Lake Placid 2010 – will somebody “pinch me”

Lake Placid 2010 – will somebody “pinch me”

Several days have gone by and Im still in shock. I still can’t believe that I qualified for the World Championship in Kona, the freakin Hawaiian Ironman. I am so high that I have yet to feel an ounce of pain from the race. Maybe Im still sleeping and this is just a dream. Is it weird that Im blogging from my pillow? …………. That explains the drool on my keyboard.

Let’s rewind 13 months. Last June I decided to do it right and start training for Lake Placid early. I hired Pro triathlete Cait Snow from QT2 systems (who better than the winner of the 2008 LP Ironman). For 16 years I have been self coached and I just wanted to try to improve upon my past goals which got me within 6 minutes of Kona. Because I was self coached, I was known to overtrain the run and end up injured before the big races. QT2 has a much more gentle approach to training with a gradual build and most importantly they make you train easy on recovery days (recovery was never in my dictionary, hence the crappy Ironman runs). For 13 months I followed the plan spot on. I saw my run get better and my bike started to get slightly slower. The PR’s in the half marathons were awesome, but the bike was starting to scare me. But, I stuck with it and just about a month ago the bike started to come around as my rides got longer. Not that the bike wasn’t good, it was the lack of power from the loss of weight over the year. My legs were thinning down from all the running and those sticks weren’t turning over the big ring as easily anymore. I was also learning to ride aerobic instead of anaerobic. Another reason why my run had suffered in the past. Enough of this crap ……… Let’s get to race day.

Race morning:
It all started at 3:30AM. I ate breakfast and took some time to visualize how I was going to attack the day. After that we geared up for our final departure. Tom, Patty, Kelly and I headed up to Transition (training is over, now it’s showtime). Wow, this day is finally here. It seems like it took forever to come, but now it is happening so fast. Tom and I help each other get our bikes ready and it’s off to body marking and some relax time while all the people are rushing around. The only thing I gotta do is hit the porta john one last time, but my body is saying “not yet”. With about a half hour to go, I finally decide to run down to special needs area to give it a shot. I jump into line with Dave Couture. As we are chatting I notice that the line isn’t moving to quickly. I finally get my turn at around quarter of 7 (the race starts at 7). I now have to sprint down the street to Kelly who has my wetsuit. She has the look of horror on her face, so I try to play it cool and tell her that I have plenty of time. As Im saying this the cannon goes off (this was the Pro start which was 10 minutes before we go). After a 5 minute struggle, we get the suit on and I am off. I am running through the crowd, gently pushing people out of my way (sorry women and children). I get to the beach and everyone is already in the water. I somehow snaked my way through everybody and got a spot on the front line. No time for nerves, they are already doing the National Anthem.

The Cannon goes off and here we go. The start was insane! There were close to 3,000 swimmers and I am just trying to hustle so I don’t get swum over. I went out fast, real fast, way to fast. At about 800 yds. into the swim I am already overheating. This is not a good sign, so I slightly back off and just settled in for the next 2 miles. Because Im a mid pack swimmer, there is some serious traffic around me. You can’t go faster, slower, right or left. You just have to stay where you are and protect your position from the occasional person who starts to swim to close. I shouldn’t say occasional …….. protect your line for 2.4 miles or you will get beat to death. The first lap took forever (because I went to hard). The second lap flew by and I wasn’t as hot. I complete the swim and forget to look at the clock. Now I have no clue of how I did. Im assuming that my swim sorta sucked. My morning is not going so great. But, now the wetsuit is off and I get to ride my bike once I get through transition. I get to the transition tent and it is packed. It’s me and all the other mid packers. There isn’t a chair in sight, so I decide to run to the other end and just grab a spot on the ground. I find a chair and I dump out all my cycling gear. I put on what I need and I head over for my bike. Usually a volunteer is waiting with your bike, but that wasn’t the case today with all the traffic. I didn’t bother waiting and ran to my rack and grabbed it myself. The morning just keeps getting worse ………… That’s how it goes in Ironman, you can’t expect ……. the unexpected.

At this point I am in 700th overall and 83rd in my division (I don’t know this during the race).

Im actually glad that I didn’t know that. I might have cried. My swim was 1:08 (not as bad as I thought it was).

The bike started off insane. There were bikes everywhere. People are passing people and It is slightly chaotic. So, I just settle into a groove and I feel good, real good. Okay, it’s mile 2 of the bike (I should feel good). Within the first few miles you start the 6-8 mile climb out of the city to the top of the big downhill. My cadence feels smooth on the climb and before I know it, Im at the top (it always feels good on the first lap). As I start the descend, so does the rain. This is going to get tricky. There are a ton of bikers and its raining. I somehow was able to gently weave my way through everyone and still managed to get up to about 48 mph in some sections (felt like a roller coaster ride). At the bottom we turn onto the flat section by the river. This area is fairly fast and I am picking people off as fast as I can see them. I continue onto the new out and back and it feels effortless and I am keeping to my numbers on the flat sections. The out and backs are awesome because you get a chance to see who’s ahead of you and who’s behind you. I round the cone at the turnaround and notice that I now have a headwind. Not so effortless anymore. I would rather no wind at all. Just after mile 35 you take a right turn in Jay and the fun begins. This is where you start the climb to Hazelton. Today the climb was slightly tougher because there was a steady headwind. My cadence was spot on and the climb went well. Before I know it Im on Rt.86 and I only have about 10 miles to complete the first 56 mile loop. These next 10 miles are slightly hilly, but we get the added bonus of a pretty strong headwind which makes the hills feel a lot bigger than they are. I stick to my power numbers and I cruise up the hills thinking “when am I going to start feeling the pain”? I complete the lap in around 2:35 and I am pumped. Cait wanted me to shoot for around a 5:36 bike split (so this gives me 3:01 to complete lap 2). The 2nd loop out of town always hurts, but today was a different story I was climbing like it was my first loop and I keep waiting for the hurt to start. Just before the top of the climb my chain get stuck between my frame and my smallest cog. I try to shift and gently pedal, but it is jammed. So I unclipped and kept the pressure off the chain and just rolled to a stop. I don’t need a broken chain wrecking my day. I pull over and pull it back on to the cog and off I go (I hate getting my hands dirty “with chain grease”). Now I get to do the big downhill with a lot less cyclists, no rain and a slight tailwind which helped jet me downhill. At 1 point I clocked 52 mph (I will admit, it felt really fast on the corners). Im now at mile 70 and the next 15 miles are really nice with the tailwind. Once on the Out and back I get to see who’s ahead of me. This really helps to keep you focused and also helps me to keep my power numbers in check. The next thing I know Im at mile 85 at the turnaround. The next 5 miles are a little slower with the slight head/cross wind, but my legs are still Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good (lame Nickelback reference). I bang the right in Jay and the climbing begins. It feels good to climb after 20 miles of flats. I get the top at Hazelton and my legs are starting to get tired with about 12 miles to go. This is a good sign that I have pushed, but not to hard. My final 12 miles are tough with the headwind and the climbing. I continue fueling and I kick it down a notch to get ready for the marathon. I hit the city and the crowds are insane. I finish the bike in 5:15 and I can’t believe that I rode that well. Im still not sure how Im doing but I have a good feeling that I have put myself into a shot at a Kona slot. Rewind to 2004, I got myself into Kona slot as I got off the bike. But I ran a 3:56 marathon and it was quickly taken away. So, this time I am going to have to fight a little harder on the run.

At this point I am 75th overall and 7th in my division. There are 8 slots in my division for Kona.

The Run:
This time into the transition tent I have plenty of room, I even have my own volunteer. He unpacks my bag and I switch my shoes, put on the visor and grab my nutrition. I head out on the run and the legs feel pretty fresh. The first mile is fast because it is a steep downhill. I see Paul and Ryan in the speedos and I high five them and then I giggle. Now it is off to work I got to run a marathon. Jesse, Andy and Pat are on the hill and are signaling me to back off and take it out easy. The plan is to go out at 7:30’s. Hold that pace for as long as possible. It sounds pretty easy, but I know that loop 2 of the run will be hell (after swimming 2.4 and biking 112 miles). So I stick to the pacing plan. The first 5.5 miles flew by. I hit the out and back and started my way back into the city. The first big uphill was at mile 9 and I felt great on it. the next few miles are flat and then you climb into the city at around mile 11. This climb is torture. I somehow ran the hill at  a good clip and before I knew it I was rounding the corner at the LP Brewrey for the final 2 miles of the first 13.1 mile loop. The first lap went well and I passed someone in my division. Now I know that I only have to run 13.1 more miles at a good pace and I have a shot at Kona. As I start the downhill I feel like I want to cry. My quads are now smoked and the downhills are very painful. This is going to get ugly. It now is impossible to tell how you are doing now with all the athletes that are running their first lap. You can’t tell who is who. So my plan is to just keep running. I am running, but I can no longer visualize much. I am in the deepest darkest place and I know that all my training has come down to this and I can not give in. As I hit mile 20 the legs are starting to go (this is normal). I want to walk so bad, but I can not give up a position this far into the race. All I could picture was a sweater. My sweater had a piece of yarn sticking out at the waist area and everytime you tugged on it, it was unraveling. Now the race was to get to the finish line before the yarn made it to my neck and my sweater was gone. I got to mile 22 and my garmin was showing a 7:59 average pace for the first 22 miles. I now know that I am having the race of my life and I just need to dig deep for 4 more miles. I hit the mile 22 hill and I had to walk part of it as my leg started to spasm. As I crested the top, I got back into a running groove and I continued on past the Econolodge (all you guys were awesome) and then back to the hill in the city. As I started the hill my legs shut down for a moment. But, I wasn’t going to give in. So I put my head down and I ran the hill knowing that this was my final climb of the day. Thanks to my friends who were on the hill cheering, I accumulated as much energy as I could from all of you and I headed out on the final 2 mile out and back. My mind is saying pick up the pace, but my quads are saying “NOT”. my inner thighs are starting spasm bad. I slow down a little and make it to the turnaround. I now can see who is hunting me down and Im going to assume that they are all on their final lap also. Just after mile 25 I pick the pace up again. This time the legs lock up and I have to stop dead in the road. “please don’t do this to me” is what I was chanting. I start to jog and they seize up again. I can see the Olympic Oval and I almost have a tear in my eye because I can’t move a step. I wait about 15 seconds then I start off walking, then I go into a jog, then I get back to running (really just a fast jog). I stay relaxed and I make it to the Olympic Oval. I give a quick glance back and nobody is on my heals (thank God, I am not in the mood to sprint). I enter the Oval and all my pain has left my body. I am now floating on a cloud. I round the final corner and all I see is a huge group of Cyclonauts cheering me on in the stands. WOW, that was cool. I look up and I see the clock, it reads 10 hours 12 minutes. WOW, that is my best time by 18 minutes. I hit the finish line and the volunteers stop me dead in my tracks to grab my chip. BAM, there goes the quads into a full seizure. 2 guys grab me and carry me into the med tent. They made me drink 3 bottles of water and the I was released. I felt great (aside from the tender quads). I also drank my first beer in 2 months and I didn’t pass out.

Ryan and Paulito went to check the results and I was 6th in my division. If this is true, I am packing my bags for the World Championship in Hawaii. Well, it was true.

I still need to be pinched once in a while to make sure that Im not dreaming.

I know that most of you thought I was going to do it, but I still had to do it. That is why I never wanted to talk about it. I feel that it can curse you when you think you will get there. All it takes is a flat tire, broken chain, nutrition problem on the run, etc….

All the sacrifices paid off (no beer, no jack, no McDonalds, no peppermint bark for 2 months). Now I get a week off and it’s back to the grind. Kona is in 10 weeks and then I will attempt the Florida Ironman 4 weeks after that. Not worried about time for either of these races. I already had the race of my life.

Thanks to all who came to Placid to watch, Mark, Mikki and the Salmons for putting up with us racers in the condo, everyone from the team who raced and helped me keep focused during those dark moments. Everyone who tracked me online and to all the people who motivated and supported me during this 13 month journey. Your kind words meant a lot. Cait Snow gets a special thanks for putting up with me for 13 months and she now has me for 3 more.

Good thing Kelly does this crazy sport or I might have been booted (I think I was booted a few times) with all the hours that I spent training. Little added bonus ………… she get to go to Kona for our 25th wedding anniversary (yes, Im freakin old). Another big thanks to Rich for meeting me for all my early morning swims and the long runs on Sunday’s (he’s in Ironman shape).

PS………. Rich I will need you to stick with it until November 6th (pretty please). Its only 16 straight months of training.

Aloha ……………… Good Stuff