Ironman Coeur D’Alene 2004 Race Report (LONG VERSION)

I signed up for this race in early July, 2003. After submitting my credit card information to pay $400 in registration fees (YES, I paid to do this!), I thought, “what have I done?!?!” But, I had a year to prepare right? Well, as you can imagine, the year flew by. Friends got married or engaged, new babies were born, and I enjoyed many fun times.

Suddenly the race loomed a few months away and it was time to pick up the training a notch. I am the type that actually loves to work out. Training is just as enjoyable to me as racing. I kept up my fitness level from last year’s Olympic and 1/2 IM distance triathlons. In early 2004, I started training for the Boston Marathon, which I had qualified for at the San Francisco Marathon 2003. Boston was on April 19 and in hindsight it was excellent training for IMCDA. More on that later. After Boston, I started my “heavy duty” training: 20 mile runs on Saturday, followed by either a short bike ride or hour on the elliptical machine then ~100 mile bike rides on Sunday. Weekdays, I cycled on the exercise machines at the gym, swam (although probably not as much as I should have), and weight trained.

I took my breaks, don’t you worry. I enjoyed a pleasant mini-vacation in May at Tahoe. I relaxed with friends and family, ate, drank, and went gambling.

Suddenly it’s June! OHMYGOD. I started having very strange dreams. I’ll spare you the disturbing details. I’d have sudden “panic attacks” and my palms would start to sweat profusely. About a week before the race, I had a mishap with my bike. To make a long story short, a car hit my bike attached to the bike rack on my Jeep. At first glance, my bike looked okay, but my back tire wouldn’t turn. I was actually on the way to the bike shop for a final tune up. Turns out the back rim was slightly bent and they said they could easily fix it. It took them several tries and it did get fixed. I experienced some anxiety over that ordeal, but I won’t dwell on that now. Then, the week of the race, I had to fly to Dallas to attend a tradeshow, unexpectedly. The month of June seemed to melt away…. and suddenly it’s race week.

Thursday, June 24.

Awake at 5am, shower and breakfast. Check work email then check packed bags, repeat process 3 or 4 times. Our flight was at 11:00 am, so Pete and I left the house around 9:45 to stop for bagels on the way. We ran into very bad traffic and thought we might miss our flight. Luckily we made it and the flight was delayed anyways. We met up with Kathy and Doug at the Gate. Doug seemed pretty relaxed. Wish I could say the same for myself. It seemed like everyone on the flight was heading to Ironman. The flight was short, I actually fell asleep. Spokane airport is small. We waited for our baggage, got a rental SUV, and we were on our way. Spokane is about 30 miles away from Coeur D’Alene. One of the first things I noticed was the weather, it was really hot (in the 90s) and humid that first day. First things first, check out Coeur D’Alene and have lunch. We drove into town and got very excited to see “Ironman Village”, where all of the tents were set up by the beach and transition area. We had our first lunch at the Coeur D’Alene Brewing Company, a popular establishment downtown. I tried the Huckleberry beer. I am not a beer drinker but this stuff is delish. I guess Huckleberries are a local berry. We saw huckleberries featured everywhere: huckleberry pie, ice cream, wine, etc. After lunch we went to the IM tents but found we had missed the time to register, so then it was off to Kim and Rick’s house in Hayden, where Kathy and Doug were staying. Kim and Rick have a great house in the hills above Hayden lake (this area is the land of lakes, they are everywhere!) We hung out on Kim and Rick’s deck drinking beer for a while then Pete and I took off to make the drive to our condo near Harrison (about 20 miles away). After a stop to get groceries, we drove out and away to the other side of the lake to our condo. Michelle had reserved the condo a year ago when I first signed up for the race, as part of her timeshare arrangement. Thanks Michelle! The place was great, right on the lake, with gorgeous views of the water and hills. Best of all, it was far away from the hubbub and the race itself. We relaxed, watched baseball highlights and called it a night.

Friday, June 25.

The sun woke me up at 5am. I went back to sleep but kept waking up so I got up at about 7am. It is amazing how early the sun rises and how late it sets up north. I went for a walk around the complex. I had to pick up my bike before noon, so Pete and I left the condo around 11. Transition Sports transported my bike along with many other competitors’ bikes via truck. When I retrieved my bike, I took it for a spin around the parking lot and learned that they had moved my seat, it was way too high (!?!?!). Marc at Transition Sports helped me to lower the seat post, but I’m sure it wasn’t in the correct place. I had paid for a bike fitting and they position your seat precisely according to your body geometry. Oh well, not much I could do about that now except pack an allen wrench in case I needed to make adjustments during the race. We packed my bike and headed to Ironman Village so I could register. It was wild! I have never had to sign so many waivers for a race before. I was very impressed with the organization in the registration tent. I went from table to table – sign one form, move on to sign another, move on to get weighed, move on to get my “goodie bag”, move on to get an explanation of which stickers to apply where (helmet, bike, etc), then finally to check my timing chip. Phew! After I registered, we went to the merchandise tent and I proceeded to buy a whole bunch of unnecessary and expensive items simply because it had an M-Dot logo and “Ironman Coeur D’Alene” stamped on it. Hey, if I’m gonna do this thing I want to be able to flaunt it! I bought a t-shirt, hat, sweatshirt, bag, and water bottle. Next we met Kathy, Doug, Rick and Kim for lunch at Moontime (Huckleberry wine, yum!) Then it was off to drive the bike course. We noted the hills on the course, the scenic areas and the areas that would likely cause us grief. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to drive one loop of the course (56 miles) and THAT was exhausting! Then we headed back to Moontime to meet my parents who had just arrived from Oregon — Bert’s son and family live in Medford so they had visited them prior to coming up north to Spokane and CDA. We drank some wine and caught up, viewing pictures of Bert’s new grandson, Roan. We were discussing good spots to watch the race, logistics and where to park, when a couple sitting next to us overheard our dilemma about where to park race day. Turns out they lived 3 blocks away on a street that is part of the run course and they offered to save spots in front of their house for us. Sooo sweet! Only in Idaho… After retrieving my gear that my parents had transported for me, we took off for home to wait for the rest of the gang to arrive: Laura, Michelle, Sandhya and Anna. We got home, started a bbq and prepared food knowing these guys would be hungry when they arrived. Laura and Michelle arrived around 7 and we drank beer and hung out. Sandhya and Anna called. They had decided to stop off at a bar downtown (I guess I can’t blame them for wanting to scope out hot triathletes!) When they arrived later that night, we joshed them and told them they’d be sleeping on the cheesy pull-out “murphy bed” in the living room. Bless their hearts, they didn’t bat an eyelid. Psyche! Guess it wasn’t much better that they’d be sleeping on twin beds in the “kiddie room”. After catching up with Sandhya and Anna for a bit, we called it a night and hit the sack.

Saturday, June 26

Again, I woke up early. gulp, the race is tomorrow! I ate breakfast and sat down to organize my race bags. I pulled out the 6 race bags supplied to me. 6 bags?!?!? Normally, you stuff everything into a general transition bag, spread it out in the transition area and that is it. I was so confused. There is a swim to bike bag, a bike to run bag, a special needs bike bag, a special needs run bag, a general gear bag and a dry clothing bag. Okay, so dry clothing, that must be clothing to change into after the race, right? Then I remembered Kathy had given me a magazine with an article on transition bags. I found the article, and it actually included a description of the items that should be included in each bag. Turns out the dry clothing bag is more for your clothes that you wear to the race that you change out of. This is stuff they never talk about at any of the race meetings. Thanks to Kathy for the article! What a great help. Then, Sandhya, Anna and I left to meet my parents downtown. Today, I had to set up my bike, turn in my transition bags and attend a mandatory athlete’s meeting. We met my mom and Bert at Michael D’s, had some coffee, then headed to Ironman Village. Unlike the past 2 days, it was mobbed, people everywhere. I put my race stickers on my bike and taped some motivational quotes I had printed from the Internet on various places on my aerobars and handlebars. Then, I went into the bike corral and deposited my bike on the rack at my designated space. I tied plastic bags over my saddle and handlebars for protection. There was a pretty good chance of rain that day. Until tomorrow, Mr. Guru! (Mr. Guru is my pet name for my bike). Next I placed my swim to bike and bike to run bags out in the designated area. I found out we could turn in our special needs bags race morning. I caught up with Kathy and Doug, who were waiting with the rest of the gang. Everyone was hungry so we decided to head to the Coeur D’Alene Brewery for lunch. Doug and I had to hurry as we had to get to the athlete meeting at 2pm. We got to the Brewery and it was packed. Luckily we found a table but service was slow. At 1:55pm, Doug and I asked the waitress to pack our lunches to go and we ran out to catch our meeting. It had started raining but we got to the meeting and hungrily opened our lunches. It was all wrong. Doug, who is a vegetarian, found they had neglected to take the bacon out of his salad and my ham sandwich was slathered in mayonnaise. Yuck! I was starving so I scraped the mayo off and ate the rest of the sandwich anyways. The meeting was long. Lots of rules: don’t pee on people’s lawns, don’t litter, don’t listen to mp3 players, etc. I paid attention when they talked about the penalties for drafting, position violation (riding in the middle as opposed to the right hand side), etc. It always worries me that I’ll get a penalty or DQ absentmindedly. After the meeting, we met up with everyone again. We were done with all we needed to do in town, so we decided to head back to the condo and have a BBQ. We picked up some goodies from the grocery store and headed home. I really needed some wine. Most triathletes I know steer away from alcoholic beverages for weeks before a major race, but not me! I feel like it helps me to relax. So, I got some wine and proceeded to “carbo load”. I munched on chips, garlic bread, veggie burgers, corn on the cob and cookies. Kathy, Doug, Rick and Kim arrived a bit later and we had a great time chatting and trying to relax and not think about tomorrow’s event. We got on the subject of expected times for each leg of the race as well as expected finish time. I pretty much decided early on that I would not make any predictions on my time. I had a general idea of what I COULD do, assuming all went well, but I also knew from reading past reports and doing my Ironman research, that you must prepare yourself for anything. It is a long day and there are so many factors which can affect your race. One person pushed me to give estimated times for each leg. I told them that I thought I could do the swim in 1 1/2 hours, the bike in 7 1/2 hours and maybe a 4 to 5 hour run. The response was “I hate to be pessimistic, but…..”. Okay, that is all I needed to hear. I am generally very conservative with my time predictions and I was simply stating my honest opinion. But I digress… time to change the subject, don’t need any negativity here. It was actually really fun to hang out, chat, eat, drink, and joke with everyone, a diversion from race thoughts and anxiety. Then, everyone left and I decided I should take a shower and get to sleep early. I went to bed around 9pm but of course I could not sleep. I tossed and turned for an hour or so. I hated that my condo mates were out on the deck still having fun. I finally fell asleep but it was a fitful night.

Sunday, June 27 RACE DAY

I woke up at 4:30am. Sandhya, bless her heart, had brewed some coffee, set out my breakfast, laid out my water bottles filled with HEED (High Energy Endurance Drink from Hammer – good stuff) and was pretty much ready to attend to my every need. I gobbled down some Teddy Grahams and a bagel with cream cheese, some coffee, and juice. Then we had to wake Pete up. Surprisingly he woke up quickly and were in the car by 5am to start our 30 minute drive into town. The sky looked ominous and sure enough, on the way, the sky opened up and it started POURING. WHAT?!?!? I was concerned but not as panicked as I thought I’d be. I guess the reality is, I am doing this race regardless and, at least, everyone would be in the same boat. By the time we got to town, the rain had stopped and it started to look like it would be a nice day, thank goodness. We parked the car at the CDA Resort, got some coffee at Starbuck’s, then headed to the transition area. I went to check on my bike and pulled off the plastic bags. I noticed an Inside Out Sports Support guy with a bike pump. He was very popular amongst the women near me. He pumped up both of my tires and Mr. Guru was good to go. Next, I found Sandhya and Pete again and they helped me put my wetsuit on. The energy around the transition and start area was awesome. Athletes were spending their final moments with loved ones, stretching, eating, focusing. Suddenly it was time to head to the beach. I didn’t want to go just yet so I stayed with Sandhya and Pete for a while, trying to prolong the time. At about 6:40 I said my goodbyes and entered the beach area. I went into the lake mainly to pee and get a feel for the water. Damn! it was cold. I paddled around a bit and then they blew the whistle signalling it was time to get out and wait on the beach. The PROs get to start in the water while the age groupers are all on the beach and everyone starts at the same time. I had never done a mass swim start before. Man was I in for it! The last fifteen minutes standing on the beach was quite memorable for me. I actually felt very calm. It seemed like most of the athletes around me were also pretty calm and I’m sure that helped me to relax. There was lots of joking and commentary amongst the athletes. I truly expected to be having anxiety attacks at the start but instead, I felt great and simply ready to start the race. I have done quite a few Olympic distance and a couple of 1/2 IM distance races and the start of an IM distance race seems to have a very different feel. Normally, I feel like you can cut the tension with a knife. Perhaps it is because I was in the middle of the pack and Ironman athletes know that it’s not so much of a race per se, but more like a long day of exercise. I imagine the atmosphere is a bit different towards the front or in the PRO pack. It was truly an awesome experience standing on that beach while a group of women sang the National Anthem, and helicopters and planes circled above. Wow! Then the cannon went off.

I had positioned myself in the middle of the crowd thinking, I’m a decent swimmer. Hahahaha! Collectively, we made our way to the water. I tried to start swimming. Ohmygod. I could not swim. There were arms flailing, feet kicking, water splashing everywhere. I couldn’t see beyond about 3 feet. My heart rate shot right up. As hard as I tried to swim, the harder it became. I felt myself climbing over others just to keep away from people climbing over me. I was continually being slapped, kicked and pushed. The best description I can make is that I felt like clothing in a washing machine, constantly jostled with no control whatsoever. My heart rate monitor must have been on the verge of exploding. I recall thinking, “I am going to die in this water”. I was winded and I hadn’t even gotten to the first buoy! This is not good. I found myself swimming breast stroke or “doggy paddling” much of the first loop cause it was easier to breathe as well as sight the course. Somehow I made it through that first loop. I exited the water, walked through the timing chip and back to the water for loop #2. An athlete next to me commented, “here we go for more fun”. I chuckled. God, I don’t want to do this. The second loop was significantly easier. Swimmers were spaced out by then and I actually swam the whole way. I was also able to find to some fast feet to draft off of. What a lovely feeling to cruise along in a nice little current generated by a strong swimmer. Yeah! My breathing normalized and I felt good the entire 2nd loop. Okay, I can do this. I forced myself to pee while swimming which isn’t a very natural feeling. Finally, I got back to shore. I was soooo happy to exit the water.

Ironically, my first loop split was faster than my second loop split, go figure! That is a mystery to me.

1st loop = 39:09
2nd loop = 41:10
TOTAL swim = 1:20:19

I walked out towards the transition area. I heard some people screaming my name to the right and I remember seeing the green sign that my 9 year old nephew, Austin, had designed for me. He couldn’t make the trip but everytime I saw that sign I thought of him. I walked over to get my swim-to-bike bag but I was stopped by two wetsuit strippers. I had forgotten about them! These two women had me sit down and a second later my wetsuit was off. Normally I’m sitting there for a good minute or so tugging away. Yipee! I grabbed my bag and went into the women’s changing room. Immediately, a volunteer sat me down and dumped the contents of my bag, asking me what I needed. Wow, this is cool. First things first, get my prescription sunglasses on so I could see. The volunteer started to put my socks on for me and handed me my bike shorts and singlet. I didn’t even have to think. I got my camelbak on and this wonderful woman had already packed up my wetsuit so there was nothing else for me to do but get my bike and head out. As I walked to my bike, a volunteer smiled at me and said, “you are soo cute”. That was unexpected, and it put a smile on my face. I grabbed Mr. Guru and walked over to the mount line. I was very conscious of making sure both wheels were past the line so I don’t get DQ’d.

Transition time = 6:50

I felt great immediately when I got on my bike. There were spectators everywhere, cheering, waving. I felt like a rock star. I wanted to go fast but I made a conscious effort to preserve energy. I rode through town, I’m sure I had a big smile on my face. Riding through town was just a blast. The bike course is like a figure 8. First you head out of town and ride for a few miles along the lake. I saw my mom and Bert hanging out in the shade under an overpass. Coeur D’Alene is a really pretty city. We rode out to a turn around then headed back into town. At around mile 10, we passed the very enthusiastic CDA High cheerleaders. I started drinking my HEED drink but wasn’t at all hungry. I knew that I’d have to start eating soon. I skipped nutrition at the first station. Back in town, I looked around for my little fan club. I didn’t see anybody but that’s okay, there were plenty of spectators to wave and smile to. Exiting town again, we headed out for the long loop of the bike course, out to the hillier area towards Washington. The first climb up Riverview road really wasn’t too bad. I went somewhat slow. I never felt the need to come out of my saddle. I was very conscious of staying out of the drafting zone. I was really worried about inadvertently getting a penalty. The problem was that, especially on the first lap, we weren’t very spread out. Cyclists would pass me and pull in front and suddenly I’d be in their draft zone. I felt like I should slow down a bit to get out of the draft zone but obviously I didn’t want to. After the hills we hit some flat parts that were perfect for getting in “aero” position (using the aerobars). That is when I started seeing referees watching from their motorcycles. At one point, I was cruising when I noticed that right in front of me was a cyclist was moving slower than I was. I looked behind, and sure enough, there was a referee on his motorcycle. I remembered the 15 second rule and immediately pulled to the left, passed the cyclist and moved back to the right. The referee passed me and made a point to look at me. I thought that I’d blown it and was certain I had a penalty. But there were no deductions to my time, so I guess not! At about mile 30 or 40, I went to go in my aerobar position and found that my left aerobar pad was missing. What the…?!?? A minute ago it was there. Dang! Oh, well, not too much I can do about that now. There are significant flat stretches the last section of the loop so I really missed that aero pad. I tried to position myself by putting most of weight on the right pad but it wasn’t comfortable at all. I ended up using my handle bar drops instead. Definitely not the same effect, but it would be nice to have a different position to ride in from time to time. Finally I was heading back into town before heading on my second loop. Yipee, I was excited to see people again. I saw Michelle and Laura in town and waved wildly at them. I felt great. Psychologically, the two loop set-up is great. You know exactly what to expect the second time around. I like to pretend like I’m just starting out on the bike. At the turnaround, I stopped to get my extra bottle of HEED from my Special Needs bag (I was getting really sick of Gatorade). I also grabbed a Snickers bar I had stashed. It was melted and mushy, but it hit the spot. Back in town, I heard Kathy yell my name and I saw the gang out of the corner of my eye as I sped past. This is fun! The aid stations on the bike course were awesome. The volunteers would stand on the side calling out what they had to offer (water, Gatorade, bananas, Snickers). I’d pretty much eaten bananas, Gatorade, HEED and water for the first lap. The second lap I ate more Snickers bars, pretzels that I’d carried and some Endurolytes. The second lap of the bike was nice because the cyclists were more spread out and I didn’t worry so much about drafting and penalties. Doug passed me around mile 70. He looked great and I figured I’d never see him again. I still felt pretty good. My legs were getting tight and I worried a bit about how my legs would be during the run, but I figured I’d just keep on going and see what happens. By mile 80 or so, I started to count down the miles. I know I was slowing down. My neck hurt and my back hurt and I was very irritated that I couldn’t use my aerobars. The support out there is just amazing though. In the city of Post Falls, the residents were out cheering us on and spraying us with their water hoses. I made a point to smile and say thank you as much as possible. These kind people helped to make this race tolerable. Around mile 100, as I was heading out of Post Falls back to CDA, a man on the side took one look at me and said, “You are IT, Girl. Rock Solid!” That is all I needed. Feeling a new surge of energy, I smiled, thanked him and pushed ahead. Finally, I was on the stretch headed back to the transition area. I picked up the pace and rode hard. What an awesome feeling to see the hordes of people lining the road that leads to the transition, cheering and screaming. I rode in and being very conscious about dismounting before the disqualification line (another one of those rules that scared me), I dismounted too early. A volunteer ran up and said, “the line is up ahead, but let me take your bike. Go and run up to the line”. So I did and I didn’t have to rack my bike or anything. Gotta love it.

1st loop = 3:24:43
2nd loop = 3:31:39
TOTAL bike = 6:56:22

I ran to grab my bike-to-run bag and a bit disoriented I almost went in the men’s changing tent. A few volunteers stopped me and I joked, “darn, I thought I could have some fun” and they laughed. In the women’s changing tent, again a volunteer grabbed me, put a cold towel on my head and helped me change out of my bike clothing into my run clothing. She made sure I had everything I needed and voila! I was ready to run. I grabbed some pretzels and gummy bears sitting in a pile by the exit and off I went.

Transition time = 4:43

I started out slowly. My legs were tight. I was really happy to be off the bike, however. I knew that this would be one long, hard run. Almost immediately, I saw Pete, Sandhya, and Kathy. I waved and blew kisses. There were aid stations at every mile on the run. At the first aid station, there were 3 women dressed in colorful 70s attire, waving around rainbow colored mops, dancing to YMCA and other disco hits. I laughed, they were so funny. I almost wanted to dance. Almost, but not quite… Before the first turnaround (1 1/2 miles) I heard Doug’s voice behind me. What? I must have passed him somehow. Turns out his legs had started to cramp and he was stretching. I wished him well and carried along. My breathing evened out. Usually it takes me a few miles before I can get into a groove while running. I passed Pete, Sandhya and Kathy again and I carried on into town. I saw Michelle and Laura a few blocks away. They were screaming and I gave them high-fives. Many people were walking even at that point. I knew that if I would be better off running, no matter how slow. I pretty much ran the entire time, choosing to walk through some of the aid stations. The run aid stations offered gatorade, ice, water, coke, pretzels, Snickers, and at a few stations: chicken broth. I got in a pretty good groove and for the first loop, the miles disappeared quickly. The “Degree of Difficulty” stretch (Degree deodorant designates a part of the course that is most difficult as a sponsorship opportunity, I guess that is where you *really* sweat and wish you used Degree?!) wasn’t too bad, it was a short (maybe 1/4 mile?) climb and I ran it both times. At the turnaround after that hill, a volunteer said, “DeStefano, is this your first or second loop?” I laughed and said, “I wish! It’s my first loop, I’ll see you later”. She laughed, cheered and told me she’d look for me. A realization hit me as I ran back into town: I didn’t feel as bad as I felt when I ran Boston. I ran the Boston Marathon back in April and it was hands down the worst race of my life. The weather was in the mid-80s and very humid. For much of the race, I tried to breathe but it seemed like there was no air coming in, and I blew out my quads early on (dummy went out too fast on that crazy course where it is downhill for like the first 14 miles). For the first time in my life, I actually thought I might not finish a race. In hindsight, I’m actually very glad I did Boston now, as it was great training for IMCDA. For much of the run, I found myself thinking, “hey! I don’t feel as bad as I felt in Boston! yay!”. This comparison tactic helped so much. I also took lessons I learned in Boston and made sure I didn’t make the same mistakes. I had left my Endurolytes behind, so I ate lots of pretzels, drank gatorade at the aid stations to get as much salt and electrolytes as possible. I was cautious on the downhill part after the “degree of difficulty” hill. Back in town, I saw Michelle and Laura, then Pete, Kathy and Sandhya in the same place as before. I found out later that they had gone away to drink margaritas while I was out on first loop and simply returned to the exact same place… grrrr! I felt “okay” but knew that it was gonna get tough. I had seen Doug on the course and knew he was cramping bad. I really wanted to just keep running (more like shuffling actually). I always have this mindset like if I stop, I might not start again. Back out through town, the little hills and turns through the neighborhoods were starting to really bug me. Then out along lakeside I saw many people walking. I was sick of drinking. I felt gassy and I am sure I left some fine odors behind (my secret weapon, ha!) I didn’t want anymore liquid so I started chomping on ice. At one point, I poured a cup of ice under my running hat – ack! brain freeze… forget that. I plugged on. Up the degree of difficulty hill again. The volunteer didn’t remember me, but that’s okay. I wasn’t nearly as cheerful as the first time through. Back along lakeside, I saw an athlete sitting on one of the park benches. It looked like he was searching for some “inspiration” to keep going. I saw a woman who was walking with tears pouring down her face. I was really happy to get back to the neighborhoods again. Then, I was at mile 23, then 24. Oh my gosh, I am going to finish this thing. At mile 25, I picked it up a notch. I knew that I wanted to sprint (if you can call it that) to the finish line. I turned a corner and a volunteeer told me the line was 9 blocks away. Then I heard 5 blocks and I was heading downhill toward that beautiful sight: the finish line. It was the most amazing feeling high fiving people as I headed down the chute. As I got close, I heard them call my name “Sheila DeStefano, you are an Ironman”. There was a man right before me who broke the tape and I thought, “bummer, I don’t have a tape to break”. In the blink of an eye, a volunteer stepped forward with a new tape just for me. I raised my arms and broke through. I finished! Immediately, two volunteers rushed to my sides, placed a finisher medal around my neck, told me I was an Ironman and asked what I needed. I said, “I feel okay” and I did. I really thought that I’d be a bawling emotional mess when crossing that line, but I shed no tears. The volunteers asked me if I wanted to go to the medical tent. Did I look that bad?! I said, no. They said that they had to either take me to the tent or leave me with family. I started to argue, saying that I had seen my family as I ran in and we were meeting at the “family meeting area”. Suddenly, Laura was there and she rushed in and gave me a huge hug. I said goodbye to the nice volunteers and Laura escorted me and we walked around and around. I was shocked that I felt as good as I did. Don’t get me wrong, we walked very slowly.

Run Time:
1st turn = 1:07:11
2nd turn = 1:12:24
3rd turn = 1:17:34
4th turn: 1:05:14
TOTAL = 4:50:45

Final time = 13:18:58
Place in age group = 45th out of 116

I was so happy to see my family and friends. As we waited for Doug to come in, Shawn Chapler came up to me. She looked great. I ask her how she did. She tells me “I think I won the age group”. I roll my eyes, okay, what was your time? “Oh, 10 hours , 27 minutes” OHMYGOD. This girl finished 3 hours faster than me. If she weren’t so darn nice and modest, I’d have to hate her!! Incredible. Doug finished a short while later and we rested on the lawn, eating pizza, sandwiches and cookies. Laura brought me a beer. Yay! I chugged it. I could not bear the thought of drinking another ounce of Gatorade. Eventually, we picked up my bike and transition bags, then headed to the car to go home. I am still astonished by how good I felt.

Monday, June 28:

After a nice, solid sleep, I awoke to major hunger pains. First things first: food! Everything I ate seemed to disappear into a black hole over the next few days. I was constantly hungry. We hung around the house for a while. I walked around a bit to stretch my legs. Finally, we went to drop my bike off at the Transition Sports truck for it’s return home. Then, we went downtown. Shockingly, all of the bleachers, tents, and the finish line had disappeared. We got the local paper and read about a man who had finished the race at 1:30am. He would not be recognized as an Ironman, because qualifying times must be within 17 hours (ie: finish time before midnight). My heart went out to him. Even when I was finishing around 8 or so, it seemed like the aid stations were on the verge of closing up. What a lonely run it must have been for him. In some ways, he is more deserving of the title, Ironman, than the rest of us. We walked around town, then went to a little bar next to the lake and drank fancy tropical drinks. Then we relaxed on the lawn while waiting for Kathy and Doug to arrive so we could go together to the Athlete’s Award Banquet. While we waited, we watched a couple who had just gotten married getting their photos taken. Apparently, both the bride and groom had finished the race the day before. Wow, that is ambitious! Talk about a stress-filled weekend. At the Awards Banquet, it was fun to listen to other athletes’ speak about the race, exchanging stories and reflecting on the day. Pretty much the standard sentiment was how great the volunteers were, they truly were awesome. The PRO winners (Chris Legh and Lynley Alison) gave speeches and the top 5 in every age group received plaques. I was happy to get my Finisher’s certificate and a DVD of race highlights as a memento of the race. After the banquet we headed to the CDA Brewery for one last Huckleberry beer and nachos – yum! Topic of conversation was whether or not Kathy was “inspired” to do an IM after experiencing the race as a spectator. I would love to see her do one, and I know she could do it. But, I also know that it is a decision to be made individually and not to be made frivolously. The moment we left the bar, the sky opened up and it started to pour. It was like a faucet had turned on. Boy, am I happy to live in California!

Tuesday, July 29

Awake at 5am. Cleaned up the condo a bit and packed up the SUV. We were meeting Kathy and Doug at 6:45 at La Quinta parking lot to head to the airport. Then we were off for the 40+ minute drive to Spokane airport. As we were unloading our bags, I looked down for my purse. Not there. I had a flash of realization. At La Quinta, Pete and I had wandered in the hotel to see if we could snag a cup of coffee. On the way out, I realized I had lint all over myself so I had set my purse on the curb and proceeded to pick lint off myself. Then Kathy and Doug had arrived and, in a hurry to get going, I left my purse on the curb. AAAAHHH… no, no, NO! I immediately called La Quinta and learned that my purse was in their possession — phew! But, it meant that we’d miss our 9:00 flight. So, Pete and I said our goodbyes to Kathy and Doug and made the drive back to Coeur D’Alene to get my bag. On the way, we called Southwest. Luckily there was availability on the 1:25 flight with a stop in Portland. There was a $100 charge to change our flight. What a bummer but we had no choice. So, back to La Quinta, I practically kissed the young girl at the front desk, then Pete and I went for a leisurely breakfast. Back to Spokane, we were way early so we plopped ourselves at the bar and proceeded to drink. Then at Portland, the flight was delayed so again we plopped ourselves at the bar and proceeded to drink. This is like a flashback to our honeymoon in Maui! Hey, I deserve it right??? Finally we landed in Oakland and we were almost home. Traffic was a bear at 5pm, but what a feeling to get home at long last!

The next few days after the race, over and over, I heard the question: “will you do another?” At first, I shook my head vehemently. Hell no! I’ve done what I set out to do. My goal was to finish an IM and I had done just that. At the awards banquet, they acknowledged us first timers and suggested that we may have caught “the bug”. The more I thought about it (and of course as time goes by how quickly you forget the pain!) I found myself thinking about other possible IM race candidates for myself. Canada? Florda? When I got home, I checked the IM Arizona website (IM Arizona is a brand new race that will be held on April 19, 2005). There were less than 100 slots left. I thought about it for approximately 2 minutes and signed myself up! I admit, I thought that I’d retire from triathlon after IM CDA. I guess my interest has been revived. I’m not quite ready to hang up my IM hat! Participating in this race was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. I am still basking in the afterglow of the evetnt, and I am proud to belong to the exclusive group of individuals who can call themselves an Ironman.

Thanks for your time everyone… until next year!


And I couldn’t have done it without…

Thank you Michelle for your generosity and thoughfulness in reserving our condo(so I didn’t have to think about it). Thank you Michelle, Laura, Sandhya, Anna, Kathy, Pete, and of course my mom and Bert, for making the trip to Idaho to cheer me on and support me. You guys are the best cheerleaders anyone could ask for. Thank you Pete for putting up with a year of listening to me stress and whine about this race, dealing with my “disappearing act” as I worked out for hours and hours many weekends, and providing me with constant support of my every athletic endeavor. I’m looking forward to returning the favor as you prepare for the Rock n Roll Marathon next June….


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Twitter: sheilamia Email: sheila at sheilablogs.com
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July 2004
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