||Sunday, July 25, 2004
||Lake Placid, NY
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 30 - 34
||31 / 1961
|Age Group Place:
||4 / 329
||It's not about the slot....so why do it?
This race marked my 2nd time at Lake Placid (1st - 1999 Inaugural) and 15th finisher's medal and t-shirt for the Ironman distance.
Ironman is a fickle mistress. Sometimes she loves you and makes you feel good; sometimes she just makes you miserable. My first race at LP gave me two flats on tubulars with only one spare. This year's race gave me something else.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about my race. On the one hand, I'm disappointed relative to my expectations, but, on the other hand, I feel grateful to still produce solid results after falling apart on the bike. I made a few stupid mistakes and learned a few more things along the way. In the end, I crossed the finish line and was once more called an Ironman.
Special thanks to Brian Shea from PBN (www.personalbestnutrition.com) and Mike Pomato from PedalShop (www.pedalshop.com) for their continued support.
1. Nutrition is absolutely critical at longer distances. I made a few bad choices the day before in what I ate and race day in how I ate. Next time I will stay away from acidic and high fiber foods the day before and water down my Gatorate while avoiding any type of Chocolate flavored gels on race day.
2. Plan your race; race your plan...but realize things will change. Be flexible and adapt. It's a very long day.
In the couple of weeks before the race, I felt very optimistic: my fitness level was high, my nagging injuries had cleared up (knee tendonitis, achilles tendonitis), and my attitude was good. I was hungry.
I added a little speed work to my 3-week taper with Diamond in the Rough Olympic distance two weeks out from LP. Race went smoothly; no problems; I felt good. I did notice that it seemed to take a long time to get into a groove on the bike (20 miles into a 27 mile course) and that the Chocolate-flavored Gu that I ate upset my stomach.
Jen, our two dogs and I arrived in Lake Placid on Thursday afternoon having driven half way to Wilkes-Barre, PA after work on Wednesday. It was clear that Ironman (IM) had taken over the town: sponsor banners, IM logos, tri bikes, and shaved legs were everywhere. Lots of energy in the air!
The days leading up to Ironman were spent relaxing, driving the race course, watching the dogs swim in the creek near our rental home and hanging out at Pete and Michaela's lot. There must have been 20+ folks from this area either doing the race or watching.
Day before nutrition:
- Sipped Gatorade and water all day (good)
- Snacked on a McDonald's McFlurry in the afternoonn (bad)
- Dinner was pasta w/ Marinara (too acidic), 1 bean and steak burrito (bad choice)
I managed to sleep through most of the night which is unusual for me as I typically wake up every hour, glance at the clock, then doze off again until I wake up again the next hour. So far, so good.
Woke up at 4 AM. Breakfast was 1 PB&J sandwich followed by a bottle of Gatorade over the next couple of hours.
At 5 am in the morning, there were already people in line for body marking. I added my aerobottle and Bento box to my bike, pumped up my tires, added a few things to transition bags and headed to the swim start. I opted to leave my jersey in my transition bag as temp was in the high 50's and I wanted to be able to put on a dry jersey for start of bike.
Warm-up was a 10 minute jog and an easy 5-10 minutes of swimming to loosen up. I couldn't find my PowerGel that I had brought so ate a Chocolate-flavored Gu that was in my race package about 30 minutes before the start. I had forgotten about my experience with Chocolate Gu at Diamond in the Rough...
Lake temperature was approximately 72 degrees. I opted for a full suit with sleeves for speed and protection from other swimmers even though the suit was a little warm. I managed the warmth by leeting water in through my neck every couple of hundred of yards.
I seeded myself toward the front of the masses about 5-10 meters to the right of the course line near Dave Cascio. If you've ever started a race with 300 people in a wave, imagine over 1,900. I couldn't tread water without bumping into people. Mirror Lake is not that big.
The cannon BOOMED! Yes, there really is a small cannon. The chaos started and I was sucked along frantically swimming over and being swum over as I fought for position. After about 100 meters I had been pushed over to the course line and found myself swimming on top of the cable that marked the course where I stayed for most of the swim. I physically hit every single course buoy on the first length out.
Swimming over or near the cable had it's advantage: no need to sight buoys. I think this helped my swim as I did not have to look up at all except occasionally to see where the turnaround was. First loop was 27:30. Total time was 56:30.
I felt good. I was working but at a reasonable pace to conserve energy for the bike.
There was a long transition from the lake up to the road several blocks to the Olympic oval. I grabbed my transition bag and headed to the changing tent. I fumbled with my jersey, managed to stick two gel flasks in the pockets which I thought were in the back but were more to the side, put on my bike helmet/shoes and headed out to grab my bike. I said a quick "Hey" to Guzek as we passed in the transition area.
The bike course is two 56-mile loops with an out and back section. Total climbing is almost 6,000 feet, which makes it a very challenging course. I had a great first half (~2:30 split and in 25th overall) and suffered through the 2nd half (~2:55 split).
I ended up riding near a lot of the pro men and women on the first loop. I passed Heather Fuhr at the first turn in Keane, then traded places several times with Joanna Lawn and Kate Major, and finally caught Andrea Fisher at the end of the first loop. One challenge with riding near the lead women is the motorcycles that are interviewing them during the race. I was blocked on several occasions.
I pushed the first bike loop. Like Brady, I noticed my ascents were not as fast relative to others but I was descending faster. This seemed counter-intuitive given our extensive hill training and my typical conservatism in descending. I was very strong on the flats and dropped quite a few pro men and women in the first 20 miles.
I realized that I was in trouble when I could not keep any food down the first loop. About 5 minutes after eating a gel or Fig Newton, I spit it up. I tried Tums but they did not seem to help. I was riding on borrowed time as I could not get enough calories from just fluid.
My second loop was one big bonk. I could drink but not eat. I started throwing up more and more. My heart rate and speed dropped and I was just limping along, watching dozens and dozens of riders that I had passed in the first loop ride by me.
At one point, I rode through an aid station hoping that I could make it past the volunteers before throwing up. About 80 miles in the bike, I became violently ill and threw up everything in my stomach including what seemed like a gallon of Gatorade. My throat burned from the stomach acid and my stomach muscles hurt from the convulsions. I think it was the salt tablet pushed me over the edge as it came up partially digested. I had to stop on the side of the road for a few seconds because I was weaving all over the place and in danger of crashing.
A volunteer asked me if I was OK. I mumbled, "Yes" and kept going. No power. I probably looked as white as a ghost. I was afraid that the medical staff would pull me off the course. I was miserable.
Why am I doing this? I think this is a fundamental question everyone probably asks themselves sometime on the Ironman course. For me, it was not about getting a slot to Hawaii but pushing myself to a harder effort and faster time. The faster time was out of the question.
Should I quit? I really wanted to. I hurt. I had bonked badly. I could barely turn over my pedals (pedal, coast, pedal, coast) and was losing precious time. To keep going might push me over the edge. I looked down at the yellow "LIVESTRONG" band on my wrist. Like Lance, I am a cancer survivor. It gave me hope. I had chosen to be here. I was living the experience. I couldn't quit. They could pull me of the course, but I could not quit.
I did begin to feel a little bit better. After the turnaround from the out and back (~90 miles), I was finally able to eat and keep some food down. Still no real power as I was very depleted of carbohydrates.
I came into transition, dropped my bike with a volunteer, grabbed my transition bag, changed in the changing tent and headed out on the run.
I felt better once I was off the bike. I started the run a lot later than I had planned due to a slower bike time. At this point, I did not know how I would hold up given nutrition problems on the bike, but I figured I had nothing to lose.
Heading out of the town, the course was mostly downhill so I pushed the pace. I started drinking Coke from the beginning for the sugar. I sipped water, too, to dilute the Coke in my stomach.
The course has two out and backs (1st is ~11 miles, 2nd is ~2 miles) done twice. Running through town is great. There's lots of spectators cheering which gave me energy. The first out and back was lonely except for the other runners. Seeing so many friends out on the course really helped keep me going.
I really can't say much about the run except that I probably started out a little fast. I had to make two port-a-john stops (bean burrito?) that cost me a couple of minutes. I usually don't have to stop. My nutrition was mostly just Coke and water as my stomach was still upset (dry heaves) and I couldn't eat anything solid. I did manage to sip on 2/3 of a gel flask over the 26.2-mile distance and eat a couple of orange slices and banana halfs as well.
At one point in town, I stopped to pet Lucy, our black lab mix.
I rounded the Olympic oval and crossed the finish line in a little over 9:49.
I was immediately helped to the medical tent by two volunteers. Post race weight was 165 - a loss of ~4 pounds of fluid. I don't think that was too bad but the medical staff (thankfully) thought I needed a saline IV. My blood pressure was surprising low: 60/40. The only other time I've seen it that low was after a systemic allergic reaction to a bee sting about 6 years ago. By the time I left the medical tent, it was up to a more normal 110/68.
I went straight from the medical tent to the massage tent. I wish I could have wiped off the salt on my legs because it felt like sandpaper.
I am sitting at home on my computer on a Sunday morning exactly one week after the race having decided to sleep in until 8am for a change. I think a lot about this race and how I would do things differently. I feel somewhat cheated for what I put into my training in the months leading up to the race, yet also fulfilled for finishing after what was probably my lowest point. I will go back to LP because I know that I can do better and I have something to prove to myself. It may not be next year, but I will go back.
On Friday, I decided to sign up for Vineman Full in two weeks (3 weeks after LP). I want and need the challenge. I can fix the nutrition. Hopefully, my body will have recovered although this is a risk.