now with the waves you can feel it being faster.  Things were thinning out, so more sighting involved, which was harder with the wake as you couldn't see the buoys.  Cruising into the finish of the first lap and the crowd on the beach was nuts!  Trying to keep calm and take a concerted jog down the beach to get clear of everyone swimming straight for the course.  I breath to the left and can see people battling on the inside, so I'm happy where I am even with a slightly longer course.  Second lap, the chop was increasing, but with a good warm-up from the first lap, it was much easier to cut through the waves while losing a breath here or there.  Far side of the second lap and we hit lap traffic.  Tried my best to not run anyone over, but some people were just dead in the water.  Make the last turn and its a quick down wind race all the way in.  Feeling good the whole time even with the crazy waves, I know it should be near my goal time.  Strong push to the shore, up the beach, and its 1:04 for the swim!  Best "real" swim for an IM!  Two years ago I pulled some obnoxious swim time (46:00) in IM NJ/NY, but that was downstream in the Hudson.
Overall Rank: 152
AG Rank: 26

On to the bike! 

The bike course isn't technical in terms of handling, but with its constantly changing altitude, it is technical in terms of gearing.  Added to this, the winds were going to cause havoc on the long loop portion of the ride. 

Taking my time in transition, grab my bike and get rolling through the massive crowds in downtown.  Seeing the family was great at bike exit and my personal photog got some great shots:)  Rolling through town and out along the lake was the tricky part.  Lots of 90 degree turns, but not many people on the road.  One of the perks of swimming faster!  Winds  weren't too bad on this part of the course, but definitely a factor.  The climb on the short loop of the route is short, but has some teeth.  I came in with the mentality of hitting hills hard, up 20-30% watts from the whole ride.  Targeting 260 watts, the rolling terrain was perfect to keep effort even.  Back through town the place was going nuts.  Had to keep calm rolling through.  I love to see my family out cheering, and they were in the perfect spots all day for me to catch them.

Turning onto 95 for the big loop of the course, the wind was straight in our faces.  M2's teaching states to push up watts up hills and into the wind by 20%.  This was going to be 20 miles out into this wind.  This meant holding 300 watts for over an hour!  This really threw me a bit in my head, but I trusted it.  Pushing even more up the gentle, short hills (compared to SF), it still scared me a bit that I was going to burn up my run legs.  Two climbs on our way out 95 and into rollers to the turn I get passed by a rider, I look left, and there is a stream of people wheel to wheel.  Its the first time I've shouted at another participant, but it was pretty much a few choice words that came out.  They pass, and I take the opportunity to cruise back as I'm supposed to.  We hit a short roller and they slow and I put a push in to get by again.  Cresting the top, and down the short hill and they catch me again.  We were approaching the turnaround and I didn't want anyone latching on for the rollercoaster freeway back with the wind.  I hit it hard and make the turnaround with good distance passed them.  This was 20 miles in 1:04.  Could be demoralizing, but I knew he ride back would more than make up for it.

The ride back was all I thought it was going to be.  Strong tailwind and cruising over 30 MPH pretty much the whole way!  Some of the descents I even spun with 53 up front and 11 ring in the back.  Open roads now, and as I always do, I'm doing math in my head on when I should get back into town.  I've always done this trick, it keeps me calm and passes the time.  Descending the last hill was just unreal at this point.  Keeping aero all the way, the winds were a bit fun to deal with and I was a little wild.  Luckily nobody was around.  Finding my way back into town I link up with a few guys who decide to do a little leapfrog every few minutes which lifts my spirits as we get to exchange a few words each time. 

Into town and the crowd is even bigger with everyone out on the road.  Of course the family is in a perfect spot again and yelling their heads off.  Weather is still cool, and it looks like the cloud cover will let up and have some sun.  Rolling through town and out along the lake, I can sense my legs taking a little fatigue at this point.  Nutrition hasn't been a problem and I was taking in all my calories from the Perpetuum and Osmo I started with, then anything I could get my hands on at aid stations.  Up the short hill of the short loop and to the turnaround, they have Bike Special Needs set up.  I grab my second batch of Perpetuum and Osmo, and get back on the road.  Flying back into town, the road is pretty open and I know I'm out front somewhere.  Game on for the second loop!

Back by the family and onto 95 for some wind tunnel testing again.  Definitely on the right track going for 300 watts all the way out.  I know it will be slightly lower with some fatigue, and I also need to work on keeping something for the run.  The energy definitely isn't as good pushing the hills, but still feels good.  Staying in a tuck for so long is starting to take its toll on the shoulders and neck.  While my swim was faster than I've done, the lack of overall swim fitness took its toll on my shoulders.  No draft packs around this time, but I do have traffic from lap 1 people out.  Had to give a few yells of "on your left", but for the most part they kept right.  I knew heading into the turn I was a few minutes slower, but the joy of the return run with the wind brought my head back to its task of getting home.

Ripping away again at super cruise, I had a smile pasted on my face and counting down the minutes to get my ass off this bike!  My first major prerace mishap happened on a test ride Wednesday where I had to replace my saddle.  It felt good, and was the same model, but not broken in, so not as comfy as it could.  Happily, my feet weren't hurting like they normally do at this point, so I guess its an even trade.  Almost into town, we have the "no passing lane" heading up the bridge.  Another guy finishing up, and I very nicely talk a group of people to let us squeeze by and we get through without issue.  Into town and into transition, the legs are feeling like jello as usual and my dismount is nearly a fall.  Volunteers are there and steady me and I'm into the tent for a quick change.

Bike Time: 5:13:00
Overall Rank: 19th
AG Rank: 4th

A healthy run was something I was looking forward to for the past year.  The heal and knee were feeling good, and my training solid for the past two months.  Hitting the transition tent, and its pretty much empty, always an awesome sight.  Get the volunteers to rip my kit off over my head because I can't raise my arms, put on my run shirt, change shoes, and head out.  No cramping in the legs this time as they usually do so I know I road the bike perfectly.

Flying out the first mile and I have to slow it down.  My body wants to GO GO GO!  Luckily I realize it each time and slow it down each time.  Trying to hold around 7:15 pace.  All the houses in the neighborhoods along the course made the day awesome.  One even had a Fireball Whiskey table, I thought could be good the second lap, some stiff competition in the field took that though out of my head. 

Getting along the bike path along the lake I was picking off people, but all the sudden someone goes by me like I was standing still.  Some crazy fast dudes showed up and performed that day.  Two guys in my AG went under 3:00 for the marathon.  That was beyond my capabilities so the thought of latching on wasn't there.  Still see-sawing in the rankings, but no idea where I was.  Taking the hill for the first time on the run, my legs are still good, but very happy for the downhill recovery.  The turnaround comes and its back up for a short climb, then the long descent.  This is the perfect time to see where everyone is.  The people I passed are still falling back, and some competition looking good though.  Back along the lake feels great.  You get some tailwind and the pace is fast.  Into town and I catch my family again and get an update from my Dad, 5th place in my Age Group.  That's good and bad.  Awesome for a podium, but no wiggle room.

Making the turn, the city is erupting, a smile still on my face.  All is good and I actually have some thoughts of a 3:10 race.  As I get back onto the lake, those thoughts begin to erase.  The fast running Age Groupers are catching, but much slower passes now.  Get to talk to a few and then a dude even taller than me cruises by!  Must get my ass in gear!  I take it easy up the hill for the second time and back up after the turnaround.  Hitting the bottom its 6 miles to the finish and thinking about what's left in the tank.  Keeping track of people I know I'm in 6th now.  I'm not catching 5th, but hoping for a meltdown.  On top of that, with the staggered start, there's no way of knowing exactly where everyone is. 

Keeping things together, my stomach starts to seize up.  Just at the same time I'm passed by my AG.  Keeping things together, but slowing, I know I may still have 3 minutes on him.  A few minutes later, my stomach finally gets right and the AG'er who massed me pulls up with a hamstring problem!  I get back passed him and he knows what going on too and gets moving again.  We end up trading passes for the next few miles in the neighborhoods.  At the last aid station we are next to each other screaming for coke and its game on to the finish.  I take the opportunity to ask when he started and he reveals he started in the front group at the gun.  I gleefully respond I have 3 minutes on him.  I don't think he was happy.  That's the one thing I probably regret, lol.  The last section of the course is ridiculously long at this point.  Long street with the finish visible and nobody else on the road.  Mind racing to stay the course and push the pace as much possible without falling apart.  The final stretch just blew me away with the crowd cheering and I'm actually able to enjoy it to myself.  I cross the line and nearly fall over.  Volunteers grab me and make sure I'm good.  I thought so, legs didn't and I fell on her.  Luckily she was ready and I didn't eat pavement.  Escorted to a seat, I slump down, try to eat and get some fluids and enjoy the pain. 

Run: 3:18:59
Overall Rank: 34
AG Rank: 8
Overall Time: 9:43:04
Overall Rank: 24
AG Rank: 6

This was nearly a perfect day coming back to Ironman after a year off.  Realizing that I can take some time off and come back to racing at a high level was one of the biggest goals of the day.  Another was getting back to Kona.  Crazily, we only had 5 spots in my Age Group.  Waking up the next day, I ravenously scoped out everyone ahead and discovered the 3rd place guy grabbed a spot in Arizona last year.  Still a bit freaked out so nervous leading into roll down.  My Age Group comes up and the winner turns it down because he is having a kid in October, 3rd turns it down, 4th and 5th take it and I joyously accept the first roll down!  My AG was the aberration of the day.  Not sure what went down after that, but it went all the way to 10th.

This race hurt the most of any (except for one legged running in Kona).  The support and love everyone shows me is amazing and I can't express how much I appreciate it.  All my friends, the crew at  M2, Michael McCormack my coach/mentor, Tom McGlynn with runcoach for a run PR, my family who are always so supportive, and my biggest support my wife.  Whitney deals with so much of my shenanigans, I don't think I will ever be able to repay her.  At least a trip to Kona is a small prize, but I still owe her a lifetime.