Reston Area Triathletes RATS.net Logo

Race Result

Racer: Scott Baldwin
Race: Ironman USA
Date: Sunday, July 27, 2003
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 35 - 39
Time: 10:58:47
Overall Place: 179 / 1836
Age Group Place: 37 / 323
Comment: First IM

Race Report:

Pre-race: The family and I arrived in the Lake Placid area on Tuesday of race week. From Tuesday to Saturday the weather alternated between torrential rain to beautiful sunny skies in a moments notice. The forecast for the race on Sunday was not looking too good either. We drove the bike course on Tuesday. I rode about 45 miles of the bike course on Wednesday - in the rain. Someone at the race expo saw me with this years Wildflower long course t-shirt on and asked if I had brought this years WF race weather with me. Thursday afternoon the boys planned on competing in the kids splash and dash. During registration of the event the rain was coming down so hard (and it was lightening) that they decided to postpone the kids race one day. Was this a bit of foreshadowing for the big event? The kids' race was held the following day without a cloud in the sky. The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. I ran parts of the run course and swam in the lake.

On the way to bike drop off on Saturday I asked my wife to hold onto my bike while I ran back to the car to get something. When I returned she asked me how much I loved her. This didn't sound good. Instead of saying "a whole bunch" I asked her what was wrong. My rear tire had exploded off the rim. Another bad sign…. I have changed my tires, tubes, etc. more than 20 times this season, luckily not during a race but with 112 miles ahead of me the law of averages would catch up with me again. I changed my tire in the expo area and got more than enough advice from other athletes on how to fix a flat and check for burrs, glass, etc. When I went back to the hotel I packed an extra tire, tube and some CO2 in a water bottle for more back up.

The Plan: I always have a plan going into a race and try to stick to it. The plan for this race, my first Ironman, was 1:10-1:15 in the swim, average 20 mph (5:36) on the bike and maintain 8-9 minutes/mile on the run. With transitions of 5 minutes and no penalties this would put me at the finish in the range of 10:25-11:00. This not only helps me not go out too fast on the bike and run but also helps my family because they know when to expect me to come through town so they can cheer dad on.

Race Morning: We woke up to puddles in the morning but it was not actively raining and the sun was trying to rise. It could be a good day. We arrived in down town Lake Placid around 5:15 and did the usual race morning routine, porto-potty, body marking, checked bike, checked transition bags, porto-potty. My rear tire was still holding pressure so I felt a little better. As it got closer to race time it was getting darker out not lighter. This was not good…

My pre-race food was a Clif bar, banana, a slim fast and some water. I have to start eating right as I wake up otherwise it gets difficult to choke down the closer I get to race time.

The Swim: (Time: 1:06:35 in 538th place). The swim was held on Mirror Lake which is ~200-300 yards wide and ~1000 yards long. The course is pretty simple, two-1.2 mile loops with a 50 foot beach run between each loop. The loop consists of a very narrow counter clock-wise rectangle. Out 0.6 miles, 25-50 yards at the turn around and then 0.6 miles back. The water was 70.9 F on race day so almost everyone wore a wet suit. One nice thing about the swim course is that the buoys are tied to a cable that runs the entire length of the lake about 4-6 feet below the water surface. Much like a lane line. On race day I was not able to get on top of it but for the training swim I did and I was able to swim a much straighter line. The water is also every clear.

I was a bit worried about the swim based on my results at the Catfish Open the week before. I swam 1:17 in Lexington Reservoir and had a very sore back until about Thursday.

The start of the race was pretty clean. The start area is narrow but people spread themselves around the edges of the lake behind the starting line so it was not too congested. I did not get hammered right when the cannon went off. For some reason right around the 500 yard mark everyone seemed to converge on the same point and that is when the pounding began. I tried as best as I could to stay out of the high contact areas but at the same time tried to find someone who could swim a straight line that I could tag along with. I could tell there where people trying to get pulled from me as well because they kept slapping my feet. (Now people, if you are going to draft in the swim, don't piss off the person in front of you by hitting them every stroke). When this happened a few too many times in a row I kicked really hard to drop the person and find another ride.

At the halfway point I was just under 33 minutes. Wow! Much better than planned. All I wanted to do was maintain that pace and I would be happy with the swim (and ahead of schedule).

The second loop was more of the same. People were spread out a bit more at this point. I was able to swim undisturbed for a bit longer and was able to pick off a few people that went out a bit too fast on the swim.

T1: (6:18 - what did I do? Take a little nap?) The swim to bike transition is very long. Once out of the water I went to the wet suit strippers. This was my first experience with this technique. All I had to do was get the top of my wet suit off and lay down on the ground. After which a stripper pulled it off the rest of the way. (I have some of the race on tape from a local TV station. The cameras were pointed at the strip area for a while. It's pretty entertaining watching all the different techniques of pulling off a wet suit). As I got off the ground and started my mad dash to the transition area I kneed someone in the head who was down on the ground getting his wet suit removed. (I hope he is ok). The run from the lake to the transition area was 300-400 yards. I grabbed my T1 bag and headed into the change tent. Man was it packed. There was no place to sit. This is another good reason for improving my swim time. After the change it was another 200-300 yards to pick up my bike and head out on the course. At this point it was starting to rain in Lake Placid.

The transition area was set up very well. It was HUGE. It was held on the inside of the Olympic speed skating oval for the 1980 Olympics. This is where Erik Heiden won all his golds that year.

The Bike: (5:46:36) The bike course was two-56 mile loops. It ran through the towns of Keene, Upper Jay, Jay, Wilmington and back to Lake Placid. The loop itself was 42 miles with a 7-mile out-and-back in Wilmington. Each loop of the bike course has more total climbing than Wildflower long course, however, there is nothing like Nasty Grade. The roads are beautifully smooth with only a few rough areas. They do not use chip seal back east like in CA so rolling resistance is reduced.

The first five miles out of Lake Placid is rolling hills. At about the two-mile mark we passed the Olympic ski jumps. There are 4-5 down and ups before the fun begins. At about 10k mark into the bike loop there is a series of down hills that will give anyone white knuckles. At this point it was raining pretty good. These hills last for about 10k into Keene and I think I averaged 45+ mph for the entire decent. From Keene through Upper Jay and into Jay the course was flat or slightly up (we have to make up for all that down hill over the rest of the course). There was a nice tail wind on this part of the course on race day so I was able to stay ahead of schedule. The 3 miles between Jay and Wilmington is mainly up hill. Between Keene and Wilmington there was no precipitation. The out and back has one short steep down hill on the way out and slight ups and downs the rest of the way. I saw Gina Kehr on her way back as I was going out (about five miles ahead thanks to her killer swim split). After the turn around I figured out why I was so far ahead of my schedule of hitting the five mile markers every 15 minutes. There was now a nice head wind going back into the town of Wilmington and Lake Placid. The final 12 miles of the bike loop between Wilmington and Lake Placid go past Whiteface Peak and through the Wilmington Gap. This is where we made up most of the initial decent of the course. The hills themselves are not that bad. Driving the course I thought to myself, these aren't hills. Old La Honda, Kings Mt., Route 9 are hills. The problem was there was now a constant head wind whipping through the Gap and as we got closer to Lake Placid the driving rain did not help either. The last 3 miles of the loops there is a series of 5 hills each named; Little cherry, Big cherry, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear. The final mile runs past the swim start and through the town of Lake Placid.

The first loop was fairly congested with bikers. It was very hard to pass one rider and not draft the next person in line. I was very cautious of this and was constantly looking behind for the guys on motorcycles. I passed about 300 people on the first loop. The second loop was more of the same. Less people in the way, same weather, slightly slower. At about the 90-mile mark a stinging insect got into my helmet and proceeded to sting me for the next few miles. I was not sure about the rules of removing my helmet (I assumed I could only do this in the transition area) so I kept on going and figured the pain would distract me for awhile. With less than five miles to go someone passed me and then slowed down right away. I tried to slow down but I was already going pretty slow, up hill, into the wind. At the same time I heard the whiz of a motorcycle slowing up just behind me. Snagged…. The ref got my number, and the guys that had just passed me since he tucked in behind the next biker ahead. Man…with only 5 miles to go and such a good ride I get nailed because some bozo doesn't know how to pass. Note: If you are going to pass someone on the bike you need to keep pedaling once you have made the pass. Don't slow down. I can't count how many times people passed me in this race and then I had to slow down because they would slow right down in front of me.

On the second lap I passed about another 50 people plus about 50 that went flying by me on the first lap. First loop heroes are what they are called. Go out hard and you will regret it later. I slowed down a bit on the second lap but was happy overall with my bike split considering the weather conditions. I saw Gina on the out and back again at just about the same place as the first loop. I end up in 181st place off the bike.

I need some work on my nutrition on the bike. I was able to continuously drink Gatorade from my aerobottle so my fluids were good. I had a double dark chocolate slim fast at the halfway point which was really yummy. As for solids I was able to eat a few bananas but I had a real hard time choking down Clif Bars. The plan was to eat four bars on the bike but I was only able to get down 1½ . This concerned me a bit and hoped that it would not catch up with me on the run.

T2: (3:07) I got off the bike and ran to the transition bag area. My arches were killing me and I wondered if I could run through it. I hit the changing tent again and this time there was a lot more room in there. The congestion during T1 was not an issue any more. I had been contemplating a complete change out of my tri suit into shorts and tank top for the run during the week before and decide to throw a complete change of clothes in my transition bag just in case. Since I was soaked the new set of clothes was good including a new pair of socks.

The Run: (3:52:14) I like the way the marathon course is set up at Lake Placid. It is two-13.1 mile loops. It starts with a 5.5 mile out and back followed by a 1 mile out and back. This allows the runners to go through town four times before finishing. It's a real good spectator course. The first out and back starts with the first two miles down hill, past the Olympic ski jumps, followed by a 3.5 miles run along some river, and then double back into town. The up hills into town on this loop are tough. The second out and back is along Mirror Lake so it is pretty flat.

I looked at my watch out of T2 and it was just past 7 hours. This made for some easy math, a 5 hour run to break 12, a 4 hour run to break 11, and a 3.5 hour run to get me real close to a qualifying spot (I knew that in the last couple of years a 10:30 on this course in my age group went to Kona). I figured the next few miles would tell. I went through the first two miles in sub-8 minutes. I didn't feel too bad but didn't think I could keep this up for the whole run so I was determined to stick to the plan (between 8-9 minutes/mile). And then it really started to rain. Not just regular rain, torrential rain. There were rivers running down the streets. There was no where to run with less than a half an inch of water to slog through. (Those poor souls still on the bike).

I managed to maintain a pace of between 8 and 9 minutes/mile for the entire race, slower on the second loop than the first. I really just wanted to maintain a steady pace and not have to suffer too much in the later stages of the run because I went out too hard. I walked through each of the aid stations to make sure I was getting enough fluid inside my body (the rain ensured that I was maintaining more than enough on the outside). I walked the two big hills on the course in order to keep my heart rate under control. I managed to run the rest of the way.

The run was pretty uneventful. I passed a few people and a few people passed me. I was hoping that the pros would not lap me on the run but the winner (Kirill Litovtsenko) passed me with about a mile from his finish.

The finish was awesome. I was able to run the last 100 yards with my boys. It must have looked pretty funny though. The 8 year old wanted to sprint to the finish so he was way ahead of me and the 11 year old couldn't quiet keep up with us. We were trying to hold hands so it probably looked like the little guy was dragging his dad and older brother to the finish line. We were able to catch up just at the line and finished all together. In a time of 10:54:57 (+4 minutes for drafting). I crossed the line in 162nd place and the penalty put me back to 179th.

Post Race: I walked around a bit after my finish (based on Eduard Korat's anti-cramping advice from CdA). Talked to my wife, dad, daughter, niece and boys. I got a nice massage. Grabbed a few pieces of pizza from the food area, my bike & transition bags and bolted back to my hotel as soon as I could before the next deluge hit. And it rained all night…

What Next? Will I do another Ironman? Probably. Can I improve on my time? Definitely. I think this race was a pretty good test for me. It showed that I am capable of completing the distance. I have reflected back on this race over the last several days and I know where I can make improvements and what I need to change in my training. I think the most important thing about this type of race is to have a rough plan and stick to it. I knew what I could handle going into the race. I tested myself on the course in the week leading up to the race. I did not want to hammer really hard on the bike for either the first loop or both loops and then regret it later.

One big concern I have about this race distance is the amount of time required for training to be able to compete at a level where I will be satisfied with the results. In order for me to make further improvements at the Ironman distance I will need to make some changes in my life so I can spend more time training without sacrificing time at home and with my family.