Ironman Coeur d’Alene – June 30th, 2014

This race had been on my bucket list for a while. I had raced the old course version of the bike leg on my computrainer a couple of times. And after IM Texas in 2013, a cold-weather Ironman seemed like a good idea.

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Idaho. A long trip from NY, but the flight to Spokane was uneventful, and I got to Coeur d’Alene on Thursday at 2pm, just in time to visit the large IM Village under the rain and get my bib. The lake was beautiful, but a little scary as well, with low temp and descent waves generated by the strong winds. After an early dinner on the lake, crab and fries, I called it a day and discover my crappy hotel room between a pizza hut and a gaz station. I booked my accodation late and – traveling on my own – I had decided to go cheap. Little did I know…

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On Friday I decided to test the water. After 5 minutes I wisely spent 10usd on a pair of neoprene socks. A wise Blueseventy vendor was selling them like a new iphone on lauch date. Second tentative. Not better, with the wave and the cold I couldn’t swim, I was quite panicked and wasn’t able to breathe with the neoprene cap compressing my head. Tentative Three without the neoprene cap and the ear plugs is better but I start to get worried for Sunday… Time to get my bike from TriBike, grab lunch at Coeur d’Alene resort to enjoy the magnificient lake view without the rain, and go for a short one-hour bike / run session.

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Saturday was your typical pre-IM day, with bike and gear checking. Weather expected to be cold – I pack long sleeve and bike jersey in my transition bag. I also add a rain jacket – always depressing to prepare for a very cold and wet day but there is no turning back. I decided to swim again 20 minutes in the lake, to erase my previous experience from my head before the race. Bike drop, a quick picture in front of the finishline on lovely main street (best place to get a hotel imo), I chose to have dinner at this very good place on a floating barge on the water despite the long wait. Well worth it and the opportunity to discuss with other triathletes in the absence of a banquet dinner, replaced by a voucher usable in several Coeur d’Alene restaurant. Jumped in bed early, which i never quite manage to when I travel with my family. But I didn’t feel my usual IM mojo, I felt quite down actually and a strong lack of motivation given the task ahead.

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Sunday. Cold, wet. I manage
to find a parking spot one mile from transition, not too bad. Food and bottles on bike, wetsuit on and into the water. Well, waves are definitely still here, and water is for sure very cold. It is going to be a slow day… Start is not too bad, as instead of a mass start it is a rolling start. I put myself in the one-hour corral, but after 10 minutes I realize I am quite slow, having a hard time swimming strongly to fight the waves with the cold and my not feeling in top shape. First lap is done in 35 minutes, I am really unhappy but don’t have the energy to do better on the second lap, which leads me to exit the water in 1h12mn. 10 minutes more than my goal.

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On the bike. Target is 5h45mn. I don’t feel great but get to work. First part is flat and nice along the lake. We get back into town and start the climb. Course is essentially going up. And then going back into town. I try to take the climb easy, as my primary objective is a good run. But I am not a suicidal downhill rider, and get passed a lot downhill. This part is quite dangerous, with riders riding the other way, i decide to lose 5mns instead of taking crazy risks. I am always amazed by the risks amateurs are willing to take for a PR. Weather is getting warmer but I am still happy not to have opted for the tritop.

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Anyway, I finish the first lap in 3h05mn. I am so slow I feel helpless. Not my day. It is not that I suffer, it is just that I am slow. Same loop, same effects. I grab a sandwich from my special needs bag along the lake. I start the second climb in a detached mindset. It’s getting warmer. I just want to start the run.

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I again play it safe on the second downhill. I reach T2 in 6h16mn and am so happy to dismount…. like always on an Ironman ! A volunteer takes my bike and I can hurry into the changing tent. Weather is now much warmer. I refocus all my effort on delivering a good run. After all I can’t have used too much energy on the bike !

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Well, it is still an Ironman marathon, and after 5km I know it is going to be tough. The two-loop course is great and going through the residential neighboorhood near the lake shore is awesome. Lots if people and fun aid stations. When we hit the uphill section a couple of miles before the turnaround point, it gets tougher. There is an awesome “circus” aid station where everybody is dressed like clowns with a lot of efforts put into the design of the station. Definitely a one-of-a-kind on the ironman circuit ! I walked a little on the hills, and start heading back. Second loop is tougher. After 10 hours of racing your pace drops, and I have no goal to keep me honest. I know I am going to finish with a poor swim, bike, run and overall time. I just run and enjoy the scenery. I pass the circus aid station for the last time. The last 5 miles I challenge myself not to walk. I stupidly decide to get a shoot of rhum at a students’ aud station . Totalky kills mybstomach but despite this manage to substantially pick up the pace on the last 5kms.

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And main street arrives. A long stretch for the soon-to-be finishers, with the finishline in sight, and almost to myself. Some time you have a bad day, but these last 400 yards are always memorable. I finish my 12th ironman in 11h46mn.

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