Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

Ironman #3 - The Longest One Yet
Swim 1:14:37
Bike 6:32:49
Run 4:39:05

We arrived in Lake Placid early evening on Wednesday. We settled into the small apartment that would be home for the next 5 days.  On Thursday Chad and I went for a re-con  ride to Keen and it was so much fun.  Very pleased to see the newly paved roads out of town and down to Keen.

After the ride we made our way to check in which was incredibly smooth and no lineups to speak of.
Weigh In

After registration we made our way to the Ironman Village to pick up this years race backpacks which are sadly much different from my IMFL backpack.   Glad I got one from the first season they handed them out because the quality level of the IM backpack has diminished greatly.  Not sure I will find a solid use for it like I have my IMFL bag.

The next couple of days rolled by.  My emotions were high and I was living with 3 boys.  I sure could have used my bestie there for support.  Finally it was Saturday night and race morning was eminent.

Race day started around 4:20am like most race days.  I enjoyed my cup of coffee and a bagel with peanut butter.  The weather forecast was still calling for some severe weather but luckily it wasn't too cold in those early morning hours.  We made our way to transition to get the bike prepped for the day and then headed back to the apartment.
so close to transition!
It was nice to stay so close to the race site that we made our way back to the apartment before heading to the swim start.  Just before 6 we donned our wetsuits and joined the walk to the swim start.  We left it pretty close and were lucky to have stranger offer to walk out run special needs bags up Mirror Drive.  I got to jump into the lake and take a few practice strokes but then had to make my way through the hordes of swimmers to get to my "wave".  I must say I liked the rolling start - Mirror lake is way to narrow for a mass start!   I had decided to line up at the back of the 1:10 swimmers since my best case swim would be 1:10 but I was more like a sub 1:15 swimmer.  This was a great decision!
2,600 eager athletes

AWA cap with some doodling!

I had the best Ironman swim ever.  The rolling start means less body contact than the mass start but don't be fooled into thinking you aren't going to get beat up a little.  I found myself on the buoy line and on the hip or feet of someone the entire swim.  No need to sight and I enjoyed the drafting.  I did take a couple hits to the head and one person grabbed my leg - full clinching of the hand on my calf.  Yes I kicked pretty hard back.  By the time I had made the first turns and was heading back I knew it was going to be a good day.  I crossed the mat of the first loop in just over 36 minutes.  I ran right back in and started my second lap.  Just before getting to the turn buoy I realized it was raining. Interestingly enough, swimming in the rain is quite nice.  I felt strong on the second loop and came out of the water just over 38 minutes for a total swim time of 1:14:37.  I don't swim with my Garmin but I heard the course actually measured 4.1km so about 300m longer than the 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim.

It was pouring as I exited the water, had my wetsuit stripped and ran to transition.  As always I was happy to be out of the swim and I was trying to stay positive about riding in the rain.  I made my way through T1 without incident and was out of T1 in 6:03 which included a 400m or so run up from the lake.  A volunteer had retrieved my bike for me so I grabbed it and was off to the mount line.

At this point in the race I was 43rd in my age group, 163rd woman and 839th over all.  I made it on to the bike and down the crazy hairpin turn and steep decent of Colden Ave.  As I started the first climb out of town, I realized just how awful the weather had turned. Torrential downpour and thunder and lightening hitting very close.  Apparently there was hail as well.  I was so happy to have my aero hemet on to keep my head a bit drier and warmer as I was getting colder by the minute.  At 12.5km into the ride you start the nearly 12km decent into Keen.  I have hit  67.9kph in training on this decent.  I hit 57 kph in the pouring rain.  I was not in aero and I was on my brakes the entire way.  However, breaking on wet zipps is not that effective. By the time I reached Keen I was shivering uncontrollably and was so very cold.  The wind-chill factor and the fact that I was soaked to the bone probably brought me close to hypothermia.  I remember thinking that if this storm didn't clear I wouldn't be able to finish the bike like this.  Little did I know that while I was suffering on the bike over 500 athletes were being pulled from Mirror Lake due to the lighting.

I don't remember when it stopped raining exactly.  At some point as I was flying on 9N I realized I had dried up and was feeling really good.  I kept on top of my nutrition and my hydration and felt like a million bucks.  This was also around the time I realized my power meter was giving me garbage data.  I was averaging well over 30kph at this point but my average power was 120w.  I know my body and my bike well enough to know that number was not right.  Not to mention I had ridden this loop 3 times before and I knew what to expect.

I reached the turn around point in Ausable Falls and continued to feel great.  I kept on my nutrition and hydration and really felt good.  I hadn't been passed by many woman and while I had no idea what sort of power I was pushing, my heart rate felt right and my body felt great.  I made the turn onto 86 and was very prepared to be patient as I start the long climb to Willmington and on into Lake Placid.  This first climb gets little attention in many recaps of this bike course but as you can see by the following photo it is the beginning of a 30km climb.  The red line marks the turn onto 86.

I kept my cool and climbed effectively spinning up the hills and enjoying it.  As you finish the climb back into the town of Lake Placid you hit the 3 bears.  Papa bear (especially on the first loop) is lined with spectators cheering you on.  It's like you are in the Tour de France - the energy was amazing and I was smiling ear to ear.  I made the turn onto Northwood, fully aware that I still had a bit of climbing to do before sailing down to Mirror Lake drive and into the Village.  All the tri clubs set up their tents along Mirror Lake drive and again the spectators were amazing.  Then you turn into the village and round hot corner with hundreds of screaming fans.  I wish I had photos or video of me coming through there because I was screaming at the crowd and having a blast.  Before I knew it I was behind the school and again coming down to Colden Ave where I knew Barry would be.  I screamed out "I'm having the race of my life! I feel great".  The thunderstorms were long gone and I was so happy clocking in a first loop of 3:06.  Little did I know it was all about to fall apart.

As I was climbing out of town, this time in beautiful sunny conditions, I was passed by several woman and I noticed quite a few of them were in my age group.  I didn't have accurate power data so I relied on perceived exertion and just kept riding my race.  The decent to Keen was dry and I hit 75kph - I was able to stay in aero the entire time and felt safe.  The second time through on the flatter sections proved to be more challenging and my speed was dropping considerably from the first loop.  I think the winds had changed and the head wind on the way back from Ausable Falls zapped some speed and energy out of me. With hindsight I probably should have upped my calorie intake.

Then I turned onto 86 for the second time and this is where I was crushed.  I was being passed by what seemed to be a steady stream of woman.  I couldn't push any harder than I was so I just had to suck it up.  I think this was when I realized I just wasn't strong enough to keep up with these ladies- man they are FAST!  The last 30km of this ride were tough, physically and mentally.  At some point as I climbed back into town the rain came again but this time it was a bit of a welcomed cool down.
finishing up the bike
I got off the second loop in 3:26 for a total bike split of 6:32:48. At this point in the race I was 26st in my age group, 100th woman and 793rd over all.

As I entered T2 and grabbed my bag I decided a bathroom break was needed.  Once I made it into the change tent I took a deep breath and took my time.  I had been going for nearly 8 hours and I knew I had a long run ahead of me.  My T2 time was 7:52.  I remember stopping at the run exit, taking a deep breath and saying to a guy standing there "well, you ready to do this?" and simultaneously we hit the timing mat and clicked our Garmins.

Just starting the run
It wasn't far down the road that I spotted Barry.  Though I'm smiling in this photo I was not happy and I was not being positive at all.  I had a bit of a cry telling Barry that I was passed my so many woman and that I never wanted to do this again.  Then off I ran.  The first few kilometers were ok.  When I was running my pace was around 5:20/km. I was walking each aid stations and then picking up the pace again.  My nutrition and hydration continued to go smoothly.  I was taking water and ice at each aid station as well as coke.  I started taking gels every 30-40 minutes.  I had no problem keeping anything down.  I did have a bit of a bathroom problem and had to stop 5 times over the course of the marathon.

smiling always helps (and look both feet off the ground)

I had an "ah-ha" moment just as I got to the first turn around at 9km.  I knew at this point I was far out of top 10 contention and while my calf that had been injured was holding out strong, my ankles and hips were already feeling the beating.  I decided at this point that I was good in the head and that I was going to enjoy the rest of this Ironman and not kill myself doing it.  I knew I had to let Barry know that I was good mentally.  About 18km into the run I got to see him again.
one of the best feelings all day

a little laugh
This run course is a beast with 333 meters of elevation gain - that's almost 1,100 feet of climbing with the largest climb from 17.5km - 19.5km on the first loop and 38.4k-40.4k on the second loop.  However, this is the most spectator friendly race I have done.  The spectators along this climb into town are amazing.  After returning to the village after the first out and back there is a smaller out and back along Mirror Lake drive that is a mile out and a mile back or just over 3km round trip.  This is through the tri club tent city and masses of spectators to make you smile.  I stopped at my special needs and grab my bag of ruffles potato chips and happily munched away on a few and shared the rest with fellow runners who were impressed with my selection of special needs nutrition.  

As I made my way back towards the start of the second loop I continued to be happy with my choice to run/walk.  I enjoyed talking to other competitors especially as I'm going out on the second loop and I'm running/walking with folks heading out for their first.  This is where you see the real spirit of the Ironman. This is where you can say Anything is Possible.  
heading back probably around 35k, thumbs up and a smile
The last half of the Ironman Marathon has always been a blur for me. Just bits and pieces of memories.  Like the first aid station to offer me chicken broth.  It was still quite early, probably around 5:30ish when I was offered the warm, salty goodness.  It was very warm on the run course and I had dumped ice in my top at every aid station.  But even with the warm temperatures, the first few sips of the chicken broth warms your soul and picks up your spirit.  It is such an extreme change from all the sugary sweet drinks and gels and candies you have consumed for the past 10 plus hours.  And to me it is a signal that the day is coming to an end.  I took chicken broth whenever offered.

I jogged along, walking the aid stations and the hills.  And through this blur of time, I was heading back into town and back up the last long climb.  I didn't have it in my ankles and hips to run up that hill but I put on my best power walking and motored up the hill.  I had my last run in with Barry, gave him a kiss and told him I would see him at the finish line.  And off I ran. And I ran the rest of the way.
taken at 6:52pm, about 20 mins until my finish
It always amazes me to see my last few splits of the Ironman Marathon. I had under 4 kilometers to go.
Split 39 - where I talked to Barry 7:11
Split 40 - 5:50
Split 41 - 6:05
Split 42 - 4:58

That's right, I ran my last full kilometer in under 5 minutes with a huge smile on my face!  I was finishing in the day light and I was finishing the run faster than my IMFL run split.  I was happy. And I was ready to stop moving!  My run split was 4:39:04 giving a total Ironman time of 12:40:23.  I finished 30th in my age group, 113th woman and 747th overall.  For a beast of a course, I'll take it.

The highlights of this race are the venue, the spectators and the volunteers.  This was the 16th running of this race and it shows.  The course is very beautiful but incredibly challenging.  It would be an awesome 70.3 course but the double loops definitely push your physical and mental limitations.  But at the end of the day, I can sum up this race as a beautiful and easy swim, a challenging and intense bike and an unforgiving, brutal run.  I made sure to thank the volunteers at every chance but I wan to give a BIG shout out to all the volunteers out there that made our day happen.  

I'm pretty sure I uttered the following statements over the course of the run on July 27th.
  • I am never doing this again
  • This is stupid, stupid, stupid
  • I'm going to finish this one and that's it. I'm done.
I saw these two photos posted today on Facebook.

So just to let you know, when I got the chance last week to pre-register for the inaugural Ironman Muskoka being held at Deerhurst on August 30, 2015 - I signed up. Ironman #4.  How quickly the thrill of accomplishment erases the moments of weakness.

A huge thank you to my biggest fan, best race photog, sponsor, and race Sherpa Barry.  You know I couldn't do this without you!  Also a big thank you to Griffin for coming along and sharing the experience with me.  It was Ironman #3 but it was the first time I made it back to the finish line for the midnight celebration and Griffin stayed there with me until the last finisher crossed the line.
20 hours and 140.6k later

Finally thanks to all my support in Toronto - my massage therapists Jenn Goddard and Tracey Elliott, my Chiro and running doc Dr. Kris Sheppard of the Runner's Academy , my training partners in crime from the Toronto Triathlon Club,  my coach friends Eric, Tara and Michael for always answering my questions, my friends Carole, KatD, and Alice - always willing to take the kids so I could train a little longer and to my in-laws for kid-sitting so I can travel to train and race.  And to everyone who reads these blogs and facebook posts - thank you for supporting me!  You might think I'm crazy - but ya still love me!