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Race Result

Racer: Mike Guzek
Race: Ironman USA
Date: Sunday, July 25, 2004
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 11:25:10
Overall Place: 438 / 1900
Age Group Place: 53 / 151
Comment: You don't know how much I need you....

Race Report:

If you haven’t seen the movie The Wedding Singer, I advise you to go rent it and watch it before reading this race report. You see, there is a scene in there where Adam Sandler sings a song he wrote, but he wrote half of it while he was dating his girlfriend and half of if after she cheated on him. Needless the say the song is a little choppy. I pasted the first few lines of the song below so you can get an idea of how it goes. If you’ll be turned off by a couple dirty words, you should skip this section.

“You don't know how much I need you.
While you're around I don't feel blue.
And when we kiss I know that you need me too.
I can't believe I found a love that's so pure and true.

But it all was bullsh$t.
It was a g#$# d@mn joke.
And when I think of you and I,
I hope you f$$#ing choke.”


I was not pleased with how my race turned out and when wrote my first draft of this race report it read like the Sunday morning obituary page of a local newspaper. But after a few days passed and I heard other people’s race and spectator reports, I began to not feel so negative about the way things turned out. I was reminded that my time goals were only one small part of a much larger event. So I went back to writing with a more positive outlook on things. The end result is that my race report seems to follow a similar outline as Adam Sandler’s song (except that I am still with my girlfriend). I decided not to remove all of the negative or otherwise boring commentary in there because I didn’t want to completely sugar coat the experience and read this next year and think…. “well, waddya know, I had a really dandy time watching my goals go up in smoke at Lake Placid 2004 despite all my hard training.” Ok, I’ll give you a second to go get a coffee or Red Bull (double caffeinated espresso Hammer Gel?) or whatever else you think you might need to get through this…….[soothing music]……[time elapses]…..ok, welcome back. Let’s get started.

I was disappointed with this race. My swim and bike went according to plan but the run had a plan of it’s own. I’m not an ironman rookie. I have done 7 now, so I am not some first timer who set an unrealistic goal or a testosterone filled wannabe who blew up on the run like an over inflated tubular tire baking in the T-1 sun….no, I am seasoned vet by now. I didn’t go out and post a decent time at an ironman distance race on an easier course and come to this challenging Lake Placid course with misguided expectations…no, this was my third time on this course and I knew exactly how hard it was. I didn’t come into this race with a spotty training log, hoping for a miracle on race day…no, my training was great. I had well over 100 more miles running and 500 more miles cycling than last year with some fantastic training episodes under my belt. There was no injury or illness that spoiled my day and my Cervelzek performed flawlessly. It’s this lack of injury or illness….the fact that my expectations seemed on target and that my effort on race day seem measured and controlled….it’s the fact that racing conditions were perfect and there was tremendous fan support setting the stage for a great race that has left me not simply disappointed…..but [with emphasis….come on, lower your voice an octave and slow your pace down just a tad…say it out loud] …left me—“disappointed.” [some of you weren’t trying very hard when you read that]. It’s the kind of disappointment that you can’t shake. It creeps into my head when I see my bike helmet or my race medal, and it’s hard not to feel just a little left out when I listen to others share their stories of reaching and exceeding their goals. I want to play too! So, what happened!?!? Well, get up on ol’ Uncle Mike’s knee and I’ll tell ya.

The Adventures of Mike Guzek and The Missing Slice of Pizza

I arrived in Lake Placid with Melanie on Thursday and met Brady, Deidre and little Kyle in the condos we had about a mile outside of town. We were across the hall from each other which gave us just enough face to face time v. privacy to keep everyone happy. We spent several days doing all the normal stuff about town….one last ride, one last run….one last swim. All of our gear checked out fine and despite some heavy rain on Friday, there was very little to complain about. We both finished off our preparations with an hour-long massage and were at home by 3 o’clock the day before the race with nothing to do but relax until bedtime. After a couple hours of tossing and turning I fell soundly asleep around 11.

The alarm went off at 4:30 and I downed some oatmeal, a protein shake, a banana, some bread and pretzels. Melanie was kind enough to drive Brady and I to the race start. While doing all my morning activities I sipped on Gatorade and water and finished things off with a box of Extran. The weather for the day looked great. Temperatures would be in the 50s at the start of the race and were predicted to get no higher than the mid 70s. By 6:50 I was making my way to the front of the swim start about 3/4s of the way out from the inner buoys. My plan for the swim was simple. I didn’t care about time (although I wanted to be under an hour). My main focus was an easy effort. I swam 55 minutes the year before, but I had to swim hard to do it. This race, I wanted to come out of the water feeling like energy was exploding out of my wetsuit instead of like, uh, what’s the analogy…..uh.…oh yeah, like a guy who just swam a hard 2.4 miles.

When the gun went off I started out at a reasonable pace and when someone cut in front of me, instead of fighting to keep my spot I normally just backed off and let them pass. Starting out so wide I had little congestion until making the first turn where things got a little hairy. Around the first buoy I looked at my watch and saw my time was good and I felt like I was swimming way too slow, which is how I wanted to feel. I came out of the water after the first loop in 27:22 which I was pretty happy about. As I stopped to adjust my chip, a guy with one leg came hopping past me. I thought to myself “oh no you didn’t just hop passed me with only one leg!!” Then my mind flashed back to 2 years ago on this course when this same man passed me on the run. He was legit so I cast the moment from memory and got back to swimming. I also made a brief cameo in the race video as they filmed the guy with one leg passing me whilst I adjusted my chip. The guy ended up finish in something like 10:30. At the finish line he took he prosthetic leg off and raised it to the sky like a trophy while cheering and pumping his fists. That’s what I call, good stuff. I picked up the pace on the second loop and shortly after the last turn around buoy I, for the first time on the swim, slid out of the draft and swam home solo. I emerged in 56:15.

My transition was fine except that I put my shoes on before I got my socks on, so I had to take the shoes off, put the socks on and then put the shoes back on. On my way out of transition I ran into David Glover. We always seem to meet in T-1 at IM races. It’d be a lot cooler if we also met in T-2 : /

I rode the first few miles of the course behind Glover but he eventually pulled away. Out on the bike things felt great. I made my way through the flat/downhill sections that prevail in the first 35 miles of each loop. I saw a few friendly faces on the out and back portion including Glover pulling away and Brady chasing from behind (only about 8 minutes back, yikes!). The climbs back into town didn’t seem as bad as I recalled from 2003 and I got up them without too much difficulty. This was due in large part to the fantastic weather we were enjoying. It was cool and there was little wind. Yost passed me as we crested the final climb. He gave me a push up the hill (literally) and we rode through town and special needs together. Up to this point I had consumed one salt tablet and a box of Extran, a bottle of Accellerade, 5 Accellerade gels and a bottle of Gatorade, which totals about 1200 calories. I normally like to get down at least 3 bottles of Gatorade per loop (for a total of 6 for the whole ride) and on this loop I only had one, but with the cooler temperatures I thought that was sufficient. At special needs I replenished the gel, Accellerade and Extran and headed out. My computer ticked over 2:43 as I crossed the midway timing mats. I was on target and feeling good.

The second loop, as expected, was a little more taxing. I started to zone out a little around mile 65 but I hooked up with a group of similarly paced riders and we rode together for about 45 minutes until the last steep hill before the out and back section. They really helped to get me going again. It was also a nice break from what seemed like an endless stream of riders passing me. Shortly into the climbs heading back into town I saw Brady in my rear view. My odometer rolled over 100 miles as he approached. “How do you feel?” “Like I just rode 100 miles, you?” “About the same.” And he moved ahead effortlessly up the climb like I had seen him do in a quite a few training rides during the spring in preparation the race. We both seemed to be right on track. I was on pace for a 5:40 bike and he was on pace for what I guessed to be something under 5:30. A short time later I noticed a fairly large amount of dried salt covering my bike shorts. I thought it was odd that I was sweating so much on cool day.

When I crested the final climb into town I felt a rush of energy and excitement that everyone in the race must feel at that moment. The last few miles are nothing but a pep rally with nice flat roads and thousands of spectators screaming for you. I rode energized the last few miles into T-2 and tried to prepare myself for the run. Over the last mile I dropped a joke I have used the past two years. While biking past a volunteer I ask, “is this 2 loops or 3?” That always seems to get a laugh. This year I mixed it up just a bit by tossing out an occasional, “is it this way to the third loop?” Several folks didn’t know I was kidding and yelled “No! No! It’s only 2 loops!!” Suckers!

I handed my bike to the volunteer and just told her take it home with her. My split was 5:41. The first inkling of suspicion that something might not be quite right happened in changing tent. While slipping on my shoes in T-2 I got a pretty nasty cramp in my hammy. Between the dried salt on my shorts and the cramps, my instincts began to fear I might have made a serious nutritional miscalculation by underestimating how much I was sweating on a cool day and by not consuming enough fluids and electrolytes to replace what I lost in the sweat. Instead of 6 bottles of Gatorade on the bike, I only had 1 3/4s bottles. I also normally take 3-12 salt tablets on the bike to compensate for the lack of any sodium in my Extran. I only took 1 the entire bike, but with the cooler temperatures I feared I might create more problems then I’d solve by taking the salt tablets, so I simply didn’t take them. In the changing tent I did some stretches and gingerly started heading out for the run. This was not a good sign, but I’ve been through worse.

THE RUN….or something that resembled one.
My goal for the run was to improve upon my 4 hour IM run last fall at Duke. If I could muster a run under 4 hours, then I’d have a shot to finish in under 10:30 for the day and post my best IM time to date. Within the first few steps of the run, however, I began to sense that this was not going to be a great run. I saw Melanie, Deidre and Brady’s family cheering on the first big downhill on the run and I tried to look as good as I could as I ran by. I was shocked at how happy and energized Brady’s Dad was. Did he go too hard? Would he bonk by the time I saw him on the second loop? He was an IM spectator virgin and I just hoped he was pacing himself for what would be long run. I guess he had it under control because he had a great day out there and looked awesome at the finish line. Congrats Mr. D! My focus was to run conservatively and hopefully figure out whatever it was that was making me not feel so good. I got through the 4-mile mark averaging about an 8 min/mile pace which is good, but it contained quite a bit of downhill. I started to feel a little better and a glimmer of hope appeared that I might be able to salvage things. I was feeling really thirsty and downed as much Gatorade as I could get my hands on. At the aid stations, I was looking for the 64oz thirst buster but I kept getting Dixie cups. I saw Yost who was moving just about as fast I was. This was the first time I have kept pace with this fleet footed feather-clyde. Unfortunately it was because we were both struggling.

I was tired but I ran under control as I got to the base of the climbs that started the ascent back into town. Each hill chipped away at what strength I had left but I kept moving. Approaching the final climb back into town I passed stv heading out on the start of his second loop. He looked like a boxer who had just been stunned by a right cross “watch the hill into town…it’s a killer.” I tried my best to run the hill back into town but I couldn’t muster the strength. I ran most of it, but that was the flash of a dying star….my run was effectively over. I crossed the midway timing mats in 2 hours which would have been ok if I was feeling better and not worse. The rest of the run was a gradual slowing, like a car running out of gas sputtering and clunking to an eventual stop.

It was at this moment that I knew that my race would not have a happy ending. I have often told people that ask how it feels to reach the finish line of an ironman that the rush of emotions you feel is not only due to what you accomplished on the day of the ironman. The rush is from all the training and the mornings you woke up at 5:00 a.m. to get your workouts in or declined an after work happy hour to hit the track. At the finish line you get a collective endorphin rush from every workout you ever did to get ready for the race. It all comes back at once. Quite simply, an ironman race doesn’t last 10 or 11 hours it last 10 or 11 months. It lasts hundreds of hours. And so when I reflect on my race, I go back to the beginning and the countless hours spent running to work in the morning in freezing temperatures back in December. I think back to the days I took off work just so I could bake in the sun on some long ride somewhere. I did it all. I paid my dues. To come this far and falter now would be like a football player fumbling the ball at the one-yard line of a 99 yard kick off return. As I started my final loop of the run I found myself fumbling the ball so close to a touchdown. Things were going so well….what happened on the one yard line!? The reality of what was happening began to set in and I could see my goals disappearing with each step.

The second loop consisted of short bouts of running, short bouts of walking and 3 stops in the port-a-mygoditstinksinheres. I ran into stv again heading back into town and Brady was right behind. We were all under 10 miles to go and were all going to finish. It’s funny how you can look in another racer’s eyes and almost see the whole race in an instant. I didn’t say much to them and they didn’t say much to me but I think we all knew exactly how the other one felt. It was great to see them and see them doing so well. I wished so much I was running in the same direction as them towards the finish instead of away from it. They sped away together and headed to the final turnaround. After a few watermelon chunks and a cup of pretzels or two I passed mile 20 and was nearing the ski slopes to begin the climb back into town. I saw Julie Oplinger who was in the process of slicing 3 hours off her last ironman time….”uh, excuse me Julie, would you mind loaning me about 45 minutes of that??”

As the remaining miles dwindled, I began to feel relieved. At the time, I wasn’t excited to finish, I was simply relieved to finish. I have had worse IM times, worse IM runs but I always managed to rise above any race disappoints I have had to enjoy the basic satisfaction of accepting and completing the challenge. I always felt that doing otherwise was to make the worst of the best situation. But in this case, I couldn’t shake the disappointment. I felt happy to finish. Man, I just did my 7th ironman race, but something was missing from this one. I felt like the pizza delivery guy delivered my pizza and when I opened the box there was a slice missing. Everything else was there. It was so close to the whole pizza. The pieces that were left looked just fine, but the fact that one was missing threw the whole thing off. When you pay for your pizza, you want the whole thing. I paid for this all winter long. I put more time and effort into this race than any other race I have trained for and judging by my final time it didn’t make much difference at all. And if in your head right now you aren’t hearing the Adam Sandler lyrics “Oh somebody kill me please, somebody kill me plee-ase, I'm on my knees, pretty pretty please kill me” then you aren’t reading this report right! This is the part of the report where I am disappointed! You should be worrying that I am spiraling out of control! But, don’t put me on suicide watch yet, I come around later…stay with me.

I finished with a 4:39 run and an 11:25 overall. After the race I sat on a hill with Brady, Aaron, stv and Glover. Katie was there too as well as Veronica Crandall. We all headed out not soon after I finished and I found myself an hour or so later laying on my bed trying to fall asleep. Eventually I did for a few hours until I woke up and glanced at the clock -- it was 11:47 p.m.. “Holy smokes” I thought. “There are still some cats out there on the run course right now!” And my climb out of the depths of Post Race Depression (PRD) began. “Thank God it’s not me out there! Wahoo!”

The next day a large number of RATs gathered at a local watering hole and downed a fair number of pints. Glover proved he was just as good in the bars at Lake Placid as he is on the race course, by downing several shots that were put in front of him. The man with the most to celebrate may have been Brady and his 10:18 finish that has him teetering on the verge of becoming an elite age grouper. I’ve paced him up many climbs (can you pace someone from behind?) so I’ll take a little credit for that 10:18.

As the sting of the results has faded a little I have begun to look forward at other IM races instead of back at this one. The great thing about the IM is that, you can always try it again. It’s like the SAT, you can keep taking it until you get a score you like. Although in the IM they won’t let you combine your times from each segment to get the best possible score from all attempts like they do with the SAT.

Once again, the personal fan support came through in a big way. Melanie among other things drove us (at 5:00 a.m.!) to the race, Deidre put in heavy duty baby watching time to free Brady up and Brady’s parent’s put in a phenomenal effort before and during the race to keep us motivated and feeling strong. Kyle….what can you say about an 8-week old baby…eh, I guess you could say “whook at those whittle toesie whohsies…..whook at those toesie whohsies….whose toesie whohsies are those…..ah boo boo bah bah…ah boo boo bah bah!?!?!”

Appendix A The Takeaways
Some of the things I have learned as a result of this race:
1) Although it can seem like you have something to lose at a race you really only have something to gain. No matter what your final time is, by racing you gain fitness, you gain time with friends, you gain a whole bunch of unique experiences. Some people also gain a killer personal best time, which is nice too, but it’s only one part of the package. It’s not about what you didn’t get, it’s about what you DID get.
2) I use to say that the race was only a formality. You do the training and that determines what your best time is and then you go out there on race day and get your time. This is the first race where I honestly felt like my fitness did not match my final time (for good or bad). On race day, you still have a lot to say about how your final time will shape up. For better or worse, your training does not dictate completely how you can do on race day so it means you should never take anything for granted when you toe the line.
3) Stay clear of David Glover during races. He is a barfing machine. He recounted to me after the race about seeing a half digested salt capsule dried out on his bike frame from when he booted at some point during the race. I am curios to know who spit up more over the weekend, Glover or Brady’s 8 week old baby??

Appendix B Technical Analysis
While I suspected my poor run might have been related to under hydration and lack of proper electrolyte replacement, I still have other suspects. In order of suspicion, the candidates are:

1) Lack of hydration and electrolyte replacement. This was the most apparent problem that was occurring on race day although I only had one run in with cramps and it was brief. I am a little suspicious of this as the cause because it was my legs that felt tired and not my body when I set out on the run. When I have been dehydrated in the past, it’s usually my body that wears down, not necessarily my legs.
2) Improper bike fit. I have yet to get a formal bike fit for my new triathlon bike. Racing this way was part of the plan so I could have some qualitative data when getting a real fitting. The bike felt awesome, but perhaps the set up fried my running legs.
3) Improper taper. I started my taper 3 weeks out, but 21 days before the race I did an 18 mile run in some pretty serious heat. I ended up losing 15lbs over the run (about 7% on my 220lb frame). Perhaps that really ate up my running legs and I never got back to 100%? I never would have thought it would be an issue, but perhaps it was.
4) Not enough training/not a good runner. I had a higher cycling and running volume coming into this race than last year where I ran a 4:12 at LP and 4:00 at Dook. I am fairly certain I came in a much better runner.
5) To hard on the bike. I can’t see this as the cause. My split was only 9 minutes faster than when I did this course 2 years ago and relative to other training partners (most of whom pummeled me on the bike) I seemed in step.
6) Alien Abduction? I remember seeing a bright light in the sky early on the second loop…next thing I know, I am 35 minutes off my goal run time and my legs are shot. Alien quad research project? You never know. Figuring out where all the time went in an IM is never easy and all options must be explored.

Appendix C Race Report Reader Appreciation Section
You my friend are a race report reader super geek. You made it through something like 7 pages, 28 paragraphs, 3 Appendixes, a suicide watch and an alien abduction story to get here. You are my hero! I thought I could shake you with the pizza story or the “toesie whohsie” baby thing but you hung in there. Thanks for reading. Viva la you!

Mike Guzek