2013 Couer d'Alene Race Report: Mark Cardinale

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Here’s my rather lengthy Coeur d’Alene race report.  I’m using it as both my race report and my mental debrief on what turned out to be an awesome experience that surpassed expectations on a number of levels.

Here are the details if you are so inclined…

I have been with EN since October 2012.  2013 is my second season racing triathlon and CDA is my first Ironman.  Between this year and last year I have completed 3 HIM’s and a handful of local sprint and Olympic distance races.  In December of 2012 I suffered a broken hip and for a time early in 2013, this race and my entire 2013 season was very much in doubt.  Luckily my hip healed very well and doesn’t bother me at all.   However, as a result of my hip fracture I developed blood clots and have been on Warfarin for almost 6 months.  Fortunately, this has not limited my ability to compete other than the need to be careful about another crash and any associated bleeding.  CDA for me was a testament to what you can do when you set your mind to achieving a goal.  Just getting to the starting line for me was a battle and I felt like I did all I could to heal and train given the compromises i had to make along the way.

Mark Cardinale ready in his wetsuit - Team Endurance NationRace Morning

On Race morning I was up at 3:45.  My pre race breakfast consisted of 3 cups of applesauce, protein powder, a banana and a 32 oz bottle of Gatorade I sipped on while getting ready.  I worked my way through my morning checklist and was out the door with my family by 4:45.  They were nice enough to drop me off at transition before they headed off to park the car.  The plan was to meet them on the walkway by the swim start some time shortly after 6:00.  Transition went quickly and smoothly, again working off my morning checklist.  I was starting with my A2 speedfil loaded with about 28oz of perform and then hydration-wise I was planning to live off the course. Nutrition-wise I would be carrying 2 gel flasks filled with powerbar vanilla gels and I had a third flask in bike special needs.  I also had 2 powerbars, one on my bike and the other in my kit.

I met up with my family for a teary-eyed goodbye before heading down to the swim.  Before I made my way down I did a 2-3 minute jog in my wetsuit to both heat up my body and loosen up my legs.  I slammed a gel and a bottle pickle juice and then made my way to the water.   With the new swim start protocol I was able to get in a short warm up before getting in line.

Swim: –  1:22:48

I decided the evening before after the pre-race talk to seed myself in the 1:15-1:30 group.   I felt my expected swim time was 1:20 +/- 2 minutes.  It was emphasized during the athletes briefing there would be no advantage to overseeding yourself, so I decided to line up based on my expected swim times and not try to game the system.  I lined up in the front just right of center of the 1:15 wave and was off sometime around 6:39, about 4 minutes after the first wave started at 6:35.  Immediately upon starting I was struck by how calm the waters were.  I was finally so glad to actually be racing versus just dreaming about and planning to race as I have been doing over the past year.  On the first leg of the swim when there was contact I would just sight and look for some clear water and make my wayslightly left or right as needed. As I approached the first turn buoy things started tightening up a bit and by the time I was in the middle of the turn and was pretty much just flailing my arms trying to make the turn so I could settle back into my swim.

Coeur d'Alene 2013 Swim Start

The short segment after the first turn was uneventful and it felt good to make the turn for home on the first lap.   Same deal heading back to shore, some contact, but for the most part pretty clear sailing.  As I approached shore there was more contact as everyone converged on the narrow strip of beach leading to the turn around.  When I was close to shore and tried putting me feet down I felt the first twinges of a crap in my lower right thigh and both calves.

As we exited in the beach we were quickly ushered through the turnaround and back into the water.  There really wasn’t time to catch your breath before I was back in for lap #2.  It all happened so quickly I completely forgot to check my swim time on my garmin.  Lap 2 was pretty similar in terms of minimal contact once I was able to negotiate the diagonal and get back into the straightaway.  I could feel that cramping sensation in my calves starting to build and I limited my kicking on lap #2.  My kicking was very minimal and was only when I had clear water.  On the out I found myself behind a guy with orange sox or booties.  He was definitely faster than me but his orange sox were easy to spot and he had a strong kick producing tons of bubbles.  I tried to follow him as best I could and that was great in terms of helping me to refocus on something other than impending cramps.   This lasted for what felt like 10-15 minutes or until the first turn on the second lap.  Same deal here….more contact on the turn and then more flailing on my part as I tried to make the turn and move to where there was clean water.  When I made the last turn and started the last 900M or so coming back in I thought I might actually get through this swim.  About half way in is where it happened; shooting pain in both calves.  I rolled over on my back and pulled my knees into my chest and flexed my ankles.  That helped but both calves were in full spasm.  I just let them do their thing and eventually the pain subsided.  That is the one positive thing about experiencing cramps so frequently, I no longer panic and i know the pain level that is coming and I am now able to just let it happen, knowing the pain will subside in a minute or two.  A woman on a kayak saw me and paddled over and asked if I needed help.  I told her I was fine and held on to the kayak for a couple seconds just to get my bearing and then thanked her and continued on.  The rest of the swim I didn’t use my legs and I consciously decided not to put my feet on the ground until my hands touched bottom to prevent the onset of more cramps.  This plan worked and I exited the water without additional cramps, but very wobbly nonetheless.  I made my way to the wetsuit strippers and they did their thing and from there I was off to grab my bag and head to the changing tent.  The T1 tent was packed so I went toward the back and was able to find a chair.  I decided to not wear an extra jacket or arm sleeves, because while the temp was cool, it looked like the sun was trying to come out and I was still pretty warm from the swim.

Bike: – 6:05:21

During the first out and back my primary goal was just to settle in and start drinking.  There were a lot of people heading out of town but it wasn’t too crazy, just the usual jockeying for position as I made my way through the neighborhoods and out on to CDA drive.  This part of the ride was uneventful, but after the turnaround heading back toward the main part of the city it was cool to see all the spectators lining the streets as I headed out on the main section of the course.  The first big climb at Mica grade was not bad.  I had rode it earlier in the week on my Friday race recon day so I knew I could hold my watts and still make it to the top.  The downhill on the other side was really fast followed by a series of long rollers that trended net uphill for that section of the course until the turnaroiund.  It seemed like forever to get to the turnaround before I could flip it and enjoy the ride back into town.

Mark Cardinale on bike - Team Endurance NationThis was the first race where the EN style of riding vs. everyone else really came to life.  Even during HIM’s I always assumed I didn’t experience this as much as others because I’m not overly aggressive on the downhill’s.  However, at CDA it was so amazing to see people just crushing themselves on the uphills, only to pass them on the downhills while they were either coasting or taking a drink.  Time and again, I saw this and it became a bit of a game for me throughout the day to help pass the time.

At the turnaround for the 2nd loop, powerwise, I felt I was in a really good position.  I came into this race with at FTP of 237 and that put my target watts at about 172.  Living in Colorado, I felt I could safely keep my watts within 172-175 and still be able to run off the bike.  During my practice swim I noted that I was not at all winded unlike when I’m training in altitude and I felt that altitude advantage gave me a little leeway on the day to push things a bit.  At the turn around my NP was about 165 and IF was .695 and building.  Physically I felt great.  My nutrition strategy of a bottle and half of perform per hour and a gel every 30 minutes was going according to plan.  By mile 65 or so I must have peed on the bike 5-6 times and this continued for the remainder of the bike.  At this race all inhibitions about peeing on the bike went out the window and at one point I was going so regularly I felt like I could even start timing my nutrition and hydration off my pees.  (Sorry if this is TMI)  Even though the temps by this time were in the mid 60’s to low 70’s, I took this as a good sign that I was well hydrated and fueled.

It was right around Bike Special Needs when the first curve ball on the day occurred.  I glanced down at my Garmin and noticed I didn’t have any readings for 3’s power or cadence.  I tried pedaling backwards to reset things and that had no effect.  Damn, I thought….Must be a dead battery in my PM.  I actually laughed for a minute because just the other night at the EN dinner, Dino made a comment about battery life of a quarq vs. power tap and how he always changes his battery before every race just to be safe.  I even went so far as to bring a spare battery with me race morning but since my PM fired up just fine race morning, I decided not to bother changing the battery.  I feel the universe gave me all the signs but for some reason I missed every one of them.  Changing the battery before every race is now officially on my “Fool Me Once” list.

So knowing that I now needed to ride the 2nd half of the course without power, I focused on the pressure to the pedals.  If it felt too high I would force myself to downshift into an easier gear.  I tried to ride the uphills and downhills the same way and my Friday race recon ride paid dividends because that meant I had now ridden that section of the course twice. On the second loop, the course was a bit windier, but I can’t go so far as to call it windy.  The conditions on the bike were a bit cool to start, but otherwise perfect.  Without power numbers I flipped data screens on my garmin to more generalized information.  The only status indicators I had left were avg. speed, lap speed, and current speed, all of which are not great numbers to monitor when trying to ride steady.   On the second loop I do feel like I got sucked into chasing an average speed and probably pushed it a bit too hard.  I equal split both halves of the race coming in at about 3:02 for both, but the second lap just felt like I was working harder than the first.

Run: – 4:02:42

T2 was uneventful.  A few minutes to put on my calf sleeves and shoes and then I was out on the run.  It felt great to be off the bike and the first part of the run through town was amazing with all the spectator support.  I made the decision to run with a 10oz hand flask that contained a concentrated solution of gatorlytes.  At the first aid station I stopped to add water to the powder I placed in the flask prior to the race.  About mile 1.5 I ran into my family which was awesome and a huge energy boost before heading off to run a marathon.  I had to reign in my pace on the first couple miles.  I was shooting for about a 9minute pace for the first 6 miles (8:32 Long Run Pace, +30 sec).  My first 6 miles were:




Avg Pace

























Mark Cardinale Coeur d'Alene run - Team Endurance NationA bit strong to start, but I was steadily slowing down over the first miles.  Mile 6 is the first big uphill and that slowed me down quite a bit but I was able to keep running up the hill.  After the turnaround with the uphill and downhill, I was able to settle into a pretty good pace as I headed back toward town.  Nutritionally, I was grabbing perform at every aid station and spiking it with my concentrated gatorlyte solution.  The cups they were handing out at the aid stations were pretty full so in most cases I was pouring out about half the perform before spiking it so I was taking in about 3oz per aid station.  I was also supplementing with cliff blocks at about every 3rd aid station.  Pace wise – my original plan here was to drop into about an 8:00 to 8:15min/mile pace, but after going up and down that hill, I realized my day was going to be about not slowing down vs. picking up the pace.  I have a lot of experience running and I felt if I were to try and hit an 8 or 8:15 pace per mile at this point in the race, I would be risking a major blow up at some point.  Instead, I just kept it steady as best I could, but I had wide variations in my pacing despite a relatively flat run on this section of the course.  I attribute this to the variability in the time I was taking at the aid stations.

I ran into my family around mile 12 and then again at mile 14 or so near Run Special Needs.  It was great to see them and it was something that I was looking forward to during that run back into town.  After seeing them for the 2nd time around mile 14 and as I was heading back through the neighborhood section of the course, it was there that I first started feeling not great.  I felt very tired and felt like I lost my energy.   I took quite a bit of time at the aid station near mile 16 and took in a few cups of perform and had a few orange slices.  The orange slices were refreshing and seemed to help me come around along with the additional perform.  During this section of the race, I was just trying to hang on to a 9minute pace but I could feel myself fading.  I prepared myself prior to the race that I would face some tough times and to focus on solving the problem and not letting the problem control the remainder of the day.  I feel like I was able to do this and even though I didn’t feel great, that feeling where the walls were closing in around me, went away.  The hills as the end of the loop were brutal the second time through and even the downhill toward the turnaround was demoralizing knowing I would need to run back up this hill in a couple minutes.  What helped was knowing that once I hit the turnaround the next stop was the finish line.

Mark Cardinale with volunteers - Coeur d'Alene 2013 - Team Endurance NationGetting off of CDA drive was great.  I actually enjoyed running through the neighborhoods because there was so much energy from the people partying in their front yards with the music blaring and people calling your name.  It was great and I don’t know where it came from but I was able to pick up the pace those last couple miles.  There was never a better sight than when I took that left to the finish line, vs. the right fork that took you to the 2nd lap.  Once on Sherman Street it was everything I thought it would be…people cheering and yelling your name, shouting words of encouragement, high fives, and who knows what else (kind of a blur as well).  I saw my wife and kids cheering on the way in.  There were a few people ahead of me and given my pace I was able to easily catch them and at that point I had a clear run into the finishing shooting.  I heard Mile Reilly call my name and it was finally over.  A finish line photo, a few chocolate milks and slice of pizza later I met my wife and kids outside of the athletes only area.

Total: – 11:40:55

Mark Cardinale at Coeur d'Alene 2013 finish line - Team Endurance Nation

Miles 7-26  looked like this:





















































































After having a few days to reflect on my race I have the following thoughts on my first Ironman® at Coeur d’Alene…

  • The entire build to the race and the race itself, was an amazing experience.  It’s without a doubt the hardest, most difficult thing I have ever done.  At the same time it was one of the most rewarding and emotional events I have ever experienced.  At one point during the race I said to myself, I don’t think I want to do any more of these.  I’m happy to report that feeling has since vanished and I’m inspired to work even harder and be smarter for my next race.
  • My super secret goal for myself was to go sub 11.  I knew early on during the bike that it would be very difficult to pull this off based on how my bike splits were trending.  I knew I would need to do a sub 3:30 marathon to make that happen.  I thought I had that in me but obviously I did not,  and that was during a run with conditions that don’t get much better than what we had on race Sunday.  A couple learnings for me.  1> I can’t always rely on my run to bail me out.  Even though my run is a strength for me, I need to work just as hard on my run so it’s there when I need it.  2> lots of work to be done on the swim and bike.  My blood clots have now stabilized and I’m cleared to go off the Warfarin.  I do believe the meds are playing a role in my cramping as I was well hydrated, and loaded with sodium, calcium, and magnesium prior to this race.  Also, cramping during the swim was not something that I experienced in any of the races where I was not taking warfarin.

Mark Cardinale with his kids after Coeur d'Alene 2013 - Team Endurance Nation

Initially, I did have a level of disappointment with my time, but I realized my time is just one indicator of how my day went.  We all want to be faster, but a better measure is how one deals with what the day brings and when I look at my race through that lens I’m very happy with how I executed.  I didn’t let my cramping issue get the best of me.  I didn’t let my battery dying completely destroy the second half of my bike and when I had some problems on the run I solved those problems and did not let them slow me down significantly.   I refuse to let numbers on a clock define how I look at or view my race performance.  June 23rd, 2013 was an awesome day!

  • I’m not sure if this is the case with all full Ironman® events, but the support from the volunteers and spectators at CDA was amazing.  It felt like they were out there doing everything possible to get the athletes across the finish line.   I hadn’t experienced anything like that at previous 70.3® events.  Also, I came back around 11:30 pm to watch the last finishers come across the line and I am so glad that I did.  That was an amazing experience and it felt like I way paying back in a very small way the support I received throughout the day.
  • Lastly, I’m just so grateful to be able to do this sport.  The support from my family, really completed the experience for me.  It’s great to do it, but to do it with the support and encouragement from those you love, makes it all the more special.  My EN teammates, it was great to meet each of you and it was equally great to see friendly faces throughout the race when a pick-me-up, a smile, or a flash of the gang sign is just what you need to get your head back in the game!

Listen to Mark’s conversation with Coach Rich about Coeur d’Alene on the Endurance Nation Podcast!



Coach P

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