Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Once again my trip started off with a screeching halt at the airport. In order to breeze through security I applied for a NEXUS card and it arrived on Tuesday and I left on Thursday, SWEET! I have been screened and interviewed and I am not a threat to anyone. Unless you own a buffet, then lookout, I'm coming for you!

I use the NEXUS machine and get a card that you hand to the officer before proceeding into the terminal. I hand him his card, he gets really excited and says, "follow me please sir."  I thought maybe I'm getting the VIP service. Not exactly. Apparently someone with a VERY similar name (don't want to publish it but it's VERY similar), born November 25, 1979 (I'm Nov 25, 1980) was wanted by the FBI. The border guard asks if I have anything to declare. I blurt out, "I HAVE A CUBAN CIGAR!!!" He looks at me and says, "that's it?", I'm like "YEAH!!!"  He asks, "who's Sarah Hackett?" I have NO IDEA. After giving me the once over it turns out the other guy is a 6' 3" black man. I...... am not.

Unfortunately, the guard then looks at me and says, "now about that CEE-gar." The sad truth about the cigar is that my mom had bought it for my dad to smoke on his 60th birthday in Mexico. As many of you know he passed away 2 days before that birthday laying next to the pool. My mom gave me the cigar and told me to give it a fitting home and I thought that after Ironman would be a fitting tribute. Unfortunately the border guard wouldn't let it slip and made me crush it into a garbage can. This was a major bummer but considering the scare the guy put into me I was happy to walk away and onto my flight.

After this it was smooth sailing into Spokane and further into Coeur d'Alene. I had a some time to kill so I visited the local Wal-Marts and Costco looking for unique items that I couldn't get at home. They sell amazing wines (one of which is accompanying this report) at Costco. I'm not kidding, the one I'm enjoying was scored an 89 and because the Americans refuse to be taxed it was $12. I swear that if I lived in the USA I would walk around in an alcoholic haze, 24-7. It's so cheap it's insulting NOT to drink. I wouldn't be able to compete in Ironman but I'm certain that I'd be too happy to care. Anywho, I sampled the local cuisine and took in a movie to try and get to race day.

Race day came with the same poor sleep that seems to accompany every race. Many of you know the sleep, waking up every 20 minutes to check the clock so that you don't sleep in. Fidgeting and generally not enjoying the exquisite bed that the Super 8 provided. Seriously, this place was really nice. The wonderful included breakfast and service was amazing. In fact, the 20-something girl at the front desk practically vaulted over the counter to get the door for me when I arrived with all my bags. My alarm finally went off at 4:30am and I was already up so it was no big deal. I grabbed my usual race day breakfast of a bar, banana and a gatorade.

I jumped in the car and drove down to the race site and managed to get a really good parking spot by pure fluke. I followed an Ironman staff member through a barricade and when the guy at the lot stopped me he said, "you're not supposed to be in here." I turned on my charm and he let me slip past and into a spot just past the staff parking. SWEET! I got into transition at about 5:00 and again it was TOO EARLY. I do this every friggin' race but I'd rather be early than late. I really struggled this morning. For some reason I was in a bad head space and to be brutally honest I was so angry at all the idiots around me. I don't know why but people putting on airs about their greatness drives me nuts. Maybe if I was good at this sport I'd do the same but I just don't like all the douchebaggery.

I sat in front of my bike and genuinely contemplated not getting in the water. At this point I had a nice little chat with my dad (at least as much as an atheist heathen like myself can) and realized that all the time away from my family training was for this moment. I put on my wetsuit and headed into the start area.

This was the first time that Ironman used their new SmartSwim initiative. It. Is. Awesome. You go behind the sign displaying your expected finish time in the swim. Under 60, 1 hr - 1:15, 1:15-1:30, blah blah blah. This does a few things. Firstly, if you're not into MMA you don't have to get pummeled whilst swimming. Let's face it, when the first Ironman took place it was 24 people, not 2400. This race was not intended to be a test of strength, it is a test of endurance. 2.4 miles of swimming, not fighting and if you disagree with me I'll fight you. Ironic, no? Another nice feature of this swim start is that your time does not start until you pass under the archway (just like a marathon) so you're not losing time by letting the good swimmers get away from you. Your time is truly what you swim.

I have to admit I did have an evil little smile at one point. Because the swim is a 2 looper the timing worked out that EXACTLY as the mid-pack pro women came around for lap 2 the elite age groupers went off. Now, these ladies that are used to somewhere between 12 and 25 people in the water are right in the thick of it. I wonder if they have a better appreciation for us lowly age-groupers now?

Another feature of the SmartSwim is that "resting rafts" are placed along the course for people that needed a break. 6 minutes in I knew I had screwed up. My wetsuit wasn't high enough on my beautifully sculpted shoulders so I pulled over and yanked the suit up. Much better, my lungs expanded and off I went. The rest of the swim was actually quite peaceful and a nice change from your typical Ironman swim. I got out of the water in 1:17:11. Pretty respectable I think.

Transition was transition. Run up the beach, some muscular men rip your clothes off. Much like my Friday night. Every time I do one of these things I learn something and my mission this time was no sunburns. I bought a long-sleeved white Under Armour shirt and cropped it half way up my body where my arm holes let in harmful damaging UV rays. This was a really smart move and I will do this every race from now on. I got one little burn on my back and one NASTY one on my thigh but compared to some of the stuff I've dealt with in the past I'm as happy as me at a buffet (I like buffets).

Jump on the bike and it starts out quite peacefully, little out and back featuring a hill maybe double Emily Murphy in Edmonton. Nice little wake up call for the legs and a good warm up. After this you return back to town and head out on the long part of the loop. As you leave town there is a bridge that is open to traffic so both directions of bikes share one lane. This lane is separated from bikes on one side with full size cones and from cars on the other with full size cones. And these cones are like every 3 meters so it creates a really weird tunnel effect and no passing is allowed so you're being pushed to go quickly by your fellow athletes. It really is nerve wracking seeing these bright orange cones whipping by on each side with literally inches on either side of you. After this there is a brief flat followed by the hardest hill of the course. It is a 2 mile 6% grade that is pretty stinkin' tough. After you crest there's a quick downhill and at this point the race snapped back into focus. A bike was laying in the cars lane and people were running around like mad. We've all been there and it's just a sickening feeling.

I was feeling pretty good so I pushed the uphills pretty well and FLEW on the downhills. I was the crazy guy screaming "ON YOUR LEFT!" at the dorks just cruising down the hill. Please ride on the right side of a downhill. Fat people like me truly can't stop even if we have to on a 6% grade. At best we'll slow down enough that we won't completely squish you. On my second time through town I saw another site that makes me nuts. A father and his approximately 8 year old son were crossing the road and a cyclist coming towards me hit the kid and flipped his bike. There was nothing in the paper about serious injuries so I'm hoping they parted ways with nothing more than an angry word.  I finished up the bike in 6:38:34 and was tired but ready for the run.

Again, simple transition. Put on my running stuff and off I go.

The run is very similar to Penticton. You run through town then towards the lake. You run along the lake and as you near the turn around there's a long steep hill that you go up and down, turn around and do it again. However, CdA is a 2 loop course so you do this all twice. I started out feeling awesome turning over a few 12 minute miles (I know, how do I not burst into flames at that speed?) The run through town is super fun, people bring out stereos and play loud music and what not. The BEST spot is the university-aged kids who party HARD while the race is going on. We'll get back to them in 20 miles.

As I made my way towards the big hill Sarah (a teammate) was coming the other way smiling and running. Yeah, Sarah. Miss, "oh, I don't think I'm going to do very well. I haven't been able to run. My hip hurts, blah blah blah." LIAR! LIAR! This future doctor goes and turns in a 12 hour Ironman. In truth I'm very proud of you Sarah, so tough and well trained.

As many of us know the run is a weird experience. Seemingly crippled people running at a 45 degree angle but still moving. Fat guys running with perfect form. Some people (me) talking your ear off, and others that look like if they try and speak they will burst into tears. About 18 miles in I see a gentleman in his 50s in racing kit that is torn up and he has some serious road rash. I ask him what the heck happened. He said he was going down the first hill, hit a bump and wiped out. I told him the fact that he was still going made him a hero and he said, "no, the real hero is the volunteer that pulled him out of oncoming traffic." I was SO happy to hear that the guy that had that awful looking wreck was now finishing Ironman. So amazing.

At this point I was some 5 miles from the finish and feeling pretty good. At this point in every race I have the same question. Why are you skinny people with tons of energy and perfect form just passing me now? WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN ALL DAY?!? I want to hold one down and beat their secret out of them but if I bend past 90 degrees I'm scared I won't ever get back up.

Back to the college kids. 3 miles from the finish and I'm feeling fantastic. I round the corner and they're playing a thumping rap song and the lyrics are, "whoop whoop pull over that ass too fat."  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxnv2vtyFpk) I couldn't resist so I stopped in the middle of the street and starting doing a booty shake. This made the kids go CRAZY. Two girls in their early 20s, way out of my league, run over and start dancing with me. The first bends over and puts her hands on the road and puts her booty against my booty and starts bumping. The other stands in front of me and starts grinding my leg. At this point I'm literally stunned. It is one of the greatest moments of my life and I need to leave to go and finish my stupid little race. NOOOOOOOO!!! There must be photos of this somewhere to prove this and I need to find them. I must prove this happened.

The next experience was concurrently the saddest AND funniest thing I may have ever seen. The locals are awesome here and rather than put out stereos some actually play live music. 1 mile from the finish a young teenage girl was playing the violin. She was obviously new to the instrument so this was not a jaunty Natalie McMaster type tune. It was a sad, almost lament type of song (well-played I might add), and not 30 feet from where this song was being played an older athlete was puking his guts out. I couldn't help but burst into laughter at this sight. Maybe it's only funny after 14 hours of exercise but I lost it.

From there I rounded the corner and into the chute where the people make you feel like a champion. It truly is a life-changing experience to go through one of these Ironman finishes. That positivity aside, crossing the finish line is one of the saddest things you can experience as a fat man. They have unlimited pizza and chocolate milk and you've earned it. But for some reason you can't put down more than 2 slices. Why? Why would you do this to me?

A happy finisher!

From there I got my massage and the amazing volunteers rounded up all of my gear and sent me on my way. I got back to the hotel, popped my cheap champagne and poured it into my paper Super 8 cup from the back of the bathroom sink. After mopping up the wine that shot out onto the bed I climbed into that bed for a well earned rest.

A little well-earned bubbly!

Happy racing,


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