I arrived in beautiful Coeur d'Alene Thursday before the race, after a delightful 10 hour drive from Salt Lake City - by myself. Yep, traveling solo again meant I had a lot of "me time", which is really just time to get my head in check before the big day. I had the pleasure of staying in Post Falls with the most wonderful host couple, Tom and Marie Flanagan. Not only was their beautiful home on the Spokane River with views that were to die for, it was such a pleasure visiting with and getting to know them. They were a delight in every way!
|Boat ride up the Spokane to Lake CdA with Tom and Marie|
|Pre-race relaxing - feet up!|
|Ready to rock! Photo by Myrleen Wright|
I love this swim course! It's a beach start, which is just plain fun, and it's a two-loop out and back that makes it harder for me to find myself off course. And on this day, it was a great swim for me. I know, I know, the conditions were crappy, and it wasn't my fastest. But the time doesn't tell the whole story. So I will....
The girls and I line up along the beach start line and the canon fires. We're off! So for those of you that have followed me and my races, you know that I have struggled to stay with a group in the water. I typically lose feet and end up swimming alone by the half way point. But I have been practicing drafting in the open water (thanks Kathryn for being my draft buddy leading into this race!), and I think I'm seeing an improvement.
|There we go! Another great pic by Myrleen|
The first couple hundred yards are a good effort, and some body contact with the other girls. But by a quarter of the way out to the first turn, the lead pack with Heather, Kelly and Jess has pulled away. I knew they would. The good news is that I'm still in a group with 3 other girls, and we have settled in to a nice pace. I'm super pumped, and absolutely determined to stay with them. It feels like a washing machine out there, but I'm hanging on. The only thing I remember focusing on at this point is feet. Don't let those feet go! We make the first turn, and then the second turn back into the beach comes quickly. After rounding both corners, I'm still with them. The way back in was still bumpy, but a little faster. I make the turn into the second lap with the girls, and back out we go for round two.
|Thanks Myrleen for the pic!|
The second lap was a little crazy, simply because shortly after we made the turn to start lap two, the Age Groupers were let into the water. By about half way to the turn, we were swallowed up by the super speedy male AG swimmers. I was pretty sure that would happen, and I also knew that meant flailing and flogging with those guys. It is what it is and I carry on. As I made the last turn into the finish, I found myself taking in more water than normal due to the conditions and the mosh pit of people I was in. My fingers were crossed that it wouldn't cause me stomach problems later on in the bike. Wish was granted and stomach was good all day!
All in all I'm happy with my swim. I was able to find feet and stay on them the majority of the swim. Near the end our group of 4 broke up, due to the AG swimmers. It's ok. I learned a lot and will continue to build on it. Like I said, it wasn't my fastest swim, but as I look at the numbers, I was faster than I was at Texas. There were a couple girls that were also at Texas, and they weren't faster. To me that is progress, and I'll take it!
Quick run through transition and I'm out on the bike. There's a little chill in the air, but I knew I'd warm up because this course makes you work! Like the swim, it's a challenging two-loop bike course that offers plenty of scenery. The first section of the course is right along the lake, and within the first 15 miles I passed both Jennie and Cathleen. Jennie was having technical issues with her bike. I felt bad for her, bummer! I passed back through town, and then we head out onto the 95, which is where it gets really tough. It's a solid 20 miles of climbing, straight into a fierce head wind. It's a "put your head down and go to work" kind of bike ride.
My main focus is to stay on the nutrition and stay within my limits. I rode all day alone, but was able to see where the other girls are at at each turn. After battling the hills and wind out to the turn back into town, I could see I was making up time on the girls behind me. I knew it would be a screamin' fast ride back into town, and boy was it fun! A quick pass through town again, and I got my special needs bag which had my second bottle of GU Energy Roctane drink, and more gels. Gas in the tank, baby!
Second lap was more of the same. Hills and wind. And more wind. This was hard. And it was taking a long time. It didn't take a genius to know that we'd all be out on the course a little longer than normal, but I was still picking up time on the girls behind me, so I let the clock go. Just stay on the nutrition. The climb out to the final turn back in to town couldn't come soon enough. And when it did, my oh my was it wonderful. The final fast stretch back into town, and just a marathon to go!
As I came into transition, I saw Tom and Marie and heard then screaming my name. They really are awesome! It made my day to see them. And Chrystel, the super spectator of all spectators! Thrilled to be off the bike, I ditch it to a friendly volunteer, thank them and run through T2.
Out on the run, back is a little tight, but I'd expect that after a bike like that. It'll loosen. Legs a little heavy, but they'll come around. I start at a comfortable pace, just trying to get the legs underneath me. The crowds through town are amazing! Super energizing and just when I needed them - that first half mile up hill out of transition. A couple miles tick by and body is feeling better. The first 5 miles were just where I wanted them - 7:30-35's. Super consistent, and I didn't want to see anything faster than a 7:30. Right on the money! Up that terribly cambered hill, ugh! At the turn around I see the other girls. I can't tell if I'm putting any time in to the girls up ahead, but I have quite a gap on the girls behind me. I like it! But I also know that Jennie can run close to a 3 hour marathon, so I have to keep the pace up.
|Photo by super-spectator Chrystel|
On my way back into town everything feels great, except for the normal pain that comes at this point in an Ironman. But around mile 10, I start to feel some discomfort in my feet. What?!? I'm wearing the same shoe I've had such success with at this distance. Never even a hint of this at all. After all the injuries I've battled to get back to where I am, not one of those things are giving me any problem. It's often the things you least expect on race day that throw you a curve ball. That's Ironman. And you have to deal with it as best you can and move on. And so I did. For several miles I was able to tolerate the pain without it affecting my pace THAT much. I had slowed a bit, but not substantially.
|In the hurt box!|
As I made the turn back in town to start my second lap, I could see my competition. I could see Jennie was running strong and closing the gap. I still had time on Cathleen. I also saw BJ and he looked focused, but good. The second lap turned into a game of me trying to figure out what I could do to ease the pain in both feet. Wondering if I just walked through one water station while stretching my ankles and wiggling my toes - would that be enough? I tried everything I could think of, but really the only answer was to just suck it up and get to the finish. Jennie flew past me around the 18 mile mark as I shuffled along. Eventually my only goal was to hold my position and not get passed again, which I did.
I was pretty happy to see the finish, and to get off my feet. I did what I could on the day, and I'm happy. No excuses. I was fortunate enough to hold on to finish 6th pro woman and in the money. Yay! I'm thrilled to have put my first Ironman finish behind me since injury. A special shout out to all my Utah friends who were out there with a smile on a tough day, ripping it up. Your cheers and courage were awesome! And to my great friend and amazing girl Jess Smith, congrats on finishing top 3! You inspire me! Next up? Ironman Wisconsin, and looking forward to it!
|Proud to be with these ladies!|
Thanks to all of my supporters, and especially my sponsors who make all of this possible and so much better! GU Energy, Rudy Project, Gnarly Nutrition, Canyon Bicycles, Greg Freebairn and BodyWise Fitness. Romney and the kids, you make me want to be better every day. BJ for getting me back to a good place. And once again to the Flanagans - thank you for opening your home to me and providing me with a wonderful Coeur d'Alene experience. I hope to be back!
|Taking home the hardware!|