Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2012
IMCDA 2012 was a first of a kind race for me, in that it was an Ironman that I didn’t need to worry about focusing on qualifying for Hawaii – I already had a slot tied up. This gave me the unique opportunity to approach this race different both in terms of training and execution – most importantly I would be able to enter this race while on the upswing of my season’s training, with the peak still several months off as opposed to being at my peak, to ensure the best odds at nabbing a qualifying spot.
To that end I did some things differently over the winter, incorporating a heavy run focus over the winter, which has me on pace for a year on year increase of 23% in run volume over 2011, which itself was a 25% increase over 2009 (2010 was a short running year). I also incorporated a small swim focus early in the winter. Both of these have helped my fitness tremendously, unfortunately the downside is my bike fitness really didn’t start getting “legs” until April – when it was interrupted by a trip to Korea!
Before I digress to far, the point is I arrived in Spokane with exactly the fitness I envisioned myself having last December when I laid out the years plan – strong swim/run fitness, with an overall fitness that was solid for a half-Iron.
The last few days were very hard psychologically as I tried to cope with second guessing my preparation choices. I simply focused on reminding myself that the choices were made, and I needed to do the best with the cards I chose to arrive with. Despite the second guessing, I managed to develop a simple and straight forward race plan: swim my normal swim, exit the water and ride to the front of the race. Kona last year proved that the worst that would happen is I’d run 3:3X, and that I wouldn’t have to deal with a recurrence of my Ironman performances in 2009.
The pros got a very large head start at IMCDA – 35 minutes – basically enough time for even the worst swimmers among them to get through the first loop of the swim. I watched the pro start with Mary and Ethan, and dawdled around for a while. I put my wetsuit on, said goodbye to Mary and Ethan, telling Ethan “Well Daddy’s off to a harder than normal day at the office.”
I got to the beach with about 15 or 20 minutes until the start, so I just planted my butt in the sand to relax and watch the pros come through on their first lap.
With about 10 minutes to go, I put on my cap goggles, and picked a spot in the front row near some folks that seemed fast.
Beyond that the swim was it’s usual thing, though a few things stand out: People go out WAY to hard in an ironman – swear to God man – in those first few hundred meters everybody is gonna swim a 52 minute swim or faster. Folks, I’ve got a fact for you, you’re being dumb as dumb gets. Slow down and build into it, it’s a lot more enjoyable that way. The first bit of the swim was pretty rough, but I just chilled and did my thing. After a short bit it thinned out nicely and I found two folks to swim with. One of them being a girl – who was swimming nice and fast….not being one who is too proud to admit when a girl is faster than him, I drafted like crazy J
I followed her feet for the remainder of the race, and swam nice and relaxed.
I exited the water and moved through T1 without many issues. Unlike a couple weeks ago at Elkhart lake, I felt clearheaded, fresh, and ready to go.
I think I passed one person in transition, and knew a few guys were out on the course in front of me. Per my race plan I decided only a Jens Voigt attitude was appropriate – “Attack.” I rode out of T1 hard, but not insane – and caught two people relatively quickly. I knew that around 7 miles in I would be able to gauge my position in the field at the first turn around.
At the turn around I was just under two minutes down (IIRC), and I focused on riding strong, but was starting to notice that my saddle seemed low and as time went on it felt like it was getting lower – NOT GOOD.
As I went through the first aid station I thought about stopping to make an adjustment there, but decided that I would wait until the second aid station as it didn’t seem that bad. As I continued to ride the saddle kept slipping and slipping. When I finally arrived at the second aid station it had slipped over 4 cm total. It took me about 2:15 to get things back to normal, then I was off. I quickly picked off the few folks that passed me.
The remainder of the first loop went OK, then as I got into the second half my power began to fade. The remainder of the bike turned into a pretty painful affair of me fighting the losing battle against the power meter. To stave off negative thoughts, I simply told myself: “Judge yourself based on your current fitness, not your life best fitness.” Surprisingly it worked, because despite riding stupid hard for the first 50+ miles, I still ended up with my best ride (power wise) year-to-date.
As I came back into town, I had no idea how the run was going to go. I felt completely nuked. The bright spot was I knew that as long as I didn’t give up on the run I would finish under 10.
My run through transition was stiff, awkward and painful, as I hit the run course it took a lot of holding back to keep it around 7:00 pace. I started the run as 9th in the amateur race, and once my running legs proved they were decent I focused on trying to catch as many as I could. In the end, I managed to pick off 5 folks to finish 4th amateur and 2nd in my AG. I turned in my second fastest IM run at 3:14 (on a legit+ course!). Things held together very well until about mile 19 – when I finally fell off 3:09 pace (5 minutes in 7 miles lost!!!!)
I ended up finishing up in 9:38, my 4th fastest Ironman to date, (15th OA, 4th Amateur, 2nd AG). In the end I fell short of my secret goal for the race of a Top 10 OA time, but I gained some valuable insight and experiences:
- Going to the roll down and seeing somebody get a trip to Kona because I was able to pass on my slot was neat.
- I learned that even when you feel totally nuked coming off the bike – trust your fitness.
- IMAZ wasn’t a fluke, I can race an Ironman, and when October rolls around – I’ll execute the day with the same plan.