|Ironman Lake Placid '07 RACE REPORT||July 22, 2007
#815, Suk it up!
I got to town around 3pm and went directly to the onsite registration, parked pretty close and sloshed through the streets into the gym. It was really quick and painless- I was out in about fifteen minutes and I headed straight down to the race wheels van down at the Expo. The Expo circles the olympic speed skating oval which is also the transition area and finish line during the race. But when I got there it was drenched and all the vendors were packed up, so I took off and got myself into the hotel with some great deli sandwiches from Sourdough Bakery. Christal and my family was coming up the next day so I was lef to my own devices to unpack and review my race pan. Then review it agian, and again. After that I needed to get out- so I met up with friends for dinner and then followed that up with watching le Tour at a local bar. Around midnight it was enough to get me to sleep soundly.
Friday and Saturday flew by without actually doing much of anything other than eating, preparing for God knows what, and being a tourist in the little mountain town of Lake Placid. There were some swims in the lake, a short bike out the back side of the course with the final hills and a short warm up run. The weather slowly improved with high hopes for race day. And my hunger for ice cream grew.
I had walked the distance from the hotel to the transition area the two days before and it was about 15 minutes away. I kept my shoes and socks out of the transitions bags that were checked in the day before- I did this in case it rained over night as it did last year. That way I would have dry shoes, so I took those with me along with my nutrition, special need bags and swim gear. That's a lot of bags.
The walk down was calm, the drones of racers and spectators all honing in on the lake start from miles around. The sun was rising through the clouds and streaming across the lake as the fog was lifting off the water. It was a great visual. It was one of those picture perfect posters you would see in the dentist office with a quote like: "Anything is possible if you tri" or "You're in Gods hands, blessed is the day." You get the idea- it made the swim course look like a cake walk- that's before we tramppled all over the cake.
I was relatively clam- compared to previous races my stomach was solid and not as queasy, my experience was kicking in and I was redirecting my thoughts to focus on execution. I tried to tell myself this was just a long training day- but I knew better, that's a bunch of bull and I couldn't commit to that lie. What training day do you spend years preparing for and clearly ramp up for months? This was the day- do it right and make it happen. Make the best of what the day throws at you, rely on your knowledge and deal with what you have control over.
I had plenty of time at this point. Got my transition bags ready with my dry shoes. Loaded up my bike with nutrition. Water? Well this was the first time I had forgotten water- how basic is that. Ok, so this was my first challenge of the day- easy to fix. There are far worse things to deal with. Christal quickly got me a new water bottle and then I filled it up at the Gatorade booth (which happens to be at the furthest point of the oval). Back to the bike I went and did one final look over and check- no need for air. At this point I remembered that a rear deraileur tune up would have been nice - my lowest gear which would be used on the long climbs was off a bit due to the rented wheels I was riding. Decision: wait in line for a mechanic or move on and deal with the offset? Deal with it- my anxiety free state of mind going into a full day is worth more than an annoying gear.
So I got body marked and headed up to drop off my special needs bags. We saw Sean on the way up and a few others from the DC Tri Club. From there it was over to the race start to suit up. It was about 6:35 and by the time I was in position with my wet suit on and looking down on the lake it was 6:45. Time to go. I squeezed through all the spectators and made my way down to the beach area.
The start was marked by a bull horn and we were off in one of the craziest swims I've ever been in. I made a direct line for the first buoy without concern for much else. My form was closer to that of someone yelling for help that didn't know how to swim but it slowly thinned out enough that I wasn't on top of peoples legs. I found the cable-- a cable about 6 feet deep that runs the entire length of the course which actually holds the marker buoys-- a coveted spot in the race because there is no need to sight. I was in a relatively happy place. I was getting knocked around with my goggles mostly filled with lake water but I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was keeping pace and at times passing someone. The only down side of being on a direct course with the buoys is that I found myself diving under them since I wasn't able to push my way around them. This became a bit of a game as I also had to dodge the cables that tied the buoys to the line. But for the most part it was a good change of pace and something else to think about other than my form.
I felt good overall and only slightly annoyed at all the water in my goggles. They were knocked off about 5 or 6 times so I didn't even bother with trying to get them dry- except for the run between the two loops when I repositioned them. At the end of the first loop I looked for my split but my watch had been stopped- after the race I learned that during the swim it had been turned on/off about 5 times during the swim. This was just another reminder of the harsh contact throughout the two loops. I thought it would have been less harsh on the second loop but to my surprise it was just about the same all the way to the last 100m.
As I came out of the water I headed directly to the end of the line on the wet suit strippers (you lay on your bum while they yank your wet suit off in one swoop). I checked my watch for the split but could only estimate my swim time from day time- it was about 8:14 when I had figured out how to see the time and keep my stopwatch going. So I figured I came out of the water in about 1:12 which was exactly what I did last year. It was disappointing and it was clearly affecting me. Surely I could have swam 2 minutes faster- that's just one minute per loop.
I was about to get on the bike and go out for a great ride. My mind was clear. Volunteers usually bring your bike to you but since there are so many racers out of the water at this exact time they just couldn't keep up. I grabbed my own bike at the end of a row and was off.
I felt good though, I was cruising out of town and right from the beginning I was passing people. You would think that's a good thing, but in true triathlon fashion passing too many people at this stage of the race usually means you're going too hard and going to blow up before the end. So I kept looking at my goal pace and tried to stick to it. The climbs out of town were calm- less hectic than the crowds in town- the pace slower. The day had really set in now and knowing that it wasn't just a quick jaunt I started my nutrition plan. I had my liquid nutrition bottle - one for each lap on the bike - so I'd take that every now and then. Every 15 minutes I would alternate a gel and a salt tab with plenty of water. In my mind when my watch hit the top of the hour and the half I would have gel. On the 15 and 45 I had salt. Easy enough. This only got a bit hazy half way through when all I wanted to do was ride and I felt fine- but I knew it was critical to get all my calories in now for a good run later.
As I kept rolling through the first loop I was passing more and more people. I came to find out that during the bike portion of the day I passed 600 racers which took me from 877th place to 276th overall. This would have been great to know during the race and a potential huge boost in the run. But I had no idea, rather I kept thinking that by passing all these people on the bike I was somehow going to bonk on the run.
Coming in for the first loop I checked my time and felt good. At that point I thought I had another loop in me at just that same speed. So I quickly stopped at special needs and asked the volunteer to help me out- a great tool so you don't have to hold the bag and go through it at the same time. While they held it open I picked out what I wanted- a new bottle of liquid nutrition and a couple snickers bars. Don't try anything new on race day? Oh well, the snickers sounded like an awesome idea the day before and seemed easy enough to eat on the bike. This year, I held on to my food and waited to cruise through town before getting into my "lunch". The curves and the crowds in town were amazing- having family watch as you fly through the hairpin turns makes it seem so much more incredible. It's all the excitement that you're so so far away from at mile 90. The enthusiasm gives you a renewed thrill for the ride. And then you face the climb out of town again. Quiet. Gears are creaking and you can almost hear the sweat drip onto the top tube of your bike. The candy bar lunch concept that I thought was groundbreaking minutes ago starts to make you wonder whether two bars of chocolate is really the best idea ever. How could that effect you on the run? What are you doing to yourself? Ok, so I tossed the remaining bar off at the next aid station. Washed it down with the salty nutrition. Loop two was in full effect.
I noticed the wind had picked up, and the hills didn't seem as smooth and easy as before- but I was well on my way and now it was a matter of pushing through another 50... 46.... 43 miles as they ticked off. The huge downhill of the day was a good indicator of the increasing head wind. I remember almost hitting 50mph on the first loop and this time around I was just hovering around 42mph for a high. On top of that I was getting a little bit of a side wind. I wasn't really calculating this out- but as the loop wore on it was clear that the wind was impacting my time. It was also a "reverse" wind from what is traditionally on the course. Usually the headwind hits you on the way back into town but today it was taking its toll on the way out. Luckily I rented some 606 Zipps - a first timer on rather nice wheels. Before the race I was worried that they wouldn't be as stable on the long descent but I was glad to see just the opposite- they were super stable and I felt like I could corner around the bends at 40+mph with more confidence. From time to time I thought that they had to be helping in the head wind- but it's hard to convince yourself that a head wind is really any kind of favor.
The last 25 miles became more of a challenge and I was starting to think of getting off the bike. I was ready to run but there was plenty yet to complete on the ride. My neck was sore and I kept repositioning to see if my headache would decide to leave. I knew the numbers I had to stick but they became less important and harder to maintain. I saw my power drop slightly and I used that as a sign that my run was going to be even stronger. But I knew I was deflecting my slowing pace. The wind and the hills where now starting to take their toll. But just as I was slowing slightly I was also passing riders faster. I could see that while I may not have been perfect on my pacing I was surely better off than most the people around me. With that in mind and the new found tempo up the final climbs into town I was getting more excited to get to the next stage. The hills now seemed to be just stepping stones on my way into the final slalom through town. I heard the cheers from the spectators at Papa Bear and looked around to take it all in- the penalty tent, the chalk drawings on the road, the crowds yelling and boozing with blaring music from the 80's. It's at this point that you can easily forget your plan and hammer away with all that adrenaline pumping. I surged and tried to bring it back down. I sat through the climbs and kept rolling on the flats. I was back. I was ready to get off the bike and start the marathon.
Heart Rate Graph
I was timing my miles just to see what I was hitting - 7:20, 7:30, 7:40 and then it leveled there. My heart rate was staying steady at about 140, just a couple beats lower than where I wanted to be. I was happy, telling myself to let it rise at its own- don't force it. I'm at a good pace and every second under 8 minute miles I could put in the bank for later in the run. Within the first four miles I had 100 seconds in the bank. Then I got the urge to take a leak again. The run course was pretty empty at this point and I was at the far point of the out and back loop among the trees. So if there was a good time it was now. And waiting any longer is just another distraction to deal with. So I looked around and pulled off to the side. Looking at my watch the entire time- calculating the time I could delete from the bank as well as get a true reading of how long the mile would take me to run. So that was about 50 seconds. Much better though.
The run nutrition plan was more flexible- it was basically to alternate water and gatorade at each station and have a gel every fourth station. That was going well up until my first gel- chocolate. I actually asked the volunteer for an alternate flavor and there was nothing else-- mind you this is all while I'm running past. Ok, chocolate it is. It was like trying to eat warm Elmer's glue. This was the one time all day I actually saw myself get mad when there really wasn't anything I could do about it. Relax. It's nutrition - it doesn't matter what flavor it is and you'll get over it. My internal voice was really starting to take over more and more of the conversations I was having.
As I headed back into town I had two large hills and another full loop. This is where I needed to forget about the whole distance- I needed to concentrate on the next couple miles. By mile 9 I had lost track of the bank, I was keeping tabs on my miles but I wasn't seeing the whole picture. It was just a sense of how I felt. I kept my heart rate in check - especially up the hills and felt good. The hills were tough but nothing killer. If anything it was a nice way to be able to pass some more racers. This brought me back into town where the crowds were in full bloom. For them it must have been like going to the beach for spring break. It was a mad house and I just happened to be running in the middle of it. I got another round of cheers from Christal and family and I took longer strides to make it look easy. It's not something you plan, it just happens. You pass them and then try and focus your heart rate again. I was up by the lake thinking through the distances making mental notes for the next loop when I'd be on mile 24. That's when you want to know each curve in the road and exactly what you have left. Knowing the downhills out of town are just ahead was a pleasant thought and that kept me going strong. One loop done.
Last loop here. Now the plan was to reach mile 18 and then let it go. The calculations started at mile 15. 11 to go at X pace gives you about X finish time. I was still working off my watch time because my overall stop watch time was inaccurate from the on/off during the swim. These were good enough for approximations being made on my last 11 miles- as if I would really know how long it would really take. But the numbers in my head made some sort of sense. Until now I was also feeling pretty relaxed and the miles were ticking off one by one without much else to worry about. I saw some familiar DC Tri faces and called out to them as we passed. The course was full now - and determining who was on loop one or loop two was hard to decipher. I tried to keep pace with a few runners here and there and then switched to looking ahead 50 yards and trying to pick one off. All these tactics were like games to keep you going. With all that my heart rate was still dropping. This was a clear indicator that I was tired and getting lazy. That my legs were getting heavy and mile 18 was upon me. But at the same time I was in a good position to keep pushing and get it done. I was looking to finish around my goal time and with each mile the realization became more and more clear.
Each aid station now was like navigating a parking lot on Christmas eve- it was more about trying to get through without hitting someone than keeping any kind of stride. Get what you need and move out of the way- usually on the far side of the station. I had the two hills to contend with and that in itself became more interesting only because there was little else at this point that was capturing my attention. Was my heart rate going to allow me to run or were my legs going to really hurt? The first one was right at the bottom of the ski jumps and before I knew it, I was run-shuffling up the hill at a steady cadence. Even with my slow speed I was making it up at double time compared to most others that were walking. This hurdle got me up half way to town in my mind. One more large hill and then it was all about cruising in for the final two miles.
At the base of the last hill I took my fair share of fluids at the aid station and walked out with two cups. I walked about 3 feet before I felt like I was letting myself down, and I gave myself another ten feet to the sewer grate before I was going to start the run back up- up the main hill. Eerily enough as I started to run I felt better and while my heart rate was creeping up I knew at this point I was close enough that I could withstand a higher rate. I looked around, this was it. I was in town and with a final short section around the lake I would be making my way back to the oval. I was tired but excited. I knew my heavy legs were wanting to stop and now I could finally tell them we were almost there. I looked up, took it all in, and smiled at the day. It wasn't just finishing the race - it was completing a year of training- a quest to go sub 11 for two years- putting all those miles of training on the line. I thought about rushing through and stepping up my pace for the last two miles but I only stepped it up a little. I decided to high five the little kids, encourage others just starting their second loop, thanking the volunteers, talking to friends cheering me on, looking over the lake and how the sun was hitting it at this time of day, keeping my stride and enjoy the culmination of my efforts. And as I saw the oval come into view my legs began to feel better, my effort easier. I ran in with a clear path to the finish without racers ahead or behind- I was flying around the oval having it all to myself. And as the last stretch came into view I invited the crowd to get louder which they did without hesitation. My name was broadcast on the load speaker, my age announced as a year younger than it really was, and I coasted through the line. I was done.
Later I found out that I had the 91st fastest run split. That was a huge bonus for the day. I've never seen myself as a runner- and still don't. But this clearly allowed me to finish as well as I did.
*Rank and position are for overall place. About 2245 competitors started and I came in at 128th (117 among age groupers). I was 25th in my age group out of about 415.
Soon after I headed back into the ring for a massage, taking advantage of any help I could get. My recovery drink in hand I was able to walk right into the massage tent without a wait. This was the insiders view I had never seen - the massage tent without a line! I was done and I had beat the rush. I was well taken care of and then I headed back to the sidelines. The stories hadn't quite formulated yet but I was smiling. I stayed until the clock reached my last years time (11:12) and then I made my way back to the hotel with some help- via getting my bike and my special needs bags. What did I want? A diet coke. Why? I don't know but that's what I wanted. But soon after that, and after a hot shower, we went to dinner. A burger and beer followed by ice cream was great post race food. We sat in the restuarant over looking the lake and we could just make out people still running on the other side of the lake. It was dusk. While I was happy as all get out to be done, there was some guilt in piggin out while people were still at it. But by the second beer I felt better about it.
The next day at about 8am Christal and I headed to purchase 2008 slots for some friends. Apparently the word was out and there were about 1500 people there already! It was a slow morning waiting in line as the day warmed up. We looked in on who got Kona slots and chatted it up until about lunch time when we decided to go to the top of Whiteface mountain. Awesome views and great perspective of the course. Not a bad little climb at the top either! Felt like we were on top of the world - and we were.
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