Here it is! My unabridged report from the 15th annual Ironman Lake Placid.
In July 2012, I drove up and volunteered for Ironman Lake Placid in order to sleep outside the high school and be roughly the 20th person signed up for the 15th reversion of this crazy event. From there, I'd go ahead and detail my training, but I doubt you want to hear much about that. Here's the brief run down...
That about covers most of it. Prior to all the training, I also put in my time off request at work. This was going to be my 2013 summer vacation which, come to find out, seems crazy for non-triathlete people. Who makes a vacation out of a race which restricts the food you can eat, dictates the time you go to bed, and will leave you in need of a "normal" vacation when you return home??
So... Onto the week of the race.
I drove up to Lake Placid on Thursday before the race. It was fun driving up 87N from Albany, NY as I saw cars drive by with bikes strapped to them. I have to admit that was my first instance of getting excited about the race and my vacation.
Once I got to town, I checked in to the hotel, ate some food (food I packed and brought with of course), went down to athlete check-in, and got my packet and swag.
I dropped my materials off in the room and geared up! I went out for a brick; a 12 mile ride and a 2 mile run. I felt GREAT!! Once cleaned up, I headed out to dinner with Lisa, a fellow HEAT member who had come up the night before. We went to a more expensive type steak & seafood place and I must admit that it was the most bland chicken parmesan I've ever had. Haha. Oh-well. Back to the hotel and off to sleep!!
I woke up early having decided to be in the water at the same time we would be on Sunday, 6:30am. And just LOOK at the fog I was greeted by!
Oh! And it was 38 degrees. Ffffuuuuuuuuuckk!! It was cold enough that I debated wearing my wetsuit just to drive the 1.5 miles to the swim site. I didn't. But when I did get there at 6:!5am, the beach was pretty empty. There were maybe 8 people getting suited up.
Once in the water, though, it was P-E-R-F-E-C-T!! The water was 72 degrees. I swam a full loop, hopped out, dried off, and wrapped myself in sweats as quickly as possible. The masses had started to arrive by the time I got back.
After a second breakfast, I headed out on a mission to find some extra Clif gels and a solution to the possibility of race day rain. It turns out my preferred gels don't sell well which is why no one carries them. After searching the expo, bike gear station, and local running store, I finally bought a pair of Zensah arm sleeves and my backup GU Mint Chocolate. My nerves about the impending weather had started to calm. Then a last thought stop in EMS caused me to semi-scream "woohoo" in the middle of the store when I found my Clif Vanilla gels.
Then it was time for some food. I had looked this place up before coming to town; The Good Bite, a vegetarian restaurant with a menu that changes daily. If you're ever in Lake Placid, check them out! It's not only great tasting food, but it's healthy!!
And then it was back to the hotel 'cause guess who strolled into town?! ...my DAD!! And I have to say, as much as I was excited to be in Lake Placid, to try my hand at my second Ironman, to see so many friends and fellow triathletes out on the course and have some time off of work, it was all trumped by being able to spend time with my dad. Living 8 hours away doesn't offer us much time to visit; maybe 2 or 3 times a year. This was his first chance to see me race since my years as a high school swimmer and I wouldn't have traded it for anything!
Love you Dad!!
Not to downplay my mother and step-father who arrived Saturday, but they live a lot closer and they got to see Ironman 70.3 Providence.
Anyways... back to the race! Dad showed up, we went and got a quick bite back at The Good Bite (yes, I really love that place), and spent some time walking around the expo and transition area. Next up was the Athlete Welcome Dinner and Athlete Meeting.
Dinner was okay - Ironman did MUCH better with 70.3 Las Vegas - but the pre-meeting festivities were great! Then off to bed early again.
I was up and out by 7:15am. Having feared the impending cold weather of Sunday, I decided to see how the Zensah sleeves would work. Thankfully it was not 38 degrees. It was a heated 42 degrees! My sherpa (dad) stood by the car with my bike while I headed into the water for a 10 minute swim, hopped on the bike for 15 minutes, and then slipped into my run shoes for 10 minutes. I was feeling nice and relaxed. It was time for some pancakes!!
Every year, the North Country Ministries offers a free pancake breakfast. They were awesome!!
Eight pancakes later, we were on our way to the bike shop. Breaking the Golden Rule of racing once with the Zensah arm sleeves wasn't enough. Oh, and I already had a new pair of socks ready for the run. But onto number three, a new bike computer.
Golden Rule Breakages
1. Running Socks
2. Zensah Arm Sleeves
3. Bike Computer
4. HEED on the run course
With the new computer, I went back, packed my bags, headed to transition, dropped off my gear, and then headed back to the hotel.
They even took pictures of the bikes as you entered transition (top left)!
Finally, it was time to just lay down and relax. As I said above, my mother and step father arrived later Saturday afternoon and came by to say hi. We hashed out where to be or not be on race day, when I expected to come by, and then it was time for bed.
I woke up at 3:45am planning to be down to transition around 5am. Turns out I got ready quicker than I thought and was at transition by 4:30am, just as they opened. I did the usual; body marking, bike set up, sun tan lotion, dropped of my special needs bags, and hung around just waiting while I thought "Why do I get up so early for these things when I always have so much free time?"
Around 6:10, I headed to the water and got into my wetsuit.
At 6:15, I got into the water and did a short warm up. With five minutes to game time, I got out and seeded myself with the front "60 Minutes And Under" group, standing just behind a couple guys from my tri group. As much as I had ahead of me, I found myself prepped and at the start line without a single butterfly in my stomach. I was ready.
As you may recall, Ironman started the Swim Smart Initiative this year and instead of the 14 previous full mass starts, the 15th Ironman Lake Placid went off with a rolling start. While the pros had an in water mass start - one for men and one for women - the age groupers started on the beach. The cannon went off and we were through the arch and in the water within three seconds.
Unfortunately, I don't have experience with an Ironman mass start, but I can imagine that it is quite hectic. As we made our way down the rectangular swim course, there was some basic jockeying for position, but all of the swimmers around me seemed quite comfortable with it. Any non-swimmer would obviously be further back in the mass and out of our way for the first lap.
From talking to athletes, the consensus was that it would be a constant battle if you attempted to follow the under water tow line. A lot of athletes would be pushing to get to the line, so the suggestion was to swim outside of the line to be clear of the chaos. However, after swimming wide, I got pushed closer and closer to the buoys. Finally, I stopped getting pushed, could swim straight and still draft. Guess where I was! I was right on top of the tow line and I followed it all the way to the turn around.
Half of Lap No.1 - 14:01
On the way back, I swam wide for 2-3 buoys and then found myself back on top of the tow line. At this point I had started mentally losing focus and the tow line offered a way to keep from getting bogged down on keeping track of my progress to the next buoy. This way, I just kept breathing without sighting and the buoys went by a lot faster or so it seemed. I made my way around the dock, swam to shore, swam around people walking waist deep in the water (WHY DO YOU PEOPLE DO THAT?!?!), popped up, and was in one arch and out the other in a few seconds.
Lap No.1 - 29:40 (15:39)
I do wish I had video of my dive into the water on the second lap. It would make for a great Funniest Home Triathlete Video. Some mix of the down, up, down, the rocks in the sand, and such made it more of a flop than a dive. Haha. I quickly emptied some water from my goggles and started swimming again. I found myself on the tow line again and right next to a female in a black/pink wetsuit that I had been right next to for the back half of the first lap.
Half of Lap No. 2 - 45:00 (15:20)
The whole second lap was less congested altogether, but began mixing the slower and faster swimmers. While the pros were allowed to swim on the inside of the buoys for the second loop, the faster age group swimmers began to swim up to, into, over top of, and around the slowest swimmers who were still on their first lap.
There's a video that a friend of mine made that shows the final age group swimmers entering the water at roughly 22:30 and Andy Potts comes out of lap no.1 at just before 23:00. The first lap worked beautifully for the faster half of the swim group, but the second lap needs some work.
I started swimming into a lot of slower swimmers on the way back on the second lap. Mentally, I was happy to be on the final leg of the swim and that helped keep me on pace without getting bored. I had to swim around at least ten groups of slow swimmers and unfortunately swam partially over a few of them though I tried my best to go around them. As I sighted the final turn buoy at the dock, I was thrilled to soon be on the bike. The swim doesn't offer much boost from spectators since all you hear is the water and your own thoughts.
I, again, swam around people walking through the deeper water, started brushing elbows on the sand, popped up, and was through the arch!
Swim - 1:01:25 (16:25)
Currently 145th of 2537
13th of 117 in M25-29
Currently 145th of 2537
13th of 117 in M25-29
Having made a goal of a comfortable 1:00 swim, I was happy to see I had stuck pretty close to that; I was on track for the day.
I'm always very comfortable with my transitions. However, as I ran from the water to the wetsuit strippers, I was having trouble getting the top of my wetsuit off; that's never happened. I had a moment of mental hesitation until the strippers got to work. I ran through most of the crowd as the first half was packed with swimmers. I ran through, locked eyes with a guy at the end, he pointed to me, and as I stood there, he took ahold of my top, pulled it off and ripped the bottom off in one strong pull. He was good!!
I jumped up, grabbed the wetsuit, and ran the 1/8 mile down to the Olympic oval. As I ran, I took a mental note of how the air felt. I knew the temp was around 62 at the start (according to the prediction on TWC at 4am that morning) and this was my last chance to make a decision on the arm sleeves. Should I put them on and risk overheating or go without and risk being cold for maybe the first half a lap? I cursed at myself and thought "I may regret this, but I'm not cold now." I decided to forego this break of the Golden Rule. Once down to the Oval, I grabbed my bag, made my way to the changing tent, and as I sat down, a guy came up and asked if I wanted help. All I could get out while I dug into the bag was "Sure!"
While I transitioned, I heard "Hey Kurt!" I looked behind me and it was Jeff, a fellow member of HEAT who had started just ahead of me on the swim. I had not planned on seeing him until the run, but I was glad to have crossed paths. Jeff made his 9th return to Ironman Lake Placid this year after taking a year for an ankle injury and was just back to enjoy the day. He's an awesome athlete and I very much look up to him for advice given his depth of experience (I believe this was Ironman #17 or more for him).
Back to the action! I dug into the bag and pulled things out while the volunteer separated the gear; my goggles, cap, suit to one side, and made an orderly line of my bike gear. I told him to grab my Aquaphor and salt pills. I put on my helmet and glasses, grabbed the shoes, and then took the gear from him. I started to pack and he just yelled "Go, go, go!!" The volunteers were awesome. They packed all my gear back into the bag and let me go race. I loved it!
Most athletes took the time to put on their cycling shoes in T1 and then ran through the soggy grass to their bike in those shoes. I, instead, ran barefoot on the grass, took 10 seconds to clip my shoes into my bike, and was able to flying mount the bike. I ran with the bike to the mount line and then literally ran into my main pet peeve.
** I will say my apologies now to anyone who finds the following mentality too competitive, rude, short sighted or anything of the kind. I simply feel that the sport has not come to a conclusion on how to handle this point of the race. I do not regret what I did, but I apologize for any affect it has/had/will have on your day **
As I approached the mount line, there were a few people standing on the line mounting their bikes. There were also two people ahead of me running who took up the rest of the narrow mount line. As I ran, I yelled "Move! Move! Move!" The athletes didn't move and even the volunteers yelled "Careful! Slow down!" at me as I picked up my bike and ran over the other mounting athletes. I'm pretty sure I knocked one athlete, but I feel no regret (Knocked, not knocked over. I'm not THAT mean). If you can't handle a mount line properly with 2500+ athletes, then something is bound to happen.
They even got a good picture of me at the mount line.
Yeah, get out of my way! I have no regrets about running you over if you start your bike with an unpunished blocking violation. On the road you know to ride right and pass left. That rule should begin as soon as you touch your bike!!
Transition No.1 - 4:04
Ok! My reign of terror is over, right? Haha. Not quite. I managed to frustrate a few other volunteers even before mile 1 of the bike.
Let me first tell you that the first half mile of the Lake Placid bike course is quite technical. It's all downhill. You mount at the very top, go 50 yards and take a nearly 180 degree left turn, ride another 75 yards, make a 90-degree right turn, ride a quarter mile with a steep drop off at the end, make a 60 degree left turn, and finally then make a final 30 degree right turn onto the main road. If you're going too fast or even semi-fast and the road is wet, this section can get dangerous.
As you read above, I blew through/over the mount line. After that, I did a flying mount, got my feet on top of my shoes and approached the 180-degree turn. In the crowd straight ahead was JD, a rather speedy HEAT member cheering us on. I made the turn slowly and having ridden this part of the course before, pushed a couple hard turns of the pedals down towards the next turn. I don't know if it's lucky or unlucky, but my dad was at this corner and got a video of me riding through. Enjoy...
As you can see, those turns are not non-cyclist friendly, but despite the two volunteers motioning for me to slow down, my dad yelling (which I hadn't heard at the time), and the post-turn commentary you can hear...
"You saw that guy coming!"
"Yeah. He was..."
...I and the rest of the athletes made it through the turn without incident and I bombed the straight away. Once out on the main road, I slipped my shoes on, strapped in, and mentally prepped myself for a rather long day in the saddle.
The bike course - if you aren't aware - is two loops.
8 miles - rolling uphill
7 miles - fast descent
24 miles - flat/rolling
17 miles - rolling uphill
** And Repeat **
My goal was to finish just under 6 hours and that required me to not over do it on the first lap; hopefully just over 3 hours on the first loop and just under on the second. Not to ruin the suspense, but I didn't quite achieve either goal. I took the first 8 miles easy, not doing more than I needed to to make steady progress up the hills. I chatted with a few people to keep my mind occupied and distracted. I even found a fellow blogger, Marni! That was definitely one of the coolest parts of the bike. The other would be at the bottom of the hill.
There was a small amount of rain during the first half hour of the bike which left the roads wet and made the 7 mile downhill a bit treacherous, but I still managed to hit some 44.x mph and cruise well ahead of those who caught me on the uphill. Then came the flats!
This whole section was a lesson I learned on my second lap that I need some form of a number
(power, watts, etc.) to keep myself in check. But despite the over zealous push, I got to have some fun. During the athlete meeting, Mike Reilly told the fast swimmers to be careful of catching up to the pro women on the bike; that they have different rules than we do and just to be aware of that; don't mess with them. I never figured I'd have to deal with that, but about 10 miles into the flat section, I found myself playing leap frog with two professional women, Kelly Fillnow and Molly Roohi. That was really cool. If only that would have fit into my 'not pushing the first lap' plan!
Once we made the turn after the first out-and-back, we started the uphill. As planned, I took it easy. I never pushed the uphill. I only stood up for a total of 15 seconds just to help relax my quads a few times. This back section of the bike course is hazy in my mind. Nothing went horribly, but it also wasn't a highlight. I'm not quite a fan of this section, so I just kept my head down and did my best not to overdo myself. Before I knew it, Mama, Baby, and Papa Bear (the last three hills of the course) were in front of me and I was excited. I even got some yells from JD who had ridden his bike over to this section. I love the HEAT group!!
There are a lot of people lined up at the top of Papa Bear helping athletes make that last climb. It was pretty cool to see so many faces and hear so much cheering. I made a steady climb, made my way back into town, and then stopped at special needs. And guess who comes up with my bag, Patty!!, another HEAT friend. I admit that I was so into the race that I didn't really say much, but if you're reading this Patty, I was very happy to see you!
I grabbed a few gels, switched my empty bottle of Perpetum for a fresh, and was off! The guy holding my bag even gave me a push which was really helpful because special needs was on a slight incline. I pumped a few turns, made my way up to the top of the road where you make the turn down to the Hot Corner. And again, amidst my focus, the noise, and the distraction of being back in town, I missed my Dad's yells. But he did get me on video.
And just to add to the streak - and not be biased - I completely missed my Mother at the Hot Corner. Sorry guys!!
But then in complete bias, as I rounded the Hot Corner, I did hear Roger, yet another member of HEAT and a Wattie Ink racer yelling and then running with me up the hill to the high school. If only that could have happened all over the course, I might have felt enough energy to surge on. Oh-well, back out for another 56 miles.
Bike Loop No.1 - 2:53:03
Even before looking at my watch, I knew I had out ridden myself. A 2:53 would have been great if I hadn't felt slightly drained already. But whatcha' gonna' do?!
According to MapMyRide, one loop of the IMLP bike course has the same elevation gain as the Rev3 Quassy bike course. At Quassy (granted it was much hotter), I biked a 2:51, which means I was only a rough 2 minutes slower. Given that with the weather I might ride better, but that I swam twice as far and should have been backing off the pace, my first lap was well outside of where I should have been, but also quite comparable to my effort at Quassy.
The second loop was only different in a few ways...
- I had less energy and could see that my speeds were decreasing at times.
- There were less people passing me. I did very little passing at all, but there were just less people in general making it a more mental ride.
- No professionals anywhere!
- The rain had stopped long enough to allow the 7 mile decent to dry up. I upped my max speed to 46.6 mph.
- The chafing in my... well, saddle area had continued to worsen. I must have reapplied cream 10 times throughout the two loops. I will not be doing another Ironman with this pair of shorts. =\
- I started taking Coke with 17 miles to go (a trick I tried at IMLP camp).
- Somewhere in the hills I started seriously doubting my ability to do a marathon. I was fighting the idea to just lay down on the grass in transition and rest for awhile before starting the run.
That about sums up the second loop. I was so happy to make the turn into the Hot Corner, I came up off my handlebars and put my hands on my helmet for 10 seconds taking in the moment of rest before charging up the hill. I undid my shoes, slipped my feet out, and rode to the dismount line amidst volunteers yelling "Slow Down! Slow Down!" I think at this point, I just learned to quietly ignore their caution. If there was a giant puddle or a wiped out racer, sure! But there wasn't anyone in front of me. I dismounted and handed off my bike, happy to be done with that torturous leg.
Bike Loop No.2 - 3:11:14
Yeaaaahhh... Not the ideal split; 18 minutes slower than the first loop. Live and learn!
Bike - 6:04:17
Currently 357th of 2537
27th of 117 in M25-29
Currently 357th of 2537
27th of 117 in M25-29
After handing off my bag, I ran along the concrete which felt HORRIBLE on my feet; they really should have gotten some more carpets!! The whole time, volunteers are yelling "Take your helmet off and cool off." I'm sorry, but that'll just give me one more thing to hang onto. I'm going to keep it on my head thank you. And it had only gotten up to maybe 72 as a high. We had lucked out BIG TIME on weather!
I made it onto some grass - AAAAaaaahhhhh - grab my bag, get into the changing tent and dump all the contents onto the floor in front of a volunteer. I unclipped my helmet, set it on the ground, toss my glasses into it, wipe my feet on my towel and get my shoes on. The volunteer unclipped my race belt and laid it out for me while I grabbed my hat and handheld bottle. With a quick look, I had it all and took off. Thank you again to the volunteer who packed it all back together!!
Before crossing the Run Out arch, I stopped and filled my handheld with water. I had strawberry HEED powder in there. If I had only not stopped to do that, I could boast that I beat Andy Potts in T2, but no one told me how close I was; 8 seconds! Next time I'll be prepared!
Transition No.2 - 2:38
The overarching lesson for my run is this...
Your day can turn from good to bad and bad to good at any moment.
You simply have to be determined enough to stick with it no matter what.
I'll remind you that on the second bike loop, I seriously doubted my run. I honestly day dreamed about lying down on the grass in the T2 tent to rest. You should know that my competitive nature would never actually allow that, but a part of me wanted to very badly. But despite all that, I headed into the run with a bad mental attitude based on how I was physically feeling.
At 3 miles, I was average a 7:30 pace.
WHAT?! Right out of the gate, there is a downhill out of town and it's lined with people! It felt nothing short of amazing to be on my feet and running. I had no idea where this all came from but I felt... fresh. I felt quite free, relaxed, and very much in control. JD was out in the middle of the street cheering me on and warning me "Slow Down!" to which I did my best to heed as I left town. JD is a very accomplished and very helpful racer and I would be quite ignorant to not heed his warning (he crushed this course last year when I volunteered).
Things had gone from Bad to Great!
In the first 3 miles, a friend of a friend found me. Ernesto is a friend of a member at the gym and we had inadvertently raced each other at Quassy; I had won that battle. He saw my kit and recognized me. We exchanged "hi"s and chatted briefly before I headed on ahead. I was happy he found me and secretly happy to pass him. But don't worry, he kicked my A$$ before the day was through!
I passed through Aid Station No.1, 2, and 3; I had my HEED in hand and didn't need anything else at the moment. Coming up on Aid Station No.4, I was trying to balance pulling back on the pace and running comfortably. As I've mentioned in the past, running much slower than my normal pace begins to feel like it takes extra effort and I didn't want to waste that.
With the knowledge that for some unknown reason gels had not been working well for me recently in triathlon runs, I stopped and to the best of my memory, I grabbed a single Coke.
Now things turned from Great to Not-so-great.
For the next roughly 16 miles, not a single thing I took in would stay down. I threw up constantly. It didn't matter what it was - Coke, water, pretzels, grapes, ice... everything came right back up. And if you haven’t experienced a salt pill coming back up, that is something I will never wish upon you. MAN is that horrible!
As I tried to control my stomach, I slowed my pace. A slow run turned into a walk / run. A walk / run turned into a walk. And things just kept looking worse.
On the out-and-back, I started seeing friends. Ahead of me was Chris, a very speedy swimmer. My hope was to catch and pass him on the run, but at that point I started questioning the probability of that. I hit the turn around and headed back towards town. On my way, I passed Jeff (the guy I passed in T1), David, Eric, and a couple other people I didn’t recognize but were wearing Newington jerseys. Oh!, and there was a Cyclonaut athlete (they’re from the Springfield, MA area) who yelled "Go Kurt!" at me a few times. I never did figure out who he was, but it was cool to have fans.
Things had officially turned from Bad to Worse.
Despite the drop in time, my stomach never bothered me. Sure, I was throwing up half a dozen times per mile, but it wasn’t upset. I also had a few people cheering things like “You’ve got this!” and “You’ll get there!” I never doubted my ability to GET TO the finish line; if I had to walk the marathon, I would. I just doubted how soon it would be.
On my way back into town, Kelly caught me in all my glory!
You should know that I ran that hill on my second lap. Really! I did! And I was excited to surprise Kelly with my comeback, but she was nowhere to be found. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Billy & Justin may be able to vouch for me though. I’ll get to that!
Well before making it back into town, I had found that I could run from one telephone pole to the next and walk to the following. If I ran much further than that, I would throw up and I wanted to try and keep something down because I was feeling my energy start to drop off. I was walking further and further, so I needed a way to limit my walk breaks but keep from pushing myself to the point of puking.
I dropped from a 14:02 mile to an 8:09 and felt great! Having spent all those miles being passed, it was quite easy now to pass others while running at a 7:30 or less pace and then walking every so often.
As I said before, I ran up the Main St. hill and when I stopped to walk for 30 seconds, Billy and Justin caught me. Billy told me "You told me to yell at you, so this is me yelling at you!" That did the trick! He started jogging and I sprinted ahead of him. I was low on energy, but my body felt great. All I had left was 2 miles. I breezed through and made the joyful RIGHT turn towards the finish instead of the LEFT for another lap.
Then my dream got crushed!
Running down Mirror Lake Drive, I could hear the distance voice of Mike Reilly announcing people's names. But as I entered the oval, I heard a distinctly different voice. You're kidding me!! I must admit that it took a few days for me to get over having missed the opportunity to hear (and get a recording of) Mike's voice as I crossed that finish line, but I've resigned myself to doing another Ironman 140.6 to get it.
Run - 4:40:29
Finish - 11:52:53
Currently 581st of 2537
42th of 117 in M25-29
42th of 117 in M25-29
So that's it! Seven months of training culminating in a great swim, an okay bike, and a run tortured by an unruly stomach. But despite my highly competitive nature and the millions of ways I will analyze my performance over the next few months, one way or another, I am now a two-time Ironman and you can't take that away from me!
I am a two-time Ironman.
And you can't take that away from me.
1. How do you deal with race plans that are forced to change mid-race?
2. Have you ever been both disappointed AND proud about a race finish at the same time?
I am very proud that I finished, that I pushed through the run, that I overcame my lack of energy on the bike, etc., but I am also disappointed that I knew I was going too fast on the first bike loop and didn't alter pace and that I broke down on the run. I'm still chasing the Iron race that I know I have in me and it's tough knowing that I only get one chance each year at it (my personal restriction).
3. Have you ever done a race and known as soon as you finish that you won't do it again?
I loved the Lake Placid area, but the course is certainly not my forte. I did not sign up for next year. Instead, I'll look at others to find where I'll do my 140.6 for 2014.
Dream. Believe. Achieve.