This past weekend I competed in the Ford Ironman Lake Placid. Over the last year, I had big plans formulated for this race, especially to make another run at qualifying for Kona. Having taking care of this earlier in the year at Eagleman, I was left with a predicament - race Lake Placid to my fullest as I did last year (despite already having a Kona slot) and then race again 10 weeks later in Hawaii, or drop out of Lake Placid to focus on my build to Hawaii. Many wise long-course athletes advised me of the latter for last year, and while respecting their opinions, I decided to try the former and race both anyway, thinking that I was strong enough to do both to my upmost potential. I was wrong. Or, I may not have been that far off, but my recovery might not have been ideal and compromised by some ill-advised training choices in the leadup to Kona in 2009. Either way, this year I made the tough decision to sacrifice Lake Placid for a better build and hopefully performance in Kona. The idea of a DNS seemed like a waste to me, especially since the entry fee was paid long ago, so one idea was to just race a portion of the event and draw off of the competitive energies and closed course to get in a great workout, pulling out of the race before I did too much damage to my legs. This of course would result in the dreaded DNF. I had never not finished a race I had started in, and the idea of this did not sit that well with me, but ultimately the desire to perform really well at the World Championships prevailed.
So last Wednesday evening Jocelyn and I were off to start the long drive up with my parents, who were coming to watch us (or now just her!) race. We drove part way, stayed over in Batavia NY, and then finished the long drive Thursday, getting in late that afternoon. Immediately we started unpacking the car and trying to get in some vital pre-race workouts. I did about a 30 mile ride with my teammate Steve, who was up to volunteer and train for his upcoming Ironman Louisville, riding the long descent into Keene and then returning up the hill. When I got back I had some excellent food that my housemates (Jocelyn, Chad, Jen, Matt, Kristen, Nate, Bill, Steve, and Mark) had prepared and this was just to be the beginning of many wonderful meals and laughs we would all share from Thursday through the following Tuesday morning on this Lake Placid getaway.Thursday was also Jocelyn's birthday, and the housemates got her a cute and modified IM-themed card:
Friday morning, Matt Mo and I went out for another typical smashfest bike ride. He too was training for IM Louisville, and I was trying to trash my legs as one should in any good training camp, and also to try to ensure that I would not be tempted to do anything stupid like changing my mind to finish the race on no taper. Matt and I (we started with a few others who we would ride with for varying lengths before they were dropped) rode one lap of the bike course in normal, counter-clockwise direction, and then the 2nd lap in reverse direction. We got in about 114 miles, and split the 112 in 5:19. Would I have any legs left for Sunday?
Later that night we had a pasta dinner, and had all of the Pittsburgh area triathletes and families in town over for dinner, along with some additional friends and contacts.
Here is a pic of pretty much the whole group after a great meal-
And the Sunday race crew-
Saturday morning we were up and at-'em early to start all of the final, pre-race workouts, bike preps, and gear drop-offs at transition. Most of us went out for a swim in Mirror Lake first thing, swimming anywhere from 15-45 minutes (depending on how seriously you were or were not going to be taking the next day's race!), with yours truly doing one, 1.2 mile lap in about 30:30.
Jocey and I pre-swim.
Later that afternoon, degreasing my chain for the first time in a long while.... :-/
Chad and I, with Bill and Jocey in the background, after dropping our bikes and gear bags off at transition-
The staging area....
Jocey and I back at the house, working on our Infinit and salt concoctions-
Later that night we all relaxed around the house and had a nice, simple and safe pasta/chicken/salad meal and got ready for the next day. Kristen was working on this awesome sign, to wave with pride on race day and support all the housemates doing the event. Thanks Kristen!
Sunday morning started at 4am and we all did our own breakfast routine, whether fruit, cereal, oatmeal, bars, Ensure, coffee, etc., as I opted for the now standard Ensure/banana/bar combo with a little java thrown in for the hell of it. At 4:50 we were off, packing into Matty Mo's Element, clown-car style-
Sharing some laughs pre-race-
Rocking out to Thunderstruck, getting pumped for the swim-
Almost go time-
At 7am me and 2,639 of my closest friends were underway. I went out hard for this swim, harder than usual and in keeping with my "experimental" themed training day, swimming maybe the first 400 meters or so at a pretty strong pace. I found myself in a decent position a little right of the line after about 5 minutes, however there was some stiff competition to get right on the close side, so I angled over between two guys to the near left side of the line to some open water. I would occasionally draft a faster passerby, and one guy and I took turns swimming on each other's hip for nearly 1000 meters. The turns were hectic as usual, but generally the first lap felt very strong and the arms productive. I came out of the water after the first 1.2 mile lap in about 27:30, and then made the run up and over the beach, and then dolphined back into the lake for lap 2. The 2nd lap didn't feel as strong and my approx split reflected this, swimming about a 29:47 for a total swim of 57:17. I bypassed the wetsuit strippers and ran hard up the beach, across Parkside and Mirror Lake Drives, and into transition. As I was running out of transition with my bike, I saw Chad as usual, on almost the exact same pacing schedule. Including the run, I was out and onto the bike in 4:24.
I started the bike and tried to settle into a steady but aggressive rhythm. The legs felt average, like they do on most standard long bike rides, but certainly not as good as I would have liked. The plan was to keep the HR aerobic on the rolling climbs out of town, and then hammer the long downhill into Keene and then to Jay and Ausable Forks along the river. The first lap felt very good and I was even catching and passing a few pro men and most women, and after a decent climb up through Wilmington Notch alongside Whiteface mountain, I came back into town in 2:35:40, averaging a HR of 149.
I started back out on the 2nd lap and continued to feel pretty good for the next 15 miles or so, but I also managed to have nearly my entire flat changing system (x-nut, inflater head, and two CO2 catridges) loosen and fall out the back of my x-wing on the big descent into Keene. That's another story though, and I decided to push on and not worry about this considering my non-race strategy. Once heading out of Keene, I noticed the first traces of the fatigue in my legs. It was beginning to get hard to keep my heart rate up when pushing, but luckily a couple fast guys caught up with me and that provided some motivation and opportunity for pacing. I was feeling ok but things were starting to go downhill. The last 20 miles of rolling and the climbing trend back to Placid really took it out of me, and I just struggled to try to keep the pace up high the rest of the way. I was really starting to feel it now, and did the 2nd lap in 2:44:06, about 8.5 minutes slower than the first lap with an average HR of 143. The entire bike split was 5:19:46, good for an avg speed of 21.02 mph at an avg HR of 146. The legs were pretty much trashed at this point, but I was pleased that I rode two separate 112 mile rides untapered in 5:19, spread over three days, and both of which were about 5 minutes faster than my tapered race split from last year!
I headed back into transition and as I was putting my running shoes on, I saw the familiar face of Chad run into the changing tent behind me to get ready to go on the run. I set out on the run after a 2:00 transition, unsure as to how long I would be out there. Spotting Matt, Kristen, and Jen, and making a cheeseball face for the camera-
Starting the short-lived run in 5th place in my AG-
I ran out of transition and starting running down the hill, getting about a mile before Chad came up behind me. I ran a little bit with him, told him that we were currently running about 6:50 to 7 minute pace, and then wished him well as he continued on ahead. I ran about another half mile to the two mile point and the top of the hill just past the airport and before the descent down towards the turn onto River Rd, and decided that this was the stopping point. I had thought about running a total of 4 miles and originally envisioned this as a two mile out, two mile back format, but I thought this could look weird as a random age-grouper was suddenly running ahead of the professional race leader, so I stopped running altogether and walked back into town. I took off my timing chip and held this in my hand, as I pulled down the top of my kit and turned my race number around. This was a very strange moment, and I felt a little ashamed for doing this, but I reminded myself why and thought about the big picture and the Big Dance in October and knew I was making the right call. I walked the two miles back into town and met up with my parents and the rest of the non-racing housemates to join in on the wonderful support and cheering on of our friends and family. I got some food to hold me over and then screamed my lungs out for Chad, Jocelyn, Bill, and Nate as they all raced to very strong finishes. Chad and Jocelyn raced their way to Kona slots, Bill to his first IM finish, and Nate to his second IM finish in about 10 weeks time!
Jocey racing towards the end of her first run lap, with a malfunctioning race belt number, and also looking tough, mean, and determined...
Jocey finishing strong for third place in the women's 30-34 age group, and a whopping 45 minutes faster that she did last year!!!
The women's 30-34AG results, with Jocey making the cut!!! (don't care much for the registered last name though!)
The next day, signing up for KONA!!!
Chad, Jocey, and I celebrating all of our upcoming races in Hawaii-
Jocey at the awards ceremony on Monday, representing BallouSkies on the podium with her incredible 3rd place finish!
The rest of the trip was spent relaxing and celebrating, closing out another successful race weekend and year in Lake Placid. I really love this town and the Adirondack region, and am really stoked to be racing there again next year! Next year I plan to be stronger and HTFU and do this race regardless of my race scheduling position. In the meantime, there is going to be plenty of additional hardcore training, a couple training camps, maybe an olympic thrown in, and then the IM World Champs on October 9th! Thanks for reading!