When I decided last year I wanted to do an ironman-distance triathlon, I was originally
thinking Chesapeakeman or Beach2Battleship, but Linda Giampalmo and Kim Sheridan convinced me that I should do Lake Placid instead (I don't know if they were trying to convince me of that, but it was the effect). Being impatient and generally busy, I opted for the charity slot option and so made my tithe to the WTC.
Starting last summer, I had been using the Endurance Nation training plans, which favor higher intensity over volume. I had a pretty good off-season and felt like I made good gains. Columbia went really well for me, as did Eagleman (despite the heat), although I was feeling a bit overtrained after Columbia; having issues hitting all my intensity targets for workouts.
I took a 3 week taper leading into IMLP, first cutting down volume by 1/3rd, then another 1/3rd, with the final week consisting of a swim and a run on Monday, a low-intensity 90 minute brick on Tuesday, a very quick treadmill run on Wednesday before I drove up to Placid, and a 20 minute swim/60 minute ride on Thursday in Placid. Friday and Saturday I took completely off -- we stayed in Jay, so getting into Placid was a pain otherwise I probably would have done a quick swim on Friday.
The hardest part of the taper for me wasn't the antsy feeling, but the feeling like I was getting bloated and fat. I wasn't carb-loading as a strategy, but it still felt like everything I put in my mouth was just hanging around on my belly. This was particularly hard with the extraordinary hospitality (and epic smorgasborg of food) from the gang on Marcy Street. Mark, Tom, Coleen, Bob, Sadj, Greg, Kathy, Alex, and Roseelia (spl?) were so incredibly hospitible. It was fantastic.
I also had the worlds best race support EVER from Susie and Dawn. They were truly invaluable and made the logistics of the race very easy for me in so many ways. If anyone ever offers to crew a race for you, you should a) say yes and b) hope they do half the job Susie and Dawn did.
Leading into the race there was a lot of discussion about what to put in transition bags. I'd raced a half that used t-bags before (grand columbian in washington state), so it wasn't an entirely foreign concept to me. Given all the spreadsheets floating around, I thought it might be interesting to catalogue what went into my bags:
o On the bike
- Aerolite, filled with water
- Garmin, powered on
- One 7 scoop bottle of Infinit (875 calories) on seat tube, frozen
- One gel flask with EFS Liquidshot on top-tube
- Bento with
- snap-top container with Scaps (salt tabs)
- 1 caffeinated gel
- baggie of tums
- Flat kit (2 tubes, multitool, self-adehisive patch, dollar bill, bike chain quick link, 2 CO2s)
o Swim-Bike Bag
- Sunglasses folded into the inner webbing so they wouldn't get broken if someone stepped on the bag
- Race belt with bib number
o Bike Special Needs Bag
- One 7 scoop bottle of Infinit (frozen)
- One 7 scoop bottle of Infinit (unmixed, as backup, in case the other bottle got stepped on)
- One gel flask with EFS Liquidshot
- 2 tubes
- 2 CO2s
- baggie of Scaps, in case I lost my container on the road
o Bike-Run Bag
- Sample tube of Aquaphor
- Garmin watch
o Run Special Needs Bag
- Sample tube of Aquaphor
Day of Race
I decided for this race that I wanted to enter with a pretty clean GI tract, so I ate my last big meal at noon on Saturday. For dinner Saturday night I had a double-sized peanut butter, banana, Muscle Milk smoothie and then cheated a tiny bit with a bite or two of the steak and smores that the non-racers in the house were eating. In bed at 9, asleep by 10, then up at 1am to down another blueberry-banana smoothie (no dairy, just fruit and ice). Back to sleep to get up at 3:45. I was awoken by Dawn and Suzie turning on a light outside the bedroom. Rolled over to look at my clock - 4:05! How was that possible with my alarm set for 3:45? I had set it for 3:45 PM. Geez. I'm a lucky man to have such good support, that's all I can say.
Up, coffee and bagel in me, into the trisuit and off to drive into Placid. Dropped off my special needs bags, got body-marked, stopped at transition to check my tire inflations and mount my nutrition and computer, then off to the mid-maryland tent.
All week long we had been discussing whether the race would be wetsuit legal. Mark thought it wouldn't be, I was sure it would. Well, 5am rolls around and they dip the water at 77. No wetsuits if you want Kona spots. Now, I know that I'm nowhere near fast enough to come within spitting distance of a KQ slot, but my skewed sense of fair play told me that I came here to see how I could do against the field. So no wetsuit it was.
MMTC tent was great - thanks Jennifer and Aldona for organizing everything. I sunscreened up, lubed up with Aquaphor, then realized I didn't have a safety pin to backup the velcro closure on the timing chip. Thanks to Pat and George for hooking me up with a spare. A caffeinated gel, 20 oz of g2 and 3 Sportslegs caps 20 minutes before the wave start, then it was off to cross the timing mats.
Swim (1:20:07, 211/289 AG)
The swim was, in a word, brutal. The roughest swim I've every done, and rough throughout the entire length of it. As we lined up for the deep water start, it was really congested. I would say that 80%+ of the field were wearing wetsuits, and so I was getting pushed down and held under alot. When you're wearing a wetsuit and get pushed under, you bob back up. When you're wearing a swimskin, you don't. It was pretty claustraphobic.
When the gun went off, I went at it, trying mainly to not kick anyone too hard and to protect my head and hands from being kicked. There was contact at every stoke. I was too far from the cable to see it, but nonetheless didn't need to sight (didn't want to slow to sight) with all the people around me. It was just go-with-the-flow. The turn buoy was really brutal. Again, being pushed down and held under. I generally try to be rather careful about my kick when I swim in a pack - I don't like being kicked and don't feel like having a karmic imbalance on the matter. Here all bets were off. After 25 meters or so of barely being able to breathe, I moved to a more powerful kick and it seemed to discourage people from swimming over me. First lap finished in about 45:00, which was extremely disappointing for me (I was hoping for sub-1:20 swim).
Second lap traffic was thin enough that with a bit of fighting I could get within sighting distance of the cable and stay on it. I also fought a bit for a good draft, which helped. The turn buoy was just as rough as in the first lap, but I entered it with a strong defensive kick going, which really helped manage things. Stayed on the cable coming back in and stepped on dry land with 1:19 on the clock - my fastest 1900m ever in a race.
I think it's dangerous to have a mixed wetsuit/non-wetsuit mass start. Wetsuited swimmers operate under rather different buoyancy conditions than wetsuited swimmers, and it creates an environment where it's too easy for people to accidentally endanger other competitors.
I used a wetsuit stripper to help get my swim-skin off, then it was a quarter mile or so jog to the the t-bags and then into the changing tents. The Ironman changing tent scene is a special circle of Dante's Hell. Hot, dark, smelly, cramped. Yuck. Helmet on, sunglasses on, race belt on, swimskin and goggles into the bag.
Despite them calling out my number for bike delivery, I had to go get my own bike off the rack, then a jog with it to the transition exit. The exit was a total traffic jam. I literally stood there in line for well over a minute, unmoving, waiting to move forward. Crazy stuff.
Bike (6:26:42, 208/289 AG)
My plan was to try and ride the whole thing steady at 175 watts, not exceeding 200 watts on the hills.
Heeding Mark's advice, I took it very easy navigating out of transition and down the first steep turn. Then it was off to work. Up the hills leading out of town (no slouches, those) and then onto the Keene descent. As promised, the Keene descent is fast, but I thought the conditions of the road were good and two of three total lanes were closed, so I felt quite safe. I rode the descent on the bullhorns, in a deep tuck, maintaining about 35mph for the 7 miles, with peaks around 45mph.
From there it's a bit of a slog from Keene through Upper Jay and into Jay, largely flat-to-uphill, in a moderately unrelenting way. I have my Garmin set to beep every 15 minutes, and was taking in Infinit on that interval. I had a bit of nausea, but so far it was manageable. After the out-and-back at Jay, I stopped to use the restroom, then continued on the climb from Jay to Wilmington. This, to me, is the hardest part of the course. I think the hills feel steeper than elsewhere and it's more like western hoco than anywhere else in the route.
On Friday I had decided to use a bento for organizing my Scaps, gel, tums, etc (normally I carry them in my singlet). This necessitated moving my gel flask closer to my seat on the top tube. Well, this in turn caused me to get a bit of gel spray on the back of my knee, which dried and started causing my knee to adhere to itself on my pedal upstroke and then 'tear apart' on the downstroke. Very annoying. I kept having to rinse it when I refilled my aerolite bottle with water at waterstops.
From there into Wilmington for a very quick out-and-back and then start the return to Placid. The road conditions in Wilmington are really really bad with broken pavement for a couple miles. Very unpleasant. After that it's stair stepped climbs up into Placid. I really don't think these are all that bad. The individual climbs are all short and the recoveries substantial. This flew by, although my nausea was not improving. Although I wasn't having any issues with my hands swelling, I increased my Scap intake from one every hour to one every half-hour and took some tums. I crested the Bears and saw our bananas at the top of the hill. A quick mid-maryland shout-out and it was on to Mirror Lake Drive.
After a relatively quiet ride on the bike, the energy on MLD was crazy. People everywhere, cheering and hollering. I stopped at special needs and changed my feed bottle. With my touch of nausea I had barely touched my gel, so I left everything else in the bag. I passed by the MMTC tent next, saw Pei cheering me on like a mad woman and got a very big MMTC shout-out from the folks at the tent. Super-high energy. As I crossed the half-way point, I was at 3:10 and felt like for sure I could negative split the ride, as I knew I had been under my power targets.
Sadly, that proved not to be the case. The second lap things started to get warmer and my nausea got worse and my drive/energy started to wain. I kept on top of my nutrition plan and was able to climb reasonably well, but just didn't have the same oomph on the flats and rollers as I would expect.
First loop finished in ~3:10, second loop in ~3:15, 171 and 160 watts NP respectively. One pee break on each loop. Two concentrated bottles of infinit, ~8 Scaps, a little bit of Liquidshot, and a caffeinated Hammer gel at the mid-point.
Pulled into T2 and my legs felt a bit iffy. Took my time in transition putting on my shoes and visor and stashing my gear, then let the sunscreen guy lube me up extra good.
Run (4:37:18, 186/289 AG)
My plan for the run was to walk all the waterstops, and possibly the hills. Out of transition is a big drop onto the run course, and so I made sure to hit it at a very easy jog so as to not burn myself out. My goal was to run the first 6 miles at 10:00-10:30 (depending on the heat), then up it to 9:30s after that. I knew by this time that my stretch goal of breaking 12:00 was out the window, but sub-13/finish-with-the-sun-in-the-sky seemed entirely attainable if I didn't blow up on the run. I got the Garmin rolling and worked on hitting a really really easy pace.
Right out of transition I passed Suzy Serpico, looking awesome and on her way to her 2nd place AG finish (top-10 overall for the women - go Suzy!). I locked pace with one the Endurance Nation guys and we ran together for about a mile before he paused to say hi to his family on the run route.
I kept with my plan of walking each water stop, alternating coke+water and water at each, and taking an Scap every hour. When the nausea started coming back, I'd skip the coke for one stop. I stayed away from everything else.
Shortly after the first turn around, I decided to use the restroom to see if that would help. I ended up wasting about 2 minutes there and decided if I really needed to go, my body would just do it.
Back up onto Mirror Drive was awesome. The cheering kept every body really motivated. It was great to see my family and Dawn and Suzie.
After that it was another loop of the same thing. I thought that would make it harder (I generally hate loops), but it was actuallu quite nice. I knew exactly how long River Road would be, how hard the hills would be, where to pump a bit of extra effort and where to take it easy.
I kept a pretty even pace across the entire run. Both loops had materially the same split. I never did manage to kick up the pace past my initial pace - I was so scared of blowing up that I didn't want to risk it. I ended up running all of the hills though, only walking the waterstops for 15-60" each, which felt good.
I saw lots of folks on the run - Lisa Farias (who overtook me about mile 20), Tom Kish (who I overtook about mile 21-22), Kim, Kathi, Alice, Phil. Lots of Mid Maryland callouts all the way. Saw Mike Matney out supporting his athletes as well, which was awesome.
At the final turn-around, I decided to try and empty what was in the tank and ran the last 1/2 - 3/4 mile ar a sub-8:00 pace. I probably left a little too much on the table on the run course, but am glad I did that versus blowing up and having to walk in the last couple miles.
The finish in the oval is awesome. Bob and Sadj caught me at the finish line, and Pei, Jean and the kids were waiting for me in the stands.
What a great race! I had a really great time; and as rumored, the energy at an Ironman event (at least this one) is really really incredible. I don't think I'll do another IM in 2012, but I will keep my eye on it for 2013.
Everyone talks about the 'dark place' you hit around mile 18-20 in the marathon. I hit that hard when I ran Space Coast last year, but here I never reached that place. Again, it's probably that I didn't run it hard enough, but this time things stayed fully together the whole way. Not that it didn't hurt. :-)
It's also interesting to note that I feel much better (physically) after this race than I did after Eagleman. Maybe another indication I should have pushed harder. The day after I rode home for 10 hours in the car, and today I flew to California for work. No post-race 'hangover' and just some soreness in my quads, hams and calves.
Despite my nausea throughout the race, I felt like my nutrition strategy, particularly on the run, worked pretty well. Mark and Kish both also experienced bad nausea, and Mark put forward that it might have been related to how violent the swim was. I liked the liquid-diet-the-night-before as well. My next race I'm going to go strictly liquid for at least 12 hours before race start and see if I can have a completely clean GI tract to start.
I was also happy with how my run turned out. I could have/should have pushed harder, but I felt like the walk-the-waterstops method worked really well. I probably could have shortened the amount of walk at the stops (kept it strictly to under 30"), and run harder in between.
It's a great race. Do it. You know you want to. I'm ready to do it again.