Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2008

What an incredible experience! I spent the week with three different families – my own (Karen and the kids, and we stayed with Karen’s sister and her husband), my EnduranceNation online training family (most of whom I hadn’t met in person until this week), and the C Different family of blind athletes, their guides, other fundraiser athletes like me, and a host of C Different support crew.


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At dinner the night before the race, my daughter Katie drew this encouragement on the tablecloth.

Below are some daily mails that I sent out to my C Different supporters leading up to race day, and then my race report.

 

Tuesday
The race is less than a week away, and I’m VERY excited. My training has gone very well, despite struggling against a few nagging injuries (it’s so fun getting older!). I think I peaked out at about 15 or 16 hours of training in one week.

For the past year I’ve been training with the coaches at EnduranceNation, an awesome online community of triathletes. As part of the race prep for an Ironman the coaches ask us to think of our “One Thing”…that one thing that you will think about which will help you keep going when you just want to stop, when it just hurts too much, when your body says “enough is enough”. My answer was easy this year: I’m doing this race on behalf of the C Different Foundation which supports blind athletes.

On the course with us will be 4 blind triathletes and their guides, along with 18 more of the “IronTeam”. When the going gets rough, which I’m sure it will at points, I’ll be thinking of those 4 incredible people who have gone through so much to be there. We’re having a team dinner on Thursday night where I’ll get to meet the entire C Different Team. I’m sure this will be an inspiring, humbling, emotional kick off to the race.

Anyhow, I’m bib #1282. The race starts at 7am on Sunday. I’m hoping to end somewhere around 7pm. It’ll be a great way for me to spend half a day! If you would like to check in on the progress of the C Different sponsored blind athletes during the day, here are their names: Charlie Plaskon, Richard Bernstein, Ryan Van Praet, Dave Bigoney.

Many of you have expressed an interest in joining with me in support of the C Different Foundation. To the many who already have donated, I say Thank You! If you would like to donate (there’s still time!) just click here: http://ironteam.kintera.org/faf/r.as…7&e=1384636286

Friday
I picked up one of the blind athletes from the airport yesterday, and then helped him get oriented to the hotel. Oh-My-Goodness what a production! I had no idea what it entailed to be blind. Small example – the TV remote. First they had wrapped it in a little cardboard wrapper advertising spa services, so the remote didn’t “feel” like a remote. So I had to place his hand on it. He was glad that it was a standard LodgeNet remote – so he knew where the buttons were. Then he wanted to put it exactly back in the same place since that’s where the maid would return it. That way he could find it each time. He had commented, and I got the smallest of flavors, that every little thing takes a LONG time.

Then finding an outlet for his phone transformer…forget about it – and that was with me having functioning sight! (The large-ish transformer wouldn’t fit in the first two outlets I found.)

But he was upbeat and helpful though the whole process of discovering his room, finding the meeting rooms where the group would be eating meals, etc. Well, he was upbeat until I told him the water is about 57 degrees!!!

I have great confidence in him though. He’s been blind since birth, but has gone on to become a lawyer, and has completed 8 marathons. This will be his first Ironman. He kept saying (with a big smile) “I’m going to kill whoever talked me into this!”.

So if you have a chance to check in on my race day progress, also look up Richard Bernstein and see how he did on that frigid swim 😉

Saturday
Hi there! It’s the day before the race – not much to do today. As they say “The hay’s in the barn” – now all there is to do is rest, pre-hydrate (translation: dring Gatorade all day), and drop my bike off at the race site.

Yesterday was a highlight. In the morning my coaches gave their pre-race talk, discussing pacing, strategy, pacing, mental keys, and pacing. While I’ve heard it all before, it’s good to get it in your head one more time. During the talk I noticed that Charlie Plaskon was standing in the back listening. Charlie was one of the first C Different blind athletes, and will be racing this Sunday. After the talk wrapped up I went over and introduced myself and we sat and chatted. A little bit later the C Different crew assembled for a bike ride, but Charlie’s guide wasn’t available, so they asked if I would “drive” for him. What a thrill…a humbling thrill though.

Thankfully, Charlie is a great guide guide – he coached me through all the stuff I had to do. Starting the bike rolling, getting our feet clipped in the pedals without dumping, calling out the turns (and whether we pedal through the turns or not), etc.

And let me tell you, that 64 year old guy can push the bike along, all the while talking about going back to school to become a motivational speaker, studying the course by asking lots and lots of questions.

What a great cap to my race prep week! By this time tomorrow the race will be in progress, and while I can’t be writing notes to you all, please know that I do think about you – there’s a lot of time to think out there!

Race Report
The day was incredible, simply incredible. There was a rainstorm the night before, but we had sunshine at dawn. The weather stayed very mild through the day.

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Me (left) and one of my coaches Rich Strauss right before the start.

The swim start of an Ironman is always very exciting. Most triathlons split up the starts by age group, but in Ironman races everyone starts together. I started WAY off to the side, but got mixed up pretty good at the first turn buoy. Overall, the swim went great, and I was out of the water in 1:12:56 minutes.

I started the bike as planned – pretty slow. We call it J.R.A. – just riding along. Around 45 minutes or so into it I started in with my target bike pace, and then stayed there a long, long time. The course is pretty hilly, no monster climbs, but lots and lots of hills that can really suck it out of you if you try to power up them. But I stayed at basically the same power output on the hills as when I rode on the flatter sections. This, of course, meant that I got passed by a LOT a LOT of people during that bike ride, especially on the uphills. You want numbers? Of the (about) 2000 people that started the race, I was in 604th place after the swim, but after the bike I was 891st – so that was a lot of people passing me by.

One great thing that happened on the bike, which illustrates the spirit of Ironman – at about mile 90 I heard something hit my helmet and go inside. Well, if it’s a bee and he stings me my day might be done. So I pulled over, took off my helmet and shook out my hair. As I was doing that the next guy riding by slowed an asked if I was OK. Then a couple seconds later another guy slowed, asked if I needed anything. I “knew” that second guy since we had been riding about the same speed for hours – and he’s in my age group – and I’m sure he knew I was in his age group (they write the ages on our calfs in big numbers). So 90 miles into it my direct competitor slowed and offered to help when he saw I was having some kind of problem. There are a lot of great people out there!

Speaking of great people, the spectators and volunteers are the greatest. People all along the course were so incredibly supportive and encouraging. It was great to see my wife Karen and my CdA support crew of Karen’s sister and brother in law Laura and Danny and their friend Kevin. Last year we missed each other a few times, but this year worked out a lot better.

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On the way out on the second loop of the bike course, I stopped to say hi to Karen and the crew!

Another great fan was Aaron Scheidies, a blind C Different athlete who wasn’t racing today. Other C Different spectators would tell him when any of us with the C Different group was coming and he went crazy! On the first lap of the run he took off one of the C Different colored Mardi Gras beads and draped it around my neck, and I ran with it the rest of the day.

I finished the bike in 6:24 – a bit slower than I had hoped, but I was happy with it. I paced on the bike to have a good run.

OK, on to the run…

It all started with the slatherers. That’s what the locals call the volunteers who apply sunscreen on the athletes. I’ve been told that this volunteer position fills up first, hmmm, I wonder why! As I was heading out for the run they asked if I wanted sunscreen, and before I knew it 8 – eight! hands were all over my face, neck, arms, and legs!

The run is a lot more personal than the other disciplines – the course is mostly two out and backs, so you get to see the other athletes, and also the spectators (much easier than at 20mph on the bike!). I had seen some of the C Different people on the bike, but on the run I was able to see and cheer them all.

I came up behind Charlie Plaskon and his guide when they were on a walk break. I walked with him and told him that he inspires me to do my best. Without skipping a beat, he replies: “Well if you’re going to do your best you shouldn’t be walking here with me!” I laughed and ran on. Charlie ended up finished in 15:33 – pretty great for a 64 year old guy who can’t see!

My pacing discipline faltered a bit on the run, and running a bit too fast early on started to catch up with me at around 15 miles. I was very fortunate that around mile 20 I met up with a young guy named Zach who also wanted to break the 12 hour mark. So I would call out paces from my GPS and he would calculate if we were going fast enough given our current distance and pace. He was very encouraging and enthusiastic. While triathlon is a very individual sport, finding a “teammate” late in the run is priceless.

Zach and I made our 12 hour goal with a bit to spare. So after a 4:04 run I ended up with a total time of 11:54:20. Let me tell you – it felt GREAT to cross that finish line!

And more numbers…after the bike I was in 891st place, but after the run I finished in 559th place out of 2060. That means that I passed about 330 people on the run – Yipes! So this was great proof that my pacing worked well (and also proof that I still have some room to improve on the bike!). Comparing to last year is even better news – I did a 12:36 last year. So I knocked off 42 minutes from last year on this same course, and 10 minutes off my best Ironman time from Vineman the year before!

After soaking in the lake a bit I got bundled up and went back to the finish line with Karen, and was able to give some of my EnduranceNation partners a little shout (ok…a BIG SHOUT!) as they approached the finish line. We also saw some of the C Different folks including Richard, who I spent a lot of time with on Thursday was guided by C Different founder Matt Miller, and they finished in 14:36 – a great time!

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Me at the finish line with my son Conor

 

If you haven’t already, please go to http://www.cdifferent.org and sign up for their newsletter. I’ve been amazed by what I’ve seen this week, yet this was only one of their events for a busy summer and on through the rest of the year.

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