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BJ’s Ironman-A new PR at Ironman Couer D’Alene

So here is BJ Christenson’s Ironman Couer D’Alene race report. At Salt Lake Running Co we are very happy for our Draper Sales Floor manager in not only running a fantastic race, but grabbing another slot for Ironman Hawaii. Like other elite athletes, BJ has endured many dedicated hours over many years to run races like this one. Yes, he has earned his way to Kona before, but we look forward to BJ’s next attempt this coming October to put together more pieces of his personal pursuit puzzle. And Ironman Couer D’Alene has definitely given him yet one more experience and hopefully a few more key pieces to slide gracefully into place.
I guess using the term PR in an Ironman or any triathlon for that matter is not exactly the correct term. Every course is different and some are prone to helping you get to the finish line faster. Ironman CDA, as most people call it, is not exactly a course designed for going super fast. Racing an Ironman however isn’t really about speed. First and foremost it is about getting to the finish line and celebrating that achievement with those who helped you get there. That being said, it is especially special when you get to that line with a good race in your hand and a Kona Slot in your pocket.

Lake Couer D’Alene is one of the most scenic and beautiful lakes in the Northwest. At 7 AM June 21, on the shores of the city beach the lake turned white with mankind’s impression of spawning salmon. Let’s face it with 500+ dollars on the line I would hope you did your homework. I felt ready for the swim but it was one of the more difficult swims I have done. I like to call the swim in an Ironman as the Warm-up, but the lake didn’t seem to like it because the more we swam forward the more it felt like the lake was trying to through us back out. I felt ready for the swim but it was one of the more difficult swims I have done. It was a very rough swim out there and very difficult to find a line and hold it. One thing is for certain, after swimming in that I don’t think they will cancel the swim in St. George next year no matter how hard it gets.

Leaving the swim is a mass of noise. With a rough swim like it was this year, it made for a little bit of disorientation. Once I was free and clear of my wetsuit, I headed to the changing tent and found it a little more crowded than usual. I quickly put my cycling gear on and I was out the door to my surprise before most of the people who beat me there. I grabbed my bike and hit the road. Just like the beauty of the lake, the bike ride in CDA is breathtaking, in more ways than one. I always make a mental note of the people who pass me on the bike and focus on limiting my losses before the run. The bike course is full of hills as you make your way around Hayden Lake and the surrounding area. I had to really stay focused to keep my mind on task. By mile 91, I was starting to wish the bike was over not that I was totally hating it I just didn’t have a lot of miles on my legs and my lack of cycling was starting to show. On the plus side the clouds had moved in and the temperature was staying cool yet comfortable.

In my past Ironman’s cramping has been a big concern. So one thing I tried this time that I like to call the winning combo is the combination of Salt Stick salt tabs with Sports Legs–another supplement I have found to be very beneficial. I had no cramping the entire day so I guess it worked.

Finally I was able to get off my bike and start focusing on the people who passed me. There are many ways of tracking your progress on the bike and on the run and a lot of people are obsessed with pace and speed but for me it is all about the heart rate. It is the one number I look at and in reality the only one that matters. As I left transition I found a comfortable pace and checked my HR as long as I am below 160 bpm I can sustain the pace. I took a look at my competitors at the first turn around and realized I would have to be patient and not get down on myself if I was going to catch them. Little by little they started to come back and I kept my pace consistent. By mile 15 I had almost caught everyone who passed me on the bike. The run was a 2 loop run so by the second loop it started to get more difficult to spot who is in front because we start mixing with other athletes on their first loop. I started to feel myself fade as I reached the final turnaround and started to think to myself why I thought this would be fun. I kept moving in and out of mental focus as I made my way to the finish. My wife Chrystel was on the course at various points always snapping me back into the world of reality and the task at hand. Finally I had reached the juncture in the run course where you start to envision how good it will feel to be done.

Making the turn down Sherman Ave you have one long stretch down hill until you cross the finish line. It is there that you get to hear the most famous words in Ironman escape the lips of Mike Reilly, “You are an Ironman!” I had a great day and was happy to have Chrystel there at the finish line. Completing an Ironman usually takes a team of people to help you get ready. Without the help and encouragement of my wife, I am certain it would not have been possible for me to have the day I did.

My thanks go out to the volunteers who volunteered that day and to the support of my friends and family. My goal going into CDA was to qualify for Kona and that I did. I also learned a little bit more about myself and what it takes to improve in Kona. Congratulations to everyone who made it to the finish line that day and in the words of John Collins, brag for the rest of your life.

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