Well, it’s over. In my first attempt at the full-iron distance, I crossed the finish line at 14:36:17–a long day. But I’ve earned the title, “Ironman.”
Here then is my post-race report.
I left the 95 degree heat of Oklahoma and stepped off the plane into 50 degree weather. On race day, God smiled on us by sending us a perfect day of weather, 75 and mostly sunny with less than 40% humidity.
I’m used to swimming in Oklahoma, so the word “cold” doesn’t begin to describe the 60 degree waters of Lake Coeur D’Alene. It was so cold, it shocked your breath away. This was the first time that Ironman had used a self-selected wave start. Before the cannon, we were asked to place ourselves into groups based upon our estimated time to finish the 2.4 mile swim. I chose the 1:15 to 1:30 group and hit my mark pretty close at 1:27. Overall, the system worked well and kept us weaker swimmers from getting crushed by the more powerful types. I chose an outside line so that I could swim unimpeded. It almost worked. At the first turn, I strayed too close to the turn buoy and got rolled by several stronger swimmers. Lesson learned. Aside from a leaky pair of goggles, I had no problems with the swim, took it easy, and got on with my day.
I must admit that the bike course scared me a little heading into the race. With 5,295 feet of vertical climbing over the course of 112 miles, this course was rated as a 4 on my coach’s 5 point difficulty scale. We simply don’t have hills like this in Oklahoma. My coach told me to take it easy for the first hour and then move into my pace zones for the duration. I was doing fine until the end of the first hour when I suffered a serious bike crash at mile 18 of the bike course. Traveling at over 20 mph, I flipped twice and landed in another lane. I’m praising God that my injuries weren’t as serious as they could have been, and also for the help of one of the race volunteers who was able to free me from my bike and pull me out of the way of the oncoming automobile traffic. After a 20 minute delay, I was on my way again. While I remember the crash in vivid detail, I don’t remember much about the next 20 miles to the first turn. The crash killed my power meter (and a couple of other things on my bike frame). Let’s just say that my skin and the highway pavement disagree about who won this clash.
I finished the remaining 96 miles using perceived exertion as my guide. What I found out later was that I burned too much energy on the bike and made the back half of the run difficult.
I saw my wife briefly as I left the transition area from bike to run. And that’s when her gift for motivational speaking showed up. Upon hearing me tell her that I had crashed and seeing my less-than-stellar appearance, she simply asked,
“Can you still walk?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“Then rub some dirt on it and get back in the game!! You’re going to finish!”
So off I went.
Unlike the bike course, the run course is awesome and easy. The first 3 miles weave through the iconic residential areas of Coeur D’Alene. The entire town comes out and holds all-day lawn parties to watch and encourage the runners. Ironman prints your first name on your race number so that these people can call you by name and encourage you. The course is 2 loops and winds its way along the flat Lake Parkway (similar to Riverside Drive for you Tulsa peeps) with only one hill the entire way. They announced before the race that over 3,000 volunteers were on hand to help the 3,000 athletes. Each person I met at the aid stations on the run was gracious, encouraging, and friendly. The city certainly does this right. I especially appreciated the Superhero aid station, where all the volunteers dressed as comic book heroes.
The first loop was going along fine until about mile 12. Then I got really tired. I walked more than I wanted on the second loop, but in so doing, I got to know many new friends, prayed with a couple of them, and got to meet “Fireman Rob.”
The finish line at any Ironman is a glorious place. I arrived just after sundown and the lights, music, and cheering crowds is like no place on earth. Even though the pro athletes had won the race many hours earlier, the spectators still lined the streets, four people deep for over a mile. I finally heard the iconic announcer, Mike Reilly, say the words that all triathletes want to hear, “You are an Ironman!”
After a lengthy stay in the medical tent, I consumed my body weight in pizza and chocolate milk. My GPS watch tells me that I burned just short of 7,000 calories on the day.
I had a fantastic time in this race. It was everything I expected and then some. It challenged me in ways I can’t describe. It is a bucket list-worthy event and I highly recommend it for any triathlete.
Although, you should try to do it without crashing.
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