Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Truth, Lies and Ironman Lake Placid

Truth:  Lake Placid is a magical place.

If you've ever been fortunate enough to visit the Big Island during the Ironman World Championships you have probably felt the spirit of the island.  It is something tangible, but not physical.  It permeates your being and engulfs you so that you are one with the island.  I have been to the Big Island twice when my husband raced in 2009 and 2011, and it is a completely amazing, magical experience.

Lake Placid gave me that same feeling.  Goosebumps.  An eerie calm.  Reflecting on why this place, this beautiful, secluded, quiet little mountain town would feel the same as a far-away island I came to the conclusion that when the community embraces a particular culture, they become one.  And when you are lucky enough to visit that place, if you allow yourself to be drawn in, you too will feel that spirit, that oneness.

Welcome to Lake Placid!
Lake Placid was home to the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.  These games are particularly famous in the United States for the last second goal scored by the US Hockey team in the finals, winning them the gold medal.  It was known as the Miracle on Ice.  When you visit Lake Placid, you feel that miracle.  That winning spirit.  That love of country and sport.  It was truly a magical place.  Being there, I wanted to race hard and fast and give everything of myself.  Winning is in the culture, and it is celebrated.

Checking out the hockey rink!  Go Team USA!

We arrived in Lake Placid after a long flight and several hours in the car.  It immediately reminded me of every little Colorado town I visited on summer vacation as a child.  Main Street was lined with touristy shops and restaurants.  Local ice cream parlors and candy stores.  A Christmas shop.  Team USA gear and souvenirs.

We settled into our hotel which was the absolute best location for the race.  We could walk into Mirror Lake from our hotel.  We were steps across the street from TriBike Transport, the expo and transition.

View from our hotel room overlooking the swim course.

In the last couple days leading up to race day we explored the run course on our bikes, we swam in the lake and we drove the bike course.  We were both completely in awe of how beautiful it was and progressively got more and more excited about race day.  On Friday we met up with some Team HPB teammates for dinner and drinks.  It was so much fun to put faces with the names!  We interact on our team page daily, but I had not yet met these ladies.  They were ready to have some fun on race day!

Ski jumps in the distance!!  INSANE!! 

 On Saturday afternoon we checked in our bikes and gear bags and grabbed an early dinner in hopes of being able to get at least some sleep before nerves took over.

Efficient gear bag check in!


Lie #1:  The swim is so easy!  You just follow the cable!

Let me dispel a myth for you.  Yes, there is a cable.  It is 5 feet under the surface of the water and approximately 5-8 mm thick.  Yes.  I measured.  Maybe it's because 40 is drawing ever nearer, or maybe I just lack patience but I did not find it 1) easy or 2) convenient to follow the cable.  And to be very honest, if you did swim right on top of the cable, you would swim straight into every single buoy spaced 100 yards apart.  The course is a rectangle, and straight as an arrow.  Just follow the buoys!!

When we did our practice swims the sun was out and the reflection off the cable under the water was so distracting that when I tried to look at it, I actually got a headache.  On race day it was overcast so I had a hard time even seeing the cable 5 feet deep as it was too dark.  On top of which there were 3,000 people and 12,000 limbs causing quite a stir in the water.  Bottom line... yes, there is a cable.  No, I did not waste my time trying to find it and swim on top of it.  I wanted out of the water in under an hour and focusing on the cable rather than my turnover would have slowed me down.

Exiting the water in 5th!

So, back to the swim!  Lake Placid, like most Ironman events now, is a rolling swim start.  I lined up front row and was into the water seconds after the cannon went off.  The first loop was pretty straightforward.  Everyone was swimming about my pace so for the first 1700 yards or so I got on some good feet.  Then I picked it up a little as we headed back toward the dock.  I ran out and under the banner right back into the lake on the other side.

Second loop was all about dodging slower swimmers in their first loop.  My coach had me practicing water polo drills in the weeks leading up to race day and this actually came in very handy when I had to swim through a very narrow passage.  Swimmers would be lined up 6-8 wide and I was not about to waste precious time swimming out and around every shoulder-to-shoulder pack I came across.  So I would just pick my head up and haul ass right between a selected two.  I KNOW this is not fun for them, having me glide over the top of them, but I promise I did not have physical hand to face/body contact with anyone.

Swim:  59:18, 5th Place

Running into T1:  4:41
 I can't say enough about the Ironman Lake Placid bike course.  It is my favorite bike course of all the races I've done.  The first 30 miles are screaming fast and the back half of the loop is climbing.  After a loop through town you head out and do it all over again.


One of the things we've practiced over the last year is descending.  There is a 10k descent into the town of Keene about 12 miles into the bike course (and then again before mile 70).  The descent is not technical but there are 3 very steep parts, and in the latter half the road surface is not the best.  When I approached this descent I talked to myself as I have throughout training, reminding myself to be confident in my skills, concentrate on my execution, and stay composed.  I tucked low, pedaled hard, and absolutely crushed the descent.  I approached 50 mph max speed which was a huge rush! Compared to the fraidy-cat I used to be, I was laughing and having fun.  Of course it helps to be on the Dimond which handles beautifully.

Cruising along the river with Hope.

I had my best bike race yet.  Unlike Wisconsin, Arizona or Texas over the last year, I had no trouble hitting and holding my goal watts for the day.  Once I hit the final 20 miles, I started watching the clock and realized that I was going to be just on the border of 6 hours.  I did everything I could to make sure I came into T2 under 6 hours... I beat it by 7 seconds!!

Bike:  5:59:53, 7th place

Adjusting my race number belt on the way out of T2:  2:10
The run course is what makes Ironman Lake Placid such an honest course.  It is two loops with an equal number of miles climbing as descending.  You start out descending toward a long out an back along the river, turn around and then climb about 4 miles with two very steep segments back into town, tackle a shorter out-n-back segment and then do it all over again.

I knew this course wasn't going to be about pure speed, but rather strength.  And that's where I shine.  I am not the fastest runner out there, my open marathon PR is 3:32 and there are plenty of girls who run faster than that after swimming and biking.  But my trail running background and ultrarunning experience allows me to hold steady when the going gets tough.

Starting the climb on loop 1.

Team HPB Coach Alyssa was on course at the base of the big climb heading back into town.  It was great having her there as a reminder to keep running.  I got to see some of my teammates in this section and I tried to cheer them on to the best that my energy level would allow.

Out on the run course.

Toward the end of the first lap I passed my husband.  He looked to be in a bad place but I didn't slow down to find out.  He cheered me on as I went by and I didn't see him again until mile 24 as he was heading out for his second loop.  Turns out he had to rest for about an hour to rehydrate after spending 8 miles throwing up.

In the finish chute!

Run:  4:16:38, 9th place

Two things I'm most proud of from this run- though I started in 7th and finished in 9th, I actually passed several women who came off the bike ahead of me.  And I ran my second fastest Ironman marathon on by far the hardest run course I've ever raced.  Yes, there is much work to be done, but I am seeing progress which feels so good.

Ironman #17 in the books!

Ironman Lake Placid:  11:22:40
9th place age group
20th female overall
174th athlete out of 2799

Lie #2:  IV fluids make you feel great!  You recover soooo much faster!

I'm not sure how I ended up in the medical tent.  Meaning, my electrolytes were fine (they checked) and I was only mildly dehydrated (yep, checked!).  When I finished, the volunteers caught me and walked with me through the chute.  I was feeling pretty weak and they sat me down outside the med tent.  Best I can guess my blood sugar was a little low and after a moment they decided I would be best served by the medical staff and wheeled me into the tent.  I was laid down on one of those 3-fold beach chairs.  They were monitoring my vitals and asking me questions.

At some point the chair became uncomfortable because I was too tall for it, and the chair was digging into the back of my legs so they sat me more upright.  This turned out to be the wrong move because my blood pressure dropped and I got really nauseous.  Before I could pass out, 5 medical volunteers lifted me onto an inverted bed to get the blood flow back to my head.  They immediately got an IV started and eventually I started to come around.  After a while I was able to start eating and drinking and once I could stand and walk on my own they pulled the catheter and let me go.

Knowing what I do about physiology and fluid balance I am going to play the bullshit card and say that if you recovered "so much faster" after IV fluids then you probably didn't need them in the first place.  And I hope I never need them again, it was a miserable experience that I have no intention of repeating.  I continued to eat and drink throughout the night but on Monday morning I felt the same as I did after every other race I've done.  Tired and sore.

Olympic torch lit at the finish line.
After we showered and ate dinner we headed back down to the finish line for the final hour.  There is so much energy and excitement it reminds me again of all the things I love about this sport.  Watching people meet challenges head on and never back down even though time is running thin is inspiring and brings tears to my eyes every single time.

Moving into the next phase of training my motivation level is at an all time high, though I still battle the demons every day that want me to feel envious.  On Monday, I took photos of my Team HPB, Smash-Dimond and Dimond Team teammates who stood on the podium and collected their slots to Kona.  I listened to Mike Reilly ask athlete after athlete how many trips they had made to the Big Island.  Some qualified for the first time, in their first Ironman the previous day.  Others had been 5, 8, 12 times.

The irony is not lost on me that I finished 20th female and 9th in my age group.  That shows the depth of talent I'm up against.  Had I been one year older, I would have battled for 3rd place and could be heading to Kona in October.  Though I am genuinely excited for them, in my quiet moments alone my heart aches just a little bit.  Rather than cry, I am using this as fuel for my fire.  Because one day... ONE DAY... I will be the one on the podium and I will be the one heading to Hawaii.  Until that day there is an endless amount of work to be done and improvements to make and I'm up for the challenge.  

I (heart) Lake Placid!
Special thank you to my husband who has supported me and cheered me on every. single. day.  He sees me on my best days and my worst days and always reminds me to work hard and have hope.  Thank you to ALL of the volunteers at Ironman Lake Placid, particularly the medical crew.  Volunteers make our day possible and I felt like we had 3000 pairs of eyes on us throughout the day making sure we were safe, well fed, hydrated and encouraged.  You are truly appreciated.  The medical staff was amazing.  The nurse working on me was from New Jersey and had driven up on her day off just to volunteer.  She was strong and caring yet took away all my fears and made me smile.  I hugged the doctor as I left the tent and only after did I remember that I was sweaty and smelly and gross.  She didn't even flinch.

Thank you to my coach, Hillary, for preparing me so well for this challenge.  I am so thankful to benefit from your knowledge and expertise.  Without you my goal of Finding Kona would not be within reach.  Thank you to my teammates from TriScottsdale, Team HPB, and Smash Dimond Women's Tri Team.  I am constantly inspired by your efforts.

#spokescat announcing my race on Facebook.

Thank you to my #bff!!  Knowing that you love me for me and still cheer your heart out on race day makes me want to work harder!  I love getting back on social media at the end of the day to see what #spokescat has been up to.  Your support and enthusiasm mean the world!  P.S. I hope B is prepared cause when I do qualify, I'm flying you guys to the big dance.  Wouldn't be the same without you there.  Hopefully we're not, like, 70.  I'd rather you not have to push each other around in a wheelchair.

Everyone should have a #bff like mine.  But she's mine, you can't have her.

1 comment:

David said...

Congrats on a great race! Sounds like you executed really, really well! 9th in your AG...20th female...11:22:xx - you should be really proud of yourself!