Ironman CdA ’11 Race Report

Race Morning:

I woke up at 3:45AM race morning and had my usual breakfast: a fruit smoothie, Slimfast, and oatmeal.  Chad  was a body marker volunteer so we drove to the transition area together at 4:30AM.  I had my bike bento box packed, special needs bags dropped off, and final bike check done by 5:30AM.  I found a quiet area in the park to get away from all the hype, relax, keep warm, went potty, and stretched.  Being my third Ironman, I knew exactly what I needed to do before the race.  I was well prepared and enjoyed relaxing and having some alone time before the big day ahead.

The Toughest Swim of My Life

The swim was a 2-loop, beach start course starting in a very narrow corridor.  I saw the small, gated-off beach area the day before and remember thinking, “Wow, can they really fit 2500+ athletes in this small area?”  Pros began at 6:25am, 35 minutes before the age groupers.  They did this so they could start their second loop before the age group feeding frenzy began.  They allowed age groupers on the beach at 6:30AM.  I jumped in the water at 6:45 to acclimate my body to the cold water.  Temps were in the mid 50s race morning… cold but bearable.  The spectators surrounding the swim start were amazing.  It was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever witnessed. Standing on the beach, I closed my eyes and prepared myself for the rough swim start.  The National anthem played at 6:55AM, U2’s “Beautiful Day” started playing, and BOOM, the gun went off.

I don’t know how to describe the Coeur d’Alene swim start other than “it’s a complete clusterf*ck”. I started up front, in the middle. It was the roughest swim start I’ve ever encountered. The first five minutes, I felt like I was just trying to keep my head above water.  People were grabbing each other for position, shoving my head in the water, and arms and legs were flying everywhere.  It was the first swim I’ve noticed the aggressiveness of some competitors. I looked around.  People weren’t even swimming, they were fighting with each other.

Then, about 500 yards into the swim I experienced something I’ve never gone through before.  I began to hyperventilate and was starting to panic.  I turned over on my back and tried to focus on my breathing.  My breaths were extremely short and I felt like my wetsuit was suffocating me. After a few seconds, I flipped over, tried swimming again, and took about five breaths before I started panicking again.  It one of the most horrible feelings I’ve ever experienced. I breast stroked to a buoy, held on to it, began dry heave, and eventually vomited.

I feel like a mentally prepared myself well for this race.  While holding on to the buoy, watching everyone pass me, I recalled what Nick and I had discussed: “there will be many unexpected things that will happen throughout the day. It’s Ironman. It’s a LONG day and I needed to collect myself and battle through this rough patch. ” I just didn’t expect this in the first 10 minutes of my race.  I kept dry heaving and throwing up.  Looking at the water, I think I lost most of my breakfast. A kayaker paddled towards me and checked if I was okay.  I threw up one last time, took a deep breath, swam easy, and eventually felt much better.

I was stuck behind many of the slower swimmers so I swam hard to make up for the time lost.  When I got out of the water to cross the timing mat for my second loop I hit my split button and it read 37:55. Ugh.  I swam hard the second loop.  It was still very congested, especially at all the turn buoys. Every turn seemed like a slugfest. Most were almost at a complete standstill if I took the most direct route to the buoy. I never settled into a comfortable rhythm but swam hard and still PR’d my Ironman swim. I was so thankful to be out of that water.

Swim time: 1:10:20, 1:40 100/yd pace

Race position: 425/2804 OA, 46/198 AG

Official race day water temp: 55 degrees F

T1: 5:24

I loved all the volunteers at the race, but my wetsuit strippers were horrible.  They couldn’t get my wetsuit off and I spent a lot of time laying on the ground having them gently tug at it.  I got really impatient. Next time, I will run towards stronger looking people so they rip that thing off me.

Transition consisted of running along the beach about 25 yards, getting stripped, grabbing my gear bag, running through the changing tent, putting on my shoes, and grabbing my bike (all zig-zags throughout the park).  As I sat down to wipe the sand off my feet and put on my shoes, I reached towards my face and noticed that my nose was bleeding from the swim.  I didn’t want to spend too much time in transition so I got my arm warmer, wrapped it around my face, and I was off.

As I began riding, I remember laughing  about my unfortunate swim experiences.  The race could only get better from here…

The Most Beautiful Bike Course Ever

The bike course was two loops, taking us along the lake, through downtown CdA, and through the hills at Hayden Lake.  I rode the course several times on my CompuTrainer and broke each loop into three segments: the first 18 miles were flat along the lake and downtown area; the next 20 miles were hilly throughout Hayden Lake; and the final 18 were flat riding back into town.  Starting the ride, my legs felt great and I felt mentally and physically “back in the game”. The first part of the course was an out-and-back. I knew several people from Arizona racing and I was surprised to see myself ahead of most of them. It felt great to finally “settle down” from the rough swim and I had a solid tempo going on the bike.

The scenery throughout the ride was stunning.  Green everywhere.  It’s one of the things I miss about the Pacific Northwest. Most of the course was surrounded by trees and provided decent shaded areas.  The temperatures on race day were perfect, in the mid 70s.

While riding, I noticed the whole town really got into this race.  Residents threw parties to cheer on the participants, signs were everywhere along the route, and the crowds riding through town were epic.  The whole community seemed like they really cherished this event and showed great enthusiasm towards all the participants.  It pumped me up every time rode through the crowds.  I managed to see my parents beginning my second loop and this made me really happy. It was so great to have them support me at an event I trained so hard for.

My nutrition consisted of my typical training foods I consume on my long training rides: water, Roctane GU Energy every 30 minutes, two Hammer Endurolytes every hour, one-half peanut butter and honey sandwich every hour, and a Redbull at mile 100.  This works for me, and I never felt nutrition was an issue on the bike. This course had many small descents, which made it easy to to stop pedaling and relieve myself on the bike.  I peed twice on the bike, once at mile 40 and another time at mile 95.

My coach gave heart rate zones to follow throughout the race.  My goal was to be around 147bpm on the bike.  I spent most of the first loop in the low 150s.  I felt comfortable there and felt I had to make up for time lost on the swim. On the climbs, I didn’t let my heart rate go above 157bpm and also gave a solid effort on the descents. I was cruising on the first loop, averaging around 21 mph.

The second loop was a lot tougher. I felt I paced the first 56 miles well, but fatigue set in when I hit the Hayden Lake hills again.  The hills seemed bigger, steeper, and longer compared to the first time I climbed them.  I hit several rough patches on these and found myself in the “granny gears” on some hills.  My heart rate was lower, my speed was down, and I needed motivation to get me through the final portion of the ride.  It was time to start digging deep.  I knew this moment was coming, and now I needed to get to work.

I paced (legally) with a 25-29 age grouper throughout the last 20 miles of the ride.  People were struggling on the second loop and I still managed to pass many people.  Having someone to “chase” on the bike helped distract me from my fatigue. I moved up 177 positions on the bike, and 10 spots in my age group.

Bike time:

5:35:17; 20.14 mph

Average heart rate: 144bpm; Average cadence – 86

Race position: 238th OA, 37th AG

4,168 feet climbing

T2: 2:24

I handed off my bike, put on my socks and shoes, grabbed my race belt, and I was off.

The Run and My Infamous”Date” With Linsey

My legs felt like crud the first mile.  I had experienced this kind of fatigue on several of my long training runs so I knew this feeling all too well. I knew my running legs would soon come to me.  The run course contained small rolling hills with two longer, steeper climbs at the turnaround section of each loop. It consisted of several 90-degree turns through many neighborhoods and eventually led us out to Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.

Nutrition on the run consisted of GU Roctane every 30 minutes and water.  I started taking in Coke from mile 15 to the finish.

I love Ironman runs. It is where all the long, tortuous training runs pay off. It’s fun to pass people who hammered by me on the bike earlier in the day. After the first mile, I settled into a solid rhythm, running consistent a consistent 7:30-7:45 minute miles. The crowd support on the run was spectacular.  At mile three, I passed pro triathlete Julie Dibens, who was walking on her second loop.  I waved to the motorcycle television guy who was following her. I love being on TV.

Linsey cheering on her cruiser!

Then, I turned onto Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and heard someone screaming my name: “ELLIOT!  ELLIOT!”  It was my idol, Linsey Corbin on her cruiser bike!  She rode next to me and asked how I was feeling.  I instantly felt better.  She said my  turnover looked “awesome” and I looked “really good”.  I blushed a little. It was the highlight of my race. Then, I got to the first big hill and saw the chalk sign drawing she drew for me. It was a picture of a cowboy hat and inside it read: “Elliot is a babe.” My dream had come true.

On the way back to town, I saw Linsey again and she told me I had passed several people.  I could tell she had been spectating all day because she barely had a voice at this point.  Her support at this race and enthusiasm for the sport are reasons why she is a fan favorite among many triathletes.  Linsey truly loves triathlon, both as a competitor and a spectator.  I thank her for making my Ironman experience so awesome. Read more about Linsey’s spectating experience on her blog.

I paced with a guy from my age group for much of the second loop.  Our paces began to slow, however, and I was sinking deeper and deeper into the pain cave. I could start to feel my legs get heavier and heavier as each mile passed.  I never walked though. I constantly told myself: “I trained way too hard to become course clutter.”

I saw Dan Cadriel, an elite Arizona age grouper who I really look up to, several times throughout the day.  Most of his family lives in Coeur d’Alene so he was kind of enough to show me around town and train with me on the days leading up to the race.  Dan and I waved and smiled to each other on the first loop of the run, but it was strictly business on the second.  I could tell he wasn’t feeling very well and he was digging incredibly deep.  He still finished in a respectable time for Ironman finish #5!  Congrats Dan!

I  lapped Josh, my housemate, on my second loop. We talked crap.  He was having a great race, however, and on his way to crush his Ironman PR. I also saw my other housemates, Jen and Tyler, who were beginning their run as I was heading back to town to the finish.  They both smiled and looked in good spirits.  Then, I saw my uncle who was also racing.  He looked in pain and didn’t even acknowledge me.

Mile 18-23 were a blur.  A number of times, I closed my eyes and tried to take my mind off of the pain and fatigue. It worked, but I had some pretty funny blunders along the way.  By the second loop, many of the slower people were out on the course.  A majority of the people were implementing a run/walk strategy. I was approaching an aid station when someone just ahead of me completely stopped at the water cups.  Completely zoned out, I ran right into him, knocking him down. I apologized but could hear him yelling at me. Course clutter.

At mile 23ish, I had my head pointed straight at the ground and was approaching another aid station.  By this time, the course was very congested.  There was a lady carrying a pretzel tray who started walking out in the middle of the street to give to the walkers heading in the other direction.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see the pretzel lady and the pretzels went flying everywhere. I am sorry pretzel lady.

The final two miles were amazing. The number of spectators slowly started building the closer I got to the finish line.  I knew I was getting closer because the spectators were getting louder and they were all cheering for me.  I made the turn onto Sherman Avenue and it was a sight I’ll never forget. It was a long straight away, slightly downhill, with the finish line in sight.  The crowds along this street were unbelievable.  Spectators were cheering along this entire street.  I could hear the music and Mike Reilly’s voice in the distance.

Prior to the race, I planned with Chad to hand me Linsey’s cowboy hat at the finish.  I grabbed it from him a quarter mile away from the finishing chute  At this point, all my pain and fatigue had magically faded.  It was the first Ironman finish where I got really emotional.  I teared up a little.  I had worked so hard for this moment.  All the long, grueling training days… for this one moment. It was all worth it. To me, nothing else in the world compares to completing an Ironman race giving it everything you possibly have.  I put my heart and soul towards training and competing in this race.

I was giving everyone high-fives as I entered the finishing chute.  Then I could hear Mike Reilly: “C’mon, put on that great cowboy hat! …25 year old from Tempe, Arizona. Elliot (pause) Kawaoka [butchered]!!! You’re an Ironman Elliot.”  I had a huge smile on my face. I crossed the line and the finish line catchers immediately grabbed me.  I was completely exhausted, and very delusional.

Run time:

3:39:32; 8:22 min/mile

Average heart rate: 150bpm

861 feet climbing

Final race position: 167th OA, 27th AG

Final Time: 10:33:15

“Ironman CDA Afterthoughts” coming soon. Stay tuned.

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Categories: Race Report, Races

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5 Comments on “Ironman CdA ’11 Race Report”

  1. Jenny ames
    July 6, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    Elliottttt!!! Most amazing motivational inspitational exciting blog ever!!!!!!!! I love how wonderful Ms Corbin is…. She fricken rocks!!!!!!

    • July 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      LOL! Thanks Jenny! Glad you enjoyed the read!

  2. July 6, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    Elliott, I have the famous picture of the sidewalk chalk!! Just need you email and I shall send it to you:) Glad u liked CDA!

    • July 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

      Thanks Sue!!! Can’t wait to go back! I see you had lots of fun with Linsey! So awesome.

  3. July 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Great report. Tyler has some pictures of you on her camera. There are some of the peelers trying to get your suit off.

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