What an incredible day. My first Ironman is complete and I’m already looking forward to the next. Writing this recap is important for me, I learned so much throughout the preparation for and execution of the race that I hope to apply going forward in my triathlon career.
10 days out from the race, I got a glimpse into the often over-analyzed weather report and the forecasted highs were…high. They were calling for high’s well into the 100’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and there was only one thing I could do: prepare both mentally and physically. I moved workouts to the middle of the day, added layers of clothing and sauna sessions to my already hot runs as Bend was experiencing a heat wave as well. I knew that the temperature would affect my race, but I was going to be prepared. Mentally, I had to commit to checking my pride before the race started – not being focused (obsessed) with time goals, but having a plan in place to finish my first Ironman.
My wife and I drove to CDA Wednesday which was awesome; it gave us plenty of time to get to the race destination, take care of all of the race day details in advance, and to relax. There was a lot of buzz online on the Ironman CDA Facebook group, the Slowtwitch Forums, as well as around town with people saying that the race would get cut short or even cancelled because of the heat. My thoughts, prayers, and conversations quickly became centered on my desire to race the full 140.6 miles. Hundreds of hours’ worth of training, thousands of dollars, and a lot of sacrifice from my wife most importantly, but also myself went into getting to the start line – I know that my intention of racing the full Ironman was shared by many, if not all.
Over the next few days, my nerves settled after hearing from the Race Director at the required athlete briefing that Ironman and the city of CDA intended for us to race the full distance. They moved the AG start to 5:45am to help with avoiding the high temperatures, and I was confident (hopeful) that I’d be racing the full Ironman distance. I did a few tune-up workouts, ate more than my fair share of Juanita’s chips, and enjoyed relaxing in our big VRBO rental with my wife and family as they slowly arrived from Alaska and Oregon.
Race morning arrived; I was up at 3:30 and ate my usual breakfast of yogurt, granola, blueberries and honey. One cup of coffee was all I needed to get the system moving, and I woke my family up using the hilarious intercom system in the house that also played AM/FM radio at 3:45am. My wife, brother, and I hit the road at 4:15 and I was in T1 by 4:30. Perfect. They announced that we’d be racing 140.6 miles and everyone was PUMPED. I felt confident, and calm, by far the least nerves I’ve experienced before a race. I knew that this had to do with my preparation, but also the overwhelming gratitude I was feeling to be able to race and do what I love.
The Swim (1:00:41)
My swim training really took a turn for the better over the past season. Chris Bagg really helped me learn how to work HARD in the water at Nike Masters, and starting in the fall my average weekly swim volume was 10k or more yards each week. My threshold pace in training progressively dropped and going into this race I was confident that I was capable of a 1:00 Ironman swim.
I lined up in the under 60 minute portion for our rolling start after doing a short warm up and was ready to roll. The first 100 meters consisted of swimming hard and finding space, I found the first loop to be comfortable both with my effort but the space that I had. I came out of the water in 29 minutes and was feeling good going into loop 2. By the turn around, I started catching some of the slower swimmers and knew that my time was going to be a little slower this lap, but I was ok with that. I found some feet and followed a few guys into the finish. Out of the water in 1:00:41 and completely THRILLED with my time and most importantly the effort, it felt easy!
The Bike (5:50:36)
My goal going into the bike was 5:35-5:45. However, I was committed to using Power and Heart Rate to pace the day, not time. After a smooth T1 (wow, the volunteers were amazing!), I was on the bike and feeling good.
The first loop flew by! The temperature felt good, I was able to see my family a few times which was incredible, and I stuck to the plan of 120 calories every 20 minutes (Carbo Pro + HEED) and drinking as much water as I felt I needed. I came through loop 1 in 2:52, on track for a 5:45 bike which I was happy with. Going into the 2nd loop I felt fresh, but the temperature was definitely kicking up.
I was still drinking plenty of water, and peed 5 times on the bike which was great. However, around mile 85 my stomach wasn’t too pumped on taking in any more of my warm calorie mix and from that point on, it was mostly just water that I was able to take in. I’m going to write a follow-up of the learnings from this race, and electrolytes were a big one.
I came off the bike in 5:50, with my 2nd loop being about 8 minutes slower than the 1st. However, my legs felt good despite not taking in many calories over the last 50 minutes and I was excited to run.
The Run (4:34:20)
My initial time goal of 3:25 went out the window when I knew that the marathon would be happening in 105+ degree conditions. My goal going into the marathon was to keep my HR in mid Z2 which is 150 bpm or less, to walk aid stations making sure I took in plenty of fluid, and to try and enjoy it.
After a smooth T2 with the volunteers doing an amazing job of helping me cool down – I was off on the run in my Hoka Cliftons. The first mile was controlled at 7:30 pace but I knew I needed to slow down. The next 12 miles were in the 8:30-8:50 range and I came through 13.1 in 1:52. As good as my mind was feeling, I still wasn’t able to stomach many calories and knew that I was on the verge of a total bonk.
Entering the 2nd loop of the run, I was watching fellow competitors drop out of the race and medical pulling people from the race because of the effect the heat was having on them. I was so committed to finishing, that I knew a run/walk was going to be the only way I could get to the finish. The last 10 miles were slow, I couldn’t get my heart rate over 130 and my fastest mile was a 9:08 and my slowest was 15:02. It was painful, mentally and physically, but I was battling along with hundreds of others and knew that I was going to get the job done.
When I made the turn onto Sherman Avenue, I was instantly overtaken with emotion. I looked behind me and there was no one there, so I knew I was going to be able to enjoy the finishing stretch of the race. I was waving my arms up and down getting the crowd to cheer louder, and looking for my family the entire time. As soon as I hit the Ironman red carpet I saw my family and BOOM, the emotion kicked into full effect. Seeing my wife and the rest of my family was such an incredible way to finish the day and as I ran by them Mike Reilly said the famous words: “Michael Wolber…you are an Ironman!”
11:34 isn’t the time I’d dreamt of, but the feeling of accomplishment that I have is indescribable. Ironman is an epic day, and one of the big things that I learned is that it’s all about how you respond to what the day brings. I learned a lot, and will save that for my next post, but I’m already talking about what’s next. I love this stuff!
Finally, but most importantly, to the love of my life, April…thank you. The journey to get to the start line was something that we did hand in hand, and without your support and sacrifice there is no way that I would have been able to do it. I love you, and I’m so thankful that you are the leader of my support crew!