I have learned a lot since racing IMAZ last November both mentally and physically, the biggest of which is learning how to run! To this I owe everything to my coach. His training program, while not overly complex, in fact quite monotonous put me in a place that I had never been before. It prepared me mentally and physically for what would be an extremely tough day at IMCDA. With this confidence however came the “false assurance” that this would be the race that I would qualify for Hawaii. I had zero doubt in my mind. Even though I knew the biggest factor is what I cannot control, and that is who shows up.
My taper for this race was only 7 days, which was perfect for me. I did my last long run of 18 miles 10 days out and my last big ride 67 miles (yep that’s right, long ride of 67 miles) 7 days out. Without divulging too much proprietary information, the key to my training was repetition of quality workouts that were not too long so that they allowed for quick recovery and huge fitness.
My family and I arrived in Coeur d’ Alene on Wednesday prior to the race. The weather was not good, very cool, windy and spots of rain. The race forecast was much of the same. Thursday morning I went to swim with my crew of training partners and the water was brutal, which at first had me a bit discouraged. We did a short 25 mile ride followed by a 2 mile easy run in the wind, and it was at this point I decided to welcome the foul weather. I figured it could only play into my chances of getting to Kona after all, I live and train in Portland, and I am more than prepared for this crap. I swam again on Friday, and did a very short ride and run with my coach, training crew and buddy Shane Calkins (who had a very solid race despite a flat and BS 4 minute penalty) on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon we checked our bikes in and I went and chilled with my family until it was time to meet with my coach and go over my race plan and strategies one last time. I ate my dinner around 5:30 pm, drank a recovery drink at 8:00 and crashed. I woke up to my alarm at 4:00 am and took in my 750 calories of fluid in the shower. Had a cup of coffee, took care of the morning business and Jake* picked me up at 4:45. I got to transition dropped special needs bags and nutrition and did one last walk through transition with Ryan*, and went and sat by myself in the park until 6:40. My wife and kids met me then helped me put on my wetsuit and gave me a kiss and sent me on my way.
I walked down to the beach hopped in and swam out about 100 meters and came back in and took my position front and center. I was very calm with no nervousness as I looked out at the 1-3 foot chop with the wind blaring directly into my face. I knew I was prepared to have a solid day.
One minute to the cannon, I adjusted my goggles (hind sight, big mistake). Cannon went off and I charged into the chop and immediately my left goggle filled with water. “ Oh crap”, nothing I can do about for a bit. About that time two dudes swam over the top of me on both sides and I was pinned under. This is the first time in my life that I actually panicked in the water, I needed air, and I could not get it. I fought my way out and gasped for air and calmed my self down quickly. I got on a couple of feet and swam with my eyes closed for a stoke count of 50. I looked up hoping I was clear of the pack, which I was, only clear the wrong way. Apparently I have developed quite the slice. I was about 30 yards to the right of the buoys, so I stopped for a quick second and dumped the water out of goggles and tried to adjust them to seal properly, to no avail they filled right back up. The rest of the swim went much the same, I would close my eyes and crank it and found my self zig zagging all over the course. I got out of the water after the first loop in 30 minutes. “Not the end of the world at this point I can surely negative split this swim if I just swim straight.” I started out on the second loop and it seemed that conditions actually had gotten worse. It was awful, it was not like normal swells that I was used to that you could kind of time and get into a rhythm, it was just random crashing, and it was beating me up both physically and mentally. I began to get angry! I even started throwing punches at the water. I was sighting a whole lot more often to ensure that I was staying on the buoy line, and when I made the turn for the final stretch to the exit I decided that I had figured it out and I could go back to 50 strokes in between. Bad move again, way off and frustration was more than concerning. I managed to bring it back under control and get to the finish ready to put a race together. I was pretty disappointed to see 1:02 on the timer, but it was not the end of the world, I just hoped everyone else had the same horrible experience that I did. Swim time: 1:02.01 20th AG, 118th overall. Not where I should be at all, I need to work on the mental aspects of the swim.
Transition was fine no problems, although I think it is absolutely ridiculous that amateur’s cannot have their shoes on the bike, the safety argument makes no sense, as its more dangerous to make us run in bike shoes across pavement than it is mounting your bike with shoes on the pedals. I did manage to run past my bike, but not much time lost, maybe 5 seconds. T1 3:36.
On to the bike I had a very specific plan, and I stuck to it. This is a challenging course, but it’s only challenging from miles 25-50 and 75-100. The rest is pretty flat and fast. The winds presented a challenge, as it was sustained 20 mph throughout the race, and I don’t think it was ever to our advantage. It seems that on the way out it was a cross wind, and on the way back it was a direct head wind. My plan was to take the first 25 miles as a time trial and hold 230 watts, when I got to the hills cap my watts at 300, and take the down hills to rest for about 5 second increments, and then time trial back into town holding 230-235 watts. My coach gave me great advice on this portion and it paid off. He warned me that it is a false downhill flat and with the wind people would have the tendency to not want to push it coming back into town. He was right, I didn’t either, but I did and I held my watts at 230, put my head down and passed a whole bunch of people. I repeated the second loop just as the first. The hills in the second lap hurt a bit more than the first, and I think the wind was a bit harder on the second loop, but when I came back into to town my legs were feeling fresh, I knew that I had had a great ride, and I was mentally and physically ready to run! It was an added bonus that my family and many others were along the fence as I came into transition cheering loudly, which incased the adrenalin for the run. Bike time: 5:17.23, 8th Age group, 63 overall.
Transition 2 was a bit more rough that T1. Although I came off my bike very smooth and ran well into the tent, I struggled immensely to get my compression socks on, even though I had practiced it 50 times just as Matt* had told me to. I could tell I was having a slow transition because even the volunteer was trying to push me out faster than I was capable of going. I held it together though got my socks on, grabbed my Garmin and fuel belt and headed out on the run in good spirits. T2: 3:09, about 1:40 slower than what it should have been.
The run felt unbelievably easy to start, so easy in fact I paced with the 2nd place pro for the first mile at about 6:20 pace, oops that’s a bit fast. I dialed it back quickly and found a very fluid rhythm and felt so strong. I was actually running with the runners! I was not getting blown by by anyone. This was fun! I kept my composure well and focused, trying to keep my pace at 7:45. It was so much fun having so many people I knew both on the course and cheering. This really helped me mentally. At about the mile 12 mark on the run I began to hurt a bit, and in hind sight I should have paid closer attention to my heart rate, as I slowed a bit to compensate for the pain. This lasted until mile 18 and I knew that I was falling off pace a little too much and I needed to pick it up. At mile 21 my coach began to visit me much more frequently telling me that I had to dig, and that I was not suffering enough. I was thinking; “how the hell do you know?” But he did know, he knows exactly what I am capable of, and he knows my pain threshold. “OK man I’ll dig.” Mile 22 he yelled, “harder Aleck, harder”. Mile 23, “Dude you only have 5k man push it, this has to hurt more than you have ever hurt before”, I am thinking seriously I am, but I wasn’t. Mile 24, “Aleck you have got to go now bro, dig deep and get in that pain cave, 13 minutes to go, you have Mitch Gold 30 seconds up, he is all yours to get!” Ok, can I dig deeper for 2 more miles? I have too, I cannot puss out at this point, and I have to know what its like to leave nothing left in my body if I want to get to where I want to be. So I did, I let it all go, I could not even feel what my legs were doing, I looked down and just hoped that they were still going. I did it, I went deeper than I have ever been before and it was feeling great. When I made the turn for the final 400 meters I just hung on and got overwhelmed with what is the Ironman. It was not the sprint finish I had at Arizona, but it was awesome, I actually heard Mike Reily call me in this time, which was cool. When I crossed the line, I was drained, everything I had was gone, and I hurt! My wife and kids found me and I broke down. This was the reward I was looking for, the best feeling in the world to hold my child and hug my wife after such an experience, knowing that they were with me every step of the way.
I actually ran a very consistent run, although I did drift a bit in pace from mile 13-21 while my heart rate dropped as well, which tells me that I was giving in to pain, and it was not necessary to slow up. These are the things you learn from though. My pace for the run broke down like this:
1st 6 miles: 7:35 pace
6-9: 7:40 pace
9-12: 7:36 pace
12-15: 7:53 pace
15-18: 8:12 pace
18-21; 8:15 pace
21-26.2: 7:29 pace
Total run time: 3:28.10
Finish time: 9:54.19 11th AG 67th overall
I raced a great race, no doubt. I executed my plan as well as I could have. Of course there are always things that I can go back and work on, but I am ultimately very happy with the outcome of the race. I ran a 16:30 pr, and my overall time was a 2 minute and 30 second personal best over my time at Arizona which is a much faster course. While I try to stay positive in this race report, I am bummed that I did not achieve my ultimate goal of qualifying for Hawaii. There were only 8 slots awarded in my age group and all 8 were taken. Ultimately I missed my goal by 90 seconds, and yes this is eating at me. But this is ironman, and there are things that are going to happen that are completely out of your control, and this is the biggest of them. I learned some things in this race, and am anxious to work on them, as well as continue to improve on what went right, in order to chase the dream again at Ironman Arizona in November.
My absolutely amazing wife who gave birth to our beautiful daughter only 6 weeks before this race! Elee you are truly amazing and I love you so so much. Thank you for supporting me in this crazy sport, and allowing me to pursue these dreams.
AJ (my son) and Brook I love you both so much, and I think about you in everything I do. I want so bad to be the ultimate roll model for you! Aj you are the best little buddy in the world!
Mom, Ray, Stacie, Emma, Mardina, thank you all so much for making the trip and braving the crappy conditions to give me 10 hours of support! I love you all, and enjoyed hanging out with you at the cabin after the race!
** Training partners, the Ironhead CDA crew! You guys rock! Jake, Jason, Ryan, AJ, Laura, and Bonnie too! The countless hours of training we did together made this race great. I know that each of you will have your own reports, but let me give some props…
Jake, first Ironman 10:24!!! Fantastic. Jake has run probably 90% of my training miles with me over the year, and is going to make an even bigger pr in his next race.
Jason, had an unfortunate flat and penaltyand still put up a solid 10:26, I look forward to breaking into the next level with you at IMAZ! We will do it!
Ryan, Big run pr and 10:28 finish despite only 6 weeks of training for this race, Ryan was hit with a string of injuries at the start of the season and did not begin training until May!
AJ, dude you made a lot of runs shorter and a lot of runs longer! Fantastic work in your first Ironman ( 10:59). This after being on his death bed 18 months ago with a severe brain injury! Way to overcome bro! Look forward to seeing what you will do in Arizona.
Laura, you are a freak! You have more athletic potential than anyone I know! 1st Ironman 10:58 3rd in your Age group and going to Kona! Stick with Dave and you will rock it!
Bob, again thanks, I could not even try without your help.
Matt, thanks for all your help, advice and time you definitely are a big part in my PR!
Last but definitely not least, my coach Dave Ciaverella! Dave is also a mentor and friend to me and has brought me to a level that I did not think I could achieve. The ability to train with your coach is invaluable! He has pushed me all season to be the best athlete that I can be, and was out on the course at the right times giving me encouragement and support and pushing me the entire way! Thanks for everything bro! I look forward to many more strong races!
I am not so sure why I think I won the Oscars at the end of my Ironman race reports, but it is a big accomplishment and all of you played vital rolls in my finish and I don’t want anyone to go unnoticed!