Today I did my first run at altitude (aside from the one four miler I did back in May when I was visiting to get my apartment set up).  I’ve been in Boulder for a week now, so I figured I would have acclimated at least a bit.

It felt great!

I took the dogs out with me and the three of us did a nice fun 2.25 mile run on the bike path.  I didn’t wear a watch, or a garmin.  We just ran and enjoyed it.  We ran on some dirt trail for a bit (I tripped a lot), the dogs got taunted by some gophers, and went in the creek a couple times, and we had a great time.  They did better than I expected too!  But they were definitely wiped out by the time we got home.  They’ve done nothing but sleep since we walked in the door.

Mommy wins!

I felt really good on this little run.  My legs felt fresh (rested!), and I could breathe just fine.  I wanted to run more (I originally typed that as “I wanted to fun more” – I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something!), but the dogs couldn’t handle that – not only because of the altitude, but it’s also hot and dry.  So we just stuck with a short one today.

I’ve got some longer runs mapped out that I want to try.  Perhaps I can do one tomorrow?

I can see why everyone loves Boulder so much.  I miss NY and everybody at home, but I’ve only been here a week and I’m already in love.

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Missed something?  Pre-Race, The Swim, and The Bike

The Run

I came out of the transition area just elated that I had made the bike cutoff, and with time to spare.  The crowds of spectators were thickly lining both sides of the road, and it took me a minute to remember that my name was on my bib.  So many people were cheering me on by name and it threw me off for a minute.

Starting the run, my legs actually felt really good.  Way better than they had at Beach 2 Battleship in October.  I started out on the run course around 4:40 pm.  I knew I had until right around 11:40 pm to finish, which gave me just about 7 hours to complete the marathon.  That was doable.  I felt slightly relieved knowing how much time I had, but I was also feeling good, and didn’t want to cut it close – so I ran my way down the hill and out of town.  Somewhere just after coming out of the transition area, I spotted my support crew.  I had asked them to be nearby to make sure I made the cutoff, and sure enough, there they were, cheering away.

At this point in the day, most people were on the run course, so the roads were crowded.  At this point, most of the people I met were starting out on their second loop and were a whole 13.1 miles ahead of me.  It was humbling, but I was just happy to be off the bike, and not pulled from the course.  I know I’m slow, I made my peace with it.

For nutrition, I started out with some strawberry Gu chomps – my personal favorite.  But at this point in the day, my stomach really can’t take much sugary stuff.  It just doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  So after a few pieces of Gu chomps, I switched to nothing but water and pretzels from the aid stations.  The salt was spectacularly delicious, and it was a nice change from all the sugar I had been downing all day.

I made my way down the big hill just outside of T2, out of town, past the ski jumps, and down the other big hill (both of which we had to come back up later – twice).  Then it was time to turn left onto River Road for the nice peaceful out-and-back.  The scenery was beautiful through here, and I was still feeling really good.  I was doing the same run/walk system that I had done at my half iron a few weeks before – walk the uphills and aid stations, and run everything else.  At this point, I was pretty surprised with how good I felt.  Sure, I was tired, but I wasn’t in any pain.  For the first 8 miles or so, my pace seemed to be hovering in or around the 11-12 min/mile range, which I was very happy with.  One of my favorite signs at this point of the course was “You win.  Andy Potts never did a 17 hour ironman.”  (If you are unfamiliar with ironman, Andy Potts has won Ironman Lake Placid two years in a row now.)

I continued on with my run/walk out to the turnaround on River Road, just before mile 9.  Coming back, I chatted with a guy near me who had just graduated college, and was in a similar field as me, and was considering moving out to Boulder, Colorado after the race (which I just did – hence the delay in posting this part of the race report).  We had a lot in common and ran/walked along together for a few miles.  He was very sweet and encouraging and pushed me to run just a little farther, and just a little faster than I would have otherwise, and I really appreciated the company.

On out-and-backs, I’m always keeping my eye out on the other side of the road to see who’s around.  I spotted several friends from my tri club, kicking butt and taking names.  One of them, Jeff (who raced Lake Placid with a broken collarbone last year), actually lost all his nutrition off his bike early in the day, and ended up having to spend an hour in the med tent getting fixed up.  And he was still doing amazing.  We exchanged a quick hug and some encouragements, and then ran off in opposite directions.  Also at this point, I saw my other favorite sign of the run leg.  It said “Prancercise the next 1/4 mile to loosen up.”  I especially enjoyed this one because I had just been talking with people about prancercise the day before.  I laughed for a long time about that one.

Eventually, my buddy and I parted ways, and then it was time to climb back up the big hill by the ski jumps, and head into town again.

At the top of the big hill, there was a woman at the end of her driveway.  She was cheering through a construction cone and was completely awesome.  Also, possibly drunk.  But damn entertaining.

Past the ski jumps, there was another awesome cheering section that had a table filled with beer.  There was another “free beer” sign, and, while I’m sure it would have tasted delicious, I figured now probably wasn’t the best time.  Some people were taking them up on it though.  Shortly after the free beer, I passed my hotel, where I spotted my support crew again.  And they had gained a person!  I saw her from waaaaaay down the road.  My best friend had planned on coming up for the race, but I really didn’t expect her to make it through all the traffic.  From about 500 yards away I screamed “YOU MADE IT!!!!!” and ran for a hug.  I was so happy she was there.

Heading back into town, the cheering crowds were everywhere.  The other big hill of the run course is just as you’re coming back to swing past the Olympic oval.  On this hill, there was a guy with a bullhorn, yelling at people who were walking.  I told him I would run up it on the second loop (I may have lied there…).  Just at the top of the hill, I finally saw my student who I had been looking for at the top of the Keene Descent earlier in the morning.  I gave her a big sweaty hug, and headed on my way.

When I got to the top of the hill, I was right in front of the Olympic oval, which functions as the transition area, and the finish line.  The party was raging, and I couldn’t wait to get there.  But first, it was time to turn right onto Mirror Lake Drive for the next out-and-back.

Running down Mirror Lake Drive was great.  The roads were lined with barricades, and the crowds were jam packed in along them.  People were cheering my name everywhere (which I still found weird, but nice).  Also in here, I kept bumping into several people from my tri club, most of whom were about to finish their second leg, and the entire thing.  I was a bit jealous.  But they bust their butts to be that fast.  One day, I will too.  For now, I’ll keep slogging away at the back of the pack, and having fun doing it!

I ran my way down Mirror Lake Drive, past all the crowds, tents, parties, DJ’s, and the aid station.  One mile down the road, I hit the turnaround, and started back towards the oval.

Coming back down Mirror Lake Drive was awesome but hard at the same time – for no other reason than at the end of it, you either go right or left.  Right to finish, left to do the loop all over again.  And I had to go left.

13.1 miles to go!

I turned left and started out on loop 2.  My student was nearby, and jogged along with me for a few minutes to chat, and then headed back to her friends.  By now, the amount of people running was significantly less, but I was never alone.  I ran out of town, past the ski jumps, down the hill, and turned left to do my second out-and-back on River Road.

The hardest part at this point was that no matter where you were on the course – even all the way out at the end of River Road – you could hear Mike Reilly echoing through the night.  It was such a tease!  It was starting to get dark, and I was doing obsessive race math to constantly know what was the absolute slowest I had to maintain to finish by the cutoff.  At this point, I knew I could walk the rest and be just fine, so I decided to take a little walk break for a couple miles to stretch out my legs and re-energize myself.  I walked from somewhere around mile 15 to somewhere around mile 18, and then it was time to go back to my run/walk system again.  It was working well for me, and I was still feeling great, which was shocking.  The only slightly unpleasant thing was that I knew I had a bit of chafing going on, but it was tolerable, so I just gritted my teeth and tried not to think about getting in the shower later.

By the time I got to the turnaround at the end of River Road, and mile 18.something, it was dark.  At some point, someone handed me my glow necklace, which does little to help you see, but they’re still fun.  I went around the cone, and started heading back towards the village.  There were still several people behind me on the course, and I really wondered if some of them would make the cutoff.  I was still worried about making it myself, even though I knew the math all worked out.  I was paranoid.

With paranoia as my fuel, I ran as much as I could back down River Road.  At one point, I passed a guy.  We exchanged our hellos, and I muttered something about running because I was just trying to make sure I would make it in in time.  His response was “don’t worry, you can walk and finish at this point.”  It was reassuring to hear it from someone else (I never trust mental math at this point in an ironman), but I still wanted to bank as much time as I could.  So I kept running.

I got to the end of River Road, and made the right to go up the hill near the ski jumps.  Lo and behold, the drunk construction cone lady was STILL THERE.  I would bet she hadn’t stopped cheering all day.  She was awesome.  As I ran past her, I gave her a high five and told her as much.

The free beer table was quiet, but there were still a few cans out.  I didn’t take one (I would be drunk off one sip at this point in the day), but there didn’t seem to be many left.  Clearly, it was a popular pit stop.

I got back into town, and it was time for the last uphill of the day.  I didn’t really have the gas to run it (it’s pretty steep), so I walked – quickly.  As soon as I crested the top, it was back to running.  The crowds were amazing.  The closer it gets to midnight, the crazier the party gets.  People were everywhere!  I passed the oval, made a right, and headed out for the out-and-back (essentially the victory lap) down Mirror Lake Drive.

Since 6:40am, I had completed 138.4 miles.  I had 2.2 miles to go.

I ran down Mirror Lake Drive, got a couple high fives from some kids along the barricade, and exchanged many “congratulations” with others around me.  A few minutes later, I reached the turnaround point, and the last 1.1 miles of my day.

I told myself earlier that I HAD to run the entire thing once I hit that turnaround.  It was a slow run (11:03/mi pace), but at that point in the day, I felt like I was flying.  Congratulations were being cheered back and forth from one runner to another, and everyone was smiling.  As I approached the oval and the finish line, I could hear Mike Reilly getting louder and louder.

I reached the end of Mirror Lake Drive, and it was finally my turn to go right and enter the Olympic oval.

The crowds were amazing.  The lights were blazing (which can be a bit of a shock when you’ve been out on the dark course for the last few hours), and everyone was cheering.  The moment I turned and entered the oval was such an awesome feeling.  The curve of the oval was laid out in front of me, just begging me to go around the corner and see the finish.

Entering the oval, I felt awesome.  I was running strong, and passed three other people who had also just entered it.  We exchanged congratulations, and they told me to go ahead of them.  Everyone wants their own moment at the finish line, and they appeared to be waiting until no one else was coming in around them.

On the curve, I saw my support crew.  I was so happy to see them.

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Then it was the moment I had been working for.  I rounded the last curve of the Olympic oval, and there was the finish line.  It was a huge sea of people on both sides of the finish chute.  Everyone was cheering, music was blaring, and somewhere in there, Mike Reilly said “Sarah, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

photo4

(My friend took a picture of the jumbotron since they couldn’t be right at the finish.)

Run time: 5:54:35 (still slow, but significantly faster than B2B!)

Final time: 16:02:36

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was met by two catchers, who grabbed me by my elbows, wrapped me in a space blanket, put my medal around my neck, gave me a bottle of water, and steered me toward the table to get a finisher’s shirt and hat.  Those ladies were efficient.  After getting my medal, shirt, and hat, my one catcher stayed with me (to make sure I didn’t pass out, etc.), made sure I got some food (best watermelon EVER), and got my finishers picture taken.  Once I had done all that, and she was sure I wasn’t going to fall down, she headed back to the finish line, and I headed off to find my support crew.

Just beyond the finishers area, I saw my student again.  I gave her a big hug, and we chatted for a few minutes until my crew appeared.  Then it was time for sweaty hugs all around.

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They are the BEST!

They brought me my post-race bag, so I had a chance to change into flip flops and put on warmer clothes.  When I sat down to take off my shoes, it felt so nice, I didn’t want to get back up.

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SO flattering.

They collected my bike and gear bags, and I hobbled slowly for a few blocks to get back to the car.  (Come on guys, get it together!  The car should be on top of the finish line!)  Then it was time to head back to the hotel, shower (ow, ow, OW), and SLEEP!

IMLP medal

Missed part 1 or part 2?  Check them out!

At this point, I have finished the brutal swim, and am about to mount my bike and see what happens.  My biggest worry going into the race was whether or not I would make the second bike cutoff at 5:30pm, so that was really the only thing running through my head at this point. Just get in by 5:30.

The Bike

I crossed the mount line with a big pack of riders, clipped in, and headed down the first downhill of the bike course.  We rode out of the Olympic oval and down the ramp that goes up to the high school.  Then it was a few blocks of fairly steep downhill, until you turn onto the main road to begin the ride out of town.  So far, I was hanging with the pack much better than I anticipated.  My swim had been a bit slower than I had hoped for, but overall, it was still a fairly average time, so there were plenty of people around me.

I had turned my garmin on when I got my bike, but it took a while for it to find satellites (about 3.5 miles or so).  The ride out of town and past the ski jumps was pretty uneventful – mostly just a chance to warm up and find my bike legs after swimming for a while.  Right after I passed the ski jumps, I flew down a nice little hill, over the bridge, and began the climb up to the top of the Keene Descent.

The climb out of town is a bit rough, but I’ve found it’s been getting easier the more I ride the course.  I put my bike in the easiest gear, and just chugged away, one hill at a time.  Many people passed me like I was standing still, but I also passed a fair number of people too, so that was nice.

At the first aid station, I had nearly exhausted one of my water bottles, and decided to chuck it and get a new one.  At B2B, I got off the bike at each aid station so I could fill my bottles, but this time I didn’t want to go racking up precious minutes that I might need later.  So I went for it.  Coming into the aid station, they had actual goals for us to throw bottles and trash into (some had giant bullseyes).  I chucked my bottle (they’re cheap), made eye contact with a volunteer holding water, slowed a bit, and held out my hand.  He jogged along with me for a second while we did the handoff, and then I was on my way.  Beautiful!

Nearly to the top of the climb, I passed the house of one of my students.  She wasn’t out yet (still asleep – college kids!), but her parents were.  We said some quick hellos as I rode past, almost done with the first big climb.

It’s always a great feeling to get to the top of that climb, because you know the Keene Descent is next.  I crested the top, switched to a higher gear, and began my first descent into Keene.

Another benefit I’ve gotten from riding the course often is that I feel very comfortable on this descent now.  Because of that, I flew down the entire thing, passing tons of people (who – even as I was flying past them – I knew would be passing me again very, very soon).  I hit 42 mph at one point – not my fastest ever (49 mph), but a good speed.  And I’ll take all the speed I can get on this downhill.  I need it to balance out my slowness on the uphills.

Coming off the descent and into the turn at Keene, there was a decent crowd cheering.  I made the turn onto Route 9, and headed off to Upper Jay.

Around now, I was starting to get hungry.  Following my century ride bonking debacle, I had decided to commit race sin #1.  I changed my bike nutrition for race day.  I stayed with the Clif Shot drink mix for the bulk of my calories – it seems to sit decently with my stomach.  But I can’t eat Gu gels anymore, and Gu Chomps, while I love them, don’t seem to work for me on the bike like they do on a run.  I decided I needed more “real” food – less straight up sugar.  So I had stuffed a few peanut butter and honey Uncrustables in my jersey pocket.  I was taking a gamble here, but I figured it couldn’t be worse than my horrific bonk on my “century” a couple weeks earlier.

On the flat to Upper Jay, I decided it was time to bust into my first Uncrustable.  It was delicious.  So far, I was happy with my decision to bring those along.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I would remain happy with that decision as the day went on.

I stayed in aero most of the time I was on the flats, and it felt pretty good.  I’ve gotten to the point that it’s actually fairly comfortable, and bothers me a lot less than it used to.  Many of us were riding at similar paces through here, and we chatted back and forth for a while.  We cruised through Upper Jay, and made the turn to follow the river out to Jay and Ausable Forks.  This section of the bike course is a nice reprieve from the big climbs, but it can be deceiving.  There are plenty of rollers and false flats along the way.  I still seemed to be in with the pack – maybe towards the back of it, but I was holding on better than I expected.

I rode out to Ausable Forks, made the turnaround, and headed back to Jay.

The ride back to Jay wasn’t bad.  One thing I always do when I’m coming back from a turnaround is scope out how many people are behind me.  There still seemed to be quite a few.  I was clearly not in the middle of the pack, but I was still doing alright.

By now I had gotten into a rhythm with the aid stations.  I wasn’t going to stop and get off my bike until the second loop.  So for now, my system was:

  1. See aid station coming up
  2. Chug as much of whatever is left in my throwaway water bottle as I can before hitting the aid station
  3. Bottle exchange at aid station and be on my way

Coming into Jay, you can’t help but think ahead to the huge climb ahead.  The last 20 miles of the bike loop are mostly uphill, and it’s a long slog to get back to Lake Placid.

I rode into Jay, and made the turn onto Route 86 to start the long climb.

This was one of those points that I was so thankful I had been riding the course.  I knew that I could do it.  If I hadn’t had that experience, I honestly don’t know how I would have done on race day.  But I just put my bike in the easiest gear, and plugged away at it a little at a time.

The best spectator in the climb from Jay to Wilmington was a guy sitting on a 4 wheeler at the end of his driveway.  Next to him was a cooler and a sign that said “free beer.”  Spectators were pretty spaced out here, but the ones who were out there were very enthusiastic.

Eventually, after what felt like an eternity of slogging away, I finished the final climb (of this section) and cruised down the small downhill into Wilmington.  At the bottom of the hill, I made the hard right onto Haselton Road for the short out-and-back.  The aid station here was hopping, with tons of volunteers, a loud DJ, and many spectators.  Before I knew it, I was at the turnaround (it’s only one mile down the road), and heading back towards the aid station and Route 86.

At the end of Haselton, I turned right to get back onto 86 and finish the long climb from Wilmington to Lake Placid.  A few hundred yards down the road, 86 hangs a left, and then you’re on your way to Whiteface, and beyond that, Lake Placid.

For me, the worst climb of the entire course is the one just past the driveway to Whiteface Ski Resort.  It’s a category 5, and it’s just steep as hell.  I feel like I’m dying.  What made this hill bearable this time was the spectators at the top.  There was a group of 20-somethings at the top with signs like “Honey badger don’t care.” and “Wheelies are aero” (also yelling for us to do wheelies – which some people did), and “We’re drunk.”  One of them was also holding a sign in front of himself that said “I’m not wearing pants.”  They were great.  I was looking forward to seeing them again on loop 2.

After several painful minutes, I made it to the top, and began the long section of rollers that goes past High Falls Gorge (beautiful!), and along the river.  At this point, I really didn’t feel terrible.  Heck, aside from the searing pain in my crotch from the stupid bike seat, I would go so far as to say I actually felt pretty good!

I finished the section of rollers, and passed River Road.  For me, passing River Road is the sign that I’m pretty much done with the loop.  All that’s left after that is a few climbs known as The Cherries and The Bears (Mama, Baby, and Papa), and you’re in town.

Climbing the Bears was pretty fun.  Somebody had re-marked them, which was nice.  When I got to the top of Mama/Baby (Baby is really just a tiny bump on the top of Mama), and looked ahead to Papa, the crowd looked awesome.  I had heard that spectators lined Papa and made you feel like you were in the Tour de France, and I had been looking forward to it.

I got to the bottom of Papa, and was joined by a cheering spectator who ran alongside me with a big flag just like the nutters at the Tour de France.  It was great.  I loved that guy.

At the top of Papa, I made the right onto Northwoods Road, and the FINAL section of uphills.  At the top of the second hill on Northwoods, I knew I had a nice ride into town, and I enjoyed every second of it.  The crowds were thick and loud, and it was a great feeling to have the loop done.

Now I just had to go back out and do it all over again.  And then run a marathon after.

I came into town and made a quick stop at the bike special needs station to get my bag.  This was the first time my feet had hit the pavement since I started the bike course 4 hours ago, and it felt great.  I decided there was nothing I needed from my bag, so I got back on my bike, got a push start from a volunteer (those guys are amazing), and rode through town.

I was feeling really great riding into the center of town and past the Olympic oval.  Then it was time to ride back down the bus ramp, and out for loop #2.  By now, it was a little after 12:00, and when I was riding out of town to start my second bike loop, I passed people already running.  Granted, they were the pro men, but still!  Gah!  (Related to that – how cool is it that in this sport, I can be three feet from the pro men?  Little nobody me.  It’s awesome!)

Riding back out of town, I passed my support crew camped outside our hotel and cheering.  I had an empty clif shot bottle that I didn’t want to lose, so I tossed it to them and took the other one out of my jersey pocket to use next.

The second loop went much like the first:  Chug chug chug up the climb to the top of the Keene Descent, fly down the Keene Descent, try to hold my speed on the flats from Keene to Ausable Forks, and then start busting my butt on the climb back to Lake Placid.

At this point, my lady parts were on FIRE from the saddle.  I started stopping every other aid station or so to re-lube, which provided some temporary relief.  Other than that, I felt great.  But no matter how I sat – aero or not – I was in pain.  Oh well.  It would be over soon.

The single biggest thought going through my head during the bike was that 5:30 cutoff.  I really didn’t know if I would make it, and I was seriously worried.  I kept trying to do race math (calculating paces, and what’s the slowest you can go to make it in time), but when I get that deep into a long course race, I don’t trust my math.  It seemed like I could make it in time, as long as I kept going the way I was.

Eventually, I made it into Wilmington for the second time.  I finished the out-and-back on Haselton Road and then turned back onto 86 to finish the long climb back to town.  Just before making the left to start riding out to Whiteface, I heard a loud “pffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff” coming from my front tire.

“Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!!!!!!!!  NOT NOW!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Yeah, I believe that’s verbatim.

I pulled over and inspected my front tire.  Sure enough, there was a hole.  I could see it.  I had a flat.  AGAIN.  SHIT.  By now, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and this just pushed me over the edge.  I had already been worried about cutting it close with the cutoff, and now I had a FUCKING FLAT.  I was sitting on the side of the road, pulling my front wheel off, swearing and muttering (not so quietly) to myself, and crying just a little.

As required by race karma, everybody that rode by checked on me and asked if I needed anything.  I was just trying to change my flat as fast as I could.

A really sweet and well-intentioned volunteer came across the road to check on me.  I didn’t need any help (changing a flat is kind of a one person job), but he stood there and kept me company for the few minutes I was working.  I vented to him a bit about being worried about making the cutoff, especially now, and then he said the ONE thing no one in this situation wants to hear.

“Andy Potts finished about two minutes ago.”

I wanted to punch him.

“My son is racing today too.  He’s out on the run course and he’s halfway done.”

SERIOUSLY????  Are you shitting me right now?  ARE YOU REALLY TELLING ME ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SO GODDAMN FAR AHEAD OF ME WHILE I AM SITTING HERE FREAKING OUT ABOUT EVEN MAKING THE STUPID BIKE CUTOFF????

I know he was just being a proud dad and meant well, so I didn’t actually say anything except “Nice!” and “Mmmhmmmm.” but MAN, I wanted to throat punch that guy.

After a few minutes, I got my tire changed and back on my bike.  The flat had taken quite an emotional toll though, and I was NOT HAPPY.  I rode off toward Whiteface and started the long climb back into Lake Placid, all the while thinking “Screw this.  What if I just give myself another flat on purpose and then I can be done?”

I busted my butt hard to get back to town in time, but I was also resigned to the fact that the flat may have ruined it.  Once I passed River Road and only had the last bit of climb into town, I started to realize that not only was I going to make the bike cutoff, I was going to beat my anticipated bike time by quite a bit.  Wouldn’t you know it, my mood started to improve.  Go figure.

When I got to the bottom of Papa Bear, the crowds were still there, but had thinned – I was clearly slipping further towards the back of the pack.  There were a couple young-ish guys at the bottom of the hill, who I pointed to and told them that I needed them to run to the top with me.  And they did.  They were awesome.

I hit the top of Papa, turned onto Northwoods, and felt like I was home free.  I started cheering to myself, and telling spectators and volunteers that I loved them (I seem to do this at the end of long bike legs).  I mashed my way up to the top of the very last uphill on Northwoods Road, fist pumped, and then started pedaling as hard as I could to get to the oval and T2.

Turning on to Mirror Lake Drive, I rode alongside part of the run course, which was already full of people on the run leg.  The road was jam packed with spectators, and I positively flew through town and into T2.  The bike cutoff was 5:30pm.  It was around 4:30pm.  I was so thrilled with making the bike cutoff that I felt like I could run to the moon if I needed to.

Bike time: 8:15:38   (Anticipated bike time: 8:45 – beat it by 30 minutes!  AND I got a flat!)

T2 (Bike to Run)

I crossed the dismount line and handed my bike off to a volunteer.  I was directed around the outside of the oval towards my gear bag.  I popped off my shoes and tried to jog for a second, but that didn’t last long.  Instead, I walked to my gear bag, grabbed it, and went into the changing tent.  I was met by a fabulous volunteer, who opened my bag, organized all my clothes and gear, packed up everything I took off, and helped me change into my run clothes.  She was awesome.

I took a few last swigs of leftover bike water, changed my garmin over to “run,” and headed out of the changing tent to start the run.

T2: 7:44 (slow, but hey, I made it!)

To be continued…

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…

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.

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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)
  • 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.

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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!

  • 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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