Ironman Coeur d’Alene and the Road Back

* I am thankful to have stumbled on a sport that draws such awesome people and fosters such great friendships.

I am also thankful to be able to type with two hands again.

This weekend was Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Kevin and I decided to go even though I was not racing. I knew it would be an emotional weekend whether or not I went; so I decided it would be best to be an “Ironfan” and watch 20 of my friends test their training, fitness, luck, and mental & intestinal fortitude. Being involved seemed like it would help heeal my hear and the time away from the stress of work and everyday life would help heal my body.

We left Wednesday, and pretty much unplugged after visiting my surgeon for my separated AC joint. Apparently, surgery isn’t a great option with this injury, so I was given a prescription for physical therapy and a list of range-of-motion PT  stretches. I also learned that I will always have a trademark AC-join separation bump in my shoulder. Friends and family have been all over the board with their reactions—from ‘I think it looks badass’ to looks of grotesque horror.

When I told my brother that lots of football players and 100% of hockey players get this injury (and usually on both sides,) he simply said, ‘Well, they also look completely deformed and die at the age of 50.

Don’t go to my brother for sympathy. Lesson learned.

Racing at IM CDA would have jeopardized my recovery process and I have to think long term. That meant that I brought my road bike to put on trainer and left the temptation of my TT bike at home. I picked up my race packet in my sling so I could get my bracelet for the awards ceremony as I was positive that I’d see a lot of familiar faces on the podium. And well, the swim cap in the packet was neon pink. I like pink. Most. expensive. swim cap. ever.

All weekend, as the sun set on my visions of an amazing race at IM CDA, the sun started to break onto a new goal—IM Cozumel in November. That is absolutely my very last chance at another IM in the 25-29 age group.

In the last week, this is what I did for workouts:

Monday: 45-minute elliptical session
Tuesday: 1-hour trail walk
Wednesday: PT & travel
Thursday: 11-mile trail hike/run
Friday: 5-mile trail hike/run with 1,000 of elevation gain
Saturday: 43-minute bike intervals and the same trail run as Friday
Sunday: 3-mile run + spectating

Yes, I ran 4 TIMES. So encouraging. As long as I strap my arm down tight, I do okay. Not crazy fast, but enought to feel good about the progress (I have no idea on pace—my Garmin watch was smashed in the accident and I haven’t purchased a replacement yet. Driving me crazy!) Focusing on what I can do, versus what I can’t, really helped me with my stress fracture, so I’m trying it again.

Highlights of this week’s small wins:
· dressing myself
· doing my own hair
· lifting my arm above my head (assisted by my right arm)
· running
· biking on the trainer

This weekend, I had a great time supporting ad cheering my friends but it was definitely bittersweet. I felt left out and empty. No lists to check and recheck, no race day jitters, no pay-off for the 6 months of focused training.

My consolation prize was hearing my coach breath as hard as me when out on a trail run on Saturday. But, I SHOULD be in good shape right now! I’m all tapered for an Ironman that I’ll never race! 5 miles is a lousy consolation.

View from the top of the Mineral Ridge Trail

Sunday provided perfect race conditions—sunny, with a high of 70 and no wind. I found myself a front-row seat to watch the swim start and watched in disbelief and the canon fired and the athletes entered the water en mass. I can’t believe I’ve done that!

Kevin and I then scooted over to the bike exit out of transition. I got a really good look at how terrible many Ironman racers are on their bikes. I kind of wish I could ‘unsee’ it and adopt an ignorance-is-bliss policy. It’s a miracle I didn’t witness a wreck. We are talking people laying their bikes down in the middle of the road to run back to pick up an ejected water bottle or flat tire kit.

Kevin in action.

Because I have a lot of fast friends, we weren’t there very long as every one of them exited the water in under 1:45, except one.

My heart broke when I looked up Paula, a wonderful woman who trains at the same pool as me. She finished the swim in 2:21—one minute after the cut-off. Like me, she would not be an Ironman that day.

Next, I ran out of town to watch the bike leg. Kevin met up with me and found a perch on a median barrier where we could watch bikers climbing a small hill in both directions. It was awesome. The steady stream was overwhelming. I cheered for everyone and screamed like a madwoman for my friends. They all looked so good on the bike. I was living vicariously through them. Their amazing performances seemed to made my own shortfalls feel less awful. In those moments, my hear was so genuinely invested in them.

After running back into town and shoving my face full of lunch as fast as I could, it was time to head out to watch the run. The day goes much faster as I spectator I think.

Side note: Did I mention that Craig Alexander showed up to race!?! It was incredible to watch his run in action. Incredible. Oh, and Julie Dibens was ridiculous on the bike and Caitlin Snow has the fastest run cadence I’ve ever seen.

Most of my friends looked so good on the run—some were even leading their age group or even all the amateurs. Definitely inspirational. Others were executing their race plans perfectly. A few others weren’t having their ideal days, but were admirably gutting it out, shelling out everything they had left.

As my friend Cathleen ran down Sherman Avenue, I almost started to cry. I was so happy for her. She had won our age group for the second consecutive year, was 2nd  amateur woman and 7th woman overall. Incredible!

I was equally excited for my friend Lilia who was 2nd in our age group, 3rd amateur woman, 8th overall woman and had the fastest amateur female marathon split of the day.

Both friends and training partners had punched their tickets to Kona along with Kara and Gerry and a few other Seattle athletes I met throughout the weekend.

It was awesome to see friends knock down amazing PRs or become Ironmen for the first time. A group of us stayed until midnight to cheer on the final finishers an the energy was electric. We danced, cheered, pounded on boards and handed out high-fives. A piece of me thought about Paula and her swim and Jenny from New York—who, like me, unfortunately couldn’t make it to the start line.

As for me? I executed my new race plan with precision. My goal was to lose my voice and I’ve been unbelievably hoarse for two days now.

Ironman Cozumel? Watch out. All this energy and dedication must be used for something, somewhere. The DNS does not sit well with me.

Thank you to everyone who still made this weekend a great event despite me sitting the race out. A special shoutout to my housemates, both athletes and spectators.

I fully expected to be thanking all my training partners, coaches, friends, coworkers, and most importantly, my husband, for all their dedication and patience in getting me ready for race day. All I can ask is for your continued support and hope that I can make it up to you.

Kevin took a ridiculous amount of amazing photos that are available for your viewing pleasure at his

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2 Responses to Ironman Coeur d’Alene and the Road Back

  1. JulieVK says:

    Oh, missing the swim cutoff and not getting to start due to injury — two other nightmares! Thanks for cheering.

    • carlsincharge says:

      Way to finish! I hope you are enjoying some much deserved recovery time. Unfortunately, there is no rest for the injured. Trying to maintain my fitness so I can hopefully do a half Ironman by mid August or September.

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