Lake Placid, New York truly holds a special place within my heart.
I completed my first Ironman here 10 years ago and have returned often to race and train. My hopes for Ironman Lake Placid were to have a sound race and to get onto the podium (i.e. in the top 5). I knew that the icing on the cake would be if I happen to finish in the top two places in my age group, in which I would most likely earn a slot to the Hawaii World Championships in October.
The two days leading up to race were business as usual. I reveled in my coach-prescribed pre race breakfast of two Vermont organic eggs and 3 gluten free chia waffles with a boatload of maple syrup. I went through gear check and pretty much stayed off my feet as much as possible. On race day morning, I woke up at 3:15 a.m. I was excited but also a bit nervous, as this was my 6th time racing Lake Placid. My good friend, Angie Defilippi, who went on to place 2nd amateur for the day and 1st in her AG, was staying with me. We choked down our respective breakfasts (mine was a GF English muffin with peanut butter and banana; something else that I don’t remember; 2 huge green tea soy lattes and a little coffee that I pirated from Angie’s stash). I engaged in my prerace ritual of a hot bath and leg shaving (I do skip the race day shaving in salt water courses after a couple of stingy swims).
We got down to body marking—I mistakenly told the body marker to write my area code (858) instead of my race number (838) on my arms and legs. I didn’t notice until just before we got in the water but I rubbed out the middle number. The girl with # 858 swam a 53:xx—HAHA—wish that could have been me!
I wore a pair of throw-away socks for the long walk down to transition (took me 10 years to finally remember to do that). I positioned myself right in front directly in line with the buoys and found relative open water just to the left of the swim cable, which sits 5 feet underwater and serves as a guide so you don’t have to sight. Kat and Jeff Donatello were out on the dock taking pictures of me at close range and their presence kept my nerves at bay. I swam relatively straight and without too much contact with other swimmers (at least for a Ironman LP swim). I DID make a ROOKIE MISTAKE of rounding/swimming too close (on the inside) to all 4 turn buoys and as a result lost time from flailing around in a middle of a cluster f&%$ of swimmers each of the four times. Those were the only moments that my swimming path was super congested. I also managed to get elbowed in lip during the turn around the 2nd buoy which resulted in a bloody gap on across my lower lip. It hurt like heck but I don’t think that it really slowed me down (maybe 5 seconds).
2 minutes slower on second loop (30:30ish/32:30ish). I bled throughout the bike ride. Man, did I look tough, LOL!
As I’m heading down first hill, I quickly discover that the handlebars are loose and rotating up and down. I had to really concentrate in order to hold them in place. I rode my bike 2 times after I built it up before the race and everything seemed sound so I was pretty surprised. Well, I wasn’t really that surprised since I can’t even change a tire. I rode about 7 miles before I flagged down bike tech support as I failed to take a wrench on the ride. Took about 5 minutes to tighten up bolts, re-tape aero bottle to bike, etc. Ugh….ROOKIE MISTAKE AGAIN! I probably lost 5-7 minutes with this mechanical issue.
At the out and back, I see some of the fast swimmers in my age group ahead of me on the bike—but not too far as they only were about 8-9 minutes ahead of me. I am really excited that I hadn’t lost too much time. I hold my pace; feel fine and concentrate on taking in nutrition. Of which I thought I was doing a decent job. I loved the spectator with the two pet goats on the climb into Haselton Road. I didn’t love the requsite pack (doesn’t every Ironman have a couple of these) of blatant drafters who-in cheater/pelaton style-flew past me. I fired off some not so nice comments and their reply was “come join us!” I wished them 6 hour marathon splits instead. After the descent on the 2nd loop (and I hit over 40 mph—1st time ever—and I was sooooooo puffed up from this even though Angie, who is absolutely TINY, can hit in the high 50’s ). After this point, I started feeling like I was slowing.
At mile 90 I really felt dehydrated and thirsty. I had take 6 bottles of fluid at this point which I thought would be enough hydration but it wasn’t.
Had slight urge to pee but again at the out and back I noted that I wasn’t too far behind some of the contenders in my age group so I held it and rode. That is when I realize that, despite the super slow bike I was having, other people were having slow days as well. I get through the rest of bike with embarrassing slow split. However, I am patting myself on the back from having lost most of my fear of descending.
Loops were 3:04 and 3:11. I think WTF? Bike split is slower than any split that I’d ever done in Lake Placid except the 1st year I raced.
I dismount, sprint toward the gear rack. I grab wrong bag and run toward tent. A volunteer turns me around and sends me back to get my run gear bag (30 second loss of time)…ROOKIE MISTAKE AGAIN! In T2, am pretty disoriented and couldn’t get enough water. I am definitely dehydrated. Or something.
I feel horrible but keep getting shouts and comments about how strong and speedy I was and looked (Again, WTF?) I have never felt this depleted at the start of a run!
I’m definitely not my usual self. Lots of cheers specifically for me but I couldn’t acknowledge them—which is also out of character. Usually I get chastised by Coach Kurt for not staying focused and turning the run into a social event. I’m the one petting puppies and making friends on run courses; not falling apart.
I felt like I was in survival mode and just crawling from aid station to aid station.
- At mile 11, sat down on Mirror Lake Drive and took my socks off. I thought that they were heavy
- At mile 15, took shoes off to check for pebbles
- At mile 15.25 took shoes off again for same reason
I had no idea why I did any off this. It seemed logical at the time. Somewhere through all of this I run myself from 8th place into 4th at the halfway point. I kept reminding myself periodically of (Kurt) KP’s advice to me: If I was hurting; others were as well. Keep going. Keep moving. I got a lot of cheers but still couldn’t acknowledge anyone. At every aid station I slowed to a halt; took in coke and water. I probably drank a 1/2 gallon of coke during the run.
I hit mile 18 and started visualizing the last 8/7/6/ miles and picturing that I was out at home on a training run. This actually helped. This crucial area in the run was where experience trumped ability. I knew the rest of the course and I knew at this point that I was going to complete the run.
Mile 20 came and I was relatively thrilled that I only had a 10k left. Plus I passed a couple of people in the AG. That helped my spirits and drive. I see KP at mile 23.5. He told me that I was on podium. Yee-hah. He told me to stay strong and keep moving.
I wobble, stagger and stop at mile 24. I scare Geoff, who was watching with my friends Jim and Bob. Geoff told me later that he almost pulled me off the course because he honestly thought that I was going to die. I gather myself and run to next aid station at mile 24.5. I gather whatever is left of my mental fortitude and run as though I am being chased by an axe murderer. During these 1.7 miles, I finally run like a runner. I cross the finish line and collapse. Marathon time 3:48. I guarantee you that at least half an hour of that run took place standing in aid stations or bending over by the side of the road. Race time: 11:15.
I was wheeled into medical where I’m asked (by the nurse) where I was from. I tell her that I’m from Maine. I live in San Diego and used to live in Vermont. Now here’s the funny thing: I have NEVER EVEN lived in Maine. 90 minutes and 1 liter of IV fluid later, I get to leave. I talk briefly with Kurt who congratulated me on a good job. We both knew that I should have been faster—but a 6-year hiatus from Iroman will dull you little—hey hey, it was “Rustyman”. I made some mistakes-especially with my nutrition plan, and it made for a very tough race.
The great news was that I managed to run my way into 2nd place. I had qualified for Kona. I was beyond ecstatic and surprised. It had been an extremely tough day out there. The next day Angie and I went down together to claim our Kona slots. Unbelievable…..well not for Angie–she rocked that course!
Geoff and I spent the next 3 days enjoying Lake Placid and Vermont. I think I averaged about 6000 calories a day of carb-heavy, beige sticky/sweet and salty foods. I had donuts, bagels, beer, chips, exotic coffee drinks, pasta and bread. Yesterday for breakfast I had the most delicious plate of Heuvos Rancheros and two pieces of French toast with Vermont maple syrup. On the Jet Blue flight home I was wearing a Foodsense, Now T-shirt. I was drinking alcohol, shoveling a bag of those delicious BBQ blue potato chips into my mouth with one hand while simultaneously signaling to the flight attendant for more with the other when a fellow passenger asks me about my shirt. I reply that it is my company and we focus on the education and production of healthy, whole foods cuisine. Boy did that confuse him! He gave me a quizzical look sideways then up and down, so I explained to him that I give myself a three-day eating “window” after an Ironman race to eat and drink whatever I want. (I ended up eating 5 bags of chips and 2 bags of chocolate chip cookies. This was after my big feed of a crispy fish sandwich, fries and beer during our layover at JFK).
It was wonderful to be back in Lake Placid. Thank to Geoff for all his love and support. Thanks to coach Kurt Perham for getting me back toward the top. Carrie McCusker, I must thank you too as even though I couldn’t look at you; you were everywhere on the course! And to my friends and supporters who yelled and cheered throughout the race. I have always maintained that it is a longer day for spectators. A finally, a huge congrats to Marc Meredyth and Kim Hewlett who finished their first Ironman races with incredible times.
Onward to a world championship double-double. Vegas and Kona, here I come!