2014 Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Report
- 40 year old male
- First IM – I’ve completed two half Ironman races (Austin in 10/2013 in 5:19:xx & Oceanside in 3/2014 in 5:50:xx)
- FTP – 238 – For those unfamiliar with FTP training here is a description of the concept.
- VDOT – 47.2 (Disclaimer – this VDOT is overstated; though I’m not sure by how much. Since my last 5k test I’ve had to wrestle with some nagging hamstring & glute/hip pain that greatly reduced my volume in April & June. In fact, due to my left glute/hip pain during the 22 days leading up to the race I only ran two times – both less than 3 miles each & had to stop each time due to the pain flaring up.) For those unfamiliar with VDOT training here is a short blog post explaining the concept.
- Swim: 1:06:15
- T1: 6:14
- Bike: 6:36:32
- T2: 5:32
- Run: 4:38:12
- Total Time: 12:32:45
- Overall – 604 out of 2470
- Gender: 499 out of 1793
- Division (40-44 Males): 99 out of 359
I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and had the core diet breakfast – 3 1/2 cups of applesauce with a scoop of vanilla whey protein, a banana & 24 ounces of Perform. This gave me a little over 900 calories & 210 carbs. Woke up the wife and six kiddos and we left the house around 4:40 a.m. Quick 5 minute drive over to Ironman Village, found a good parking spot that was close to transition and went to get checked in.
Handed off my bike & run special needs bags, went through body marking to get #1906, plastered on my arms and a big old “40” on the back of my left calf. Walked over into T1 to put my nutrition on my bike and pump up my tires. I was going to start the bike with three 24 ounce bottles of Perform; two Powerbars and about 8 GUs. Once I felt good about my bike I went and checked on my T1 & T2 bags to make sure I knew where they were.
Once this was done I went and found my family who had positioned themselves on the retaining wall right across from the swim exit. My oldest son and I then made our way to the flag pole at on the point where some other EN’ers had duct taped a red Sharpie so we could write a “TJ” on our right shoulder as a way to honor the memory of Timothy Jenks; the 13 year old son of EN member William Jenks. Timothy was killed earlier in the week on a training ride & the red “TJ” that we drew in block letters on my shoulder would be a reminder of the fragile nature of this life and hopefully, a small encouragement to the Jenks family.
After that we headed back over to the rest of the family and I grabbed my wetsuit to go get ready. As I was making my over to the men’s changing tent I had a slight nagging feeling about my bike as I’d noticed during my recon ride on Thursday that my rear derailer wasn’t shifting as easily as it should have – though it would eventually get into the right gear. I figured it would be fine & I wouldn’t mess with it. But as I was walking to the tent I noticed the bike tech line was basically empty so I went over, grabbed my bike & took it to have the guys look at it. The tech made some adjustments and it appeared as though the derailer was now working properly.
Once I got my bike re-racked I dressed in the men’s changing tent; making sure to apply plenty of body glide on my ankles, wrists and neck/chin. Once the wetsuit was on I grabbed my earplugs, goggles, neoprene cap, IM swim cap & a 24 ounces throw away Gatorade bottle that I’d filled up with Perform. By this time the area was swelling with people and getting back to my family took longer than I anticipated. Finally found them, gave hugs & kisses, had a brief moment to thank my bride and to let her know that I knew that none of this would be possible without her and her ridiculous support…we took a quick picture and then I made my way down to the beach.
Once I got on the beach I had a GU and sipped the Perform until it was gone and then made my way into the swim warm-up area so I could get in the lake & fill my wetsuit with water, get over the initial cold shock, stretch my arms/shoulder a bit with a brief swim & pee…oh how I had to pee! The 48 ounces I’d consumed in the previous two hours was now working its way through my already hydrated system.
With about 10 minutes to go I positioned myself at the very front of the 1 hour to 1:15 seeding group. And then I waited to start an event that for years I’d told myself I could never do.
2.4 Miles – 1:06:15 – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/531939727
The cannon went off and the under 60 minute group quickly rushed into the water. And within 2-3 minutes I was in the water…and within 30 seconds of being in the water all the nervousness was gone. It was time to get to work. The swim was a two loop course in the shape of a rectangle that we would swim counterclockwise twice – getting out of the water and running over a timing mat at the end of the first lap.
There was a pretty strong wind that had whipped up the lake and as a result the water was pretty rough on the way out though we had some help from the current on the way back in. The rolling swim start was nice and though there was contact with other swimmers it was minimal. I’ve noticed that on these longer swims it takes me about 400-500 meters to get into my groove – for my shoulders to warm up and to start feeling good about my form and this was the case for this swim. I finished the first lap in 31:57. Out of the water, spotted my family gave them a wave and then back into the lake for the second lap. It felt like the winds had picked up on the second loop because the waves felt bigger and more difficult to swim through and though I thought I swam the second lap better my time was about 2 1/2 minutes slower than the first lap. I exited the water in 1:06:15 and I felt great.
Out of the water, up the ramp to the wetsuit strippers who promptly pulled my suit off me. Grabbed the wetsuit and jogged over to get my bike bag and then into the changing tent. Quickly dried myself off, helmet on, arm warmers on, nutrition in my jersey pockets, sunglasses on, shoes on (I’d planned on running with them to the mount line and then putting them on but I made called an audible and put them on in the tent – though I’m not sure why I did that) and out of the tent. I made a quick stop so a few volunteers could apply some sunscreen and off to my bike.
112 Miles – 6:36:32 – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/531939733
Oh…the bike – how I love you, how I hate you! Like the swim…and the run, the bike was a two loop course with part A of each loop taking us out through town and out by the lake with and part B of the loop being a long 21 mile or so out and back on highway 95.
I’ve decided that my bike execution is the weakest part of my triathlon game. I’m a relative newbie when it comes to my power meter so I’m still learning the art keeping my watts down. I tried to ride nice and easy for the first 35-40 minutes; and as predicted by the coaches I was passed left and right by other folks. I kept reminding myself that it was going to be a long day & there was no reason to go out hard on the bike…still, I didn’t like the feeling of being passed like I was standing still. But I tried to stick to the plan.
When we finally got to the left hand turn that would put us on highway 95 I was greatly discouraged to realize that we’d turned directly into a stiff headwind and that we would likely be riding into said headwind for the duration of the 21 miles out…which also happen to be mostly uphill. I struggled…really struggled to keep my watts down. My goal was to ride at an average NP of 159 watts (67% FTP) for the first 35-40 minutes and then settle into 167 watts (70% FTP) for the duration of the ride. Well…that didn’t work so well for me. Let me just say that the 21 miles out on 95 was awful – I knew I was riding too hard…I knew it would probably hurt me later in the day but I just couldn’t figure out how to keep the watts down. Very frustrating. When I finally hit the turnaround it was like I’d been received a hug from a sea nymph riding a white unicorn with a rainbow coming out of its butt! I was so happy to be turning around! The ride back was great – wind at my back and, with the exception of one pretty good climb it was largely downhill or flat.
Back into town; spotted my family…gave them the thumbs up and started the second 56 mile loop. Through town…down by the lake…up the hill…passed on getting my special needs bag and then spotted my family again and headed back to 95 and that same stinking headwind. This second time around I’d made some adjustments and though I was still riding harder than I should have been I felt like I was in a better spot than the first loop; albeit, going slower because I was riding less hard. The benefit of the second loop was largely mental – that is, I knew how far I had to go before I could turn around. Got a chance to chat with some EN folks for a couple of seconds on this second loop and before too long I was making the turn to head back into town. Fast and mostly downhill the last 20 miles went by quickly (I hit 45.2 MPH on one of the downhill sections on the backside – which is a record for me) and as I entered the transition area I was able to see my family again. Hit the dismount line and a wonderful volunteer grabbed my bike and off to get my run bag.
I stuck to my nutrition plan of 24-37 ounces of Perform an hour + 1 GU at the 30 minute mark of each hour and 1/3 Powerbar + 1 salt cap at the top of every hour. Since the temps were in the 60s for most of the day my fluid intake was probably too much. How do I know, you ask? Maybe because I had to pee (and this is not exaggeration or hyperbole) no less than 10 times while on the bike. Fortunately for me…and unfortunately for those behind me; I’ve gotten pretty adept at peeing on the bike so while it didn’t cost me a ton of time…it was very annoying. I kept thinking back to Oceanside in March where I suffered a severe calf cramp halfway into the run and I told myself I’d rather pee a bunch than cramp.
The tape confirms what I knew internally – that is, I rode the bike too hard. Here are the details of my ugly ride:
Grabbed my bag and headed into the changing tent. My plan was to put my shoes on and then grab the gallon size zip lock bag which had the rest of my stuff and start running. I made the decision to not do that. I felt I just needed a minute or two to collect myself before starting the marathon. There was a tub of Vaseline there so I lubed up my feet good and some other parts…nutrition in my jersey pocket, race number on, visor on, sunglasses on….peed again in the trough in tent; grabbed a pre-mixed 50/50 Perform/water bottle and headed out and got another layer of sunscreen and then off I went.
26.2 Miles – 4:38:12 – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/531939773
As I headed out of the chute and onto the run course I spotted my family. Stopped to give each one of them a kiss (with 6 kids and a wife that probably cost me a minute – but it was so worth it to see their sweet faces & hear their big cheers!).
As I mentioned earlier the run course is a two loop course that takes you out to the lake through town (same route as the bike) and then along the lake for 4 miles or so. Before you hit the turn around you have to run up a pretty good hill – about 6% grade for .7 miles or so. Up that hill…down the other side a bit and then U-turn it back into town.
The goal was to run the first six miles at a 9:30ish pace and then settle down into my goal pace of 8:55 per mile. Neither one of those goals happened. I’ve divided my run into 6 sections below – showing the split per mile and then the average for each section.
Per my plan I walked each aid section (one every mile) taking in nutrition – 4 ounces or so of Perform / 4 ounces or so of water. Grabbing ice and putting some down my jersey and some down my shorts. I took at salt cap every hour at the top of the hour and a GU at the 30 minute mark of every hour. I felt like I did a pretty good job of sticking to this plan and then at mile 15 or so I started taking in some of the other aid station options (pretzels; a few salty chips) and around mile 21 I started pouring cold water on my head, drinking 4 ounces of the flat coke and grabbed a half a cookie at two of the stations.
As you can see the first 10 miles went pretty good…yes…slower than my goal pace but under 10 minute miles. Around mile 10 I started to slow up. At the half way point (mile 13 – 12:22 mile) I stopped and grabbed my special needs bag – I applied some lube to my feet & put on a new dry pair of socks. I also had another bottle of pre-mixed 50% Perform / 50% water that I’d nurse off of for miles 13-17.
When I started back out on the second loop I entered the blah stage of this race. I wasn’t in a dark spot…I was just tired and the thought of having to go back through town…down the lake…up the hill just kind of sucked the life out of me. At mile 15 I stopped to go to the bathroom (12:24 mile) and I had the brief thought of just staying in the port-o-potty and resting for a while – but as tempting as that sounded I opted to keep going. For me the most difficult part of this race was mile 13 through mile 20. It was just tough – but I kept to the plan as best I could – walking each aid station (albeit, my walking went form 30 steps to 45 steps to the walking the distance of the whole aid station) and then running (or trudging) to the next.
Before I got to mile 23 I had a heart to heart conversation with myself and reminded myself that there were only 4 miles to go and it was time to suck it up, dig deep and start pushing harder…and surprisingly enough my body responded. I had to stop at mile 24 to pee again but other than that I pushed myself and was able to bring the pace down about a minute per mile which felt like a huge accomplishment to me. And as a side note, I never cramped during the run – not once, and this felt like a legit miracle to me because my mindset going into the run was not “I hope I don’t cramp” it was “when I cramp how am I going to respond.”
A few miles through town and then the magical left on Sherman Street. I could see the finish line in the distance and it was just beautiful. I’m not sure how far it was from the time I hit Sherman until I entered the chute but it was a great run. The crowds on the street were amazing and the closer I got to the finish line the more people there were cheering my name; clapping and whistling.
I entered the chute and spotted my family – made sure I ran by to give them high fives and then I got to do & hear something that I’d dreamed of dozens of times during my training runs (something that seemed impossible to me for years). After I’d run the entire marathon (minus the aid stations but including the hills) I got to enter the finish line and hear Mike Riley call out those magical words “David Leventhal – You are an IRONMAN!”
Simply an amazingly difficult and astoundingly beautiful day. Once I was through the finisher’s area I went and grabbed a bottle of water and some chocolate milk. I ate a couple pieces of pizza and just tried to keep walking. Connected with my family – hugs all around. Loved hearing my oldest son give me a big hug and tell me how proud he was of me for finishing. Got to talk to some of my fellow Endurance Nation teammates about their races and then we went to gather my stuff. After we’d collected all my race day belongings and dropped my bike off at the TriBike Transport tent we headed back to the house where I sat in the pool for 30 minutes so that gravity would no longer have any dominion over me. Missy went out and got me the biggest, baddest cheeseburger and fries (my Garmin said I’d burned 8,166 calories and I may have eaten them all back with that gut-rotting but amazing burger!). We got our kids settled…put our oldest one in charge and then about 10:15 she and I headed back up to the finish line to cheer the last folks in until midnight. I’m so glad we did that – what amazing energy and vibe & I got to see firsthand what Coach Rich & Patrick preached over and over and over again – there were a lot of crazy fit people rolling in between 11 p.m. and midnight. The day really was about execution and not fitness.
I’m still digesting the whole event but I feel like I learned a lot about the race execution side of the day. I believe I’ve got a sub-12 hour IM in me…I really do. Though I’m not sure when I’ll hit the starting line again. I truly enjoyed getting to meet some of my EN teammates and had a really great week! After downloading some of this with folks from my Endurance Nation, my tri-team, here are some of the lessons learned:
- Hydration – I think I brought a 90 degree hydration plan to a mid-60 degree race day – which resulted in my peeing all over the IMCDA course! I probably could have done with less fluids on the bike. Though, I’d rather over-hydrate than under-hydrate! But…this is something to be mindful of in future races.
- Smooth out the hills – I need to practice not spiking my watts on the hills. I’ll get better with this the more I’m able to practice riding with my power meter.
- Understated FTP – there was a general consensus from the really smart people on my team that my FTP of 238 is understated. We come to this conclusion based on the fact that I rode my bike really hard – way too hard. I had a VI of 1.10 (which is my variability index – calculated by dividing normalized power [NP] by my average power [AP]). So in this race my NP was 178 & my AP was 162. So…178/162 = a VI of 1.10. Without getting into all the details the key thing here is to know that a VI of 1.10 indicates a bike that was ridden way too hard. This should have been closer to 1.01-1.04. The reason we think this is overstated is that a person with a 238 FTP riding 112 miles with a VI of 1.10 should result in an absolute disaster on the 26.2 mile run. There is enough data in the books to easily support this hypothesis. The fact that I didn’t blow up on the run…the fact that I was able to run the whole marathon including the hills (minus the aid stations) and that I was able to drop my pace by 1 minute per mile over the final 4 miles more than likely indicates that my FTP is actually higher than the 238 I built my ride around. This is probably a fair conclusion considering that I’ve had my power meter is less than 2 months and I was only able to perform one bike test (and doing a good FTP bike test takes some practice).
- Transitions – I left 3-4 minutes in transition. I can get quicker here and shave off some time.
- Execution – I now understand…not just intellectually but really “know” that an Ironman race is about execution; not fitness. There were scores of people who showed up at the starting line very, very fit…and many of them ended up walking large portions of the marathon & rolling in during the last hour of the race. And while there is NO DOUBT that for 90% of the age group athletes (myself included) finishing an Ironman is winning an Ironman – there is also the realization that it is a race and I want to finish it as quickly as possible. There are so many moving parts during the day that affect each other – that without a plan…without a road map that shows how to execute it’s just too much to figure out on the fly. One of the things I love about Endurance Nation is that there is an insistence in engaging in the process. During my training I had several race rehearsals….I literally wrote out a plan for these race rehearsals – what I would do…what would my nutrition be…what were the potential obstacles, etc.. and I had an even bigger race plan that I wrote up (detailing the entire day from 3:30 a.m. to the finisher’s chute) – these documents were reviewed by smarter people on my team who would provide feedback, offer suggestions, shoot holes in it, etc… The EN team has a really deep Wiki and a ridiculously active forum – so when I ran into hiccups during my training or had questions I could either go look up the answer or, if I couldn’t find it then I could ask the question in a forum and get excellent, thoughtful feedback.
07-17-2014 – UPDATE
I retested this morning with a much better test execution than my first test. The results were pretty amazing – new FTP is 270 up from 238. So, yes…clearly the FTP that I build my race plan around was way off. But…that mistake undoubtedly helped me survive the run. So in the end…the mistake helped me though I need to learn to ride better on the hills.