I wish there was a way to make the Ironman Lake Placid run course come to life as it was not easy and this profile does not do this course any justice. When a race director tells you that if this was a standard marathon, no one would sign up, you know you are in for a fun day if you signed up for a challenge. Oh - I have an idea. Take a hammer, start banging it on your quads and then when you can't take the pain anymore, keep doing it until you see a finish line in front of you with permission to stop the torture. Now you can feel what this course is like. Only kidding....well, not really.
There are great runners and then there are great triathletes. To be a great triathlete, you must be able to execute with your swim-bike-run body and have the mental strength to quite the voices in your head that make you think a million things besides the feeling of "easy" on race day. Regardless of your prior fitness as a triathlete, when you plan to complete an Ironman, your body must be trained to go the distance. Your heart has to be strong enough to stay elevated for a certain amount of time and all organs and metabolic processes must be nourished, hydrated and healthy to go that extra mile...or 140.6. But more than anything, you have to want it. You have to know how to manage negative thoughts and bottle the positive ones. You have to answer the many why's that circle through your mind as to what you are choosing to do on this very special day. And most importantly, you have to check your ego at the door for the Ironman cares only about your ability to manage the controllables on race day and how you overcome the uncontrollables on race day.
With only two "long" runs in my legs (13 and 15 miles off a 2 hour bike) in the past 10 weeks prior to race day due to our 10-day May trip to Czech as well as three months of no running due to my hip/back issues, I was relying on experience for this Ironman. I know I can do the distance and I reminded myself that in training that I can only race with my current level of fitness. I didn't need to prove anything to myself in training but instead, save my best effort for race day. You can only imagine the thoughts in my head as to me thinking I was not ready for this race but as I approached race day, I searched really hard for the one and only reason why it may all work.
I stuck to my strategy of run/walk, knowing that that was how I trained my body and that is how my body would perform the best on race day. Kendra (2nd amateur) ran past me on River rd and she encouraged me to go with her. She was in my age group and I knew she would run me down and fly right by me but her encouraging words were great but I had to turn down the offer and tell her to run strong without me.
After a PR swim and one of my best executed 112 mile rides on a very challenging course, all I had in front of me was 26.2 miles of running. However, with my quads screaming at me for 25 of those miles, I had over 3.5 hours to remind myself how much I love what my body allows me to do. Not always does my body corporate and I have to accept that. Racing the Ironman distance is a gift and I never take that for granted. I love to push my body but it doesn't always respond the way I imagine and that's just part of the journey. I believe that the Ironman is a special event in that only the athlete can figure out how to get to the finishing line. Fatigue is going to be your #1 enemy on race day but without good mental strength, nutrition and pacing, there can be a lot more problems than your muscles getting tired.
As I approached the transition tent, I looked around and saw only volunteers. I had the tent to myself and it occurred to me that I was in a great place for a Kona spot. I was aware of some of my competition but of course, I can't predict everyone's race and I can only spend energy on my own. There were very few bikes in the transition area and after an hour of swimming and around 5:45 of biking....it was time to execute my plan.
I thanked the volunteers after I put on clean socks, my Brooks Launch running shoes, my visor and race belt w/ number and grabbed my two handheld flasks, each with ~150 calories in them (+ 3 gels in my pockets). As I left transition, I saw a mass of spectators and my legs knew it was time to run. I felt great!!
My Garmin 910xt continued to run on multisport zone and I switched over the screen to see the same things I see in training:
I don't know why but when I race, I am always keeping an eye on my time...that is for swim and for bike. I always think about the time of the day and do some math in my head throughout the race as to what time of the day it is (it goes by quickly!) but for some reason, in 5 Ironman's, I have never looked at my watch for my total time or run time.
In my opinion, the marathon run in an ironman is not to be "raced" for most athletes. It is to be paced in a way that your body resists fatigue as much as possible. I always say that IM racing is not about the fastest athlete but who slows down the least. In my case, I knew what my current level of fitness was going in and that I had endurance. What I didn't have was a few 16 milers that I would have liked to have complete in my training (Even with a healthy body, I do not recommend more than 2.5 hours of running in prep for an IM). But the past was gone and all I could do was to pace myself the best possible and rely on experience and what I know about the Ironman.
What I know is that when you race an Ironman, you are often handicapped by physical limitations. Not so much by lactic acid being produced as very little of the IM is anaerobic (maybe parts of the swim) but instead, your aerobic capacity is limited by your ability (or lack thereof) to fuel and pace yourself in order to maintain good form and focus throughout 140.6 miles. With 5 Ironmans behind me, I know what it feels like to dig.....really really deep. When the body is hurting so bad and the mind says enough is enough. It's a constant arguement in your mind, over and over for the mind to shut-up about the pain, aches and fatigue and to just let the body do its thing. Amazingly, I have learned that I am only limited by my mind on race day and that is why I never push myself with training through an injury. I LOVE having my mind as my only limiter on race day for I know if I can overcome those thoughts, my body can continue to move forward and that's what the IM is all about. Move yourself mile by mile until you cover 140.6 miles and cross a finishing line.
As for Karel, this was all new territory for him. But, I had so much confidence in him that he could do it. I just couldn't wait to see him on the course to know that we were going to do this together.
This is what happens when you do your first IM....you feel GREAT on the first 6 miles....and think this is going to be a walk in the park...
Oh, hello second loop! Karel told me that all he thought about was wanting the run to be over.
I So wish I was there to see Karel cross the finish line...almost breaking 10 hours in his first Ironman!
13th age group (35-39)
Run: 3:26:19 (first marathon!)
Despite the constant ache in my quads....
The doubts in my head....
And the 26.2 miles ahead of me.
I managed to find that painful place where I could just dig deep and zone out. I was receiving cheers from the crowds (Thank you Ange, Mary, Jennifer, Mike, Duran, Laura and anyone else who cheered) as well as the pro and age group girls who were cheering me on during their race, as I know they knew that I wanted a Kona slot and I was willing to work hard for it.
Although I respect the distance, I love to race the Ironman. The course was so beautiful that I tried to enjoy it but it was not as enjoyed as pre race thanks to the emotions and fatigue I was feeling throughout the run. With a mix of walking and running (~11 minutes of total walking when I reviewed my Training Peaks file, with no more than on average, about 20-30 seconds at one time and my longest walk being 43 seconds at mile 15 and 3 walks at mile 22 for a total of 1:30 within that mile) I can't really describe what got me through this run aside from trusting my body that it knew what to do on this day.
I knew I would not be able to run a "fast" marathon so I decided if I wanted to be in the running (literally) for a Kona spot, I had to run on the hills, walk before I really needed to walk and find a very special reason why I wanted this Kona slot and why all this pain would be worth it.
With a few miles to go, my body was tired. It was empty despite a perfect fueling strategy and no nutrition issues. I had some coke here and there, I only drank water at the aid stations and I received electrolytes and carbs from my sport drinks and gels.
The first 6 miles were comfortable, I managed to stay steady. Miles 6-10 were hard. My quads starting to hurt badly from the pounding, likely from the downhills that occurred within the first few miles. Then miles 12 and 13 were fun...hard, but fun as I was craving the cheers from the crowds to give me energy that I didn't have. I am not quite sure when I was passed by Megan (3rd place) but it was somewhere in the first loop. Then as I made my way back down the hills to start the 2nd loop, I knew this was going to be a strong race for me...not for the finishing time that I had no idea of, but instead, because I was actually digging deep when I could easily stop, walk and drop.
I managed to break down each mile just like I do in training and I gave myself my opportunities to walk to shake out my legs and take in nutrition. I then looked forward to running again as I was quickly moving closer to completing this Ironman. No mile was easy but some miles came faster than others. The volunteers were great and with more people on the course for the 2nd loop, I was thankful to be around so many other inspiring athletes reaching the same finishing line.
Every time I walked, I looked behind me. Luckily, no one in sight. I remembered getting passed by a few girls but their bib numbers assured me that they were not in my age group. I was looking for the 600-700 bib numbers as those were my competition for the day.
Passing mile 15 was an exciting time as that was my longest run in training. I welcomed mile 20 because that seems to be the point when you can mentally grasp that you only have a 10K to go. Yes, with 120 miles behind you, only running 6 miles is possible yet still a distant thought with what's to come on the course.
I wanted to see mile 22 so badly as I knew I was on the home stretch. Finally off the painful rollers of river road which was often lonely yet peaceful. Nearing town, my body was talking to me yet I felt like I was still running strong or at least, moving forward (same thing, right? I thought to myself).
I shuffled my way up the hill which supposedly had a 16% grade and then made a left turn to shuffle up another hill to see the chute to the finish, only to make an annoying left turn for 2 more miles which in my mind was just evil with less than 2 miles to go. Uggggg....here I go!!!
With 1 mile to go, I stopped to walk as my legs had nothing. I stopped right in front of the mile 25 sign and just begged my body to hang in there. After running back up a series of climbs for the second time to get to mile 25, I felt like I had given everything to hold my 4th place position after the bike (being passed twice on the run). Still not knowing the times of others for when they started in the rolling start, I knew that my 4th place position was likely in jeopardy. Three Kona slots for my age group and Katie already receiving her slot at Eagleman. That means 4th place is the "worst" place I can be in with 1 mile to go. Absolutely NO room for error and certainly my decision to walk at mile 25 was on my mind but I had no other choice.
I made the turn around just over 25 miles and with less than a mile to go, there they were. Jessica and Lesley. I had never met, seen or heard of these girls til the award ceremony but I knew them well enough at the turnaround that they were coming to get me.
I knew that with the rolling start I would 100% get to race my own race but I wouldn't know when others started and how their finishing times with affect my times (in other words, would I finish ahead of someone to have them bump me out of my place due to me having a faster swim but not a faster bike or run).
They were running fast, almost effortless and I knew it was time. As much as I wanted to cruise the last mile and enjoy my 6th Ironman finishing line...I sprinted as hard as I could, with everything I didn't have.
It was time....I switched over my Garmin before entering the oval for the last run to the finish line and my clock read 10:40.....OMG!!!
My legs exploded with energy as if I was starting mile 1 of a 5K. Could this really be true? Am I really going to have an almost 10 minute PR?
Athletes always say at the finish line that there was no possible way that they could have gone an inch further. I completely collapsed at the finishing line but did not need medical attention. I officially gave my body permission to stop. 100% stop. At mile 25, I stopped but had to move forward. 140.6 miles completed in 10 hours and 43 minutes.
Swim: 1:01.02 (PR)
Bike: 5:46:11 (strong ride on a tough course)
Run: 3:48:36 (PR)
5th age group (30-35)
12th amateur female
A few more pics from friends...thank you!
Oh, and my competition chasing me down.....
4th place (Jessica): 10:43.08
5th place (me): 10:43.14
6th place (Lesley): 10:43:26
Never think about the reasons why it can't work. There will be a reason why it will...you just have to believe in it...or spend 140.6 miles figuring it out.
Kona bound for the 3rd time. Thank you body.
Run splits for me:
8:43 pace, 3:48:36 finish time
Best 3 hours (including walks): 8:37 min/mile pace (20.88 miles)
Best 2 hours (including walks): 8:28 min/mile pace (14 miles)
Best 90 minutes (including walks): 8:29 min/mile pace
Average HR 147
Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:48
Mile 3: 7:43
Mile 4: 8:10
Mile 5: 8:00 (started walking here for 20-30 seconds at a time)
Mile 6: 8:18
Mile 7: 8:38
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9: 8:56
Mile 10: 9:12
Mile 11: 8:58
Mile 12: 9:13
Mile 13: 8:22
Mile 14: 8:15
Mile 15: 8:40
Mile 16: 8:21
Mile 17: 8:54
Mile 18: 8:45
Mile 19: 9:20
Mile 20: 9:17
Mile 21: 8:53
Mile 22: 9:27
Mile 23: 9:36
Mile 24: 9:21
Mile 25: 9:45
Mile 26: 8:28
(all splits include walk breaks - I reviewed my Training Peaks file to look at my walk breaks and although I started walking around mile 3 or 4, I ended up walking 25 times and from my math guessing, it was around 11 minutes of total intentional/planned walking. Not to shabby to still end up with my best run off the bike!)
Love it when a plan works. The hard part is trusting yourself that you have the mental strength to execute.
Never stop working hard for your goals and believing in yourself that you can get to where you want to be in life.