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Coach Troy's Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report 2008

Race Splits

Swim: 1:07:17 (1:47/100 meter pace for 2.4 miles)
T1: 5:04
Bike: 6:07:26 (18.3 mph for 112 miles)
T2: 2:44
Run: 3:43:45 (8:33 per mile for 26.2 miles)
OVERALL Finish Time: 11:06:15


Our week started off with a 3:30 AM wake-up to make the 6 AM flight from Austin to Coeur d'Alene on Thursday. This would hopefully give me plenty of time to get adjusted to the weather and water temps in Idaho vs. the 100+ heat and 85+ water temps we have in Austin. After two flights and many hours on airplanes Tonya, Tyler, Logan, and I arrived in Spokane Washington and had no real issues for the day. I can't say enough about the location of the race, what a beautiful part of the US (and world for that matter). This has to be in my top 3 most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life and I was so blessed to be able to experience something like this with my family and to compete in such an amazing sport. The mountains, everything so green, beautiful lakes and streams, and absolutely amazing weather was such a welcome site to get out of the Texas summertime heat. The mornings started in the mid to upper 50's and by the end of day it may have reached 80 degree on the hot day and only mid 70's the rest of the time. We were able to drive the bike course the day before and it was absolutely breathtaking views along 2 lakes with drops that were probably 1/2 mile from the edge of the road/cliff to the lake. There were some points where you could have jumped off the edge of the road into someone's attic as their houses were built on the side of the cliff and I can only imagine the views from their living room. I was able to ride my bike on the run course and even run a few miles of it the days leading up to it and it was equally as beautiful with about 60% of the race being on a bike path along the edge of lake Coeur d'Alene and the resort area. The swim, well, it was cold to say the least. Leading up to the race, they normally experience cold water temps this time of year but they had a record year of snow in the Bitterroot Mountains (180” this year vs. the 70” average snowfall). All of that snow melts into the lake so it didn't have much time to warm-up this year. The water temp was going to be around 55-60 degrees and they lifted the ban on wetsuit booties and neoprene caps in addition to the normal triathlon wetsuit you would wear in races like this. Being from Texas and warm waters, I figured I had nothing to lose by taking them up on these options to keep everything but my hands and face a little warmer. I have never experienced water quite like this and it took me about 500 meters for me to adjust and my breath not literally taken away each time my face hit the water. Friday was a tough swim; Saturday was a little easier so I had big hopes for Sunday/Race day. I had spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday doing some short swims, bikes, and runs just trying to stay lose and get adjusted to the 57-59 degree lake water. It was SUPER nice to be walking distance to the race site and expo area. The host hotel/resort really accommodated to us well and we thoroughly enjoyed having a room that overlooked the lake (including the actual swim course of the race). They really accommodated to the athletes well and was a wise decision for us to stay there.


My day started about 4 AM with a good normal breakfast and some light stretching exercises to get the blood flowing and “system processing” if you know what I mean. On my way to body marking and to setup my bike and transition bags. Things went pretty smooth besides forgetting my race swim cap. Good thing we were a three minute walk to the hotel so I walked back to find it and then came back with more than enough time to get the wetsuit on and mentally prepare for a long day. I knew at this point I would never see Tonya and the boys before the swim when I returned b/c they were still in bed and there were thousands of spectators and racers packed on a small beach boardwalk.


I got on the beach and decided about 5 minutes prior to the gun at 7 AM I would jump in the water, get my initial cold water shock out of the way with a light warmup. This proved to be a very good choice as I was swimming at 7 AM with 2100+ other athletes all at once in the span of about a 70 meter beach start. That's not a lot of room for 2100 people to start swimming so it really felt like I was swimming in a washing machine. Arms, legs, feet, hands, heads, backs, you name it, and it was there and everywhere. There was no getting out of it so I just was trying to somewhat keep a smooth rhythm and keep getting air when I could (oh and stay calm). The race sponsors decided that if the water was below 60 degrees, they would lift the ban on aqua socks (neoprene booties) and neoprene caps. This was a welcome sight in my eyes considering I wasn't too fond of cold water. I guess the 2 days prior of swimming really helped adjust me and the water temp never bothered me at all on race day. I'd say the hardest part of the swim was the first 700-1000 meters until just after the first turn when things started to spread out a bit. One loop down, feeling fine, just ready to get out of the water about way through my second lap. I just knew this was going to be a long day so I know this is only really a short warmup for the real race. Lap two complete and I exited the water. For those of you that have never done a full mass ironman swim start like this, I have to say it is the hardest swim start I have ever done and you have never appreciated the wave start so much in your life. I guess if it was easy, they wouldn't call it an IRONman event though. Honestly I felt better coming out of this than most of my other ironman swims I have done and I think it was probably b/c of the cold water and I didn't overheat.


Onto the wetsuit “strippers” (volunteers that helped you take off your wetsuit much faster than you could ever do by yourself). These guys rocked and helped tremendously, not to mention that Tyler and I made the race DVD that the sponsors made b/c Tyler was calling out “Daddy” when I was taking my wetsuit off and I waved as I ran off. Grabbed my swim to bike gear bag and into the changing tent. Got all my cycling gear on, race number, nutrition in the pockets, and took off. Out of the tent and onto the bike without much of a glitch.


I decided I would just go out the first hour and get my heart rate down and get warmed up on the bike as it was still a little cool but definitely not cold. I really wanted to be sure I enjoyed the scenery as well b/c we drove the bike course the day before and it was absolutely the most beautiful drive I have ever been on. I knew this would be a helpful point later to take my mind off the pain I may be experiencing. The first hour went pretty good, just hammering my nutrition plan just like I had practiced so many times. I hit some of the first big climbs in the mountains on the second hour and that's when I knew I was in for a long day. I never really pushed super hard on the bike on loop 1, knowing I would have to do this all again (bike was 2 loops as well). I continued with my Infinit drink, powerbars, powergels, salt tabs, and lots of water. I also experienced my chain coming off the cogs and rings 4 times in the first 24 miles. I guess InsideOut sports really jacked it up when I had it adjusted the day before the race. I had to get it adjusted b/c I couldn't use my 4 easiest gears as the chain constantly jumped and wouldn't sit right. Despite my efforts to adjust it, it wouldn't work right so I took it to them. Well, they got it to shift right in the middle, but it ended up falling off my front small ring many times if I shifted too far and at one point fell off my smallest cog between my cog and the dropout and locked my pedals…now that is a scary feeling going 38 mph and not being able to move a pedal. You initially feel like you are about to go flying end over end, but you just have to relax and stop and try to get it unlocked in that gap and put it back on. It took me about 4 times to finally figure out I wouldn't shift as hard in the front and I stopped using my smallest cog as to not experience that issue again. Despite practicing many times what my coach had suggested about peeing “on the bike”, I was unable to do this at this race due to the constant up and downs in the mountains. You were either struggling to go up at 10 mph or you were descending the mountain at 30-44 mph. I wouldn't exactly call those relaxing conditions to enable such a practice so I had to stop twice at the aid stations to grab a port-o-pottie but I chose the ones without lines so I could jump off and right back on the bike and not waste as much time stops at mile 51 and 90ish. Besides adding some bananas to the mix, my nutrition plan really went well on the bike and I felt good. As we started coming back into town out of the mountains, I noticed the wind had picked up and now instead of the recovery time I expected, I got a nice strong headwind that put on some more torture, but nothing like we have had this spring in Austin. Back to town and now I was half done with the bike ride. I headed out for my second lap on the other side of town and on the first small climb I knew I was in for an interesting 56 miles. I felt good on my stomach, I was plenty hydrated, but my legs just didn't seem to have very much power left in them to push the hills. I decided I would focus on nutrition on these small hills and try to get some recovery time in before I hit the mountains near Hayden and Hayden Lake on the other side of CDA. Back through town and towards the mountains. I liked heading out of town b/c I had a nice tailwind now and were cruising at a strong pace. I hit the first climb and there it goes…bam…no juice in the legs…uh oh…what to do now. (I forgot to mention on lap 1, there are several turns that you have to SLOW down for due to some sharp 90 degree turns and usually on a decent from a climb. Well as I made the turn on the first lap, about 4 seconds behind me I heard the screeching sounds of bike medal and flesh sliding across the road. That was a very scary and painful sound that really made me rethink my turns on some of the “SLOW” marked turns. It turns out he was one of a few guys that crashed that day and I'm not sure if he was the one but one of them ended up with a broken vertebrae, collar bone, and several other broken bones. The Race director told us at the award banquet he went to visit him in the hospital and the guy had great spirits and was just mad he wouldn't be able to volunteer at some other Ironman event he signed up to help at later this summer. That is the true ironman spirit I guess and quite an amazing story). So back to my story…there were several climbs on lap 2 in the beginning of the mountains where I knew I was in trouble when my legs just didn't have the same power going up the climbs. I tried to really use the descent of the mountains to rest my legs so I would have some power and that really wasn't a problem since I was cruising between 32-42+ mph on most downhills. If you ever anticipate doing this race, I would suggest focusing on longer steeper climbs and fast descents (both windy roads and straight roads). I finally got out of the mountains and was never so happy to see some of the flat roads again. My nutrition was still going good except I did hammer a few extra calories with bananas when I started feeling that “mental fuzzy” feeling knowing I wasn't getting enough. I also took in an extra powerbar over my usual training knowing I needed more calories. The wind was still strong back into town, but I knew it would be a welcome piece of the environment once I hit the run course. I rolled into town and was super excited to hand my bike off to the volunteers. I jumped off the bike and tried to take a few steps to the T2 area. Despite practicing these thousands of times in races and training, I realized I never practiced running to my transition area after 112 miles on the bike. I usually stop at the garage, hop off and grab my gear and go. Well, running to your Bike to Run gear bag (aka T2 bag) straight off the bike is something I will practice from now on. It took me about 10 steps to really feel like my legs knew what to do and was harder than I expected.


I grabbed my T2 bag and headed into the changing tent. Dumped my gear and began to put on my socks and shoes, visor, and some extra nutrition and empty my old nutrition containers out of my jersey. New socks…wow…what a super great feeling on my feet at this point. They had this really nice port-o-trough we could “relieve” ourselves in the men's tent and that was just awesome!!! What a great location for this! I ran out of the tent and decided I would take up the volunteers on a heavy dose of sunscreen (just b/c I am crazy enough to do an Ironman doesn't mean I am crazy enough to want to take on a heavy dose of skin cancer).


On to the run with the first 2 miles on an out and back course before you head through downtown and out on the long stretch of the run. I monitored my pace and decided I was going well around my 8 min goal pace. For those of you not familiar, my normal marathon pace is around 6:40-7 min/mile. Well, after 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike, you have to adjust those paces as your legs aren't as fresh as they would be for a normal marathon. I felt good, strong, and knew my nutrition had helped this. I started immediately taking in fluids and continued my salt tabs by mile 1. I cruised through town and still hadn't seen the family since this morning in the hotel room. I knew they were there somewhere but you fly through town so fast and it is so technical in town you really don't want to take your eyes off the road or the bikes around you. I knew I would see them sooner or later. I ran past the resort and around mile 3 I had caught the lead pro women 1 and 2 (Heather and Heather) on their second lap of the run. That was super cool!!! I ran past them and wished them well and saw the bikes that were leading them. Not long there after I saw them men going into town on their final miles of the race. First I saw Tom Evans, then Victor, and not far behind was Michael Lovato. That is just so inspirational to see them flying by at such ease at mile 22+. I headed out on the lake road that winds next to the lake and is the long stretch out and back and has 2 or 3 decent climbs. The last hill you climb before the turn around was a bit of a challenge but was probably less than 400 meters long so I just trucked up it and knew it would be easier coming back down. I was good until around mile 12. At mile 12, I started getting the nice “vomit” taste in my mouth and the lead female Heather W. had caught me (her mile 25 I think it was) and I ran with her as long as I could before I felt like I was going to vomit (who knows maybe I'll make the video of it when it airs on Versus this coming fall). I was walking about half the aid stations when I would try to eat something and on fluid only aid stations I just kept running. I decided at the mile 12 aid station it was time to try some new products to void off this taste in my mouth and get some energy back. First to try was chicken broth, coke, and pretzels. Yes I actually did all that in one aid station and the chicken broth was not so great considering it was heated. So I decided the rest was okay and got rid of the taste in my mouth but it took me until about mile 21 to start feeling good again. Through town the second lap I was able to see Tonya, the boys, and my friends David and Tanya and that helped me so much!!! I told Tonya I would tell her with a thumbs up or down how I was feeling. At that point it was a thumbs down, but I was close enough that I told her I would finish this thing if I had to walk the rest of the race. I knew I wouldn't let myself do that unless I started vomiting or had cramps. The aid stations consisted of gel and Gatorade at one station and coke, water, pretzels, and salt tabs at the next, Gatorade and maybe a banana at the next and coke, water, pretzels, and salt tabs…alternating with a gel every 3-4 miles b/c it was about all I could do to keep it down but I wanted it for the energy and salt. I have experienced severe cramping in other races so I was doing my best to keep that at bay while hammering through this course. I realized on my second lap that my pace had slacked to somewhere between 8:30-9:00 min/mile. It was way before now, but I knew when I got off the bike and especially now that my goal times of Goal A and Goal B were out the window. It is a strange feeling b/c I wanted those Goals so bad, yet at this point I only really had one goal in mind, to finish this race as strong as I could and without walking. I wanted that finish line and I wanted it bad! I tried everything I could do to make my feet move faster as to try to hit my goal of 8 min/mile pace, but alas…it wasn't going to happen today. I tried to stretch out longer, shorter quicker steps, etc and there was just not enough juice in my legs at this point to go any faster. I can't say enough about the spectators at this race. I was wearing my Texas Iron jersey (the multisport coaching team I train with) and I heard so many “Go Texas Iron” “Go Troy” “Go Texas” yells that it just made it amazing. They would even recognize me with each lap and say, “still looking strong Troy, keep up that amazing pace Texas Iron”. Wow, I felt like the people from Texas must have been here b/c that is where I am used to hearing such hospitality and cheerfulness. Just goes to show despite the heat we live in, we do live in such an amazing State and we are surrounded everyday by amazing people. Well, onto the final miles, knowing I was going as fast as I could, hitting my nutrition just to keep the legs moving, I made the final turn. WOW..WHAT A SIGHT!!! This has to be the best finish line I have ever seen (next to the Boston Marathon). You go for about -1/2 mile down about 4-5 city blocks downhill and can see the finish line when you turn that final corner. The streets were about 3-6 people deep and got deeper the closer you got to the finish line. I tried to find my friends and family but that was virtually impossible. I really tried to hype up the crowds and told them I couldn't hear them as I lifted my arms in the air, put my hand to my ear and made each city block compete with the next to see how loud they could get. This is a great way to help the crowds liven up and make you feel just amazing as you finish your day of Ironman competition. I grabbed some high fives in the finishers chute (apparently on the wrong side as my family and friends were on the other side) and lifted my hands in the air for the finishing time of 11:06:15. I couldn't be happier and just smiled for about 3 hours straight I think. I think the volunteers and my wife were really shocked at how coherent I was and how good I looked like I felt. I have actually been sorer after some marathons than after this race. Grabbed some food, drinks, and started making my way to a nice soft piece of grass. The recovery was nice and easy and I feel completely normal today and ready to hit the road for some more training. My soreness was gone on Wednesday and I couldn't be happier to have completed such an event. If it weren't for my wife and family that supported me through this, I know I wouldn't have made it. God pushed me through the entire day (he listened well when I was aching for help up the tough climbs) and I know it is through him that all of this is possible. Seeing that part of the world/US has really opened my eyes to what God created and the beauty of this world. Many people have already asked me if I will do another one. I think one day I will do another one as it was a lot of fun and the entire Ironman experience from the first part of training until today is something I wish everyone could experience. It truly is an amazing experience and I hope to do another one in the future. One day in my wildest dreams, maybe I'll qualify for Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (that's the ultimate goal), but for now I'll focus on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, FL in November (half ironman world champs I qualified for this past May). Thank you again to my wife, family, friends, and coaches Jamie Cleveland and Andrea Fisher of Texas Iron for their support and encouragement, I wouldn't have gotten there without you. I AM AN IRONMAN!
~Coach Troy


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