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Saturday, June 30, 2012

And the winner is...

Our Ironman Coeur d’Alene day started with a 3:30 am alarm clock.  Good thing we were used to central time (as it was 5:30 am CST)…it made getting up much easier!!  After a quick shower and breakfast, we headed out the door with two athletes that were staying at our Idahome B&B with us, Jeannete and Sonia.  We were giving them a ride down to the start of the race.  The four of us loaded the car and were ready to head off.  Before we left, we decided to go through a checklist to make sure both athletes had everything they would need for the day…timing chip…check…race nutrition for the bike…check…race nutrition for the run…check…wetsuit…OMG…Sonia did not have her wetsuit!!  Goggles…check…swim cap…check.  Good thing we went through the checklist!!

After we dropped off both athletes, we found a place to park, loaded ourselves up with everything we would need for the day, donned our bike helmets and bikes and headed off to Lake Coeur d’Alene to the transition area.  I checked into the women’s change tent and then went to find our Zoom Performance teammate, Christine, who was competing in her first Ironman. 

We all headed toward the water’s edge for the swim start.  It was a lot of fun to see the professionals start their day at 6:25 am for their first loop of the swim course.  Starting 35 minutes before the age group athletes would allow most of them to start their 2nd lap before the age groupers would enter the water for their first loop.  At 6:59 am the gun went off and all of the age group athletes began their game of rugby in the water.  That is my analogy for the swim start of an Ironman competition since there is a lot of hitting, kicking and rough waters as you try to get your space in the water.  There were 2600 participants all entering the water at the same time…it was so AWESOME to see!!

An Ironman consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running.  The age group athletes begin their day at 6:59 am and they have until 9:20 to swim the 2.4 miles or they can’t continue.  They have until 5:30 pm to bike the 112 miles or they can’t proceed, and they have until midnight to run 26.2 miles or they don’t get an official finish time, medal, finisher’s shirt, etc.  There are a few other checkpoints along the bike and run courses, but these vary depending on the race.

After watching the swim for a couple of minutes, I headed off to the transition area where I began my volunteer shift in the women’s change tent.  I have volunteered in the women’s change tent at Ironman Wisconsin, so I knew what I was getting into…so I thought…

First the professional women started to come through, followed by the women age groupers.  At about 8:15 am, the chaos I was used to began…lots of women all coming into transition to change at the same time and not enough volunteers to help…this was nothing unusual…you just help as many athletes at once as you can and know that you have done the best that you can.  The part that I wasn’t anticipating was how cold the women would be after getting out of the water.  Those water temps were 59 degrees…the women were shaking uncontrollably, had little dexterity in their hands and were FREEZING!!  When Christine came into T1 (the transition from the swim to the bike), she yelled my name very loudly so I could go help her do a complete change before sending her out on the bike.  I was so excited to get the opportunity to help my teammate!!

When I was trained in Wisconsin to volunteer in the women’s change tent, we were trained to do the following:
1.    Be very excited for EVERY athlete coming into transition.
2.    Ask the athletes if you can carry their bag and help them change.
3.    Ask the athletes if you can dump their bag and then put all of their gear from the previous leg (in this case the swim) into their transition bag.
4.    Help the athlete change and get them out the door as soon as possible (when the women come out of the water and are wet, it is VERY DIFFICULT for them to get their sports bra and tops on, so they often need help with this).
5.    Think for the athlete, as they are often times too delirious and overwhelmed to think for themselves.

We were not trained to do any of this in the women’s change tent by our volunteer captain at IM CDA.  As a result, many of the volunteers sat around waiting for the athletes to ask for help instead of being excited, proactive and offering to help the athletes.  I was very disappointed in the volunteers in the women’s change tent at IM CDA. 

After T1, I went out on the bike course to spectate.  It was fun to see the athletes come through the first loop on the bike course and begin their second loop.  There was one athlete who got a flat tire near us on the bike and had NO idea what he was doing to change it.  Thanks to Coach Julie, I have had lots of practice changing flat tires (even if they weren’t really flat) and was able to help him.  After the staple was removed from the tire and the tube was replaced and inflated, I asked him if he had another tube and CO2 cartridge in his bike special needs bag that he could take with him just incase it happened again…he did not, so I took my spare bike tube and CO2 cartridge out of my bike bag and put it in his bike bag before sending him on his way. 

After seeing Christine go by on the bike, we relocated to a spot down the road where we could see her again before she headed back out of town for her second loop on the bike.  

As she left town, I went back into transition to the women’s change tent to help the women in T2 (the transition from the bike to the run).  I was able to help a few women that I had helped earlier in the day (coming out of the water) as well as women I didn’t get the opportunity to previously help.  I helped a deaf women change…that was a challenge since she was signing to me and I couldn’t understand sign language, so we mostly communicated through lip reading.  I also had a woman come through transition with a ripped bib number (all athletes need their bib number when crossing the finish line), so I bit a hole in her sweaty, ripped bib number to create a hole to thread her race belt through…yes I know…someone else’s sweaty bib in my mouth…these are the things you do for your fellow athletes to help them become an Ironman!!

Eventually Jeannete came into T2 and I helped get her changed and out the door…she looked GREAT and was in GREAT spirits!!  With about 30 minutes left on the bike before the time cutoff, Christine came into T2.  I was so excited to see her!!  I again helped her change and sent her out on the run.  She also looked GREAT and was in GREAT spirits!!  I was so happy both my girls were feeling so well!!

I quickly gathered up my things and left transition to go cheer Christine on out on the run course.  I spent much of my time in more desolate areas where there were few spectators and I was able to cheer on a lot of athletes at some of their lowest points.  Many of the athletes were thankful that I was out there cheering for them, some athletes were completely out of it and didn’t acknowledge me, while others were just pushing through to finish and go to the med tent. 

At 11:23 pm, Christine crossed the finish line and became and Ironman for the first time!!  I was so happy to get to support her (and all of the other participants) in any way that I could to become an Ironman!!  Congratulations to all of you…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!

After getting back to the B&B just before 1 am (it was a 22 hour day for us…boy was I EXHAUSTED), I decided which Ironman event I am going to participate in…Ironman Wisconsin in 2013.  I love the volunteers, course, atmosphere and water temps at IMWI!!  It is time to slay the dragon!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ironman CDA bike course

Friday we decided to ride one loop of the Ironman Coeur d'Alene's bike course (56 miles).  We were scheduled to ride the route on Saturday, but due to the impending storms on Saturday, we decided to ride on Friday so we didn't miss the opportunity to see what the course was like.

The bike course starts from City Beach and heads out to the southeast along a beautiful lake shore road (the same roads as the run course).  There are a few hill climbs and amazing views of Lake Coeur d'Alene before turning around and heading back toward City Beach. 

Once back at City Beach, the bike route leaves town to the southwest on a major highway (for those that are familiar with the Ames area, it is VERY similar to Hwy 30) where the speed limit is 65 mph.  There is a nice wide bike lane along this highway and vehicles are very respectful of the bicycles.  At the start of this leg of the bike course, there is a 2 mile climb that is at a 6% grade.  I was very intimidated by this climb at first, but it turned out to be much easier than I anticipated.  I must be getting stronger on the bike!!  :)

About 5 miles out of town, the road became VERY BORING.  There was a slight incline the whole way out to the turnaround and a 15 mph headwind, but there were no twists and turns, up and downs, or things to keep you focused on your task at hand.  The landscape became very similar to the Midwest and I didn't feel as though I was in North Idaho anymore.  At one point I must have "fallen asleep behind the handlebars" since I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing and double shifted causing my chain to drop on a climb...Oh well...this forced me to refocus my attention on the task at hand :)

This is the view out of town...looks like Iowa.

We knew the turn around for the bike course was just past Setters Road, but we weren't sure of its exact location.  We kept looking for markings on the road (the course was VERY well marked up to this point with bright orange tape), but we didn't see any sign of the turnaround.  When we were close to 40 miles, according to the bike computer, we decided to turn around knowing it was about 20 miles back into town.  We weren't sure how we had missed the turnaround, but a few miles down the road it became quite obvious how it was missed...the turnaround was in the northbound lane!!  UGH...we ended up with a 61 mile ride instead of the planned 56 mile ride...Oh was another great adventure!!

The return trip went pretty quickly as we had the wind at our backs and it was a gentle downhill for the most part.  When we were about 2 miles from town, we had that long 2 mile descent at the 6% grade that we had climbed earlier when we left town.  I love going fast!!  What a fun part of the course!!

All in all, it was a successful 61 mile ride, even if more than 30 miles of it were REALLY BORING.  We were so hungry when we were done, we showered, changed and went to Bonsai Bistro for some wine, soup and AMAZING sushi!!  There is nothing better than fabulous food after a great workout!!
Wine and Soup...YUM!!
Sushi...even better than the wine and soup!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Ironman Battle


While on our trip, I have been doing a lot of thinking about which race would be the best for me to participate in for the 2013 year.  There are many factors that I have been thinking about:

1.  Time of year:  IM CDA would require me to have the bulk of my training at the end of the school year when chaos and stress are at a maximum...IM WI would be toward the start of my school year and the bulk of my training would be complete before the school year starts.

2.  Financial aspect:  IM CDA would require more money for travel than IM WI.  If we drive to CDA, it is at least a 2 day drive each way with gas, lodging and food along the way and in CDA.  If we fly to CDA, there is the expense of flying, lodging, transporting my bike to the race site and food.  Driving to Madison is a 4 hour drive one way which would require less gas, lodging and food.  Since I am not made of money, doing two in one year is out of the question.

3.  Do I want a second chance at IM WI:  In 2011 I finished IM WI, yes, but I wasn't really happy with my performance.  I know I could have had a better performance if I had done a better job of controlling my nutrition...Do I want to Slay the Dragon at WI???

4.  Experience something new:  Do I want the opportunity to experience IM in a new location (CDA) or on familiar territory (WI)?  I love the scenery in both locations!! 

I have less than 48 hours to make my final decision since IM CDA is tomorrow and registration for IM CDA is the following morning EARLY...hmmmm...what to do...What would you do?

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Wonderful Day in Coeur d'Alene

Today was a beautiful day in CDA (Coeur d'Alene)!!  We woke up at 5 am (7 am Iowa time) ate a quick breakfast and went down to the Ironman CDA race site so we could run one loop of the IM CDA run course (13.1 miles).  What a perfect morning!!  The run course has a couple bumps in the road, but nothing overly taxing.  It starts at city park and goes through some neighborhoods before utilizing the bike path along the lake shore. 

The bike path along Lake Coeur d'Alene with the Interstate overlooking it all.

After our long run, we returned to our B&B where our hosts made wonderful homemade omelets full of fresh veggies with a side plate of fresh fruit and cheese.  It was VERY TASTY!!

We decided to spend the rest of our day back in CDA.  We started with lunch at Beverly's, where we enjoyed a spectacular view and wonderful seafood.  I had the "King Salmon" and the hubby had the "Tuna"...both were very fresh and tasty. 

View from Beverly's overlooking Lake Coeur d'Alene
King Salmon


After lunch, we met Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, in the lobby.  He is the announcer at Ironman Wisconsin (and MANY other Ironman events around the world)...the one who called out our names and said, "You are an Ironman" when we crossed the finish line.  We had a brief conversation with Mike and got our picture taken with him.  He is a great guy with a fun sense of humor ;)

We then went down to the Ironman Village, where we got sucked into the AWESOME atmosphere of Ironman!!  We met many athletes, volunteers, spectators and vendors.  Since it was a rather warm day, we decided to purchase a "Green Smoothie" made from organic kale, organic blueberries, organic lemon juice and a dollop of local honey.  Yes we were intrigued by the wonderful fresh, organic, local fruits and veggies that made up the smoothie, but I was even more intrigued by the mechanism for which they generated energy to the guessed it...a man pedaling a bicycle!!

After Ironman Village, we stopped off for a beer at Splash, drove the bike course (which makes me even more excited to ride it in the next couple of days) and had dinner with some FABULOUS friends and teammates...Martha and Christine. 

We couldn't have asked for a more WONDERFUL day!! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"High" and "Up" mean something!!

Yesterday we decided to ride our bikes from Post Falls, ID to Coeur d'Alene, ID (what should be a 7 mile trip).  The hosts at our B&B told us to take the Continental Trail along the river into town, but we decided to try an alternate route...hmmmm...maybe we should have listened to our hosts!!

We started out on Riverview Drive, which had a few gentle climbs, but nothing overly taxing.  When we stopped along the road to take a look at our map, it was decided that we would turn off on "Highland Drive."  As we climbed up some pretty steep slopes, I quickly figured out how it got its name.  We just kept getting higher and higher with every pedal stroke!!  Eventually we turned off onto "Upriver Drive." We continued to climb some very steep slopes...up, up, up we went.  This 7 mile bike ride quickly turned into 12 miles as we climbed up over the hill.

This is the GORGEOUS view from the top (zoomed in of course, so you can see the road below...far right...that we were supposed to be on)!!  If we would have taking the straight and flat path, we wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to see such AMAZING views!!  Sometimes it pays off to take the "road less traveled," but I also learned that if roads have the word "High" or "Up" in may want to avoid them :)

Since we climbed all the way to the top of the hill, we got to descend the other side.  I love the descent...the wind in your face, the challenge behind you (in this case) and speeds that easily exceed 30 mph without even pedaling :)

Once we arrived in Coeur d'Alene, we went downtown and decided to get a "cold one" at Moose Lounge.  It felt really good to sit and relax on the outdoor patio.  There were many people out and about to converse with (Ironmen, spectators and locals) and we ran into some of our team mates since we had our Zoom gear on it was easy for them to spot us :)

After going to the local farmers market, we decided to venture back to Post Falls via the Continental Trail that was previously suggested to us.  There were few terrain changes and this avenue provided us with a different view of the river and the city.  All in was a very successful day!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mountainous Terrain

After spending 4 days at close to (or exceeding) 5000 feet elevation, I have a better understanding for why professional athletes train at higher elevations.  Not only are the views spectacular, but the physical demands placed on the body at these higher altitudes is amazing!!

Unfortunately we did not get to bike much as we rained for 3 of the 4 days we were at the higher elevation.  We felt that the amount of rain we received did not make riding on such steep slopes safe.  There were some AMAZING ascents (or descents depending on the direction you went), where you climbed (or descended) for over 10 miles and the last 6 miles (or first 6 miles if you were descending) were at a 6% grade.  I definitely wanted to give them a try, but Mother Nature had other plans for us.

Instead, we went for a longer run (see my previous post) and then went for a hike later that same day.
Lizzy, the Lodge at Lolo Hot Spring's resident dog, went with us on our hike.  We were gone for over an hour and were on some pretty steep slopes with amazing views!!  When we got to the top of the "peak" we were staying by, we could look out over the world!!  Climbing to this point, I was very winded!!  I quickly realized why professional athletes train at these higher altitudes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Running at 4793 feet Elevation

This morning my husband and I ran 9.25 miles at 4793 feet elevation in Bozeman, Montana.  It was a cool, cloudy morning, but the sun reflected beautifully off of the snow caps on the majestic Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Our bodies are most familiar with the 942 feet elevation back home where oxygen is much more plentiful than it is up here.  We knew we needed to start off easy due to the change in elevation and the much thinner air.  The first 3 miles were pretty easy and peaceful.  We ran through a really quiet downtown and headed out by the hospital.  As we turned onto the bike path that goes past the hospital to the south, we felt the incline...not so much in our legs, but in our chests.  WOW...Who knew that such a long gentle climb could be so taxing on the respiratory system!?!?!?!?  We decided to stop at mile 3 at the hospital...not because we needed to be hooked up to oxygen (although that thought crossed my mind), but because we figured they would have water for us to consume before we continued on.

When we left the hospital, we debated whether or not to turn around and head back the way we came (after all, we were in unfamiliar territory), but we decided to keep moving forward and see where we would go.  We were on a new adventure heading straight toward the mountains...what a beautiful view!!  We eventually reached a point where the bike path ended, so we decided to turn west since that was the general direction we came from.  Low and behold we saw the Montana State football stadium and campus ahead of us!!  Yesterday we road our bikes through campus upon our arrival to spin out the legs and get a feel for where we were, so now we knew exactly where we were and how to get back to the hotel.  :)  At about mile 6 we stopped in a park with a drinking fountain and consumed more water before heading back for the last 3 miles. 

What a GREAT run at 4793 feet of elevation!!  Bozeman provided us with such a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains and a peaceful city this morning.  I can't wait to see what the rest of our vacation provides us!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

First Triathlon of the 2012 Season

                                                      HOLY HILLS!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012 was my first triathlon of the 2012 racing season (excluding the Magnolia Triathlon back in March in Covington, Louisiana).  The Holiday Lakes Triathlon consisted of a 500 meter swim, a 25 kilometer bike and a 5 kilometer run.

Friday night I got my transition bag ready, set out my new Zoom Triathlon Kit, put the bike in the car and was in bed by 7:30 pm.  As I was getting my transition bag together, I thought back to my first triathlon...boy was I nervous!!  I didn't even have the slightest hint of nerves going into this race and slept like a baby as a result :)

Saturday started with a 4:00 am alarm clock and a 90 minute drive to Holiday Lake by Brooklyn, IA.  We experienced a beautiful sunrise on the way to Holiday Lake and came to the realization that we LOVE mornings!!  There are fewer people out and about, the mornings are so calm and peaceful and the sunrises...well, those are truly priceless!!

Packet pick-up was open just before 7 am.  As I was getting ready to pick up my race number and timing chip, I realized I didn't have my photo ID or my USAT card...WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!?!  I am a certified USAT Coach and know better than this!!  Luckily I was able to pull my USAT information up on my iPhone, but I still had no photo ID...the "ladies auxiliary" that was working packet pick-up and body marking were very nice and let me get my race number and timing chip anyway.  They also had no idea how to body mark triathletes.  As the first triathlete to get body marked, I explained to them what to do with each person they body marked, and made sure they correctly marked a few more people before heading back to the car to get everything ready for transition.

The transition area opened at 7:30 am and the triathlon didn't start until 9 am.  Perfect!!  This would give me plenty of time to get my transition area set up, test ride the bike to make sure everything is working properly and get down to the water for some pre-race swim practice. While test riding my bike, it was noted that the road just outside of transition was recently chip sealed...UGH!!!  There was still plenty of loose "chips" on the tar and places where the tar was seeping through.  Good thing it is only for the first 1/4 mile and the last 1/4 mile of the bike ride!!

After getting my bike back in transition and making sure everything was set up just right, I made my way down to the water's edge and began the arduous process of putting on my wetsuit.  If you haven't ever experienced putting on a wetsuit before, I use the analogy of trying to stuff sausage into a sausage is quite the chore!!  There were many people down at the swim start who opted out of putting on their wetsuit for the short 500 meter swim, but I decided to put mine on as it would give me practice for upcoming races this year.  After swimming out and back a few times, I was very comfortable in the water.  As more people entered the water to do a pre-race swim, the amount of slimy seaweed floating in the water increased tremendously!! YUCK!!

At 8:45 am the race director had everyone get out of the water to do our pre-race meeting giving us all last minute instructions and helpful tips about the course.  At 9:00 am the gun went off for the men's wave...and they were off.  As I looked around the beach, there weren't many women and team participants left.  This would make for a nice swim with little contact!!  At 9:03 am the gun went off and we were off!!  As I was swimming, I remember thinking, "This is GREAT!!  I have had no contact with anyone."  I found my rhythm and swam at a very comfortable pace.  As I approached the shore, I began mentally preparing myself for transition.

Upon exiting the water, I immediately began stripping off my wetsuit as I ran up the hill into transition.  After getting out of my wetsuit much faster than it took me to get into it, I was changing into my bike gear and hitting the road.  The bike course was very hilly with a strong headwind to the first turn around.  I just dropped into aero and stayed low, knowing I would be turning around and getting the wind at my back at some point.  I was very happy to make it to about mile 4 before seeing the first triathlete on his return leg of the bike.  At the first turn around on the bike, there were a couple of great "men's auxiliary" volunteers cheering participants on and encouraging us.  As I turned around the orange cone, I decided now I would really push!!  Why not?!?!?  I did have many hills to climb, but I also had the wind at my back...Let's see what I can do :)  After the second turn around point, I would have the wind in my face again for a couple of miles before turning back into transition, so I decided to make the most of the wind at my back while I could!!  With the wind at my back, there were some descents that I was able to get my speed up to 37.4 mph.  I felt like I was flyin'!!  After the second turn around, I had about 2 miles of headwinds before the turn back into transition.  With only a couple of miles to go on the bike leg, I dropped my chain completely off a my derailer while trying to shift in preparation for an ascent.  UGH!!  I got off my bike and quickly put the chain back on before getting back on my bike and trying to pass the three people that just passed me.  No one had passed me on the entire ride until now.  I was determined to catch them and pass them again!!  I caught two of the participants pretty quickly as they were struggling up the hill, but the last one was a little stronger and was right in front of me going into transition.  I decided I would catch her on the run since I didn't catch her on the bike.

When I got into transition, I quickly racked my bike, wiped off the bike grease from my hands, got out of my bike gear and into my run gear and was off on the run!!  The last 3.1 miles were in front of me and I had NO idea just how hilly this run would be!!  As I began the climb out of transition, I decided to walk and take in some much needed water and nutrition (breakfast was a long time ago...).  You know the saying, "What goes up, must come down."  Well, down we went and then up and down and up and get the picture.  There was not one flat section on the entire run!!  There were multiple hill climbs that were at 19% grade, which meant there were also descents at the same grade.  I was able to walk up the steep hills faster than I could run up them and decided this was a good strategy to help conserve energy.  The whole run was also on the recently chip sealed roads, so this made for some unsteady footing on the ascents and descents as well.

As I crossed the finish line, I was very thankful that the race wasn't any longer, I was wondering what sadistic individual designed this course and I was happy to be done!!  There were other Zoom Performance athletes participating, so we decided to get a group photo at the finish line showing that we all conquered what was a VERY CHALLENGING course!!  The only flat part of the whole race was the swim :)

I got some food and checked the results board only to find out I got 3rd in my age group!!  YIPPEE!!  I really had to work hard to earn this medal!!  I finished with a time of 1:41:05.  I was pretty happy with that considering the course!!

I really enjoyed the challenge that this course brought and will definitely be doing this race again...just not next year is Ironman Coeur d'Alene :)

Total Time: 1:41:05 for 18.95 miles
Swim:  10:09 for 500 meters
T1:  2:17
Bike:  57:50 for 15.5 miles (with a dropped chain)
T2:  1:43
Run:  30:15 for 3.1 miles (straight up and straight down)

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Today was a FABULOUS day!!  I woke up incredibly early (3 am) and ran Dam to Dam (12.4 miles) and had a great run!!  It was a perfect day for running...relatively cool, mostly cloudy and I had a great amount of energy, which was surprising after last week's really hot race!!  When I came home, I did a bunch of work and then went for a bicycle ride with my husband.  This wasn't just any bicycle ride.  We took our cross bikes out on grass trails and gravel roads and had a BLAST!!

I had multiple realizations on this ride:
1.  I LOVE to ride my cross bike!!  I LOVE to experience new locations and new terrain.
2.  I LOVE the focus that off road riding requires.  You have to be mentally "on" with every move you make since the terrain is constantly changing.  On the flat open road it is much easier to lose focus. 
3.  I definitely need to work on my bike handling skills.  This was proven on the multiple climbs and descents since I had to use my brakes much more than I wanted to on the descents and I experienced lots of different terrains to maneuver on the ascents.  I need to work on the bike handling skills!!
4.  I LOVE exercising outside...I already knew this, but this ride only reaffirmed my feelings for exercising outside :)