"Pity, party of one - your table is ready
But before I go into my day, I’ve got to applaud my friends on their respective performances. Bruised Banana contributor Alyssa Godesky had an incredible race – finishing 14th overall and 5th amateur, and easily winning her F25-29 age group in a new PR of 10:29:53. Along the way she recorded IM bests in each discipline, including an absolutely blazing bike split of 5:36. Alyssa is a superstar who has come a long way in the sport, and to see her progression suggests she’s got a lot more in the tank. I’ve never known anyone as driven and disciplined as Alyssa, so hats off to her on a great performance!
And Mike Mashner, my co-pilot for the weekend (even if he did just play on his phone the entire drive home), also had a great race, crossing the line in 10:01:58. What’s most impressive is that he lost a bunch of his bike calories when one bottle was ejected on a bump, and then he missed his special needs bag. He dealt with it, tried to do what he could with on-course aid, but went onto the run in a significant calorie deficit. That didn’t stop him from running a 3:22 split and finishing 10th in our very competitive M30-34 age group!
My story goes back a year, to when I was signing up for the race. With no Ironmans on the 2012 schedule, I got excited when my friends were talking about LP 2013. Impulsively, I also signed up. This was in the middle of a very trying summer for me and I probably should have more carefully examined that decision. What was done was done, and I had a year to prepare.
As I mentioned in my last race report, I was dealing with a perplexing fatigue issue most of last year, and my motivation was low. After a few months of swim volume early last year, I let swimming fall by the wayside through the summer, and after my last tri in October, I didn’t get in until January. There were a couple of 30km weeks in 2012; in 2013 I was barely managing 26km per month. On the bike, I hadn’t put in consistent volume going back to 2011. My 2012 bike splits were slower as a result, and again didn’t do much throughout the summer, and would get out for a sporadic ride in 2013.
My plan was to run through Boston Marathon this year and then get back on the bike and in the pool and ramp up for LP, which was 14 weeks later. Again, as previously mentioned, following Boston I was nicked up and unable to do anything for about 5 weeks. I was able to begin “training” on Memorial Day weekend, at that point just about 9 weeks from the race. I was 99% sure I was not going to be able to race, but I was determined to get as far as I could before making that call.
My fitness level was among the worst it’s been in years, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. I’d have to wisely build across all 3 disciplines, and if given the choice between intensity and volume, I was going to have to pick volume. I felt my legs coming back with each ride, and while I was definitely lacking some power, I knew I’d be able to manage the distance. Running was progressing at its own pace, starting with 3-4 miles three times per week and building up to the point where I was able to get in a few longer runs. The heat and humidity of late June/early July were dealing crushing blows to my body, and morale, though, and I was not terribly positive about how the run was going to go.
The pool was the sacrificial lamb. I was aiming to get in 2-3 times per week, with one of the swims being longer. That was typically Friday night – in part because I got used to doing it last year, and also because I had nothing else to do so going to the pool where it was quiet was helpful. The only problem was that as the summer heated up, so did the pool. At one point in early July it was nearly 90 degrees, which was destroying me. I’d get in and would struggle during the warm up. I had to cut swims short and missed a few other swims on the really poor air quality days. Far from ideal, but I was a little less concerned about swimming.
Even as we entered July, and I had put in a solid 5 weeks of training, I was still on the fence about racing. I realistically assessed my position and thought I needed another month, but the idea of signing up (and paying) for another IM seemed ridiculous. Around the time I was signing up for Diamond in the Rough I realized I was fit enough to make it through the race, and certainly wasn’t going to leave Mike hanging. Traveling to a race like that solo is not very fun, and he would have done it for me, so I finally committed to giving it a go. With that lengthy introduction, onto the race!
Arrival in Lake Placid
Mike and I left Baltimore on Thursday with a goal of getting there in time to check in (5pm). Naturally I was running slightly behind, but we made good time and the trip was largely uneventful. Back in 2011 Alyssa and I drove to Louisville and managed to fit everything in my car, so the Ford 500 would ride once again, this time destination: basically Canada. The 8 hour drive was long, but it didn’t feel like we went anywhere because half the trip is pretty much what I do to go home. Louisville was a longer drive anyway, but it just felt like a real road trip. We’ve also done drives to Knoxville (long), Quassy (not as bad), and Lexington (pretty long) – so by this point I feel pretty comfortable making that drive.
We pulled into LP at 4:45pm and squeezed in just before they closed the doors to check in. Satisfied, we headed down to Mirror Lake and jumped in for a short shakeout swim in our speedos, before heading to the “cabin.” The weather had become decidedly autumn-like on this day, after a month where our average daily high was over 90. Overnight lows in LP were in the low 50s, and waking up in the morning it was a bit chilly!
Friday we got up and headed over to the lake again. On our way out of the house I noticed a guy heading out for his ride. Looked tall, fit, wearing a long sleeve jersey. I said “hey, what’s up man?” and got something similar in return. Then I did a double take – it was Andy Potts. Turns out he was staying next door. If Mike had pumped up his tires quicker, we could have ridden a couple of minutes with the winner!
The water temp was fairly warm and I was trying to decide what my best wetsuit option was. Leading up to the race my biggest concern was how I was going to keep heat OUT of my body, but with the new, cooler temperatures I had to try and find some balance. My friend Brian loaned me his sleeveless suit, and I wore it for a lap. Came through comfortably in under 33 minutes, but I started to get a bit chilly out there. I have very poor thermal regulation and get cold very quick.
We got out of the water, ate breakfast, and headed out on bikes. We rode the course in reverse, heading down the mountain towards Wilmington before turning around. The wind was in our face on the way down – very atypical direction up there – but that meant a ripping tailwind as we climbed back to town. We may have gotten a little excited on the climb, but it felt comfortable. We then headed out along the first few miles of the course and turned back. In all about 32 miles, which is a little longer than I would normally do, but was feeling good about it. I ran around the lake (2.8ish miles) off the bike and with no humidity, I was feeling awesome. The rest of the day was pretty chill.
Saturday we got in the water again and this time I wore my full sleeve suit, and was definitely warm in it. We swam an easy 20 minutes which included some playing around in the middle of the lake. I opted to not run or ride today after the long day yesterday, and the temperature probably touched 80 degrees, which felt like a relative heat wave so just laid low in anticipation of the long day on Sunday.
The vibe was very different here, compared to the other Ironman races I’ve done (Arizona, Louisville). Lake Placid is such a quiet, peaceful town, that it was hard not to feel relaxed. The weather had been ideal for the 3 days we’d been there, and I felt as good as I’ve ever felt going into one of these races. Maybe not as fit or as “fast”, but definitely comfortable and relaxed. Even with very little racing, I had a good notion of times that I would consider good for me: sub 1:05 swim, a 5:30 bike split and under 3:30 on the run. I was confident I could go under 10:15, and if I felt good, under 10:10. My previous best is (sadly) from my first Ironman, 10:40:00. Despite my running background, I don’t have a good handle on this aspect of the race.
We woke up a little after 4am on Sunday and it was much warmer than the past few mornings, and also more humid. Rain had been in the forecast and it looked like they were spot on. I went about eating breakfast – about 320 calories from Oatmeal, 320 calories from Ultragen, a banana, and maybe something else. We headed to the start, making a stop in transition to check on bikes, and then got in an eternally long bathroom line. We were still in this line as the cannon went off for the pro men, and I heard it go off again for the pro women as I was finishing up. I was annoyed it had taken so long, but nothing I could do now so I jogged into the water, swam across, and got in line. I think I crossed the start line into the water at 3 minutes into the race. In a game-time decision, I opted for the sleeveless suit.
I’ve swam 4 Ironman swims prior to this, and none of them has ever been slower than 1:02:23 (first one). When I was in college I used to think swimming under 1:05 was insane and that if I could ever do that, I’d be ecstatic. I found out it really wasn’t that hard, and that with a little bit of swimming, anyone can do that. This year, with far less swimming than I’ve put in over the past few seasons, swimming 1:05 seemed just as unreasonable as it did when I was in college. I am generally a pretty decent longer distance swimmer, and I was anxious to see how the new swim start (time trial vs mass start) was going to play out. I knew I shouldn’t be all the way at the front, but as I typically have a top 10% swim, there shouldn’t have been more than 250 people ahead of me. The bathroom line crushed all hopes of that, and as soon as I got in the water I was swimming through and around people. Interestingly, I had positioned myself in front of a sign that said 1:10 swims – these people were definitely not swimming that fast.
Lake Placid is a fast swim already because it’s basically a pool swim. Straight out, with an underwater line you can use to sight, and straight back. Twice. Due to the new start the swim was reversed from its previous course (clockwise vs counter) and I felt the advantage for me would have been starting behind faster people could give me feet to follow, cleaner water, and a good position for the first section on the bike.
I came out of the water the first time and based on what time I thought I had entered, I figured I swam somewhere around 31 minutes for the first loop. Cool! I jogged the 100 feet across the beach (during which my heart rate jumped) and got back in the water for lap 2. I think one disadvantage of the new start is that because there are people scattered all over the course, the water became choppier than in the past, especially on the return. I didn’t think too much about it, and kept on my way. I came out of the water and saw 1:14 on the clock. I thought the pros started 8 minutes ahead of us, and I had taken another 3 to cross the line, so I thought I had swam somewhere around 1:03. I sat on the ground while the strippers took my wetsuit off, and jogged over to transition.
Swim – 1:04:29. The slowest of all my Ironman swims, which, even though it’s about what I expected, was still a little disappointing. Note: we think the mat may have been up at transition rather than out of the water because a few people had about a minute discrepancy between what they saw leaving the water and their actual time. I don’t wear a watch so I don’t know, but it sounds like it could be right. The sleeveless wetsuit was the perfect choice for the day. Also, how spot on was this: my swim was 253rd best.
Generally there’s not much to say about transitions, but mine was really slow. It was raining and the temp was mid 60s, so I was concerned about losing heat on the bike. I always put on a jersey anyway (that’s where I carry my stuff) but put on arm warmers and socks – something I normally wouldn’t do. It just took me a while, what can I say!
I paid special attention in the first few miles to not go crazy. I think the hardest hills of the course are in those first few miles – and keeping effort low was important. However, I also tend to naturally go up a little faster than most, so I was passing people during this section. I was trying to get a little bit of clear roads before the descent into Keene. I was apprehensive about the conditions of the road, which are bad to begin with, but with rain they were treacherous. Add in some wind and I was riding downhill like a baby. Sitting up, clutching the brakes (I had zero confidence in my cork brakes in the rain). Normally I love bombing downhill but today was about staying upright. When we got to Keene I got back into my rhythm and rode well to Jay, and then to the turnaround. When we started to go uphill, I felt much more at home. The climb from Wilmington to LP was great – the first time around. I was smooth and felt good. As we got up to town, I saw special needs bags on the left, and not realizing they were for the run, I turned around to get it, only to turn around again because I was wrong. I got my special needs and headed out for lap 2. It was raining still up here and so the descent mirrored the first time, only there were far fewer people around. It was actually pretty lonely.
Every so often I’d get passed by a group of dudes, generally not adhering to the rules of drafting, and typically with ages of 40+ on their calf. Geez, you guys, c’mon. It was around Jay (mile 75) that I was starting to not feel as great. My piriformis was starting to act up and I was less comfortable on the bike. This is directly related to how rarely I ride this bike, no doubt. During the out-and-back I saw that I had brought down the gap to Mike from 8 to 5.5 minutes, and it was also the first time during the day I saw Alyssa. I slowly bridged up to her and she was going very well, which was good to see.
When I reached mile 100, I had pretty much had enough. The headwind up “the Bears” seemed much stronger this time, I was feeling colder, and I just wanted to be off my bike. I had come through the first half in 2:38, which wasn’t overly aggressive, but I just don’t think I was fit enough for that kind of effort twice over. If you look at my first loop back half compared to the second loop, I was 13 minutes slower. It’s hard to say if I would have ridden any faster had I gone slower the first time, but I bet I would have felt better doing it. I also could have used a few extra calories. I had two bottles of an EFS mix (2 scoops) with Carbo Pro, which totaled 500 each bottle (1000). I ate a BonkBreaker bar (250) and a flask of EFS Liquid Shot Vanilla (400) for a total of about 1650. That number should have been at least 2000. Hydration-wise I felt okay, I peed at miles 30, 60, and almost 90. Since it was less hot/humid, I scaled back on my SaltStick caps, taking just 2 the entire ride – maybe could have bumped that up. But ultimately it was just fitness – it wasn’t there.
Bike – 5:29:28 (20.4mph). I had moved up from 36th in the AG to 18th. And very much looking forward to running.
I realize once again that it slows me down, but I’d rather be comfortable for a marathon, so I do a full change into running shorts and a singlet.
I headed out onto the run and since I had been bleeding time up the mountain, Alyssa had scooted past me again going out onto the run. I caught up to her about a mile in and she was locked in a good battle with another age group woman. The start of the run has a steep downhill, which my body obviously hates, but the 7:05 first mile felt comfortable as a result. I ran the next couple in the 7:25 range. It felt fine, and I was in really good spirits about the run! I was running with a small handheld that had a similar calorie/electrolyte mix as on the bike, and also was prepared with SaltStick caps. At the first few aid stations I would take a little water, maybe some Perform, and was moving well. My pace was beginning to creep up to 7:45/50 but I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was only going to move as fast as my legs allowed. I hit the turnaround (5.5 miles) and stopped to pee at mile 6. At that point, I was no longer feeling as good. I made it to the main road before I started feeling really shitty. I was getting dizzy, and that all-too-familiar feeling of being cooked crept in. I made it back to town and managed to run up the hill, but really started to lose it. Just before the turnaround on the lake I felt a hand on my back and it was Alyssa going by. The thought of having to go run another lap of this thing was not sitting well with me.
Back down the hill onto lap 2, and I saw my friends Angela and David on the side of the road eating pizza. I sat down with them for a second and tried to let my HR come down. After a couple of minutes I got going again, and at this point was taking in Perform, water, and Coke at every aid station. River Road the second time around was terrible. Everyone and their mother was passing me, and there wasn’t much I could do. Finally by about 18 I started to perk back up, thanks to the Coke, but I wasn’t running much faster. It’s a tough thing to realize that at 8 minute pace I could have covered the last 8 miles in just over an hour, but at 12+ minute pace that was going to take me over 90 minutes. But press on I did.
I reached town again and the cheers from the spectators really helped. I ran up the hill – and was the only one running at that point – and then survived the last two miles onto the oval. I gave some high fives on my way in, and crossed the line at 11:21:32.
Run – 4:37:51. Yep, not much to say about it.
I crossed the line and at least unlike my other Ironmans, felt fine. Sure, I was tired and not really pleased, but I was upright, and not dying. I took off my chip and handed it to the volunteer, who was surprised I was even able to do it myself. I saw Mike, and then Alyssa, and wished I had been in better spirits to have celebrated their great races. Mike and I grabbed our dry clothes and got changed, and then walked across the street to try and eat something. Wasn’t much of a success. We got our stuff out of transition and prepared for the 1 ¼ mile trek back home – boy, did that take a while. Rested for a minute, cleaned up, and then walked back down to try and eat solid food. From there we headed to the finish line for the greatest thrill in sports – the Midnight Finish.
In my 4 Ironmans I’ve always made it back out for the midnight finish. There’s nothing else like it. The energy is insane, and LP’s was probably the best of any of them. We got there around 10:30 and stayed until the last (official) finisher had crossed. It always helps put my bad day in context. Most people are just excited to finish. A guy who had competed in the very first Ironman crossed the line, as did a heart transplant/cancer survivor. The jams are pumping, and announcer Mike Reilly makes it the most awesome place to be at midnight on a Sunday. Of course, having raced, you’re pretty tired and aren’t really up for standing, so the walk home was tough.
The Next Day
The next morning I was sore, but felt okay. In previous races I have typically gotten really bad hiccups – fits that have lasted for days. This time I was okay. We walked down to awards and this was one area that Ironman did not do well. A small room in the Convention Center was used to stage the awards presentation and it was crowded and hot. I didn’t even bother with attempting to go into the other room to eat food. Mike even went outside to sit for a while. We were also pretty surprised to see that our age group only had 4 slots to Hawaii. M30-34 is just not the age group to be in. The top two finishers were in the top 5 overall (by 9:22) and 4th was 9:39. I guess the AG has just gotten to be a smaller percentage of the overall field.
The rains of Sunday had cleared out and it was another beautiful day. Mike and I splashed around in the water for a bit, I swam about 22 minutes and it helped my legs feel better. It also seemed colder than the past few days – perhaps from the rain. That night we met Alyssa for a nice little dinner at Lake Placid Brewery and watched as a Monday night sprint triathlon took place at the lake. It was a curious juxtaposition to the scale of Sunday’s event, but you wouldn’t have guessed it was any less important to the enthusiastic competitors.
After dinner Mike and I stopped in Roomer’s “Nightclub” – site of Olympic hurdler-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones’ recent bar fight – and then went to see the new Wolverine movie at the old-timey movie theater. We woke up on Tuesday to another beautiful day, put on our kicks and headed out for a lap around the lake. The cool, dry air felt awesome and within a few minutes we were moving at a pretty good clip. I was surprised with how good I felt, of course that’s what happens when you walk most of the marathon. I would rather have felt terrible and raced better!
We packed up, took in our last views of the beautiful Adirondacks, and headed out of town, taking a few photos along the way. We even bumped into Derek Fitzgerald, the heart transplant/cancer survivor. We drove down the mountain and stopped for breakfast at The ADK Café, which was pretty awesome. Then it was onward down 87, the NJ Turnpike, 295 and 95 back to Baltimore.
If you’re still reading, I commend you. It’s a lengthy write-up of a not-so-impressive day of racing. It was tough to come home and have people congratulate me for “finishing,” because that wasn’t my goal. I’m comfortable enough saying that I failed to meet my goal. I don’t enjoy failing, and would love to be able to understand what is going wrong for me when my days go bad like this. The only thing I can do is pick myself up and try it again. Maybe one day I’ll get it right, who knows.
I stand firm that I probably could have used another month of training, maybe a half iron distance race along the way, but that’s not how the cards shook out. I may try to take advantage of my fitness and find some other races, I’m still trying to sort that out. Lake Placid was a beautiful place and outside of Hawaii it has been the race that I’ve wanted to do the longest. When I was starting out in running I remember hearing locals in NJ always talking about Lake Placid and it built up this mystique. Having done it, I can say that it wasn’t my favorite of the Ironmans I’ve done, but I’m glad I did it. I could see myself going back up to spectate or volunteer, but probably wouldn’t race there again for a while.
And now for a few thank-yous. While the athlete is responsible for doing the training, there are plenty of people who help them get there. This cycle I was fortunate to have a few guys willing to put in long rides despite not training for anything, so thanks especially to Brian, who joined me for a few, as well as David, OJ, and Anthony. Because of the situation I was in, I did a lot more training by myself this go around, but had some friends who helped motivate me – Brennan, Carly, Melissa, Arjun, Ed, Pat, to name a few. The support from my family – my parents, brother, and sister – was, as always, terrific. It probably helps that they don’t really know what’s “good” or “bad”, they’re just proud of me.
And of course thanks to Mike, who was really my main partner in crime on this one. I’m glad he had a good day out there, and I was glad I came up after all. Ironmans are tough to travel to solo, and it was nice to have each other’s support.
And some non-conventional thanks go to Gatorade and 7-11, for carrying Strawberry Lemonade Gatorade this summer. Please don’t get rid of it. It got me through many a tough day. I’d also like to thank my eating establishments Pasta Mista and Panera. The people there are really friendly and talk to me when I’m sitting by myself, even if it causes me to be later than I already am for most things.
Thanks for reading, and apologies if it was boring. With nearly a two-year hiatus between this IM and the previous, it might be a while before I have another long report!