Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Epic Journey for an Epic Day - Ironman Lake Placid 2018

Frozen Mirror Lake - First Trip to Placid 2015
Our journey started when we first went to Lake Placid in the spring of 2015, Mirror Lake was still frozen at that time but we knew that weekend that we were coming back to conquer it. After a couple of more weekends there and riding portions of the course including the climb to Whiteface Mountain from the Village we were sure that we were able to do it if we planned it accordingly. For that reason, we planned 2 years in advance. From Cozumel, we knew we were going to take a break from fulls in 2016. We needed to give our bodies and minds a break from racing 4 fulls in a lapse of 2 years (IMTX 2013, Challenge AC 2014, IMAZ 2014 and IMCOZ 2015) with a few accidents and broken ribs in between. In 2016 we focused our season on getting Quassy 70.3 aka the Beast of the North East and Cartagena 70.3 done. The first one because it is a training race for many people up here that do Placid so we wanted to see what we were capable of and Cartagena for obvious reasons, racing at home and making it the family vacation. 
Whiteface Mountain Summit

Ice Cream and our IronTex Family
After Quassy which usually is known as being tougher than LP we came out confident about our abilities in the hills. Though we knew we had a lot of work to do ahead of us. After Cartagena, we took a short break for the holidays and dove in to LP training with the rest of the team. We focused our season on our A race. We did Quassy again this year as our gauge and kept on training. I had some good gains during training, my swimming was getting better and my bike riding was feeling solid and with our local club had gotten pretty good as well, my runs were good up to a point and then the miles started to catch up to me during training, usually struggling on the longer 2+ hours runs but I kept on going. 

Race week came, I must say the best decision we made was rent the house. Note:  if you are thinking on doing it recommend planning for that a year in advance. The entire town pretty much sells out for race weekend. Though the town has awesome houses and accommodations that cater to triathletes all year long. Pretty much from Memorial Day up to race weekend and beyond the town is packed with clubs doing training camps from all over the North East. When we did our camp late June there were about 7 clubs that we could count riding and training. Also that was a pretty good decision, no matter how many times we did the route or portions of it before, going and focusing a weekend on solid training was perfect to help calm the nerves. 
The Crew minus Pam

Now to the epic day! RACE DAY!

Before go time
The swim: I knew from training that for the first time I could start with Becky and not feel like she was going to smoke me on the first 200 yds. So, we started together. The first loop we pretty much swam it together, I had her right in front of me but she went on the second loop at bit earlier than me and I hit a bit more traffic as I wanted to stay more on the famous cable. I knew we were a little long on the first loop so I wanted to see if I could gain on the second but came at a cost. My first loop I came out at 34 minutes which is the time I had done the loops the 5 or 6 previous times so I was happy with it. The second loop I knew I was super long, my Garmin ended up with almost 4700 yards but I knew I didn’t let of the pace probably swam faster on that second loop but I just couldn’t get a clear line. Anyways I came out at 1:15 which means my second loop was 41 minutes and about 400 yards longer. For me that was a 2 min PR from Cozumel which has a current and about 5 min off from where I thought I was going to come out, my goal was to keep each loop at 34-35 min but I knew with  the traffic was going to be hard.
The face of a PR

We had a friend from Jersey that was volunteering for wetsuits so as soon as I went out I saw him and yelled his name, he got me with a friend down and out of my wetsuit quick. I then went to transition, that’s a long one for sure, but you get a lot of people cheering you along the way and is an effective way to catch your breath from the swim in a way. I got to the tent and hardly had any place to sit, but I found a seat and got my stuff ready. I didn’t change at all during this IM, a decision I made while packing the bags. Don’t regret it. I got my shoes on (err… Adriana’s shoes on, more on that story on her blog) my helmet, sunglasses and my honey stinger wafer and off I went. I came out of transition got my bike saw a good amount of bikes next to mine so I knew I was in a good place.

Trying not to hurt too badly
The Bike:  The bike course at Placid while it is a hard one is one that you have to be tactical or it can bite you at the end. It has a fair amount of climbing at the beginning that not everyone talks about and a lot of people try to hammer due to the adrenaline before the big Keene descend which is what everyone talks about. I took my time, I kept trying to get my hear rate monitor on and the sucker wouldn’t turn on, it was charged but somehow it was on locked mode and didn’t unlock all day, I tried for a couple of minutes and gave up on it. I knew where my power needed to be. I had set up my bike Garmin to give me a warning if I was out of my zone, not so much on the climbs but on the flats which is where I tend to hammer too much and get too high on it. The climb I tried to keep it controlled too, not getting too far out of my zones and not pushing extremely high watts. Saw Becky who was only like 5 min ahead of me, chatted a little bit with her and then left on the climb before the descend. I went down the descend the first time and noticed a bit of wind which was strange, the previous 2 times we had done it we didn’t really feel that headwind, but still I was right on where I needed to be while being safe. I had a slower descend than in the training rides but during those we didn’t have the traffic we had here so I didn’t want to take my chances, didn’t have to use the breaks too much as the wind helped control it. I hit a little rain after the turn going to Jay, I let air of the tires a little since it was overcast, I wasn’t sure how much it was going to last so didn’t want to take my chances.
Happy to be done
That part I used it to get food and gain some time. Wind wasn’t affecting us then, you are protected by the mountains at that point. I got kind of pissed at he packs of riders that were coming by and people just hanging on to the packs with a lot of drafting, I stayed in my zone, racing my race. Got to Jay and a couple of guys were in the penalty tent, though that didn’t stop others from doing it. Finally saw Becky, Danny, Danang and Adriana on the Jay turn around, everyone was doing great and I was heading up to Wilmington. That part went by pretty fast, before I knew it was passing Jamey and he told me everyone was on the bike as I went by and headed back to town. I noticed there that we had a tailwind, I was pushing 50% my power going uphill and keeping a pretty consistent speed that I couldn’t keep before. Passed a couple of guys and we joked about it and then before we knew it the Three Bears showed up, I actually PRed the 3 bears climb on the first loop from all the other 7 other times we have done it, blame it on the tailwind and crowd at the top. I got to town and checked my time, I was right at the 3 hour mark, I was pretty happy with it, I knew the second loop was going to be slower but I wanted a 3:10 or so on the first loop. The second loop other than the wind going down Keene was pretty uneventful. Also by then the wind going into Jay had picked up but again, kept the power in control and didn’t let that get to me. I came back into town and felt great, usually I know by that time I’m cooked because I tend to hammer it too much on the bike. This time I had a goal and stuck to it. My 6:35 bike wasn’t my best, but I knew I had not done damage on my legs and that’s right where I wanted it. Garmin time is actually 6:29:40 but I stopped about 5 times at the stations to pee. Hydration on point.

When I got to T2 I grabbed my morning back instead of my running bag. I guess I wanted to get it over that quick. I got to the tent and after an F bomb one of the volunteers saw/heard me and went to get my running back and helped me get ready. Adriana had packed Pringles in the running bag and they tasted like heaven. Next time we need to add a coke in it too to chase them down. Put on my socks, running shoes, belt, flag in the back and off I went.

Just on the first loop
The Run: First few miles the legs were not happy, saw Pam and stopped to ask where everyone was, then Michelle and off to the ski jumps I went. I was running keeping a good pace, again perceived excretion because I didn’t have HR to go by. Running between stations, walking through them and getting water, ice, coke, pretzels, etc. I got to see Becky, Danny who was having the time of his life, I missed tutu Sue on the first loop and then I saw Adriana and got the news of the shoes debacle... laughed together about it and moved on, I felt so bad for her but she was trucking along as she always does. Coming back into town its pretty amazing the energy doesn’t let you stop those 3 miles you run in the town. I did my turn and off to my second loop I went. Saw Pam again, I was starting to feel the miles by then, but I just wanted to make it to mile 17 and start counting single digits down. Met a lady from Platsburgh by mile 15 so we started doing intervals, we were doing great and at mile 21 she left me and I started stuggling the most. My energy went down significantly but by then I was just having chicken broth, forgot about the coke or didn’t really care much for it. Mile 23-25.5 still is a bit of a blur, I was stopping not that I was cramping, I just wanted to stop which I usually don’t do. Finally at the last aid station which is by special needs I grabbed two cokes and it was like a switch was flipped on, took out my flag to cover me a little because it was starting to get cold and then before I knew it I was by the tennis courts and that’s the last down hill before the oval. I knew I had PR’ed, I had set a goal of sub 14 for this one. I came short by 5 minutes but I still PR from Cozumel which was the last PR by 9 minutes. I saw Danang at the finish, he gave me the splits and we got everyone back.
Ironman Numero 5

In all, this has been by far our best race. We have had 2 seasons were we haven’t had injuries or major accidents, yes I have crashed on my bike a couple of times but nothing major, pretty minor compared to the previous 2. The key to this race was how we stuck to our plan of having this as a long term goal. We knew what we were getting into when we even set our goal, and we came and conquered it. I have to say, I couldn’t have done it without my partner in crime nor the team we have. Our IronTex Family is a pretty amazing family and our Sherpa squad, cheering squad and everyone that was tracking us really made it that much more special.