Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

What a day!  Many highs and lows as one might expect in Ironman.  But overall an incredible high that already has me craving the next opportunity to line up for 140.6 miles of racing.  Okay, maybe AFTER my quads stop feeling like someone is stabbing them with a very sharp knife.  :)

Let's start with the first low.  Getting "sick" before the race even started!  UGH!  I've been so lucky to have been healthy all throughout my training thus far this year so I can't complain but couldn't my body have just waited ONE more week?!  No, I guess not.  :)

When I rode and ran on Thursday I noticed my HR was quite high for the effort level I was putting in and I knew something was amiss.  I tried not to fret but I have to admit, it was worrisome.  And sure enough on Friday I woke up with a very sore throat and that ever annoying feeling in your ears when you can't quite hear anything.  Boo.  I knew there wasn't much I could do about it at this point - it was what it was and worrying wouldn't make it any better!  I spoke with Dirk about the situation and he helped me to feel better mentally.  On Saturday I woke up feeling not much better physically (and perhaps worse).  And on Saturday night I fell alseep at 6:30 pm (my body's desperate attempt at healing?).  But luckily on race day I woke up being able to breathe out of BOTH sides of my nose.  WIN!  (of course the sore throat and achy head/ears wasn't improved but whatever...  :)

Let's get this party started!

Race morning went pretty smoothly and before I knew it I was putting my wetsuit on.  The one nice thing about being a pro and always going first is that there isn't much time from the opening of transition to the start to really get too anxious!

This might be the hardest part of the day - getting that darn wetsuit on!
Swim: 1:03:27

I have to admit, I think I'm starting to develop an unhealthy fear of the pro swim.  Ugh.  Although I really enjoyed the swim as an AGer, I've seem to have lost the love as a pro.  My few experiences thus far have resulting in getting dropped pretty immediately and I really wasn't relishing the idea of 2.4 miles alone in the cold, choppy water of Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Dirk and I also talked through this and he told me to be prepared for anything and to make sure I know the course well and what to sight off of in the case that I was doing all the navigating by myself.  Although the course wasn't set up in the days beforehand, on race morning Meredith Kessler took the time to explain the ins and outs of the swim to me as we stood waiting to get in the water.  As an aside, I can't say enough good things about Meredith.  Not only is she amazingly fast but she is so gracious and goes out of her way to help others (like myself).  ALL the women pros have been so kind but I will say Meredith has gone above and beyond in making me feel like a welcome addition to the pro field.  If you are looking for someone to cheer for in races, I highly recommend her!  :)  (and of course, as you all know, she went on to win the race by 40+ minutes). 

Start of the pro race.
Back to the swim.  As is par for the course, I worried more than I had to about the swim.  I would say that I swam 50% of it by myself, 40% of it "kind of" with other pros and 10% of it with the fast AGers that had caught me as they were 1/2 way through their first lap and I was 1/2 way through my 2nd lap.  All in all a 1:03 isn't nearly as bad as I had imagined but it's also certainly not indicative of my swim fitness either!  What I have definitely come to learn about racing pro is that while I may be competing on the very same course as all the other AGers physically, pychologically, it's a very different (and tougher) race.  It's hard to already be experiencing a low 5 minutes into the race when you are swimming in choppy water all alone.  You have to be mentally tough to get through these times.  This is obviously where I need some work!

As I was starting my second loop, I looked back on shore to see thousands of AGers waiting to hunt me down.  Swim Shutt, SWIM!  :)

Bike: 5:37:41

Did I mention how happy I was to get out of the water and get on my bike?  :)  I was definitely looking forward to this course - both for the beauty and the challenge and it did not disappoint!  The concensus among all that raced was this: TOUGH course and tough day.  Windy and a bit cold and lots of climbing (about 5200 feet per my Garmin, roughly 2000 feet more than Kona). 

As I got out onto the course I almost immediately saw my mom and Oscar and they told me I was in 8th place.  EIGHTH (this race pays 8 deep)!  Not bad!  :)  I thought I could work with that, especially because I could see some other pros (admittedly way up the road but still).  I got down to the business of the Ironman bike which is as follows - pedal and eat, pedal and eat.  This IM definitely had a more "race" feel for me though - instead of just pedaling along staring at my HR I was paying much more attention to what position I was in and what was going on around me.  I VERY much liked that part.

The bike course is also two loops (like the swim and run) and the first loop went by relatively quickly.  The 2nd loop not so much.  As usual I struggled from mile 80-95.  I was nauseated (but throwing up around mile 85 definitely helped!) and trying to wrap my head around another 20-30 miles in the saddle.  I watched my HR and power fall and I cursed the wind.  I think this could be considered another low.  :)  Also as usual, I started to feel decidely better once I saw the 100 mile mark!  12 to go!  Yeah for standing upright instead of being bent over on my bike!  :) 

I had moved up to 6th place at one point on the bike but a flying Haley Cooper-Scott passed me like I was standing still at around 70 miles and proceeded to put another 7 minutes on me.  Oops.  ;)  I was also passed (back) by Rachel Kiers but in the end we essentially came into transition together so I'll call it a tie.  :)

Seen out on the bike course, Kristen and Jen had made "potato head" signs for each of the Pittsburghers competing.  Definitely put a smile on my face!!

Run: 3:37:21

My big goal for the run was to squeak under 3:30.  Gosh darn it, I know I have it in me!  Can someone explain to me how running 7:15-7:30 pace is so easy for 16 miles and then really NOT so easy after that?!  HA! 

Needless to say, I started the run feeling great.  I was very much sticking to the plan Dirk and I had to run my sub 3:30 and it was nice because I had Rachel right in front of me to chase.  Around mile 3 or 4 she ducked into the bathroom and I passed right on through.  7th place now!  I again really enjoyed the first lap seeing so many people out on the course - Oscar and my mom and the entire Pittsburgh cheering crew, Charisa Wernick and Matty Cusack.  Heck, even Rinny cheered for me as I ran past!  I was so thankful for everyone!  And then, an even bigger boost was hearing (from Sonja and Charisa) that 6th place was right up the road and looking not great.  YES!

I moved into 6th place somewhere towards the end of the 1st loop.  This coincided roughly with the time that I started to feel the twinges of trouble in my quads (and my belly).  But I was holding on still, mostly fueled by the cheers of what seemed like THOUSANDS of people through town!  And THEN...wait, what's this...I all of a sudden had the bike escort of the 5th place pro female asking me my name and leading me through the start of the 2nd loop.  WHAT?  I hadn't passed any other females that I knew of and I was a bit confused but I certainly wasn't asking any questions.  As I came through ~14 miles I saw Oscar again and he explained that I was indeed now in 5th place because of the unfortunate DQing of Heather Wurtele.  I certainly didn't understand what was going on at that point but I had one thought only "LORD, HELP ME TO HOLD ON!"

If you are looking for stellar knee lift, look no further than Ironman!
The 2nd loop (mostly the last 10 miles) was pure grit.  I definitely thought a lot on Phillipians 4:13 "I can do all things through Him who strenthens me."  AMAZINGLY (amazing because I had already slowed down to over 8 minute pace), I passed 5th place and moved into 4th place (and got myself a new bike escort!) around mile 16th.  This buoyed my spirts for a while but then around mile 17 I couldn't take the nausea anymore so I threw away my gel flask and started taking coke.  At mile 18 I REALLY couldn't take the nausea anymore so I stopped at the side of the path and proceeded to throw up just about everything I had consumed in the last 2 hours.  It wasn't pretty.  And remember how I had that sore throat?  Well try having stomach acid come up through.  Needless to say, my throat was RAW by the end of the race.  I felt bad for my bike escort because I think he was very worried for me.  As I was standing on the side of the road heaving up my guts, I moved BACK into 5th place because Rachel passed me once again.  After throwing up, my stomach felt a bit better but the quads unfortunately didn't play along.  :)  Once again I had one thought only "LORD, HELP ME TO HOLD ON!"

And that is what I did.  One foot in front of the other, slowing to over 9 minute pace with 3 miles to go.  I felt so bad for my escort because she literally COULD NOT pedal any slower!  HA!  I had been walking through the aid stations but at one point got a split that 6th place was only 2 minutes back.  It was then that I made a new rule - NO MORE WALKING!  It was also at this point that I was beyond thankful for the wonderful community that is Coeur d'Alene and all the other awesome racers that cheered their hearts out for me.  I almost get a little teary eyed thinking of how supportive everyone was and if it had not been for that, I might still be sitting on the curb at mile 23 crying my eyes out.  :)

When I got to around 25.5 I knew I was going to make it.  I saw Oscar and my mom and they were both SO excited and were yelling how proud of me they were and oh my, I was just overwhelmed with emotion.  I DID get teary eyed then.  It was a tough day and I knew I was no where close to breaking 10 hours or running sub 3:30 but I was going to finish in 5th place and honestly, that meant the world to me. 

I savored the finish as much as I could.  And what a finish it was!  So, so, soooo many people out cheering and giving high fives and it was such a delight!  It was a hard day (have I said that yet? :) and it was not the breakthrough race that I was looking for but I certainly felt like I was victorious.  And I was thankful beyond belief for the opportunity that was afforded me.

I have so many more thoughts and feelings to share about the day, the race, the entire trip!  But this report is already getting far too long so I will save those up for another blog entry.  But truly, from the bottom of my heart, I am so thankful for all your cheers and encouragement!  I was overwhelmed with texts, emails, FB and twitter messages after the race!  I am also so thankful for my mom and Oscar being out on the course ALL day long, for the Pittsburgh crew out cheering loud, for Dirk who has helped me to see that my dreams ARE possible, for all my family and friends who I know believe in me more than I do in myself sometimes.  I am thankful for companies like SOAS, PowerBar, Brooks (not ONE blister!), and Dark Speed Works that have supported me and taken a chance on me before I've produced any real results to speak of.  As the saying goes, it really does take a villiage.

HUGE congrats to all that competed on Sunday and became an Ironman for the first or perhaps 15th time!  It was a tough day and a tough course and we all perservered.  Job VERY well done! 

What a day for Pittsburgh athletes!  Racing with friends is the best!

Dirk's Ladies also had a great day.  Congrats to Sonja (who crushed it despite a flat) and Michelle (who won her AG)!

I have to admit, I really liked standing up on the stage with these women. I told Dirk, we must find a way to make this happen again! (and again, and again...) :)


  1. A fun day by the lake in Coeur d'Alene! Can't wait for part 2 when you discuss the dance moves of Recycle Man at the baseball game!

  2. Congrats on 5th, that is so awesome!!! You are such an inspiration, I love reading about your races and seeing all your hard work pay off. Hope those quads start feeling better!!

  3. What a well-written race report, Beth, and soooo fun to read! You are such an amazing, talented athlete (and gracious too). You WILL get your sub 3:30 marathon split in due time and it will feel even that much sweeter. Recover well! :-)

  4. Congratulations again!!! What a wonderful RR! You persevered and pushed through all kinds of pain to make this day happens, that's what makes you special!

  5. So proud of you Beth!! Keep up the hard work and winning attitude and that stage is all yours!

  6. Love the race report Beth! So sorry you were feeling sick but man, perseverance at it's finest and sometimes, that is all we can ask of ourselves! Great great job!

  7. Beth I haven't even finished your report (awesome BTW), in fact I am still on your swim but had to stop and comment. You are truly amazing. I get a chill just reading about 2 miles in cold choppy water and alone for much of it, and SICK. And still with a smile in your voice (words). I don't know you or your husband except through online but I can say you two are incredible people and so belong together! In word and dead you guys spirit shines through. Now back to the report. .

  8. congrats again on your race. i'm biased because she's my friend but MBK is a truly wonderful, giving and gracious person and nice of you to call that out about her.

  9. Way to go beth! So incredibly impressed at your strength...physically and mentally! 5th is amazing, congrats!

  10. Congratulations! That's awesome!

  11. Congratulations!! I knew you would do awesome - a couple of us were sitting by the pool after our long bike tracking away - so excited for you and a real inspiration to all of us out there :)

  12. If *that's* what you can do when you're sick, holy toledo!
    World, better watch out, Beth is coming!

    Greg Grunner

  13. ROCKSTAR!!! Looking forward to reading future RR with even better results!!!

  14. You are not only an amazing athlete, but you are very inspirational Beth! So happy for you. Tough day but a good day!

  15. This made me tear up for you Beth. I just love your Grit. YOU are my favorite Pro to cheer on... It's awesome to watch you do this. Incredible strength and fortitude out there. Recover well and get ready to crush the next race. Awesome!! LOVE seeing on that stage and How COOL to have an escort!!!!!

    (why did Heather W. get DQ'd??)


  16. I really enjoyed watching you all day - YOU had a great race. I am so sorry you got sick beforehand..that is always my #1 worry pre-big races - especially when my kids were little and always, always sick - or flying on a long flight (like you did). I am lucky to have known you for a long time and have thoroughly enjoyed your progression in this sport and to go to an IM race as a PRO - HOW awesome! HUGE Congrats to you, BETH! :))

  17. Beth! Great race report and what a fantastic race! Congrats for overcoming all the adversities the race threw at you and coming in 5th!! Thrilled for you!

  18. Great race, congrats on the podium. Was a blast to watch you tear it up

  19. Congrats Beth!! You truly amaze me to be able to push through the sickness and nausea issues and still have a super awesome rockstar race like this - so happy for you! I know you will be enjoying much more time on the podium! :)

  20. I laughed and got teary eyed reading this. love seeing you up on the pro podium and if this is what you can do on a not so ideal day well... I can't even imagine when you are actually healthy! so so proud of you!!!

  21. I saw you on the run - you were maybe at mile 22/23 and you were a picture of grit. congratulations on the podium, you are a freakin rock star and I'm so excited for you!