Ironman Coeur d'Alene Bike: race report

On Friday afternoon, just like I scoped out the swim, Emily and I scoped out the bike course.  
We rode out of town and went up and down and up the first few big hills, then turned around and came down and up and down and up and back into town.  I was pretty happy when I (finally) looked at the map of the bike course Saturday night and realized that we had managed to ride the biggest hills on the day, and they weren't that bad at all.  I've spent all spring hunting down the biggest mountains I can find, and I think it prepared me well.  These hills were a little long but not steep at all.  The good kind of climbing where you can spin at a not-horrendous cadence and keep your heart rate low and it doesn't take an hour to get to the top (I'm looking at you, Skyline Drive).  Not only that, it was absolutely gorgeous riding.  Being on the side of a highway was a little nerve-racking during the descents, but I knew on race day we would have more than 6 inches of space between the rumble strip and the ditch so I wasn't worried.  
In all of my long rides this spring, I've had the best days when I keep my heart rate super ridiculously low the first hour.  Like under 125 low, like barely break a sweat low.  And it means that I spin pretty easily, but it has also meant that when I get off the bike six hours later, I'm happy as a clam.  I decided (with Sonja) that I would start my ride the same way, even if it meant I was giving away free time, because it was the execution I knew I could count on to feel like a million bucks off the bike.  

So I roll out of transition and through town and I am pumped up to the max.  In my head I start telling myself to settle down, but on the outside I am hollering and fist pumping and waving to little kids all through town.  Every time I went by a quiet group of spectators, I waved and waved until they started cheering.  I just felt so happy to be on the bike, my speedy sexy CD.01 that I love so much.  I thought my face was going to split right in half.
Once I got out of town and onto the short lake loop, I calmed it down, but I couldn't stop grinning like a fool.  I was almost coming back through town before I realized that I hadn't touched my nutrition, so I started working on my bottles and trying to rein in my happiness.  The bike is about brains, I told myself.  Brains.  You can be a whooping moron at mile 24 of the run, but it's time to think or you aren't going to make it there.
I had just turned back into town when I heard someone yell, "Go Katie!"  Whenever I hear that (even at track workouts), I just yell, "YEAH GO KATIE!" right back because I am part idiot, so I did, but I couldn't find whoever was yelling.  She yelled it again, and I went, hmm, that sounds like my mom's voice.  
My mom is a kick-ass photographer, you see, and she has a lot of serious heavy equipment so she looks pretty legit.  Somehow she managed to talk her way into riding the back of one of the media motos that was idling in town until the pros came back through.  
I'm sure the guy driving her around expected me to be floored, and I was for a second, but this is my mother we are talking about.  She raised ME.  So all I could do was laugh.  It was amazing. 

The second trip back through town was no less exciting than the first, but I was happy to turn onto the highway and start getting into the meat of the bike course.  I had only been glancing at my heart rate every once in a while, but every time I did (after the whooping and hollering), it was well under my easy warm-up ceiling.  My toes were frozen for about the first two hours of the bike but otherwise I was in great shape to really play on this course, and what a fantastic bike course it was.  
Around mile 20 I realized that I had to pee pretty badly.  I had peed several (6?) times before the race started.  Once on the beach waiting for the cannon, twice in the water while swimming and once in transition.  That's about right for me, maybe a little high, but I almost never have to pee on the bike in races.  But then I did.  I decided that I didn't want to stop, because there was no place to pull over and the lines at the portapotties were extremely long.  When we hit the downhill after mile 20, I tried to coast and let go, but I couldn't get anything moving.  I spent about the next ten miles trying to release, all the while becoming increasingly uncomfortable in the aero position.  I was able to get a few squirts out (sorry if this is incredibly disgusting), but it wasn't even close to how full I was.  When I went past the mile 30 marker and compared it to my watch, I realized how much time I had given up by keeping things easy and fighting with my bladder.  I decided that I would stop at the next rest stop, no matter how long the lines were, and go.  It was worth it to be comfortable for the rest of the day.

Sadly, I had just passed a rest stop when I decided this, so I went through the turn-around and back to the same stop.  Garmin says (and we all know Garmin is oh-so-right) that I lost 14 minutes here - probably 12 in line dancing and yelling at everyone to pee faster and then 2 straight minutes of full-speed pee, I was THAT full.  I managed to get my bottles filled and ate a pack of chomps someone handed me while waiting, and I felt a million times better as I got back on my bike and sped off towards town with the wind at my back.  
When I came back into town, I did another round of whooping and fist-pumping, but was starting to feel a bit flat.  I started looking forward to my special needs bag which had fresh bottles and a treat.  I had just turned onto the road back to the lake when I realized that my bladder was again uncomfortably full (the downside of liquid-only nutrition being I can't stop drinking because I need those calories).  I rode only a few miles before I saw some volunteers setting up a run aid station with a single porta potty - no line.  I stopped and asked if I could use it, and someone held my bike while I ran up the path in my bike shoes, went, ran back, and got rolling again.  Master Garmin says three-ish minutes here.  I rode another few miles to special needs, swapped out my bottles, stuffed my snack in my pockets and rolled out.  About a minute here.  
When I came back into town (roughly mile 70), I was feeling rough.  It was really important to me that whenever I saw my family and friends that day, I was happy and smiling for them, so I whooped it up a bit more, but I was a little worried heading back out of town.  I decided that I'd start grabbing gels at aid stations and suck a few down with water on top of my planned nutrition (which purposely did not include caffeine on the bike).  I've taken gels before on the bike so I know they don't bother my stomach, and I was hoping that the caffeine would give me a nice strong wallop and drag me out of me slump.  However, it was almost ten miles before I hit an aid station.  I had eaten my snack and been pounding down the calories, but I just felt low.  I grabbed two gels and stuffed them down right away with some water.  I felt a little perked up a few minutes later but the "out" part of the out-and-back had a pretty tough headwind on the second trip.  The sun had come out and it's a little false-flat-ish on the way out (which is why the trip back in is so banging) and it was all I could do to keep pedaling.  My heart rate was dropping, which I know means I need more calories, but I kept eating and drinking and couldn't seem to snap out of it.  
Miles 80-90 felt like an eternity.  Several of my awesome friends had decorated water bottles for me to ride with, and I spent some time thinking about each one.  Thinking about them cheering and yelling at their computers for me.  The poet wrote something on a bottle about each of our puppies, and I spent some time with them.  Thinking about how Sofie makes the wookie noise at you when she wants you to play, and how Molly will beat the living shit out of you with her skull if you stop petting her.  And my sweet Graham, my beautiful boy who wants nothing more in the entire world than to go outside and chase tennis balls with his bitches until he is exhausted, and how he comes and snuggles with me in the mornings after he has his breakfast.  I thought about my family, and how crazy and incredible it was that they raised me to want to do something like this and then they would be here to see it unfold.  And I thought about the poet, and all those weekends where I was off molding my crotch into the shape of a bicycle seat instead of hanging out with him, and how he never complains and cheers louder than anyone and it's all for me.  And it all helped, it reminded me of what was really important and it got me through a very tough two hours or so on the bike.    
The turn-around finally appeared and I realized my stupid bladder was full AGAIN, so I stopped at the aid station that I think was roughly around mile 90.  There was a long line and I wasn't moving that quickly, so it was another long stop (a little over 10 minutes), but I managed to eat several gels and another pack of chomps while I waited, and I rotated my bottles around so my magic jet fuel bottle (a scoop of PreRace) was in the prime position.  The simple knowledge that I was heading back into town helped (as did the tailwind), and by mile 100 the PreRace had kicked in and I started laughing again.  And for the first time all day, I let myself think about the run.  I couldn't wait to get off the bike and into my run shoes.

I saw as I rolled over the 100-mile mark that a) I had had a pretty slow day but b) I was going to finish shy of seven hours, which was never a goal but it got me pumping through the last few miles into town.  I managed to get my feet out of my bike shoes so I wouldn't have to run around in transition with them, and I don't even know where my bike went but suddenly I was off of it and it was gone.  
Bike: 112 miles, 6:56:41

I grabbed my run bag and ran into the tent.  There were 9-10 other women in there changing but I had my own volunteer.  She stripped me of my arm warmers while I changed into my trusty run shorts - I decided long before race day that I would take the time to do this.  When I lifted up my ponytail to let her spray me with sunscreen, I learned that my wet braid plus my aero helmet had chafed the shit out of the back of my head.  I undid the braid and ponytail'd my hair, plunked my super sexy elite Punk Rock Racing visor on my head, stuffed my ziploc bag of nutrition into my top, grabbed my water bottle and headed out of transition.  
One of the first people I saw was the poet.  I headed over to the fence so I could hug him.  
I don't know what I said, but I was feeling pretty happy, and I definitely remember telling him, "I'm going to go run for a little while."  He shooed me away and just like that, I was off and running.
T2: 5:17

A little bit of reflection on the bike (you can ignore this part unless you are someone who super duper cares about the details i.e. me and maybe Sonja but probably not even her).

I have to send a big whopping thank you both to QR and Scott Geffre, because I never in my life imagined that I could be this comfortable on a bike for so long.  I spent most of the ride down in aero and got off the bike without a cramp or a stitch or a sore spot or an ache.  More importantly, I spent hours upon hours on the bike in the months leading up to the race without a problem.  My QR is slick and fast and rides so well, my Cobb saddle holds my delicate parts just how I like to be held and Scott put my bike together in such a way that I never dread being on it, not even for a second.

I had two cups of hot tea race morning, which tasted delicious but certainly contributed to the peeing problem (tea is a diuretic).  I also drank plenty of Powerade Zero, which I drink all the time in the morning pre-workout, but getting out of the swim into cool cloudy conditions, I simply think I was over-hydrated.  I had no other symptoms other than a bursting bladder, and my nutrition was perfect on the bike (thank you, EFS and later on, Gu) but I'm so used to training in hot and humid weather that I never even thought to back off on the morning-of hydration because of the temperature.  Garmin (always right above all things including the actual distance and shape of the earth) said that my moving average/time was 17.5mph, which had me spending over thirty minutes dealing with peeing and on and off the bike and all that crap (cue a picture of Sonja holding her head in her hands in despair).  I don't like that I spent so much time of this leg dicking around, but I'm also not trying to excuse away my time.  It is what it is and I stand by the decisions I made on race day.  It will certainly make it easy to improve this time in the future, if nothing else.

I spent almost zero time looking at my watch.  I was never afraid I would go too hard - I'm far more likely to err on the side of easy - and therefore rode based on effort, spending almost no time even close to my projected IM heart rate window.  I don't regret it at all, because it was my first and I wanted to have a happy day and that meant going easy on the bike, but as I continue to race this distance, I'm sure that is one of the FIRST things that I will change moving forward.  My average heart rate for the ride was 125, and it should have been at least 140 based on my plan.  Again, no judgement, this is just how I decided to play out my day, but it paints a picture of the decisions I made.  Sonja and I had a talked a few weeks before, and she told me that I needed to sit down and decide how hard I wanted to hurt, how important it would be for me to know that I emptied the barn on race day, where my lines were.  And I decided that I want to enjoy every second, to smile through every mile, and to hell with the time on the clock.  There will be a time in my life where I will want to ride the knife edge on the bike, to flirt with blowing up, to race with my heart in my mouth, and this was not the decision I made for Coeur d'Alene.  But I can tell you, that day will come.  


  1. Ha. Your mom is a riot. I love how much they support you.

    I'm glad it was a great ride session despite not looking at your watch. I'm the same way-if I don't start or look at my watch, I workout (let's not even pretend I run) at my own pace.

  2. I love the pictures! AND YOUR MOM IS FREAKING HILARIOUS! I must meet her someday if just to have the opportunity to tell her how great it is that she talked herself onto a motorcycle! That is a stinking hard bike course and you honestly did it in...what? 6:20? Taking out the "rest stops." That's pretty legit.

  3. I have NEVER peed in an ironman, but you just made me realize I really need to be careful at IMLP since I am so used to the heat and humidity here!

    I can tell how much fun you were having, which is really the important thing. . OH, and everyone struggles around 70-90!

  4. You are an amazing inspiration!

  5. When I got to the mile 80 aide station at IMFL I had to stop and take a dump, but couldn't unclip my right foot fast enough and fell over into the shit dirt right next to the port-a-let. Lying there on the ground for that half a second was the most comfortable I felt on the bike that whole day. You did great.

  6. Everyone else always says it better. You rock, dawg. All of you.

  7. Love love love that your mom was on that motorcycle taking pictures! Love the picture of you and the poet and the one of you smiling as you are starting to run. The whole peeing nonsense must have been mega frustrating. Can't wait to read the rest.

  8. I had no clue the bathrooms lines would be so long. I am in trouble for Louisville because I'm not a pee on your bike type of person. Anyhow, you had an awesome bike leg and a great attitude throughout. Also like that picture of you and your husband :)

  9. Well it looks like you have a serious future of IMing ahead of you!

  10. Great job, Katie! I loved reading this. I think you make super smart decisions for your first one. And, it's also good that you are doing the analysis to figure out how you will do it next time.

    As for peeing on the bike: the switch came for me after I realized part of the problem is our brain. We spend our whole lives telling ourselves: Don't pee your pants! Now, we want to pee our pants. So, you need to talk your brain into it. The body parts are willing.

    Awesome job, girl!

  11. Your mom, hilarious! Also, what the eff is up with the lines being so long?!?! I think I would've had to pee in a bush! I'm so glad you weren't stressing about time because seriously, just look at how much you enjoyed this experience! Next time will be for racing, this was all about the victory lap from training!

  12. Brains: You've got 'em! And heart: That, too. I love thinking about you "spending time" with your loved ones and your pooches to get through the rough patch. How sweet and meaningful, especially given what Graham's been through recently. Even as an avowed non-cyclist, this was a great read.

  13. This is so fabulous! I can't wait to read tomorrow's post! Hooray for Katie!

  14. Glad you included a few ass shots! Sounds like you had a great ride - the smile on your face in all the photos says it all!!

  15. That is a ton of peeing and proves you were hydrated. Better to be peeing ON THE BIKE then to be dehydrated.......

    This recap was awesome but my favorite part was this:
    but as I continue to race this distance,

    The second favorite part was you hugging The Poet. I don't know how you pulled yourself away. When I finished and saw Karen I hugged her for what seemed like an eternity and the thought of having to go and run after that would never have happened for me.

    Congrats to you my friend. I am loving this recap.

    And BTW - Way to go Mom.....that is just so awesome.

  16. Haha, I notice Jason above also picked up on the "as I continue to race this distance" line. Something you want to share with the class? ;)

    I still cannot pee in a wetsuit or in water so I'm probably more fascinated by the fact that you peed while in the act of swimming than by the struggles to pee on the bike. I'm so surprised the lines were that long -- I guess I figured so many Iron-folks were bike-pee-ers that it wouldn't be an issue.

  17. You are an awesome cyclist Katie. I cannot wait to see you at your next IM when you let shit hit the fan. And I love that you look so extremely happy in every photo. It shows how much you loved your day!

    (FYI, the last two paragraphs were the best! )

  18. That is so cool what your Mom did........

  19. Wow I always knew the Ironman distances seemed crazy long, but guess I never really grapsed the true enormity of it until I read about your reflection time on the bike. So great that your family was there to see all your hard work pay off.

    Can't wait to read the running recap!

  20. You got through the bike without blowing up and you were able to work on troubleshooting your issues, that's what matters most! I stopped to pee every loop of the bike on my 1st IM. For the 2nd one, I managed to finally be able to pee on the bike - what a relief! You'll get it figured out eventually and then no more stops! :)

  21. Did your ass get shy out there in Idaho? Because I'm pretty sure if you ran into lines around the DC area, you would have just squatted where ever ;)
    Great report, and I agree that one of the best parts was the Poet Hug, so sweet.
    Looking forward to the remaining leg report, Ironman Katie!

  22. That's fantastic your mom hitched a ride to come and see her little girl - totally made me smile.

    I can't imagine how uncomfortable it was to have to pee that bad on the bike...every bump would exacerbate the whole situation I imagine. I think the only way I could pee on a bike would be to get off the saddle...and then it'd be pretty obvious to everyone around me. Haha

    Great job on the bike, I'm very impressed!! Looking forward to the run! :)

  23. Your outfit is adorable! And you look like you are in incredible shape! I admit to having no interest in anything cycling related, so I skimmed a lot of this, but I love the photos! ;-) Nice job on a tough course!!!

  24. I loved reading this race report.

    Question: you write "stuffed my ziploc bag of nutrition into my top" -- is that a common way for triathletes to carry nutrition? I ask because a friend wrote in her marathon race report that she was running near someone carrying a plastic bag of GUs and protein bars (this confused here) -- maybe he was a triathlete/ironman type?

  25. Congrats! Thanks for all the bonus ass shots.

  26. Teary eyed reading about your Mom, and thinking about your puppies/friends/the poet. That's a lot of pee, but I suppose if you are going to have a "problem" on the bike, over-hydration is a good one. Loving these recaps! On to the last leg!!

  27. Congrats on a fantastic bike ride!!! Yes, goal #1 for next Ironman is learning how to pee on the bike! So happy you had a wonderful day out there and soaked up every fun moment!

  28. Good stuff. :-) I get a lot of my calories on the bike from my bottles, too, and I had to adjust that during the race since it was so cool. Nonetheless, I too had to pee from about mile 30 on the bike. I somehow held it, but I actually think I kinda injured myself from holding it so hard. No joke.

    Also, I think that you totally did the right thing by erring on the side of too easy on the bike. At Cozumel, I erred on the side of going too hard on the bike, and it was terrible. I'll never get over how bad that run was.

    The photo of your mom on the moto is AWESOME.

  29. I love everything about this post. Everything. Even the pee talk.
    But mostly I love: that HUGE grin! You're doing something right if you are smiling that big!

    Also, I *might* have shed a tear at that pic of you hugging the Poet. Katie, you deserve all the best in the world. You're the girl who goes for it and I'm glad to see it finally all coming to you. It is all the result of hard work, faith and a lot of determination, but you earned every damn bit of good juju that came your way. You're incredible!

  30. That is so awesome that your mom talked her way on a motobike. She totally should be rocking some more leather like her driver though ;)

    Awesome job on the bike! It sounds like execute perfectly and stayed positive the entire time. Winning.

    And super glad to hear how comfortable you were on the bike. I guess those 20? bike fittings paid off!

  31. Is it weird that I'm re-reading you IM race reprot? Your mom seems amazing and again, you are awesome.

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