Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Sunday, June 26, 2011

IM Coeur d'Alene

Course & Weather: 2.4 mile swim in 2-loops in Coeur d'Alene lake @56F, 112 mile bike in hilly 2-loops @78F, and 26.2 mile run in 2-loops @75F. 14:00:58

You are crazy. How? Why? All common responses when I share with strangers or non-running friends what I do for enjoyment during my spare time. I love to rock climb, mountain climb, snowboard, swim, bike, and run for fun; however, there is one race that just calls to me: the Ironman, the coveted, respected, and somewhat feared distance in the multi-sport world. There is something mesmerizing and even addicting about the beauty behind competition. Competing with oneself. Driving ones body to better itself. Aiming to continuously search how to challenge our physical barriers. To search for ones deepest, inner strength in some of our darkest, weakest hours. It's amazing what we can achieve within ourselves if we just believe. Not surprisingly, the looks of bewilderment from others become further twisted when I share that not only do I love marathons and triathlons but I aim before I hit my third decade of life to complete 100 marathons, complete multiple Ironmans/ultras, and climb mountains around the world... for fun. Can there be fun found in this madness of physical torture? My body seems to think so. So why do I push myself as hard as I do? Why do I force myself to wake up at 4am six days/wk during Ironman training? Why do I train my body to adapt towards 20-25hr training weeks on top of 40hr work weeks? I do what I do because there's great fulfillment and joy exploring the world and exploring what my body is truly capable of. Simply, I do what I do because I want to be grateful that I can... and I enjoy absolutely every minute of it.

The Drive:
My journey began in Playa Del Rey, the place I call home. Van packed, bikes racked, food stored, my dad, little brother, friend Sef, and I set out on a 1,251 mile drive from Los Angeles, CA to Coeur d'Alene, ID. Departure time- 2:00pm. Crossing five states within twenty-four hours would test not only our patience but our tolerance to the continual numbness in our behinds. Road trip at its finest! Haha We left before the Thursday sunset glow in California to arrive after the Friday sunrise in the plains of Idaho. Turns out, putting cameras in our hands during this road trip called for stops almost every 2hrs. Oh bother, I did worry but we were ahead of schedule so made it a point to allow ourselves to really explore what our western states had to offer. Pretty awesome sights indeed. Destination arrival- 2:00pm.

Seemingly unnecessary, Ironman events require athletes to check-in two days in advance. Two days prior, we are required to sign waivers, collect bib numbers, bib stickers, gear bags, chip, drawstring bag, and bracelets at the Athlete Check-in. Once completed & permanently tagged with our bracelets, the expo and Official Ironman Merchandise store was our credit card playground! One day prior, we are required to drop off our bike, bike gear bag, and run gear bag. Seemed quite the ordeal and hassle to take care of so many details prior to race morning but once race morning arrived, it all made sense.

Pre-Race meal:
Now for another great perk of endurance events: eating enough fuel for them!! Eating for an Ironman takes carboloading to a whole other level. Shortly after saying our goodbyes to our bikes till race time and making one final stop to shop again at the Official Merchandise store on Saturday evening, it was time to fill up the tank. Split with my brother but still had my generous portions, here it is: appetizers- bruschetta, ceviche, and mozzarella honeydipped bread; main courses- Spinach salad, Pesto Pizza, and Short rib panini; and dessert- deep fried ice-cream. Mouth full, tummy full... plenty of glycogen stored for the great distance.

Race Day:
Lights out 9:00pm, alarm 5:00am. Whites of my eyes open 2:00am. Please, please sleep because this is the last few hours of rest you'll be having for the rest of the day. 4:00am it is time, like it or not. By 5:30am, we were on our way arriving to the nervous pool of athletes at 6:00am. Time to begin the last minute checklist: potty break, body marked, bike check, gear check, potty break again... 6:30am the cannon blasted sending off the elites. What?! Already? All I could hear was the sound of my heartbeat in my ears. It's time. Sunscreen and body glide on, let's slip on this wetsuit. The 2.300+ field had a record percentage of females this year at 27% females, 73% males. Despite these numbers, standing in a corner, I still felt alone even though it was as noisy and crowded as can be, I knew that in a few minutes it would just be me and my thoughts. Why was I so scared? "Good luck sis," my brother consoled. "You can do it, Cachito. Go," were the last words I heard my dad say. One last wave to my dad, I turned around to face the water and didn't look back because I knew if I did, I would lose it in tears.

One last adjustment to my cap and goggles, the blast went off 7:00am! It had begun for 2,300+ hopeful starters. Looking to the left, to the right, ahead, all I could see were hundreds and hundreds of swimmers. Attempting to calmly step into the water was fruitless. The moment water slowly crept into my wetsuit, I could feel my heart rate jump and my lungs beginning to gasp for air as if I was drowning. Why was the water so damn cold!!!!? Breathe. Breathe. All I need to do is survive the swim. Survive the swim. It didn't help that I had caught a cold the day before much worse had to deal with unforeseen womanly issues on race day. Apparently, my body figured I needed two more challenges to tackle on race day. What seemed an eternity, I glanced at my watch: about 10 minutes and I still had not put my head into the water because the moment I did, my lungs would hyperventilate. It would be so much easier to just turn back right now.... No, I couldn't. Just survive the swim because today I was going to be an Ironwoman! Finally, I found a rhythm and attempted to calmly finish the first loop. Done. Wow. Where it should have taken me 40 minutes, it took me 53 minutes. Not a problem. I needed to adapt to what my body was going through and I was out here aiming to just survive this swim. Second loop done in 47 minutes totaling 1:40:52. I couldn't feel my hands, my toes were numb, and my face had lost sensation. Just the right mix right?

Climbing out of the water, I attempted to run to my bike gear but my body didn't give. A shuffle to the wetsuit strippers would suffice. Volunteers kindly handed me my bike gear bag, guided me to the women's changing tent, and led me to my bike after changing was done. I might have taken too long in T1 with 11:02 but I couldn't help but look around at others still shaken from that swim. The lake was brutal.

Helmet, gloves, shoes clipped, and one gel packet dangling from my mouth, let's do this. Take it one hour at a time and secret here: eat. The clouds had parted, the sun rays gleamed through but fortunately it was still comfortable in the mid 60s. And there they were!! My dad and brother shouting, "Go, Nadia!!! Goooo!" Full of smiles and hope, it was all the fuel I need to mentally reenergize and begin the bike. This was the longest segment of the day, but shockingly the most forgettable. All I could remember was pain. My hand had cramped from the cold water. My feet were numb and senseless. My thighs began to scream in the beginning. None of my long rides had been this way, why now? Mile 10, ok. Mile 20, still cold. Mile 30, I can finally bend my hands without cramping sensation! Oh the smallest successes mean so much out there. Eat, stretch, drink, peddle. Mile 40..... Who is that I see? Dad and Jr ringing those cow bells enthusiastically shouting my name! No words can describe how comforting it is to see family out there. Yay! I'll see you guys later! At least, I aim to. Mile 50, thighs still burn. Hill after hill after hill. Coeur d'Alene you're beautiful but I think I rather run these hills. Mile 60, special needs bag soon! Yummy, my food! What I looked forward to in the past 20 miles was a scrumptious peanut butter sandwich, chocolate, salty chips, and almond nutty bar. Calories are highly welcomed! :) Mile 80, food all gone. Stretch, drink, peddle, stretch, peddle.... Who decided this should be 112 miles anyway? Mile 90, there's Dad & Jr again!!! I'm almost there! Almost. Mile 110, finish in sight but you know what, let's go for one more small loop to finish two more miles. Not sure how other bikers feel at this point, but I couldn't wait to put my running shoes on. Finally ahead, a volunteer signaled me to dismount. Smiles!!! Yay take my bike, I have a marathon to do.

Taking those first few steps after a long ride are always interesting like watching a newborn fawn attempting to walk for the first time. It can be comedic. Another volunteer handed my run gear bag, guided me to the women's changing tent, and provided any support I needed juuuust in case. Casually out in 10:03.

A marathon itself is a challenge. A marathon after swimming 2.4miles and biking 112miles is out of this world challenge but still fun it a maniacal way. Dressed in my favorite, comfy maniac gear, I started my favorite part mentally confident that I would make it on this day. Exiting the T2 shoot, picture time! My dad found me, cowbells rattling in the air, grin from cheek to cheek. Here I go again! Now, I was sincerely smiling. As tired and worn out as I already was, it felt refreshing to not be peddling anymore instead propelling myself on the pavement. Each leg felt like a hundred pounds but I had practiced running tired a few times so it felt very familiar. Pretzel dissolving in mouth, my pace dropped down to 7:30min/mi. Woah cowgirl, you have a long way to go. The hardest part is holding back; takes some trial and error to discover when to unleash the accelerator. With the sun petting the athletes’ faces and the lake glistening off to the side, the first few miles were pretty relaxed. One, two, ten, fortieth runner passed... Um I lost count. 50? Maybe. Mile 6, turn around ahead for the first loop! Ring, ring, ringaling yep it was my dad! "How are you feeling?" I'm actually feeling great! Averaging 8:15min/mi. See you in a few! :D Where had I left off? Runner 60, 62, 80....hill again. Mile 10, almost done with the first loop and still feeling great! The crowds were awesome! The soda tasted awesome! Then the course split. Runners finishing their second loop take a left to the finish. Runners finishing their first loop take a right for a loopty-loop around for two miles. Not sure if it was mental or physical but something happened here. Turning around and beginning that second loop was a completely different world. My legs no longer wanted to go further. My thighs throbbed. My hamstrings screamed. How could I go from feeling absolutely great one mile and now Mile 14 I felt like death? Run special needs bag to the rescue. Some relief was found in a few sips of coconut water and another almond bar but nothing could save these legs except a chair and an ice bath. Mile 16, back up the hill. I no longer had a runners gait but a shuffle. Time to walk. Did it make it hurt less? Nope. Run again. Hurt again. Mile 18, my joints now began to throb. I felt like legs were 100 years old being beaten to dust. My race didn't look as dark as it did until at this point. Eight more miles to go and I was emotionally beaten. Physically beaten. I picked up my head to a familiar sound and just below my visor I saw, my dad and brother again with looks of concern. They didn't need to ask. "Cmon Cachito, last loop, make the turn and keep the pace." My first tears rolled down my cheek, Papito this hurts so much. All my face could do was whimper. Why had I not done more brick sessions? More bike and run mileage? This wasn't the point to ask but it's amazing what mind games your head can play with you while your out there cursing the race itself that you chose to be in. Mile 20, pace had slowed down from a 9:00min/mi to a 12:00min/mi shuffle. There's no way. Walking through that Mile 20, I knew that it would just take one last push for this final 10K. If it doesn't kill me, it will only make me stronger right? Then I saw a dark skinned fellow approach me....Jr! "Here we go sis you can do it bring it back down to 10:00min/mi to finish before 9:00pm" What? I couldn't even do simply math at this point. I was so depleted of glucose that my brain no longer could function as it normally could. I felt defeated that I struggled to hold it but I did it. Mile 21, 22, 23, 24. "Ok sis. Finish strong. We will see you at the finish!" That's it, I need to really make a final push if I really want to finish however small but earn that PR! I need to believe is all I could tell myself. Mile 25 7:50, Mile 26 7:40!! Oh my God there it was!! The glorious finish! I raised my hands, this was it! What I had worked for hours of training, endless nights of sleep deprivation, and countless tears! My eyes became doused with watery joy as my legs carried me through the finish.... "Congratulations, Nadia! You are an Ironman!" I did it!! I did it!!! A volunteer dressed the medal over my neck and first thing I hear through the crowd with tears down his cheeks, "You did it hija!! I'm so proud of you! You are my Ironwoman!" Nothing can ever replace that feeling. Nothing. Thank you mi familia querida, I could not have done it without all of you.

Race-Day Food:
400 PB with almonds
300 Granola
100 Gel
400 2 Protein drinks
400 2 Gatorade drinks
200 4 half bananas
100 1 Ferro Roche chocolate
300 Salt & Pepper Chips
500 large PB with almonds
800 5 mini energy bars
100 bag of pretzels
100 Chips
100 2 cookies
100 1 Coconut water
300 several small cops of cola
4,200 Total

Results Summary:
Swim 1:40:52
T1 11:02
Bike 7:36:27
T2 10:03
Run 4:22:34
Total 14:00:58


  1. Nice write up. Congrats on your 2nd IM race. Let me know if they get easier the more you do!? I think the one thing you definitely learn every time is how amazingly deep you can dig into your motivation and persevere through the struggle and pain. When you walk away from these races I think writing this race report will help you reflect later on areas you can focus on for next time. Good luck!

  2. My sister is a SUPER IRONWOMAN!!! She is an inspiration to me. I will do an Ironman in my dreams :-).