I will be back another day – Lake Placid Ironman 08

I will be back another day – Lake Placid Ironman 08

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned. Welcome to the world of Ironman.

5AM Race Day……..I should have known something was up when we got to the transition area race morning. The weather was perfect. it was warm, cloudy and not a hint of wind. The forecast called for a chance of showers around 9AM and again in the evening. You couldn’t ask for a better day! The only problem is that we are in the Adirondack’s and I have yet to see an accurate weather report. My guess is that the sun will be out and we will be frying like an egg. we have several first timers from the team and I hope the weather is reasonable because the course is tough enough without adding another layer of difficulty.

So off we go to the Lake and there must be over a hundred Cyclonaut spectators there to witness one of the most amazing swim starts there is. This swim start will jack your heart rate off the charts. Imagine yourself inside of the washing machine (while it’s running). That’s just the start, then you are on the defense for about an hour while you attempt to protect your face from the occasional scissor kick. Believe it or not, the start is my favorite part. It takes me from a calm state to race ready mode in about 3 seconds flat. I don’t swim much (nor well) but I like to line up close to the front line and draft as much as I can to get me the hell out of the water as quick as possible. I am slightly worried about my swim time and know that I will have to dig deep to not get swam over when the gun goes off.

The cannon blasts and we are off! Im having a hard time keeping pace, but am able catch a good draft at times and this helps me to save some gas. All in all the swim went well and my only mishap was grabbing my old goggles. They don’t leak, but they fog within a hundred yards. Knowing that I couldn’t stop every 5 minutes and clean them i just relied on the swimmers next to me to do my navigation. This seemed to be working but I keep getting splashed even though Im not to close to them. So I clear the goggles and notice that it is pouring out. Pouring so hard that you can feel it while your swimming (similar to the Friday morning practice swim, with the bonus lightning storm). I end up cranking out a 1:14 swim and I am very happy. Now I am off on a dash to transition with a huge group of athletes. It was so packed that there wasn’t even a seat available in the transition tent. So I started to gear up and was off. This is the problem with being a midpack swimmer you come out of the water with hundreds around you.

Now it’s bike time. Im not worried about making up time, Im just worried about over doing it on lap 1. This course deserves respect and it can crush the best of them if you are leaving it all out there to early. I don’t wear a monitor and will have to ride sightly slower than my body feels like it wants to ride. So, off I go (did I mention that it is pouring out). Immediately I put the sun glasses in my back pocket because they are only as good as my foggy goggles. I feel great and am aware that I need to just keep pace. The good news is that you start the climb out of town at mile 3 and this climb is tough. The climb is steep in the beginning and gets easier after that. The greatest part about being 1237 out of the water is that you feel like a pro as your cranking by everybody (it’s payback for these guys and gals blowing by me in the swim). On the climb I catch Steve and then Tom, both look strong and we all know that we have a long way to go. I make it to the top of the climb and start cruising along the Lake. At this point I have realized that there is not even a hint of wind and you are able to cruise along at a good clip (the above photo is from that area of the course). Some have said that you must enjoy the beauty of the course on the first lap or you will be going to fast. If it was sunny this would be true, but today is a day of being alert while your eyes are getting pelted with rain drops. Now Im off to the BIG DOWNHILL. This was by far the most exciting descend that I have ever done. I rode the hill on Tuesday and Thursday to get the better lines and to see were the pavement was beat up. But, the rain has added a twist. My option is to ride the brakes on the step part or let it fly. I opted with the faster method and was hitting 50mph at times. The good news is that they gave us an additional lane to work with and I was able to cross the yellow line when I was approaching slower cyclists. I think I have just invented the next thrill ride at 6 Flags (BIKE ON A RAIL IN THE WATERPARK – You sit on a bike in the rain and corner at speeds of up to 50). At the bottom you get a great section of roads that are fairly flat and very fast. I am able to get into a cadence/pace that feels good and I am again happy that there is no wind. I blow by Jennifer who probably put 20 minutes on me in the swim and she looks like she is happy that she is at the bottom of “THE HILL”. I then continue on and work my way to the town of Jay. Jay is a another tough section for a multitude of reasons. You have been doing flats for the last 10 miles and you have to change gears and muscle groups to climb again. The first climb after the left turn is difficult and I have to remember to climb at a pace that won’t hurt my legs. This is also a good time to start thinking about the nutrition. My method is the powerbar on the top tube which keeps it in sight and easy to grab (see top tube in above photograph). But today it is pouring and it’s like grabbing a chunk of oatmeal. The good news is that it is soft. But it now has a crunchy grit to it from the sand that is kicking up from the road (God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt is what my Momma always said). Now im onto the out and back on Hazelton (this is an area where you get to see who is ahead of you on the way out and who is chasing as you are heading back). About halfway down I start to see the first Cyclonauts heading towards me. I see Frankie, then Mike R. , Mike Gay, Paulito, Doug and then I see Dave Haulch. They all seem to be riding well and are all spread out as I work my way to the turnaround point. On the way back I pass Dave and he stuck to his words of not trying to race me when I would catch him. This is one of the biggest mistakes that mot people will do. Never race against anyone, this will ruin your day. Now it is off to Whiteface and a difficult section to keep yourself clear of the 4 bike length draft zone. Because there are so many hills and people start to bunch you have to know that you will be able to carry enough speed to pass them without expending to much energy. Plus I know that people will actually see that you are about to pass and then they will attack and keep you from passing. This doesn’t bother me so I let them go I drop back and re-attack before they recover and usually never see them again. Again you have to be smart on lap 1 and don’t crush the hills. The Whiteface climbs go well and I approach the Bears and all the Cyclonaut spectators on the hill (Thank You). Then it’s back to the Lake for lap 2. As I approach the Olympic oval I catch Doug. As I pass him I tell him that we better get ready for the photo opp at the Econo Lodge. We pass the Econolodge and it’s sea of Black and yellow. I now realize that we are bigger than the Beatles. It was a frenzy! Now it is off to lap 2 and the dreaded climb out of town (No spectators, just you and the bike). This time I have to ride it smart because we still have 56 miles to go. About 2/3 of the way up i grab my GU Flask out of my back pocket and my Oakleys go flying. SCREECH! Im stopping for those! As I turn I see a several cyclists heading for em like a bug onto a windshield and I yell “Please” as Im pointing to them in the road. Doug and the others use their bike handling skills to avoid them and I am able to save em (I think Doug bunny hopped em). Starting on a hill sucks! It takes a few minutes, But I get back in a groove and now notice that there is a slight wind up top and this means the descend will be a little more tricky with the Zipp Disc and deep wheel. The wind wasn’t a factor. The bike handled well and I was able to work my way back to Doug. Towards the bottom I did have a close call with a knucklehead who was all over the road as I was trying to pass. We came within a bike width as we were making the final corner of a very steep section and he was veering wide as I was passing on the outside and cars are heading up the hill (I think I pee’d myself). Now we are back on the flats and it is business as usual. There are a several short climbs in the beginning of this section and Doug rolls by me each time it gets vertical. I don’t want to fight so I have to let him go. After it flattened out It took me about 5 miles to finally catch him but it was short lived. As Im grabbing a water from the aid station he blows by again. I actually enjoy having someone around me that I know it helps to keep your mind off certain things and keeps you from losing focus on your pace (it’s called falling asleep at the wheel). We make the turn in Jay and start the climb. I pass Doug about halfway up and continue on. Now it is the Hazelton stretch and I still feel real good. I get to the area where I saw our lead guys last lap and I have yet to see them. This is a good sign that I am keeping pace or gaining ground. Now I see a Cyclonaut and it is Mike Roberts (looking focused). Then I see Frankie, then Mike and Paulito. They are spread out more than the first lap but are all holding their own. After the turnaround I calculate that Paul is about 10-12 minutes ahead of me and I will not catch him on Whiteface if he continues to ride like he is. These are the type of games I have to play to keep my head in the game and know that I am pushing to catch and they are pushing to not get caught (Good Stuff). Several miles later I slam a hole that was buried in a puddle and I did not see it coming. Everything seemed fine until I stood up on the final climb and the tire felt spongy. Although it is spongy it is rideable so i continue on and finish the out and back. I take the 2 corners with care and start my climb up the Whiteface stretch (10 miles of fun and games). Fortunately I have trained with a flat tire so it doesn’t have me that upset. I know that if I stop and fix it I will loose time or if I ride it soft I will lose some time. Kelly always tells me not to ride it soft and just fix the problem at hand (drums please). So I opt for the soft method and continue. as I approach the Hungry Trout Restaurant it goes pancake flat. This is freaky because I ate there the night before. Maybe this was a sign? To stop in and have more Jack and Cokes! Stop the voices, Im not going to jeopardize my race by injecting shots into my system (just incase they do testing). I quickly pull over and I cant loosen the valve extender on the Zipp wheel it is to tight and I can’t get it without a set of pliers. Plan B it is, ride the flat (we have trained for this). This one is a little more difficult though, it’s not flat, I can’t draft off my Saturday training buddies and it’s my front tire (which does all the steering). To keep the wheel from getting trashed i have to gently do a mini wheelie whenever I need to avoid a hole (don’t forget you can’t zig zag with a flat). Even the small climbs are becoming difficult and people are just blowing by me. After a few miles I pull over to a vehicle and ask the spectator if they have any pliers. She says “Im not allowed to help you”. What she doesn’t understand is that I am not allowed to ask her and I will be DQ’d, the officials will not penalize her. At this point my options are nil and I am having a hard time just moving forward. As I decide to move on she says “I will look”.  Fortunately she has nothing and Im still in the race and I continue on. Doug blows  by knowing that there is nothing that he can do and continues up the road. I would expect nothing else from a Cyclonaut. If I have issues I will figure it out, don’t jeopardize your day for me. There are several small downhills and the bike is making a nasty slam noise everytime the wheel rotates over the valve. Talk about a terrifying feeling knowing that if the tubular gets caught on the breaks as it’s ungluing I am going to be flipped over the handlebars. The few descends go without incident and I am able to crank out 15mph on the flat sections. Of course people are flying by me saying “Hey, I think you have a flat tire”. As the 50th person said it………. I finally broke down and said “NO SH#T” (He was at the wrong place at the wrong time, Sorry). At about mile 105 there is the final aid station. i slow and yell for bike support and they say “YES”. I think I did a dance or my hit’n it move. The fella who attempted to help me was not a bike mechanic and had no clue what I needed so I calmly just talked him through what i needed. You have to understand that these people are volunteers and are giving 120 percent to help but this was just not my day and I finally said “Let’s just pump it up and hope that i can get through the final 5 miles”. As we pumped it the tire was bubbling out water from everywhere. Right as I was about to cry the race support car pulls up and yells “What do you need”. I tell them that I need a set of pliers to fix a tubular. They told me not to bother and handed me another front wheel. I was back on the road and blowing by people left and right. This I think was a big mistake! The combination of riding the flat and hammering the bike for the final 5 miles took to much gas out of the tank and I was struggling up Papa Bear. So I notched it down and finished the bike knowing that I still had to run 26.2 miles. I actually finished the bike with a respectable time of around 5:30. What would have my time been? That’s the beauty of Ironman, it is what it is!

Transition 2 was nice because the tents aren’t so crowded and it felt good to be off the bike. As Im changing out of my wet socks into a dry pair i look outside and it is freaking pouring harder than ever. So much for the dry socks that I am putting on. I start the run and I feel outstanding! I cruise down the hill and am able to run at a good clip. Between the cheers from our peeps and the fact that Im running I am stoked. I ran the first 3 miles at a very good clip. After mile 3 there are a series of small hills on the out and back section. As I was climbing them my quads felt like they got jack hammered from the bike incident. At this point the training wheels were coming off and every uphill was putting another nail in my coffin. Im working so hard on the ups that Im no longer digesting any liquids or foods. Between my lack of running and my flat I now know that my day is over. My new goal is to complete the first 13.1 miles and drop out. I didn’t want anyone to know this so I kept my head up and made believe I was doing fine. This race was not about me nor did I want anyone to worry about me. I let Kelly know as I approached the Econolodge and was impressed that several Cyclonaut teammates that were there watching had offered to walk with me to get to the finish line. this is what this team is all about and I would have taken them up on it if it was my first Ironman. But I had nothing to prove and only sacrificed my health by doing another walk/run half Marathon.

I have a ton of respect for this course and don’t want to be known as the guy who doesn’t run or swim much but still can crank out an ironman. I want to know that this course crushed me and deserves my respect. I also know that I better be prepared if I ever come back (When I come back). I outdid myself in 03 and 04 but it smashed me in 08.

Things I learned from this race:

  • Don’t start swimming 3 weeks before the Ironman or your pecks will be on fire for the rest of the day (might be hurting for a week).
  • Do drink Guinness and Jack Daniel’s the day before to keep calm.
  • Use your teeth if you can’t loosen the extender (Post race advice from Amy W.)
  • Riding a flat in Noho is easier than riding one in the Hills of the Adirondack’s
  • I really don’t need to buy a new bike every-time I go to Placid.
  • The phrase “It could rain at Placid” was never so true as Manganaro’s voice is chanting that in my head for 112 miles.
  • I no longer taunt the weather Gods in Placid (learned that in 03)
  • The worse you are feeling the better the cheering gets (and the more you need it).
  • sideburns get the fans going.
  • Ironman week is the only time that you can get away with wearing compression socks in public (and look slightly hip, I said slightly).
  • Don’t ride it soft!
  •  Nothing like seeing a first timer do the Ironman