Through the month of June and into the beginning of July, I find myself exactly where I want to be with in training. With Ironman Lake Placid all-too-near on horizon, now just over a week away, I am happy to report that I have successfully completed all of my big workouts in preparation for my 3rd Ironman.
And that’s just it. Even though I am very excited about going to Holland with Team USA to complete in the 2008 ITU Long Course World Championship at the end of August, Ironman Lake Placid has taken all of my attention as I fine-tuned and then wrapped up training for this mid-July race.
Because IMLP has been nearly all-consuming, this update will focus mostly on that race, but I will also touch on Team USA happenings.
Ironman Lake Placid
It is hard to believe that in just over a week’s time, I will bob in the waters of the starting line of my third Ironman. To think that I have already completed two of these grueling endurance events boggles my mind, as if it were someone else with this experience, while I sat from above and watched. But it’s true! It was me. The memories and lessons learned tell me so. And now I’m about to partake on another 140.3 mile journey.
Just the other day, Heather, the Ironmate, said, “Wow, I can’t believe Lake Placid [the Ironman] is already here. This event seems so different than your first two. It feels to me like just another of your races. Like, ‘There goes Thor, off to another race.’”
As much as I don’t want to admit it, the Ironmate is right. Lake Placid is different. Maybe it’s because I have the experience of two of these intense challenges under my belt. Or maybe it’s because I know what Ironman is all about, where I’m no longer caught in the mystique of the event and what it takes and means, where I have progressed from ‘I just want to finish’ to ‘Just finishing is nice, and I’ll gladly take that, but I want to finish fast.’
Whatever it is, I am very excited about Lake Placid, and although I do have goals and dreams for this race, I am also still very proud to be there, very respectful of my good fortune and health, and extremely appreciative of all of the people in my life who support me and my ways. The list is long, but on the very top is Heather, my running buddies especially John, Team LIT, Trifury, my sponsor Rudy Project, and more.
Training to date has gone very well. I am happy to report that I have completed all of my quality workouts with high energy, great motivation, and a yearning to punch forward. I am ready for Placid. But I can also wait for it – as opposed to being on edge and just wanting to ‘get the damn thing over with.’ It is a very good place to be. Because in my other Ironman events, I fell on the other side; I couldn’t wait for the event to come so that I could get it over with, for I was on the verge of being totally over-trained and completely burned out.
Not so this time. I cannot wait to see how I will react in the mass start of the swim, how I will feel on the second loop of the bike course, and my favorite, how I will respond in the marathon, the true test of all the training, experience, and .
To date, I have numerous swims of Ironman distance (2.4 miles) and am only feeling better at that distance and getting stronger. It’s really amazing, and maybe I should say ‘finally,’ but I am getting to the point on the swim much like where I am with the bike and run, where I can push hard, “dip into the well” and still recover and push on again later, and I know none of it will put me too far out of it with fatigue.
Normally I fret the water conditions, but after last month’s weekend away in Lake Placid where I swam the swim course, I know that even if a storm comes on race day, Mirror Lake, site of the swim, is too small to yield anything even remotely close to the horror that was the swim at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2007, where conditions were so bad Ironman granted an option to athletes for a duathlon only. I didn’t take it; I swam, but that memory haunts.
So that just leaves the chaos of 2500 other athletes in a mass start, my sole source of angst.
My goal coming into this Ironman was to not go crazy on the bike with more crazy long rides than needed. I firmly believe that once you achieve a certain level of fitness, too many of those crazy long rides does nothing but burn you out and rob you of your speed. So I set a goal to do only 2 or 3, tops, rides of 100 miles or long.
I hit all three: My first century ride for Placid was in May, and then in June I got two more, giving me three in total. None of these rides were on terrain mirroring that of the Lake Placid bike course, which is much hillier with greater climbs, but at this point I’m good with that. Because there is only so much I could do. Pace during these rides has only improved. So that’s another area I’m pleased with. And on the last two rides, it wasn’t until after mile 70 when things got ugly, but on the last, I held very strong through 80 miles, which is good because on all of these I was pushing pace most of the way – they were not just “Sunday strolls to the ice cream stand.”
I will get through the bike course, but it will be slow, as the climbs on the course are just too long, and the places in between don’t allow much for getting in a groove for too long.
I’m good on the run. Having complete the Lake Placid Marathon in June to a tune of 3:02, good for 4th place overall, my run training is exactly where I want it. I have been hammering my brick runs at a solid pace, and I’ve inserted some serviceable hill work – just enough to give me benefit – so my tempo pace is solid. After the 100 mile rides I inserted a five mile brick run. In the first one, I ran strong but was starting to bonk in the heat; the second was solid in pace and in how I felt, which was good to get under my belt because I was coming off a bike ride in which I pushed pace the entire way.
As good as I feel about my run, the interesting thing, and this is more a reflection of the nature of the Ironman distance, the run is the part I’ve been thinking about most, because the run is the part that, if I can even run by that point, I have to mentally prepare for. The pain of holding on to pace at both Ironman Wisconsin 2006 and especially Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2007 is raw in my mind, and probably still raw in my body for how it hurt so much. But I am ready to fight the beast that is the Ironman marathon. All 26.2 miles of it. I am stronger than it. I will not let up. I will be smart. I will assess as I go along. I will keep my breathing under control. I will stay within myself. I will not hit the hills too hard. And I will go on to run the marathon. All of it. Yes, I am ready.
In my “Team USA – June Update,” I reported that I would try a few different gearing options. I did. And I decided to go with a rear cassette of 12/25 rather than the 11/23 I had on. The 25 will give me that extra gear in case I need it, and on top of that, it actually gives me another riding gear in other ranges where I prefer to keep it in the big chain ring. So I will go with the 12/25 in the back and then promptly switch back to the 11/23 following the race. Because the course at Worlds is flat.
Race Plan & Goals
My ultimate goal at the Iron distance is to one day make an attempt at breaking the 10 hour barrier. Although I believe I could do that today on a flat course providing I had a great day – not to mention a lot of luck slanted toward a race of a lifetime – this will not happen in Lake Placid. The LP bike course is just too slow. The hills are so long that the time you lose going up is never made up for in the time you gain going back down. Placid is a course where the Pro’s will average 21 mph, maybe 22, where in flatter Ironman bike courses, the Pro’s are pulling off 23-25 mph. It’s a slow course. And I need a fast course to get even close to 10 hours.
I will go to Lake Placid and as long as I am smart with hydration and nutrition and pacing, and the weather cooperates, I will have the race I am trained for. Being such a long distance, it’s hard to tell what that race might be, but I’ll try to give it a shot, and on top of that I’ll give ranges for worst case and best case – best being the “reasonable” top end I think I can get, worst being the hills or the day were just too tough.
Swim: I feel I am comfortably trained to do the swim in 1:15. As long as I can survive the mass start and find clean water, I will get that. Best case is I go 1:10, but if that happened, I might lose a lot of time in T1 because I’ll be celebrating so much. Anything under is a dream. 1:20 is a good bet. Anything slower and something happened or I couldn’t find a rhythm or get comfortable.
T1: The bikes are a long way from the water. LP is known for T1 times being very long. My goal is to get this under 10 minutes. Under 12 minutes and I’ll still be happy. Anything slower and, well, you’ll know that I either stopped to read the sports section of the local paper or sat in the stink chamber for some time.
TOP: 9:00 or Under
Bike: Major wild card. I honestly have very little to go on due to the nature of the course. The course is challenging. It is filled with massive up hills, and crazy down hills, that last for much longer than anything I’ve trained on in a very long time. There are several 25 minute climbs or longer. And there’s one down hill that is so fast most athletes will be purposely braking to slow themselves down, for it can get hairy and scary.
My plan is to go easy on the first loop of the bike course. The second loop will be the same, but I’m hoping that going easy on the first loop, staying seated and in an easy gear on the climbs, will leave me with enough energy to not slow down too much. I will shoot for even splits for the two laps. That’s hard. But I will try. And only when I feel I can push will I do so. Though I have a feeling, due to the topology of the course, that time may never come.
Picking times is hard to do because I will ride by feel, not by what my bike computer shouts at me. So thinking about the course, I think it’s reasonable to stick with a 6 hour bike. If I average 19 mph, that’s 5:54. I pulled a 19.1 mph split at IMCdA, but that course was much faster than this. So although I’m stronger, I will likely not equal that on this course. But I will try.
TOP: 5:50 or Under
REAL: 5:59 – Sure, not far from TOP, but that’s the goal, under 6 hours.
T2: Transition from bike to run should be swift, unlike T1. Since it’s Ironman, and since the transition really is a true transition period in your body, much more than any other distance triathlon, T2 tends to be slower. I hope to be speedy, but I will take my time, for I’ll be on my feet for a long time to come in the run.
Run: Gosh, the run is always a great unknown in Ironman. I mean, the question is loaded with qualifiers, such as, “If I can run, I am capable of this… if I can run, I’ll do that.” And that’s just it. If I can run… I hope to nail my pacing and hydration and nutrition so that I can run. My goal is to run the entire marathon. Sure, I’ll walk through many of the aid stations, but I want to run. And I will do what I can do make that happen. But this is also the part that hurts the most. Especially when you’re still running. Because if you’re still running in those late miles, you’re likely holding on for dear life and have been holding on for a long time to get to that point. I hope to be there again, and I will lean on my previous Ironman marathons, and even my experience in holding onto the run at Mooseman this year, to get me through. It’s going to hurt, but I am ready.
As for the course itself, it is a very challenging run course for an Ironman marathon. Standalone it isn’t too bad, but after riding so far, it’s a bear. So my time might be on the slower side, even if I have a good run.
I hope to come off the bike in good enough shape to pull off a 3:30 marathon. If I feel good, I will start out at 8:00 minute miles, or maybe I’ll force myself to 8:15. I will stay with this as best I can through mile 5, and even if I happen to feel better, I will try my best to keep it under control, especially my breathing. The only way I’ll let myself go faster is if that pace truly feels way too easy and I’m having just way too much fun. Sitting at 8:00 to 8:15’s through 10 miles will hopefully give me enough in the tank to pull off a negative split. Negatively splitting a standalone marathon is tough, so you can imagine exactly how tough it is to do it in an Ironman marathon. I will try. Again, I will try unless the early miles really feel just way too easy.
If at any time I start to hit the wall hard, and I lose a lot of time walking deep in misery, if I feel I can’t keep my finish under 12 hours, then I will dial all effort back, get my energy back under me, get my smile and wits back, and I’ll start a party with the crowd and have fun the rest of the way in.
TOP: Race of a lifetime. These are times based on a ray of light shining on my every stroke, pedal, and step.
REAL: Real goals. These are the times for which I believe I am training, so if I’m good with pacing and hydration and nutrition, and I make smart in-race decisions, this is what I believe I am capable of. And what I will strive for.
OKAY: Good day, but the course and/or day was a little more than I thought, and more than I training for as long as I was good with everything else.
BAD: Something went wrong. I’m either plodding in a serious death march or already conceding defeat from a finish time perspective and having a wild celebration on the course.
OKAY: 11:48 (Adjusted to 11:59 or under)
BAD: 12:22 (Adjusted to 12:30 or over)