Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Lisa Reports

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Training for IMCdA was mostly top secret. We very spontaneously signed up one day at the shop with no idea of how we were going to make it happen. Looking at the calendar I was in Ohio the week before doing the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure and Chris was in Colorado for PRSFit Tri Camp. Without worry we shrugged it off and thought, let's do this...

Why the secrecy? Chris has previously gotten sick before an Ironman and we think the stress and pressure of it all really didn't help so we decided no pressure, no questions, no worries. We just did what we love: we swam, we biked, we ran. We had fun training and enjoyed the workouts.

So while Chris road tripped to Colorado I made my way up to Ohio. After a week of cycling through Amish country with my mom, I returned to MS with a friend from high school and her family to chill at my house and keep Jake. After a 14 hour drive, I reset, kissed my baby goodbye, and drove to New Orleans for a flight to Denver. I arrived super early on a Monday just in time for a hike up the Rocky Mountains. Welcome to Colorado!! We hung out with Coach Jeff for a couple of days and spontaneously decided to drive over to Utah to visit our friend Joe and a Mormon tour. After an evening and overnight there, we shot up to Coeur d'Alene for Ironman.

Winding up and up and up to Coeur d'Alene was fun and intimidating and crazy. We just kept climbing! This was a sure sign of what I had gotten myself into. More mountains! Why do I insist on picking the hardest Ironman courses on the circuit!? It was cold too. Oh no! I hate cold!! No pressure Lisa, just get it done! We checked into our hotel, we unloaded all our gear, we picked up our packets, we shopped the expo, and we took in all the excitement and nervousness of pre-race Ironman Village. From there, the rest of race prep went smooth: bikes in transition, gear bags placed, food, hydration, rest.

Race morning went as planned. All set alarm clocks went off as scheduled. I got up and began my rituals...oatmeal (which I always have to choke down), bagel with peanut butter, shower, braids... It was fun watching Chris make her own new rituals. I knew she was going over and over checklists in her brain. We were running a little bit late but I planned for everything to happen a little early so we ended up being right on time. We checked in for body marking, dropped off special needs bags, and final bike prep (open nutrition, fill water, check tires) CHECK! We had enough time leftover to use the jon again, get suited up, and pump each other up.

Making our way to the swim start I felt as if we were clutching onto each other. Arriving to the swim start I realized we WERE clutching each other. We kind of had this tears in our eyes hugging moment that was reassurance that everything was going to be okay. Ya know, no matter how many times I do this, I have the same fear, the same anxiety, the same mental doubt, and the same OH SHIT THIS IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN... But from that moment, I was calm.

The swim start went in waves (self seeded). I knew it'd take me between 1:30 and 1:40 so I went in with the 1:15-1:40 crowd. Arm in arm, Chris and I entered the water together. This was probably the least brutal Ironman swim I've ever had. There were a lot of bodies and arms and feet kicking, but I seemed to have a firm hold of my water. We swam next to each other for a few hundred yards. I was excited thinking, we could really do this whole race together!! Until a huge flailing man swam between us and separated us. Too many swimmers to search out one so I just kept swimming hoping she was as relaxed as I was.

Okay, so serious swim details: the distance of an Ironman swim is 2.4 miles (two 1.2 mile loops for this one). Coeur d'Alene Lake. Very clean. Critter free. If it's windy (which it WAS), very choppy. Add 2,500 athletes, it was a washing machine! Come up for air and you're slapped in the face with the lake. It's also very cold. I think temp was 62*. I wear a sleeveless wetsuit so I bought wetsuit sleeves after experiencing such a cold swim in South Africa. The bad part was, I hadn't practiced with them! The good part was, I barely even noticed them and swam just fine with them. Fantastic support in the water; more kayaks and paddle boards than any race I've seen plus they had floating rest areas if anyone needed to rest. The swim is scary, I like that Ironman is taking the struggle more seriously. They have changed the mass start to wave starts, increased water support, and added the "lily pads" to the course. Well done Ironman.

Highlights from my swim: the lake is crystal clear; I could see straight to the bottom (until it gets too deep) and there was literally nothing in that lake! No fishes, no sunken treasure, no vegetation, nothing! I was surprised but very comfortable not worrying about sharks or gators. I took a few hits and kicks here and there but mostly had a drama free swim. I've never got out of a swim to go back in for a 2nd loop, but I LIKED it! It's always so intimidating eyeballing the buoys for a 2.4 mile swim. It's FAR! The 1.2 was nothing. The 2nd loop seemed easier than the first (besides the chop multiplied). Rounding home base, my left calf cramped up like I've never felt. I had to flip on my back and grab it. WTF!? It loosened quickly thank goodness but the tightness remained through the bike and then returned for the run. I think it might have just been a charlie horse, but holy moly it HURT! Overall, I didn't have as much anxiety for this swim as I have for previous Ironman. I knew I had to just get it done. I stayed strong and steady. I wore the wetsuit sleeves despite my reluctance and it turned out okay. I think I kicked someone in the face really hard; felt horrible! I climbed out of the swim at 1 hour, 33 minutes. Perfect!

Transition 1: 6 minutes 34 seconds. It was cold. My hands were so frozen I was struggling to get anything done. Luckily a volunteer noticed and rushed over to help me. I hurried to my bike and got out of there!

Bike: 112 miles (two 56 mile loops). They aren't joking, it's hilly. You WILL climb. Over 5,000 feet to be exact. And 4,000 of it I swear is on a 15 mile stretch of UP. Sick headwind going out; amazing tailwind coming back. I read that this is common every year. There seemed to be a water stop right when I needed it. There was potential for some horribly placed stops (think top or bottom of a hill), but nope, they did them right! I wasn't even mad about the hills. I absolutely knew we'd be climbing and I just wasn't concerned about it. What I didn't expect was the headwind. Man, it was windy! I was mad at first but felt like it was draining my energy, so I embraced it and looked forward to the BAD ASS tailwind I could expect at the turn around. The bike was fun. I talked to a ton of people and played leap frog with many of the same folks. Major highlight: I'm pretty sure I mistakenly put Advil PM in my bottle and proceeded to take 3 of them. Of course, I didn't know they were PM until I started to feel extremely woozy, sleepy, tired. I actually fell asleep on the bike. I started to bike into a guy while passing him and bumping his shoulder is what actually woke me up. I'm sure I scared the shit out of him. I was like, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry, I think I fell asleep!" He kind of laughed at me. That startled me enough to get my blood flowing again but I couldn't shake the sleepiness for a long time. I'm pretty sure I was in and out of sleep the whole way back. Regardless, my nutrition and hydration was on point (ate about 75 calories every 25 minutes). That's what works for me so that's what I keep on doing. Although destined for around a 6 hour and 30 minute bike, I came in at 7 hours and 13 minutes. The wind and hills were no joke. I felt strong though. I'm satisfied.

Transition 2: 2 minutes 46 seconds. A complete blur!

But getting going on the run felt GREAT! I was so happy to be off the bike. Tons and tons and tons of people everywhere. It's amazing how it makes you feel like they're all there for YOU.

Ironman Run: 26.2 miles (two 13.1 mile loops). The run course was rolling with 2-3 longer climbs. Hillier than I imagined it'd be. The rest stops were ROCKING! Okay, the whole run course was ROCKING! Downtown, the streets were lined with spectators. Through neighborhoods, people had music, parties, and all sorts of excitement for us. PLUS, the rest stops were FABULOUS! Each were fully loaded with cold water, ice, Perform, bananas, Vaseline, cookies, oranges, and super sweet great volunteers. It was still pretty windy and the weather couldn't decide what it wanted to do. First it was cold, then warmed up, then rained, then got cold again. Confusing! But like I said, I felt strong. I took on run/walk intervals immediately. I seem to last a lot longer and stay stronger when I do the run/walk thing. My walks were 1 minute at first but I felt so strong I cut them back to 30 seconds. It didn't take me as long as usual to find my legs. I was chugging right along headed to catch up with Christina who was only maybe 10 minutes in front of me. ~We had previously decided that she would finish the swim ahead of me, we'd probably be equal on the bike, and I'd hopefully catch her on the run and we'd enjoy the rest of the race together. That's almost exactly what happened. She finished the swim about 11 minutes ahead of me. I bridged the gap on the bike but remained just far enough back not to grab her by the end. And then with a strong start on the run, I hadn't quite caught her yet.

I was actually on par for a 4:30 marathon when I caught site of her walking sideways up ahead. OH NO! She did not look good! She was super sleepy, wanted to stop and take a nap, and just wasn't real stable. She was going to call me from a pine cone. Umm, what!? So yeah, 4:30 marathon or not, there was no way I was leaving her like this! We walked and talked and ran a little. I think I kind of pulled her back into reality and got her back on track to finish. Only 10 miles to go! We stayed together for the next 4 walking/jogging/laughing/talking about the race. It was awesome. But it also hurt. My left knee started aching fierce, my back started spasming, and the body didn't feel right. It hurt more walking than running. Chris insisted that I go on. I was reluctant because I didn't want her to get hurt, but felt like she was 20 times better now than when I first caught her. I promised her I'd be at the finish line and I pushed on for the last 10k. My body was pretty ache now but my run was still okay so I just went back to my run/walk intervals. Very solid run and I got to share part of the race with my best friend. Run time: 5 hours 20 minutes.

The finish line stretch was just as glorious as it is every single time. I felt like a super star rock star coming down that stretch. There were HUNDREDS of people and bells and screaming and music and excitement. It was EXHILARATING! I pulled my visor off and put it on backwards/sideways, the crowd went WILD! I threw my hands up and turned my "gangsta" on, the crowd went more WILD!

It never gets old, "Lisa McCombs, you are an Ironman!!" DAMN RIGHT I AM.

Catchers at the finish line rush to my side. I'm good, I'm good, I'm GREAT! All I want to do is be right where I am for Christina to finish. Normally rushing you out of the chute towards recovery,  I begged to stay so I could be right here for her finish. They let me. We see her coming down the chute, I grab the next catcher and warn her that I fear she's gonna drop. We both grab her together. I gave her a huge hug and got to put her Ironman medal around her neck. She was so dazed and red eyed. I giggle because I know that feeling over and over. Sheer pride and this sense of accomplishment like no other. I was (AM) so proud of her. I think her finish felt greater than my own. Quite wobbly, we lock arms and head to medical. Finishers gear, water, pictures, it all happens so fast. It's all confusing and bright and loud and crazy. And I'm trying to keep it together and keep Chris together and...Wow, just so much! So overwhelming. It's glorious!

It's not until I sit down in the medical tent that my body was like HI, you did an Ironman. I felt super dizzy and fatigued. But still okay and very happy. Final time was 14 hours and 18 minutes.

Every time I finish an Ironman I can't believe I finished another Ironman. I don't know why I think they are going to get easier. Every race is so different and really ANYTHING can happen! More than physical endurance, what pushes me is the gratification of knowing that I can push myself mentally and emotionally (and physically) over and over. Every finish leaves me a different person; it makes me think about things differently. It makes me stronger and even more driven to encompass and share my healthy lifestyle. I want to take you each by your hand and convince you, SHOW you what you are capable of. I want to inspire you to be more, do more, try harder, don't quit, don't give up, seek adventure, get out of your comfort zone, LIVE your life!!, actively take part in becoming that better version of yourself!!

This Ironman was very special in a different way though too. I got to be a part of my friends experience and revel in her accomplishment. We ventured on a GREAT journey to get to Coeur d'Alene. Our trip demonstrated moments of courage, commitment, strength, loyalty, honesty, acceptance (of self and each other), friendship, sisterhood, teamwork, trust, letting go, and holding on. We learned more about ourselves and more about each other. The 50+, I don't even know, hour drive home was BRUTAL and really tested our patience. But we made it. I'm stiff, my muscles ache, I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I have tons of...everything! to catch up on but I couldn't be more satisfied with our epic adventure.

A Best Friend Knows All About Your Crazy and Loves You Anyway.

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