2010 Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report

     What an amazing race, experience, and learning opportunity Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene was for me this last weekend. I am very happy with my 7th place finish overall in a tough pro field with a personal best finish time of 8:52:04. What I'm most pleased with was the huge step up I made on my running with the second fastest overall run of the day with a 2:56 marathon off the bike (I was on pace for a 2:49 through about mile 19, but more of that to come in the report). I couldn't be happier with the mental breakthrough I had at this race. After a long, mentally tough winter and an okay race performance at St.Croix Ironman 70.3 in May, this race put this season right on track and brought my confidence up to a whole new level. I feel that I really learned some important lessons about racing Ironman. I cannot tell you how excited this race made me for the rest of this season. I know I still have fitness gains to be made and will get stronger at each race as I build into this season.


                           
     Little Caesars Hot-N-Ready at the finish for the athletes!! I was happy to see this (and hope Little Caesars is too)

     I arrived in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on the Wednesday before the race to get settled in and to have as little pre-race stress and rushing around as possible. The pre-race days went great. I love the town and area of Coeur d'Alene. I think it's a hidden jewel. My parents arrived Thursday and I was lucky enough to have my girlfriend at the race because she works for one of Ironman's sponsors and came to the race for work. She was able to stay and see her first Ironman. 

     The lake had been very cold in the weeks leading up to the race, hovering in the mid-50s. But in the last couple weeks, the lake warmed up quite a bit and hit around 61-62 for race day. It was still very cold (much colder than I prefer), but tolerable.

                               
                                       Getting out of the water after a warm-up swim a couple days before the race

     I felt good leading into the race and I think I pretty much nailed down my taper. Race morning I felt relaxed and ready to go. I didn't have as many pre-race nerves as in the past because I took a lot of the pressure to perform off of myself. The professional swim wave kicked off at 6:25 am. It's light at about 4:45am in Northern Idaho this time of year, so at 6:25 it seemed like it could be 9:00am. The lake was quite a bit choppier on race morning than it had been on prior days. My only problems in the race were with the swim, but a little chop and being uncomfortably cold never helps my swimming. When the starting cannon sounded, I never seemed to be able to get my stroke or rhythm down. I was separated pretty early from the group and swam about 3/4 of the whole swim alone. When I saw my swim time exiting the water, I was pretty frustrated, BUT I had mentally prepared myself for that scenario and was determined not to let it affect the rest of my race.

     "It's a long day, the swim is a small portion, let the race come to me." I told myself.

     I've been practicing positive self talk as part of my mental training. Whenever a negative thought creeps in my head. I stop myself, identify it as a negative thought, and then replace it with a positive one. It makes a huge difference.

     I was a bit cold at the start of the bike from the water, but mostly in my hands and feet. It took me longer to get my feet into my bike shoes because both my hands and feet were numb. I quickly got into a groove within the first 5 miles of the bike. I had a definite plan on the bike and was focused on executing my plan. I was determined to back off of the bike by 5-8 minutes in order to have fresher legs on the run. This was much harder than I originally thought. With all of the other guys hammering away at the start for the first 25 miles of the bike, it was a challenge to relax and do my race, not getting caught up in the early frenzy.

"It's a long race. Let them hammer early and suffer later. Let the race come to me. I'm going to be there on the run."

     My legs felt really good. I always felt like I could push much harder, I saw the main group at an out-n-back. I've raced most of these guys and know that some of them were well outside of themselves. They would suffer later, and they did. I don't think I've seen a drop-out rate in the pro field like I did at this race. The guys are trying to race the Ironman like a half-Ironman. That just doesn't work when you have a full marathon to run at the end! (I've learned this the hard way with experience).


     When I look back at my bike pace splits, I was as even as you can get thoughout the ride. My speed didn't drop like the others. I started the bike in 17th or 18th place in the male pro field. I didn't make my first pass until about mile 30 or 40. Then sure enough, as the second loop started to take it's toll on guys. They started coming back to me.  All those who pushed a too hard in the first 60 miles paid the price.

     I've never felt so fresh at mile 80, 90, and 100 in an Ironman, ever! That's when I knew my pacing was working. Maybe I could have gone a little faster, but I didn't want to risk it in this race. This whole race was about racing smart, pacing, letting the race come to me, and being there for the run. From mile 70-112, I passed several others and rolled into transition in 13th place. Normally, I'm a little stressed if I'm not in the top-10 off the bike, but this time I knew from my training that my running form was great, I was feeling strong and fresh, and many of the guys ahead were going to suffer. The temperature was moving into the low-80s. For me, this is perfect. 80-83 and low humidity is where I thrive. I hadn't seen a day below 90 degrees in Austin for two months, so it felt rather pleasant at mid-day.

     My bike split was 4:51, perfect. I knew I could ride in the mid-low 4:40s, but easing back by that 5-6 minutes was what I needed to be able to run strong.

      I came rolling through transition ready to go. My first mile was right around 5:58 and I knew I needed to slow down. Right after the 1 mile marker, I got really really bad side stitches. This is the same feeling I had at Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Cozumel last year. It feels like a knife in my side.

"You have plenty of time to manage this pain. Relax, slow down a touch, and breath deep through your diaphram to stretch out those muscles."

     Through deep controlled breathing, I was able to get though the pains. I also held off eating or drinking anything for the first 4 miles in the run to let my system settle. Whats funny was that even though I was in bad pain, for those few miles, I'd look at my watch and see 6:25, 6:18, 6:22 for the miles, so I knew I was managing well. 

   Right around mile 4, the side cramps were gone and my stride felt great. I started reciting my mantra I had trained with to keep me relaxed and focused. "Relaxed, calm, focused, strong, relaxed, calm, focused, strong, relaxed, calm, focused, strong." Over and over and over. It's like self-hypnosis. I say each word on each foot-fall. Over the marathon, I must have repeated those words several thousand times. 

    That's when all those guys who were hammering away on the bike started coming back to me. It was the best feeling in the world. One by one, they would appear in the distance and slowly come back and then gone out the back. By mile 6.5, I had moved from 13th-10th. I kept checking my watch. I was ticking off the miles in 6:19-6:25 for the first half.

    I came though the half-way point to start the second loop and the crowd support was great. I cannot tell you how many "Little Caesars" or "Pizza Pizza" shouts I got from spectators. Probably close to 1000 over the run. At the half way I was in 7th.

    I still felt strong and steady through mile 17. My pace from 14-17 went to a 6:30 average. I had only lost about 5 seconds per mile and wasn't concerned. I was still eating up ground against my competition.  Matty White and Chris Macdonald, both from Australia, were in 5th and 6th places and were only 3 minutes up the road. I was steadily eating up time. At my current pace, I should have caught them.

     At mile 18, I looked at my mile split and saw 6:45, then 19 was 7:10....the Ironman fade!! It's bound to happen in every Ironman. Every athlete fades, but it's a question of how much to you fade. This is the point when it feels like someone has two red-hot pokers in your legs and is twisting them on every stride. It hurst so bad the every step you pretty much want to cry. You have two choices: stop and walk, or hold on for dear life and finish as fast as you can.

"This is why you did all of that training and hard work, for this moment right now."

     My pace had slowed by about 1 minute per mile by mile 20. At mile 21, I saw 5th and 6th places were under 3 minutes ahead and were suffering. I dug as deep as I could, but couldn't pick up the pace or make up that gap. The last two miles, I just did what I could to get home.

     I was so happy to get across that finish line and just stop moving. My legs were entirely trashed. I've been sore now for 5 days since the race, so I know I went hard. In the past, I've finished many Ironman races and said that I only had fun after it was over. I can honestly say that I had fun out there from the start of the bike, until mile 19 of the run. I was enjoying myself and enjoying the day.




                             
                   After the finish line, I just need a second here. Will some get these red-hot pokers out of my quads?

     As I stated at the beginning, I am very, very happy with this race. Sure there are more improvements to be made, but I learned a lot about Ironman. I know exactly where I want to focus attention over the next two months....after I recover, that is. I know that with some coming fitness gains on the bike, I'll be able to bike 5 minutes faster with the same effort level to be fresh on the run. I have a few ideas on how to train to limit the run-pace fade for the last 6 miles a little better. Then when my swim clicks in place, I know I'm primed for the future. This race was a great place to build from for the future.


                                 

                                            
                      Just needed a minute alone to collect myself.  One of the first finishers, not a problem finding a seat.

    I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing this year. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. Champion System Clothing provide me with the best race and training clothing. Quintana Roo's CD 0.1 is one fast machine. Xterra Wetsuits are providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Ausin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.

Thank you,
Pat

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