Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ironman Coeur D'Alene - Round 2

A few seconds after I crossed the finish line of Ironman Coeur D'Alene on June 26th, 2011 at 10:49pm I knew I wanted to do it again.  I learned SO much that I knew I could do better, or at least feel better.  I underestimated the swim and didn't train as much, I knew I could push it a little more on the bike... I had been overly conservative in an attempt to save some energy for my run but that was pointless since I struggled with stomach issues on the run, blisters and overall energy.  There was A LOT of walking involved.  Since that day, I knew what I wanted.  I wanted to come back to the same course after changing some things during training and change my attitude towards racing.  I wanted to come back to see what I could accomplish once I had set a bar...

During the past six months, I've been sort of secretive about my race goals.  I was never really specific about them to anyone and I think not even to myself.  Trying to pay attention to my cycling and running abilities this year, I came up with some numbers which I posted The Day Before Ironman.  I wanted to be conservative, since it's a long day, but still wanted to challenge myself.  If I accomplished those times, I would beat my time from last year by almost 1.5 hours.  

Woke up on Sunday, June 24th 2012 at 4:15am.  I jumped in the shower and took a long and relaxing shower.  Got my hair done and went to the kitchen for some breakfast.  Ironman race morning is fairly relaxing (I think) since all your gear is already in transition.  It's a HUGE deal.  It's really nice to not worry about all these details on race morning. So it's just me and some warm clothes for after the race.

Ready to roll.  At 5:15am, heading to the start line. 

At 5:15am we left the house and picked up my mom and brother at the hotel.  Once in transition area, I walked to my bike and checked my tire pressure and filled up my water bottles.  I got body marked and patiently awaited the start.  Took a few pictures with my friends and headed to the beach.  

Overwhelming swim start

A couple minutes before 7:00am, I put on my goggles and was ready to go.  I remember being nervous and was tearing up.  Taking deep breaths I tried to calm myself and fight the tears.  I knew I was ready so it was just a matter of putting a foot in front of the other and take it a step at a time.  Before I had much more time to think about it the canon went off.  And off we went, not before giving my friends a hug.  

The water wasn't as bad as it was the previous year, but the crowds in the water felt aggressive.  I somehow started working my way towards the farthest buoy, the red one. The farthest out I'd get, the choppier the water.  It started to feel as if someone had put me in a clothes-washer. Not fun.  Once I swam across and turned again to head back, it seemed like the waters calmed, but I swam and swam and felt as if I wasn't moving at all.  At one point, I had to stop and turn back to see if I had accomplished anything.  I had, it was just a feeling of not moving.  I kept swimming and got to the finish of the first loop fairly fast and without fighting many people.  Walked on the beach for a few seconds and jumped back in the water for the second loop.  I knew what to expect.  The way out was choppy although less crowded than the first time around.  The turn around point was mayhem again and on the way back, I tried to relax my mind knowing I'd have that feeling of swimming but not moving.  It felt like it lasted longer and I was getting frustrated.  I started moving my arms faster and kicking harder, but thought that I shouldn't waste too much energy, in the end, I still had a long day ahead. Again, ended up stopping and looking back to see how far away from that red buoy I was.  After a little bit, I started feeling like moving again, and made it to the finish of the swim successfully and into the first transition.  

Ironman CDA 2011 Swim time: 1:45:41
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 1:45:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 Swim time: 1:36:35 (PR & better than goal) 

My transition went smoothly and my wetsuit came off easily.  I took my stuff and got changed in the tent where I saw Jolene and Kristi.  They got there a couple minutes before me.  I left the tent and got to my bike where my support crew was giving me an update on the other girls... I knew Jo and Kristi had JUST left, but Leah swam SO fast that she was long gone.  Got ready fast and left with my bike. 

Helmet on... Gloves on... LET'S GO! 

I got on my bike fast and started pedaling.  I caught Kristi and Jolene who were together at mile 1.35, gave them an update about Leah and kept going.  I was familiar with the first section of the ride since it was the same as last year's.  It's an easy, fun 16 mile out-and-back.  Once back in town, we would head to Idaho highway 95 and would go South for 20 miles and then back for a total of 56 miles.  Then do it all over again.  We had a headwind on the way out and the hills were BIG.  I was trying to stick to my nutrition plan and stick to a nice steady pace that I'd manage for the full 112 miles.  The wind didn't make it any easier, but I focused.  I saw Leah at mile 26, well, actually, she saw me when I passed her and shouted at me.  I slowed down and we chatted for a couple of minutes. She was looking strong and was smiling.  I was glad to hear that and I kept going.  The turn-around point felt great.  The last 20 miles were mostly downhill with a tail-wind.  Caught lots of speed and kept going.  Waved at Leah, Kristi and Jolene as I was heading back, they were all smiles and looking good.  I felt great most the second loop as well and knew I was slightly ahead of schedule.  Doing math in my head when it comes to time, speed and distance seems to take longer than usual and kills some of the time on my bike (or run).  I wondered if I should slow down and stick to my goal time, but it was hard to do so and I figured I'd keep it up.  The climbs on that 20 mile stretch with a headwind were a little harder the second time around, but I pushed hard to get it over with.  In the end, all I wanted was to get to the turn around point to enjoy that tailwind.  

Made it back to town fast only to realize I had had a great ride and I was feeling surprisingly strong.  I dropped off my bike, picked up my run gear and went to the tent to get changed.  Grabbed and snack: half a Stinger Waffle and urged the volunteer to have the other half.  I told her they were DELICIOUS and she needed the energy to help the rest of the athletes.  Hope she ate it.  I headed out for my run.  I did not take a long break at the tent this year, just got changed and left.  I was in and out in 8 minutes. 

Ironman CDA 2011 Bike time: 7:31:04
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 7:00:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 Bike time: 6:45:43 (PR & better than goal) 

Heading out on the run (I'm the one in the back)

I started my run at a very comfortable pace but still keeping in mind how I often crash and burn during the runs of triathlons.  A marathon is no easy task, but the great thing about this course is that it's a 13.1 mile course out-and-back... then you do it again.  You can break your run into 6.55 mile splits.  That's just over a 10k, and while my 10k time is just under an hour, I was hoping to run these 10k splits in roughly 1:20:00 and focus on one at a time to hit my goal time of 5:30:00.  I felt pretty good on the first one.  I jogged comfortably the whole way, knowing there was a big hill at the end of this stretch which I had planned on walking up to not burn all my energy.  I ran an avg. of 11:37 min/mile.  I turned around and started running back into town.  Up until this point, I was sticking to my nutrition to the dot and had stopped at every other aid station to grab some water which was roughly every 2 to 2.5 miles.  I was waiting for the chicken broth to show up, but maybe I was early.  

At mile 10 I started feeling like I would throw up if I ate another gel, too much sugar... so I had some chips and coke at the aid station and continued my jog.  People that had been cheering everyone noticed me on the way out and congratulated me on the way back saying I looked strong and said it was great I was able to keep a nice steady pace.  Made me smile.  

Coming back to town is always exciting and it's hard to stop running.  There are SO MANY PEOPLE lined up on the streets.  They all cheer you on and all I could do was smile.  My second split was an avg. 11:21 min/mile.  Got to the turn around point and started my second loop.  It was slightly more challenging than I thought it'd be.  Right as I hit mile marker 14, I felt like I didn't have enough energy and had to walk a little to re-group.  Wasn't sure if it was the pain in my feet, my ankles or just mental.  Nothing else seemed to hurt or better yet, nothing seemed to be cramping up.  Seemed like walking and taking a minute to figure out what was wrong was a good plan to fix it and keep going.  I want to say I walked roughly a mile, although my man had joined me around then and he encouraged me to jog the downhills or the flats.  The first 2 miles of the course are in town and fairly rolly.  I promised him I'd start jogging again after the second aid station (which was around the corner) and I did... and I never looked back. 

Again, kept a steady pace and just kept putting a foot in front of the other.  Those same people outside of town again recognized me and said I was on fire and looked REALLY strong.  Made me smile and helped me to keep going.  I got to the turn around point and I knew, the hard part was over.  As I was turning around, the volunteers cheered me on and screamed: "You got this girl... last 6 miles!" to what I answered: "Last year it was dark when I got to this point!"  This was true, and this time around, the sun hadn't even set.  My average speed for this split was 14:10 min/mile which I blame on the 10+ mins that I walked, but they were worth it and probably made the rest of my successful run possible.  I kept jogging.  I realized, as I was about to hit mile marker 21, that my friend Kristi was still on her way out to the turn around point. Things were about to get interesting. 

Kristi is an AMAZING runner... and all along I had been expecting her to pass me.  She's always been way faster than me, and I was waiting for her since it's sort of what happened during the half-Ironman in Oceanside.  During our race in CA, I passed her on the bike, but she caught up to me around mile 8 of the run... although I never let her go too far.  In the full Ironman, I was expecting her all along since mile 16.  At mile 21, I realized she was still a full mile behind me.  I'd have to walk or stop and/or she'd have to run real fast to catch up and gain on me over 5 miles.  Not like I had planned on beating them all, but it sorta helped to keep me motivated.  What if I beat all the girls?  It became a competition in my head, even if they didn't know it.  "Don't stop, Gaby... She's gonna get you." I did. I barely walked at the aid stations to get water and chips and just started moving fast.  4 miles before the finish, I switched my watch to my overall time, as opposed to just the run time.  It said I was at roughly 13 hours and 10 minutes.  This meant, that if I ran the remaining 4 miles at 12 min/mile pace, I'd finish before hitting the 14 hour mark.  Another big push.  At mile marker 25, I even found myself looking back trying to find Kristi and constantly looking down at my watch.  I was on time to break 14 hours, and Kristi was nowhere to be seen.  

Approaching the finish line
I got to Sherman St. where the fans were lined up on the streets cheering ME on.  I had the biggest smile on my face.  Somehow, I kept looking down to my watch... I wanted to break 14 hours SO BAD, but now, I could see the finish line and still had 7 minutes to spare.  I sped up and ran on to the finish chute and spotted my man sticking his hand out to high-five me.  I skipped and jumped to the finish line, I was SO happy.  I crossed the finish line in 13h54m31s. I never thought I'd be able to break 14 hours, and that made my fourth and last run split the fastest at an average of 10:57 min/mile.  I kept telling everyone around me how happy I was.  I got my medal and finisher's swag and continued on to take pictures and grab some drinks.

Ironman CDA 2011 Run time: 5:59:59
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 5:30:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 Run time: 5:13:51 (PR & better than goal) 

Happy finisher right here... 

Once I crossed the finish line, I was satisfied.  I had proved to myself that hard work and dedication pay off.  I had successfully learned from previous year's mistakes and had been good at overcoming them this year.  Will I do this again?  Maybe.  But not in the near future (unless I find myself VERY drunk and signing up for a third one).  For now, I'm satisfied.  I'm happy.  And as I have mentioned before, I will dedicate 2013 to my man and to help accomplish his goals and pursue other athletic goals of mine.

Today, I'm left with VERY sore muscles and very swollen ankles.  :)  I am recovering at the man's cabin in Donnelly, ID.  Life is good.

Leah, Jolene and myself hugging after an amazing race!  

Ironman CDA 2011 overall time: 15:49:54
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 14:31:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 overall time: 13:54:31 (PR & better than goal) 


  1. You are incredible. I am in awe of your accomplishments! Love you :o)

    1. Aww... THANKS!!! Love you too and I can't wait to celebrate with you when I'm back home!!

  2. Gaby, you are truly an inspiration! I am so happy for you and so proud of you! I love how you learned from your first Ironman experience and then came home determined to make this year's event even better! Thank you for sharing your photos and your blog with me!

  3. Gaby,
    Wow! I can't believe how much you bested your own time! I'm glad that Charles and your family were there to cheer you on. The photos are a great record of the event.