Ironman – Lake Placid 04

Ironman – Lake Placid 04

WOW! Where do I start. Doing an Ironman is an experience that cant be explained until you do it (or go there and watch). At times you will feel like a God and at times you will have to dig real deep into some dark areas of your mind and body. A time will come where you will doubt yourself and that is where you will have to prove that you wont quit.

As of about a month ago, My knee was telling me that I wont be doing an Ironman this year. So, I went to see Mike Roberts, he told me that I have the best possible injury (IT band). So Mike and Jackie worked their magic, and bang! Im running again. It was like cramming for finals. I got 3 medium distance runs (12-14 miles) in and prayed that I could nail a Marathon. This is my 2nd Ironman and I know that the marathon is the most difficult event.

Chapter 1 … Don’t Listen to the Weathermen, or do you?
Kelly (my wife), Mark, Mikki and I left for Placid early Tuesday. Once we got there we biked the course. There was a tailwind and 70 degree temps. Biked it again on Thursday, some headwind and 87 degrees. Seemed like a different course each day. (Sundays forecast is 74 and partly cloudy with minimal wind). On Friday Sara and I headed out to watch her sisters in the Ironkids race. I was videoing the race when the sky let loose, I have grab one of the lifeguards kick-board’s and use it as a umbrella for the camera. The weather is so unpredictable at Mirror Lake, it was raining so hard, just like it was during the race in 03. Now Im thinking that I won’t pay attention to the weather and just deal with what is handed to us ( I also will not taunt the weather Gods like last year at Placid).

Last year, every time I would say  “Is that all you Got?” It would get worse and worse and worse etc…

Saturday was supposed to be partly cloudy. it was hot, and not cloudy at all! What is Sunday going to bring? They are now talking about a low of 46 on Sunday morning. OUCH!

Chapter 2 . Something New, Something Blue (I mean Black)
Friday afternoon we head to Placid Planet bike shop for some final items that we need for the race on Sunday. Mark spots a pair of Black Socks that have the phrase B!TCH written on the cuff. He asks me if I would not mind wearing them for the Ironman (his philosophy is, if he could do an Ironman he would wear them). So we make a deal, if he buys em, I wear em. But, only on the bike. I know I shouldn’t run in socks that I have never worn (or you could blister). Well I am going to attempt to use Hammer Gel during the bike (Never tried it but its Banana flavor and sounds yummy). I have been blessed with a stomach that can consume Hot dogs and ice cream on rides, I think its the years of Special Sauce from the Big Macs that have lined my stomach with some special sauce armor.

Was that who I think it is! Yes, it’s Paula Newby Frasier. I point her out to Mikki and she gives me the thumbs up. The Pros are Cool to see but you don’t want to bug them or they will get upset, Right? Ya, Whatever. I head over to her and ask if she is racing on Sunday and if she wouldn’t mind a picture with me.

Chapter 3 . Race Day – The Swim
Sunday 4AM wake-up call. Peak outside, HOLY CRAP its 45 degrees out! THE GOOD NEWS ……  its not raining!

Have some toast with PB, an egg, a waffle with stawberries. That should hold me for 10 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Ya, that’s the time Im shooting for, Did a 11:04 in 03 and just want to crack the 11 hour barrier. Although I am a little nervous about the run (if you don’t do your homework and you can flunk, I mean BONK).

We Head up to Transition to do a final check on the bike and top off all the fluids. The Ironman people are smart, they are playing Enya over the loudspeaker to simulate the calmness, so they don’t have fist fights before the swim. We head over to Body marking. While waiting in line, Kevin Young comes over to greet us, then grabs a black marker and Body marks all the Cyclonauts in line and many other athletes (Thanks Kevin). We then walk over and drop off our special needs bags near the swim start. All the yellow shirt Cyclonaut Spectators are helping us get ready for the big start. The Music is now upbeat in this area (Sandstorm and Cold Play are cranking). Now its all starting to sink in, race day is here. We head to the water, as we step in the lake, they announce that we have 7 minutes till start. Okay swim to shore and waive a final time to our group of Cyclonaut Spectators and go over to the start area. I line up 1 person back of the front row and made sure that the guys around are not to big. The big guys hammer me at the start. Big girls do to (but, I like that). Then this Huge guy works his way up to us, and the kid next to me asks him if he will do the swim in a hour. He says hell No, I just want a good starting area. Just before the Canon goes off Im starting to get boxed in and worried. The water is over your head and everyone is kicking you to stay in one place. The National Anthem is over and the Cannon goes off. My swim starts without a hitch. Im about 900 yards into the swim and I realize that I havent been wacked yet. Imagine doing a swim with 2000 people and never getting touched, then Bang! I get a heel into my ribs. As Im trying to restart I get my goggles smashed by somebody else. Okay, back to swimming, and life is good. Lap 2 starts off good and I round the out and back bouys. I like to swim to the left of the cable because I sight to the right (There is a cable for the entire swim loop). Why am I telling you this? I think Im on the left side, so I keep swimming right (looking for the cable). I finally stop and notice that I am way right of the cable (near the Holiday Inn). I get back on course and finish the swim. Transition goes well and head off to have some fun. I am now in 540th place overall. Which is good for me (the swim is not my best discipline).

Chapter 4 . The Bike
As I run out of transition with my bike, I notice the race clock says 1:12,  that is 3 minutes faster than last year (cool, I just have to make up 1 more minute to break the 11 hour barrier of last year). The Bike starts out Chilly, fortunately you have to climb for the first 10 miles. The climb goes by fast and then there is a awesome 7 mile downhill at 50+ mph. It is flat and fast for another 10 plus miles. I hit the 25 mile mark at 1:04 and wonder if Im pushing a little to hard. We are also at the lowest elevation on the course. So I decide to go for it and stay smooth. After the flat river section you bang a left and climb for a few miles. During the climb I hear Steve Lombardo’s voice, I watch him pass by on the climb. He is faster on the climbs and I can make up the ground back on the flats (Steve and i trained together for years and we have worked each other over to benefit both of us). The next stretch is the Hazelton out and back, It’s flat and rolling, so we swapped positions a few times to the out and back. On the way to the out and back I see Franqui heading back and looking strong. Now I am heading back and I start to see who is behind me. I see Tom Deluca, then I see another Cyclonaut. Was that, Am I seeing things, That was Sara Pragluski!  Wow, She is flying. I get my head back in the game and keep cruising. It was cool to see all the teammates on the out and back section. After the out and back you turn on to Rt.86 for the final 10 mile climb. This area is where most of the drafting takes place, The USAT is all over on motorcycles to nail anyone. It is almost scary. I caught a pack of cyclists on one of the early climbs and nobody was giving up position. So as I am re-attempting to pass I hear the Motorcycle coming up and is now riding next to me and the pack. I continue to make the pass, but a rider ahead of me is passing the pack also. Now what do I do? I just dig deep and pass everyone and just try to settle in and ride up front. The official starts writing in her penalty book and they don’t tell you who they are writing up. Well, Im not going to think about it and let it mess with my head, so I just keep plotting along. We hit a steep section called Cherry Don and Steve passes me again and heads up the road. He has a good lead on me, but I just keep pushing. The miles go by and I hit the last section of climbs (Cherry Big, Cherry Little, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear) I pushed hard through the climbs and was gaining some ground back on Steve (This is my teammate, but you need this type of rivalry to push you at times). Mike Roberts (spectating) yells from the Top of the papa Bear climb “Nice job Steve, Nice job Jim” I see Steve turn back to give me the Lance look (I smirk). Lap 1 is done and I Head to the special needs bags and restock my bottles. First Lap 2:32, this is good or bad news, its either going to be a great ride or I will be in a ditch singing Christmas Carols or that crazy Donkey Song. Lap 2 starts and temp’s are now perfect. Steve took off so fast, that he is out of sight for the second lap. I climb out of town and I pass this guy, he yells “Hey jim”. I turn back and its Sara’s friend Jeff. I give him the wave and move on. After the climb there is a flat and fast section before the 7 mile downhill. OUCH, It is not fast anymore, the winds have picked up. Have they picked up? Or am I hurting? Lets go with the winds have picked up. Plus, I am still passing people. I Do the Downhill and cruise through the flat section. At this point the miles are clicking by and I am starting to wonder how my final trip up Whiteface (Route 86) will be. Let’s just block those thoughts out and peddle. I head down the out and back (Hazelton), I see Franqui and Steve heading back with about a 2 minute lead. 2 minutes is almost a mile. That’s why cant see how you are doing until the out and back section. At this point I am pumped that I held a steady pace. Make the turn at the out and back and I am wondering why the guy ahead of me is sweating like crazy and it’s spitting off his body. WOOOW! Go way left and fly by him! He is taking a leak and I am not in the mood for a shower. I finish the out and back and start the final climb up Whiteface. No worries about drafting this time. Everyone is now spread out. At this point I am still feeling good and slowly catching people. I am gaining on a female Pro and it looks like, it cant be, Is she wearing number 1, it is! I am riding next to the Great Heather Fuhr (she is my Lake Placid Idol). Where is my Camera! I hope they caught that pass on ESPN. Earth to Jim, keep going.  A few more miles up the road I see Franqui, now Im thinking he is hurting or he is getting ready for the run. I make the pass and he gives me his calm words of encouragement (does Franquis heart rate ever go above 150?). Maybe I have a shot at catching Steve by the end of the bike? Insert the phrase NOT here! I get to the bike finish chute and the clock reads 6:30! Now I am 30 minutes ahead of last year. Only 1 problem, I have to run a Marathon. Can I Run a Marathon? Will the Knee quit on me? No Guts No Glory!

Lake Placid 2004

Chapter 5 . The Run
I am in the transition tent changing and I see Steve head out onto the run. I still have the B!TCH socks on and decide to save 20 seconds and leave them on for the run (insert Donkey Rider here). Throw on the hat, sneakers and Im off. Remember the Heather Fuhr and Franqui pass? Well I think they were saving it for the Run. Within a mile they blow by. Now I have to focus on not thinking about the knee pain that has hindered my run this year. And then I see it, The Wall of Yellow Cyclonaut Fans. It was like the Sonic Wall. My parents are also there (I can hear them, but I cannot see them). This Marathon is going to be my hardest journey yet. So I give them the thumbs up and I hear Mom yell “You can smile” (But, I am not sure I can). We all have heard of Soccer Moms, I have an Ironmom. I thought I saw Pom-Poms and girls with shirts cut with nail clippers (Its a mirage and I will continue on). About 2 miles into the marathon I stop, my sock feels like it is bunched up. I yank the sneaker off, but the sock is fine. Continue on for another mile and I stop at the 3-Mile aid station and yell for a Band-Aid (my foot is Blistering and I lay a strip across the affected area). Im off but I still can feel it. Now its starting to annoy me. Mile 5 the left B!TCH sock is coming off and I decide to run with only the right sock (see pick at top of page). As I lay the sock on the ground I notice the size. Small/Medium! These Socks are to small (Did Mark set me up?) And the size is embroidered into the bottom of the sock, so instead of being under my arch it is rubbing on the ball of my foot and has made a quarter sized blister. The key here is to run smooth and do not get my feet wet or they will feel like I am running on Lava Rocks (kinda like the whole run at Hawaii). And then it will be game over. The out and back section is a 10k and its cool because you get to see who is in front and behind you. It gives you strength to see your teammates enduring this type of Psychotic Event (as weird as this sounds). Some teammates nod, some shout words, some high five, some smile and some just don’t want to be bothered (I go through all those phases). Did I mention that there are 2 Hard climbs per lap (These will soften you up, bad). I plot along, just clicking along mile after mile. I crest the first hill, head by the Econolodge (lots of Yellow and skin, I mean Black) and then up the degree of difficulty climb to the final 2 mile out and back (Placid is cruel, they let you see the finish line at mile 11, then at 13, then at 24 and then you get to Finish). Lap 1 goes good, but I am hurting. The good news is that I know it is supposed to hurt this much. I see the clock and I need to run a 2:35 half to break the 11 hour barrier (if things go bad, a 2:35 could not be possible). The run continues and I am now running with people who are starting their first lap, so you have no clue how you are doing. You can only run as fast as you can handle. Back by the Econolodge and Im still seeing Pom Pom’s and hearing words, but I only see the double yellow line in the middle of the road. I manage to give another thumbs up, and I know that is more than I could Mustard on lap 2 in 03. They seem to sense what I am going through and just try to say the right words, like “Pick it up” and “its all uphill from here”. The miles continue on. Less than 10 to go, then I hit Mile 20 and BANG! My hamstring has just locked up and I am at complete standstill (its like one of those middle of the night muscle spasms). Okay, just relax! It starts to calm down and a guy runs by and says, Do you want a Salt Tablet. Yes Please! I start to walk to calm it down and then I can jog to the next aid station to slug down some fluid and take the salt tablet. I down it and Im off, I am running like nothing ever happened (I think the hamstring was paying me back for the torture on the bike).

Okay, I just saw Mikki and she is our final Cyclonaut on the course (I feel relief that every teammate is now on the run). My running is going better and I am now back to passing people and I make my attempt to run the degree of difficulty hill at mile 24. It is lined with spectators like a Tour De France climb. I run the hill thinking I am not going anywhere, It’s that steep. A lot of the people I am passing on the hill are on their first lap and just want to finish. Me, I just want to torture myself one final time cause I know I only have 2 miles to go. Last 2 miles seem like a blur (I only remember the Boston Triathlon Crowd cheering me on). Now I see that Im going to do a 10:30 and all my pain and soreness has just gone away. I am now entering the oval and feeling like a rock star. The wall of Yellow is now in the stands and I am in cruise control. I break the tape with a time of 10:30:24. And I feel GREAT! Beat last years time by 34 minutes and I don’t need medical, but I do need Pizza and Coke. Got my massage (where Kelly came to meet me with tears in her eyes). Met up with Steve (who smoked a 10:20) and we headed to the stands to cheer on our Peeps. I saw Franquis wife and she informed me that he did a 10:00:10. Is he human?

All 20 Cyclonauts finished in under 14:30. That’s impressive! I check the results and I didn’t get penalized. Ye Haw!

Chapter 6 . Sign up and Roll Down for Kona
Monday we head over to the school to pick up pictures and I wanted to sign up for Placid 05. We then head over to Roll down to see if Sara has a shot. She was fifth and they had 3 slots for her division. I think because of the race she had, it seemed like destiny. They announce that only 2 girls have taken the slots and it has rolled down to 4th. And guess what, it is not claimed and then they announce Sara’s name and she is balling knowing that she is off to Kona. They make their way to the 35-39 Males and they announce that they have 14 slots and only 5 took em. It ends up rolling down to Steve ( he doesn’t cry). I miss out on Kona by 6 minutes! Franqui make’s it in before the Roll Down.

Chapter 7 . The banquet
The Monday night awards banquet was great. Bill got 4th in his division and Sara got 5th. Sara was there to accept (Bill was already home). Sara was on Cloud 9, She even dissed Paula Newby-Fraiser (this is how I knew she was back to normal). During the awards they were were auctioning off a Signed picture of Lance Armstrong winning his fifth title. The money was to benefit a fella named Kevin Broderick who was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of Bone cancer. As the bidding was going on I decide to chime in. Now Im bidding against a women sitting next table over. She would raise, I would raise. Now I want this piece. I win the bid, and she grabs me as I walk up to get it. She tells me that she will match the bid that i just bid as a donation also, She told me that she knows the Broderick family. I tell the announcer the story and we both head to the stage. I hand them a check, I take the Lance pic back to the table and sit down. A few minutes go by and Lyle from Ironman USA asks me to meet with someone. It is my old schoolmate and friend, Tom Broderick. We grew up together in Holyoke, I knew the family well but never put 2 and 2 together. Tom is in tears and I feel like this has just happened for a reason. Tom goes up on the stage to talk to the crowd and explains to everyone about this event that just took place and how we grew up together and the whole place is lit by this moment. these are the moments that make life special.

I Guess the ironman is not about a race, it is about a way of living and giving all you got in many ways. Its not about how you do, its about what you do. This is the end of this chapter, but the book will continue on.

Thanks for reading ……… Jim Sullivan