Sunday, August 8, 2010

Coeur D' Alene Triathlon Race Report

The CDA Scenic Challenge is one of the biggest Olympic distance triathlons in the Northwest, and gets a pretty good crowd of competitive athletes - so whenever I show up I know that it's going to be a "world o' pain" for a couple hours.

The 2010 event promised to be no different. But in the days leading up to the race, I was a bit nervous that my legs were not recovering from the Troika Half Ironman six days earlier. So I began using cold water treatments, compression tights and doubled up on Recoverease ( to speed up healing. When I crawled out of bed at 4:30am Saturday morning to leave for the race, I still had no clue if my legs were going to be able to race, and gave some serious thought to sleeping in and having banana waffles instead of racing.

But my pride won out over the banana waffles.

Halfway down the highway to Coeur D' Alene, while munching on a honey-soaked baked potato from our garden, I realized that I left my bike shoes at home. After scrambling back home to get my shoes, I broke several Washington and Idaho state traffic laws to arrive at the city park with enough time to set-up transition. Heck, I figured at that time in the morning the 25mph school zones aren't too busy anyways.

I used all the same gear and nutrition for this race as my Half Ironman events like Troika (see last week's post), with the exception that as is my practice for Olympic distance racing, I simply take in 300 calories of GU Electrolyte Brew mixed in 16 ounces of water for the first half of the bike - and really don't touch anything else in the way of calories or hydration the rest of the race (other than water to dump on my head).

Also, I was trying out the Millennium Sports Carnage for this race, which is an alanine based supplement. Loading with alanine can help to buffer lactic acid and improve blood flow to muscle, so I took 1000 mg a day for the week leading up to the race. Within 15 minutes after taking it (with a carb source), you get a strange prickly sensation all over body...

So that's how I started the swim. Feeling like a porcupine was inside my wetsuit.

I knew that pro triathlete Kalen Darling was racing, and he can swim the parallelogram shaped 1500K in 17 minutes and change, so I knew that I'd be completely punished if I even *tried* to hop on his feet. I figured I'd be in good shape race-wise if I could come out of the water in the first pack behind Kalen.

It turns out the swim was a bit long, as Kalen came out in 17:59, and I came out with the first pack of swimmers a little over 22 minutes. My usual swim time is closer to 20 minutes for Olympic, and the general consensus among those who raced is that the swim was a bit long. Regardless, I knew I had some work to do on the bike.

The "Scenic Challenge" bike course is a twisted combination of steep hills back behind Coeur D' Alene, along with some flat to rolling sections of the Ironman Coeur D' Alene course. As a "semi-truck" style cyclist (i.e. I point my bike in one direction and mash hard), the hilly courses aren't especially my strength, so I rode conservatively for the first little bit of the bike to keep my legs fresh for the hills.

Bryan Hadley, who beat me in last week's Troika Half Ironman, passed me on the hills, and another strong local triathlete, Derek Garcia, was coming up fast behind me. I tried to keep Bryan in sight, while also knowing Kalen Darling was still a couple minutes ahead and another pro triathlete and very fast runner, Matt Shryock, was somewhere behind me as well. After throwing in a two-wave start, a mix of duathletes and team racers on the course, it starts to becoming confusing to know your overall placing, so sometimes you just have to put your head down, race, and see what the results look like when the smoke clears.

Bryan rolled into transition 15 seconds ahead of me. I barreled through, racked my bike, and sprinted out of transition ahead of him (T2=39 seconds).

Bryan caught back up to me at the 1 mile mark and we ran side by side to the 3 mile mark, where Matt Shryock sprinted by at his 35 minute 10K pace. Bryan and I were both feeling our stiff and sluggish Half Ironman legs not wanting to stride-out - my legs felt like foreign objects moving underneath my body by that point. Kalen was still a couple minutes ahead and after Matt passed, I knew I'd have to hurt bad to not just have a chance at the podium but also to not get caught by the rest of the strong runners behind Bryan and I.

So as we reached the turnaround mark, I began to stride out. I figured I'd either blow up and have to walk, or else make it to the finish line and get to crumble there. Turns out sometimes the other guy is hurting just as bad as you, and Bryan didn't go with me.

The rest of the run went by quickly. I glanced back every quarter mile to see Derek Garcia hot on my heels, and constantly reminded myself:

"You Pass Out Before You Die"....

I swallowed a bit of puke in my throat at the 5 mile mark and put my head down. My apologies to all the people headed out for their run who said hi or tried to high-five. I wasn't in a chatty mood - just survival mode.

I crossed the finish line 3rd overall and 1st in my division. There was no way I could have caught Matt or Kalen 35 and 36 minute runs, so I was happy with my performance, especially as the first "age-grouper" triathlete.

I'll take today to recover from the race and the post-race partying, and then officially begin my Ironman Hawaii World Championships training tomorrow. The goal is to get 4 high quality training weekends in between now and the October race in Hawaii, which means four 4K open water swims, four 100 mile race-pace rides and a run build-up of 15, 17, 19 and 21 miles. Pepper in a few races for speed-work and I'll be ready to rock on the Big Island!

Over and out.


Spokane Al said...

You are one amazing fellow Ben. Congratulations!

Michael W. Bergquist said...

like a porcupine was in your wetsuit ...

you pass out before you die ...

Good stuff. Nice work for a long courser on an Olympic with stiff competition.

Steve said...

Nice work out there especially less than a week after a half. Good luck on the training leading up to Hawaii!

Bucer's Coffeehouse Pub said...

Great race, Ben! Weather was perfect, spectators were many, and how can anyone beat the CdA scene for a race? You did really well here, gotta be one of your best times? I'll be there cheering you on in Kona!

jessithompson said...

great race report, Benny. Fun to celebrate with y'all afterward. You da man!

Todd said...

Wow, as usual Ben, great race report.

You mentioned Millenium Sports Carnage, 1000mg/day leading up to the race. Is that 3 capsules per day, or 6 (which is the recommended dosage on the label)?

Ben Greenfield said...

Six capsules, Todd.