IRONMAN Coeur D’Alene

The Ironman in this beautiful city of 30,000 people is nestled in the Northern tip of Idaho. Surrounded by the Spokane River (and 20 minutes from Washington State), the city resembles that of a Pocono-type community and a perfect venue for this type of event. We arrived late afternoon Thursday (fly into Spokane, then drive) and were surprised, pleasantly, that our “hotel” was only 5 minutes away from the CDA, yet 3000 feet UP. The Cougar Crest Lodge is a bed/breakfast that houses up to 5 rooms and WOW! I can’t begin to explain the atmosphere. What a place made more remarkable due to the owners Foster and Particia Manning (ed note: Pat can cook great breakfasts and treats!!). They were the ultimate in hospitality. We were joined by another Ironman couple from San Francisco which made conversation easier and resulted in a great contact.

I registered and got the ceremonial wrist band slapped on that would remind me what I was in for. It was nice to see the name of each racer ON thier bib # so people can cheer the name instead of # during the race. I was ready, but I realized that to me anyway, these Ironman Qualifiers are starting to lose their luster. Why? Well, these events are ofter closed to entry within days, the mass swim starts could cause a rough start to a long day for most people (mostly first timers), and like marathons, you can find one closer to home, more affordable, and still have a great experience. Finishing one of these is just as euphoric no matter where you compete.

Gina handled the weekend better than I expected. She soaked up the event trying to learn as much as she could, loved the city and where we stayed (she couldn’t get enough of the view on the mountains), and was able to fully recharge her batteries with a needed vacation.

I spent Friday and Saturday morning swimming in the lake to get a feel for the water. Though 68 degrees, it was the warm and the only trouble spots were the rough current at the turnaround due to the Spokane River (you could clearly see the bottom of the lake). It was oddly VERY cold when you returned to shore for 200 yards. My bike, shipped UPS and handled by the folks at InsideOut Sports, was ok but it was noted my rear derailieur was out of whack and should be replaced, “but shouldn’t be a problem for the race”. How do you interpret that?

We slept well each night and weren’t use to the sun being up BEFORE 5am and setting close to 9pm! I think were both on east coast time anyway the whole trip.

Race morning: 4am up. It was raining! This after days of 60-80+ degree forcasts each day. But it was brief and ended by the time we got to the venue. Tension, excitement, nerves, ooooo it felt good. Feeding off others energy is what I do, especially at the swim, but when you get on the beach with 2000 people in rubber suits all heading for a bouy 100 yards away – get ready to fight.

Boom! The canon goes and you jump in (oh you forgot it’s 68 degrees) and you quickly churn to gain a real estate to draft and settle into a rhythm. Yeah right: first you get kicked, then you drink some lake (not bad really), then a blow to the head (I actually thought my nose was bleeding) and it could be from a man or woman! I was able to hold form and swim wide but would get caught at turnaround bouys by the mob. I fought back in order to hold pace-I am from Brooklyn and a good swimmer- but my way is simply to swipe their feet and “push” them to the side while speeding up. Two laps and off to the bike. It was warm so you didn’t experience the “chill” from the swim. A hilly 2 lap course but I had no problems with my gears. I did stop twice to “empty” but I realized I just found myself pacing. No force, just steady state which ticked me off. The road did lead us into Washington State, sections of the Centennial Trail, and even a lap on a greyhound race track! The mind wanders here and despite a good focus, I could start to feel the day wear on me. Stay hydrated, but I couldn’t muster the energy to go any faster. I knew my run would be a test when I passed the 90 mile mark on the bike.

The weather was very warm now, and as I got off the bike, I knew I just had to remain calm and keep pacing. I exited the changing area and was happily slathered in sunscreen by 3 volunteers (who were great the whole day a big ‘thank you’ to the city). I felt fine the first 10 miles just holding pace. But I knew my gait was shortening and my mind was battling. I drank 2 cups at each mile and used the energy from the back loop to keep charging. I got a glimpse of the clock (for the first time all race) at the 13 mile mark and saw 9 hours. Hell, I could pull a sub 11 easily buy keeping pace. Yeah, but I was ticked anyway for I know I could “race” sub 10. Scrap it, just get to the finish boy! By mile 16 though, I HAD to stop and walk. My right side cramped, then, nauseased me. I’ve been through this before. Reassess. I was slowing down for a reason. Sweating was minimal now – then shutdown. I got to a port-o-san at mile 19 to yak, which actually felt good. But my day was done. It was going to be a long walk. I couldn’t drink anything but water and poured ice to cool down anyway possible. I simply wanted to finish now, and my side just ached. I did find out I am a SLOW walker. I got a bit concerned because I knew Gina would worry when she didn’t seem me finish in the time we estimated based on how the race was going and now I was 2 hours late! I finished in 12:34 and ironically felt no aches muscle wise. Talk about a cool-down! Gina endured the day well herself and she said the day, though long as a spectator, still made for a great time. I was still unable to eat anything – except a Frosty – and the morning after jacuzzi helped. I still finished in the top half of participants and in my age group!

The postrace eval was a loss of 10 lbs of water weight (pre-race was 132) and I will get checked out at Lenox Hill this week for a chest xray to rule out any cracked ribs or internal damage.

We enjoyed a relaxing day before embarking on our trip back home. I highly recommend CDA as a get-away and a destination out west.

Special thanks again to Foster and Patricia Manning for hosting us at their “resort” (with invitation to Singapore) and they received the complimentary massage coupon I got from being a race participant. Race medal/t-shirt went to Gina Paoloni for assisting in all aspects of planning this trip and to Susanne, a customer at Amy’s who “tipped” me very well for the event, she gets an Ironman CDA t-shirt.

Until then, after a few more days of “active rest” I am reducing my training for events HALF these distances both triathlons and running (at least for a year and please hold me to it!)


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