This race report really begins on the beach of Lake Coeur D’Alene. As most of you know Ironman CDA was supposed to be my first Ironman race. Lake conditions proved to be too much for me to handle and I did not make the swim cut-off time. I then had to figure out what exactly went wrong and how to fix it. In the meantime I didn’t want to have to wait a year or more to race again, especially since I had been training hard for the last 6 months. While waiting at the Salt Lake airport for our final flight back to Atlanta from CDA, I found the Great Floridian in a triathlon schedule. I asked Coach Mike about the race and sure enough he had done it before. He described it as a hilly bike course but nice race. The timing worked out perfect for out Peru trip but I would have to drop out of the Marine Corps marathon – not a problem! I also knew that Elaine was looking for an iron-distance race and had been considering Beach to Battleship. I told her I was looking at GF and she agreed to join me.
The next step was to figure out what the hell happened with my swim. I am not a super speedy swimmer but never anticipated that I would not make the swim cut-off. I consulted John’s swim coach and the conclusion was wetsuit + slight frame + waves + a “glider” not powerhouse swimmer = Bobbing Cork! I needed to gain some strength in my lats and arms and learn to pull the water instead of relying on good body position and balance to glide through the water. So, the training continued with many more miles on the bike, swim and run.
Cut to October. I tried to keep the fact that I was attempting another Ironman under wraps so I didn’t have to face the disappointment of my previous failure on such a grand scale. It is great to have so many people invested in your success but when things don’t work out it weighs very heavily on your soul. You feel as if you have let everyone down not just yourself. A few people that I was training with knew and some figured it out but most didn’t really know until race day.
John and I drove to FL on Wednesday and spent Thursday at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal theme park and then I checked in for the race that afternoon at Waterfront Park. It was very low key and simple as compared to Augusta or CDA. No signing death waivers and verifying insurance info which is nice since that stuff tends to ratchet up the stress level quite a bit. Elaine arrived Friday and we checked our bikes, setup our gear and special needs bags and tried to get some sleep.
Race Day: I slept pretty well, got dressed, grabbed a bagel from the hotel and we were on our way. I dropped off my special needs bags, setup my food and drinks on my bike and headed to the beach. Teesha, Kim and Mike arrived and we hung around burning off nervous energy and then it was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the beach.
SWIM: The swim was a 1.2 mile triangular course with 2 loops. The conditions were perfect. Not too hot or cold, calm lake and few participants. The race started, I waded into the water, started swimming and then started panicking! Thoughts such as “I don’t want to do this!", "What am I doing?!" kept rolling around my head and I could not get my breathing under control. I swam, sidestroked and breast stroked the first half of the course, trying to get my breathing under control. Finally, I was able to swim and started gaining serious ground on those buoys but I felt like I had been struggling forever and seriously started worrying about my time. I got out of the water, checked the time and it was just under 50 minutes. Good, I still had plenty of time. The second lap went by much faster since I really swam this time and I got to shore, looked at the clock (1:36) and heard the Get Fit support team cheering. I did a little fist pump and then headed to transition.
I grabbed my bike gear and headed to the changing tent. Here is where things got tough. At CDA there were volunteers to help with changing but here I was on my own. I quickly tried to dry off and remove the pound of sand on my feet. Getting my tri top on while still kind of damp proved to be the most difficult but I finally got it on. As I was finishing dressing Elaine was heading into the tent, we exchanged a few words and then I was off on the bike.
BIKE: The bike course has been notoriously nasty over the years since Clermont has all the hills in the state of Florida including a nice one called Sugarloaf Mountain. I had been warned by many, many people that the course was tough. The race course has typically been 2 loops but this year they decided to change it to 3 loops with the first loop going up Sugarloaf and the second and third bypassing the Mountain. John and I drove the bike course on Friday so I knew it was very hilly including the bypass loops which replaced one “mountain” with 3 large hills and a downhill containing a traffic circle (?!). There were very little real flats but lots of false flats and a few rolling hills. Mostly it was just climb and climb and climb. The temperature on race day was predicted to be 88 so I knew heat was going to be a factor. I had lots of enduralytes on my bike and in my special needs bags so I thought I would be fine given the humidity was low. What I didn’t account for was that the wind was really nasty here too. It was very difficult to gain any speed on the so-called flats and downhills with the wind constantly whipping at you and it made climbing a real *****. I struggled along, kept drinking and planned to bypass all the stops except for at the turn arounds. That plan quickly went to hell after the first lap. The heat and wind started to suck the life out of me and I drank everything on my bike in one lap. I also started having problems getting solid food down so gus became my only form of nutrition. I knew I had to start stopping to get ice and fluids along the way and it started eating up my time. I chugged along and finished lap 2. I was still under the first cutoff time but I knew I was going to be close on that final cutoff. I just couldn’t gain any speed with that wind. There was a particularly horrible stretch of road with a slight incline where the wind just whipped around you while high speed traffic zoomed by. I really dreaded facing that a third time but out I went again. I was close to the end when I looked at my watch and realized I would not make the cutoff. The one race official I saw on the course did nothing to stop me nor did he tell me my day was over so I continued to ride even though the final intersections were no longer being kept open by the sheriffs department. I rolled into transition and grabbed my gear bag and headed to the tent to change while the volunteers figured out what to do with me. They told me I could continue so I ran out on the course to finish this damn thing.
RUN: All along I knew I would be close on the bike but knew I would still be able to run/walk my way to the end of the race with the given time. What I didn’t count on was the toll the heat, wind and relentless hills would have on my body and starting later than expected. Nothing hurt but I knew I didn’t have a great run in me. Combined with the fact that all I had to eat in the last couple of hours was gus I was hurting a bit. In the rush to get on the course I also noticed that I had forgotten my race number. I tried to yell out to John but he didn’t hear me so I just kept on going and figured I would grab it next time through the transition area since it was a 3 loop course with 6 passes by transition. I was able to run a bit but mostly I power walked the first lap of the run course. I started calculating in my head the time left and figured I wasn’t going to make it but I just kept on walking and hoped for the best. On my way back, John met me with my number. Seems some people nearby heard me call to John and told him I needed my number. However, not a single person asked or noticed along the way especially since it got real dark, real quick. The next issue was I needed a light. The run course was very dark at the beginning and it took a while for the lights to come on. When I started on the run it was quite bright but by the time I got to my special needs bag it was very dark. I grabbed my light and Teesha started walking with me for company. The run course was a trail around the lake and was filled with spectators, friends and families so it wasn’t a typical closed course. I managed to run more than the first lap. By the time the third lap came around they pulled out the big guns and sent Dana down the trail with me. Dana told me we were going to run the whole last lap and I told her she was insane. By this time blisters were forming on the balls of my feet and jogging made all the liquids in my stomach slosh around and made me nauseous. Even water seemed disgusting so I munched on some ice cubes. I could still jog at a decent pace but I couldn’t keep it up for long. I also began to see that this all might end in disaster and wanted the race officials to either tell me I was done or to keep on going. I kept on going and managed to jog every 20-30 seconds for every 20-30 seconds I power-walked. Dana kept up a constant chatter to keep the demons out of my head and for the most part it worked. As I passed the finish line to make the final part of the last lap they announcer said he would see me in a few minutes so I knew they were not going to end my day. The last 2 miles I had Teesha, Kim and Dana for support and Elaine, John and Mike were cheering me on from the sidelines and followed me to the finish line. I ran up the chute and finally I was done! Mike Reilly wasn’t calling my name or telling me I was an Ironman but there was my Get Fit family cheering me on and sharing in my victory which was just as sweet! A hug from everyone and then the tears started. I am an Ironman!
Post race conclusions: Since this was a smaller race and not a corporate sponsored Ironman I was given the opportunity to finish and that would not have been the case otherwise. I am not happy with my performance on the bike which ultimately affected my run but I am not sure how I could have trained any differently. I logged the miles, worked on endurance at LT and increased my average speeds dramatically. There just wasn’t any accounting for relentless wind on top of higher than normal temps. However, if I hadn’t trained as much as I did these last few months I would not have physically been able to finish 3 loops of that hellacious course no matter what the conditions, let alone be able to finish the race. I am frankly a bit embarrassed by my overall time and I feel a tiny bit dis-ingenious with my finish but it was a hard fought victory and when all is said and done I do have an Iron distance finishing time, medal and shirt to prove that I did 140.6 miles in one day. I will continue to work hard this next training season and IMWI will be my ***** next year!
Would I recommend this race? For the most part the race was well run and organized. Easy to get to location, spectator friendly and relatively cheap by comparison. It did not have all the hoopla that you have at a MDOT race but in reality it’s not necessary. The thing I was not happy with is the lack of a closed race course for the bike. Especially on the one hellish piece of highway where we had to ride on the shoulder opposite a rumble strip that included crossing a highway on and off ramp with no police presence. No SAG wagons on the bike for the stragglers on the course so I was left wondering when and if my day was over. Same for the run, no one on the course was telling me when and where a possible cutoff would occur. The swim was nice, run course good but the bike is hell!