Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Through the Ages

I've been thinking about this blog post a lot lately. In fact I would have posted earlier, but I’ve been preoccupied this week with the typical race week distractions – packing, last minute purchases, pre-race massage, focusing on getting more rest, etc. It’s a delicate balance of getting your shit done and staying calm. Or maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this? For me race week, especially when it's a race with so many memories, churns up nostalgia and I feel the need to reflect on how far I've come since I started racing Ironman. Here are the “Clif's Notes” versions of race reports from the past five times I’ve toed the line in Coeur d’Alene:

The year was 2008 and I had signed up approximately 365 days prior (this race used to sell out back then) thinking it might be a "one and done" type of experience. My training consisted for running a couple half marathons and marathons, buying a TT bike (that I rode until April of this year), swimming solo at the gym near my house, and way too many late nights and early mornings lifting weights or on a stationary bike (before I understood the benefits of a bike trainer and when I worked too many hours in public accounting). I actually stumbled upon my training plan the other day while I was cleaning out a closet. It was something I found on the Internet and printed out and put in a 3-ring binder. I don't remember much from the day other than it was really a lot of fun. My friends and family were out on the course and I remember the crowd was really supportive. I finished in 11 hours and 49 minutes and was pretty much hooked after crossing that finish line.

Support crew - Malia, Sherry, Andy, Jill, John, Lane

2008 Finish line with Jill, Lane, and Sherry
In 2009 I decided that I didn’t want to put in that much time and not get faster, so I hired a coach. Kainoa, who still coaches me to this day, whipped me into shape and prepared me to be more competitive in my age group. The weather that afternoon was cold and gray that day; it rained a bit on the run. My goal that year was to bike under 6 hours and run under 4. I succeeded in both and finished in 11:11:01, which was good enough for 5th place in my age group. Unfortunately, the Kona slot only rolled down to 4th place who finished about 90 seconds ahead of me. The girl who finished fourth, Lilia, and I are now good friends. Being that close and not getting a Kona slot was motivation that would help me through training the following winter. 
2009 Race morning with my friend Lindsay
In 2010 I knew I had a better chance of getting a Kona slot than the year prior. My run times were getting faster and I was showing improvement on the bike and in the pool. I swam okay, for me, got through transition quickly and got to work on the bike. I remember telling my friends and family that if I had a perfect day, I’d bike around 5:35. I biked 5:32 and was leading my age group as I started the run. My run was less than stellar – it was hot and I paced it poorly, but I held on to finish in 10:42 and got my first age group win in any distance triathlon. I had friends, family, and teammates at the finish line. When I was digging through pictures to post for this blog, I noticed the Facebook album I posted for this Ironman was titled, “Race of My Life.”

2010 - when I learned how to ride a bike

2010 - holding position on the run

I could probably argue, however, that 2011 was the race of my life (up for grabs this weekend, I hope). I put a lot of pressure on myself that year to qualify for Kona. I knew a couple fast girls from Seattle in my age group (Lilia mentioned above and Sam Mazer), not to mention all the fast girls who could show up from other states. Plus I felt like I had something to prove after winning my age group the year before. My training had gone well – I had a new stand-alone marathon PR that year (3:05) and I had also done well at Oceanside 70.3 that spring. And when race day came, I executed it almost perfectly. I posted a real race report here. The icing on top was that I had so many friends and teammates there who also raced well and that was really special.

2011 podium with Lilia in 2nd and Sam in 3rd - an honor to share
 the stage with such talented friends

2011 run
Last year was special for me in a new way. I learned to calm down a little and focus more on what I could do as an athlete versus worrying about how others were racing or what it would take to get a Kona slot. At the end of the day, I won my age group and was the first amateur female, something that would eventually lead to my decision of going pro. Racing CdA last year was a good reminder of how much I love racing and that I love Ironman. I got to experience racing up near the front and head to head with another competitor. It gave me a confidence boost and was a good stepping stone for this year.

2013 run -  hoping to improve on last year's race.
I'll likely have this same dorky smile.
So when I arrive in Coeur d’Alene this week, swim in the lake, and stroll up and down Sherman Ave, there will be a lot of memories giving me a lump in my throat (because sometimes I’m a total sap). But there will also be a ton of positive energy on the course for me on Sunday. Apart from the hustle of getting ready to race, this week has been awesome in terms of getting so many wonderful messages from friends and family. I have some fears about my first Ironman as a professional and the usual nervousness I get before a race, but I’m looking forward to writing about a new year and new experiences.
Best of luck to all athletes on Sunday! Have a safe and memorable race! This could be the start of something amazing!


  1. The only thing that could make this post better is if you had all your (sometimes awkward) finish line volunteer hugs :) Good luck! Go get 'em on Sunday!!

  2. Great post. Have a great race and have fun.

  3. Good luck to you - you are an amazing athlete!

  4. Love this! So fun to see your progression from your first IM :) Best of luck this weekend, Cathleen! Big cheers from Minne!

  5. I love this post so much CK. I remember your first CDA and am happy I'm here to watch you kick it this time 'round too. It's like you're an old pro at the whole thing now. And by old pro I mean new amazing pro:-) Have an AMAZING day tomorrow. You're all that and then some. xoxox