Posts Tagged ‘ironman


Ironman Coeur D’Alene 2004 Race Report (SHORT VERSION — race day only)

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.

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 event, 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!


Get in touch with me

Twitter: sheilamia Email: sheila at
Add to Technorati Favorites
June 2019
« Sep    

Flickr Photos

Blog Stats

  • 4,480 hits