Friday, October 12, 2012

IMLP Race Report

2012 Ironman Lake Placid Race Report:

My first ironman I did was in Lake Placid in 2008.  I had just finished grad school and was preparing to take the national licensure exam for physical therapy.  I was dating Kara and living at her parents house in Westfield while working nights at Uno's in Springfield.  I was an iron virgin and weighed in around 205 pounds.  The goal then was to finish the race and have fun.  I managed to meet both of those goals by finishing the 140.6 mile course in 10:39 with a smile on my face despite having been in the rain all day long.

Two years later I completed my second ironman and the first one that I truly raced and prepared for.  The goal was to qualify for Kona.  I missed that goal by 9 minutes however I left panama city beach with a new IM PR of 9:34 including a 3:19 marathon.  I was more than happy with the race as a whole however I still hadn't achieved the main purpose of grabbing a slot to the world championships.

Thursday July 19, 2012 we arrived in Lake Placid just before 5:00pm.  Enough time to check in and head over to Mirror Lake for one lap of the swim course with Ryan, Jimmy and a few others.  Mirror Lake is one of the beautiful lakes I have ever swam in and the amazing feeling you get while swimming there is only made better by the fact that you are in the center of downtown all the while.

Friday brought a short swim, bike, and run as well as the arrival of my little brother Jake and his girlfriend Laura.  If your haven't read my previous IM race reports, Jake is my biggest supporter around.  He is up when I am up and has as detailed a plan for the day as I do.  This year he would be dressed in orange shoes, orange socks, orange shorts, yellow shirt, and a neon yellow buff on his head in order to make it easy to spot him throughout the race.  Even though he got in late he would be joining us for the big breakfast on Saturday morning at 7:00am

This year we had breakfast at the Crowne Plaza on top of the hill in town.  It had a great view and an awesome all you can eat option.  This allowed me to get a huge jump start on the day's carbo loading.  After breakfast the remainder of the day was spent eating, resting, and going over the ever important race plan.

With race morning came an exceptional feeling of preparedness and confidence with an always present side of genuine nerves.  The weather looked great for the day as I went over my plan again and again.   It is amazing how much of a difference it makes to be ready to race with plenty of time to spare.  A small group of Nauts had congregated at the playground near the run to transition.  We all exchanged our thoughts on the day and then made our way to the water's edge.

My plan this year was to get to the very front of the start line, as close as possible to the dock.  This would allow me to have the most direct line to the yellow cord that follows the shortest distance around the swim course.  While this sounds great, however i wasn't sure how aggressive it would get.  I held my own from the time the pros started until the canon went of for the rest of us.  With the blast of the canon came a fury of arms around me.  I used the same approach I had inFlorida two years ago,get to the first buoy ASAP and get clear of the masses.  I was able to do this successfully and get a clear line as planned.  A few guys took off ahead of me and I wasn't able to hold their pace.  Soon after, 2 other guys came up along side me, one of which completed the pass and this time I was able to stay with him.  The rest of the swim consisted of me putting in surges to stay with the one guy while battling ate other guy for the best line.  The result was a 52 minute swim split that allowed me to catch all the female pros and put me on the heels of the pro men (both groups had the 10 minute head start).

I tore out of the water after utilizing the wetsuit strippers on the beach, waved and smiled to my family and continued the longer run to T1.  I got through T1 smoothly thanks to the awesome volunteers. As I headed for my bike I heard some bonus encouragement over the loudspeaker fromTater which gave me an extra boost.

As I started the immediate down hills through town I kept repeating my plan to myself and trying to bring my heart rate down.  This became a lot tougher as I started the climb and I realized I wasn't even close to my prescribed HR of 148.  Instead it was in the high 150s and low 160s.  I kept trying to take it easy on the climbs while getting ahead on my nutrition.  Overall I was feeling good on the bike and not getting passed nearly as much as I thought would...for the time being anyway.

On the first out and back I was able to see Jim and Paul were not far behind me.  Through the rest of the first lap I continued to ride steadily while keeping and eye on the gap I had over Jim and Paul.  They were both riding well and Jim was making up time on me while Paul's gap remained pretty consistent.   As the second lap went on my legs began to feel a little more fatigued.  Jim caught me on the first out and back of the second lap.  I managed to pass him back before he passed me once and for all shortly before the climb up to Wilmington.

The final stretch back to town is about 10 miles of gradual uphill and was especially windy this year.  The head wind slowed me to a crawl and for the first time that day a tiny bit of doubt began to creep in.  Thankfully I was far enough along that it couldn't really have an impact.  I began to think about my run and what Jim had said to me when he passed me on the bike, "you better run a fast marathon" - or something to that effect.  My plan was to run a smart but fast marathon.  Based on how my legs were feeling on the bike I was definitely concerned that they wouldn't feel as good as I had hoped when the run started.  

I popped through T2, quick stop at the trough and hit the ground running...literally.  The tricky thing about Lake Placid run course is that the first 3-4 miles are down hill and VERY fast.  The key to a good run split on this course is to hold back on the first 6 miles, run smart on the second 6 miles, maintain a strong pace on the second way out of town, and bring it home with everything you got.  All the while, not putting in too many surges or spikes in heart rate.  The pace in the back of my head was 7:25 to start the run.  I noticed my pace was closer to 6:40 however, my HR was only slightly (2-3 beats) above what I averaged on the bike.  Knowing that I could afford up to a 10+ beat window, I held this effort and allowed it to dictate my pace.  I noticed I was going through the field steadily, however instead of worrying about exploding later, I was gaining confidence based on how my HR was responding.  

As anyone Naut that has raced LP can attest to, I got a huge lift from the club members at the Econolodge followed shortly there after by some helpful wisdom from Pat -- "Perform, ice, water, sponges."  As I reached river road my momentum slowed but only slightly.  I kept a quick turnover, focused on my arm swing, and nailing nutrition through the aid stations.  After the turn around at the end of River Rd, I had almost closed the gap completely to Jim (remember he dropped me like 2nd period french on the climb up to Wilmington).  As always, we exchanged a few positive words and each kept to our respective plan.  Knowing Jim and having raced with/against him many times, I knew he would elevate his pace and hang with me as long as posssible (as I would do on the bike).  When I was approaching the end of River Rd I caught and passed a fellow age grouper named Matt Bach.  Matt was an iron virgin with serious talent.  I had raced him at Rev 3 Quassy half, Prov 70.3 and a CT sprint in 2011, and we had spoken about this race.  I knew he was a force on the run so I had to be smart.  Matt ended up lifting his pace as well and we ran together for the next few miles up to the second turn around along Mirror Lake Drive.  As we made our way on to the second lap we exchanged a few words about our placement and how we were both aiming for Kona.  I thought we were running in second and third so we agreed to work together and catch #1.

We again hit the down hills leaving town and I felt as though I was putting some time into him.  I tend to work the down hills as my heavier frame (thats what all the chubby kids say) allows me to pick up speed without working the effort level.  I refused to look over my shoulder but rather kept on pushing as though he was right next to me.  Again my spirits were raised through Cyclonaut Central, and again I received wisdom shortly there after..."head up, lean forward, perform, water, ice, sponges!"  By the time I hit the River Rd turn around I was able to see the gap I put into Matt and it was over a minute.  Not taking anything for granted, my drive continued as I thought I was in first in age group and man did that get my adrenaline pumping!  

One last time through C-Naut central and onward to the final out and back.  I saw George  Herrick on the aid station and his encouragement lifted me even further.  One last turn around, saw I still had a gap, but pushed harder for security.  I had a feeling there were only 2 spots in my age group and I didn't want to take the chance and get passed in the last mile.  Down the hill, through the S turn and into the oval.  I finally looked over my shoulder 3 times in a row to make sure nobody was going to pass me.  This was my moment.  All the hours in the basement throughout the winter, late evenings biking and running through the spring and summer and most importantly all of the sacrifices that were made on my behalf by others...all of these things came down to this one moment and I was going to enjoy it.  I slowed to a walk just before the finish line and raised my arms as I crossed the finish.  You would have thought I had just won Ironman Hawaii, not qualified for it.  I found out later I came in second place by 6 minutes, and held off 3rd place by 90 seconds.  Kona was mine.  What started as a proposition on a beach on the 4th of July the year prior, was now becoming real.  My lifetime goal and dream was coming true and I couldn't believe it.

This goal, this dream, would never have happened if not for the push, encouragement, sacrifice, and belief in me by others.  Kara has been the most amazing wife I could have asked for.  I realize everyone feels this way and says this when looking back on their Ironman preparations, but it has never been more true.  The many evenings of eating dinner by herself, doing all the chores around the house both during the week and on weekends, while I was out training, but most importantly the sacrifice to put off starting our family so that I could pursue MY dreams and MY goals.  She is the most selfless person I have ever met and I can't wait to return the favor between now and March 20th and for a long time beyond that after we have welcomed our new addition to the family.  

To this club, the best on the planet; for your words of support and experience as well as your company on many training rides, runs, and swims.  Special thanks to Jim, Ryan, Brian, and Mik for the frequent company on the trainer, the roads, and in the water.  Tremendous thank you to Pat for keeping me focused and reminding me what it takes to get to the level required to reach the big island as well as the additional tips and wisdom since qualifying.  Obviously I can't forget my family, for making the trip to LP and their unrelenting support.  I can't wait to do it all over again in Hawaii with surrounded by family once again!!

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