Ironman Lake Placid would be my 3rd Ironman in 3 years. My first 2 experiences going at this distance was far from ideal. I didn’t take enough nutrition throughout the day and / or had gone out too hard and things became a sufferfest during the run. I didn’t set up any time goals for this race at all, my only goal was to do the race and finish strong. I would be content if I didn’t have any stomach issues, and perhaps keep a decent run pace.
The weatherman was right. There was some overcast in the morning and none of that sweltering record heat leading up to race today. I thought to myself that this was great and I couldn’t ask for anything more. The nerves were there in the morning, but I tried not to show it. I do the last minute checks on my bike in the transition area and was good to go.
As I was walking away, I hear a loud “POP!”. A tire had exploded. It definitely wasn’t mine, but some other random bike out there. A few volunteers gathered around to find the bad tire to fix. It’s crazy, but the owner of the bike wouldn’t even have known this happened as the tube would have been replaced by the time they got to their bike. It’s these little things like this that really make me have an appreciation for what happens at these races.
Getting ready for the swim!
The area where all the athletes go for their swim is totally changed. Fences were up all over, carpet was laid on the ground, people all over the place, it was great. You can barely recognize things at all. We get funneled into the swim start area and it felt like we like cattle. It’s ok, I used to commute downtown, so I’m used to this.
There was a big group of people wading around the start line area now. I got clobbered last year in this huge group, so I stayed back for a bit. I could see some of the other swimmers around me seeding themselves accordingly. I could tell the folks around me had nervous smiles and laughs. I was just the same. The time was 6:50 when the pros would get their start at the swim. We would start 10 minutes later. The swim was just like how I remembered it. I thought I was able to seed myself properly to avoid the chaos, but nope, it was pretty much the same. The only thing I could control here was my attitude, so after about 300M of swimming, I was getting into my groove. I focused on my stroke and tried my best not to hit anyone. I felt my legs getting pushed and pulled away however. Some people really need to relax themselves, it’s just a race. Sheesh.
This course consists of 2 loops for all of the events, so there was a huge clock on display for you to see once you got out of the water. Mine said 47:xx when I got out. Wait, that can’t be right can it? I didn’t think I was swimming that slow? I then realized that the time was set for the professional racers, so it was 10 minutes faster. Phew! I did the mini sprint across the beach and felt light headed. It was good to be back in the water once again. The second loop felt decent. I was really in my groove now, and managed to swim the second loop 2 minutes faster than the first. I got out of the water in a total time of 1:12 which is a PB for me.
Once out, I ran up to transition area. Spectators were going crazy with the cheering which got me pumped. However, I wasn’t able to see anyone of the support crew who came out to watch the race. It’s ok, I’m sure I’ll see my friends later on. Transition 1 was uneventful. I got into my biking gear and take off. Again, the volunteers were amazing and make this experience painless as possible.
The Bike Ride – An IM PB of 6:10
As I’ve mentioned before, everything here is done as 2 loops. So this meant, a 2x90km loop for the bike course. The first 90km loop came and gone. Nothing too eventful happened during this first loop. It was a bit morbid seeing an ambulance waiting for any crazy cyclists crashing on the descent down to Keene. Fortunately, I did not see anyone crashing. I managed to do my first loop in 3:01 which is a PB for me. I was content, but I knew the second loop was coming and it was going to be tough. I had a mini stop at the special needs area and did a new batch of my Infinit powder. The volunteer helping us here was great. So
I’m now on the second loop. It’s a good and bad thing because you know what to expect, and it’s bad because you know what to expect. I managed to get to the 150km mark when I took my last drink of Infinit. My stomach just couldn’t handle this stuff anymore and I immediately threw up everything I had just taken in. Nasty stuff! Fortunately, no one was to my right when I did that. And they shouldn’t have been.
The toughest section for me was without a doubt, the 160 to the 170km marker. It was just defeating. Everyone was passing me and I barely had any energy left. My attitude was still ok at this point, I knew I had a marathon coming up and I was already planning my run strategy. I managed to do the entire course in 6:10 which is a PB for me. I was content.
I finally make it back to transition and my bike was taken away by a wonderful volunteer. I did a total change of clothes as I wanted to feel fresh for the run. I’m not a fan of running while feeling all crusty and caked up with sweat salt.
The Run – An IM PB for me at 4:10
From experience, I knew that this is the section where I would suffer the most. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t want this run to be another suffer fest. I didn’t have my heart rate monitor on me at all, so I did things by perceived exertion. I was feeling pumped from the crowds, but knew that this was only going to be temporary. I forced myself to run slower than what I would normally run. I recalled from last year that I totally crashed at burned at the 10km mark of the run.
This 10km mark came by and I was doing well. Whoa, what is going on? I wasn’t throwing up at all this time and I felt strong still. My confidence shot up by tenfold at this time. Could I keep everything together and finish decently? I have never experienced this in my life before. We’re heading into unchartered territories here!
I was comparing my experience at this point from the same point this time last year. What a world of difference. There was a 2 mile out and back section which goes up Mirror Lake Drive that seemed like a death march last year, but it was a complete 180 this time around. I managed to see lots of my friends at the 20km mark and I felt wonderful. This is great. My race strategy up to this point was to run in between each water station (which is 1 mile apart) quickly refuel and then take off again. It worked wonderfully and my body wasn’t rejecting the sweet nectar of Price Chopper branded Cola.
Again, what a difference from last year when I had gastric issues and was throwing up anything I drank. The kilometers went by quickly and by the time I knew it, I was already at the 35km mark. I was doing calculations in my head. Now, I didn’t look at my running time, but the actual time of day itself. After doing some more math, I figure I had 45 minutes to do the final 6km in order to make it under 12 hours. I knew that I could do this no problem, but I didn’t want to take chances. “Keep on moving Jay! Don’t walk!” Now I was at the final 2km or so. I ran up the big loop around Mirror Lake and even though I didn’t have to, I grabbed some more water. Hey, I got time. I’m treating myself.
I recalled doing this loop last year, and it was a death march. It took me like 25 minutes (or at least it felt REAL long) to do this 1km out and back. Not today! I see the magical 11:54 at the end. WHOOT!!! I DID IT!!! I didn’t BONK and as a bonus, I went under 12 hours. I bettered my previous best by 1 hour 45 minutes or so.
I came into this race with one goal in mind, I didn’t want to bonk. That’s it. I didn’t care for my time, or what not, I just wanted to finish in one piece and I did it. The most satisfying race ever. It was the experiences from the first two races that made this one even better.
Race Review and verdict:
– Great volunteers. Great atmosphere. Very magical place to be.
– The Athlete banquet was the best one I’ve been to in terms of stories and experiences.
– 2 loop course, so you know what to expect.
– Challenging yet fair course. Might not be an ideal one for your first. Especially if you don’t have access to train here.
– Roads need to be fixed badly.
– Weather can be real iffy in the Adirondacks.
– 2 loop course, so you know what to expect. HA!
Verdict: 4.8 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.