Ironman Coeur d'Alene - Heather's Race Report
Winning an Ironman is a spectacular experience, but this past Sunday's win at Ironman Coeur d'Alene - my very first Ironman as an age-grouper in 2006, my first pro win in 2008, and the scene of the most heartbreaking day in my athletic career (last year) - may just take the cake!
If you are not familiar with what happened last year you can read my blog here. Needless to say, I had some bad memories from the race, and when I rode the course on Tuesday of race week I felt sick to my stomach passing the place where I was stuck on the side of the road for so long, and where I finally got pulled from the course with a DQ at run mile 21.
The rest of the week leading up involved a lot of mental exercise to turn my outlook to a positive one and I was really happy to succeed in feeling calm and positive - ready to write a new chapter in my history of this race!
We got super lucky with the conditions on race day - warm, calm, and dry - sandwiched in between some very uninspiring days of cold temps and serious wind and rain. There was a big full moon in the morning and a bit of fog settled over the lake to start, creating a pretty stunning atmosphere! Thanks to Nils Nilsen for the AMAZING photos (and to my dad and fb friends, or otherwise labeled, for the rest of them).
It was a two loop swim and I lead a little group for 1.5 loops of it, finally getting on some feet and exiting in 4th when a group of super fast age-group swimmers caught us on their first loop and changed up the dynamic. It was nice to have some people to chase at the end to keep pushing!
I was 4th out of the water in 55:40, but first out of transition and I managed to stay there for the rest of the day.
The CdA bike course is an awesome one, starting with a little out-and-back along the lake, a trip through the high-energy downtown, and then the majority of the ride south on the challenging terrain of Hwy 95. The legs felt great, I was in a good rhythm, and I got a couple splits that I had opened up about an 8min gap to 2nd place after the far turn-around of the first loop.
On the return trip of the first loop of the bike - going down the big hill (Mica grade?) I hit a sharp metal something that sliced open my front sidewall. I heard that heart-wrenching "PSHHHHH" and felt the instant flat - but fortunately with the tubular I was able to keep it under control and come to a stop. It was a bad luck/good luck thing, though because I saw neutral support up the road a little and I was able to roll up slowly, then run across the road and switch out a new front wheel.
My front brakes then didn't work for the rest of the race b/c they were spaced for the Rolf TDF6 carbon wheel, not the metal rimmed (and extremely aerodynamically inferior - though I tried not to let that bug me too much) spare which made the cornering thru town a bit more interesting. Still, I probably lost less time than I would have putting my spare tubular on. Note the not very awesome, but at the same time very awesome, spare wheel in the photo below. I'm so grateful it carried me for well over half of the 180km ride.
On the way back out for the second loop of the bike, there was an athlete that crashed seriously on the bridge in a really tight no pass zone and ambulances were there with EMT people helping him out so they stopped athletes for safety. I had clawed back my minutes from the flat and was pretty stressed even as I was like - "wow I hope he is okay" (you either know, or can image how it is -> full on race mode). I stopped but saw that I could maybe sneak around on the outer (east) side of the bridge, and just sort of thought, "if my competition is now 12 min back they're not going to have to stop for this", so that's what I did.
The rest of the bike was filled with the long climbing sections that always feel harder the second time around. I just tried to stay on top of my power and I reeled in a number of pro men, which is always motivating! At the very end, I had another big slow down behind a huge line of athletes (at the tail end of their first loop) in the same no-passing over the bridge, and I was extremely relieved to finally get past them roll into T2 with a bike time of 5:07:03.
Partly because I was so damn happy to have made it through the ride (somewhat uneventfully - ha! It's all relative, right!?), and partly b/c the legs felt good pretty quickly, I blitzed out on to the run course! Fortunately, my coach Paulo was there to tell me to chill out!! 6:00/mi pace can feel easy at the start of an Ironman but it's not sustainable for me and I needed to reel myself in. Even so, a couple early miles paced poorly had me paying for them on the hills at the far end of the first run loop. I was worried for a bit, but once I was able to pee while running (an unreasonably huge relief), I really came around and got into a solid rhythm for the rest of the marathon.
The crowds out on course were absolutely phenomenal! I felt like I heard my name along every stretch, and the cheers along Sherman Ave gave me the shivers. It was a huge boost of energy to feel so many people out there gunning for me! I really can't thank the Coeur d'Alene community enough for their support on so many levels.
When you turn the corner and see the last stretch to the finish shoot, at first it seems depressingly far away! Luckily, it's slightly down hill and the roar of the crowd keeps you rolling. As I got closer I heard something about "course record" and got the impression that I was close to breaking it so I'd better hurry up! I don't wear a watch on the swim or bike so I didn't know my overall time. I ran hard to the line to the screams of the crowd - to which I had to turn around and give some high fives - and finished with a new course record of 9:16:02.
After drug-testing and some quality family time (well quality except for my diarrhea and debilitating hamstring cramps) - I was stoked to return to the finish line for the last couple hours. I got to hand out medals and get excellent sweaty hugs and handshakes from the evening finishers. Finally, I joined the finish chute party for the last 1/2 hour to bring in the final athletes. It was A LOT of fun with some hilarious moments - a dance solo from the young man below - and just great yelling/visiting with people and celebrating with the men's winner, Ben Hoffman.
I have been having my best ever season as a triathlete this year, and so much of that consistent success is due to the fantastic relationships that I have with my sponsors. From having the luxury of training in a rotation of 3 types of Saucony shoes, to wearing the most comfortable clothes, to riding the most amazingly designed bike on the market, to fueling with the top of the line nutrition. It all adds up in a BIG way!
Because Trevor and I like to goof around, we made a little sponsor video spoof based on Wayne's World. You can see the original, and the Wurtele's World version below:
Finally thanks again to my family, my coach Paulo, The Triathlon Squad, and of course my amazing husband Trevor. I couldn't do it without you!
Up next- Vegas 70.3 World Championships and Kona baby!!