IM CDA: Race Day!

After my usual preparation of equipment and also eating, we gathered up our stuff and went out to the transition area. It was already pretty crowded by 530a when we got there. Guess lots of people were antsy about preparation! The skies were partly cloudy but it was very windy and a bit chilly.

I put my nutrition in my bags and then realized I had some stuff in the wrong bags so I went back and reshifted some of my equipment into the right bags. I then went to my bike and thankfully it was relatively dry, having seen the first night in CDA where it didn’t rain overnight. I jammed my nutrition into the bento boxes and setup my water bottles: one in the back and one on the seat tube holders. I learned this from Ken Glah who said that you will always have one bottle in case the other flies out of its holder during a rough patch on the bike. It never flies out of the holder on the seat tube.
I found Keish putting a balloon on his bike. Nice way of finding his bike fast!
After preparing my bike and bags, I go to the bathroom and attempt to “unload” as much as possible. Unfortunately, nothing still was coming out and my brain filled with anxiety on what this could mean later. I then went into the changing tent and put on my wetsuit, and handed my last bag to the helpers in the tent.
I was supposed to meet my wife and others at 830a but all that made me a bit late so I headed directly to the beach entry and glad that I did because there was only this tiny entranceway where every swimmer had to enter because everyone had to cross the timing mat in order to get into the swim start area. I went down close to the line of buoys as I like to swim along the buoys. But I stood there alone for a while until my buddy Lawrence found me, and then later Dan came over.
They played the national anthem and then I went down to the water amongst the other competitors there. The gun goes off and we leap into the water, arms churning.

The water was very choppy and the waves were headed directly into us. This made for tough swimming for me, as I was getting a mouthful almost everytime I sighted. I finally figured out how to sight and not take a mouthful of water. It was also a very violent swim, my most violent yet. In all my other Ironmans, I have never gotten kicked or shoved; here it was happening all the time! I got kicked three times in the face and if not for my goggles I am sure I would have gotten a black eye. Also there were a few people swimming breaststroke; man I wish they wouldn’t do that. The frog kick of a breaststroke only means that your chances of getting kicked hard increase. Also, their sweeping arms just keep bashing into everyone alongside.
I finally find some quiet swimming to the inside of the buoys and I tried to still be in the current formed by 2000+ swimmers. I reached the first turnaround buoy in no time flat and then came around. The way back was much easier as the waves were now pushing us from behind. I got out at the beach, ran around the marker, and then jumped back in for the second loop. Again, it was violent and the waves kept threatening to make me swallow more water as they battered me head on. The wind had picked up even more now and the waves were a bit higher. On the way back, I felt like I was swimming pretty well; but when I got out of the water, I noticed I swam the whole thing in 1:18, which is about 3 minutes slower than I thought I would swim! Oh well.
I got my top and arms out of the wetsuit and ran to transition where there were people who helped me remove my wetsuit. I ran with that to get my T1 bag and then changed outside. For some reason it was a slow and long transition – 9:40 by the timing on the website. But I just got everything ready, putting on my arm warmers, helmet, sunglasses, bike shoes, etc. Then I did a quick visit to the bathroom and got out to where they would hand you your bike and then I was out on the course.
It was a fast exit out, and we turned towards the left part of the bike course. It was kind of windy by the lake and I found myself at times holding on while strong gusts would push me around. I was glad that it seemed to push my front tire, but not my back disc. Along the way I see Keish racing back on the other side. He looked pretty fast. I go up the big hill, make the turnaround and start back going up the hill and down. Racing back to town, we turn onto the first major straightaway.

By now, my stomach is kind of bothering me. All that water I swallowed on the rough swim was making my stomach a little upset. Very bad! I had to slow down my eating for a while to see if it would calm down.
With the wind behind us and pushing us along the first straightaway towards the upper part of the bike course, we take this slightly uphill portion pretty fast. But then on the upper portion, it grows hilly and it’s a set of continuous rollers, with steep uphill climbs and big downhills. I test my fitness a bit here but not too aggressively, and make it OK through the hills.
We’re then back on the main straightaway back into town and now it’s a slight downhill BUT the tailwind from the way up is now a headwind and we’re pushing to make 20+ MPH on the way back. With the big packs of cyclists, there are groups of us riding back now and we’re all trying to go as fast as we can. The first half sees me in around 3 hours or so.

I go out again on the second loop and after I pick up my special needs bag (switching out for two water bottles), I make a pit stop and “unload”. That was an important step because it made my stomach feel so much better, and I lose about 3 minutes doing that. Better now than on the run or some other time!
Heading back out on the straightaway, the wind is again at my back but I am slower this time. I feel a bit depleted combating the hills through the first loop. I hit the set of rollers again and I really feel it now. My legs just aren’t good enough to stay strong through this many rollers. But I do think I am better than 3 years ago when I raced Austria and it was similar terrain. My legs were totally wiped after two loops of those hills! I conserve energy now as I go through the second loop of rollers but I am out of my seat a lot to climb, just so I save my quads from constant, grinding revolutions.
I should say that it’s been cloudy this whole time, the wind has been blowing, and temps have been in the low 60s. But now the sun actually peeks out and I’m hoping that the sun will stay. This was short-lived as later on, the sun gets obscured once again by clouds moving in.

It was a tough thing, but I make it back to the straightaway and now I’m battling stronger headwinds. I pedal conservatively at first, but then I realize I have a Powertap disc and that maybe I should look at the watts display some more.
The first thing I realize is that I’m only pedaling at 80-100 watts maybe and I realize that I could pedal harder. Duh! I quickly raise my watts to 120-150w and I’m going at least 2 MPH faster because I know I can maintain more watts over a long period of time. And the watt meter is right; I don’t feel an extra tightening of my legs due to the extra watts.
I also start playing with drafting behind people and watching the watt meter. I pedal up to their back wheel, drift in and out of their draft, and also back off to about 5 bike lengths behind. I find that my watt meter is saying that I am saving at least 20-30 watts by being in somebody’s draft and maintaining speed, and also even as far back as 5 bike lengths I still am saving almost 20 watts! I think I read somewhere that drafting benefit doesn’t disappear for quite a distance behind another rider in front of you. Interesting to see real proof before my very eyes.

As I reach T2, I try to push harder and it’s tough in my depleted state. First, it’s because my legs aren’t good in the hills, and secondly it’s because it’s so cold and my body is using up energy just to keep warm.
I make it into T2, where they take my bike and I go and grab my T2 bag and go into the changing tent. I put on my running gear and move out onto the course.
Thankfully my attempt at conserving energy on the bike worked OK as I quickly moved up into a decent cadence. Once again I pass Keish out on the first part of the run, and then also pass Lawrence who came in about 13 minutes after me. I am feeling OK, but don’t chance it and start guzzling cola at aid stations. I run through each one as I don’t want to have them slow me down by walking through them. There aren’t many hills on the CDA run which have bothered me so I am glad that my run hill training as made the smaller ones not so tough. But there is a big steep hill out on one side of the run course. Right before this big hill, Keish passes me and is running strong. I was wondering when he was going to catch me!
On the big hill, I see him power up there, whereas I run a part of it and then start walking a bit midway. Keish makes his turnaround and then sees me walking and says, “Dave! What are you doing?!?!” I tell him that I am tired of all these dang Idaho hills. He laughs and speeds away.
By now the temps are dropping a bit and the wind has not let up. I have not needed to walk much yet so thankful for that. My energy feels good but man it’s getting chilly out here. I have been doing my schedule of electrolyte tablets, Sportlegs, and Powergels and everything seems to be going fine.

But the cold temps are starting to wear on me. I just want to get to that finish line! About 1:30 into the run, it starts to drizzle…and then it starts raining! Crap. Now a cold day just turned into a potentially dangerous chilly day. Now my motivation both starts to sag and to grow, as I know that the sooner I get to the finish line the better I will be.

I joke with someone on the course that CDA miles seem a lot longer than anywhere else. He agreed. For some reason running here just seems like it takes a lot longer. Maybe it was the miserable weather…

I make it to about mile 19 when my right knee starts hurting. Ugh! I’ve been plagued with this problem where somewhere past mile 12 (sometimes sooner, sometimes later) the fascia around either or both knees starts clamping down on my knee, which makes for a stiff and painful run. Now it’s clamping down on my right knee and this really sucks because now I’m forced to walk to make it stop hurting, and then run a bit until it starts hurting again.
I passed Lawrence a few times, the first few times we were both running; the last 1-2 times we’re both walking now!
But I try to maintain my cadence when I do run and when I got to mile 23, I just could not summon enough strength to sprint to the finish line. Somehow it stops raining which makes things slightly better, but also the temps have dropped even further now. I do this painful run/walk thing until I reach mile 25.5 or so and then I find out I can run without pain when I turn my right foot outward slightly. How weird is that?!? So I start running now without pain, although I am partially glad that I found out so late because you never know when you change your running gait that you may inadvertantly cause some other problem to pop up.
I make the turn onto Sherman Ave, which is pretty cool because it’s a downhill and a straight shot to the finish line, which you can see off in the distance. I pass my buddy Dan and his family, and Keish as I run strong for the finish. As I hit the finish line, I raise my arms up and give a lion’s roar!!!!

I was so glad to hit the finish line. This was definitely the most miserable race I’ve ever done. I think the temps were below 55 degrees when I got there, and the wind did not let up at all. My body was tired and sore, and extra depleted because of the low temps. Still, I was glad it was not also my most painful as it easily could have been due to my inability to handle hills well; Austria remains my most painful race, with legs wiped out from the bike climbing and fighting cramping on the run the whole way. So I have improved since Austria but still have a ways to go.
I am disappointed at the food they offered at the finish line, which was basically the same pizza, chicken broth, bananas, oranges, and cola they had out at the aid stations. I scarfed down a pizza and then all of a sudden my body cools down and I start to shiver uncontrollably. I race for my bags and change into something dry and warm. I head home, only to jump back into a cold ice bath and I sat there shivering for the longest 10 minutes of my life, but then get up and take a hot shower and go for something to eat in my kitchen that did not mimic aid station food.
A tired ending to a long and miserable day. I managed to get my finisher’s medal through what has been the toughest race I’ve had so far.

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