I won't get too long winded but the following is a summary of my day at Ironman Lake Placid 2011. John Ceko, aka Beast, stepped up large in spite of dealing with a tough injury and not being well enough to make the start line. I've always thought that the biggest challenge for Ironman is getting to the start line healthy enough to complete the race. John lent me his race wheels for the occasion as well as photographer as we dropped our camera on the way to transition race morning! Anyway, the leadup to race day was a little concerning due to the heat that blanketed Lake Placid and our little chalet, with no air conditioning, felt like an oven. Fortunately, the heat subsided the day before the race and race day was met with cool morning temps that ended up topping out at 25C by afternoon with little humidity - perfect weather! Also the first time in 4 Lake Placid IMs that it didn't rain.
The night before the race I was the most calm I've ever been. I fell asleep around 10pm and woke up at 3:50 am race morning feeling awake and looking forward to the "long training day". There was some last minute decisions to be made as the water temp was 76.5F (the limit for wetsuits IF you're going for Kona slots or AG podium spots is 76.1F). From 76.1 to
83.8 athletes can choose to wear a wetsuit. I had no illusions of a Kona slot and with 2500 athletes in a narrow lake I was all about the security of the wetsuit - plus Sara would have killed me if I tried to go without. The Pros went off at 6:50am and that's when I went in to find my spot and figure out a line. I vowed to "enjoy the scenery" and the view from the water was pretty cool with all the people that surrounded the lake. I positioned myself in the middle and thought I might try to swim over the cable (the underwater cable lining the swim course is about 6 feet below and allows you to swim without sighting - keeps you straight!). The first km I was getting the usual kick, punch, grab by the ankle and shoulder that comes with this crowded swim and I decided that the cable area couldn't be much rougher. I managed to position myself about 5 feet from the cable and I continued to hold that position throughout the 2 laps of the swim with the occasional log jam of slower swimmers to get around. My first lap was 33:10 and I completed the swim in 1:07, a PB by 5 minutes - good start!
The benefit of the good swim was that it put me amongst decent cyclists who were riding a decent pace. The other thing is that it was CROWDED on the bike course for the first 60km. At about 45km I achieved a first for the first time in 27 years of doing tris - I got called for drafting!! The funny thing about the call was that just a minute before a pack of 30 went by me like I was standing still! I didn't follow the pack because I wanted to race fair. A motorcycle came up beside me and called me for drafting. I thought I was 4 bike lengths back but he said I was only about 3.5 lengths. I had to laugh given the peloton that just passed by. I didn't feel too bad as 5 cyclists came by and couldn't believe I got called. Anyway I had to stop at the Penalty Tent a few miles up the road. This was new for me but here's what happened: I had to stand with my bike for 4 minutes and was not allowed to eat, drink or take a pee. Once the 4 minutes are up I go. Once done I was paranoid of getting called again so I definitely rode a lot differently for the rest of the ride. If someone passed I would sit up and allow 5+ lengths. In hindsight though, it probably slowed my pace down which ultimately led to a decent run. The ride back into town was cool with Tour de France crowds on the Papa Bear Hill and the noise around the Olympic venues was deafening and definitely provided an adrenaline surge. Bike total 5:57, another PB and the first time in an IM I've gone under 6 hours.
I took Sara's advice on transitions and tried not to waste any time. Sara's always been pretty good transitioning and routinely beats me. I tried not to waste any time and overthink things. I treated it like a training day and got on with it. I started the run with decent legs and felt pretty much like I did at IM Wisconsin in 2006 when I ran 3:57. I took this as a good sign and decided to try to run around 8:15 per mile as long as I could then dig deep for the rest. The first lap went well even though it was warming up a little and I seemed to surprise the gang when I came back into town. Ironically, as I was starting my second run loop the female winner, Heather Wurtele (a Canadian) just passed me to head to the oval where the finish line was. As she passed the media motorcycle was filming her coming in with me in the background so maybe I'll get a cameo! Heading out of town on my second loop I started to "feel" it around mile 17. From there the race was all mental and my mantra became "slow running is better than no running". I can't estimate how many times I must have said that to myself. I took 15-20 second walk throughs at aid stations and resisted walking further. I finally walked the last half of the big hill in town at mile 24 and by this time I was feeling the energy of the crowd and I saw Sara, Logan, John and Sheila and I knew I was getting this done. The final stretch to the oval was cool and the finish on the oval was electric and surreal. My run total was 3:53, another PB.
My overall time was 11:09.49 and I placed 330/2502 overall and 34/300 in the 45-49 age group. My previous best was 2006 IM Wisconsin in 12:08 so I had a breakthrough race. I'm now enjoying the beers and exercised for the first time today since the race.