If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Memories of Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2004

Since it's been three years since I raced at Ironman Coeur D'Alene, this is my race report from 2004:

Well, it's been four weeks since the big day on June 27th and I've had time to reflect on the last seven months. It was December first last year when I started training for my second Ironman. I had just gotten over a bad chest cold that had me laying low for two weeks. I think it may have been a sign from my body for a "forced rest" as I had been training for the Haney to Harrison relay race which I did just before I got sick. As anyone who has done it knows, it's difficult to get up on a dark December morning to train for an event that is months away. The alarm goes off at 4:30 or 5am and you try to think of any reason not to do the scheduled workout. It's definitely a mind over body moment when you have to drag yourself from your warm bed. Knowing you're going out in the cold to jump into a cold pool is not inviting. Or dressing up for a run that takes longer to do than the run itself. Or, my favorite, getting bike shorts on, heading to the cold garage to bike on the wind trainer while staring at the walls. Once you're out of bed the hard part is over. You just need to train yourself to get up as soon as the alarm goes off before you can convince yourself to hit the snooze.
I had some goals for my race in Coeur d'Alene this year: finish in a faster time than Penticton in 2002, finish under ten hours, finish in the top 100, and, with the dream that is only a distant speck on the horizon on a chilly winter morning, qualify for Ironman Hawaii. There weren't a lot of memorable workouts this year like there were for Canada two years ago, just the scheduled sessions I tired to stay motivated for. The highlights on the bike were the Cypress mountain repeats and of course the solo ascent up Mt. Baker in May. That was the longest ride of the year just under eight hours and 230km.
Then of course there was the lowlight: About three weeks before my race I had my first truck vs. bike incident and I did not come out ahead. I was on a road when a truck came to a stop sign intersecting my road and the lady pulled out in front of me basically running me off the road onto the gravel shoulder. I didn't come out ahead on this one. I got up off the ground and took a second to take stock of all my parts. The bike looked okay at first glance, the road rash on the shin, hip and shoulder was not the end of the world, but the elbow was another story. It was quite surprising how little blood there was for a gash like that. I thought "this is not good" and a secondary thought was if I'd be swimming any time soon. I went into a school across the street with the lady as she stopped to see how I was. I cleaned up as best I could but there was a fair amount of dirt and gravel in the elbow so I got the woman to drive me to the hospital. It took a couple of hours but I came away with seven stitches in the elbow, a tetanus shot, some drugs and a prescription for more drugs. Also no swimming for ten days. I thought I'd go to ICBC just in case anything got worse with the injury. Becuause the frame of the bike was bent a bit, I managed to get a new frame and other components that were scratched. It was quite a stressful two weeks while I healed not knowing how the injury and bike damage would affect my race. I couldn't get a new bike in time for the race so I had to ride the damaged one.
Went down to Idaho about five days before the race to get ready and to finish the taper. Did a couple easy bikes and runs and swam in the chilly lake a few times. The weather was pretty hot at the beginning of the week but closer to the race it was cooling down some. My Mom, Dad, Steve, and Bonnie showed up the night before the race to lend their support. I didn't have much time to visit as we were doing the dinner thing and getting our stuff together for the big race. I gave them my predicted times, said good night and told them I would see them in the morning.
For some reason I was not nervous as I woke at 4am. The weather looked gloomy with dark clouds everywhere. There was even a bit of thunder thrown in for effect. I ate breakfast and headed to the transition area. Once there it was almost like I was doing a short course race. I only did a quick run warm up and basically got my bike ready. I must have delayed too long however because before I even had my wetsuit on they were announcing only ten munutes left to warm up for the swim. A little panicked I tried to get to the beach. "Tried" being the optimum word because I never made it to the warm up. The set up was rather poor because all the competitors had to funnel through a small opening in a short brick wall to go down some steps to the sand. It was quite the traffic jam with athletes and spectators alike trying to move around in that area. As this was the exit path from the swim as well, I was a little concerned there may be another jam up as I finished the swim (due to my turtle pace there's usually lots of people getting out at the same time as me). As I made my way down to the beach I saw Dad and Steve behind a fence for the spectators. They were wearing shirts that said "Darin Bentley #202 Our Hearts Are With You". What a great way to start the day. We high-fived and I got down to business.
I made it to the water's edge and my warm up consisted of splashing the water on my arms and face and a bit of stretching. After the anthem it was a matter of waiting from a signal from the tv helicopter to indicate we were live and ready to go. The gun sounded and seven months of long hours away from home, the sacrifice of social events, and constantly being tired and grumpy and stressed finally came down to this: I was racing. I hadn't done an open water race since July of last year and though it never usually bothers me, I was somewhat anxious in the washing machine this morning. After a few hundred meters the only thought was "even if I qualify for Hawaii, do I really want to do another one of these swims?". It took a good fifteen minutes until I settled down and got into my own slow rhythm. I've never been hit in the head and face more in any open water swim. My goggles were fogging up so I found it hard to see the place on the beach where we were to exit, run over the timing mat, and jump back into the lake for one more lap. I followed a pack of people and managed to clear the lens as I started on the second lap. It was uneventful and I finished the swim in 1:05, 326th overall and slower than 2002.
I went through the transition tent quickly and jumped on the bike. As usual, the first forty-five minutes of the bike felt like nothing and I was flying. Everything I read always says to not go hard at the beginning of the bike and how it should feel very easy. I always fear that I start out too fast but it's hard not to when it's so effortless. As I came back through town the first time I saw about two blocks ahead these two huge heads bobbing up and down in the crowd. They looked familiar and as I got closer I realized they were blown up pictures of the kids with some Hawaiian sayings on the posters. Hannah's said "Oe Kupianaha! (You're amazing!) We love you!" and Elias' was "Oia, oia, oia! (Go, go, go!) #202 We love you! ". That little section hit me pretty hard as they and Carrie were not at the race. In a way they were with me all day. I got pretty choked up, let off a huge cheer, and felt like I could ride forever.
After that I knew I had work to do. The first real hill I passed a lot of people and again felt I was going a bit too quick There were a lot of technical descents and you couldn't really get a lot of speed up. The second big hill involved me passing Lori Bowden (Hawaiian Ironman Champion last year) and thought that for sure I am going too hard. There were some more downhills and then we headed out onto some flats in an industrial area.
After a big loop we turned and came back the other way and it was here the wind was really strong. The next forty-five minutes was spent in a huge headwind. After leading a bunch of guys who were following me three bike lengths behind (that's the closest they could legally come), some of them began to pass me. I realized that even being as far as three bike lengths behind, you still get a bit of a draft effect that cuts down on the wind in front of you. I was going to try this on the second lap more. Going through town again was great as I anticipated my support crowd to be there and they didn't disappoint. I saw the posters from far away and got that choked up feeling in my throat again as I went passed.
The second loop was definitely harder and got worried I may start to fade. It wasn't bad and on the second time on the flats I stayed more behind guys and did find it an advantage. I raced into transition, handed off my bike, and tried to get my legs to move properly as I headed to the change tent. Total bike time 5:16, a couple minutes faster than Canada in 2002, but slower than I wanted to do. I think I was in about 70th place now.
I whipped through the transition like it was a sprint tri and headed out on the run. It starts with a short out and back around the first mile marker. As usual I felt all awkward and wobbly as I started but the only thing on my mind was to get my running legs back. I wanted to run around 7:30 miles but after the second marker my watch said I was sub-7:00 for both. Time to slow down a little. It was amazing how I was catching people who looked really strong on the bike only moments before.
After the turnaround we come back through transition and saw the support crew cheering me on. I tried to ignore the hot spots on my feet and hoped they wouldn't turn into blisters. The course heads out along the lake front and before heading back to finish the first loop you have to climb a three hundred foot hill. I didn't think that would be very fun on the second loop. The crowds along the route were great. People on their front lawns had sprinklers and hoses going so you could run through them. There were also little trigger-happy kids with squirt guns bigger than they were ready to soak you at the slightest hint of your permission.
Coming back into town I saw my crew and told them I'd see them at the finish line soon. At this point there were so many people coming off the bike and starting the run I couldn't tell which lap anyone was on anymore. I didn't know who it was I should be trying to chase down. The weather was getting hotter every minute. It was an extreme test of mental perseverance that enabled me to go on at the speed that I did. Not that it was a blistering pace, but for me it was fast. I had tunnel vision on the last loop and didn't acknowledge the volunteers or enjoy the experience as much as I have in past races.
After that ugly hill again, I passed the third place woman. She had a cyclist escort designating her position. We approached an aid station and the guy on the bike asked her what she wanted. She said, "gatorade and banana". I wondered if he was going to peel it for her as well!!! Must be nice.
A few blocks from transition the road has two lanes drawn on it. One will lead you straight to go to your second loop, the other leads you to turn left a block earlier to go towards the finish line. As soon as I went into the finishing lane, people started to notice. They realised that I was nearing the finish and because there was no one around me, I felt like I was leading the race with all the clapping and cheering for me. As I turned to go down the street to the finish, it was still blocks away and all I could see was a bunch of people in the distance. I thought about enjoying the moment but as I got closer to the clock I could see it was getting close to 9:50. Wanting to break this time I booted it and just snuck under in 9:49:55 and nearly collapsed into the arms of the volunteers. The finish area was great at this race because you could reunite with your family and friends about twenty feet from the finish line. At Penticton you had to get herded into the recovery area and it was hard to see your loved ones for awhile because of all the crowds. Final run time 3:22 (coincidentally the same time I ran my very first marathon in 2000 in Vancouver), final place 29th, 8th in age group!!!
They posted some preliminary results while I was still recovering with the folks. The numbers said I was 10th in my age group. As there were only nine spots in my age group to go to Hawaii, I was disappointed but could always hope for a roll down the next day.
I got back to the motel and phoned Carrie who told me she and the kids watched me finish on Ironmanlive. That made me happier than when I finished. I bawled. Then she looked at the results and it showed me in 8th place. No, I told her, I was 10th, I saw it at the finish. No, she said, you're 8th. I bawled. I'm off to the big Island for the legendary Ironman World Championships - basically the birthplace of the Ironman!!!
The next day at the sign-up for Kona, I saw the results on paper. There were two guys who got drafting penalties on the bike and when the penalty times were added to there finish times, I was ahead of them.
I'm looking forward to Hawaii on October 16th but I really want to cherish the experience as it may be a once in a lifetime occurance. You never know what's waiting around the corner so you might as well go for it.
I need to thank, again, everyone who made this day possible. Carrie, Hannah, and Elias, of course, for without their understanding and shoulders to lean on when I was at my worst during training I would not even have been able to put my toes in the water at the start; my Mom and Dad who gave me encouragement (and lots of babysitting on some of those really long training rides); Steve and Bonnie who have followed me to both my Ironmans for support; Evelyn who did the race as well and somehow managed to misplace 5 litres of body fluid along the course and required the same amount of IV's in the medical tent afterwards; Steve for all the bike maintenace; and all the boys on the Sunday rides. Thanks also to all who took this time to read my race report.
There will hopefully be another in a few short months detailing the big one. I'm undecided yet as to what kind of race I want to have on that day. It'll be a busy summer and one reason I did this race instead of Penticton is that it saved me from training all summer and missing out on family things. I owe this to Carrie to be around more. However, now that Hawaii is looming....
If you're not busy on October 16th at around, say, 4am BC time, tune in to IronmanLive and see me jump into the lovely blue waters at Kailua-Kona to start the race of a lifetime. Love to all. Darin.

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