So, here we are, nearly two weeks after my 10th Ironman finish at Ironman Lake Placid. I apologize for taking my time in writing up this post, but I needed to have this experience marinate for a bit before I attempted to explain myself. Also, I have been very busy at work, and have spent my leisure time taking part in activities I put on hold while in training for IMLP like playing golf, and sitting still for over thirty five minutes. In any event, I am finally ready to share my day in upstate New York.
It started early, I was up at 3:50A, but felt rested. Marion finally made it across our great land the afternoon before and it was wonderful to have him to lean on Saturday night. I arrived at the foggy transition area with plenty of time to stand in line to have my tires pumped up by the pros, but when I finally made it to the front, the gentleman with the heavy-duty hose couldn’t connect to my valve, it is sleeved, which means my valve’s hole is smaller than normal, so he sourly told me I needed to see the mechanic in the tent behind him, awesome. Luckliy, the tent mechanic had a kind and open disposition who explained the situation, and pumped up my tires with a smile. Thank you, Velo Stop.
Next I went back to rack my bike, and put on my wetsuit. I chatted with a few fellow racers, but the feeling was tense, so I kept mostly to myself. Then we heard a loud POP, someone’s tire blew. No bueno. Suddenly, two athletes rushed over to help change the tire even though it was not their bike, an early and genuine sign of sportsmanship. Soon it was time to drop off, or hang up, rather, my morning bag with my bike and run bags in transition, and saunter on down to the shores of Mirror Lake.
The swim was a rolling start, which meant we were to line up in groups within our finishing times, but we were packed in like sardines, so I lined up where I could. I didn’t care where I started because my time would start once my chip crossed the mat, so I relaxed and waded on in to the glorious water around 6:48AMish. The swim was two loops, with a run out and back into the water on the shore in between loops. Honestly, I felt strong in the water, and thought I was moving along quite swiftly. I am not Dory, but I genuinely believed my swim had improved in this Ironman ramp up, but it turns out I was slower than usual, 1:17+ hours.
Nevertheless, I did not have this fact confirmed until I was safely back at my rental house later that night checking my splits, because I learned after Ironman Louisville in 2012 never to wear a watch during my swim. Seeing my slow as molasses time on my watch after exiting the Ohio river that morning crushed my spirit the rest of the day, so I have since embraced the ignorance is bliss mantra for the swim. On the other hand, I do keep track of my mileage and speed on the bike and run, a testament to where my confidence lies. Nevertheless, I had a feeling a I was further back exiting the water than I planned because there were a lot of bikes gone when I made it to the racks, but I felt strong, and just focused on pushing hard on the bike.
The bike course was absolutely stunning. It was challenging, there was a character building climb out of town on down highway 73 toward Keane, but nothing too difficult. I glided through the first lap with a smile on my face eagerly picking off men and women while taking in the gorgeous scenery and patting myself on the back that my bike training set me up nicely for this course. I had spent most of my work outs doing hill repeats, and that effort paid off big time on race day. This training build was very different than any other I had done for previous Ironmans, because I had much less time to train due to that funny thing called full-time employment. In any case, I made sure to exploit the time I did have, and embraced quality over quantity, hence the many hours spent on hills.
There was LONG downhill that I coasted down on the first loop, but bombed down the second time around. I knew I needed to bank some time and speed, because the wind was picking up as the day wore on. Also, typically one’s legs are slightly more thrashed on the second half of a 100+ mile bike ride, indeed mine were, but it was mainly my mind that started to tire around mile 90. This was the section of the course were the long, flat sections were settling into slight graded windy uphill’s. I was moving, but not as quickly as I would have liked. Then while changing gears too late into a climb just after mile 100, my chain dropped. Bummer. I pulled over to the side of the road, assessed the situation, and carefully put my chain back on and peddled up the hill. To be honest, I wish I hadn’t lost those minutes, but I did gain a zip of energy from the forced rest that boosted me through the last 12 miles into downtown Lake Placid.
When I swooped around town after finishing my first loop I did not see or hear Marion among the crowd of hundreds that lined the streets, but I did the second time.:) I was thrilled and comforted knowing he was there. It’s always special to have your #1 fan cheering in the flesh.
I was in and out of transition fairly quickly, but I made a silly choice that haunted me throughout the run; I did not change my socks. I figured my wet from the swim/112 bike ride socks would be just fine during the marathon, um, no. That was a rookie mistake, because my feet became engorged with blisters during the second half of the marathon, which is not a foreign feeling to me, so I handled it, but it could have been avoided; I had an extra pair of socks in my run bag.
I started the run feeling good, my legs weren’t too wobbly, and my spirits were high. My main concern was making sure I stayed on top of my nutrition, because I nailed it on the bike, thank you PICKY BARS!! However, I knew I needed to be a wee bit more careful on the run, where the stomach naturally jostles more, so I only stuck with salt, bananas, water, Gatorade, Coke, and Clif Blocs, YUM!
The run course is two loops through town out to River Road and back again. There was a short, steep hill just outside of town on highway 73 before the left turn on River road that felt good as a downhill the way out, but stung running back up it into town. However, my least favorite stretch was along River road. It was a beautiful stretch of prairie land, don’t get me wrong, but those kinds of straight-a-ways where you see you competitors running past you, always drives me nuts. In fact, it was around mile 6, just before the turn-a-round that I had a real collapse of confidence. All day long I did not see many women in front of me, I knew they were there, of course, but few were in my sights, which one would assume meant a lot of them were behind me, yeah, not quite, there were still plenty ahead of me, and this is when I saw them.
Whenever I spot a woman seeming in her mid-thirties ahead of me, it felt like a dagger driving into my gut. It was also around this point that my blisters started to boil, and my pace slowed down, I went from a steady 8:20 – 8:30minute mile, to the high 8’s, not good. My goal was a 3:45 hour marathon, but even though I had my pace and mileage visible on my watch, I did not want to gauge my overall time, ‘tis another little trick I play on myself.
Moreover, the few miles on the course into town were brutal. There is a sharp downhill, followed by an L-shaped uphill that leads to the turn-a-round on Mirror Lake drive. Thankfully, I saw Marion perched high on a tree taking photos of me as I was creeping up the final hill before the turn, clearly he picked up my pained expression because he did not say anything about increasing my pace, wise choice. Miraculously, after I made the turn on Mirror Lake and officially began my last phase of the race, something finally clicked, and I went to work.
I absorbed all of the positive cheers of strangers yelling my name, thank you race bibs designers, and settled in for my last half marathon. I inched along at my sub 9:00min per hour pace through town, but then I picked up steam as we turned again on River Road. At mile 16 all I told myself was to get to 17, that was all that mattered. I put the entire first part of the day out of my head, and only considered myself a runner. My feet hurt, but everything else felt perfect. As I approached mile 19, I reminded myself that I was probably the most experienced marathon runner in the field, this one being my 42nd, and that I just needed to have faith in my experience, and let my body take over. The next time I looked at my watch I was down to 8:20 min. pace again, sweet.
The last few miles into town were fantastic. I kept punching up my pace, hoping that I might squeak in around that desired 3:45 finish, then at the last turn-a-round on Mirror Lake road, right after mile 25, I saw a racer stumbling, and veering all over the road right in front of me. I stopped to steady her, and gave her some salt, and offered her a Clif bloc, then yelled out to the spectators cheering in front of their house to bring her some water. She was dizzy and out of it, but did not want to sit down. I walked with her for a few minutes, then a spectator came up to help her and said he would stay with her, and that I should get going, so off I ran toward the finish line. I felt guilty that I did not stay with her longer, but held faith that she was in the right hands, and hoped she would not give up on her race.
Then I took off like a rocket toward the finish. The final turn into the Olympic oval stadium was everything I had dreamt it would be for the last twelve years, but it was hard to believe the moment had actually arrived. Suddenly I snapped out of my daze because a male athlete I passed on the turn surged next to me, uh-uh, I flipped on my Vista speed and left him in my dust. I kind of felt bad for him that he got chicked right at the finish line, but all is fair in competition.
I finished in 11:24+ hours, a few minutes slower than I wanted, but considering the few minutes I stopped on the bike to fix my chain, and stopping to help my fellow competitor on the run course, the extra minutes were worth it, and all part of it, that’s Ironman.
I placed 9th in my age group, and PR’d my Ironman marathon time, 3:51+ hours, and I negative split, which is promising. No matter what the outcome, I know there is much to learn and gain from this race to carry on to the next one. In fact, I utilized my long flight home to map out the next 12 months and I look forward to sharing more adventures!