Riding with the wind. When I'm sad, she comes to me.
With the thousand smiles, she gives to me...

Fly on my little wing.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid

Thank you for tuning in to the fourth edition of Ben’s long winded, more details than I really wanted to know, but slightly sarcastic and laughable Ironman race report. Having arrived in Lake Placid four days early everything seemed on track for fulfilling my goals in the days leading up to the race. Of course that included feeling tired, unusually sluggish, easily irritable and a bit anxious about the whole deal. Check out the course details here.

July 28th dawned cloudy and cool; essentially perfect race conditions. The only time I can be startled from sleep at 4:30AM and instantly be awake is before races. Or maybe if there was a bear breaking in the house. I had my typical breakfast of Pop Tarts and Ensure Plus. To be honest it was Meijer brand because I had to save a few bucks to balance the ludicrous race fee I paid, just to go hurt myself. Triathletes and heroin addicts have more in common than you think. After shuttling the five family members through our bathroom we were out of the house mostly on time.

Pre-Race doing my most flattering model pose
I got my stuff situated in transition, used my skillz to find the fastest porta potty line (sparing details here) and walked down to the beach at Mirror Lake. I found the family, got my wetsuit situated and received hugs and good lucks. I then navigated the corrals of fencing, not dissimilar from cattle being lead to slaughter and reached the lake for a short warm up.

Backing up, I wouldn’t have been at Lake Placid if my buddy Dave Smith hadn’t called me a year ago saying, “If Placid goes online I’m signing up, you in?” So I thought about it for 23 seconds and said, “Sure lets drop another $700. At least I’ll have someone to do it with.” It was Dave’s first IM and he claims the title of second most B.A guy there without shaved legs (after Potts). Anyway with the rolling swim start this year, we met up in the 60min and under corral, exchanged pleasantries and waited to get this show on the road. Waiting is the worst. 


Without a lot of build up, people were running for the water. The first “out” on the two loop course was about as much a washing machine as other races I’ve done. I’m not the only one who can’t swim straight and a few were out to defend their personal space. Of course there was no way to identify Dave in this mess. Things settle down after the turn and I swam right on the underwater cable that marks this course. We had to exit the beach before starting the second loop and I was very pleased to see 29xx on my watch.  Right off the bat I found a nice big draftee and just settled in, conserving energy. We began to catch a few swimmers still on their first lap and I just stayed in the draft as he snaked/bulldozed his way to the swim finish. I exited the swim in 1:01, a PR, and feeling very fresh to get to work on the sports I actually enjoy. 


I had an efficient, but not hurried T1 and headed out on the bike. I had prepared an 1100 calorie bottle of maltodextrin and was going to supplement with on course nutrition, going for a minimum of 350 calories per hour. One goal for this race was to be very focused on consuming as many calories as possible on the bike, hence my “Iron Stomach” training technique.

The bike course begins with a steady climb and I was focused on keeping in my target watts and “just chillin”. This was my first IM with my PowerTap, and I was shooting for a 215 avg, with up to 230-240 on the climbs. A light rain started, which was not unwelcome, but made for the descent into Keene a bit sketchy. The most eventful part of the bike happened on the second descent. My nutrition bottle bounced out, due to the less than bumpy pavement. I said some choice words to myself, but there was no stopping this bike from 40 to zero, on a steep descent, in the rain and then hiking my butt a half mile up the hill to get it. Thus I would be consuming more on course GU than anticipated. But that’s IM racing; deviation from the plan and handling the adjustments.

I continued onto the flats by Jay and caught up to Dave around mile 20. We settled into a legal draft distance and paced each other, just trying to chill and settle into the long day.

We steadily caught other racers on the 11 mile climb back into town, but there really wasn’t much “traffic” out on course. The spectators really added to the experience and I had to focus on not getting jacked up for the climbs. Coming into town for the first lap there were so many people. I felt even more so than in any other race I’ve done.  I was behind Dave and we just cruised through town, before heading back out for the second lap.

Caution More Detail Than You Really Want To Know
This was the first race I managed to piss myself while riding my bike. Twice. What kind of sick sport allows a full grown adult to be proud of the fact he peed his pants?  Of course emptying a half bottle of water all over to “clean myself.” This is acceptable behavior in IM and yet discretely peeing behind a tree in public could get me public indecency and on the sex offender list? That’s just messed up. 

Now back to the second lap of the bike. I was feeling really strong and confident at this point. On the descent a guy in my AG went by and I made sure to keep him in site. On the Jay flats we had four guys in our AG riding in the same vicinity. This continued for a while and I decided I felt good and, even with my run confidence, I was going to put some time in here. I upped the pace a bit and started gaining a bit of time on them. Dave chose not to follow. Just after this I missed a calorie pickup at an aid station, so I had a good 45 minutes with nothing. I’m experienced enough to know that this can lead to epic meltdown, so at the next aid station made sure to get some calories.

Strawberry Bananna GU is the WORST flavor ever! (We have some history). But I was going to take what they gave me at this point (Iron Stomach training again). I caloried up, and got back to business on the climb back to town. I kept a steady effort, riding by myself and passing few people all the way back into town. I continued to top off the calorie supply in the final few miles.

As I entered T2 I felt like I was racing by myself. There was only one other competitor in the changing tent as I calmly and methodically got myself taken care of and headed out for the run. I didn’t know for sure what place I was at this point, Dad had tried to tell me when I went by but it didn’t really register. I assumed I was 2nd or 3rd in my AG at this point, but knew there were multiple guys close behind and had no idea of any time gaps. 


Exiting T2
I’ve had a history of going out too fast on the run, so I was determined to hold back and properly pace myself. I felt like I was keeping a comfortable pace until I saw my split at the second mile 6:13. “Shit. I know it’s all downhill, but you had better control yourself or it will be an epic blow up in about 10 miles.” I continued out toward the flat part of the course on Riverside, but couldn’t seem to “chill out” Some more 6:20/30s and I told myself I needed to grab a GU, stop for a pee and reset things. So that’s what I did and was able to find my pace after that. At one of the turn arounds I recall seeing a kid I thought was in my AG from the bike. He wasn’t that far behind, but at this point it didn’t really matter. If he came up next to me, I wasn’t going to be able to go any faster. “Just keep running and don’t blow up.”

About 8 miles in (or 18 miles to go if you’re a half full vs half empty person), was when most higher level brain function ceased. At least in my case it was, “Keep running. Aid Station. Consume calories. Lots of calories. One mile at a time.”

In previous races I’ve had emotional moments during the run. Times when I think about my past accomplishments and experiences as well as those people who’ve been a part of the journey and have been able to find some extra energy and toughness when I just want to slow down.  That didn’t really happen in this race. I don’t recall my brain thinking about any such things, just intently focused on getting calories and "wrestling the line between speed and chaos". It was interesting; I remember the whole run but I don’t really remember the details. This sensation eased in and was very present as I headed out for the second lap. Maybe it was just an utterly intense focus. I was aware enough to hear my dad or sister tell me I was in second place.

You may be thinking, “WTF there’s still 13 miles to go and obviously this kid is already a bit out of it. I don’t understand how that works.” Frankly I really don’t either. But I do know that if one thinks about the entire distance left to run it is easy to become overwhelmed. The urge to give up becomes easy to succumb to. So I don’t even think about it, just one mile at a time, one aid station and just don’t stop running.

Once I got down to a “reasonable” numbers of miles to go, then mental game changes slightly. The "ouch factor" increased but this extra pain was offset by some other chemical release that occured when I realized the finish was close(er). At the Riverside turn around, I was aware enough to try and ascertain a split to the kid who was trying to run me down. I was hoping his mental game had broken, but he was still there 2 min and change behind me. On the flip side, if he hadn’t been there it would have left me with an “out” for slowing down. Who knows if I would have taken it or not. At this point there were a lot of first loop racers on course and it was hard/impossible to tell who was ahead of me, what state they were in and try to track them down.

I began the long climb back into town. I would be interested to hear the comments of the aid station volunteers when a zombie kid “runs/stumbles gracefully” up to the table yelling, “coke, coke, coke. GU! Anything!” And then guzzles the two cups down like someone who has been stranded in the desert for two days, all the while spilling the precious drops down his face and chest. This malnourished kid then despondently changes his walk to a shuffle and stiffly runs off. "What is driving these people to do this to themselves?" Then while they’re still pondering the sorry sight of that racer, here come three more, all looking as terrible as the last.

The run continued and as I entered the main square in town, all I wished for was the grade of the hill to slacken sooner. I registered my sisters flipping out that I was now in first in my AG. Having no idea when that really happened, I was just going to get this race done! During the run I sometimes feel a slight fear of what’s behind. Who might be right there stalking me? I don’t want to look back to see, display some weakness. But at the same time I want to know what I’m up against. I tried to push through the last aid station with less than a mile to go. But I honestly feared the wheels coming off in that time and had to pull over for my last cup of coke.

As I turned for the finish I stole a glance back and was utterly relieved to see that no one was there. I entered the finish oval and saw my sister with a bag of B-Nuts, which I grabbed for promo in my finishers pic. (Which I'm sorry to say turned out pretty terrible.) I was full tunnel vision for sure as I comprehended 9:2X and was coddled by the finishers people telling me, “Just try and keep moving…” 

While in my head thinking, “No lady, I’ve been moving all F-in day give me a (expletives) minute and I’ll be fine.”

Rebecca laughs at her brother.
 “Ok, here’s your finishers stuff and a mylar blanket. Let’s keep moving.”

“Damn it lady that was 13 frickin seconds, which may seem like an eternity for you but all I want to do right now is stand still for a bit, in fact where is a couch? I’d like to just lay down.” 

I didn’t really say that, I convinced the lady I was fine, walked a few steps and leaned over a table…where I proceeded to have a minor emotional breakdown. Upon observing this a medical guy came over to ask what was up and gave me a chocolate milk, which I promptly knocked over. So there I was in the most literal sense… crying over spilt milk.

I was handed over to my family and composed myself. I said I’ll be fine, just give me some time to chill out. Very much like college kids carrying their utterly inebriated friend home from the bar, my sisters escorted me to a grassy area out of the way, where I finally got to lay down. It was glorious. 

My final time was 9:25:08 with a 61 swim, 5:16 bike and a 3:01 run, qualifying me for my second go at Kona this October. I’ll have to get selling a lot of B-Nuts to fund that trip.

Special thanks to my Mom and Dad, Reebnut and Weasel for coming to cheer. Also Daryl, Gail, Wendy, Christy, Matt and Olive for making the trek to share the experience.

Sisters and their brother who, "looks like a Hot Pocket."
Credit for my result needs to be distributed to many people. For me it has been a roundabout yet defining journey to get this far. I honestly don’t know how my family puts up with me at times; make that most of the time. My mother’s willingness to help and having more patience than Job is one of the biggest blessings. I have to credit my father for raising me as someone who can embrace working hard and am also appreciative of his opinions on many medical matters. While Grandpa continues to wonder why I enjoy doing these activates, he is also an important link in the chain. My sisters, Rebecca and Mara know more personal details about me than siblings should be required to know. Those details thus get turned into laughter, which is a good thing.

I’d also like to thank my friends. Rob for continually checking in as well as the trip to Groom Lake. Joe for listening whenever I “call to B.S.” be it big or small stuff. Also Colin for giving me an excuse to have, “rest” days filled with massive quantities of grilled meat concoctions, beers and sitting on our butts, striving to keep the balance. Going back a ways, Dr. Guettler for getting my knee back on track and Jeff Smith for post surgery PT. I hope your services continue going unneeded. Also Chino, Bob, Deja and Dave A. for checking in on me and for consulting on various matters. Daemian, Drew, Cowan, Tram and Dave for continued butt kickings and improving my cycling. If it wasn’t for Dave Smith I would have never signed up for Placid. Thanks for pushing me in preparing for the race, as well as during the race. You’re a real stand up guy. To everyone who I haven’t specifically named, thanks for taking the time to follow along on my journey and contributing in your own ways. 


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