Ironman Lake Placid – Race Recap (Part 1 of 2)

A week has passed since I finished Ironman Lake Placid and I am still walking on cloud 9. I’ve talked to so many people since finishing the race and when they ask how it was my first answer (with a smile on my face) is; “Great!”. While you may think I’m crazy to believe that tackling 140.6 miles in one day can be great, trust me, it was. Yes, it had its challenges and there were many times on the run that I doubted my ability to finish, but in the end I smiled those last 2 miles and crossed the finish line feeling amazingly awesome.

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But enough about the finish, let’s go through this thing from start to finish. (This post is going to cover the swim and the bike. I wasn’t going to split it up but I realized it was very lengthy otherwise!)

The Swim
Distance: 2.4 miles
Time: 1hr. 22min. 42sec.

The morning started out bright and early at 3:30AM when my alarm went off. While we didn’t need to be up that early to actually get to the swim start I needed to get up and eat so my belly had time to digest before things got going. I had an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana. I tried to eat a second English muffin but only managed about half of it and then I sipped on a fruity protein shake while walking down to the swim start.

We got to the oval where transition takes place and I left Harrison while I went and uncovered my bike and put a few last minute items in my transition bags. As soon as I got to my bike I realized that in my haste to get out the door that morning I had left ALL of my hydration bottles in the fridge in the apartment!! A frantic call to Harrison who was waiting outside transition for me sent him running back to the apartment for my bottles. Luckily it was only a half mile away so he was able to get up there and back before transition closed. Once that fire drill was over it was off to the beach to get in line for a porta potty before swim start. When I saw the line for the bathrooms I about had a heart attack! There were a billion people waiting and I started to worry that I wouldn’t get there before the swim started! Luckily, the line moved, slowly, and I was able to get in and out and get my wetsuit on before things started. Unfortunately it meant having to push my way into the mass of athletes to try and get in front of some of the slower swimmers. I didn’t get as far up as I would have liked but I managed to seat myself in an OK position.

The mass of athletes at the swim start.
The mass of athletes at the swim start.

I didn’t have too long to wait before the cannon blast and we were off (slowly). With the new rolling start I didn’t actually get into the water until 6:46AM, 16 minutes after the swim officially started. I planned on staying a little left of the underwater cable hoping not to get caught up in the fray of people vying for it but somehow I kept getting pushed right and found myself looking down at it. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing (who doesn’t want to not have to sight during a race) I was afraid that I would run into people (literally, those swimming slower than I), or get swam over by those behind me wanting to get by.

All in all it wasn’t too bad. I held my position fairly well, tried to get on feet to make it a little easier when I could, and tried to stay away from the masses when I caught up to a group. I had hopes that the second loop was going to thin out and provide a little more freedom to swim my own race but sadly it didn’t. In fact I got slapped in the head not once but twice within the first 10 minutes of being back in the water. Not cool. Luckily it didn’t cause any issues for me but it wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t until I made the final turn to head back towards the beach that I found I really was able to get into a steady groove for a good stretch. I was so happy to get back to the beach and be out of the water. I got the top of my wetsuit down and ran up to two strippers who easily pulled it off and sent me on my way. What a godsend they were! While some people seemed to sprint down the chute leading towards transition I took my time and did a slow jog getting the muscles accustomed to being used again.

No big issues with the swim, but glad it was over!

T1 (swim–to–bike transition)
Time: 11mins. 8secs.

The swim to bike transition starts with a quarter mile jog from the beach to the oval where you grab your bag and head into the changing tent. I grabbed my bag and made a pit stop at the porta potties outside the women’s changing tent and then headed into the tent to change.

T1 was a mad house! I found an empty chair and started the process. I swam in my triathlon shorts, calf sleeves and a sports bra so all I had to do in transition was throw on my cycling jersey, socks, shoes, helmet and grab nutrition to shove in my pockets. I dried off as much as I could, wrestled my socks on and finished the transition with ease. My transition time was 11min. 8sec. That seems long but I wanted to make sure I was all set before spending the next 7+ hours on my bicycle!

The Bike
Distance: 112 miles
Time: 7hrs. 13mins. 56secs.
Average Speed: 15.49mph

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I don’t have a lot to say about the bike. It was pretty uneventful for me when it comes to the day as a whole. Having ridden the bike course a few times in the past I knew what to expect from it. I made sure to take advantage of every downhill and the nice fast section of the course on Route 9N along the Ausable River and held back on the climbing knowing that there were a lot of hills yet to come. I tried my hardest to hold back a little on the first loop with the idea that I wanted to save some energy for the second loop. As much as I tried my first loop was faster than my second loop but not by much and I didn’t feel like it cost me any time on my second loop.

The only negative I can really mention about the bike is the terrible side stitch that I had for the first 30 miles. I have no idea why I had it and couldn’t relate it to anything I have felt in the past, but it was pretty miserable. It was on my right side and the only thing that seemed to make it feel better was trying to stretch it out, or get down in aero position. I’m not even sure what eventually made it go away but around the 30-35 mile mark it diminished enough to not be too painful which is great since that’s where the climbing starts to pick up!

Fueling on the bike went relatively well for me. Historically hydration and the intake of calories has been a downfall of mine during races so I was hoping to nail it this time. While I did not eat as much solid food as I had planned I did manage to take in almost all of the Tailwind drink that I had brought with me. I set my Garmin watch to alert me every 5 minutes to remind myself to drink and it seemed to do the trick. Along with the Tailwind I had also brought along a smorgasbord of food stuffs. In my bento box I had an Odwalla Banana Nut Bar cut up into pieces, a bag of skittles, a Rootbeer flavored Gu and Barnana Peanut Butter Banana bites (so good!). Of that I ate some of the Odwalla bar, some of the banana bites and some skittles. I also had shoved into my pockets a package of Cranberry Raz shot blocks and a PowerBar Wafer. Both of those I consumed on the second loop.

At Bike Special Needs I grabbed another concentrated bottle of my Tailwind and a baggie of Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter stuffed pretzel nuggets. As much as I wanted to eat the pretzels I had a hard time getting myself to chew them. They were dry and I only managed to get down a few of them on the second bike loop. I did eat an entire package of Cranberry Raz shot blocks on the second loop when I realized that I need to get more solids in me and that I was running out of my Tailwind. I also consumed a number of half bananas that were given out at the water stops along the bike and I had a few slugs of the orange Gatorade endurance formula from the last water stop when I realized I needed more electrolytes.

Done with loop 1, on to loop 2!
Done with loop 1, on to loop 2!

I stopped twice on the bike (at the same rest stop both times on Hasselton Road) to use the porta potty and resupply myself with water. Let me say it was like having my own pit crew at a racecar event! I pulled in, handed off my bike, was asked what I needed which was then retrieved will I used the bathroom and was sent on my way when I got back. It was great! Everyone was super awesome and helpful and I felt like they truly cared. Again, awesome volunteers made my day.

Not all smiles... so ready to be done!
Not all smiles… so ready to be done!

Once back to Mirror Lake Drive I was cruising along, happy to be done and ready to run! (As much as one can be after riding 112 miles). I saw a few familiar faces which made the day and headed into transition where I got a pleasant surprise when I saw one of my favorite training friends waiting to take bikes from those coming in. Jason grabbed my bike, asked me how I was doing, and shooed me on my way. I could have run but I didn’t see the need so I took my time and made my way to the transition bags where I grabbed mine and hit the changing tent.

To be continued…

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