Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Race Report

Wow. I mean really, just wow. What an AMAZING day and experience that was. Simply incredible.

2.4 mile swim. 112 mile bike. 26.2 mile run.

Holy. Shit.

I DID IT! I DID IT! I DID IT!!!

And I could not have done it with out the support, training, love and inspiration from my family, teammates, sherpas, cheerleaders and coaches who were out in FULL force physically at the race and virtually all over the US. Seriously, you guys are amazing!! I cannot begin to describe the amount of sheer will and energy you all provided during this race for me. It was the epitome of Team Effort. Although triathlon is an individual sport, I craved a team atmosphere..and you guys delivered. Hands down. I Love you guys!!!

And here's how it all went down.....

The Swim:

As you well know, my biggest concern about this race was the swim. Cold water and I, historically, have not done well. Throw in another 2,000+ people starting at the same time and I've got legitimate concerns on my hands (and feet). Fortunately, I've been training for cold water since February and the temperature gods smiled upon us this day and warmed the waters to a respectable 65 degrees (compared to last year's 59. oye). Additionally, I was able to practice on the swim course twice before race day. Very key. My plan was this... start on the far right hand edge and when the cannon goes off, do nothing. That's right. nothing. Just wait. Wait until the bulk of the people take off.


There was a group of similarly paced T3ers who were going to start together and although this would be an awesome place to start, swim with and draft off of, I knew it wasn't the right strategy for me. Trying to keep pace with someone else takes me out of my game...and for this swim, I needed my A game..nothing less would pull me through.


So as we entered the beach, I waved goodbye to my teammates and sauntered off to the right...alone. Ironic given that I love being with my team..but this part, I knew I must do alone. Since it takes me about 2 minutes to go through my cold water routine, I figured I'd just get in the water before the race starts and get the process going. This turned out to be a GREAT plan! Then about 45 seconds before the start, I got back out of the water and wiggled my way to the middle/back of the pack.


The gun went off. I started my watch. The first several rows of people went running/diving/careening into the water. I waited. It only took about 10 seconds for them to be off the beach. I waded back into the water, finished my cold water routine and was ready to swim. Looked at my watch, only 30 seconds had passed. Cool!! I wasn't giving them that big of a head start. YAY! And off I went.


And guess what? It wasn't bad at all!!! Well, it was really wavy and choppy, but the nice thing about waves is that they are rhythmic. And I'm all about the rhythm. I just settled into a very calm stroke, timing my breathing with the waves so I wasn't trying to take in air when I went crashing through a wave. It worked wonderfully!! I stayed on the far outside edge -- mentally thinking I had an escape route if it started getting crowded--and just swam. Before I knew it, I was rounding the first turn and thinking...hey...I just might survive this thing afterall!


Came through the first loop, hit the timing mat, checked my watch, 42 minutes. Slower than I usually swim, but hell, I'm alive, I haven't panicked, so I'll take it! Back into the water and ran into Val who gave me some great encouragement (as we stood there taking care of business..because dammit, I just can't pee while I swim!). Charged into the second loop with fervor and confidence and really went after my swim. I felt like I picked up the pace and even swam next to the buoys, battling it out with the rest of the folks. (It actually wasn't that bad at this point because it had thinned out alot). It was very empowering to be keeping up (and passing guys in their red caps)! I was totally hearing the Ironman song the play on the videos and thinking, "Hey...look at me! I'm swimming like an Ironman! WOO HOO!"


Came out of the water from the second loop, looked at my watch 1:29. Huh? How was that slower than the first time? I was swimming so much faster...I thought. Then my mind cleared and I said, "Who the hell cares?" (Ok..it was probably an F-bomb.) "I'm out of the freakin' water!!! This race is as good as DONE!" Even though I had a very, very long day ahead of me, I had NO doubts whatsoever at that point that I was going to finish this race and become and Ironman. I seriously couldn't have been more confident then I was at that moment....and that set the stage for a wonderful and fantastic day. I smiled and waved to all the folks yelling my name as I headed towards transition. I couldn't really see individual faces, but I could her voices and everyone cheering and yelling. Yay, yay, YAY!!!!!


Hiccup #1: Although I felt on top of the world, apparently I didn't look it. After getting my wetsuit stripped off me, I was summarily directed to the Medical tent. I was like "what the hell is going on..". The nice volunteer medical person gently, but firmly ushered me towards the medical warming hut and calmly asked me for my number. "Uh, 2289?" I replied. "Do you want to go on?" she asked. "HUH?" I said. "Do you want to keep racing?"


I started thinking. Lord, what the hell? Am I cut? Am I bleeding? Am I missing an appendage? What? What? I do a quick glance over my body and see that in fact everything is as it should be. "Yes, YES! I want to keep going!!" I say. "Ok, then we'll get your swim to bike bag and you can get changed in here." she replies.


And then I looked over at the only other inhabitant of the hut. It was another woman. She must've weighed all of 80 pounds..soaking wet...if weighed while wearing her wetsuit. She was huddled next to the huge heater that was blasting hot air at such a rate that my hair was no longer wet and my eyes were beginning to itch because they were getting so dry. She was wrapped in mylar blankets and just sat there, with all her bags by her feet. She was pale. Her lips were blue. She looked defeated. She clearly, was NOT going on.


Wow. If she looks like that and she's here. What the hell do I look like that landed me here? Just then the friendly volunteer reappeared with my transition bag and I shimmied out of my (now dry) bathing suit and dressed in warm toasty-ness into my bike gear. She helped me get dressed and put my swim stuff back into my bag. She looked me over from head to toe and I kept thinking, this is the biggest test of my life right here. I've trained hard for 6 months in the pool, on the bike, and on the road..any of those tests I can pass. This one I didn't prepare for ...please lord, let me pass, LET ME PASS. Let. Me. Pass!


I then I heard four magical and glorious words, "OK, You can go." "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" I screamed. I think I hugged her. I may have even kissed her, I'm not sure..I busted out of there and headed off to grab my bike.


Phew!!! Transition 1 time: 13 minutes!!


The Bike:

As obvious from the pictures of me on the bike route (to be posted later), you will see me with a HUGE grin on my face. I was so ecstatic to have survived the swim and cleared medical, I couldn't stand it!!!


I proceeded to have the most wonderful ride ever! First of all, time on the computrainer paid MASSIVE dividends!!!! I was uber-prepared for each and every hill. Hands down. Coupled with the fact that in my mind, I'm a goat and I LOVE hills and I was just going at a nice steady (not racing by any stretch) pace....the course was fantastic. I had dressed warmly enough (full fingered gloves even) that the temps were perfect. And with all the out and backs, I got to see SO MANY of my teammates riding and cheering along the course. You seriously couldn't go more than 5 minutes without seeing somebody! It was AWESOME!


And although my bike computer stopped working after 35 minutes into the ride (I figured this was a sign to not worry about my speed), I used my wrist watch to keep on top of my nutrition which worked fabulously! There were times when I started to feel a little light headed, but I would simply get some more to eat and within moments I was back to being squared away. Also, since I've had such VAST experience with cramping, I became highly adept at noticing when the little tickles of impending cramps started appearing. Quickly taking some extra Thermolytes solved those issues and kept any and all cramps at bay.


I ended up playing leap frog with Val (who had done the computrainer 10 times!!) for most of the ride. Me passing her on the ups, she overtaking me on the downs and the flats. Classic and fun! Even got to see Erin a couple times when she went flying by me the other way! YAY E!!


Hiccup #2: So, at mile 40 I decide to take my first bathroom break. I was fortunate to find a potty stop where there was no one in line. SCORE!! I clip out with my right foot, come to a nice stop in front of a volunteer who is waiting to hold my bike while I potty. (Talk about service, right??) But I can't seem to get my left foot out. Hmmm. With some force, I manage to free it and go about my business. Upon my return, I can't, for the life of me, get my left cleat back on to the pedal. I check out my shoe to make sure I haven't picked up any rocks, dirt or debris in there, I check the pedal...everything looks good. I try again. And again. And again. No luck. Then I try harder. and harder. and HARDER. I'm literally jumping with all my force on my left side trying to get my cleat in. I'm pulling up on the handle bars so hard, that I'm afraid I'm going to break them! Shit, shit, SHIT!!!!


Ok, now what. I think to myself. Just get on and ride, you are wasting too much time here. Maybe you can work on it while your riding. So that's what I do. I clip in on the right and pedal away with my left shoe pedalling on top of the pedal, not clipped in. On every flat or descent I tried to wiggle, press, push, cajole my cleat onto the pedal. No dice.


Ok, now what. Let's just keep going until we can find a bike mechanic. Maybe it just needs a little lube. Ok, let's go with that plan. Pedal, pedal, pedal.


Finally, just after the special needs pick up (mile 60ish?), there was a mechanic stopped who was just finishing up changing a tire for another rider. I stopped and asked for some lube and told him the problem. He found some and squirted on my cleat and the pedal. I tried clipping in. No go. We tried together...him placing my foot exactly where is should go, me stomping on it as hard as I could. Still no dice. Dammit, dammit, dammit.


He flipped my foot over and examined my cleat and simply shook his head. "Wow, this cleat looks shot." "What?!!!" I never even thought to check my cleats before the race. Damn rookie. He tried bending it, scraping some dirt, but to no avail. I couldn't get clipped back in.

Ok, now what. "Well," I looked at the bike tech. "I've got one cleat that works. Guess that's gonna have to do it today." He said, "Yep." And off I went. With only my right foot clipped in. And damn if my left foot isn't the stronger one. Oh well, all this remaining work with just the right side might bring those into balance after today. Here we go.

And so I rode 72 miles with only one leg clipped in. It is the Ironman afterall. Aren't these type of things supposed to happen?

Hiccup #3: Also during the bike ride, I had an unexpected surprise. As I was entering town after the first loop, I'm just pedalling along, looking at all the folks, waving, smiling...when out of the midst of 1,000 screaming voices, I hear something that has a direct line to my soul. It has the ability to silence any and all other sounds instantaneously. It makes everything else fade hazily into the background as every fiber of my heart and my soul quiver and hone into the source of the sound. A simple sound. A simple word. But packing the power of a thousands suns:


"Mommy!!"


Time slows, I glance over to my right...and there, amongst the spectators, two beaming faces with expectant and excited eyes. Smiling, waving energetically with all the power their little 4 and 8 year old bodies can muster, my boys were there. In Coeur d'Alene. At the race. Cheering. For me! They were supposed to be at home. In Austin. But here they were!


Scott was standing with a huge grin on his face, hoisting Devon higher so he could see me better as I flew by on my bike. I could tell he was proud of me and proud of pulling off one of the most amazing and much appreciated stunts I've ever witnessed...spiriting my family to the race...without me every knowing they were coming! Shay was smiling brightly, snuggled in my Boston Marathon sweatshirt to boot!


I waved frantically, hysterical with surprise, excitement and joy back at them! "Hi, Hi, HI!" I'm sure I was riding quite erradictly at that point. Only one foot clipped in and only one hand on the bike..recipe for sure disaster, so I quickly put my hand back down on my bike and pedalled on!


Of course I automatically switched into "Mom" mode and started thinking "wait..who's taking care of the dogs? What are they wearing? It's going to get cold. And rain! Do they have ponchos? An umbrella? What are they going to do for the next several hours until I see them again? Did Scott pack enough snacks for them?" It went on and on for about what seemed like 5 minutes until I snapped back. "Chill, D. There's nothing you can do about any of that. Scott's got this under control. Clearly." And then I went back to thinking how awesomely cool it was and thankful I was that they were here and would get to be a part of this wonderful experience and how I wanted them to be proud and show my boys that: Yes. You CAN do anything you set your mind to doing. Any. Thing.


The Run

The run was quite uneventful, thankfully. It did get cold. And rainy. And windy. But I was well prepared...physically and mentally. While training for Boston this past winter, I ran with Team Rogue in conditions 10 times worse. And often. This weather was no big deal. I was dressed appropriately, complete with arm warmers and running gloves. I followed instructions and kept running through Mile 16. At that point, I knew I had this thing in the bag. I slowed down. Walked when I felt like it. Drank warm chicken broth at the aid stations. Made bathroom stops at will. Chatted with teammates (Elizabeth was awesome to run and walk with down by the lake!). Ran into old friends from college (Hello Matt!). Cheered on everyone I could see.


Several times, especially during the second loop, I started choking up. I couldn't believe it. I WAS going to finish this thing. I WAS going to become an Ironman. This Day. I was going to hear him call my name at the finish and I was going to love it!


I turned the final corner and glanced down the street. You could see the grandstands, the lights, the finishing chute. All there just waiting to embrace me. You could hear the cheers from the people and it gave me goosebumps. I picked up my pace and finally let go the tears that had been threatening to come..for 14 hours. I just let them go and went crying, running through the finishing chute, unable to focus through the tears but clearly making out the glorious sound of


"Dionn Schaffner! You. Are. An IRONMAN!"


The crowd erupts once more! I cross the line..hands held high in victory, astonishment, amazement, pride. Yes. Yes. YES! I did it! I really, really DID IT!


Then I exit stage left, crying into my hands like a little girl. But dammit, I didn't care. I'm an IRONMAN!


Swim: 1:29:41
Bike: 7:12:38
Run: 5:05:02

Final time: 14:07:38

As they say, an Ironman is not just about the race, it is about the journey. And what a journey it has been for me. All the friendships made, bonds created, lessons learned – sometimes the hard way, obstacles faced and fears overcome…this is all a part of me now. I am truly forever changed by this experience. Ironman is about perseverance, endurance – mental and physical, being inspired and inspiring others, challenging yourself to dream and dream big.

Have no doubt, I will be back to toe the line again. For this is a journey that I’m sure no many how many times I embark, will always deliver something different, something valuable, something wonderful.

There’s an Ironman in all of us. It may not be in the form of a triathlon, but it is out there, somewhere. Don’t be afraid to find yours. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Tomorrow

I can't believe in less than 12 hours, I will be on the culminating step of becoming an Ironman!

I've excited and nervous and excited and nervous!!!

Today was the last day of preparation and was quite a busy morning. It began with a final ride (to make sure the bike was working properly) down the GORGEOUS Centennial Trail with my partners in Crime, Erin, Ebot and Dbot. It is light quite early here, so we rode in the bright morning at 6am!


Next came the "Packing of the Bags". Seriously...this is an arduous task. 5 bags. Yes, that's right 5. And you know how much I LOVE packing. Ugh.


Then we headed down to the race site for my last pre-race swim. Needed one more dip in the lake to work through water issues. This time it took me MUCH LESS time to actually start swimming than before!! I just took my time, did my cold water ritual and was good to go. I bet it took less than a minute for me to stand there and collect myself. Guess what...I'll take it!!

And then the bots wanted to swim too

but I said, No -- because there wasn't a lifeguard on duty. And they aren't very strong swimmers...they kinda just sink...like blocks.

Then it was off to check in the bikes and bags. We are racked by number (By age group, by age, then alphabetically...). And it even has our name on the rack!! (May seem like a small detail, but I thought it was really cool!)


Then it was off to do our interviews for the team DVD that T3 is having made of our trip. I think it is going to turn out great!!! Well, at least the interviews will be good for a laugh or two.

And then it was time for lunch! Yes..all of that..before lunch! OYE!!

The rest of the day has been spent relaxing, chilling with friends and coaches, going on the rollercoaster of Ironman emotions, hydrating, stretching and trying to tame the butterflies in my tummy.

There is nothing left to do at this point except go out and enjoy the day tomorrow. The calls, emails, notes, flowers, gifts and well-wishes I've received have been heaven sent. Each of you has supported me in ways you many never fully know and I humbly say Thank you for letting me a part of your life as you are a part of mine. It is your kindness, thoughtfulness, understanding, instruction, compassion, empathy and love that have brought me to this point.

Tonight, I go to bed Dionn Michelle Schaffner. Tomorrow, I plan on going to bed: Dionn Michelle Schaffner, Ironman.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Tracking

Ok People…. I am here and ready or not, this race is going to happen on Sunday!!!! EEEEEEEEKKKKKKK!

The race starts Sunday morning (west coast time zone) at 7:00am for us non-professionals. So that’s 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running..on Sunday. Just. Sunday.

You can track me a couple ways:

1. http://ironman.com/ironmanlive - This (should) have the live video feed of the day, plus you can search for me to get my splits. I’m number 2289.

2. http://ironplan.net/events/ironman-couer-d-alene-2009/ - One of our teammates set this up and it will be tracking results for our entire team!

3. Twitter – Follow me on twitter, I’m dmschaffner . Twitter will be broadcasting my splits whenever they get recorded. So if you want them real-time pushed to your phone or something, here are the instructions to make that work:

WARNING: turn on the device updates on Friday/Saturday and turn them off on Monday morning. Else, you will receive all tweets from the athlete!

1. Sign up for twitter at: https://twitter.com/signup

2. Add your phone number to Twitter by following the instructions at: http://help.twitter.com/forums/10711/entries/14589 You will not receive texts from Twitter unless you elect to receive them for a particular user by turning Device Updates On (see Step 3-5)

3. Go to http://twitter.com/dmschaffner

4. Click on "Device Updates"

5. Click the "On" radio button

On Monday morning,

6. Go to http://twitter.com/dmschaffner

7. Click on "Device Updates"

8. Click the "Off" radio button

4. Facebook – Since my Twitter updates get pushed to Facebook automagically, you will see updates there too!

Some have asked how long I think it will take me, and honestly, I have no idea. Seriously. I would love to tell you to tune into a general range of time to watch the finishing chute, but I have no idea. But if you catch any of my splits, it should give you a better idea on Sunday!

And lastly, a big thank you to all of you for all of your support in so many ways…. I really could not even attempt this process without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Here we go!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: T- 1 Day

Today, I really only had one goal...... get in the water and swim. As you know, cold water and I do NOT get along well..especially in race conditions. Last year's water temps barely squeeked up to 59 degrees before the race start. Yes, that's what I said....Fifty-nine degrees.

HELLO!! I am not designed for that type of water activity. No way, no how. Yet somehow, I agreed to do this thing this year....but I knew that the cold water temps (coupled with 2,500 people starting swimming at the same time!) was going to be my biggest challenge of the race.

Throughout the 6 months of training, I've been tackling this challenge head on. I started swimming in the Quarry back in February when it was a blistering 60 degrees (has steadily been warming all spring) and then when the water got too warm (read greater than 68 degrees), I switched my long swims to Barton Springs, where the water is always 68.

I even braved a swim (albeit brief) at the endless river/low water crossing at Mansfied Dam!! Thank you very much. All preparing me for Sunday's swim in good ol' Lake Coeur d'Alene.

FORTUNATELY, there wasn't a crazy late snowfall this year like they had last year and the water temps have been reasonable (by here standards) and generally rising the closer we get to race day!

Today was to be the first moment of truth...we had a team swim schedule for 0730. Early recon had the water at 64. "64?" I thought. "I can do 64. Hell, I've done 60! I can do this, I CAN do this."

We donned our wetsuits and headed down the beach to the swim start.



I waded in an hung about where the water was waist deep, just letting my feet get acclimated and have some water seep in through the zipper to get the body adjusted as well. Part of my usual cold water routine.

The fast and veteran Ironmen of the group simply waded in and took off swimming! I was like, wow! impressive! Then there was another smaller group of a little more cautious folks getting ready to go in. This was to be my group. They look around at each other, discussed how much of the course to swim this morning...and then before I knew it, they were taking off!

Shit! Go, D, GO. I pushed off, submerged into the water, took one stroke and came up panicky!! Yikes...64 degrees or not, that's still cold!!! I could feel my heart rate spiking with fear..panic.

Calm down, D. But my group is swimming away!! I put my face in the water again, took another stroke..came up panicky again! SHIT!

Bang, bang, bang! My heart was thumping against the wetsuit that was trying to keep it warm. SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!!!

Ok, D. You can do this. Don't worry about them. Take your time. Go when you are ready. Just relax.

I treaded water for a brief moment. Took some calming breaths. Held my breath and submerged my face a little. See...not so bad. Just take your time. Do YOUR thing. This will be YOUR race...not theirs. DO. YOUR. THING.

So, I waited another moment. Did a breakstroke and got my whole face under. Came back up. Heart rate still a little high. Another stroke. Came back up. Heart rate was slowing. Ok. Good. Another...just like that. Did another breast stroke. Came back up. Heart rate back to normal. Ok. Good.

Now you're ready, D. Right. Ok. Let's swim.

And with that, I took off at a nice, easy pace...breathing every two strokes to make sure I was exchanging plenty of oxygen and remaining calm. The water was a little choppy, but I soon settled into a gentle rhythm and timed my strokes with the ebb and flow of the water.

HEY! I'm swimming! What do you know!!! A HUGE wave of relief went through me and I just started focusing on swimming. Touch, Pull, Roll. Touch, Pull, Roll. Grab some water, push it down the leg. Glide. Glide.

I only swam about a half a mile in total, but today wasn't about the distance. It was about getting in and swimming. And even though I had a little panic session, I was able to right the ship and get sailing. And for THAT I feel really pumped!!!

But a big lesson I reminded myself of is that, this is MY Ironman. Not someone else's. I need to stick to MY race plan, MY race strategy and MY race paces. I can't get caught up in what other people are doing. Even though I'm planning to start with a small group of similarly-paced swimmers....if they dive in and start going before I'm ready...I'm going to let them go. I know I'll miss out on the benefits of drafting, but speed is NOT in my swim plan. Calm, cool, collected, relaxed swimming is. And if that means I give everyone else a 2 (or more!) minute head start in the water...then so be it.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to have another practice swim. Many folks are opting out. I'm not. This is MY plan to prepare myself for MY race. I'm gonna do it MY way. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tracking Me at Ironman CdA

Ok People…. I am here and ready or not, this race is going to happen on Sunday!!!! EEEEEEEEKKKKKKK!

The race starts Sunday morning (west coast time zone) at 7:00am for us non-professionals. So that’s 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running..on Sunday. Just. Sunday.

You can track me a couple ways:

1. http://ironman.com/ironmanlive - This (should) have the live video feed of the day, plus you can search for me to get my splits. I’m number 2289.
2. http://ironplan.net/events/ironman-couer-d-alene-2009/ - One of our teammates set this up and it will be tracking results for our entire team!
3. Twitter – Follow me on twitter, I’m dmschaffner . Twitter will be broadcasting my splits whenever they get recorded. So if you want them real-time pushed to your phone or something, here are the instructions to make that work:

WARNING: turn on the device updates on Friday/Saturday and turn them off on
Monday morning. Else, you will receive all tweets from the athlete!
1. Sign up for twitter at: https://twitter.com/signup
2. Add your phone number to Twitter by following the instructions at: http://help.twitter.com/forums/10711/entries/14589 You
will not receive texts from Twitter unless you elect to receive them for a
particular user by turning Device Updates On (see Step 3-5)
3. Go to http://twitter.com/dmschaffner
4. Click on "Device Updates"
5. Click the "On" radio button

On
Monday morning,
6. Go to http://twitter.com/dmschaffner

7. Click on "Device Updates"
8. Click the "Off" radio button


4. Facebook – Since my Twitter updates get pushed to Facebook automagically, you will see updates there too!

Some have asked how long I think it will take me, and honestly, I have no idea. Seriously. I would love to tell you to tune into a general range of time to watch the finishing chute, but I have no idea. But if you catch any of my splits, it should give you a better idea on Sunday!

And lastly, a big thank you to all of you for all of your support in so many ways…. I really could not even attempt this process without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Here we go!

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: T-2 days


Holy smokes! What an amazing location for an amazing event! I can't believe it is finally here!!!
I've been training since January 7th and now it is finally..FINALLY (yet somehow quickly) here!

After a 2-hour nap, that was supposed to be last night's sleep (since it took me that long to finally finish packing....plus I had a special project I HAD to take care of before I left..), the first half of the day was spent traveling to Idaho. Nice and uneventful. Just like I like it.


Then headed out to Athlete's Village and did the formal check in thingy. And got THIS:


I'm so freaking excited!!!! :)

Tomorrow, we head out with the team for a morning swim in the lake. Water temps are supposed to be around 64 degrees. BBBRRRRR!!! But it could be a lot worse. Think warm thoughts for me!!!!!
GO T3 Blue!