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Race Result

Racer: Mike Guzek
Race: Ironman USA
Date: Sunday, July 27, 2003
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 11:19:56
Overall Place: 266
Age Group Place: 34
Comment: 5th IM race

Race Report:

The short version is that I did an 11:19:56 (55:47 swim, 602:38 bike, and 4:12:49 run) on a very wet and windy day. I was the 4th place Clydesdale overall and I placed 34th out of 149 people in my age group. I was 266 out of 1856

Ironman Lake Placid was my first ironman race this year and the 4th I have ever done. I did this race last year and I was looking forward to doing it again since I had some benchmarks from 2002. I drove up there with my girlfriend/supporter/carrier of my gear after the race/carrier of my bike after the race/ carrier of me home after the race/driver of my bike, gear, me home after the race/etc. She’s great. Without her there to get me home after the race I would probably still be sitting there in the transition area right now.

We got up there Thursday afternoon and met up with our house compadres and training partners Brady Dehoust (RAT), Marc Nester(RAT), and Howard Curtis(not a RAT, but still cool). We had dinner at a pizza place in town and one round of Bud Lights which cleaned out the restaurant’s stock of beer. A short time later we noticed a scruffy man show up with a case of Bud and Budlight under his arms we were notified that beer was back in stock!! We sucked back another round and called it a night. That was our “party” night. Wahoo!

Friday morning we did a Lake swim and saw pro triathletes Jaime Cleveland and Andrea Fisher by the water. In the afternoon we readied our bikes and then headed off to the carbo load party that evening in a gigantic tent on the grounds of a horse training facility—the perfect place for a Clydesdale to get something to eat (no apples, hay OR sugar cubes were served if you can believe it!). They pulled up on stage all the triatheletes who had done more than 17 ironmans, and local legend Daniel Labarca got a ton of air time on stage since he has done an insane amount of these races. I was yelling “Daniel!! WOOOOO!!!! You da man!” He was just grinning from ear to ear. I also noticed age group super star Joe Bonness who has done 3 of the 4 ironmans I have done--Joe, stop following me.

On Saturday morning we were all getting ready for one last ride before checking our bikes in and I notice that my tire was not taking in any air. My valve extender was not on tight enough so I grabbed some pliers to tighten it up and “Snap!” I tighten it so hard that I snapped my valve in half. I have had a history of mechanical mishaps at races so while I was pretty irritated, I was not surprised. I was just hoping that this would be the end of any mechanical issues. I changed the tire using my spare tubular and as luck would have it I was able to buy a pre stretched tire from the expo, saving me the headache of having to worry about stretching and gluing a tire in the short time before our race. Brady and I headed out to ride and we ran into the carbo dinner super star Daniel Labarca who gave us some secret insights on how to do well on race day. The weather was beautiful and we were really really excited. We checked our bikes in and went home for a pre race home cooked pasta meal. The 4 of us ate together with the race less than 12 hours away and we were all smiles. After a toast, we all went our separate ways for the final preparations.

Race Morning
Well, things had changed a little overnight. It was pretty windy when we woke up the next morning. The sun was trying to rise, but a heavy cloud cover kept the morning landscape to a dull gray. I ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal and bananas and tossed in a PB&J for good measure. I was a little concerned about the weather, but things fluctuated so much up there that I figured whatever came our way would be gone as quick as it came.

I spent the morning checking in my transition bags. This is totally scary stuff. If you have ever done an IM then you are probably familiar with the bags. You have a bike gear bag, a special needs bike bag, a run gear bag, a run special needs bag and a dry clothes bag. Packing those things and getting them to the right place is harder than mile 25 of the run. The night before I had all the bags laid out and there was crap everywhere!! Little baggies of pretzels, Tylenol, and salt tablets…there were socks and hats scattered in various bags….race belts and numbers….bike shoes, run shoes, sun screen, water bottles, gel flasks, sun glasses, power bars, STOP THE MADNESS!! Even if you had all the stuff you needed, you still needed to get in the right bag. Brady checked his bags in on Saturday and realized he had his special needs gear in his run bag hanging on his bike rack (or something like that). The fun doesn’t stop there. After you get the right stuff, in the right bag you need to make sure it ends up at the right spot. What happens when you get out of the water ready to get on your bike and the lady hands you your running gear bag because you put it in the wrong place?? I still have nightmares about sitting in the changing tent getting ready for the bike ride and looking down at nothing but running shoes and a fuel belt. It can be more than a little stressful. In the end crisis was averted though [brow wipe] and everything got where it needed to be.

I made my way into the water with about 15 minutes till the start. The swim was 2 loops in the very calm and clear waters of Mirror Lake. We swam straight out with the buoys on our left and then swung around straight back with the buoys still on our left. We exited the water and did it again. I tried a new strategy this year. Last year I got totally clobbered from starting pretty close to the inside position about 5 rows deep. After watching an aerial shot of last year’s IM Hawaii race start, I notice that most of the turbulent water seemed to be on the inside and the very far outside. I hypothesized that people generally went to one extreme or the other (way in or way out). Based on that, I decided to move to about the midway point of the start line and then seed myself on the front row. I hoped an initial surge could get me clear of most of the chaos.

The gun went off and I raced ahead. Contact was minimal for the first few minutes and I tacitly applauded my tactics. My first mistake was that I very quickly started to merge over close to the inside line of buoys instead of staying wide like I had started. I swam right into a hornet’s nest. The rest of the way out to the turn around was total chaos and I was kicking myself for not staying wide….actually, other swimmers were taking care of the kicking—ouch! One interesting note: I was in a vicious pack and found myself occasionally doing breaststroke because it was so crowded. I was frustrated at the pace so I started heading left to get inside the buoy line and hopefully find some clear water. I finally did and picked up the pace out by myself. I noticed that I was still pretty much swimming at the same pace as the pack I had been in. I learned that a pack of 20 swimmers can create a pretty good current so if you are in the middle you probably don’t have to swim that hard to move pretty fast. Lesson learned: don’t underestimate your pace when you are in a group of swimmers. I quickly moved back to the outskirts of the pack and continued around the first turn buoy.

The swim back to the start was slightly less crowded and I exited the first loop in 27:26. I was a little disappointed since as I was hoping to come out in under 27 minutes so I tried to step it up the second loop. The second loop was pretty uneventful and considerably less chaotic. At one point however I was swimming next to Heather Fuhr which was cool. I thought “If I can just hang with her for 9 more hours, I’ll have a great race.” I actually got out of the water with her but she was on her bike while I was still in the transition tent (I heard them announce her name). I figured I would swim the second loop 1:30 – 2:00 minutes slower based on last year’s time so I was pretty happy that I was less than a minute slower on my second loop (28:21) and got out in 55:47. I had secretly hoped to be out in under 55 minutes, but this was a long day and I wasn’t going to waste too much time crying over 47 seconds…..ok, I cried briefly but it was immediately interrupted by the wetsuit strippers yelling at me “get on the ground!!” Scared, I did what she said. They took it off with such speed and with such force that for a moment I thought that they might take my leg off with it. With both legs, I headed to T-1.

The transition was pretty uneventful except that I noticed that it had started raining during the swim. I set out on the bike and I can’t say that I felt good at the beginning. The rain had me pretty nervous since the course has some fast and windy sections and also my legs felt a stiff. I started to wonder if I got too caught up in pushing the swim and went a little harder than I should have. In any case, I tentatively set out. The bike course is a 2 loop course with some pretty sizeable climbs and descents as you work your way around the Lake Placid “metropolitan area” in the Adirondack Mountains. There is a 10K down hill about 15 miles into each loop and last year I took that thing like a crazy man. This year, between the rain and wind I was cautious on the hill and used my brake liberally. Through the first parts of the course I was a pretty unsettled by the conditions and a little dejected that I didn’t feel like I was in the “zone.” The funny thing about the bike was that some parts of the course were dry while others were wet and rainy. The one constant, however was the wind. There was no relief from that. Normally, the crest of a hill offers a nice downhill in return for your climbing efforts. On this day, the crest of a hill offered a descent into a headwind where you still had to push the pedals to keep things moving. I never really felt like I was physically doing so well. The whole thing felt like a struggle, however everything else with me was doing really good. I had virtually zero stomach problems, my back hardly ached at all and I almost never noticed any pains in my neck or arms.

My fueling plan was pretty simple. Each loop I started with a box of Extran and I would crush that for a quick injection of some carbs. I also had a bag of some kind of food – first loop was Triscuits, loop two was pretzels. From then on I would drink as much Gatorade as I could stand. I also carried a gel flask. I aimed for about 400 calories an hour. I saw Brady, Howard and Nester on the out and back portion of the course and that kept me going. The crowd going through town was awesome and was a nice pick me up before heading out on the second loop. I finished the first loop in 2:53. I was a little slower than last year and was hoping things would pick up on the second loop. The second loop, however was much of the same—rain, wind, and hills. My legs were really aching, but I still felt like things were under control. There was a pretty consistent stream of riders passing me and I grew frustrated, but I did my best to not get worked up over it. As I neared town, I watched last year’s bike time tick past on my computer and I realized that not only had I missed my bike goal for this year, I was actually going to be slower than last year. At mile 105, there is not much you can do at that point but keep going. Whatever energy you have left is what you have left and you can’t cry about things then. The last few miles before town were some of the toughest on the course and my thighs were burning while cresting the last few hills. I approached the transition in just over 6 hours and 2 minutes. I was 11 minutes slower than last year, but as an indication of the difficult conditions, I was still 38 places better in my age group than in 2002 (I am digging for the positives here). I also recycled a successful joke from last year when I cruised past a volunteer and asked “wait, is this race 2 loops or 3?”

The Run
I entered T-2 relieved to be off the bike and pretty worn out, but I still felt like I had some running in me. No matter how you feel on the bike, it’s nearly impossible to know how you will feel on the run until you get started. After I quick transition, I got started. Last year I charged out of the change tent and barreled down the first hills out of transition. I felt pretty good, but returning up those same hills to the midway point of the run I crashed and burned. I was determined to avoid that mistake and stayed conservative early and hoped for a consistent run. All of my ironmans have ended with a run meltdown and I was hoping that I could finally run one without having the grim reaper shadowing me for the second loop. The first mile is very hilly, but most of it is down hill so I clocked a 7:30. The next mile the average was 7:45 and with each passing mile it gradually crept up…..but slowly and sensibly. I am not a 7:30 marathon runner….I was hoping for something close to 4 hours. I walked through the aid stations drinking coke at nearly every one. I mixed in Gatorade and bananas with occasional orange wedges. I passed local distance running legend and one of RATs most inspirational penmen Aaron Schwartzbard working at an early aid station. I would get so exhausted each time I passed that I would forget to look for him. But I every time I went by he would yell my name and I would see him with a 20 oranges wedges and 5 cups of water in each hand. I would make a gesture along with some type of unintelligible grunt and shuffle away.

Around mile 6 it started to pour. I could not believe what was happening. There were several places where there were streams of water crossing the course. At this point, I was pretty unphased by it all. The conditions were so challenging that it seemed only fitting to get another dose from mother nature. I was starting to feel bad, but I was still running as I made my way to the 13.1 mile mark in just over 1:58. I saw all my friends throughout the run and it was a huge boost in getting through the course. As I started the second loop, with my overall time goal gone by the wayside, I was hoping to still come through with a solid marathon…my first solid IM marathon. I continued to force myself to only walk through aid stations and while I did extend the geographic definition of [insert exaggerated quote gesture here] “aid station,” I never walked in between as I pushed on to mile 18 and the last turn around point. There were two sizeable hills heading back into town where I had to walk for a few moments in the middle to catch my breath, but other than that I managed to keep a running (albeit not a fast run) pace all the way across the finish line in 11:19:56. This is faster than last year’s time of 11:31:21 but slower than what I had hoped, but considering how tough everything seemed to be, I was truly happy just to finish. I was also immensely proud to have run the entire run. It was not a blazing speed, but I accomplished something I had been unable to do in my previous three attempts and that alone made the day wonderful.

After the race I felt pretty bad as usual, but overall I was better than normal I think. I caught up with Brady, Nester and Howard after we all got our massages and our grub on. We went back to our house and pummeled a bag of burgers that Melanie and Brady’s wife had gotten for us (MVPs!). We sat there bewildered at how hard the bike turned out to be. It was such a mental challenge. When you picture your ironman race you don’t envision 112 miles of rain and wind. This race was nothing like we had planned but in the end it made it that much more rewarding. We traded in time goals for the simple pleasure of just finishing. Did I just say “pleasure?” Perhaps I should have said torture or agony. It’s “pleasure” when you write a race report a few days later….it’s pain and misery on race day.

Looking back on the race I am just so happy that I had a race where I had no problems. In my first IM race my brake separated from my bike and created a huge problem. When I started the run I was crippled with cramps. In my second IM at Lake Placid last year I had a much better race, but I still had a flat tired and I crumbled on the run. I also did Duke last year where the cable from my rear shifter snapped and I rode the last 35 miles with only two gears. Despite the horrible conditions at Lake Placid I am truly thankful to have had a clean race with no bizarre problems. Going into the race, that was my main goal…and sometimes it got lost in all my other time goals that I was chasing. Looking back on the race now, I realize how many positives things occurred.

As always, I was totally amazed at those who persevered to finish in the last hours of the race. Those guys deserve two medals. The volunteer’s efforts go well beyond words. They stood out there all day in the rain and couldn’t have been more encouraging. If you are still reading, congratulations to you for reading all the way to the end. As long as this thing is, you should get a medal and a finishing time as well.

“Reader, you are….an ironman!”