IMLP ’08 Race Report

Ironman Lake Placid

Lake Placid, New York

“The place where miracles happen.”

Sunday, July 20 2008

 

Iron Distance

Swim 2.4 miles: Two-loop swim in Mirror Lake

Bike 112 miles: Two-loop hilly ride around Lake Placid and by Whiteface Mountain

Run 26.2 miles: Two-loop hilly and rolling marathon run close to Lake Placid

 

Results (Rank Overall / Age / Pace)

Swim: 1:13:22 (1124 / 214 / 1:55 per 100m)

T1: 9:27

Bike: 5:56:42 (596 / 128 / 18.84 mph)

T2: 4:54

Run: 3:34:47 (278 / 57 / 8:11 per mile)

Finish: 10:59:12

278 / 2340 Overall

57 / 386 Age Group M35-39

 

“The Perfect Race”

 

In the days leading up to Ironman Lake Placid, the first A-race of my 2008 triathlon season, I was feeling ready and able and completely focused. With few nerves in the days before the event, I slept well, including a full night’s sleep the night before; and didn’t obsess about the craziness that would happen in the mass swim start, the hills on the bike course, or whether I could run by the time I hit the marathon. Instead, I soaked up the magic emanating from the Ironman event, remained calm, and set focus to my race plan.

 

In hindsight, I now know why. It’s because even before the race, I knew I had the right amount of training – I was not under-trained, nor was I over-trained – I knew my abilities in both my strengths and weaknesses, I gained a healthy respect for the rather tough course, and the coach in me formulated a race plan suited to my strengths and weaknesses, each aligned to the course. All I had to do come race day was to execute the plan.

 

And oh my, did I ever do that.

 

In fact, I was so in tune with my ability and what I was capable of on this course that, in my “Team USA – July Update,” I called this race from 140.6 miles away. And I called it within 48 seconds. I kid you not. (See “Race Plan & Goals” halfway down here: https://ironboy.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/team-usa-july-update/ .)

 

So in hindsight, I am no longer surprised that before the event there were a scant few nerves running through my body.

 

I was loose, ready, and focused… to execute the perfect race plan for a perfect race.

 

Race Morning

 

4:44 am race morning, a minute before my alarm was to go off, my eyes popped open. The day was finally here. And right away the miracle that is Ironman race morning filled my heart. Calmness mixed with anticipation of the grueling challenge ahead filled my heart. The result was sheer happiness for my good fortune to be getting ready for what would be my third Ironman event. It is the best feeling in the world. As I laid in bed I thought about my preparations for this race, went over again my race plan, and then told myself that I was ready, that I am too strong physically and mentally to not have the race for which I was trained. This moment reflection set me at peace for the task at hand. Just then, as if on queue, the alarm officially sounded. It was time to get up.

 

Up and right to it, I washed down a half a banana and a breakfast cookie with enough water to fill my belly, got dressed in my pre-race clothing and race suit, and gathered my belongings. I gobbled the remaining banana, grabbed a nibble of the PowerBar I was supposed to consume if I awoke in the middle of the night – I slept straight through – and before long, found myself out front of the hotel waiting for a shuttle bus to race site.

 

Once at race site, I got right to work. But first I had to hit the Porto-potties while the lines were still manageable. Then it was back to work. I quickly checked my bike and tires (both were fine) and set out to look through my Transition bags.

 

My previous two Ironman experiences told me to prepare for anything. So even though the weather forecast called for a spotty shower at 8 am, another at 11 am, and a longer one at 2 pm, and because the morning felt a touch cooler than was predicted, I decided to be safe and toss in with my bike gear bag an extra Tri-shirt to wear under my Trifury team jersey – so that if it got cold, I would have protection. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this move would prove to be an extremely smart decision, possibly even the difference in finishing strong and not at all.

 

Gear bags now secure, I gobbled a half a banana and a small chunk of PowerBar before slipping into my wetsuit and making my way, with water bottle in hand, a quarter mile over to the swim start at Mirror Lake.

 

Nearly to the inflatable arch marking the Swim Start Entrance, rain started falling from the sky. I found cover under a camera tent and waited for time to pass. Totally un-forecasted, the rain would soon stop; I was sure of it.

 

Ten minutes before 7:00 am, I slipped through the throngs of athletes, each of which were stuffed in neoprene, and made my way under the arch, across the timing mat, and into the water for the in-water start.

 

Rain was still falling from the sky.

 

Swim

 

Three, two, one… boom!

 

With a helicopter circling overhead, a canon sounded… the race started. Frenzied panic, athletes swam forward, each fighting for clean water. Meanwhile, the band U2’s “A Beautiful Day” echoed in the background.

 

With more confidence in my swim than ever before and hoping to go the 2.4 miles in under 1:15, I positioned myself to the middle of the starting line, 25 yards back from the wire. I would not have been so far up front if other athletes had filtered in, but with 30 seconds remaining until race start, it was still empty. So I took it.

 

And I got crunched.

 

The first 10 minutes of the swim resembled a boxing match fit for Joe Frazier and Muhammed Ali. I got punched, kicked, shoved, nudged, and poked. On one blow, I totally lost rhythm and got knocked out of my zone. With head out of water, athletes swimming right over me, each leaving a fist beside the head in their wake, I said to myself… This is it. This sucks. This is my last Ironman.

 

Before every Ironman race I made a promise to myself: Three times during the day, once in each discipline, when you get knocked out of focus, which will happen, take a pause to look around and soak in the experience of what’s happening around you. Then, over any hardship or pain you might be in, say to yourself: “How cool is this… I’m doing an Ironman!”

 

This step-back reflective moment for me is usually as I finish the swim. Or sometimes it’s in the middle where when I go to breath I see on an over-sized orange buoy the printed word “Ironman.”

 

This time it happened not even 10 minutes in.

 

Now getting crunched, still wondering what the hell I was doing, I took a snapshot of the moment, put my head back in the water, and returned to that image.

 

“Dude,” I repeated to myself. “You’re doing an Ironman… a god damn Ironman… think about that. Yeah, you! Think about it. Whining about how you’ll never do another Ironman won’t make this Ironman any easier. So pull up your stinky big boy diaper and get back to work.”

 

And that’s what I did. I pulled up my big boy diaper and got back to work.

 

It wasn’t until half way through the second lap where I found clean water.

 

The swim sucked. But I got it done, I kept moving forward, and I tried, whenever I hit a rhythm, to push, but only when I was able to bilateral breath, which meant I was in control.

 

Time: 1:13:22 (1124 / 214 / 1:55 per 100m)

 

Summary: I am pumped with my swim. It sucked something fierce. I got crunched nearly the entire way. But except for one occasion, where I recovered with step-back moment of reflection and self-coaching, I kept steady, kept moving forward, and always remained focused. My goal for the swim was a 1:15. And I did that! The best part is that if I weren’t getting so hammered as early and often as I had been, I know I could have gone faster.

 

I must thank fully and completely my swim buddy Mark (the Warden’s Husband), because he was the one staple training buddy who met me each and every Wednesday, in the early season when it was cold and again in middle of summer and around his own races, to lend support of a training buddy. Dude, I could not have done this without you. Thank you!

 

T1

 

Out of the water and across the timing mat, it was a quarter mile run to Transition at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. Although the road was lined with black carpet to ease running barefoot on pavement, I didn’t see much of it, as I took the edge along the road and sprinted by a hundred others jogging or walking.

 

Just before the entrance to the Oval, I heard my name. It was Sharon, from Trifury, my local triathlon club, who was there to cheer on club mates and some of the athletes she coaches.

 

Into the Oval entrance and down the row where my Swim-To-Bike Gear Bag was situated, I ran sturdy and brisk, grabbed my bag and headed right into the change tent.

 

Meanwhile, the rain was not only still falling, it was coming down. Hard. So hard that the sky was angry and dark, which only made inside the change tent even darker.

 

With limited lighting, I slipped into my bike gear, waved off a helping volunteer, stuffed my swim stuff into the bag, and was out for my bike. Once at the bike, I dug my arm warmers out of my Bento box – I tucked them deep on the bottom of my Bento box before the race, just in case, for times like this where the rain made it cool bordering cold – and stuffed them in the back pocket of my Tri-top.

 

With that I was off, pushing my bike, splashing through more puddles, off to the Bike Start.

 

My socks were already muddy and soaked. And I hadn’t even gotten out of Transition.

 

The rain would stop soon. I was sure of it.

 

Time: 9:27

 

Summary: Transition was slow. But I expected it, mainly because of the long run from water to the Oval. I called for 10 minutes, and I got that. I could have been faster, but with the rain coming down harder by the minute, and with a long day ahead, I went about my business in a relaxed but quick manner.

 

Bike

 

Not even to the Bike Mount line, my mind was running way too fast. It was thinking about the weather. The rain was coming down even harder; the temperature was dropping quickly. Now it was downright chilly. And I knew it would be even colder on the bike.

 

So I stopped to put on my arm warmers. Thank heavens I had the foresight to be warm and safe rather than cold and sorry. It, along with the extra Tri-top under my club uniform, may have saved my race.

 

Finally on the bike, the rain continued coming down with force. I settled into gear and pushed on as I took my own pace and slowly passed rider after rider. When would the rain stop, I wondered?

 

Up each hill on the 8 mile climb out of Lake Placid, I passed riders at an alarming rate. I knew that being a slower swimmer meant that it would take until 20 to 40 miles, or even the entire first loop, before I would fall into a group with other riders of similar ability.

 

Now the rain was coming down so hard that my Rudy Project shades were useless. In fact, most riders weren’t even wearing shades. Theirs too were fogged up, completely useless, or too dark a tint for the still-dark morning hour.

 

Only a few miles in, after already taking on and off my shades in frustration, I found a better system. I put the shades back on and pushed the all the way to the tip of my nose, just barely hanging on. Out there they would at least block most of water shooting up from the road while also allowing me to see over them. And since this meant I no longer had the distraction of taking them on and off, I stayed that way.

 

One distraction down, the next – the long 5K steep descent into the town of Keene – was up before long. The road was so wet and slippery that I was fearing the down hill riding. Already on the down hills encountered so far, riders were so cautious that it was actually dangerous, because we all were forced to go down with our brakes on.

 

My fears were confirmed. The down hill into Keene, when on better days riders could crest 50 to 55 mph, I went down, following everyone else, on my brakes the entire way. Nobody was even aero. What a difference a down pouring rain makes. The descent had to be the most nerve-wracking stretch of road I had ever ridden. My arms were so tired by the middle of the descent, and I still had much more to go, that I wondered if this would do me in. Without a choice, I stayed focused and, more importantly, stayed safely on my brakes like everyone around me.

 

The turn onto Rt. 9N in the town Keene was a welcome sight. The hill was over.

 

And thus began my race – already a cool 15 miles in – and onto my race plan on went.

 

My race plan for the bike was simple. I wanted to respect the hills on the course, I wanted to only push when on flats or downs and only if I could stay on top of a gear or if I saw I could keep momentum going with a sturdy jump, and I wanted to ride as close to even splits on the first and second loops as possible. Pulling off an even split, I knew, meant that when I was done with the first, I’d think, “Wow, that was easy. Let’s go do it again!”

 

And that’s exactly what happened.

 

As I climbed the final hill on the first loop, now only two miles from town, “Wow,” I hollered for the world to record my thoughts, “that was easy… let’s go do it again!” To punctuate my pleasure, I pumped my fist as I went by fans lining the road.

 

To this point, I had not once looked at my bike split time, nor my miles per hour average, which I purposely turned off. So as I rode the final mile along Mirror Lake and by the tent my triathlon club set up, you can imagine my surprise when not a single club mate was even looking at the course – they were all sitting down chatting idly among themselves, which meant one thing: I had completed the loop faster than any anticipated, which meant I was having a decent ride.

 

As I went by the Trifury tent, I cheered the crowd awake: “Trifury… Go Trifury!” With that my club mates there to lend support jumped to their feet and chased me with cheers of their own.

 

Back through town and over the timing mat marking the halfway point, I looked at my watch for the first time: It read 2:56:43. I was feeling good, and I was on pace for my goal of a Sub-6 hour bike.

 

And it was still raining. Hard. Although the descent into Keene was still 8 miles away, I was already dreading it.

 

The nature of a race long and grueling like Ironman is that it is a matter of time before you go through phases, where one minute you’ll feel great and on top of the world, and the next the shit is hitting the fan and you’re wondering just what the hell happened.

 

My time was up. Suddenly, on that 8 mile up and down net climb out of Lake Placid to the Keene descent, things got ugly. The pedals felt like lead; my tires felt squishy. I knew something was wrong. I wondered if I perhaps took the first loop too hard. No. Impossible. I’m stronger than that! Maybe I was bonking. Maybe the cold was getting to me. Maybe…

 

In that instant I took a step back and assessed the needs of my body. To that point I had been okay with hydration and I thought nutrition, but the truth is, I was drinking less but consuming the same amount of calories as normal. It was then when I remembered that in colder conditions, the body actually needs more fuel, less fluids, to keep it powered at a healthy level. And so I got back to the corrective nutrition scheme of getting in more PowerBar. I knew I wouldn’t feel any effects right away, but if after the Keene descent, when I hit the long flats and rollers in the middle of the course, if I feel the same way, then the issue is something else.

 

The 5K long descent into Keene came. I was prepared for complete focus, prepared to ride down on my brakes while taking extreme care not to jerk the wheel and always look behind before passing, and prepared for staying in the moment.

 

Before long it was over. Part of me liked the Keene descent only because with the intense focus it required, and with it being non-taxing from an endurance perspective, that descent effectively shortened the entire Ironman course by 6 or more miles. And the focus required, being so acutely in the moment, shortened the time I would be wondering about the pain of the rest of the miles.

 

Back in the Keene valley and now on the flats to rolling terrain into Jay and Upper Jay, I worked the entire stretch according to race plan. It was on that road, spinning faster rather than a slower grind, ratcheting up the speed but always staying on top of the gear, when I started passing riders, almost as if they were standing still. It occurred to me they were bonking. They must’ve taken the first loop too fast.

 

The remainder of the loop up to the 14 mile climb on Rt. 83 from Wilmington back into Lake Placid went by quickly. I passed riders all over the course. And although I got passed a few times, I leap-frogged those guys and eventually caught them for good later on.

 

I was fueling mainly with the solids of PowerBar and an occasional Gu, I was drinking constantly and at times catching up with extra swigs when my body called, and by then I knew I had so far nailed my hydration and nutrition, and even my pacing!

 

But could I carry it all over the remaining climb back into Lake Placid? This climb, on the second loop, always tells you where you’re at. All weakness in pacing, hydration, and nutrition get exposed. Would it reveal failures in my race? Would my race plan stand the test? By then I was really looking forward to finding out.

 

And thus began the 14 mile climb back into Lake Placid. Up and up, climbing and climbing, gearing down and down until I could gear no more, then up as the road flattened, and then back down, the climb went by surprisingly fast, with me picking off riders all over the road.

 

Before long, I saw way in the distance, the final hill, a steep climb known as Papa Bear that is lined with fans on both sides, closing in, patting you on the back as if to push you on and up, just like you’d imagine the Tour de France.

 

And with Papa Bear still on the horizon, my step-back moment on the bike came. There, ahead of me, was my own private Tour de France, waiting to propel me forward. Only, it occurred to me this was no “a la Tour de France,” rather this was Lake Placid. Yes folks, this was Ironman Lake Placid, and here I was, I was feeling unbelievable, still riding with power, and now only minutes away from completing the bike and a cool 10 minutes away from the marathon run. Instead of wondering if my legs could run when that time came, I smiled and said aloud, “Holy f&*k, I’m doing an Ironman!”

 

“How cool is that?!”

 

Time: 5:56:42 (596 / 128 / 18.84 mph)

 

Summary: I am pleased with the bike. My goal had me going easy on the first loop so that I could try my best to even split with the second loop, and I did that within 3 minutes. First loop was 2:56:43, second was 2:59:59, for 5:56:42, well enough under my goal of 6 hours. And I know I would have been easily under 5:50, on this tough grinding course, if only the day was not filled with complete pouring rain. So with no additional training, I’m faster. I kept to race plan, and I felt good, enjoyed the heck out of the rain, and soaked up the experience of this famously difficult bike course. It doesn’t get better than that!

 

T2

 

Transition from bike to run is always fun. The biggest unknown is always, “Can I run?” I knew by now that if my race plan was good, I should be able to run; I felt as if I stuck to the plan, but still, you never know until the shoes are on, visor is on your head, and out you go onto the run course.

 

Before that could happen, I rolled to the Bike Dismount line and handed my bike to a volunteer. Away it went, free for me to worry about, and off I went through the maze that is transition zone, grab my Run Gear Bag, and into the change tent.

 

Quickly it was off with the bike gear and on with the run gear. Because it was still pouring rain – no kidding! – I laughed as I looked at my sunglass. I wouldn’t be needing those. On with the visor and out.

 

But wait! There was a urinal inside the Men’s change tent. After taking care of business, I was gone, out of Transition and through the Run Start inflatable arch.

 

Time: 4:54

 

Summary: T2 was neat and compact. I knew what I needed to do, and I got it done. I would have been a minute faster if not for the stop at the urinal, but hey… If you gotta go, you gotta go.

 

Run

 

The run… God, the run…

 

I love to run. I really do.

 

This run was fun, challenging, required intense focus and patience, and it hurt. A lot. But it was a fueled in equal parts by a perfect race plan executed perfectly and a small miracle, one ignited by the five-ringed flame that still flickers in this former Olympic village.

 

The first glimpse I got of the flame of yesteryear keeping the hope of small miracles alive was right out of the Run Start, not even 10 paces in. My legs felt great. They were pumping with pace, they were strong, and they had no traces of the previous 6 hours spent climbing up and down mountain ranges in the Adirondack region. They didn’t even carry a hint of Whiteface or the 14 mile climb back into Lake Placid.

 

Storming down a Main Street lined on both sides with fans oblivious to the down pouring rain, I immediately set focus to running within. Just as I was slipping into my zone, I heard my name. It was Dave Tyler from Trifury, my local triathlon club. I heard my name again. This time, coming from the other side of the road, it was Sharon Johnson, also from Trifury. The true energy in her voice, proud and supportive, gave me strength for the battle ahead – a 26.2 grueling marathon run over a challenging course with some flats, many rolling hills, and 4 big climbs.

 

I couldn’t believe how amazing my legs felt. I was still within the first mile, but my legs were fresh, more than ever before. It was as if I hadn’t ridden at all. But it didn’t last long.

 

Now at the first mile, still trying to figure out the effort required to run within myself, things turned ugly very quickly. My legs felt tired and fatigued, almost as if I were carrying around a 20 pound weight, and my lungs were laboring more than they should. I willed myself to feel better but ultimately knew there was no such luck. Not in an Ironman race.

 

This, I knew, meant it was time for me to focus and get back on my race plan. It would be the only way I could hold my race together. Time was now. I slowed my pace down, got my breathing under control, and stayed focused so that I could repeat as often as needed.

 

And thus began the 7 mile out to the turn-around on the run course. During the entire stretch, I remained with pinpoint focus. I thought not about the finish or how many miles I had remaining, instead I focused only on staying in the moment, keeping breathing under control, staying relaxed, and keeping my stride even yet on the shorter side.

 

Up and over the rolling hills I went, grabbing water at aid station, gobbling a Gu every other or third aid station, and also taking in a banana bit every now and then.

 

I was able to watch the women’s and men’s race as the leaders were coming back on their second loop as I went out on my first. Caitlin Snow, the eventual winner on the woman’s side, was running unbelievably fast. Hillary Biscay was easy to pick out with her vintage shuffle. And Desiree Ficker was… well, she’s always easy to pick out. And on the men’s side, Francisco Pontano, the eventual winner, looked amazingly focused and strong. But Bjorn Anderson did not; in fact, I was surprised to see such a familiar face walking out on the course. Props to him for cheering on others when he, himself, his race was over.

 

To the out and now back, two athletes passed me – Patrick Evoe, a Pro from Ausitin, and Alex McDonald, a Pro who has a few wins to his name – but I knew I was running well because I was able to grab onto their shoulders and hang for a mile. It gave me a boost because I was running within, and it wasn’t as if they passed me like I was standing still. They were moving quickly, but not all that much more. To this point my pace was bouncing between 7:40 and 8:00 minute miles.

 

Mile 9 I was treated with a pleasant surprise. As I was half way through the back part of the out and back, coming at me on the way out was Ken Sparrow from Trifury. We both cheered up quickly and met in the middle for a high five. Ken was looking good and strong, which was motivating to me. Somehow it told me everything would be okay. But only if I stayed on my race plan.

 

And that was just it. After seeing Ken, I was so energized that when I finally got back to focus, I realized I had to slow it the heck down. Just as I slipped back into my zone, now running within, breathing under control, I saw Gerry, also from Trifury, and then not too long later, Cliff. By then I was smart. Although it was awesome seeing them, especially Gerry the first-timer, the coach in me learned on the first go-around not to let that energy speed up the pace.

 

Because I needed it for what was about to come: the first big hill on the course, a long grind of over a half mile long. Up and over I went with short steps and decent cadence. Once at the top, I remained strong and, before purposely slowing pace, gave myself a half mile to get my breathing under control. Within a few hundred yards, the hill was a long memory. My breathing was good and I was set for the run back to and through town.

 

Before long, still running within, but now getting even more tougher to remain focused so that my pace doesn’t increase and burn me out, the even longer and even steeper climb at mile 11 back into town came. As I went up, I heard my name over and over, both from spectators cheering my name as it read on my bib, and from club mates and friends. I put my head down and lumbered up at my pace. Because I was still running strong and going up hill, I wasn’t surprised by how many people I either passed or saw walking. Carnage was starting to rear its ugly head. I was determined not to be a victim. The only way that would be possible was to get back to race plan, which meant getting my breathing back under control.

 

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my half marathon split for the first loop was 1:44:05, good for 7:56 minute per mile pace, a pace that would have been much closer to 7:40 without the two big hills on the course. I was executing my race plan perfectly.

 

Now on the second loop, I knew I was executing the race plan perfectly, because I was still running, and now on the way out of town, much of it flat or down hill, my pace was decent even though my legs were filled with extreme fatigue. But it was a familiar fatigue, one I knew that wasn’t a marker of the end. But only if I stayed even and in control of pace.

 

Nearly to the turn-around of the out and back, with the rain still falling, now even harder, with the street one big pool of water with no place to run but through it, I had a step-back moment. Here I was, at mile 16, and I was still running, and still running with decent pace. Just when I started thinking, ‘Only 10 miles left, baby!’ I cut the thought off. Stop thinking about the finish or how much is left. Get back to focus. But before I did that, I looked around me. Athletes, on both sides of the road, either coming or going, were plodding, some running strong, and some walking. And here I was… I was doing an Ironman. Holy f$%k… I’m doing an Ironman.

 

With that I was back to focus. I wanted so badly to look at the clock or know my splits or times, because by this point I had stopped looking at my splits even though I clicked the button on my watch to record them.

 

With all of this out of focus thinking, the coach in me took over and made me a promise: Hold strong to mile 22, just after the big hill. Get the breathing back under control, and if I have pace and think I can hold it to the end, then and only then will I speed up. And only at mile 25 will I look at the running time on the finish clock to see where I was. Could I do it? I only allowed myself one answer. But the make that answer come to be reality, it meant one thing.

 

Back to focus. Breathing under control. Ignore the building fatigue. Stay positive. Because I can do this. I can. And I will.

 

And that’s what I did. All the way back to town. Over that stretch I saw again my Trifury mates, and this time I also saw a familiar looking course marshal policing the course by bike. It was Tom L. from my club. He shouted back encouragement and told me I was looking good. I knew he was full of it, but at this point, any word was a good and very welcome word.

 

By the time I reached mile 24 and the final ascent back into town — a monsterous hill that probably climbs close to 150 feet over a quarter to half mile — I knew I would be damn close to the 11 hour barrier, but I also knew that as much as I wanted to walk this hill, for it was too long, as much as a fast walk would save me energy, I had to run it, even if it required more energy, for I couldn’t afford the time lost.

 

Having not walked a damn step over the entire run course — not even at aid stations, no kidding! — I knew what I had to do. I had to dig deep, I had to believe, I had to stay strong but within, and I had to run the back into town.

 

For motivation over the looming hill, I thought about Team LIT, my online triathlon club, and all the people tracking my progress just as I had for many of them in their Ironman races, and then I thought about the story I wanted to write – the story of holding on to the run.

 

I visualized myself being strong, climbing that hill, even if with short steps, and then recovering to punch on. And that’s what I did, with steps so painful and even more painfully short. After what seemed like forever, I finally reached the top of the hill, and just when I thought I would recover a few hundred yards up and sprint to the finish in a glorious victory, I was dead. I never recovered. My race was caving in on me. I had to do something. Otherwise I’d lose my race. But what?

 

But there was nothing I could do. I was hitting wall, and I was hitting it hard, race over, a slog from here to the end. Just then the Mile 25 marker came into sight. That was it. That really was it. This was my last chance of redeeming my race. Somehow I knew by then I was close to the 11-hour barrier, a goal of mine for the race, and I also knew that the coach in me not only would allow me to look at the running time on my watch to get a feel for where I was, but the coach in me demanded I look at the watch, as if he somehow knew that I had to look to save my race.

 

And so I looked, spot on the marker reading “25,” and it read: 10:48:57.

 

I was done. With nothing left in my legs, and with having crawled at death pace over the big hill into town and now this half mile, I knew that at the current pace I would not break 11-hours. It just wouldn’t happen. But I wouldn’t have that. I wouldn’t. I didn’t train all these months to slog it home. I had to find whatever I could to reclaim my pace.

 

I searched again for any source of energy I could find, and then I thought again about the story I wanted to write — the story I deserved to write for holding on for so damn long — and I found it deep within to stay focused and get back my pace. In thinking about my peeps at Team LIT, Trifury and especially my fellow club mate Gerry’s son who alone gave me more a boost than anything on the day, I wound up laying down my god damn fastest mile of the day on that last mile back down into town, through the maze that is the course, onto the Olympic Oval, circling around, circling, knowing I had it, knowing I could write the story I wanted, feeling the warmth of the race complete in my heart, and then finally, bending just enough around the Oval where I saw the clock, well enough under 11 hours. By then I knew I had it anyway, and my nutty celebration went even deeper. I slapped hands down that final chute going side to side and raised my visor off my head and punched both fists in the air over again to punctuate the small miracle that was pulling off the perfect race!

 

Time: 3:34:47 (278 / 57 / 8:11 per mile)

 

Summary: The marathon run hurt. But I stayed focused, and with a little miracle, I pulled off a great time and, I’m proud to say, did not walk one damn step of that marathon course, not even in an aid station.

 

Finish

 

Amazing. Simply amazing.

 

Finish: 10:59:12

278 / 2340 Overall

57 / 386 Age Group M35-39

 

Summary: In formulating the perfect race plan for my strengths and weaknesses aligned to the course, and then executing it perfectly, I had the perfect race in Lake Placid. In a town once famous for the bygone days of “The Miracle on Ice,” with my performance I have forever changed history in my own mind, because after this most perfect race, whenever someone mentions the miracle that happened in Lake Placid, I will first think of my own little miracle, one I made happen with a sound race plan and smart racing, and next I will think of the gritty US hockey team who overcame great odds to beat their arch nemesis. This little miracle was… The Perfect Race.

 

Splits

*Asterisk denotes unofficial time according to my watch.

 

Swim:

Loop 1 (1.2 miles): 36:01*

Loop 2 (1.2 miles): 37:16*

Final: 1:13:22 / 1:55 per 100m

 

Bike:

Loop 1 (56 miles): 2:56:43 / 19.01 mph

Loop 2 (56 miles): 2:59:59 / 18.67 mph

Final: 5:56:42 / 18.84 mph

 

Run:

Loop 1 (13.1 miles): 1:44:05 / 7:56 per mile

Loop 2 (13.1 miles): 1:50:42 / 8:27 per mile

Final: 3:34:47 / 8:11 per mile

 

Run Splits*

1 – 7:44 – Legs felt amazing out of the blocks of Transition.

2 – 7:55 – Legs not so amazing after all. Back on race plan.

3 – 7:45 – Finding comfortable pace, easy breathing.

4 – 7:50 – The damn rain just won’t stop!

5 – 8:00 – Rolling hills.

6 – 7:41 – Turned at the turnaround of the out and back.

7 – 7:58 – Trying to stay focused. Keep breathing under control.

8 – 8:15 – More rolling hills.

9 – 7:57 – Growing very fatigued.

10 – 8:28 – Big hill by Horse Show Grounds.

11 – 7:45 – Back on pace.

12 – 9:03 – Big hill back into town. This one will suck the next time around.

13 – 7:46 – Now recovered and back on pace.

1st Half: 1:44:05 / 7:56 per mile

14 – 7:45 – Breathing under control.

15 – 7:39 – Wow. I made 15 miles and am still running, and fairly good too.

16 – 8:43 – Rolling hills. Wave of emotion starts up. This hurts.

17 – 8:07 – Breathing back under control.

18 – 7:58 – Where the hell is the turnaround?

19 – 8:09 – Finally, the turnaround.

20 – 8:07 – Stay focused.

21 – 8:37 – Not yet.

22 – 8:36 – Big hill by Horse Show Grounds.

23 – 8:24 – Still recovering. I’m gonna do! Am I on Sub-11? I don’t know.

24 – 8:10 – Now picking up pace. Thinking about Sub-11.

25 – 9:55 – Big hill back into town. I ran it. Every step. But I was fried. Crap, there goes Sub-11.

26 – 10:28 – Screw that. I didn’t hold on for this many hours to let Sub-11 slip now.

26.2 – Last mile was so fast I knew I had Sub-11 without even seeing the clock.

2nd Half: 1:50:42

Final: 3:34:47. I did it. I held on. I really freak’n did it!

 

 

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4 Responses to IMLP ’08 Race Report

  1. Claire Cloutier says:

    Thor,
    I know you said that we didn’t have to reply but I really feel as though I need to. That report was absolutly amazing. It was as if you took written notes durning your race. I felt that I was right there and I was holding my breath going down those hills and was feeling the pain on your run. You are an amazing athlete and I am proud to know you. You make me feel as though anything is possible with the right training and motivation and your report is very motivating. Thank you so much for writing.

  2. SpartyGirl says:

    Thor-simply awesome. I wish that I had the chance to read this before my race yesterday, to carry those words with me. You have such incredible focus and mental fortitude-I truly admire those qualities among your many others. Congratulations on the executing the plan and reaping the rewards. Bravo my friend.

  3. jintorcio says:

    You’re a fookin’ nut.

    Way to get it back together after getting pummeled in the swim – I know how hard you’ve worked to be able to do that. And way to gather it up for that last mile when packing it in might have been much easier. You owned the day. Congrats Dog!

  4. Andyman says:

    Absolutely inspirational! You leave nothing to the imagination Thor. I feel like I was right there with you! Congrats!

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