Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ironman Coeur D'Alene Race Report


I got up at 4:00 am, showered (I like to at least start the day clean), ate my pre-race meal of whey protein, banana, Ironman Perform, and 2 fig newtons, got dressed, and was walking to transition by 4:15 am. Arrived in transition between 4:45 and 5 am (it's a long walk). Dropped my special needs bags off at the trucks and got body marked. I got to my bike to re-tape on my tubular (my dad and I had determined a better way to tape it after I had already left it the day before), put air in my tires, and put the nutrition on my bike. As I was wheeling it back to my spot, I noticed that my computer wasn't working. Since I do not use my Garmin on the bike (not enough battery life for both the bike and the run) this was not good. I KNOW it was working the day before because I checked it. I removed the computer and took it up to the techs at the front of transition. They were able to replace the battery and told me not to worry about paying for it because I'm pretty sure they took it from a "used parts" box (they were out of new ones). I was just so happy that they were helping me that I didn't care. I put the computer on, checked to see that it was working. Golden.

I distributed the rest of my stuff to my gear bags (like nutrition), dropped off my dry clothes bag, hit the porta-potty, and made my way down to the beach. There were people EVERYWHERE. It's not like Placid where athletes can walk through "swim in" and there is no one else in there. Literally thousands of people are cramming their way through to the beach. I finally made my way to the water and they weren't letting us swim, so I just got in really shallow and laid down so that I could get used to the temperature. It was FREEZING but thankfully, the wind had died down from the previous days so the water was nice and flat.


**Disclaimer - If you are scared of the Ironman swim or if your name is Deb Ozarko, you may want to skip this section.

I started in the middle towards the front. I had no idea where to seed myself so I just picked a spot by a bunch of other women. The gun went off and we were rushing into the water. The first 10 minutes of this swim were hands down the scariest experience of my life. I was getting punched, kicked, feet and hands were EVERYWHERE, and the water was icy cold. I felt like I couldn't move forward or sideways but I also couldn't stop because of the stampede of people behind me. I swam with my head out of the water, gasping for air, for the first 10 minutes. If there had been kayak access, I would have grabbed one and bailed on the race, but because you are completed trapped by people, there was no possibility of that. Eventually it thinned out enough to actually swim rather than just thrash. My heart rate finally calmed down and I could breathe normally again. Sometimes I would have a nice bubble of space and then other time I would have people all around me. I never really felt comfortable. Going around the buoys was scary and it was hard to sight because it was SO bright out. At one point I got a BIG kick right to the gut which REALLY hurt. I was also burping a LOT during the swim, which is something that has NEVER happened to me before. This subsided after the first loop. Maybe I just swallowed a lot of water during the crazy start?

I made it back to the beach in 36 minutes, which is about what I expected (especially with the slow start) and as I was getting out of the water to run across the mat, the announcer said "this is the average Ironman swim time right here." Is that why it was such a clusterf--- out there? I felt a little drunk at this point (probably due to the panic and the cold mixed together) but got right back in and started swimming. There were still people EVERYWHERE. At about the 45 minute mark, my arms and hands started to get REALLY cold. Like heavy, freezing cold, arms of steel. I tried to ignore it and pick up the pace to a) make up time and b) warm up a little. Made it out of the water a little slower than I had hope for (I was generally aiming for about a 1:12 swim because I knew it would be slower than my 1:07 speedy Placid swim due to the differences in the venue) but was ok with my swim time and was happy to be out of the cold water, alive, and black-eye free!

Swim: 1:15:08, 1:58/100 m, 24 AG, 719 OA


Ran (on numb feet) into the changing tent after grabbing my Swim/Bike bag. It was more full than when I did this in LP because my swim time was 7 minutes slower. I sat down and a volunteer started helping me empty out my bag. A woman sat next to me, noticed my Train-This uniform, and went "are you coached by Mary?" YES! How do people in freaking Coeur D'Alene know Mary Eggers!! Craziness. We got my socks, shoes, helmet, armwarmers on, grabbed my salt pills and race number belt, and I was out of there. Grabbed my bike, mounted, and I was off!

T1: 6:51


The first thing I noticed was that I was cold. Ass cold. Like I was shaking and shivering. Luckily, this only lasted for maybe 10 minutes. I rode through town, waved at my parents, and got going on the small out and back section that runs along Lake Coeur D'Alene. This section is mostly flat, but is windy, and has 1 big climb on the way to the turn around (that you later run up and over). I peed on this section (I had to pee so bad that I felt like I was going to burst) and tried to just take it easy and spin up anything that resembled an incline. It was at this point that I realized that my bike computer had stopped working 5 miles in, so I was riding by feel with only a wristwatch showing the time of day, my running time for the race, and a 15 minute countdown timer for a drinking reminder. Oh boy.

I didn't care at all that I couldn't see my speed because really, how was that going to affect me (other than maybe showing how the average speed drops once you hit the hills in Hayden, and who needs to see that??) but I was a little annoyed that I would only know the mileage at the 10 mile markers. I was mostly upset that I had lost my running "bike time" which is what I use to eat every 45 minutes. So.. I had to improvise. I knew that I got out of the water at 8:15. I estimated a 5 minute transition which put me on the bike at 8:20. I started eating 15 minutes later (8:35). So I just went by an 8:30 start and figured out 45 minute intervals based on that. When my watch would beep, I would check to see that it was 5 minutes after the correct interval and then I would eat if I was right. A little more to keep track of but it worked just fine. I ate 3 shot blocks every 45 minutes, drank every 15 minutes, and ate salt tabs willy nilly.

I started getting hot at about 1/3 of the way in, so I stopped on the side of the road to take my arm warmers off. I thought that this was a better decision than to risk trying to remove them while riding and crashing. The hills around Hayden Lake were super fun the first time around. I was having a blast, interacting with other people on the course, spinning up the uphills, passing lots of dudes with my hill spinning prowess, and then zipping down the curvy downhills! I was making sure to take it super easy. Every time I felt that I could spin a faster cadence, I downshifted. I ended up passing Adam from QT2 once we were heading away from Hayden Lake. He passed me back maybe an hour and a half later. I made it through loop 1 in ~3:10 (I had to guesstimate because I had no running bike time) which I was very happy with. I felt like I was riding reserved but had held a good, reproducible pace.

I waved at my parents and at Alan Hayter's daughter Christina as I went through town. I was smiling and having a ton of fun. I peed again on the small out and back by Lake Coeur D'Alene. I felt REALLY good until about mile 70 when we hit Hayden Lake hills take 2. I continued to spin up these hills but it was definitely taking more effort and I was noticing myself staying in the small chainring more of the time than in the first loop. I dropped my chain at one point in here and had to stop and put it back on - stupid loss of time for me. I had a pretty low point between miles 70 and 85, but then I started to feel better. The hills on this course are different than Lake Placid. They are steep and not as long, but they are definitely not easy. Once I hit mile 85 I perked up a a bit. I kept telling myself that I was strong, that I wanted to be there, and to keep spinning, and it worked. I had been getting passed by men for the entire ride (I was easily passed by 500 people I think) but I never chased anyone down - I just let them all go by me.

There were literally 4 times where I almost crashed and none were my fault. There was a surprising amount of drafting going on - huge packs of people were going by me. I just kept to the right and took it easy, letting them pass me. I had a basketball roll out in front of me, a bottle of Powerbar Perform slip out of someone's hands and go right under my front wheel, a girl almost step off the sidewalk in front of me (I yelled at her to watch out!) and the worst one, a woman who was being a complete jackass passed me, cut me off (there was DEFINITELY not room for her in between me and the guy in front of me, and I did not have time after she made the pass to even drop out of the draft zone) and clipped the rear wheel of the guy in front of her. He wobble but stayed up and she went crashing down, and slid towards the side of the road. Luckily I managed to get around her (this happened maybe 5 feet in front of me). Someone asked if she was ok and she said yes, so I went ahead to the next aid station which was a minute or 2 away and alerted them that someone had crashed so they could radio for a mobile unit to go make sure she was really ok.

I made it back into town feeling really good, strong, and confident that I had ridden intelligently. I had stayed on top of my shot blocks, and I drank (I think) 4 bottles of Ironman Perform. At about mile 70 I noticed my gut getting really bloaty and I had developed some central back pain (located where I think my kidneys are??). This concerned me a bit but I didn't know what to do about it so I just kept spinning my legs and tried to stretch my back out. I'm sure that this did not help my mental blackout at this time. This had reduced a bit once I got past the hills and was riding the flat parts back into town, so I'm not sure what caused it.

My bike time was a bit slow, (10 mins slower than IMLP) and once I saw that, I basically knew that unless God himself reached down and put his shoes on my feet, that I wasn't going to go sub-12. I think that it is going to take a perfect day, with perfect execution, for me to go sub-12. So I am still chasing that dream. However, I did not let myself get upset and I did not let my day go. I had come to Idaho with the goal of running a good, strong marathon and that was still possible. I felt strong coming off the bike and I wanted to see if I could execute the run that I KNOW I am capable of running and that I have been training for.

Bike: 6:32:13, 17.13 mph, 25 AG, 1090 OA


I handed my bike to a volunteer, grabbed my bag and ran into the tent. People were commenting that I was still running! I whipped off my shoes and socks, put on clean socks and my running sneakers, turned on my Garmin, and opted to not wear the HRM due to the bloaty feeling and some back and ribcage pain. I grabbed my hat, sunglasses, and plastic ziplock baggie of nutrition (this was a GENIUS idea) and was out of there.

T2: 2:40


(FYI: The run course got changed this year; you have to run up and OVER the big hill, down the other side, and then back up a smaller hill before you hit the turnaround. The smaller out and back portion from previous years was eliminated and this is how they made up the mileage).

The first mile felt a little rough but once my Garmin located, it said that I was running under 9 minute pace. I tried to slow it down. My goal was to run at 9 minute pace initially and then accounting for fade, wind up with a 9:15 pace on average. I know this is a lofty goal but I KNOW I can execute it.

I saw Rob from QT2 (who I sat with at breakfast and then continued to run into on Sunday morning in porta-potty lines, etc.) as I was making the corner onto the long out and back. He was looking great and really strong. He yelled "you look great babygirl" which I thought was absolutely hilarious! He was super awesome! If anyone from QT2 is reading this and knows how to get ahold of him via email, I would LOVE his email address!

The first 8 miles went well. I had a bit of cramping at the beginning but that went away. The bloaty feeling never left; I just kind of accepted it and forgot about it. I was running through aid stations, hitting the Ironman Perform without stopping, and dumping water on my head because it was pretty warm out. I was eating 1 shot block every 2 miles and continued this for the entire run even though I'd rather eat a dead worm right now than another shot block. My Garmin told me that I was averaging a 9:10 pace and I didn't really want to push it because I felt like I was running strong, but comfortable. A marathon is a long race no matter how you look at it. I had pretty much let any time goal fly out the window and I was just trying for a strong run. I was going more on feel than by pace, but was keeping my eye on the Garmin.

I hit the turnaround and was cruising down the hill feeling good, but started to lose my rhythm about halfway back into the town. I started walking short parts of the aid stations, keeping my body temperature cool by dumping water on my head and putting ice down my tri top (I know better than to put it down my shorts - thanks for that tip Amo!). I was feeling pretty yucky by mile 10 which is when I switched to Coke. That helped a bit, but I had fallen off pace heading back into town and was feeling defeated. My pace had not fallen THAT much (it was still under 10 min/mile but I had a looong way to go). I saw Christina and my parents but didn't wave at either group. I knew I had to fix my attitude for the remainder of the race, even if I couldn't pick my pace back up. I SOO did not want to run another loop but stopping was NOT an option.

Heading back out on the 2nd loop was rough, but I was still passing people. There were a lot of walkers on both loops and I was weaving in and out of people. Looking back, I should have made more of an effort to run through aid stations, but by this point I was literally running from aid station to aid station. My pace was not THAT slow, but walking for the entire length of the aid station was absolutely killing it. This was more mental than physical because it hurt a lot more to start running again after I had walked. My quads and the bottoms of my feet were killing me. I ran up the entire length of the big hill, which I was super proud of, but running back down it was torture to my legs. I saw the message that I had written to myself at the Ford Motivational Mile (it said "you rock, chica").

I hit 3 miles to go and I said f-- it, I am not stopping at any more aid stations, I just want to be DONE. A sub-12 was out the window, and so was a PR. I did not care, I just wanted to stop running, but walking would mean being out there EVEN LONGER. NO F-ING WAY!!!

One mile to go and I was in agony. The other runners around me had the same opinion. I finally made the turn to where the finish was and it looked so far away! As I made my way down the street, down the stupid downhill finish (poor quads) lots of people were screaming and yelling, but I just had no energy to do any celebrating. I crossed the line, heard Mike Reilly tell me I was an Ironman!

Run: 4:45:24, 10:53 min/mile, 23 AG, 958 OA

Total: 12:42:16, 23 AG, 958 OA

Post Race

I got my medal, shirt, and hat, got my photo, and got navigated to a chair. I was dizzy and I asked if I could get an IV but the lady said no because I was not nauseous. Ugh. Some nice people outside the fence got my parents for me (I could see them but they couldn't see me) and I eventually made my way out because I was soaking wet, freezing cold, and wanted to change.

I collected my parents and had them wait outside the changing tent while I got my dry clothes bag and went inside to change. It always feels great to get out of that race kit! I checked my phone and saw 10 texts and like 65 emails. Whoa! Sent a text to Mary telling her I was alive (because my finish time was slower than expected). Went to stand up and walk out of the tent to my parents and got nailed with massive dizziness and nausea. Thought I was going to simultaneously hurl and shit myself. I staggered to the end of the tent where a woman was standing by a table, and I felt myself about to pass out. I grabbed her shoulder to steady myself.. muttered "sorry" and then slammed down on my back, transition bags flying everywhere and clutching my sling bag (which had my iPhone and wallet in it) to my chest. She immediately stooped down and made sure I was ok, awake, etc. Turns out, she was a doctor, her name was Julie, and she was awesome! She elevated my feet, made me a makeshift pillow out of a transition bag, got my parents, and was rubbing my face with cool cups of water. Some volunteers came with a golf cart and helped me in it, drove me straight to the porta-potty so that I wouldn't crap my pants (YIKES) and then took me to the med tent.

I told the med tent workers that I was dizzy, nauseous, and thought I was dehydrated, and asked (again) if I could have an IV. The doctor said no, that he wanted to see if I could get fluids in orally. They brought me a cup of Sprite which I drank, and then 10 minutes later, barfed up along with most of my run nutrition. Note: this was not fun. I cried. They then gave me some kind of anti-nausea medicine which had to dissolve under my tongue for 20 minutes, and then brought me more Sprite, which upset my stomach again, although I did not get sick. I then had to go to the bathroom AGAIN, so a volunteer helped me out of the tent, but she wasn't holding me, and I staggered over to the porta-potty, leaned against it, and then fell down AGAIN as I tried to open the door. She got me up and helped me inside, and then held the door open as I did my thing. Sorry to anyone that I flashed.

I got back in the tent where they gave me a 2nd dose of the anti-nausea medicine. I felt so horrible by this point that I just sat on the edge of the lawn chair recliner thing that I had been lying in and put my head between my knees. I guess they saw me like this and FINALLY took me over for an IV. I was also worried about my parents because I had no idea if they knew what was going on and was concerned that they were freaking out and were going to take my bike and running sneakers away from me forever! I'm sure I had been in the med tent for over an hour. A nurse took my vitals and started an IV and had her son go get my parents. She then rubbed my feet because I was freezing!

After the IV, I finally felt better and was able to stand and walk without collapsing. My dad went and got the car (he had gotten my bike out of transition earlier and had returned my rental wheels to IronmanWheels - THANKS DAD!!) and my mom and I walked over once he had moved it closer. It was ~11:30 pm at this point and the final finishers were coming in. I wish I had stayed and watched but I was so exhausted, considering I finished at 7:42 and was still at the race site 4 hours later, cold, dirty, and tired. We stopped at a drugstore so my dad could get me some chocolate milk and then went back to my hotel room so I could shower (while my parents made sure I didn't pass out in there) and then got to bed at ~1:00 am.

I'm not sure which was worse, the run or the medical tent ordeal.

Some Thoughts

I need to have a good discussion with Mary as to what happened per my run. We've exchanged a few texts, but I know she is waiting for a complete rundown of my day before we can figure out exactly what happened. I will be sure to post when we figure it out (currently Mary has some ideas and I agree, considering what happened to me after the race).

What I do know is that I am not upset. I had a really, really stellar first Ironman last year in Lake Placid, and let's face it, it's not always repeatable. Ironman is long and hard (that's what she said?), and not everything is always going to come together. You have to respect the distance which is something that I am finally starting to do. One wrong move and your whole day can potentially be ruined. Yesterday was a learning experience. I am not disappointed, or mad at myself or Mary, or upset. I did not get emotional during the race. I did what I could given the circumstances, and I did my best. For the most part, I even enjoyed myself! I am proud of myself for forging on during a very painful run and making the best of a not-so-great situation. And let's be real - I pulled out a 12:42 finish time. I know there are people out there that would kill for that so I am in no way boo-hoo-ing about my "slow" Ironman. I understand that it is a privilege to get to do these races!

I got the f-in' medal.


  1. Amen, sista. Way to take a tough situation and make the best of it!!! And you're right, some people WOULD kill for a 12:42-not that I, errr, know them personally.... :-P

  2. That is friggin AWESOME! Congrats on your second successful IM! I'm amazed at the fact that you could finish fairly strong and the next minute hardly function. That is HUGE mental strength and will power.

  3. AWESOME!! I sometimes think the IM stories like this are so much more compelling than the "I felt great all day!" stories...not that I don't want people to feel great all day, it's just that pushing through this kind of a day takes so much more mental fortitude!

    I also saw that the med tent wouldnt give Hillary Biscay's BF Maik Twelsiek an iv either, even though he was having a similar reaction to yours. Strange...

    Oh, and one more thing, I was reading a friend's blog who raced and she said she had to burp almost the entire swim!!

    Congrats again!! It was great to follow along! Can't wait to see what Wisconsin brings!!

  4. Very awesome job... maybe too many salt tabs on the bike causing your "kidneys" to feel terrible? I think that was one of my problems at Musselman last year. It ended up making the run pretty much unbearable to actually run.

  5. Alexa, that was an absolutely awesome race, and this report is killer! I am so proud of you for pulling through and staying positive. You DO rock, and this experience - as rotten as some of it obviously felt - will make you rock even harder.

  6. So if you can do a 12:42 on FOUR bottles during a 6 + hour ride, imagine what you can do when you follow the nutrition plan!

    Look out Wisconsin!

  7. Amazing job Alexa! Oh man, that swim sounds scary. I shouldn't have read that. I am so freaked about that.

    What is up with them not giving you an IV???? Holy hell.

    Way to tough through Alexa, you are freaking awesome.

  8. Thanks for the great race report. One thing is clear - you never gave up or gave in. An awesome example of what Ironman is all about. Good on ya! Congrats on a solid finish - PR or not, breaking through barriers is a solid performance.

  9. Awesome job! What a great race report - I feel like I was there with you. I did my best to follow/stalk you on race day but I was on the road most of day so I missed the swim and bike. I got home in time to follow your run progress.

    Maybe next year they should make note of the fact that CdA is a BYOIV race. I can't believe it took so long for them to give you one.

    I am curious as to what Mary thinks caused the problems. My opinion is needing more fluid on the bike - possibly some water to go with the Perform.

    PS: We have nearly identical bike nutrition strategies. Blocks/Chomps every 45 minutes, fluids every 15.

    Congrats again!

  10. Congratulations Alexa!

    Your swim experience is making me rethink the CDA as a possible next IM in a few years. (I have a few marathons to do first...) I may have thrown in the towel then.... You're tougher than you think, I think. :)

  11. Hey girl! Yes you are famous as I read this from California. Way to tough it out. I felt bad when I passed you in the run because I wanted you to come with me. Rest up, recover and all my best! Kill it at Wisconsin! Xoxo

  12. I am creepy blog stalker, had to see what other people were saying about the swim. I had same experience (and very similar actual time). Couldn't break free until about halfway back to shore. Totally would have quit if I could have found a kayak safely without being killed. I guess the good thing was it made me not think about how freezing the water was?! Sounds like you pulled through and amazing race - although horrible to hear about your post-race trauma. Guess you know you left it all on the line that time! Great job.

  13. Hi! We must have been swimming right next to each other (of course, who WASN't right next to us?). Nice job, and nice report.

  14. I hope your recovery is going well Alexa. You've earned it. What a day!!!

    I saw Mary's post about nutrition...after having a few days to think about it, what would YOU change about your plan and execution for nutrition/hydration?

  15. Congrats on finishing a tough race! (I think after reading this I might stick with Louisville as my only IM course because of the TT start.. that swim sounds rough!)

    Your medical tent ordeal sounds awful - hope you are feeling better!!

  16. Alexa, I love this race report! You are so honest and real! :) I'm glad that you were alright after the race... sounds super scary! If only they had just given you the freaking IV when you asked for it. Now we all know to say that we are nauseous!

    Way to kick ass girl! :)

  17. Wow, congrats on the race. Its already tough enough to race 140.6 miles, but add in everything that happened made it more challenging. Sorry to hear about after the race.

    But, I know you are really waiting for this, Congrats on your Pukie Award, it will be up on Friday-ish


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