Sunday’s Ironman was magic, pure and simple. Never have I ever been so sore, so happy, so CHAFED after an Ironman. In Katie’s words – there were so many people out on the course that I knew, it was like a cocktail party (I believe her exact words were “this is a RACE, not a cocktail party, shut up and ride your bike!” said in the most loving manner possible). The third time at Lake Placid was a charm and my 7th Ironman was absolutely my favorite – I’ve always said that ever since my first iron-distance race at Beach2Battleship in 2008, I’ve been chasing that first-time finish line high and never quite caught it – until yesterday. I didn’t win any awards and didn’t place close to the top-10 in my age group, but I had very specific goals, a plan to achieve them, and managed to execute it exactly as hoped – huzzah for patience and self control, I’m realizing they are marvelous things in Ironman racing.
Pre-race: There isn’t a ton to talk about pre-race that I hadn’t already blogged about earlier The party started when we arrived in town along with the majority of the DC tri-community and all of my triathlon friends from other corners of the sport. I want to give a huge shout-out to Stacey for both having a pancake breakfast ready for me on Saturday AM as well as lending me her kitchen so I could work some race nutrition magic with French Toast Cakes from the Feed Zone Portables cookbook. We did our pre-race brick together, ate/baked, and then it was time to drop off gear at transition. I felt pretty relaxed about everything, maybe too relaxed as I forgot to put a couple items in my bags on Saturday and needed to make a mental note to take care of it Sunday pre-race. I met up with Sarah and Dan at Mirror Lake for a final hug and yaaaay almost race day!
|Sarah and I - excited to race!!!|
I spoke with Jen in the afternoon and we went over my race plan one last time and I felt good and quietly confident about it all. I forced down an early pasta dinner – I’ve never been so tired of pasta and that says a lot because it’s one of my favorite dishes, but I’ve OD’d and will be happy not to eat it for awhile. We ended up going to Mass on Saturday night at the local Catholic Church (conveniently located pretty close to Ben and Jerry’s). I’ve never done Mass before a race and I’m so glad we went. The church was packed with other Ironmen-to-be and their families and at the end of Mass, they called all of the athletes up to the Sanctuary for a blessing. What a great way to top off mental race preparation having hundreds of people pray for the winds to be at our back, blisters and flat tires nonexistent, and to have faith in the work we’ve done to prepare for the big day. I left church feeling happy and complete. We met up with Dawn post-church for ice cream. She was so awesome and watched Miles for us while we were at Mass. We ran into a bunch of friends from Team Z, and I can’t think of a better way to top off race-day eve. The cherry on top was the beautiful weather, life was perfect. It was early to bed and then early to rise on race morning.
|Some of my favorite people! Great way to end Ironman Eve|
Race morning: Dawned so early. I took my time prepping my bottles (4 bottles – three of them had Skratch Lemon-Lime and one had straight water), and pulling my bike and run nutrition together (four French Toast Cakes, four Clif MoJo bars, 6 gels taped to my top tube, and two Salted Nut Rolls (courtesy of Julia!!). I had a hard time handling exclusively gels at Placid in 2012 so I wanted to give myself some variety to choose from. It is the spice of life, and Ironman bike rides are no exception to that rule. We walked up to transition where I exchanged good luck hugs with Stacey and then got body marked by one of the volunteers who wrote my number very carefully, deliberately, and neatly – it was probably the most meticulous body marking I’ve ever had and I promptly ruined it by dumping sunblock all over me and smearing the marker all over myself and my kit. Sigh. Did a quick drop off of the extra things I forgot about on Saturday, stole a pump for my tires, and then walked to the swim start, dropped my special needs off, found a miraculously short portajohn line, and then hopped in the water for a practice swim to the start.
|Ready to race!!|
The Swim: 1:07:45, 17th AG, about a 1:45/100m average pace
This year Ironman was trying out a new swim start format. Instead of doing the in-water mass start, it was a corralled beach start, very similar to seeded marathon corrals. The pros went off at 6:20 and they started funneling the age group athletes in at 6:30. I lined up in the second corral for the 1:00-1:10 expected finish time. When I lined up I looked everywhere for someone I knew, it’s always nice to start a race with someone, makes you forget about the pre-race nerves. I found Kendra and then Katie joined up and life felt complete and I was ready for the race to start. We walked up to the waters edge together and dove in at roughly the same time and we were off – our race had started! I ended up having a pretty decent experience with this new swim format – barely any contact with other swimmers, I rarely had to swim over anyone or pop up and tread water to find a way around a scrum of other swimmers. I had clear water pretty quickly and the buoys started going by in rapid succession. I liked that they were numbered and it was easy to tell how far I had to go. The water was choppier than I remember it being in previous years, maybe it was windy? During the first loop I didn’t really find any fast feet to draft off of. I eased into the race, taking my time for the first few hundred meters before starting to swim harder. I managed to jump on the cable line a few times and sighting was a breeze. I got out of the water from my first loop in about 32 minutes and jumped in for the second loop. I felt fatigued at the beginning of the second loop and it took a little while to find my rhythm, but I felt good once I did. I did find a few pairs of feet to draft off of during the second loop and spent more time on the cable line than not. I focused on digging deep with my stroke, high elbows for the catch, and rotating my torso. I got out of the water with about the same swim time as the previous year so I’m pretty happy with that. The wetsuit strippers were awesome and I was quickly on my way to transition.
It might seem like a pain in the neck to run a couple blocks to get to my bike, but the route it lined with cheering, screaming people and you feel like a rockstar. I saw Thom almost as soon as I was out of the water and I ran with a giant smile on my face into the transition area, grabbed my bag, and then went into the tent. I had a lovely volunteer who got my bike shoes and socks out for me while I stuffed a bag of salt tabs, advil, and immodium down my sports bra along with two Gu Roctane gels. I filled my back pockets with the four French Toast Cakes and one additional Clif Mojo bar and I was on my way out to find my bike. I saw Katie and Rachel as we all ran out to our bikes together – small world! Found my bike, ran to the exit, and I was off.
The Bike: 6:24:58, 24th AG, 17.46mph
The weather in the days leading up to Placid was beautiful – sunshine every day, low winds, temps in the low 80s and zero clouds and precipitation. Unfortunately, rain was called for on Sunday in the form of scattered showers and thunderstorms, and in the Adirondacks it really could be hit or miss. There was no point in worrying about it since I have zero control over the weather, but with all the sunny weather, it was hard to imagine a race day full of rain. As I jumped on my bike, it was raining and the streets were already wet and filled with puddles. I figured this was just the start of a wet day, but fortunately the rain let up before I got to the descent into Keene, the sun even popped out while we were in Jay, and we basically had the most perfect race day weather ever – mostly cloudy, temps in the 70s, not oppressively humid, and it was not full of rain. Win!
|Rolling through town after my second loop - photo credit Dan!|
The first part of my Plan To Have A Great Race was to NOT OVERRIDE THE BIKE. Ask anyone who has ridden with me, overriding the hills and pushing the big gear are terrible habits of mine. I remember coming through the first loop of Placid last year feeling absolutely cooked and doing another loop and then running a marathon seemed like the most unappealing thing ever. I wanted to avoid that feeling at all costs this year. Jen, being the wise coach that she is, said that if I wanted to have a good run, I needed to ride a conservative bike. This meant feeling like I was chomping at the bit during the first loop and letting everyone and their grandmother pass me. It meant trying to evenly split the two laps as closely as I could. It meant getting in my little gear and spinning up the hills so I could keep my legs as fresh as possible. I was completely OK with this – weeks and weeks ago I decided that there was no way I was going to chase a sub-6 bike split; I’d rather have a strong run. We figured that biking conservatively might take me an extra 8-10 minutes, but I’d get that time back tenfold in the run with happy legs. I started in on my conservative bike plan immediately, I kept a close eye on my heart rate and planned to let my HR climb into the 140s on the hills and avoid letting it spike any higher than that. I also did constant checks on how I was feeling – I didn’t want to feel out of breath or that I was spinning my legs at an unsustainable pace – all signs of working too hard. I needed to be riding the bike at a pace where I felt like I could ride forever. Too often I’ve started too hard on the bike, fell off the wagon on the back half of the Ironman bike, all in an effort to gain as much time as possible in case I had a bad run. I settled into the bike as we climbed out of Placid, putting my bike into an easy gear and spinning up the hill, trading places with Katie. I could chat with my fellow riders as we climbed and I used that as a gauge on whether or not I was working too hard. We got to the top of the climb and started the descent and Katie dropped me like a bad habit. The roads were still wet, though the rain had stopped, and I was cautious on the way down, no need to be a hero. As we got moving on the flat/slightly rolling out and back to Jay, the sun even started to come out and things warmed up a bit and dried out. I saw Stacey had a flat during this section and I wished I was much better at changing tires, especially race wheels, but I am terrible and would’ve been no help. She is a rockstar though and changed it all out. I felt really guilty for not stopping, even though she told me to go ahead and things were fine, I still felt guilty. The rest of the out and back was uneventful, I was glad I didn’t have a scrum of other bikers around me as I hit the turnaround – tight U-turns have never been my forte and two years ago I almost took down a bunch of racers with my poorly executed turn. This year I practiced a bunch and all the U-turns went off without a hitch, hooray for improved bike handling skills! I saw Sarah and Katie as I was on my way out to the turn and they both looked great. I was still getting passed left and right by people, but I didn’t care, I was looking at the bigger picture and was pleased to realize that I still didn’t feel like I was working too hard. I spent a fair amount of time thinking back to all of the training rides I did this spring and summer, in particular one of the 100 milers with Mindy where I really made an effort to stick closely to Ironman race pace and I was thrilled and amazed to see how good I felt after 100 miles of properly-paced biking. Remembering that experience made it very easy to stick to my plan during the race. We hit the climb out to Wilmington and I again switched down to my little ring and spun up the hills, taking care not to spike my HR and keep things nice and steady.
The climb out was uneventful so I’ll take this moment to highlight the fact that I finally peed on my bike during Ironman (only time that’s happened in the past was Savageman and I think it was more out of fear of climbing the Wall than a critical need to empty an exploding bladder). I’ve never quite mastered proper hydration on the bike (obviously – if I’m biking for 6+ hours and not needing to pee once, I’m clearly not drinking enough and this probably adds to my problems on the run) but after yesterday I think I figured it out. When I figured out that the temps were going to be on the cooler side, I thought maybe I won’t need to drink a bottle an hour, maybe that will be too much. Jen said I should need to pee at least twice on the bike and should absolutely still shoot for at least a bottle an hour. I packed my bike with three bottles of water + Skratch lemon-lime (2.5 servings in each bottle, mainly for the electrolytes) and one bottle of straight water. I’ve ditched the whole aero-bottle thing, drinking while in aero causes me to take in too much air and that leaves me with an uncomfortable tightness in my chest when I run so in just installed another waterbottle holder between my aerobars and use that to carry a 4th bottle and I simply sit up and drink. Zero issues this time around – problem solved! I started drinking water immediately on the bike, taking at least 3 big sips every 10 minutes, and in less than an hour my first bottle was gone and I exchanged it for another bottle of water and then I alternated drinking water and drinking Skratch for the rest of the ride. Proof that I nailed my hydration this time around – I peed on my bike SEVEN times. Five of those times were before the end of the first loop. Once I started to feel like I was on track to take in too much water and my stomach was uncomfortably full, I scaled it back and took three sips every 20 minutes instead and this worked like a charm. My bike nutrition plan worked really well too. I packed more than enough food, with a wide variety (French toast cakes, Clif MoJo bars, Gu gels, and Salted Nut Rolls-thank you Julia!!!) so I could eat what I was in the mood for. There is nothing worse than forcing down nutrition that you really don’t want. Throughout my Ironmans, I’ve experimented with nutrition, using all solids for the first few races (sandwiches, fritos, cookies, and crackers) to doing all liquid (disaster) to doing all gels (there is such a thing as too many gels on the bike. See IMLP 2012), and now I’m back to doing a mix of gels and solids and this combo worked the best for me. I wasn’t taking in a set amount of calories each hour, but I aimed to have it be between 200-300. The French Toast Cakes were MONEY on this ride, very easy to eat, easy to digest, and they were good. I’ve used Clif MoJo bars during training all season and had no problems with those. Had a little bit of a salted nut roll and ended up eating 4 gels on the bike. For the first two hours, I ate every 15 minutes. I was hungry at the start of the bike, which concerned me a little because that’s a little early to be feeling a caloric deficit (I didn’t do a great job eating breakfast with only 1.5 bagels being forced down, no peanut butter, and a few bites of a Clif bar, too many nerves). But by the end of the second hour, I felt satiated and up to speed with my nutrition plan. Like the drinking, I dropped down to taking in calories every 20 minutes after the first two hours. Throughout the whole ride, I took in a salt tab pill every 30 minutes. As the bike ride goes on in Ironman, I’ve often lost focus on eating and will fall off my eating schedule and that’s probably contributed to feeling like crap late in the race. So, in addition to focusing on my pace and effort, I stuck to my eating plan during the whole bike ride, not falling off once. The payoff was that I felt energized and not depleted, and my mood was pretty good the whole bike ride.
I was thrilled to notice that they had repaved the road from Wilmington back to Placid – I remember this being a particularly miserable stretch last year, especially on the second loop when you are hot, thirsty, and tired and the bumpy chipped road just aggravated those woes. Not the case this year!! The road was smooth as butter and it was AWESOME! I also kept running into people I knew, catching up to Katie, and then seeing Jenny Leehey, AJ Morrison, and Kerri Kramer out cheering on the last stretch up to the Three Bears. As we climbed up Papa Bear, Katie and I ran into Ryan and this was when Katie reminded me that this was a race not a cocktail party. I highly recommend doing a race where you run/ride past someone you know every 5 minutes, it is so much fun! And then my favorite part – we caught up to Sarah at the top of Papa Bear and the three of us rode into town together, it was PERFECT. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. We rode through town and all the cheering crowds and felt like rockstars. I was feeling absolutely fantastic at this point, well-hydrated, well-fed, my legs felt fresh, there was still cloud cover and temps were on the cooler side, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
The second loop of the bike was more of the same – easy up the hills, I was a little more aggressive on the descent into Keene the second time since the roads were drier and there wasn’t the testosterone-fueled train of male bikers flying down the hill in packs like there was on the first loop. I was feeling just as good, if not better, late in the ride as I felt in the beginning. This was a good sign. I wasn’t tired of my food or drink and had no trouble eating when I was supposed to. I saw more friends on the out and back and before I knew it, I had passed the turnaround, hit mile 90 and had 22 miles left to go. I remember feeling like death warmed over during the climb out of Wilmington on my second loop last year and desperately wanting it to be over. This time I was still happy, my legs were feeling a bit fatigued but nothing terrible or unexpected, and those last 11 miles went by much quicker. I came back into town, saw so many people out cheering, and while I didn’t negative split the 112 mile ride, my second loop wasn’t substantially slower than my first and my ride ended up being only 9 minutes slower than last year but I felt a million times better. Totally worth it.
Had an awesome volunteer who was super helpful. Changed my socks, put on my pink running shoes, Tri360 visor, race number belt, grabbed some gels stopped at a porta-potty for a proper bathroom break, and then headed out feeling happy and ready to run (what a reversal from years past!)
The Run: 3:55:43 (!!!!!!!), 16th AG, 8:59 average pace
THIS run was the Ironman run I have been waiting my whole entire life for!!! THIS was the run I have always been chasing but never quite achieved. It was perfect and amazing in every single possible way. I’m still tickled pink and on cloud nine and it has been two days and the feeling hasn’t worn off and I hope it never does.
|Thrilled to be out on the run course, finishing up the first loop!|
I headed out of town and down the hills with a smile and a very basic plan in mind – run between 8:30-9:00/mile pace until the cows come home. This season I’ve finally started to learn the value of doing my long runs at the pace I’m going to be racing the Ironman marathon (because there isn’t much of a point in running my training runs faster). I thought back to one of the long brick workouts I did towards the end of peak training – 111 mile ride out on the SkyMass loop with some extra mileage thrown in and then a 9 mile run off the bike. That was a long day, but I had been careful to ride my bike at the pace I planned to race at (read: spin up the hills, don’t spike the heart rate, don’t be a hero) and then ran mostly at my intended run pace. I felt really, really great during that run and remembered how effortless it felt. I knew if I nailed my nutrition during the bike and stuck to my bike pacing plan, I could have another strong run. Mile one went by too quick – 8:01 – but felt easy and that was reassuring (there was also a big downhill so I’m sure that played a huge part in it). I slowed down and was around 8:30s and feeling good. I immediately started in on taking in water and nutrition. I had planned to do gels and had a whole stash of regular Gu and Gu Roctane, but I also knew that I could get out there and not want gels at all so I knew I needed to be flexible. Turns out I didn’t want gels – took in a small bit, didn’t like how I felt, so I ended up eating bananas and then started taking in Coke after the halfway point. I also had one last French Toast Cake left from the bike ride and ended up eating most of that as well and my stomach felt better than it ever has during an Ironman. I started off by taking water at every other aid station, but by mile 4 I could tell I was really thirsty so I started taking water at every aid station instead. It went water, Coke, mushy bite of banana, repeat. I listened to what I felt like I wanted and when I wanted it and it worked out really well for me.
If I thought the bike ride was a cocktail party, the run was even more social with all the out and backs. During the first loop I was so happy to be out running and cheering on all of my friends – everyone looked like they were having stellar races! Cheering everyone else on made the miles go by quickly and kept my mood up, I loved knowing so many people who were on the course – both as racers and spectators – and I’m sure that contributed to me having the run that I did. The pace I was running didn’t feel effortless, but it felt sustainable and I kept reminding myself that I could run that pace all day. I hit the first turnaround about 5.5 miles out of town feeling pretty good and I liked knowing that the next time I would pass by the 18, 19, and 20 mile markers would be when I was on my last loop and headed home. I saw Kendra and Katie and Kristin absolutely crushing the run as well as Sarah and Chris Wren and Meg. My teammates Kelly and Kasha and Andy were absolutely flying out there. I didn’t pay much attention to who I passed and who passed me – I just wanted to run my own race and meet my own personal goals. I saw the ski jumps on my way back to town sooner than I expected and the climbs back up into town weren’t as painful as I’d anticipated. My pace was still right where I’d hoped it would be and I knew miles 11-13 would be so fun because of the crowd support in town. I hit the turnaround and headed back out of town. I saw Sarah’s boyfriend Dan, passed by the Team Z tent and heard all the cheers, saw more friends on the course, my stomach was still happy, my legs still felt OK, and I was looking forward to the back half of the marathon. I continued eating/drinking Coke, water and banana for the remainder of my run, never felt overly hungry, never found myself absolutely craving something like grapes, watermelon or soda (usually it’s a bad sign when I crave stuff, means I didn’t take in enough water/calories). I saw more friends out on the course during the second loop, and the smile mostly remained on my face, though it did start to disappear once I hit Miles 23-24/The Wall. As I climbed back towards town, I could feel blisters on my feet firing up and my legs and hips were feeling sore and spent. My pace wasn’t falling off too badly, but I was no longer in an overly cheerful mood and while I knew I could hold things together for three more miles, I was thankful it wouldn’t be any longer than that. The last steep climb into town was THE toughest part of the race – I wanted to walk so very badly, my legs wouldn’t shut up and I was hitting the wall. But I hadn’t walked yet in the race and I knew I’d be disappointed with myself afterwards if I gave in, so I didn’t. I basically looked down at the ground, I remember seeing Michaela as she ran by and yelled encouragement and I could only muster a small wave of my hand in acknowledgement, but hearing her cheers was just what I needed at that time. This was my slowest mile by far – I think it was my only mile (or maybe one of two) that was over ten minutes. Once things flattened out on the short out-and-back I miraculously felt much better and going by the Team Z tent was a HUGE boost with all of their cheers. At this point I was just telling myself I needed to get to Mile 25 and the adrenaline and excitement would carry that last 1.2 miles to the finish. I hit the turnaround and Mile 25 and picked up my pace. During the whole run, I never had my run split showing, just my overall time, and at this point I knew I would slide in well under 12 hours but I didn’t know if I was sub-4. I thought I might be, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I came around the last corner before making a right on Main Street and saw the magic marking saying FINISH à and I was so excited I started clapping to myself and I couldn’t stop smiling and all of the spectators were cheering and it was just an incredible feeling. I ran into the speedskating oval and down the finisher chute – nobody else in sight, I had it all to myself. I was so glad to be almost done, but I was also savoring every moment of that finisher chute because it’s not very often you have a perfect race and Ironman Lake Placid 2013 was my perfect race.
|Sarah and I post-race - beyond thrilled!|
Huge thank you to EVERYONE who was out there cheering and supporting and volunteering for the race – Ironman is fun because of the energy everyone brings to the sport on both sides of the race course. Thank you to my teammates and my friends who were out there racing and cheering, turning IMLP into one giant and amazing cocktail party (thank you Katie for that term!), never have I ever had so much fun on the racecourse! Thank you to my Ignite Endurance teammates who showed me what it’s like to be a rockstar on the course, with a number of them getting on the podium in their respective age groups and snagging Kona slots. Thank you to Dawn for cheering and watching Miles for us! Thank you to Stacey for letting me borrow their kitchen to bake my nutrition and lent me a pair of compression socks because I forgot any and all compression items at home! You rock! And thank you Jen for being an absolutely incredible coach, your guidance and belief in me were crucial factors in helping me achieve everything I set out to accomplish at IMLP 2013! A big thank you to Tri360 for their support and cheers this season, to Blue Seventy for some fabulous goggles that didn’t fog up once, and to Skratch Labs – I am absolutely convinced that their hydration mix and Feed Zone French Toast Cakes were part of the key to my successful race. I’m a convert to the concept of eating real food during a race – I’ve never felt as good as I did on Sunday and I had zero GI issues, which is a rarity in my long-course racing history. And of course a big thank you to Mr. Sweetie, aka IronSherpa Extraordinaire. I truly appreciate how much you took care of everything over the weekend so I just had to focus on my race. I love you!