Fantasy race report

NOTE: I wrote this before Ironman Coeur D'Alene as an exercise to think through my perfect race. My real race, though slower, turned out even better.

The training is the Ironman. Finishing the race is of course a big accomplishment, but in a more basic way it simply demonstrates what you've already accomplished. It's just the last day of a 40-week process that, bit by bit, makes such a thing possible. 

June 26, 2011

Pre-race: We had a couple of relaxing days hanging out around Coeur D'Alene, attending the pre-race meeting, checking out the course, nothing strenuous. I stayed off my feet for the most part and let my husband and parents entertain the kids. It was inspiring to see all the other athletes and realize that we've all been through pretty much the same type of thing for the past 40 or so weeks. I tried to guess which of them also "ruined" their formerly peaceful lives for a once-in-a-lifetime event, which ones were regular competitors, and which ones were going for the gold. 

I'd been an early-to-bed-early-to-riser for several days in preparation for this, so I didn't have any trouble getting to sleep right after the athlete's meeting, and I slept straight through until the alarm went off. I ate the breakfast I had laid out, got dressed in the clothes I had laid out, and headed off to the race site. (We'd packed the van with everything else the night before.)

Swim: The swim is my relative strength, but I knew the field was packed with amazing swimmers and that a lot of them would be going out hard. I stayed to the back so I wouldn't even be tempted to try to keep up. For the first loop, I just focused on making as direct a line as possible between the buoys and keeping my excitement under control. I was able to draft off of a couple of people, and when I did, I pretended that they were doing all the work and I was just floating along for the ride.

We had to get out after the first loop and walk over a timing mat (no running for me just yet), and I took a moment to stop and have the gel I had tucked up one wetsuit sleeve. I was feeling great, so I picked up my pace a bit on the second loop—nothing hard, just a little stronger. I made a perfect line between each buoy and passed a bunch of people.

Oh, and the water? Yeah, it was cold, as advertised. I noticed it for about the first 10 seconds, and then I was fine. Time: 1:15:00.

Bike: I spent about the first 5 miles warming up my legs, getting relaxed and comfortable. Riding through town was fun, and I stayed in some relatively low gears so I wouldn't get carried away with excitement and start riding too hard. After that, I started eating and drinking more, and settled into a really comfortable pace. I really enjoyed the ride and the scenery. The hills were a welcome change of pace, and I took advantage of the downhill sections to coast and get out of the saddle.

The first loop flew by, and after I'd done it once, I knew I was going to be fine on the second loop. I didn't change a thing until after I got through the hilly section for the second time. Then I decided there was still plenty of gas in the tank and picked up the pace just a touch on the way back into town. Better to get out of the saddle and on my feet sooner rather than later. Time: 6:45:00.

Run: I started this run like I start all my runs, with a walk. When my legs got loosened up and comfortable, I picked up the pace a bit, then started into an easy jog. Before I knew it, I was at the first aid station. I took some sports drink and then started the walk/faster walk/jog process all over again. I was feeling pretty good, and it was tempting to start actually running, but I reminded myself that I was not setting out to win this thing (in fact, the winners were just about finished; hmmm) but merely stay on my feet and finish. So I kept up the pattern, stopping to walk and get at least a sip of something at each aid station, and then easing back into a trot. I kept my focus on staying relaxed and loose. I enjoyed talking with people along the course, but not so much that I was willing to change my pace to keep up!

By the time I hit mile 20, there were still plenty of hours left, and I knew I was going to make it. It was a huge relief. I kept myself distracted from the thoughts of how much I wanted to be finished already by turning my focus outward. I talked to the volunteers, waved at the spectators, and stayed at someone else's pace for several miles because I was enjoying the distraction of the conversation. I remembered that I had worked long and hard (and paid big bucks) for the privilege of these last few miles, so I might as well enjoy them!

When I could finally see the finish, I offered up a premature but heartfelt prayer of thanks and found some renewed energy in my legs. Better make it look good for the fans and the finish line photo, right? Time: 6:30:00.

Total time (including transitions): 15:00:00