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Monday, 6 July 2015

The Old College Tri

Ironman Coeur d'Alene was to be Ironman #8 on the way to 12 to get to Kona. Unfortunately it didn't work out but that's actually ok. In the previous 6 weeks I have had 4 procedures to get my liver working again. While my liver was not functioning properly I didn't ride or run the entire time. 6 weeks off of training leading into an Ironman is not the best strategy. Although I did have fresh legs.

The week started out Monday with my regular oncological appointment and blood work. Thankfully everything was good but my doctor was left shaking his head. I told him my plan for the weekend and he just laughed and told me "just don't do anything stupid." I promised a
I wouldn't and went out to the receptionist to get my chemo appointment. I had chemo on Tuesday and that lasts until about noon on Thursday.

I left with my buddy Kris on Thursday and we went about half way to Coeur d'Alene. It was a nice drive and great to share it with a long time friend. Kris was doing his 3rd Ironman and so he had experience so we had a chance to talk about racing and we knew what we were taking about. 

On Friday we were up early and on the road. We got to the border about 11 and were thrilled how good the border guards were. They had a couple of quick questions but let us through pretty quickly. We got in to Coeur d'Alene about 1 o'clock and after checking in to the hotel headed down to Ironman Village to register. This has become anti-climactic; it used to be a really exciting time. Getting your wrist band and checking out the cool tents. Now, unfortunately, it's become more of a chore as it's just another step towards racing. However, we got our stuff and headed out onto the race course so Kris could see it once before racing it Sunday.



One of the biggest breaks for Kris and me was that the Martinez family were in town to race and had rented a basement suite with a parking spot across the street from transition. This is the Martinez family from the famous Animo story so they're great friends and were so generous to share their place with us when we needed parking or a cold drink.

The bike course is not overly technical but it is fairly hilly. And it's not rolling hills, it's significant climbs separated by flats. These long slow climbs can be quite draining physically and mentally so it's nice to see where they end so you can plan for it. After course recon we headed back to the room for a rest before going to Ted 2. I LOVE watching movies at Ironman for a few of reasons. You get to sit in a cool room, relax and take your mind off the race. We got out about 10 and were starving so we jumped across the street for some pizza. Unfortunately the place had just closed so we asked for a recommendation and they told us to try Pepe Caldo. 



We punched this place into the GPS and headed up the hill. We found it pretty easily but upon arrival I decided that the ramp section of the sidewalk was for chumps and launched over the curb and into a spot. I don't take the easy road,sometimes literally. I was confused at first as the front area of the pizza place is also a skateboard shop and I thought I'd gone in the wrong door. Upon further investigation there were pizza ovens in the back so we made our way to the counter and started talking with the two people working. It quickly became evident that they were the owners and were VERY passionate about their business and it showed. After a great chat we made off with our gigantic pizza and headed back to the room.

Saturday, we got up fairly early and packed our transition bags and bikes. We hauled them into transition and after getting them settled we picked up my friend Sarah and her mom and headed into Spokane for some shopping and lunch. The original plan was to continue my tradition and have P.F. Chang's as my day-before meal. Unfortuately Hoop Fest was also on this weekend. This is the largest 3 on 3 basketball tournament in the world and P.F. Chang's is right in the middle of the mayhem. We opted not to go to Chang's and instead went across from the mall to Dragon House.

We met Kris' dad and step-mom at this point and he was so generous and picked up the cheque. Unfortunately, this was the worst Chinese food I've ever had. It was over-sauced and under flavoured. The weirdest part was that they provided crackers with the won ton soup and ketchup and mustard with the main meal. So very very odd.

We headed back to Coeur d'Alene and rested up for the torture test that was to take place the next day. We set our alarms for the ridiculous time of 4am becuase the temperature was predicted to be so hot that Ironman decided to start an hour earlier. This was to protect the pros as much as possible as it meant they would spend less time in the heat. It sucked for us regular folks but we were gonna spend all day in the heat anyway so no big deal.

When the alarm went off it was WAY too early but we had laid out everything the night before so it was essentially grab and go. I knew it was going to be a hot day when, at 4:30am, I was perfectly comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. Normally I wear sweat pants and a hoodie to the race site as it's too cold otherwise. We met Carlos and Roxi and got all of our stuff together. Roxi was so awesome and handled all of our gear and car keys, etc. so we had nothing to worry about.

We headed down to the swim start area and warmed up and then found our starting area. In Coeur d'Alene you seed yourself based on expected swim finish time and it's great because you don't have to fight with faster people going over the top of you.

The water was much warmer than the previous time I competed here so that was a nice little bonus. When the horn went off I waded into the water and started swimming. This is a really interesting part of an Ironman because you can't win the race here or even get too far ahead, BUT, you can really screw it up. You need to focus on your breathing and controlling your pace. Going off too fast at the start of the swim can make you hyper-ventilate and that's what induces panic. I was really happy with my performance in the water. I came out in 1:24, which is my slowest swim to date, but considering the issues I'd battled leading up to the race I was happy.

Transition took a lot longer than usual. This was because I had a whole new step in my transition. The colostomy bag change. This is a bit graphic but unfortunately my bag didn't hold through the swim so I had a clean up on aisle 7 before I could get out on my bike. Before you can put on a new bag you need to dry the skin completely so this took time but it's my new reality. I was using the Coloplast one-piece bags and they provide an awesome benefit. They don't have a hard ring that pinches when you move and they are self-adhesive so I didn't need to carry paste with me. I had pre-cut 10 of these bags and put 5 in each of my transition bags.

I got on the bike and was careful to start out easy. The bike course is a two-loop course and features two out and backs. The first is a short loop with a short steep hill. I spun this hill and it was very easy. After coming back through town you head out onto the bigger loop. Fairly soon after starting you hit the big hill on the course. It's a 2 mile 6% grade climb. Again, I spun my legs and didn't try to power up the hill and instead just rode easily. This strategy paid off and I never lost my breath. For those that haven't attempted a distance race like this you need to understand the emotional roller coaster you go on. Going up a hill you swear you're going to die or at least spontaneously combust. Then, when you crest that hill and start coasting down it's like angels are singing. Managing the emotional game is just as important as managing the physical part of the race.

As I finished the first 56-mile loop I felt great and saw Roxi and our friend Lisa on the course cheering. I gave them a big smile and a wave and headed off feeling great. Unfortunately 4 miles later I realized my day was over. The temperature was hitting the high of 41 Celcius (104 F) and although I wasn't at a point where I needed to stop, I knew I wasn't going to finish and punishing myself further would not be safe. I kept hearing my doctor telling me not to do anything stupid and I pulled off to the side of the road and flagged down an official. They put in a call for SAG to come and pick me up and I waited next to the road. When the truck showed up he loaded up my bike and my carcass and I joined the other 3 riders already in the truck. He said it was already a busy day and I could tell by the radio traffic asking for pick ups.

After getting dropped off at transition I found Roxi and Lisa and hung out with them. I grabbed my phone and called Kim to tell her what had happened and she was really happy to hear from me. I can only imagine the stress when you see times stop showing up online. You wonder if there's been a crash or something awful has happened. After a quick cry I realized that it was ok. In fact,
after checking the results I saw that 70 people just in my age group dropped out. Nearly 1/3.

I returned to the hotel and grabbed a burger and a nap. After waking up I headed background to the race to cheer on Chris, Carlos and Sarah. Sarah,
The amazing little med student racer turned in around a 12:30 but didn't look super happy coming in. Carlos was a couple of hours later around 14:20. I realized just how hot it was when I was just watching the race and the sidewalk was too hot to even sit on. 

I began to worry about Kris' ability to finish. It was getting late in the day and I was constantly checking in with Kim o see his progress. Unfortunately, the online tracker wasn't working propey so it said that Kris had 2 miles left and only 28 minutes to do it. This would mean he would have to pick up his pace quite a bit to bear the 17 hour cutoff. Needless to say I was thrilled when he showed  up with 19 minutes to go before the cut off. 

Because I had an athlete wrist band I was able to get into the finishers area and hang out with him while he recovered. This was nice because it can be lonely back there when you don't know anyone. After some pizza and a sandwich he was ready to head back to the room. I had already loaded up his stuff so we just had to jump in the van and go. 

After getting back to the room it was pretty easy to fall asleep and we drifted off to get ready for the 11 hour drive home the next day. 

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