I will start by reminding myself that any Ironman finish is a good finish. Just because the day didn’t turn out as I hoped, doesn’t make it a bad race for me, in fact I wound up with a new PR despite all that went wrong.
This year I was ready. All parts of my body intact, no dislocations or problems, I wasn’t nervous at all, in fact I really couldn’t wait for Sunday morning. I also had the benefit of competing at Lake Placid the last 3 years in a row so I knew what to expect and helped a lot.
The weather forecast for race day was a 50% chance of rain but we lucked out big time in that it rained during the swim (which I didn’t notice) and a little toward the end of the run (which felt great). The temperature was in the upper 70’s with very little humidity,,, absolutely perfect!
The swim for the first time in 15 years was not a mass start, you lined yourself up in a group under a sign with projected swim finish time, I chose 1:15-1:20 even though I felt I could do better. This year wetsuits were legal and the water felt perfect in my cut off. Once I crossed the timing mat at the water’s edge my race started. I found open water to swim quickly but I drafted every chance I could with no problems. I enjoy swimming and conditions were perfect but this is the longest most boring aspect of the race for me. This year the buoy’s had numbers on them and I’m pretty sure they were spaced every hundred yards which is nice, but on the second lap of the swim it also reminded me how much farther I have to go. It’s easy to expend too much of your energy early in the day on the swim so I swam at a comfortable pace and kept on course as best I could. I exited the water this year feeling good, arms a little tired but much better than other years.
2.4 mile swim time, 1hr 23min.
Once you’re out of the water, running to transition T1 is awesome! The crowd lines up on both sides of the streets with cowbells, signs and cheers. This year my daughter Laura and training partners (Ashley, Heather and Cari) came up to see the race and positioned themselves right up front so I easily spotted their cheers and funny signs.
I swam in my cycling pants, which worked perfect and saved me some time in the transition tent.
The bike ride started out wet since it rained during the swim but the sky looked to be clearing up as we headed out of town. I drank and ate as soon as possible while settling into a comfortable cadence; I also marked the time so I knew when to eat next. My plan was to eat a Powerbar every hour and sip Gatorade Pro as needed. This was how I trained and it worked well so I wasn’t going to try anything different on race day. The bike is my favorite part of triathlon. I was cruising comfortable and I just kept passing people, one after another, mentally telling myself “all these people are better swimmers than you John.” I saw my cheering squad each lap, they always brought a smile to my face and a lot of other riders too. I had my bike tuned to perfection and I was comfortable on it with the exception of my neck and shoulders from swimming, they were a little sore. I love the Lake Placid bike course; it’s challenging and very scenic.
Then I remember it clearly, just passing mile 80 my stomach could not handle another Powerbar. This was the exact same feeling I got last year only I was on the run course not the bike. I knew I had to keep consuming calories otherwise I’d never have the energy to run the marathon so I switched to gels and took another salt capsule. The last 12 miles of each loop of the bike course are the toughest since you climb your way back into Lake Placid. I knew I still had 32 miles to finish out the bike but even the gels I found difficult to swallow. Without taking in calories my run would be another disaster like last year so I did the only thing I could think of, slow way down and try not to panic.
112 mile bike time, 6hr 12min.
Transition T2 again was no problem. I changed out of my cycling pants and put on comfortable running shorts with new dry socks. I put on my race bib with gels on board, took a pee and hit the run course. I knew I wasn’t too dehydrated since I just pee’d and that was the second time in 7 ½ hours. On long events like this if you stop peeing, that’s not good. I also monitored my sweat rate as best I could because each year I lose at least 10 lbs during the event.
I heard my daughter’s voice again; she knew just where to stand at the run start to grab a picture.
I knew my legs would feel awful for the first 2 miles and they did so I kept my pace slow and tried to think of a fueling plan. I got to about mile 3 when not only could I not eat anything but I started to get very dizzy. I then cycled between running and short walks until I felt the dizziness pass. Every mile was an aid station so I took sips of Coke but not too much. I knew I was in serious trouble because I felt like I had the symptoms motion sickness or a hangover. I could not stand the thought or taste gels so I stuck to sipping Coke for 20 miles. When I train for Placid my longest workouts are around 7 hours and I never get these symptoms, so on race day after waiting all year for this day you can feel my frustration. I saw my training partner Mandy running strong in the opposite direction (she was way ahead of me) but at that point neither one of us had the extra energy to say anything. I saw and got encouragement from my coworker Brian Schwind, he was doing his first Ironman and pasted me strong and Scott Rowlands looked good too.
Long story short, I dug deep and did a run/walk for the 26 miles to finish.
26.2 mile run time 5hours 30min.
I know my fitness was there on Sunday but my nutrition was not and I paid the price. There’s always next year and I learn something with every race I run. Surprisingly I still managed to beat my best time and finished at 13:21.
I have to laugh at this shot, can you tell I’m a couple quarts low? Lol