You are an ironman!
Well I did it! After a long day at Lake Placid I’m proud to be able to call myself an ironman. Overall I was really happy with my race and wound up crossing the line in 11 hours 15 minutes, which put me into 315th position overall and 23rd in my division.
The morning started early on the shores of mirror lake. As I left the hotel I saw a flash of lightning in the distance and my heart skipped a beat, but fortunately that was the last I saw of it and the race began on time. Just before 6:30 the cannon was fired and the pro males began their long day on the job.
I started about 5 minutes behind them and went out at a very solid pace on the first loop of the two lap swim, covering those 1.2 miles in just over 31 minutes. At the end of that loop we had to get out onto the beach and run a short distance before commencing the second lap, which made for a rather nauseous feeling that soon past. I went a little wide at times on the second lap and got tangled up a few times with some of the slower swimmers still on their first lap so it was a couple of minutes slower but I was still happy with the effort. Overall my swim ended up being my best leg of the day – it’s the first time I’ve ever swum better than I’ve run so I guess those countless laps of the pool paid off.
It could have ended up a bit differently though. One of the keys to a good swim in open water is finding good swimmers to draft off. If you can find someone who is roughly your ability or a little bit better you can tuck in behind them and follow their slip stream, which results in you expending up to 18% less effort. Anyway, on the first lap I got behind a girl who was swimming at the exact pace I wanted to hit so I sat in behind her for about 5 minutes. I thought I was keeping a pretty considerate distance, but I guess she could sense me and didn’t like me getting free speed. She stopped swimming, turned to me and started thrashing her arms wildly at me, so I just put the hammer down and swam like crazy to get away from her!
Once I was out of the water I ran into the bike transition area and my heart skipped a beat for the second time that day. I got to my bike rack only to find my bike was missing! There were several thousand bikes there and I had only seen one that was worth less than mine, so I wondered why would anybody steal my rigid aluminium beast with heavy alloy wheels. I ran over to the nearest volunteer to report the theft, only to find he was holding it ready for me to grab as I ran through the transition. I’m not used to that kind of service at a triathlon! I thanked him and quickly got started on the bike course.
After a couple of steep uphill miles the huge descents into the town of Keene approached, which made me a little anxious. It was raining at that stage and I knew from driving the course that the roads were in pretty bad shape on this section, so I intended on taking it pretty easy. As I freewheeled down the hill at about 60km/h I had a few athletes pass me like I was standing still. They must have been doing close to 90km/h which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for error so I was happy for them to leave me in their wake.
I felt really good on the first lap of the bike and towards the end I started to get into race mode where I was looking at the athletes ahead of me and picking them off. Big mistake! Shortly after the start of the second loop I knew I had gone out too hard and had to conserve some energy if I was going to get through the run. On the second lap I passed two athletes and was overtaken by at least 100 others (though it felt more like 1,000,000!), which was very demoralizing and made the pain in my legs hurt twice as bad. Still I hung in there and was elated when I past the 100 mile mark. At that point I knew my bike could fail catastrophically and I would still be able to carry it into town and finish the race.
After climbing the final hill (Papa Bear) I found myself rushing through transition and onto the run leg. My transition went very smoothly and I actually completed it faster than Andy Potts, who won the pro division (I would have preferred to beat him on the bike leg, but I take what I can get). I grabbed some sunscreen on the way out and started attacking right away on the steep downhills out of town. I was a little scared to be honest, as I knew these downhills would become uphills on my way back into town!
The first 7 miles of the marathon felt pretty good, but then I started to feel a nauseous and mentally I knew I couldn’t convince myself to just run another 19 miles so I needed a new tack. I decided I would run to the next aid station a mile away and then I would walk through it and grab as many fluids and nutrients as I could. Then I would repeat this every mile until I felt better. Running a mile doesn’t seem that bad, so the strategy worked pretty well and didn’t slow me down too much and so as I came back into town around the halfway point I started to feel magical again. I started passing people left, right and centre, but it only lasted three miles before I had to slow the pace back down and return to my one mile at a time strategy.
The second half of the marathon was a real mental struggle and if it were a training run I would have thrown in the towel. But with so much preparation for this moment I wasn’t going to quit that easily. With about three miles to go I decided to suck it up, increase the pace and finish in style, but just as I convinced myself my body rebelled with an epic cramp in my left hamstring. I stopped to stretch it out, but it just kept on grabbing. However, a little massage and three stretches later (as I watched all the people I had overtaken cruise past me) I was able to get back into my rhythm. I past a lot of people coming into town as I ran up the hill, seeing as most people weren’t crazy enough to run up a steep hill after 11 hours of racing. Then as I rounded the last mile I embraced the pain and pushed myself hard towards to finish. Rounding the corner onto the speed skating track and completing the half lap of the track before the finish line was a truly electric experience (some may say Steven Bradbury-esque)
Crossing the line I felt pretty spent, but not too bad. I didn’t require any medical attention like I did on my first marathon a couple of years ago, so my fitness and racing strategies have certainly improved since then. I grabbed some sustenance and sat down for about 10 minutes before I found Brynn and got reunited with her and Benjamin. The truth is that behind every ironman there is an ironmate, who makes it all happen with their incredible support and encouragement. Brynn made a lot of sacrifices over the last few months to enable me to get in the training I needed to get to the finish line and I am very grateful for her support. She can wear my medal any time she likes!
Now it will be a big adjustment as I get used to life outside of ironman once again, but I look forward to the change of pace and the opportunity to spend more time doing things I simply haven’t had the time for. Triathlon will still be on the cards though as I have the Luray triathlon on my schedule in three weeks. I figured with all that training under my belt, I might as well get in another race!
With the end of ironman I’ll be bringing my blog to a close soon, but it’s still not too late to donate if you are able to! We’ve had a number of last minute donations come through that have been really appreciated and will go a long one to helping the fight against HG!