Couer d'Alene 2012 Race Report: Robin Clevenger

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Overall, I am very happy with my race and with staying inside the box of what I could control. Ultimately, that proved to be a good strategy, since events out of my control pretty much ran the day. The biggest issue I had was getting some pretty severe food poisoning earlier in the week – one whole day of barfing and dry-heaving, and then 24 hours of non-stop sleep. This also delayed packing and meant we arrived in CdA two days later than expected.

On Friday morning I went for a swim with Paul and my friend Sharon. We swam for 15 minutes, then Sharon and I went over and did a simulated “mass start” on the beach where I practiced my strategy of going hard for 300 or so yards and then settling in, which worked great and left me with clear water after the hard start. One thing I noticed was that after warming up and getting out, the cold of the lake was not such a shock going in the second time. I figured that with a good warmup on race morning I would be just fine. This relieved some of the anxiety I had about the water temps and the swim start. Unfortunately, when I got back to my hotel room I slumped into some sort of malaise and slept for almost 3 hours. After only 30 minutes of swimming? This did not give me a warm fuzzy feeling about my recovery from the food poisoning. Stomach remained bruised and semi-queasy throughout the week. I survived on rice, mashed potatoes, and milkshakes.

Nevertheless, race morning dawned and I was actually feeling reasonably good. I had two good nights of sleep under my belt, which helped. I ate my usual pre-race banana-rice custard at 4:00 am and arrived with checklists in hand and plenty of time to execute all of my pre-race necessities. I was smiling so much and feeling so relaxed that several people came up to talk with me about EN (I was wearing the jacket). They said that since I was the only person not looking like a nervous wreck, I must know some big secret. I waxed poetic about how great EN is and how well prepared I felt for the race.

SWIM: Goal :57. Actual: 1:01:47

WTH, no swim warmup allowed? What is up with that? In this cold of a water, that seems dangerous in the extreme. Will be sending a comment to the race director about that one. I’ve never done a cold water swim without a warmup and this made me a bit anxious, but decided to stay in the box and have a great swim anyways. Got my face wet repeatedly.

I lined up on the pole position (good tip from EN!!), and told the people around me that I was planning on swimming in the “happy bubble” and that only nice people were allowed in this area, covered by an aura of rainbows and unicorns. It worked! Had a really good bubble going out for the first 200 yards or so until I saw the folks from the other side of the pole converging. About that time got slapped with the first of the big waves, took a foot to the head and a big gulp of water, first moment of true panic in a triathlon swim in a long time. Stopped and did a breaststroke, big mistake! Got run over. Kept panicking and then put head down and just started swimming like hell. First lap was 29:38. Slower than expected but with wind and waves I’ll take it.The whole second loop I had two guys flanking me, one on each side. Felt like they were my guardian angels. Second lap a bit slower without the sprint at the start and more waves, but overall given conditions I am happy with my time. 99th person out of the water.

T1: Goal: sub 10:00. Actual: 6:14. Considering my hands were frozen solid and didn’t work, I was happy with this time. Love the comment from the volunteer: “Here’s your helmet. Here’s your sunglasses. Here’s your……. postal envelope?” LOL! Bonus: hug from Sister Madonna Buder on the way out of the tent. Can’t beat a hug from your idol of 20+ years!! Saw my family screaming for me. Gotta love that!

BIKE: Goal: 6:40 or under. Actual: 6:46

This is where it gets weird. My HR was up at almost 150 and would NOT come down. I kept repeating in my head CoachR’s “go stoopid easy”. Over and over on endless loop. HR came down to 140 and hung there. Normally I’m at 118 at this level of exertion. Went slower still. Nothing doing. Have no idea what’s going on with my body but keep on keeping on. Love the bagpipes on the hill at end of 1st part of course. Get out on Hwy 95, still cruisin along. Notice I’m cold and can’t warm up, even with arm warmers and stuff. At mile 20 I break out into a full-body sweat. Beads of it all over my face and everything. WTH? Then I get this crushing weariness. This is it. I’m going to DNF at mile 20? I feel like crying. I want to throw my bike on the side of the road and just lie down. I honestly don’t know why I don’t, but I keep on riding, even if it’s the stupid thing to do. All of a sudden, the feeling passes. I’m okay. Now I’m better than okay. Now my heart rate is 121. Again, WTH? The course is now tough (wind+hills) but doable. I make it back in town and start the second loop. Love seeing my family and cheering crowds.  Nutrition so far is okay, my stomach feels shaky but everything is staying down. Keeping on my plan of concentrated Infinit + refilling my water. Eat a Bonk Breaker at 2:00 and 4:00 in. The rest of the bike ride passes uneventfully and I manage to pick up speed on the second loop.

T2: Goal: Under 10:00. Actual: 3:36

Kept it simple. Everything is good. Made sure to get sunscreed really well as sun was coming out strong. Had Zoot IceFil arm coolers on and rolled them up as I left the transition area.

RUN: Goal: 4:50. Actual 5:33

I knew it was warmer than I had been training in, and I didn’t feel up to par. My original plan called for 10:30 miles, but I swagged that up to 11:00. Added on :30 per mile for the first 6 miles as per the EN plan. This worked OK, and I held that pace almost exactly. But this is where my stomach ailments came back to bite me. As I tried to pick it up to just an 11:00 mile after the big hill, things started going south. Around Mile 12 I threw up for the first time. Going back into town was a huge gut check and for the second time of the day I was worried that I was simply not going to finish. I just felt horrible and shaky again. Encouragement from my family and some good words from CoachR sent me on my way back out. Threw up again at mile 15. I walked almost that whole mile. Last IM ended up with me in med tent, unconscious, getting an IV after finishing. I did not want a repeat performance. Finally figured out that I could walk into the aid stations to get my HR down, and then walk for a minute or so out of the aid station, and everything would stay down. I could run in between. This gave me about a 12:45 per mile pace, and I started calculating that I could at least come in under 13:30 if I could stay under 13:00 per mile. That became my new personal whip to get myself to start running again after the aid stations.

At mile 18 I had a big laugh over the notion that the race “starts here”. I felt like my race had actually stopped about 6 miles back and I was just surviving at that point, but oh well. I did pick it up a lot from the first 6 miles of the 2nd lap, and I am proud of that. I took a ton of mental energy to keep focused and make that happen.

6.6 mi 6.6 mi 1:15:09 9:13:06 11:23/mi
13.4 mi 6.8 mi 1:20:07 10:33:13 11:46/mi
19.5 mi 6.1 mi 1:32:01 12:05:14 15:05/mi
26.2 mi 6.7 mi 1:25:45 13:30:59 12:47/mi

After that it was just step by step and mile marker to mile marker. It was great to see EN’ers out on the course for encouragement, even though my poor addled brain couldn’t remember most of your names! My apologies for that. After hitting mile 26, I started down the long chute and knew I would make it. Lots of joy there.

SUMMING UP: I still feel like I have unfinished business with the Ironman, and I’m motivated to come back and have the race that I know I can have. I felt like my execution really came up a big step from my last race and that I was able to keep most of my goals intact by just keeping in the box and controlling what I could control. I think if I can come to a start line completely healthy, the experience that I gained in this race will serve me really well to help me have a better performance down the line. I really credit EN with all of the experience that enabled me to have as good a race as possible, given the race day cards I got dealt.

Listen to Robin’s Race Report interview with Coach Rich here.

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Coach P

All stories by: Coach P
  • George

    Congratulations on your finish. Food poisoning the week before an Ironman; that’s my nightmare. I’m going to spend the next two months trying to forget that part of your story! Did you ever figure out what caused the HR spike in the first part of the bike?

  • George

    Congratulations on your finish. Food poisoning the week before an Ironman; that’s my nightmare. I’m going to spend the next two months trying to forget that part of your story! Did you ever figure out what caused the HR spike in the first part of the bike?

  • heather

    ‘sounds like you had the perfect race! ANY time you finish/survive and Ironman is a perfect race. It’s only normal to want to improve, but you can’t argue with goodold survival!

  • heather

    ‘sounds like you had the perfect race! ANY time you finish/survive and Ironman is a perfect race. It’s only normal to want to improve, but you can’t argue with goodold survival!

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