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.


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.

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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.

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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)
  • 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
  • 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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!