Ironman Couer d’Alene
My 2009 ironman season was kicked off in beautiful Couer d’Alene, Idaho. I race here as an age-grouper in ’06, so I was familiar with the town, its fantastic scenery, and community filled with some of the best people you can come across and tough, tough conditions.
When I left Birmingham, the heat was in the 90’s and when you factor in the heat index we were looking at temps hovering around 110! Needless to say coming to Idaho sends you into a bit of a tail-spin. You have to pack not only summer, but also some autumn like clothing as well…you’re only 90 miles from the Canadian border, so, chilly weather is certainly to be expected!
Water temperatures this year were kind, but it was still 62-64 degrees! Definitely wetsuit legal! The water literally takes your breath away for the first few minutes, so never mind the anxiety you face swimming competitively, but now you have to add the “shock” of cold water and you’re in for a LONG swim…oh and did I mention the waves on race day…year, Lake CDA is NOT kind and in my opinion one of the toughest swims on the race circuit!
The bike course was changed in 2007, so I had reacquainted myself with the new hills I didn’t experience in ’06…tougher course…by all means! I swear, the race organizers looked for and FOUND every hill imaginable and plotted it on that course…and I like hills…I thrive on hills, but in all honesty, I could not find that gear on race day to really get myself attack like I normally do on the hills. Not making any excuses for myself, but I did find it a bit more difficult starting so far ahead of the mass age-groupers. This made for a LONELY day out on the ride as I normally attack, attack, attack on the bike – I love going after the better age-group swimmer’s, as well as the faster female swimmer’s, but this was not the case on race day. Our Pro start time was 6:25…35 min ahead of AG’s…I would pass someone about every 90 min on the bike…then see nothing for miles and miles…let me tell you how many times I thought I saw someone, got excited only to realize it was a mailbox in the distance…oh, if only you could’ve heard the curse words I was muttering!
Finally as the run began I landed myself in 8th place…I didn’t really know how my run was going to pan out as I was in a lot of physical pain from the bike…my right scapula seized up around mile 80 and I could even raise it up to get fuel at the last two aid stations. In T2 I begged on of the volunteers to rub out my muscle spasm in my right scapula. I felt so bad for her as I was telling her, “go ahead, press down harder, deeper!” Poor thing probably thought, “What a nut-case!” (However, I did find this particular volunteer and thanked her after the race…she was an angel for doing such unconventional work on me!) Once I got out on the run I was instantly happy, I knew I still had a FULL marathon to do, but I was out of the saddle and virtually pain free. During the run you do 2-loops and run along the lake, back thru T1/T2 (cheering fans), thru local neighborhoods and then again along the lake front…it is actually one if mot my favorite IM run courses and my attitude and time agreed! I felt very strong on the run and kept moving thru the field with a strong charge. Capturing 7th place on the run didn’t come easy, but I made my move and pass around mile 22 and didn’t look back.
During the final stretch I saw my family cheering my on one last time – they held out an American flag for me to wave. With pride I grabbed it and proudly waved it for all to see…I am very proud to wave our “stars and stripes” especially in such an internationally deep competition. After crossing the finish line I saw my family, I remember hugging my husband and telling everyone else how hard it was out there. They all agreed that the conditions (cold and windy) were tough on a lot! I was lucky…as we got back to the car it started raining! I felt so bad for my friends still out on the course. My friends Nan Gelber, Eddie Thomas and Travis Grappo all came from Bham to race and they were out there as I got to go back to our rented home and shower! My husband looked at me in the car and said, “I’m so happy you’re done and we do not have to stand out there in that weather!” So, I guess that was one positive thing about starting at 6:25am!
As we were driving home the texts on my cell phone came in and I was receiving my congrats, but one fond message I received that wasn’t expected was one from my friend Kyle – he wrote in a text message, “girl, you got the run course record! They just talked about it on “ironmanlive.com” – I couldn’t believe what I was reading! It didn’t register at the time, but later, once I got my wits about me, I realized how big this was! Heather Gollnick had the run course record of 3:15 something…I clocked in a time of 3:12 flat…I bested the record by 3 minutes! What a great way to salvage a less than perfect swim and bike day! Needless to say the moral of my story is simple…never, ever, ever give up! I felt like and wanted to throw in the towel in T2. I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t performing up to the level I wanted – but I am NOT a quitter out there and respect all the athlete’s and fans for putting their lives on hold to compete and watch…it’s my job and duty to finish! This is why I LOVE ironman racing…it is such a long day out there. You can feel horrible one minute, but turn a corner and your body says, “ok, I’ll play nicely” – now sometimes you really have to go thru a world of hurt to get yourself mind/body connection to comply, but patience is such a virtue and I’m learning to love it every day!