Finally back home after the Lake Placid Ironman adventure, and able to post a summary of events. Good thing that it took so long, as it has taken some time to process. I could fill a lot of space with this one, but will try to be a tad more brief
The word of the day was rain, rain, and then some more rain. About 3 – 5″ of rain to be exact. It started to rain during the swim and didn’t stop until late at night. What else is new for racing this year but rain?
I have been fretting this for some time. 2500 people in the water at once, all thrashing about trying for the same space. What complicates things is the shape of the IMLP swim, which is a pretty tight out and back in Mirror Lake. The plan was to start wide right and shoot for the far buoy (while everyone else crowded for the line). While a lot of people are floating in the water waiting for the cannon, we stood on some swampy ground saving energy. Worked pretty well. Didn’t start to get flattened until back to the beach on lap 1. You really have to relax when getting pummeled in the water. It was hard to sight as it was still pretty dark due to the clouds, but the giant screen showing the action was like a lighthouse on the beach. Lap 2 was more of the same crushing action. Some smooth sections followed by whitewater. But, I was able to get out of the water in around 1:09, which was a tad slower than I would have liked, but within my 1:05 to 1:10 range I wanted.
One lowlight was on the way back to the beach on Lap 2. While going through what I needed to do in my transition, I realize that I forgot my bike gels in the refridgerator at the house. Hmm. That would be a problem. But, I had four gels on my run belt, so I just had to grab those out of my T2 bag and use those on the bike.
I found out that the only dangers are not in the water. When I found a couple wetsuit strippers to get my suit off and got on the ground, some guy comes barrelling in and literally almost takes out my stripper and falls over me. Dude, we got a lot of time to go. Lighten up. Out of the water 798th overall and 157th in my age group.
Ironman transitions are interesting because after getting your bag, you go straight into a good sized tent to change. Volunteers are there to help you as well. The grass infield was turning into a marsh, but at least the tent was moderately dry, if not crowded and chaotic. I was glad to get my bike clothes on and get things going.
This bike course is just awesome. Lots of climbing, making it the hardest Ironman bike course in terms of elevation. Friend Michael Hennessey, who is trying to do 20 Ironmans in one year to raise awareness of children born with trisomies (the presence of an extra chromosome) and has done 8 already, said it was the hardest he has done. But, I like climbing, and the key is to groove on the uphills in a low gear that allows for greater spinning. Goal was to keep RPMs in the 90s and heartrate in Zone 3. Long day and pushing too hard would be catastrophic.
Complicating things was of course the rain. You have to climb some way out of town, and then it is a screaming downhill for many miles. Triathletes are not the best bike handlers, and the rain was making things challenging to keep the bike pointed in the right direction. I let the bike go, hitting upper 40-lower 50 mph on the descent, breaking only if people were in my way and I needed to navigate around them. At one point, I started to hydroplane a little and had to ease things back under control. But, generally, the descent was a blast. Of course, the downs are followed by the ups, and there are many, including the climb back into town past Whiteface. Easy to go too hard and overgear trying to push up the hills. Can’t succomb to temptation and keep things nice and easy.
Despite the rain, I was able to keep things steady and roll out a pretty good bike time in 5:26, which was a 20.6 mph average. It felt extremely comfortable. Luckily for me, every 10 miles or so there are many wonderful volunteers that are handing out water, gatorade, gels, and other food, which of course saved me due to my stupidity at leaving my gels in the house. By the end of the ride, I was ready to be off the bike. It was great to be able to ride without fear of getting flattened by a car, but all good things must end and after 112 miles I was wanting it to end and get the run going. Of the bike 155th overall and 33rd in my age group.
More of the same as the marsh was now a swamp. I grabbed my T2 bag, filled with dry socks, and went for the tent. More nice volunteers to help with changing, a quick application of vasoline to needed areas, and off we go.
Alright, here is the highs and lows of the race. I started at 7:00/mile pace, which didn’t feel bad at all. Legs weren’t heavy, pace felt smooth, and heartrate was in the upper Zone 3, which is not bad (still under lactate threshold). There is a steep run out of town as you leave the noise of the crowds for the desolation of River Road.
I figured I would pass a lot of people on the run, but there weren’t a lot of people too pass. I was feeling just fantastic, ripping off the miles and looking forward to a good finishing time. I cramped a little in my left leg at mile 4, but a banana and some changes in my uphill stride got rid of that. Climbing the big hill back to town, I was went through the 13.1 mile mark in 1:38 and at 7:30 pace.
But, by that point things had already started to go a little south. The quads started to have that Mile 21 of the Boston Marathon feeling, and were beat up. Every stride was more damage, and the legs would have none of it. The run turned into a trot, which turned into a shuffle, which turned into a walk. Then more rain, and chills due to the lack of movement. I started to resemble a refugee after I found a mylar wrap to keep warm since I was getting really cold. Everyone starts to occupy their own little slice of hell. While 7 miles to go, I figured I could keep up a pace that would get me into the finish in 1 hour. At 6 miles to go, still 1 hour. At five miles to go, still 1 hour! I figured at some point I would be in under 1 hour. I got passed by people I had passed, but managed to keep forward motion together.
Getting toward the finish, I was done having fun and wanted to get this behind me. Triathlete Mag describes the run course as flat, which is complete BS. The downhills and uphills are major league when considering what you just did on the bike. Thankfully the last bit toward the finish is downhill and around the skating oval from the 1980s Olympics.
Finishing was more relief than jubilation. I was just happy to be done, especially after such a dismal second half of the run. My wife Lara was there to give me a hug and she a few tears. I was totally spent, left nothing out there, and at least was able to finish running and not walking. I surprisingly only lost 11 places on the run overall, and 2 in my age group. Final finishing time was 10:38:06, 166th overall and 37th in my age group.
I keep fluctuating between feelings of satisfaction and disappointment. 3/4s of the race went very well. The swim can and will be better. The bike went according to plan, and could be improved. I didn’t have a lot of time to train for it after Boston, and my crash program and rides to Wachusett served me well. Nutrition was great as well. No problem with my stomach, no crashing in terms of fuel. The run was good to a point, and then went south. I figured I could hold 8:00/miles, but it went much worse. I’ll have to figure out what to do about that in the future. Any suggestions are welcome. Perhaps dial it back a little, maybe some weight training to strengthen the legs. We’ll see. But, there is definitely room for improvement. I should/could be closer to 10:00 than 11:00 hours.
Lara said I should do it again. So, looks like I’ll be giving it another go. Now that I have one under my belt, I’ll be in a better position to know what to expect and what to do. Now, onto cyclocross season.