Ironman 70.3 Coeur d'Alene 2017
After a year of major transition for my wife and I, I finally had the chance to do another race! I selected Ironman 70.3 Coeur d'Alene because it's relatively close to where we live and has a fantastic course with some great scenery.
My previous 70.3 was St. George in 2015 where I had a good swim with a time of 39:22, but pushed too hard on the bike with a time of 2:53 and paid for it on the run with a sub-par time of 2:02. My goal this time around was to pace myself perfectly on the bike to set me up for a great run. Fortunately, I now would be racing with a power meter, thus eliminating all the guesswork that comes with pacing off of heart rate and speed.
We both decided to get off work a bit early on Friday to get to Coeur d'Alene that night so we'd have plenty of time on Saturday for all the obligatory pre-race stuff (and maybe some relaxation time!). So on Saturday morning I got checked in and I did a short swim followed by a ~10 minute run. I felt good, and everything seemed to be looking good for the race tomorrow. The weather, and the lake temperature were both cooperating for the big day.
Race morning began like any other... at the crack of dawn. I ate my oatmeal, then began applying sunscreen and getting my morning clothes on. My wife dropped me off at about 5am and then went back to the hotel to go back to sleep (lucky her!). I put the finishing touches on my transition area and then got my wetsuit on and headed for the water. They announced that the water temperature was currently 64.4 degrees. Excellent! With the cold winter we had in the Northwest, I would have been happy with anything above 59. 64 was great! I warmed up in the designated area and then got in line for the start.
The swim was pretty uneventful. When I started out I was swimming very smoothly and bilateral breathing, but soon after I felt like I couldn't get enough air and started breathing on one side each stroke. This always seems to happen in open water for me. Not sure why, probably 90% psychological though. Oh well, something to work on for next year. It's certainly not a bad time anyway. T1 was the usual chaotic mess and I got through in about 3:30 or so.
Going out on the bike I felt good. My goal was to stay at 80% FTP to set myself up for a good run. The first out an back section went by fast and I passed dozens of other riders. I started taking nutrition about 10 minutes in and planned to eat every 20 minutes. I let my power rise by about 10-15% on the big hill, but still kept my heart rate in check and passed even more. The main section of the course is a series of rollers, and I just focused on power and nutrition. At about 2 hours in, I noticed that my nutrition and fluids seemed to be sitting in my stomach. I didn't have any abdominal distress, it was just kind of sitting there. I sipped on some more water to help it to digest. Nevertheless, I felt great energy-wise and coming into T2 I knew my pacing was good.
The second I got out of T2 I knew something was wrong. My stomach instantly started hurting. I got about 200 meters into the run when I stopped and threw up. I knew at this point I was not going to reach my goal of sub-1:40. I did't feel great, but kept running. I knew I'd just lost a bunch of water, so I grabbed a cup at the first aid station and sipped on it. Before too long my stomach started hurting and I had to stop and walk. Another mile in and I threw up even more. The rest of the run turned into a walk-fest, as I was barely able to run for more than a minute or two at a time. Throughout the entire run I was barely able to get down a few sips of coke and gatorade and maybe 6oz. of water. It was all I could do to run the last mile to the finish. The result was an abysmal (for me anyway) time of 2:34...talk about disappointing...
My wife plopped me in the car and we went to Subway so she could eat lunch. I got down a Sprite and some chips. Then I got settled into the car for the ride home. I soon fell asleep and sipped on water the rest of the way.
Naturally I had to find out what happened to me during the bike. I began doing some research to try to find the cause. What I discovered is that I was trying to take in too many calories. I learned that it's almost impossible for anyone to take in more than 360 calories per hour. I was taking 400. My stomach simply couldn't digest that amount of nutrition and the result was a stomach full of fuel and water. On the bike it could just sit there, but as soon as I started running, it began jostling and my stomach could no longer contain it.
My energy levels were good throughout the race (even the run), and considering the amount of calories I actually absorbed, I think I could reduce my bike calories to as low as 200/hr. It's something I'll need to play around with for next year. In the end I walked away with a medal and a valuable lesson.