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Race Result

Racer: Aaron Schwartzbard
Race: Ironman USA
Date: Sunday, July 25, 2004
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 10:55:24
Overall Place: 248 / 1879
Age Group Place: 35 / 151
Comment: Gotta work on the bike - 1:03:56 / 5:05 / 6:24:44 / 3:31 / 3:18:10

Race Report:

**** Late May:

The standard conversation about Ironman USA went something like this...

not aaron: So, are you doing Ironman USA?
aaron: When is it?
not aaron: July 25th.
aaron: That's too far away. Ask me on July 24th.
not aaron: C'mon. Really!
aaron: Really, I've been running a lot, swimming a little --- mostly as recovery workouts --- and biking almost none. I'd need to change my training significantly, and I don't want to make any decisions until early June.

**** Early June:

I decided that as long as I had signed over the deed to my car, my first born child and three years of indentured servitude to Ironman North America (the entry fee went up again), I might as well dance. That meant that I had to start riding again and get back to actual swim workouts.

**** Late June:

Surprisingly enough, a few weeks of serious biking got me to fairly reasonable bike shape. I wasn't jaw-droppingly fast, but my greater-than-average run fitness translated to enough bike fitness that I felt like I was biking as well as I had been in several years. Chris, who has ridden with me since I was training for my first Ironman, confirmed that I was biking well. And my swimming was going swimmingly. All signs were pointing toward a good race.

**** Early July:

The entirety of my speedwork for Ironman consisted of two races. Despite believing that I had been biking well, I rode the two worst bike splits that I've ridden in races. Then I ran some of the best run splits I've run in races. So maybe that whole "translation of run fitness" thing didn't work out as well as I had hoped. *sigh*

**** Mid July:

You know how sometimes you just feel good, and sometimes you just feel bad, and there isn't necessarily anything you can point to, and say, "AH HA! Now I can see the unequivocal link between feeling bad and a three month diet of moon pies and red bull!" Sometimes, I dunno, you biorhythms get all out of whack with your horoscope, and things just fall apart. That was my taper. The more rested I SHOULD have been, the worse I felt. I wasn't sleeping through the night, I was waking up tired, I had very little energy, my heart rate was elevated. Not good.

**** 23 July:

I arrived in town while the rain was pouring. Register, swing through the merchandise tent, run in to Woody and chat with him in the merchandise tent after his three day journey from Vietnam to Lake Placid ("Yeah... I got in to town this afternoon... And, uhh... It's, umm... 4:30am in Vietnam... I'm... Umm... Kinda tired." Puts the trip from Northern Virginia in perspective.), buy groceries, head over to the house, unpack the car and put on bike gear to do a short ride with Jo, Schep, Terry, Doug and Scott, realize that my heart rate is skyrocketing on every little hill, console my self by eating lots of food, go to bed.

**** 24 July:

More of the same, but with a trip to the Ben & Jerry's shop to cap off the day.

**** 25 July (Race day), Early Morning:

The months and weeks and days leading up to a big race are exciting and fun. The time from the beginning of the race to the end is exciting and, yes, on occasion, fun. The time between the moment you drag your tired carcass out of bed until the cannon announces that the race has begun... Well, it's during that time that you might find yourself saying things like, "It seemed like such a good idea when I signed up," or, "I wonder if anyone would notice if I just slept in."

**** 25 July, Still Early Morning:

I'm in the water thinking about how silly we're all going to feel when the cannon fires, and we all realize that if you're treading water six inches behind the guy in front of you, and there's someone else treading water six inches behind you, and suddenly all three of you simultaneously reorient yourself from being vertical to being horizontal... I'm just saying that even the most rudimentary understanding of geometry and spacial relations would be enough to understand where things will go wrong. But did I mention that it was still early in the morning? Who understands geometry and spacial relations early in the morning?

Anyway, the swim was pleasant enough. There were lots of people around me, but I didn't experience too much contact. I kept an eye on everyone around me, and tried to stay out of the way of anyone who had particularly bony elbows. The advantage of having so many people in such a small lake is that you can just go nice and easy, and the washing machine will pull you around.

I didn't worry too much about my swim time. No matter what, I always swim between 1:05 and 1:10 in an ironman distance race. I'm not a big believer in destiny or fate or any of that stuff, but I had been pretty convinced that it had been pre-ordained that I would always swim between 1:05 and 1:10. So I might as well save my energy and let the mysterious forces of the universe get me through the swim in my standard time. I came out of the water just under 1:04, which pleased me, since it meant that I wouldn't forevermore be stuck in the 1:05 to 1:10 range, but it also disturbed me, since it meant that my understanding of the universe is flawed. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

**** 25 July, Morning, but slightly less early:

On to the bike. Oh, the bike. What can I say about the bike? I mean, I actually felt better than I expected, given how I had been feeling in the days leading up to the race. I wish I could say that I felt awful, or my brakes were rubbing for 112 miles. Nope, I felt fine. No problems at all. I knew I was slowing down on the second loop, but that's not unusual. Despite being in what I consider to be better riding shape than either of the two times I had done this race before, I turned in my slowest bike split on the course: 6:24. It was far enough off of what I expected that coming in to T2, when I finally saw a race clock, I had to do the math several times before realizing that I had, in fact, done a 6:20+ ride. I blame the biorhythms.

(Anecdote from the bike: Can a talk about peeing on the bike for a moment? Yeah, I pee on the bike in an Ironman. Well, not so much ON the bike --- you see, there's technique involved. On a gradual descent, when no one is directly behind you, you relax for a moment, stop pedaling, roll up one leg of your shorts, unclip your shoe on that side, and just let go. If you're positioned correctly and moving at a moderate speed, you won't get any on your bike or in your shoes. Anyhoo, I find an appropriate stretch of road to do my thing. Of course, being the classy guy I am, even among triathletes, I have some fear of offending someone's proper sensibilities with such behavior. As I'm "finishing up," a female competitor rides by and says, "That is SO impressive!" A couple moments later, a male competitor rides by and says, "Man, I wish I could do that." Triathletes... Gotta love 'em.)

**** 25 July, I suppose it's afternoon by now:

Fortunately, I'm well acquainted in the ways of coming off the bike with a deficit. Since the run course is a double out-and-back, you get to see spectators and other racers several times. Between being off the bike, and finally being able to pass people (as I am wont to do during the run), and being able to see people and exchange some good words here and there, I was feeling pretty good. I was joking with spectators and posing for the cameras. I walked up the two big hill on the course, and stayed pretty relaxed when I was running.

Near the end of the first loop of the run, I passed a race clock, and it said that if I wanted to break 11 hours, I had almost two hours for the remaining 14+ miles. Unless I had some major meltdown, it was all but a done deal. I passed the special needs area, where a volunteer had pulled out my bag for me. Usually, after they pull a bag from the well organized, numbered piles, they'll toss it into an unorganized jumble. I stopped to tell the guy, "I don't need anything this time, but when I come around on the next loop, I'm gonna want the stuff in that bag. Could you put it back in the numbered pile? Thanks."

The second loop was good. More joking with spectators, more posing for pictures, walk the two big hills and stay relaxed. At the end of the second loop, after the turn-around by the lake, I had less than a mile to go. With less than half a mile to go, I stopped at the run special needs station. The volunteers were watching for people coming from the other direction, so I had to get the attention of one of the volunteers. "Excuse me, could I get my bag? Number 211." She found the appropriate pile, and found my bag. She held it open in front of me, while I pulled out a large afro wig, and put it on. She looked a little confused, so I explained, "We all have our own special needs." With that, I took the remainder of the contents of the bag: a pink bath robe I had put in there, and a package of pork rinds some friends had snuck in there.

I set out for the finish line. While running, I put on the robe and moved my race number belt from the inside of my robe to the outside. As soon as I hit the crowds in town, the crowds were going crazy! That might have had something to do with the fact that I was passing the Lake Placid Brewery, and the spectators in that area were a bit happier than other spectators on the course (and getting happier).

The best part of the run course is the point where you go to the left to start the second run loop, or to the right to go to the finish line. That is, it's the best part of the run course when you get to go to the right.

As I entered the Olympic oval, with about 300 meters to the finish line, I caught up to a woman who was ahead of me. I was running a bit faster than her at that point, but I was planning on taking my time down the final stretch. There was no one immediately behind us, and I didn't want to get in her way or mess up her finish photo. When I was running just off her left shoulder, I said, "Don't get beat by a guy in a wig and a pink bath robe."

She turned to look at me, and gave me an "Uh-huh," with the same enthusiasm that might be expected if I had said, "Your transition bags should be placed on the rack labeled with your race number." It seemed like a inappropriately un-whimsical response for such a situation. But to each her own.

I slowed down to let her get a bit of a lead for her own finish. Then I shook my money maker down the final stretch, finishing up my 10 hour and 55 minute day with a 3:18 marathon. Of course, the best PR of the day was getting my best finisher photo to date: me in the wig and the robe proudly displaying my package of pork rinds. My only regret is that in the excitement of the moment, I forgot the large, horn-rimmed glasses I had in the pocket of the robe. Oh well, I suppose you have to save something for next time.