Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2013 Race Report - The Run


The run was definitely the thing I was most apprehensive about, mainly because IMTX was such a suffer-fest.  Then there was my broken heel last year.  And my longest training run this year was 14.5 miles.  I honestly had no idea how the marathon would go but I was doing my best to be open about running as much as possible.  But I will admit, the run was the scariest thing for me.

As I was coming in on the bike, I was actually thinking "I love swimming and biking the Ironman distance.  Too bad I can't just do those and be done."  Technically I could, but I was wishing there was still a way to get a medal and not DNF by doing that.

When I put on my running shoes, I noticed that my left foot was a bit sore from the "swim incident" and I just kind-of laughed about it.  I put my stuff on, headed out the tent and out onto the run course.  It never ceases to amaze me just how good running feels after riding 100+ miles.  And also: just the fact that I can run any distance at all after riding that far is sheer craziness. 
Just going to go and run a little marathon.  NBD.
The Plan:
  • Goal HR is 140-145
  • Run continuous for as long as possible (stopping at the aid station for a MAX of 0.05 miles to eat/drink)
  • As running becomes more challenging, switch to run/walk intervals. I’m thinking 5 min run / 1 min walk is good. If this becomes hard, reduce run interval further. Minimum is 1 min run / 1 min walking. There will be no long stretches of walking during this Ironman.
  • Keep a 5 hour marathon goal in mind and be prepared to really, really hurt from miles 15-24 to earn it. This is a 11:30 min/mile pace.
  • Be mentally tough
  • Focus on the Chi Running practices during the run for a distraction and a form check. Switch techniques every mile to help keep mind sharp. (I wrote ~5 things on my hand as a reminder)
  • Be flexible about nutrition if what I’m doing isn’t working. If there is stomach cramping, change to coke immediately and ditch the chews.
I exited the run out chute, which was filled with cheering people, and ran through downtown CDA.  It is impossible to not be pumped at this point.  You're "nearly" done and crowds of people are cheering for you.  I was running a pretty good clip and feeling really, really good.  Like crazy good.  I could feel my left foot for a few miles, but it was still like "oh, yeah, that happened" and then after a while I forgot about it.
The run was 2 "loops", each consisting of an out and back. 

remember, this is only one "loop".  That hill sure was fun...
The run course is nearly identical to the bike course, with the exception of a few different turns through some neighborhoods.  I loved the neighborhood sections and the people who lived in them.  Their whole neighborhood was shut down so we could shuffle through it - a huge inconvenience.  They could either be crabby or throw block parties.  I'm so glad they through parties, it was awesome.  There was one L on the run route (I can't remember exactly where), but there was a guy on each entrance into the L with a microphone.  He'd yell out your name and say something funny and the yards were littered with people drinking, listening to loud music, and having a great time.  I really looked forward to those sections.
Michelle really wanted me to run continuously, for as long as I could.  I compromised and ran for 1 mile then took a mini  walk break for 0.05 mi where I'd drink and eat some chews.  I had 1 packets of Honey Stinger Chews (one regular and one caffienated) and was really trying to eat 2-3 per break. I was twisting through the neighborhoods and saw Michelle somewhere around aid station 2 (maybe?) and she ran with me for a bit.  I laughed because we were running down a hill (there was no flat ground) and she was wearing flip flops.  Just a funny mental image, my bad ass coach, running downhill next to me in flip flops.  She urged me to keep running and I told her I'd do my best.  I popped out of the neighborhood section and onto Lakeshore Drive, which is a big long gradual downhill for a bit.  I was still running.  Amazing.  They had us on the bike trail, which was slanted towards the lake a bit, which was annoying, so I tried to run on a worn dirt path next to the trail when possible.  The miles (!!) ticked on and I felt pretty good.  I was running around a 10:30 pace (and sometimes much faster) with a fairly easy HR and I was in a happy zone.
Around mile 5 you could see I-90 looming overhead and around the curve was the Big Hill.  Michelle told me to not even bother trying to run up the dumb thing and wanted me to power walk it.  Ok, I can do that!  And in all honestly, 90% of the people were walking that thing.  I got to the top, ran down the other side to the turn-around.  I remember hitting the timing mat at 6.6 miles and seeing my time and being really happy.  I even commented to a random volunteer that I could even hear my friends across the country cheering at their computers as they saw this split.  6.6 miles in, with an 11:00 pace.  Holy crap, I was actually going to do this!  I walked back up the little hill and then ran all the way down.
The way back to town was a slight uphill, which wasn't all that nice.  I think it was more hard mentally because the road just kept going on and you could see a slight uphill.  And it was a bit hot, but ice down my sleeves was doing the trick.  I was still running and feeling good.  Craziness.   
Could I look any happier?  And could this run be any prettier?
Then, finally, around mile 11 I wasn't feeling all that hot.  I was having some nutrition issues.  Either I had too much caffeine, too much sugar, or not enough sugar.  I felt a bit dizzy and buzzy and a bit pukey.  Not great, but not awful and I was still moving foward.  I tried to do a 5:1 run walk but that wasn't so great, so I went way down to a 1:1 run-walk interval.  Not great, but hey, I was running just as much as I was walking.  Still better than IMTX.  This went on through town.  I tried to put on a brave face for my fans, but they knew I wasn't quite right.  I hit special needs, and CDA does this RIGHT.  I came through and they had a guy on a speaker yelling my bib number.  I didn't even have to signal that I wanted my bag, there was a volunteer greeting me with all of my stuff laid out in her arms.  Awesome!  I ditched my caffeine chews, which I thought was the likely suspect for my issues because I had a LOT of caffeine, grabbed my non-caffeine chews and headed out.  On the way out, Michelle ran with me a bit more, quizzing me on my status.  I told her I was down to 1:1 intervals and she asked me to try and do 2:1 intervals because the fastest way through the run was to actually run.  I nodded and went back to work.

So that's what I did.  Down through the fun neighborhoods with my 2:1 intervals, taking baby sips of coke at each aid station and maybe having 1 chew every 1 or 2 miles.  I'm really proud with how I caught this issue.  Nothing goes perfect in an Ironman.  The key is being observant to those issues and troubleshooting them quickly.  I was feeling a bit rough until mile ~14 or 15 and then I was back to feeling mostly like myself again.  Legs felt good, feet felt good, HR was cooperating, stomach was decent.  Success.

Around mile 15 at the aid station entrance I saw a familiar jersey and realized it was my friend Ryan.  I poked him on the back and said "hey, I'm not supposed to find you!".  He's a strong runner and I knew he was having issues.  He had a person mis-direct him at special needs, causing him to miss it.  He was getting blisters and needed his body glide that was in his special needs bag.  And he was having a massive pity party.  We walked through the aid station and I gave him Michelle's pep talk about how you get through the marathon faster by actually running it and told him I was doing 2:1 intervals.  He was game and went with me.

This actually turned into one of my favorite parts of the race.  Ryan's my bud and he was in a tough spot.  I was happy to help him out (I think he would have walked a ton if I didn't find him).  And keeping tabs on him kept me distracted.  We helped eachother, and it was awesome.  We got to the hill and walked up it.  He whined about how fast I walked.  I laughed.  We got to the top and ran down the entire downhill to the turn around.

Then the second-best thing happened.  There was a guy with a ton of glow necklaces, handing them out to people.  I was a sad panda - I didn't want the glow necklace.  He asked what loop we were on and we said "second".  Then he said that the necklaces were for the first loopers and we wouldn't need them.  I hit the timing mat  at the turn around and did a HUGE happy dance.  NO GLOW NECKLACE FOR ME!  Seriously.  So happy.

We walked up the little hill and then ran the entire downhill section.  I had two watches on my wrist now - my Garmin for HR and pace and my digital watch for overall time.  I was trying to guess when our finish time was (we were both shooting for around 14 hrs) and at that point, it was looking like we'd finish around 14:10. 

By that point (after going down the big hill) Michelle and her friend Sonja were driving on the run course, yelling at us to run more.  "Run! Quit looking at your watch! You're smiling too much, run more!".  It was pretty comical, we were sticking with our 2:1 intervals and doing a good job running, and it never failed that they'd drive by during our walk break.  It was really annoying, but really very cool.  I saw some of their Kompetitive Edge teammates on the course and asked them if they had seen M&S.  They replied back with a "yeah, and they yelled at us".  At least they were yelling at multiple people.

With 3 miles left, I gave both of us a pep talk and tried to run more.  Which didn't really happen as it was uphill.  Ryan kept telling me I could leave him but I wasn't about to do that.  And at that point, things started to hurt and I'm not sure I could have left him.  With 2 miles left, I thought I was close to 14 hrs even and started shrinking my walk intervals and expanding my run intervals.  Not much, just 30 sec on either side.  Then we got to the 1 mile point and I really tried to run as much as possible.  I just couldn't run up the dumb hills, but for the flats, I ran.  That was the rule for that last bit: if its not up a hill, you're running.

together and running and smiling
We made the left turn to the finish and went through a parking lot.  Sherpa Jose greeted us and ran with us a bit.  I tossed him my water bottle because I didn't want it in my finish photo.  Then I guess we were running a bit too fast for him as he stopped and hung back.  We made the left hand turn onto Sherman Ave and we could see the lights of the finish. 

As far as finish lines go, I think IMTX was better.  It seemed longer, but that may be because it was narrow for a long ways.  They kept Sherman Ave the full width until the block of the finish line.  The streets were lined with people, but with the width, it didn't seem as impressive.  I dunno.

I tossed my chews onto the street (bad, I know).  I had them in my side pockets and they looked lumpy and not flattering.  I looked at my watch and saw the 14 hr mark pass and I decided to run but soak it all in.  Then Ryan and I ran to the finish together.  Really, really perfect.  Except for the part where I dropped my sunglasses in the chute and had to stop to get them.  Oops.  It was ok though, as it gave Ryan a chance to go through the finish line by himself.  I think he was expecting us to cross together, but I feel its important as a first timer to get your finish line photo by yourself.

As for how I was feeling, I'll let the photos do the work.  I really, really tried to soak it all in.  I even heard Mike Reilly call my name this time, which made me smile so so big.  Looking at the photos, I didn't realize I could smile that big. 

This photo is why I keep going back to do Ironman. 
I can't think of any other place but the finish chute
that makes me feel like this.

I saw Ryan cross and then I decided to do an imprompu jump for my finish.  I didn't practice anything and I really didn't trust my legs to be steady for a landing if I did anything crazy.  So I did a semi-lame jump that wasn't very photogenic.  But it was how I was feeling at the time, so I'll own it.
Apparently I didn't think to look up.  I guess I was more worried about landing.
Ryan was at the finish with his handler and I had mine.  I was a bit wobbly, which made me happy.  That means I pushed myself.  None of this "I'm fine" crap at the end like IMTX.  Nope, wobbles were good.

Our helpers were really nice.  They got our finisher gear for us (I tried the shirt on to ensure it fit) and they walked us to the finisher photo area and held our stuff.  Then I saw Will across the way and said "there's my person" and headed over to see him.

He looks concerned but really, we were just chatting.  I love this photo of us. 
My friends on facebook turned it into a hilarious caption contest.

See, just chilling, no biggie.

First half (13.3 miles): 2:33:34, 11:32 pace.  This by the way, would be a PR for a half marathon for a 70.3.  WOW.
Second half (12.9 miles): 2:42:20, 12:35 pace.  I have done 70.3s with run splits slower than this.  Wow again
Total run time: 5:15:54, 12:03 pace.
Age Group: 62 / 112
Overall: 1413 / 2318

Total finish time: 14:03:28, 62/112 in my age group, 1413/2318 overall.  This is the highest I have placed in a WTC race.  And I had a PR of 1:53:xx from IMTX.  WOW.  And a daylight finish.

I really can't explain how it feels to finally have an Ironman time that I'm proud of.  No excuses of "oh it was hot and I had to walk a ton".  Nope.  I had my plan and I executed it nearly perfectly.  There really is very little I would change about my day at CDA.  It was about as perfect as it could have been.

I can't wait to do another and try to go sub-14.  I know I can do it.  Boulder 2014 anyone?

Oh, and this happened:

Turns out I broke my toe after the first loop of the swim.  We were sitting on the grass talking and all of I sudden I remembered that I did something to my foot and was curious about what I did.  Good thing I was sitting on the grass, because I would have fallen out of my chair.

I really barely felt it.  I'm glad I had a high pain tolerance - can you imagine if I didn't?  I texted Michelle a photo of my toe that night and I got the highest compliment - "you're a bad ass". 

Yes, yes I am.

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