Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ironman Lake Placid 2017 Race Report

And just like that it’s been over a week since my Ironman #9, and my first Ironman Lake Placid! Lake Placid has been the very first ironman I ever spectated back in 2010, and it would be another 2 years before I did my first IM. It sure took me long enough to make the trip back to Lake Placid to actually race.

In 2010, I was a complete rookie and although I really wanted to do one of these things, I wasn’t quite sure how that would be possible. The descend down to Keene absolutely terrified me, and I remember to this day how scared I was barely hitting 40 mph. I literally thought my bike was going to fall apart!  

Fast forward to 2017, and what difference a few (ok – 7 years) can make. I was super excited to race for a few reasons:
  • ·       Racing with teammates, athletes I coach, and friends is the best! 
  •       With the close proximity to Boston, LP would feel like a hometown race and the amount of on course support would be second to none! (the truth) 
  • ·       Already having my Kona slot from Ironman Texas, this was a no pressure kind of race – well except for the fact I still wanted to win because that’s just me
  • ·       No women’s pro race, which meant the possibility of winning the whole thing was of course super exciting as well
  • ·       My 1st ever Ironman wetsuit swim – yes – you read that right!

THE SWIM: 1:07:36

After my less than average swim at Ironman Texas this year, I was a little hesitant about this whole time trial, self seeded swim start, but I must say it was MUCH better organized than in Texas. Instead of dodging bodies for half of the swim, I could actually move straight forward without swimming into walls of people. I suppose this is also a lot easier when the under water visibility extends far beyond just your own elbow!

Calmness that is Mirror Lake before all of us jumped in!

I even got to warm up in the water, which for me is huge! (Also not a possibility at IMTX), Before I knew it, Bash and I were slowly making our way toward the middle of the 1:00 – 1:10 corral. It was super awesome to be lining up with my training partner in crime, and it sure helped to keep the nerves in check. Bash is definitely faster off the start line, and he regularly kicks my ass in the pool, so my goal was to just try to stay on his feet. Heck if he could have just dragged me around the lake for 2.4 miles, I wouldn’t mind either ;). 

Around 10 people in every 4 seconds! 

We both ran in side by side along with few others, and the trashing began. As expected, Bash took off but without me (insert sad face). It wouldn’t be the first time, so I just focused on my own rhythm and swimming as straight of a line as I could. I also stayed away from the buoy line and the underwater cable because I simply wasn’t up for a boxing match. 

Churned up Mirror Lake 

The lake was crowded, but I was holding my own space and shortly after probably 500 yards or so I found a set of just the perfect feet to draft behind. I tried passing the guy a few times to no luck and every time I pulled up next to him he would pull away. He was my guy, and I stayed on his feet – the entire 1st loop! He was clearly staying away from the cable, he was swimming straight and he also avoided the congestion at the turn buoys by swimming wide. I happily followed. We had to swim around a few folks throughout the first loop, but for the first time ever, I really fought for my feet and stayed there even through congestion! YES! 

Unfortunately my guy decided to take his sweet time in between loops 1 and 2, and so I bolted out of there and dove in for loop 2 on my own.The water actually seemed to be clearer, and before I knew it I found myself on the cable. After not even catching a glimpse of it on the first loop, I honestly thought they took it out for the race. But there it was! Best part – there was nobody on it! I felt like I just won the lottery! 75% of the 2nd loop was contact free – I swam around a few folks but not many and was smooth sailing on top of the cable breathing 10 strokes to the left, and 10 strokes to the right! Yup – for the first time in a race I breathed to my right side (It only took 7 years but that’s a story for another day). I only left the cable when swimming around the turn buoys so that I didn’t get stuck and could keep my rhythm going – mission accomplished!

Gotta love the BlueSeventy Helix! 

I got out of the water with a new shiny PR of 1:07:36 just under my best goal time of 1:08, I breathed to both sides, and for the first time in my triathlon career, I took absolutely zero breast strokes. (Oh the little things). I felt like I didn’t even swim, and was only 12ish minutes down from the super fast fishes, and 7ish minutes behind the contenders – great start to the day for sure!

T1: 4:24

Wetsuit strippers for the win! The half mile pavement run to transition – not so much, but I did my best!

THE BIKE: 5:16:19

Where to begin. “Black Firebird” was ready to rock and so were my legs. My legs felt awesome all day long, and the power numbers reflected that. Unlike back in 2010 when 39.1 mph felt like flying, I found myself hitting nearly 50 mph and looking for more gears.

Turtle time!  

It however apparently wasn’t fast enough for select few, that figured riding in a group would be more fun. By the time I got to the bottom of the Keene descend, and began the flattish trek from Keene to Jay to Ausable Forks (my favorite section btw), the group only grew in numbers. I put in the first of my (bigger than I really wanted for this stage of the race) efforts to get away only to get swallowed right back up momentarily. And so the cat and mouse game began. I grew more and more frustrated and had a few choice words with the group as they squashed my first couple of attempt(s) to get away. I knew that given the nature of the course at this point, this group wasn’t about to break up anytime soon, and so I had a choice to make.

I chose to put in one final surge and was finally able to get far enough away to not get caught and cut off instantly. In order to stay away, I had to keep the pedal to the metal, which meant 200+ watts for 90 min. Not something I am not capable of, but not the strategy I wanted to employ this early into the race.   I don’t know how long the group behind me stayed together for, but at this point, I was just glad to focus on my own race.

I rolled through the first loop above race pace, but at least finally defrosted and feeling great, trying to forget what I just witnessed on loop 1.

Up the bears and smiling! :) 

2nd loop was essentially empty, and I rode probably about half of it with 2 other male riders leap frogging back and forth in a LEGAL paceline! It was a breath of fresh air when I wasn't being re-taken right after passing them because I was a "girl" and girls shouldn't be able to keep up with guys. I was still holding my goal watts and was glad to see that riding legal is possible when everyone makes the effort to!  My power was right where I wanted it to be and so it looked like and felt like I may just survive my harder and more variable effort from the first loop without any consequences. (Ironman however is a long day so more on that later)

Aero is the name of the game! 

Somewhere along the 2nd loop I also realized I had lost half of my rice/potato cakes and since I only brought one extra gel, I had to adjust on the fly. I opted for bananas, and they seemed to do the trick. Let me tell you – peeling half bananas while moving swiftly through aid stations is a lot of fun! ;)

Overall I had a very strong ride, and one I am very proud of. I rode clean, I had my highest IM power output ever, and better yet – I never faded. My effort all day long never felt forced even when I rode way above my goal watts for quite some time, and that is something I can 100% build on for Kona.

I rolled into transition with the fastest female bike split, and as 3rd female overall.

T2: 2:41

I probably could have done a little better but don’t tell my coach (I had to fix my hair – my bun came apart and it was really going to annoy me on the run). The volunteers were awesome as usual and I think I had about 5 of them trying to attend to me. If they only knew how many times I peed on myself during that bike ride you would have probably stayed away so thank you ALL!

RUN: 3:37:51

I have never ran more hills in training that I did in prep for this race, and I was excited but still a bit intimidated by the hills (mountains really) on this run course.

As I started the run my legs were feeling great, but although I was trying to hold back, my HR seemed a bit higher than usual. I kept trying to slow myself down to get the HR down, but it wasn’t budging. (I do sweat quite a bit and I did drink quite a bit less during the bike especially on the first loop because I was freezing so dehydration may have been settling in)

Look ma - both feet of the ground! 

I made sure I fueled properly (1 clif shot block every 10 min plus salt and I tried to get in as much water as I could between my tiny 8oz handheld bottle and the aid stations). It sure was nice not having to worry about overheating and cooling down every mile because the temperatures were essentially perfect! I did wear my CoolCore cooling towel around my neck and headband which I just kept pouring water on to keep wet and cool throughout the day.  

Clif shots #nomnom

Since this wasn’t a female pro race, I also started the run with a biker, which was awesome! Although they are not allowed to ride in front of you, I sure felt like a celebrity all day long (well until mile 20 ish when I lost her) because I fell to 4th overall. 

There she is - Brigitte, my biker

I was running well for about 17 miles and although I was 3rd female on the road, I was still running in 2nd due to the nature of the rolling swim start. 

The wheels however started to fall off at mile 17 and my legs became harder to turn over with each step. The thought of taking another clif shot block was making me sick too. Too bad I still had two mountains to climb (they joys of a run course with 1600’ feet of elevation!) and 9 miles left to run!

Miles 17 through 21 were still sort of respectable although this is also where I lost my biker. Probably a good thing because I don’t think the snail pace with which I was moving up the hill would translate well to being able to stay upright on the bike!

Miles 21-25 were some of the toughest miles I ever ran – I mean shuffled. My pace dipped into the 9s, and I nearly saw even 10s – the wheels were off and perhaps this is where my early bike effort coupled with a few fueling mishaps reared its ugly head. With 1 mile to go, I saw couple other girls closing in on me (on an out and back section), and somehow willed myself to kick it into high(er) gear. After spending the last 4 miles what felt like barely moving, I turned on the afterburners so that I wouldn’t get caught (turns out those 2 girls were just finishing the 1st lap), and what felt like a 6 min mile effort turned out to only be 8:22 mile pace – funny how that works, eh? 

I don’t remember much from the finish line, besides the fact that I was really happy to see it! 

Hello, Ironman finish line #9

I loved the ever so challenging and relentless Ironman Lake Placid race course, and I absolutely loved the support I received out there on the course. SO SO SO many people cheering for me literally all around the entire bike and run courses and sharing the course with my athletes and friends was absolutely amazing too! They all kicked ass and either PRed or finished their first IM and I really couldn't be more proud of all of them. 

 Finish line smiles! 

 Part of the E3 Crew along with the boss 

The first time Ironman and his cheering crew! 

My finish time: 10:08:51

Not sub 10 hours, no finish line tape but lots of lessons learned and positives to take out of this race! I wanted to race fearless and I am proud to say I did! It wasn't good enough to break the tape (4th overall, 2nd AG), but I had a great swim for reasons far beyond just the time, my strongest bike to date power wise, and although I faded hard on the run which cost me that sub 10 finish, I have learned a lot! 

Thank you to ALL the volunteers, my bikers on the run, and of course my coach Jorge for everything, as well as my sponsors Quintana Roo Tri - we had the fastest bike split :) , The Refreshinq Co. for making sure I am healthy and recovering well day to day, Coolcore for keeping me cool, BlueSeventy for helping me keep getting faster in the water and Levelen for helping me dial in my fueling! To my supporters  CycleOps and FinisSwim - thank you! Your tools are part of training routine on consistent basis! 

After much needed recovery, it's now time to buckle down and get ready for the World Championship double with 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga, and Kona.