I started training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene about six months ago. It's now five days away. However you choose to say it--the most popular phrase is "the hay is in the barn," but around here, we say, "Walter is on the plane"--the work is behind me. All that is left is the race!
I am racer number 1543. If you go to Ironman.com, there should be a special link at the top of the page where you can click to get live race tracking of IMCdA. (Note: Ironman France is happening on Sunday, too, and I won't be competing in that race. So don't try to find me there!) It will prompt you to enter my last name ("Darden"), and then it will give you a list of folks with names close to mine. If you click on my name, it should tell you where I was at the last checkpoint, my paces, and where I am relative to my competition.
I'm hoping that a few friends will be posting updates on my Facebook profile, too, but I'm not sure about that.
I really do appreciate it when my friends follow along. It gives me a huge boost knowing that there are people out there taking time to see how things are going for me and pulling for me from afar. I will need this mental lift more than ever on Sunday since Kacie won't arrive in CdA until about six hours into the race.
Am I ready? I believe so, but anyone who has ever done any race knows the self-doubt that can creep in here at the end. (In fact, the organizers of Ironman Coeur d'Alene today tweeted an article about mental preparation in the final days ahead of the big race.) All signs point to my having a good race. I've certainly done the training, starting way back in January with trainer sessions and long rides. I used Twitter and Facebook as means of not only bragging about the training I was doing, but to keep myself accountable. It now serves as a log of what I've been doing for the past several months.
January 7, when things were just getting underway after a post-Ironman Cozumel break:
February 18, when I did my first of about a dozen rides in the mountains:
March 10, more mountains:
March 18, still more:
March 30, some improvements in the water:
May 17, starting to really train like Ironman:
June 10, my second eight-hour bike ride:
June 11, my second 20+ mile trail run, this time in the rain:
There have been good benchmark events--"B Races"--along the way, too.
April 23, The Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo:
April 29, the West Point Lake Olympic Triathlon:
May 6, Rev 3 Knoxville 70.3:
June 4, Rev 3 Quassy Aquabike:
And then there's this:
Since I began training specifically for Ironman Coeur d'Alene on January 9, 2012, I've logged over 200 hours on my bike (nearly 4000 miles), including eleven rides that featured significant climbing and fifteen trainer sessions. I've spent more than 28 hours in the pool (~84000 yards, or 47 miles). Despite an injury to my heel, I've run more than 40 hours (about 340 miles). If you factor in all the time lifting weights (but leave out the time spent stretching, icing, driving to and from training and racing sites, and going to the chiropractor, nutritionist, ART folks, and massage therapists), I've spent about 300 hours in motion specifically preparing for this race over the last twenty-three weeks.
So what will I consider a successful race? The first goal, as it always is in our family, is to get to the starting line healthy and uninjured. Barring anything catastrophic in the next couple of days, and putting aside the nagging bursitis in my left heel, I am confident that I will make it to the starting line. The second goal, as it always is in our family, is to finish. Once again, barring anything catastrophic in the next couple of days or during the race itself, I am confident that I will make it to the finish line. But what then? It would be dishonest for me to say that I would be content solely with finishing given the amount of work I've done and the results I've had throughout the spring. We chose Ironman Coeur d'Alene specifically because it was a course--i.e. one with a wetsuit swim and a lot of hills--that would suit me. I don't want to go into too many details about my time and place goals, but it would be a surprise to no one for me to say that I am focused on winning a spot in the Ironman World Championships in October in Hawaii.
This is, of course, no small task, given the competitiveness of my age group and the fact that I learned to swim exactly one year ago this week. There will probably be six or seven people in my age group who will qualify, which means I need to finish in the top five in my age group just to be certain. If Coeur d'Alene follows the pattern of the races I've done so far this year, I'll be a middle-of-the-pack swimmer, but one of the fastest cyclists and one of the very fastest runners. In specific terms, this means that coming out of the swim, I will probably be somewhere around 200th in my age group and 1200th in the race. If things go well, I'll pass most of those folks on the bike and almost all of the rest of them on the run. Ironman is much tougher than the shorter races, but there's no reason for me to believe that it won't follow the same general pattern as the other triathlons I've done as long as I execute my plan.
Cold execution of the plan. My wife Kacie brilliantly demonstrated the effectiveness of this when she finished third in her Double Ironman in February. This is all the remains for me. Think good, relaxed, fast thoughts for me on Sunday morning, starting at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time!