Saturday, July 4, 2015

Ironman Coeur 'd Alene: Why Everyone Should Ride a Felt

Ironman Coeur 'd Alene was my 14th full Ironman. I crossed the line in 9 hours and 58 minutes after partaking in one of the toughest Ironman battles of my career. The course topography, the Fahrenheit and fierce competition all stepped up to deliver a worthy engagement.

9 hours and 58 minutes is 35,880 seconds. The peculiar thing about this race is the second that stands out most in my mind is the one right before the starter fired the gun. That fraction of time between the command 'Get Set' and the start. Index finger flexed on the trigger.  I remember feeling immensely happy and excited. I was ready for the pain of racing and more than ever I was hoping for a battle.

Well, Amber got what she wanted. (Laying on the suspense pretty thick here...)

But first up on deck is a BIG THANK YOU to my wonderful Homestay: The Pinkertons. They welcomed me like family, fed me, laughed with me and cheered me on during the race. I miss them like family and I will be back to CDA next year for sure. Thank you Pinkerton's!!! I can't tell you how much you eased my nerves and made me feel at home.  Also, big shout out and fist pump to my new friend Matt Lieto.

I just got a Rubix Cube Tattoo in your honor #IsThatCreepy?
The average temperature in Coeur 'd Alene is 78 this time of year. When I saw the 10-day forecast calling for 108 on race day I laughed out loud and thought for sure that would change. It didn't. I'm pretty sure I suffered some form of heat exhaustion just walking the 5 minutes to the PRO meeting.

Race day tactics were going to have to change.  The night before the race I had a little chat with the coach and it went like this:

Me: Kurt, I promise I will ride smart and won't take any stupid chances. I will ride steady and conservatively.

Kurt: That's nice to hear you say out loud Amber but you're a honey badger. Just don't do anything TOO stupid.

Me: Doh!

Race morning I woke at 3am, ate breakfast and applied sunscreen like it was going out of style.  Before I knew it I was on the start line at 5:30am with the rest of the pro girls.

Finger flexed on the trigger. Time stands still. I wonder what adventures this race will bring? (More suspense...oooooohhh)

Swim portion brought to you by ZONE3 :  The moral of the swim story is Amber needs to learn to GET. OFF. THE. LINE.  When I say if feels like 'time stands still' right before the starter fires the gun maybe it is because Amber is still standing STILL after the gun is fired. Doh! The PRO girls have taken off, better go chase!  The good news is I only lost 2.5 minutes to super swimmer Dede Griesbaur and I didn't overheat. Which will be the ONLY time I don't overheat all day.

Bike portion brought to you by FELT and MC CYCLE and SPORT:  I sprint through transition, grab my 8 bottles of Infinit and I am off and riding in 6th place.  I am feeling strong and at the first turn around I get a time split on 3rd place. 4 minutes up the road. Only 4 minutes!  Someone woke the honey badger and I spent about 30 minutes overriding trying to close the gap.

And then I smarten up. It's only 8am at this point and the temperature is on the rise. I think for the first time in my pro career I decided to ride steady and I had moved myself into 4th place and was feeling strong. For 3 hours I road solo in 4th and was being very conservative (ie: Boring). This means no standing on the hills, watching the Watts like a hawk and reminding myself that it is now 100 degrees and the race is not even half over.

At around the 3 hour mark 4 age group guys passed me coming down a hill and into another sharp incline. 99.99% of the time I would have dropped out of their draft zone and then sprinted and re-passed the guys to get out of a potential sticky situation. (The age groupers have different draft rules than the PROs so it can be very tricky riding near them.)  But I was being a smart athlete and trying at all costs not to spike the heart rate. So on this particular day when the guys passed me, I sat up, starting drinking and chilled out.  And then I got a penalty. My first penalty EVER. And the referee explains that because I didn't drop out of the draft zone fast enough I deserve a penalty. The kicker was we were on a STEEP HILL. I like to keep this piece of Internet space family-friendly but that was a BULL SHIT call.

And then I get a flat tire.  Double whammy!  I jump off my bike and as I do 2 guys pass and scream: 'GO FELT!' And one throws me a Fix-a-Flat. Talk about an act of kindness. The flat tire is fixed in no time and I hop back on and ride like my butt is on fire to the penalty tent.

And then I sit and wait. I watch 4 pro girls pass me. Now I am in 8th.

5 minutes. The longest 300 seconds of my life. But what was so cool was the athletes riding by screaming: "GO FELT!" and "You'll catch them back FELT!"  IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Enter stage left: Dumb Amber. No more riding like a smart girl. The honey badger was out in FULL FORCE. I was so irritated that I spent 3 hours riding conservatively and got a penalty that I road with the intention of catching everyone back. And I did. I was figuratively (and now that it was 108F) literally on fire. Soooo hot.

So there you have it. Ride a FELT because the acts of kindness you will encounter are endless. Riding a FELT also awakens your inner honey badger and that is never a bad thing.

Run portion brought to you by VELOCIO:  I immediately started running and shoving ice down the bra and shorts and chugging the Infinit. My race kit was designed by Brad Sheehan who has an amazing creative gift and is a talented cyclist. He is passionate about the sport and it shines through in his company. I loved the cheers I got from spectators shouting: Go Velocio!! The brand is picking up steam and for good reason. It is hands down the most comfortable and cooling fabric I have ever raced in.

But it's not ALL about fashion. While my kit looked cool, I assumed the role of the fiery Tasmanian devil at all the aid stations. Ice in the bra, ice down the shorts, water on the head, Infinit in the mouth.  I ran in 3rd for about 13 miles and then the speedy Kim Schwabenbaur  passed me. I couldn't respond. I gritted my teeth for 13 miles to hold 4th position and then as the finish line drew near I heard a roar from the crowds. I took a look behind and there was 5th place about 25 yards back. GULP!  I sprinted the 300 yard straightaway to the finish line to just clinch 4th place.  A sprint finish after 140 miles of race. What a way to end the day!

Next Up: Iceland Ultra Marathon and then Ironman Mont Tremblant!