Iron Season 6/11: Holy Hills!

The short: Martin drove out to Idaho with Ron Hoyne to race IM Coeur d’Alène. All went as planned, with a hot and hilly 3:48 IM marathon. The swim was 63.5 F (brrr!) and most of the bike course was a string of 4-6%, 1-2 mile climbs. It was tough for everyone, and Martin finished 14/252 = top 5.5% in his age group, the best finish yet.

The long: IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene is in western Idaho at 2100 ft, just high enough to pinch the O2 a little. We headed out from Champaign, covering 2000 miles in 2 driving days. In Coeur d’Alène, we were joined by Ron’s daughter Carissa, who flew into Spokane for the return trip (Yellowstone-Bighorn-Mt. Rushmore-Badlands). Spokane is a real gem with waterfalls in downtown. We ran and swam a bit, and we rode the Coeur d’Alène run course before the race, and half of it was quite hilly. Not a PR venue, but a hot sub-4 IM marathon seemed possible. We did not drive most of the bike course – perhaps for the better to stave off despair!

Race morning we got up, Martin checked his transition bags and bikes one last time, and at 6:40, the race got underway. The swim was in choppy 63.5 F water, but the wetsuit kept Martin reasonably warm for the usual elbow battle with 2500 competitors.The water was clean, which was good since M. had to drink some of it in the wind-blown waves. At 1:27, slower than average, but OK considering the windiness, waviness, coldness, and elbowing.

The bike course was an eye-opener: we did not pre-drive most of it, and except for a flat stretch in town, it became clear that the un-previewed part contained 15 miles of 4-6%, 1-2 mile ascents that had to be done 4 times over and totaled 9000+ ft of climbing by Martin’s GPS. Ouch. To put it in perspective for the Wild Cards, the CdA bike course is like time-trialing the 110 mile spring training camp Giant City-Golconda ride all-out in a 10 mph wind. Martin hunkered down as usual, reaching only 136 bpm instead of a planned 137 bpm on the bike: the 50/12 gearing on the Giant road bike (the TT bike was broken) spun out on every long descent, and M. wisely did not up his heart rate over 149 bpm on the climbs, knowing the hilly run course to come. 6:11 is a slow 112 miles, but on this 9000+ ft. climbing course at 2000+ ft. altitude, people either rode slower or got cooked. And cooked they did get, as M. passed droves of people (~700) on the bike, despite the slow bike segment. 

He also passed 100s more on the run, which is more unusual: a lot of 50-54 age groupers that passed M. on the bike were walking the uphills on the run while Martin dashed past them to a 3:48 IM marathon finish. This was a ‘hot’ marathon for the first 2/3ds, with a lot of hill climbing, so the hat+ice water trick (see last 2 race reports) finally paid off.

The result was correspondingly good: 14/252 in the 50-54 age group, a top 5.5% race finish, nearly twice as good as the previous best. When everyone suffers, 11:41 is good! Martin is now over 12,000 points in the Ironman ranking, maintaining his #1 in the world age group spot – until the really fast guys do their 3d race  🙂    It is now 6/11 Ironman-brand races this season – M. added one more race. There is method to the madness: it is necessary to potentially qualify by IM legacy for Hawai’i 2015, when Champaign-Urbana IM racer Andy Singer is signed up.

After the race, Ron, Carissa and Martin rode and hiked through stupendously beautiful National Parks to get back to Champaign, see attached photos for a tiny sampling (clockwise from top left: Buffalo in Yellowsone; M. on one of the interminable C d’A climbs; mud pit in Yellowstone; the finish; Mt. Rushmore at sunset; Bighorn hills; Ron, Carissa and Martin in front of a hot spring)

– reported by Martin