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Race Recap: Ironman Lake Placid 2013 (with drawings!)

This race recap is long overdue, I know … however, the delay has been for good reason: recovering from a bike crash and subsequent cookie coma (both to be detailed in my next post).

So without further ado: Garen’s 2013 Ironman Lake Placid recap (with drawings!)

Pre-Race
Lake Placid is a stunningly beautiful and special place. I arrived on Thursday to get a few last minute workouts in and carbo-load on free pancakes. On race morning I was up and at-em at 4 a.m. ready to get after it.

Swim: 1:02:35
I didn’t drown, hooray!

Oh boy was there a lot of contact! This was certainly the roughest Ironman swim start I have ever experienced. Usually I am the one doling out the punishment, but not this day. I was pummeled repeatedly every time I moved near the buoy line for at least the first 800 yards. I finished the first lap in 30 mins on the nose and dove back in for round 2. The second lap started off okay until about the halfway point, when I began to come up on some folks who were still on lap one. The visibility wasn’t great, and I ended up ramming head-first into about two dozen breaststrokers one after another (apologies to anyone I hit, it was unintentional). Needless to say, lap 2 was a lot slower than lap one.

T1: 0:04:37
WTF?!? Why is my lip the size of a melon?

I usually never talk about transitions. They are what they are; you can always go faster to shave off a few secs here or there. That said, this transition provided an all-time first for me in triathlon. First a little background…

Before every race I do a little prayer to the triathlon gods for the things I can’t control, i.e. no flats, crashes, cramps, bonks, vomiting, stomach issues, etc. But on this race day, I learned I left one all-important thing off this list: no bee stings!!! About 5 yards out of the changing tent on my way to the bike… WHAM!! Bee sting to the lip!

A little dazed and confused by what just happened, I grabbed my bike and headed out for a 112-mile jaunt around the Adirondacks (see image of me holding on my lip as I am about to mount the bike).

Bike: 5:16:57
50+ mph on the downhill, weee!

So as I rode out of town my lip swelled up to the size of a cantaloupe. In reality, this may have been a good thing as it kept all of my attention on my lip rather than on pedaling too hard, and the worst mistake you can make in an IM is going out too hard on the bike. After a few miles I realized there was nothing I could do about the bee sting, and I had to chuckle to myself: if this was the worst thing that was going to happen, things would turn out just fine.

I began to dial in my pace about 5 miles out of town and started passing lots of folks, including a few pro women. The first big downhill was certainly hair teeth and eyeballs, as it was (A) a bit crowded, and (B) slick from the light drizzle that was still falling. Being the nut job that I am, I went for it anyways and hit 50+ miles/hour on the last pitch.

The rest of the first bike loop was pretty uneventful, except that I dropped my entire capsule of salt tabs (shoot!), 35 in all, without actually getting one into my mouth. They say Ironman is a race that is death by 1000 cuts and this could certainly have led to a bad outcome (I have always had trouble with cramping in long distance events due to sodium loss). Lucky for me the skies stayed overcast for most of the day, and I switched from drinking water to the sports drink on course to try to get more electrolytes down. I finished the first loop averaging 249 watts (target was 250), so I was right on pace.

Lap 2 was more of the same except a lot lonelier. I hooked into legal draft group (after my NYC Tri experience, I made sure to give extra space to avoid any unwarranted penalties) along the flats and worked my way back towards the climb into town. By the time we hit the climb, my legs were feeling pretty sad, but I still managed to leave behind the group I was with. My power dropped a bit on the second loop, and I averaged 244 watts for the whole the ride (254 watts normalized for all you folks who know what that is, or .341 hp because it sounds a lot cooler).

Side note: I peed 26 times on the bike. Not sure what my bladder was doing all day, but this was certainly a record for me by a long shot.

Run: 3:02:40
Sweet shades… (Terminator mode)

I came out of the transition with my legs feeling great and blasted down the hills out of town. By mile 4 my stomach was telling me I was very low on calories (unusually early in the race for me), so I made sure to up the calories at every aid station. I was kicking out 6:40-6:45 miles like clockwork; unfortunately the eventual winner of my age group was matching me split for split.

By mile 17 my legs felt very sad (this is certainly the hardest part of the Ironman), and my pace dipped a bit. Except for a few 5 sec breaks at the aid stations to ensure I was getting the coke down, I ran the entire marathon without any cramping – a first for me!

Before this race my only specific time-related goal was to put myself in position to run a fast marathon — and hopefully break 3 hours. And I came oooohh so close. That said, I did out-run split Andy Potts (the winner) on the run by 1 second! Now if only I could find a way to out swim him…

Post-Race Notes
I laid it all on the line in the final 3 miles of the run to try to catch the guys ahead of me, and I paid the price dearly after the race was over. I was physically wiped and had to be dragged to the med-tent where I learned I dropped 11 lbs over the course of the day! (likely all water weight) This meant one thing: IV time! I was so dehydrated that my veins had all gone flat, and it took the doc five attempts to get the needle in. Two bags of IV fluid later, I felt like a million bucks! (that stuff is truly amazing)

Race Review: 9:28:58
I ended up finishing in 9h 28m 58s, good for 18th overall including pros (I beat 9 of 20 pros), 7th overall amateur, and 3rd in my age group. My age group was particularly stacked at the pointy end and a very tight race as well. Only 3 mins separated 1st and 3rd. Kudos to the two guys who beat me. They both ran a hell of a race, and I ran out of real estate trying to catch them on the run.

Though I would have loved to have nabbed the age group win, I am really proud of my effort. This was the first Ironman where I felt like I was racing the entire marathon rather than simply trying to survive.

So what was the end result of swimming, getting stunk by a bee, biking, and running???

Yup, that means I get to do it all again on October 12 on NBC at the Ironman World Championships on the big island of Hawaii… hopefully sans bee sting!

Post-Post-Race Notes
In the days following the race I ate more cookies than the entire village of Keebler Elves has made in its lifetime. Aaaahhhhh … recovery.

Follow-Up Teaser
In my next post I will outline how stupid of an idea it is to race 6 days after an Ironman. Synopsis: you will crash your bike resulting in road rash covering 1/4 of your body (with graphic photos!).

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