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Missed part 1?  Read it here!

The day has dawned and a few thousand Ironman hopefuls are crammed in to the swim start area.  All I can see in every direction are wetsuits, swim caps, and anxious/excited faces hidden behind goggles.  Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, pauses for a moment, and then

BOOM!

The third and final cannon sounds.  The age grouper race is starting.

The Swim

Check out this great video of the swim start here.  The age grouper cannon goes off around 5 minutes in.

After the cannon fired, we continued to stand there for a bit.  Then the mass of people started slowly shuffling forward.  We inched closer and closer to the starting arch, and after a few minutes, I could see the timing mat and the water was in front of me.  From my quick glance at the clock on the building nearby, it was 6:42am.  That meant I would have until 11:42pm to finish.  Very important mental note.

I stepped over the timing mat and into the water.  I could see the wide line of swimmers stretching out in front of me, and there were still a ton left standing behind me.  It was a big group.  A few steps into the water and it was time to swim.

This swim was BRUTAL.  Absolutely brutal.  Worst I’ve ever had in terms of contact.  Right from the start, there were people crammed in around me.  I kept getting grabbed, smacked, banged into – you name it.  At one point I got kicked in the chest.  There was just NO open space to be had.

Now, in hindsight, 1:20 is a very common swim time, and it would probably have been better to seed myself further back where there were less people.  I would take swimming past someone who was slower than me over dealing with this crap any day.

The swim course goes straight out from the beach – 9 buoys down, and 9 buoys back – then rinse and repeat.  Before I even got halfway out to the turnaround on the very first lap, I wanted to quit.  I had had enough of this contact bullshit, and my nerves were shot.  It’s very stressful being in the water with a ton of people who want to pull you under and swim over the top of you.  My automatic defense mechanism is whenever I feel someone grabbing my legs, I kick – HARD.  Sometimes it was just a little accidental brush of a hand.  No big deal.  Other times it was a straight up GRAB on your leg.  That’s the start of someone trying to pull you under.  That’s when I start kicking like a crazy person.  If someone grabs my leg, and I kick them in the face, maybe they shouldn’t have grabbed me and tried to pull me under.  Assholes.  Swim around me.  There’s space.

Clearly, I have no patience for this bullshit.  At one point, I pulled my head out of the water and yelled “GET THE F&*$ OFF OF ME!!!” to some jerk who wouldn’t stop.  They stopped after that, so I win.

Initially, I tried to stay close to the buoys, which was part of the contact issue.  Everyone else was trying to stay close to them too.  Many people like to do this for Lake Placid because there’s a bright yellow cable that runs the whole length of the swim buoys (it’s what they’re anchored to), and it’s easy to see.  If you can get on the cable, you have absolutely no need to sight.  You KNOW you’re going perfectly straight down the buoy line.  One thing about this that I found highly amusing was that you could tell who was doing this (not looking up out of the water at all), because every time they got to a buoy, they swam straight into it.  It cracked me up every time.

Eventually, I swung a bit wide and got away from the cable line, and some of the jerks.  Things started to open up a bit, but it didn’t last long.  I would have a few minutes of calm where I would get in a zone, and then all of a sudden it was like a swarm of douchenozzles coming to pull me under again.  I couldn’t understand it.  It happened for the ENTIRE swim.

After 22 minutes or so, we made the turn to head back in toward the beach.  By now, it had started to rain.  It was barely noticeable if you were swimming, but I felt bad for all the spectators.  As I got closer to the shore, I started to hear snippets of crowds cheering, music blaring, and the ever-present Mike Reilly.  It was a weird mixture of silence/bubbles/water and then one second of horns blaring and “YAY!!!  ANNNND HERE’S SO AND SO!” and then back to silence and bubbles.

43 minutes after entering the water, I made it back in to the beach.  I stumbled out of the water (I’m always a little disoriented and off balance coming out of the water), ran across the timing mat, and went back under the arch to start lap #2.  As I was on the beach, I heard Mike Reilly announce the first female pro coming out of the water.  It’s amazing to think that she did two laps in a just a hair more than the time I did one.

Before starting lap #2, I paused for a second to gather myself.  All throughout the first lap of the swim, I had thought about getting back to shore and packing it in.  I had had enough of all the contact, and really didn’t want to do another lap.  But I told myself I had to at least start it.  So I dove back in.

The second loop was slightly better than the first.  There was still just as much contact, but at least this time I knew I was done swimming after this.  I was so angry and worked up that I had gotten to the point where if someone grabbed me, I would just SHOVE them away from me as hard as I possibly could.

Lap #2 went much the same as the first.  Lots of contact and shoving, lots of frustration, and a few moments where I found my groove.  Eventually, I was coming in to shore for the second time.  It seemed like a lot of people were coming in around me, and it was a mob scene in the last couple yards to get to the beach.  There was a lot of grabbing and banging into people, and I was just happy to eventually put my feet on the bottom and find solid ground.

I came out of the water 1:31:57 after entering it for the first time.  My overall swim time was a few minutes slower than I had hoped for, but considering I had barely swam in my training, and the physicality of the swim, I was happy with my time.

T1 (Swim to Bike)

I crossed the timing mat and unzipped my wetsuit.  The first wetsuit stripper was free, so I went up to him.  We struggled for a few seconds to get my arms out, but he worked his magic quick enough, and then it was time to jog to the oval and get on the bike.

Running right after coming out of the water is always tough for me.  I’m always dizzy and lightheaded and it takes a couple minutes for me to get my land legs back.  Running through the chute to the oval was a really neat experience because it was just so jam PACKED with cheering spectators.  You really feel like some big shot running through it – even little nobody me.  I tried to keep my eye out for my support crew, and I did manage to catch them on the way down the hill into the transition area.  I yelled out a feeble “yay!  I didn’t drown!” and kept on going.

I entered the oval and was directed through the gear bag racks.  I grabbed my T1 bag, and went into the changing tent.

The changing tent was packed!  I was still reasonably in with the crowd, so that was exciting.  I managed to work my way around the outside of the tent and found an empty chair, where I promptly dumped my stuff.  Volunteers were everywhere, ready to help with whatever you needed.  They were awesome.  Boobs and butts were flying in their faces everywhere, and they didn’t bat an eye.  I stripped down, toweled off, put on my bike gear, and chugged some water.  Then it was time to throw everything into my bag, which I handed off to one of the excellent volunteers (they return it to your rack for you).

I ran out of the changing tent and down the row of bikes.  There were still a decent amount of bikes left on the racks – not a ton, but more than I’m used to seeing.  Volunteers were waiting in each row, with others yelling upcoming bib numbers over a megaphone.  When a number was called, a volunteer would run down their rack, grab the bike, and have it ready and waiting when that athlete got to them.  It was quite the efficient machine.

I grabbed my bike from my volunteer, and rolled out of transition with quite a crowd.  You’re not allowed to mount your bike until you get past the mount line, which is marked on the pavement outside of the transition area (this prevents people from riding in the crowded transition area and causing accidents).  A whole mess of us got backed up for a few seconds waiting for those ahead of us to mount their bikes and be on their way.  But it didn’t take too long.  I crossed the timing mat exiting the transition area, and mounted my bike, ready to see what would happen next.

Transition time = 12:42 (slow, but this also includes a 1/4 mile run from the beach to the oval)

To be continued…

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The big weekend was finally here!

Except, I was kind of dreading it.

As you may or may not have seen in my post just before the race, I was having serious doubts about my ability to complete the bike leg fast enough to make the cutoff.  I wasn’t worried about the distance, just the speed – or my lack thereof.  This was 100% my fault.  I want to own that up front.  I’m not making any excuses for it.  This year was a big one, full of lots of life-altering changes for me, and I made the conscious decision to put other things (some necessary, and some unnecessary) above training.  So my training was very, very minimal.  It was mostly a short workout during the week (yes  – A short workout – I’m not fooling anyone here), and then a long run and/or ride on the weekend (usually only one or the other, most often a bike because that’s what I needed the most work on).  I only swam a handful of times over my 25 week training period.  I know it was in the single digits if I counted it up.  Knowing that I was sacrificing training time for other things, I tried to focus on quality over quantity, and at least make the best of the little time I was putting into it.  I did several long bike rides out on the actual course, which I think was a HUGE confidence builder for me, and may have been the single most important thing I did.  I can’t imagine riding that course on race day and having no idea what to expect around every corner.  HUGE confidence booster.

So that’s that.  I was going into race day severely undertrained, and not really knowing if I was going to make the second bike cutoff.  There’s no denying that.  But I figured, I paid the money, so I might as well try.

I live close enough to Lake Placid that it didn’t make sense to shell out tons of money for an expensive hotel (most hotels in the area have 3-5 night minimums for Ironman week, because they can, and they kind of suck).  So instead, I waited until the last possible second, and then called around to see if any place had last minute cancelations (most did), and if so, would they waive the minimum night requirement?  Most wouldn’t, but one did.  Score!

Thursday afternoon, my friend and I drove up to Lake Placid so I could check in and get my packet/swag.  I’m glad I went up on Thursday because that was the first day of Ironman events, and the town was already a madhouse!  After a bit of wandering around town, we ended up at the convention center, and athlete check in.

check in

Check in was very smooth – this thing is a well-oiled machine.  You just get shuttled from one table to the next, and eventually you have everything you need.

wristband

Bam!  Ready to go!  Theoretically…

After check in, we wandered to the oval and to the merchandise tent to pick up the last piece of athlete swag – the 2013 IM Lake Placid tri bag.  It’s pretty sweet!  I told myself I wasn’t allowed to use it until after the race though, so it went straight home and into the closet.

photo (14)

When I got home, it was time to start packing.  I had been making little piles of stuff during the week, but when you check in, you get all your gear bags: Morning clothes, Bike gear (T1), Bike special needs, Run gear (T2), and Run special needs.  There’s a lot to sort through and obsessively check to make sure it’s in the right bag.

So pack, I did!

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Rocket helped.

photo (12)

All packed and ready to go.

Packing for a triathlon is always interesting, let alone an Ironman.  I have a pretty extensive packing list.  Here’s the highlights:

 Morning Bag/Swim Gear:

  • Wetsuit
  • 2 swim caps
  • 2 sets of goggles (Always, ALWAYS have a backup set of goggles in case of goggle emergency, or you can just make someone’s day when they forgot their goggles.)
  • A buttload of bodyglide (for the back of your neck – wetsuit hickey prevention)
  • Earplugs (if you like to use those – especially good to use in cold water)
  • TIMING CHIP!  As they say at all races… No chip = no time.

Bike Gear

  • Bike (duh)
  • Socks and bike shoes
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottles – put on the bike before the race
  • Garmin (or the like)
  • Bike shorts and jersey
  • Nutrition (also put on the bike before the race, or stuff into jersey pockets in T1)
  • Tire pump (always pump up tires before the race, then stow the pump in the car, or with a trusty trisherpa)
  • Emergency kit (somewhere on the bike – this includes spare tubes, CO2, patches, tire levers, and a bike multitool)
  • MORE BODYGLIDE
  • Throwaway water bottle (I like to use this to give my feet a quick rinse before putting on my socks, and drink what’s left – swimming makes me thirsty!)
  • Spray on sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Eardrops to get rid of water in the ear (saves you a TON of frustration on the bike)
  • Chamois butter (or the like) travel packs.  I stuff these things in my jersey like they’re sardines.  They are heavenly out on the bike when you’re hurting like a bitch.

Bike Special Needs

  • Nutrition grab bag.  You may have something particular that you want to have halfway on the course.  I don’t like to rely on anything in special needs.  For me it’s more of a nutrition goody bag.  At that point, my normal nutrition may be making me want to vomit.  So I like having a fun bag of goodies to choose from.  Also, you’re always warned that you may not get your special needs bags back, so don’t put anything valuable in them.

Run Gear

  • New socks (new socks are a godsend at this point), and running sneakers
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Handheld H2O/camelback
  • Nutrition
  • MORE BODYGLIDE
  • Garmin
  • Belt with bib number
  • Running shorts and top (if you plan on changing)
  • More spray on sunscreen
  • More travel chamois butter

Run Special Needs

  • More nutrition grab bag!
  • Also, good to pack a warmer top.  Just don’t forget to grab it so you don’t lose it.  You can always toss it to your sherpas out on the course if you don’t need it.

Post Race Bag (to be delivered to you at the finish line by your trusty trisherpas)

  • Warm clothes (sweatpants, jacket, etc.)
  • FLIP FLOPS (dear god, YES)
  • Baby wipes (you be NASTY!)
  • Tylenol/Advil
  • Water
  • Snack

Whew!  That’s a lot.  Hence the giant pile of stuff.

Saturday eventually rolled around, and it was time to head up to Lake Placid for real this time.

photo (1)

That’s a full car!

We got into town and checked into the hotel.  Then it was time to walk the 1.3 miles to town with my bike and gear bags to drop those off at the oval.  It was fun walking through town seeing all the athletes (and gear) converging on the transition area at the oval.  For me, that’s usually the point where it starts to feel like race day.

I rolled my way through the wristband checks, and up to the entrance to the transition area – where the oddest thing happened.  Before going into the transition area, there’s a volunteer standing there who takes your bike, leans it up against the barricade, and a photographer takes a picture of it.  Just the bike, nothing else.  I had no idea Ironman documented the bikes that closely.  I assume it’s to prevent any cheating, as well as any theft, but I didn’t expect that.  Odd.

Anyway – I rolled into the transition area, and found my spot on the bike rack.  It was time to rack Roo, give him one last check, and let some air out of the tires (the race wasn’t until the next day, and you don’t want to risk a blowout because of overheated tires).

photo (2)

After racking Roo, I found my row in the gear bag racks.  I hung them up, gave everything one last look over, and then headed back out to the crowd.

photo (3)

We wandered around town for a little bit, bumping into tri club friends along the way.  Everybody was excited and talking race day goals/plans/tips.  I also wandered down Mirror Lake Drive to our tri club tent and picked up my club shirt.  Mirror Lake was looking beautiful as always.  We got a great glimpse of the swim buoys.  It looked so far!

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Eventually we wandered back past the oval and got a glimpse of the transition area unfolding below.

photo (4)

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Then it was time to head back to the hotel and relax for the night.  Dinner was spaghetti at Mr. Mike’s in town.  Just fine, and no wait.  Nothing exciting to mention though.

I headed to bed early, but not before setting my 18 bajillion alarms that I do before every race. (3:45, 3:46, 3:47, 3:48, 3:49, 3:50, 3:53, 3:55, 3:57, and 4:00.  Overkill?)

I didn’t sleep well.  The hotel bed wasn’t super comfortable, and I just never really got a good thing going.  It was a little frustrating.  I wasn’t up worrying about race day, which was good I guess, but I just never really felt rested.

3:45 am was here before I knew it.  I jumped out of bed, had my breakfast (a bagel with peanut butter), and then got dressed for the first part of my day.  The first and most important part was bodyglide, bodyglide, bodyglide!!!  Then the compression shorts and sports bra went on (I wear these under my wetsuit), along with my sweatpants, t-shirt, and fleece jacket (all three of which I stowed in my post-race bag just before going to the swim start).

At 4:45, it was time to head to the transition area.  I gathered my bike pump, tri bag (which doubled as my post-race bag), my bike special needs bag, and my run special needs bag.  We drove into town, and I got dropped off a few blocks from the oval.  I would meet up with my support crew in a little bit after they parked.

The transition area was hopping!

photo (5)

Everyone was pumped up and excited for race day.  After exchanging a few well wishes with people around me, it was time to get to work.  My nutrition went on the bike, as did the full water bottles.  Then I pumped up my tires and got my first injury of the day.  Hooray!  I couldn’t get the pump off the valve, and when I finally did, my hand smashed into the spokes and gears and my knuckles got all ripped up.

Whatever, I looked badass with the blood dripping off my knuckles.  You should see the other guy.

After making sure Roo was ready to go, I headed over to my gear bags to get all that nutrition in order.  Then it was out to the road for bodymarking.  I bumped into a couple tri club friends in bodymarking, and we exchanged the standard good luck wishes.  Then it was time to find my support crew and head down to the tri club tent to suit up.  (Ha.)

Everybody at the club tent was excited and ready to go.  We got our wetsuits on, and were just waiting for it to be time to head to the beach.  I found a tri club friend who ended up having an amazing day and just CRUSHING her time goal.

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Congrats again, girl!  You rock!

Then it was off to the beach!

I said goodbye to my support crew at the beach, and headed into the starting area.  There are many things that are great about doing Lake Placid, but for me, one of the unexpected ones is that even though this is a huge race, we had a large tri club presence here, so I always found people I knew.  A few of us gathered on the beach, helping zip each other into our wetsuits, and talking game plans.  Some people had some pretty amazing goals for the day, and others of us just wanted to finish and have fun – so there was quite a wide range.

After a few minutes, I headed into the water to get acclimated.  Things felt nice and pretty warm until I got that first bit of water leaking into my wetsuit.  Then it was a tad chilly!  But still, overall, the water was pretty comfortable, and I knew once we got going, I would be plenty warm.

One big change with Lake Placid this year is the swim start.  Ironman instituted a rolling start instead of the iconic mass start that Lake Placid is so famous for.  Instead, now we were supposed to self-seed ourselves on the beach according to projected swim time.  Since I can comfortably swim a 1:24, and I was hoping for some race day adrenaline and some drafting, I seeded at the 1:20.

Standing on the beach, waiting for the start, All I could see was other wetsuit-clad triathletes.  We were packed in like sardines, and I’m short, so I couldn’t see a thing except for backs, shoulders, and heads.  I chatted a bit with some people right around me, while Mike Reilly stood on a platform 15 feet away and began his long day of giving a voice to Ironman.

At 6:25, the first cannon sounded.  The pro men were off.

At 6:27, the second cannon sounded.  The pro women were off.

At 6:30, the third cannon sounded.  We were off!

  • Have fun (always my #1 race goal – I’m not competitive, so I might as well have fun) – DONE
  • Make the second bike cutoff – DONE
  • Finish (under 17 hours) – DONE

Just got home!  Race recap coming soon!

Today I went up to Lake Placid for athlete check in.  It was the first day of Ironman events, and already the town is a madhouse.

After a bit of wandering around town, my friend and I managed to find the convention center.

check in

I checked in, filled out all my waivers, got weighed, got my wristband, got my swag, and got my timing chip.

wristband

Then it was time to wander down to the oval, where I picked up my sweet Ironman backpack they were giving out for swag this year.  After that, it was back to the car to haul butt home!  I’ve got 18 million things to do and no time to get it all done!

So I’m all checked in.  I’ll go back up Saturday and stay at a hotel I tracked down at the last second.  (Thank goodness for last minute cancelations.)

I have very mixed feelings about this race.  I’m nervous.  Not because I’m worried about the distance.  I’m just worried about the speed – or my lack of it.  I can do the distance, no problem.  But I’m slow on hills.  I know this.  It’s okay.  But I’m seriously worried I might not make the second bike cutoff, and then I’ll just feel like a giant ass.

I’m going into this race severely undertrained, and that is 100% my fault.  There have been a million things going on in my life over the past year.  I made the conscious decision to make other things priorities over training.  Did they need to be?  Some of them, yes.  But not all of them.  That’s a decision I made, and now I need to deal with the consequences of that decision.  So be it.  Tomorrow is always a new day, and I’ll be training for the next race season before I know it.

So I’m going up Saturday, and I’ll see what happens on race day.  If I make it through the bike fast enough to make the cutoff, I’ll be thrilled.  I have three goals for Sunday:

  1. Have fun (always my #1 race goal – I’m not competitive, so I might as well have fun)
  2. Make the second bike cutoff
  3. Finish (under 17 hours)

So that’s all for me before the race.  Catch you on the flip side!

boulder tri series registration

Just registered for the 2014 Boulder Tri Series.  That’s Ironman 70.3 Boulder, The Boulder Peak Triathlon, and the inaugural Ironman Boulder.  Hooray!

I’m stoked to not have to travel one bit for all of these kickass races.  The Ironman run course will actually be within one block of my apartment.  Sweet deal.

Oh yeah, and Ironman Lake Placid is next weekend.  Eep!

I went up to ride the full IMLP bike course today (FYI, the trailers for their equipment are already there).  It was a disaster.  Worst ride ever.  I’m hoping it’s the whole “bad rehearsal, good show” thing we had going on in high school drama club.  I hope…

My bike had a flat yesterday, so I changed it last night – at 10pm.  I forgot about it before that, so I was scrambling to take care of it before I had to leave for my ride this morning.  But once I changed it, I realized I didn’t have any other spare tubes anymore.  So I took a shot, and went to the 24 hour walmart at 10:30pm.  (I absolutely never go there, but it was the only place open that might possibly have one.)  However, I couldn’t find a tube that would fit.  Whomp whomp.  So I went home and patched the one that I had just taken out of my tire and hoped I wouldn’t need it.

See where I’m going here?  Yeah…

5.5 miles out from Lake Placid, nearly to the top of the Keene Descent, I heard something weird.  I flatted.  Same stupid wheel (the back).  I put the patched tube back in, inflated it, and it seemed okay.  I didn’t trust the patched tube for the whole ride (smart decision), so I called the bike shop back in town (5.5 miles away), and gave them a heads up that I was coming in.  Then I crossed my fingers and hoped I would get back without flatting again.

No dice.

I ended up having to walk the last .25 – .5 miles or so back to the bike shop (I had been occasionally reinflating with my CO2 along the way, and ran out), where they fixed it – by the way, the mechanics at High Peaks Cyclery are awesome, fast, and really helpful.  Turned out I had a piece of glass hidden in there that I didn’t see when I checked the rim and the tire.  Repaired and restocked (2 new tubes and 2 new CO2 canisters), I headed back out, now delayed by 2 hours, and having ridden an extra 10.5 miles that I wasn’t planning on.  At this point, I was still hoping to do the full 112 because I really wanted to see how my legs would feel doing the climb out of Jay at the very end (if you are unfamiliar with the IMLP bike course, the last 26 miles of the loop are uphill and it SUCKS – oh, and you do it twice).

So I headed back out, for attempt #2.  But the flat and the scrambling to fix it threw me off and I felt like complete and total crap the whole way.  Going down the Keene Descent was fun, but other than that, it completely sucked.  By the time I went to turn onto 86 and start the (first) climb out of Jay, I was a full 1 mph slower (average speed) than I normally am.  And I need that 1 mph.  I was pissed.

The climb sucked.  Everything sucked.  I started to get really mad and frustrated.  I was two hours behind where I should have been from the flat, AND I was going significantly slower than normal.  And I just didn’t have any gas.

Eventually (around 2:30 pm), I got back to my car.  I had originally set out on the course at 8:15 am.  It was ridiculous.  I should have been back around 12:15 (I’m slow).  My poor dogs have been home alone since 6:15 am, and if I set out for loop #2 now, I won’t be done until just before 7 pm, and not home until 8:30ish.  After some calls/texts, someone offered to stop by and let them out, thank goodness.  So I decided to suck it up and try loop #2.

That was a big fat flop.

By the time I got to the top of the Keene Descent, I was shaky and weak, and absolutely miserable.  I knew I didn’t have the gas to go over the top and down into the valley, only to have to climb out again at the end.  There was no way.  I was bonking, and bonking HARD.  At the top of the descent, I admitted defeat, turned around, and headed back to my car.  When I got back to the car, I ate everything I could possibly find.  I think my blood sugar just completely tanked.  I felt like there was nothing left in my legs, arms, back, or neck.  Everything took more effort than my body wanted to give at that point.

I ended up doing just shy of 80 miles (total – including the tire debacle in the beginning).  I’m not happy with this one bit, and race day is going to be interesting.  It will probably still be okay, but I’m annoyed.

Anyway, IMLP is two weeks from today.  The taper begins…

This Saturday was my half iron tune-up race for Lake Placid.  My training has been sporadic and pretty minimal, but I’ve been trying to do quality workouts to at least make the most of what I can fit in.  I’ve been spending my time focusing on my bike, since that is my weakest leg, and also the longest leg of the race.  I’ve been working hard on my climbing and my speed on the flats, and I feel like I’m seeing improvement.  I’ve been riding the Lake Placid course as frequently as possible, and am getting faster and more confident each time.  I’m still slow, but at least at this point, I feel better about making the cutoffs.

So back to the race.

Friday afternoon, I went up to Hague to pick up my race packet and stop by the pre-race athlete meeting.  Check in and packet pickup was very smooth.  The athlete meeting was run by the race director, Mark Wilson.  He was very friendly and entertaining.  The thing that I was most impressed with was his desire to work with the athletes and give them whatever they needed on race day.  It definitely had gave the race a nice personal touch that you just don’t get at a bigger race.

After the athlete meeting, I headed home, packed my equipment, and gave my bike a pre-race check.  Then it was time for dinner and bed.

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 3:30 am.  I made some breakfast, loaded up the car, and headed up to Hague.

Parking was easy since we were there early.  I rolled my bike into the transition area and set up my stuff.  There was plenty of room for every athlete, complete with stool, a bin for bags, etc., and a designated spot on the bike rack.  Each stool was pre-marked with each athlete’s name and bib number, so there was no rushing to snag space, which was great.

The transition area was going to close at 6:40am, so shortly before that, I got into my wetsuit and headed down to the beach.  There were several other members of my triathlon club racing that day – including one doing his first full! – and it was nice to see everyone on the beach, zipping into their wetsuits.  Several of us wandered into the water, which was delightfully warm right at the shore, but then got significantly colder just a few strokes out.

Just before 7am, Mark called us all out of the water.  He gave a few quick instructions for the athletes, and then went down to the end of the point to sound the horn.  We all waded out into the water (it was a mass start), and about a minute later, the boat Mark was signaling sounded its horn.  We were off.

The Swim

The 1.2 mile swim course was basically a big diamond.  I felt really good through the swim.  I was a little worried about not feeling comfortable on the swim, but I managed to get rid of my last early season OWS jitters at our tri club practice on Thursday.

The jitters were gone, but the other bodies and flailing arms and legs were not.  I found it to be a pretty physical swim for most of the way.  There were only a few moments where I really felt like I had open space to work with, and other than that, I was constantly being squeezed between two people, smacked in the legs, back of the head, or arms, or getting cut off or just plain stopped in front of.  It was a little obnoxious.  There was a group of three guys in particular that were making me a little nuts.  They would keep blowing past me, swimming with everything they had, and then stopping five feet in front of me to talk and rest.  I kept having to pop my head up and go around them.  I finally had enough when I rounded the third and final buoy and they had stopped immediately behind it, where I couldn’t see them.  I almost plowed into them, popped my head out of the water, and out of sheer surprise (I swear I wasn’t trying to be a bitch), yelled “jeez!”  Oops.

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing – aside from the guy near me who couldn’t swim in a straight line to save his life and repeatedly cut me off through the entire swim.  Like many other people that day, I had a little bit of an issue sighting the buoys since they were a dark red color and didn’t really stand out.  But once I had a landmark to work with, I was fine.  When I rounded the last buoy and made the turn for the beach, it took me a minute to figure out where I was going.  After a minute or so, I got my bearings, and headed into shore.

I walked out of the lake, peeling off the top of my wetsuit as I went.  Mark was waiting on the beach to greet every single athlete with a handshake, smile, and congratulations, as they came out of the water.  I hit the mat at 43:14 (not bad – about two minutes slower than I would like, but considering I’ve barely swam at all, I’m happy with that), and headed into T1.

T1

Just beyond the timing gate (there were no mats here), there were some fabulous wetsuit strippers.  My girl worked her magic in about two seconds flat, and I ran into the transition area.

At longer races, I prefer to take the extra minute to actually change my shorts so I’m more comfortable (I’m not competitive anyway, so what’s an extra minute?), so I grabbed my bike shorts and ran to the changing tent.  A few moments later, and I was good to go.  I chugged a bit of water (breathing while swimming makes my mouth super dry), put my bike shoes, jersey, and helmet on, unracked my bike, and was out to the mount line.

T1: 5:26 (not bad considering at B2B I was 11+ minutes)

The Bike

Holy f-balls, this was the bike course from hell.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Okay, I’ll write more then.

So the bike course had a lot of people nervous.  in the 56 mile out-and-back (which actually appeared to be more like 58 miles), there were 3,215 feet of climbing.  That’s 700+ feet MORE than Lake Placid’s course.  Oh, did I mention that 1,300 of those feet were in the first five miles alone?

No???  Silly me.

HITS bike

The first five miles of this bike course are a category 2 climb, up and over Graphite Mountain, just to the west of Hague.  My goal was to not get off my bike and walk.  And I did it!  I put my bike in the easiest gear, and just plugged away.  I am absolutely certain that if I hadn’t been riding the Lake Placid course so much, I never would have been able to do it.  But overall, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be.  Sure it was long, and my legs were tired, but I never had that “oh my god, I feel like I am going to die” moment.

I hit the top of the mountain with an average speed of… 6.2 mph!  Wow.  But then I got to do the fun three mile descent down the back.  One nice thing about this course is that the roads are in great shape, and are pretty much wide open, so I was able to get some decent speed on the way down.

Most of the rest of the way out was full of nonstop rollers, but nothing horrible.  I have no idea what I averaged on the “flats” because my garmin didn’t record split times (grrr…), but I felt pretty strong, and based on my real time splits (that don’t appear to be saved), I was hitting 17-18 mph pretty consistently.  Hooray!

Just before the turnaround, there was one more fairly unpleasant climb – a category 5.  After a few minutes, I made it to the top, and the turnaround.  It was well marked, with police, volunteers, cones, and an aid station.  I buzzed around the cones, and headed back to Hague.

The only really eventful parts of the bike were going up and over Graphite Mountain again at the very end.  Worst climb of my life!  It was horrible at the end of a 56 (58?) mile ride – I can’t imagine the people who did the full.

The climb over the mountain back into Hague is a category 3 climb, and was so much worse than the cat 2 we had to do on the way out.  Partially because my legs were getting tired, and partially because it was steeper.  I felt like I was busting my ass and getting almost nowhere.  BUT, I didn’t walk.  I actually passed three or four people who were, too!

Also, I was going so slowly that a horsefly started to follow me, and the proceeded to bite me in the armpit.  Bastard.

After several minutes of churning away, exchanging encouragement and a few curses with those around me, I made it to the top, fist pumped, shouted out a nice loud “$%@* yeah!” and then began the final descent into Hague.

The five mile downhill at the very end was wonderful.  I enjoyed the smooth and quiet roads, and blew down that mountain with a big smile on my face.  That is, until a bee flew into my bike, and got itself caught in my aeronet (the mesh bag for water and fuel between my aerobars).  I was barreling down the mountain doing at least 45 mph, and there was an angry bee stuck in my bag, only inches from my face.

Cue panic.

Fortunately, after a few minutes (or what felt like a few minutes, but was probably more like 30 seconds) of angry buzzing, the bee dislodged itself from my bag, showed me mercy, and flew away.

I was free!!!

I cruised into Hague and into T2 with a bike time of 4:15:20.  Significantly slower than what I was hoping for, but considering the difficulty of the course, I’m very happy with it.  Also, my splits were 2:15:57 for the first half, which means that I did the second half in just under 2 hours.  Yeah, negative splits!

T2

I re-racked my bike, and changed into my running gear (including a change of shorts again because I HATE HATE HATE running in bike shorts).  The garmin came off of my bike and onto my wrist, and away I went.

T2: 4:47

The Run

The two biggest challenges on the run course were:

1) the heat

2) the hills

It was as if they thought the bike course wasn’t hilly enough, they decided to squeeze in a couple more on the run.  And by a couple, I mean as many as was physically possible.

HITS run

Not one single second of that run course was flat.  Not one.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zip.

When I started out on the run course (which I admittedly didn’t look at the profile of beforehand – oops), I told myself that the only times I was allowed to walk were uphills, and aid stations.  if it was flat, or downhill, I HAD to run.  And I stuck to it, which I’m proud of.

At every aid station, I made good use of my ice-in-the-sports-bra personal cooling method.  I still maintain that it’s the best thing ever.  I also stuck ice in my hat.  These ice reserves were restocked at every aid station (which was about every 1.5 miles).  That made a big difference.

Aside from being hilly, the run course was very pretty.  Aid stations were frequent, and very well stocked.  Volunteers were very nice and helpful.  And the course was well marked.  It did appear to be about .75 miles short though (which I was totally okay with).  There really isn’t much to report about the run.  I saw a lot of my tri club friends as they passed me on their way in to the finish, and my old high school track coach (I had also bumped into him at the pre-race meeting) who kicked my ass.  Eventually I made it to the turnaround, and made the (supposedly) 6.55 mile trek back into the finish.

Coming into the finish, the announcer called my name, I crossed the line, and got my medal.  A volunteer handed me some water and took my timing chip, and I met up with some friends.  After a few minutes of chatting, it was off to immerse (and de-grossify) myself in the lake – probably the best moment of the whole day.

Run time: 2:30:21 (not bad considering the heat and the hills)

Total time: 7:39:11 (almost a full hour slower than my half iron last year, but I don’t think these two courses are even comparable)

Thoughts on HITS

Since HITS is new to the tri scene as of last year, a lot of people have been reluctant to sign up for one of their races.  My advice would be to do it!  They were great!  I’ve been dealing with them for a long time now, since I originally signed up for their full at Cooperstown that was supposed to run in fall 2012.  I deferred to the 2013 race, but when HITS bought out our local race (The North Country Triathlon), I asked them if I could switch.

Their answer?  Sure!

I also asked if since they had rolled out their new pricing system (basically 50% off), could I be refunded the difference since I paid the original registration fee.

Their answer?  Sure!  (Me:  REALLY???)

I found every one of my interactions with their office to be very pleasant and helpful.  Not to mention quick.

As for race day – Mark was great.  He was very personable, and responsive to athletes requests.  It was very clear that everyone there wanted to put on a great event and had the athletes’ best interests (and safety) in mind.  The courses were well marked (really, you can’t get lost on this course since it’s basically one road all the way), aid stations were frequent enough, and well supplied.  And volunteers were helpful and pleasant.  Aside from the minor issue with the bike course being slightly long and the run being slightly short, I really didn’t see anything that was an issue.  Granted this is the perspective from the back of the pack, but I loved it and would happily do another one of their races.

Up next, Ironman Lake Placid!

Need to contact me?

geonerdette at gmail dot com

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