July 24, 2011
When I opened my eyes I really couldn’t believe it was race day. Races are strange, you spend all year anticipating them, but, somehow, once they arrive it feels fake. I remember my main feeling being, “I cannot believe I have to spend all day exercising. This is gonna hurt.” This was a huge departure from what I remember feeling before my first IM, Louisville, in 2010. Then, I think the feelings were similar to the day I got married. I was excited and couldn’t believe that at the end of the day I would be an Ironman (or, in the case of our wedding, married), how awesome! In 2010 I was excited. In 2011 I was realistic. Reality isn’t necessarily what you want to go into an Ironman with. The other major contributor to my lack of excitement I’ve already talked about in several of my previous posts- due to a series of injuries and inability to do much running training, I just didn’t go into this race feeling prepared. I have to tell you, that is COMPLETELY foreign to me. Since hiring Scott as our coach in January 2010 I have KNOWN I was completely ready at every race I’ve been to since. This was a completely different and uncomfortable feeling.
At any rate, I had gotten a good nights sleep. I had a glass of wine and one tylenol PM with dinner (chicken and baked potatoes with dark chocolate for dessert) at around 6pm. That is the secret component to a successful race for me. I slept like a freaking baby. I woke up at 4:15am and still got 8 hours of sleep. Lovely. An hour was enough time to eat breakfast, take care of business, check my bags for the 1000th time, kiss Roo Roo, get a big hug from my mom and father in law and hit the road.
We got to transition around 5:30am. This was plenty of time to put my nutrition on my bike, have Ryan pump my tires, have Ryan pump other people’s tires, double check my transition bags, do a visual walk through of both transitions, get body marked, wait for Ryan to do who-knows-what and head to the Team FeXY tent and special needs stations. When I got to the run special needs station to drop off my bag, I realized I didn’t have it. I must have lost it somewhere along the way. Oh well. I didn’t really need anything in there anyway, but I was REALLY hoping that that was the only bag I had screwed up. By the time we got to the FeXY tent, we really didn’t have much time at all before it was time to put on our swim skins, take a few team pictures and head to the swim start.
The swim is always what I am nervous about. I’ve never done a mass start before and was a little nervous about what it would feel like. To make matters worse, for the first time ever (I’m pretty sure) in the history of IM Lake Placid, the water temps were higher than 76.1 degrees. This meant that if you wanted to be eligible for age group awards or Kona slots, you couldn’t wear a wet suit. Swim skins, however, would be permitted. A swim skin is a 1oo% textile blend with no neoprene. So, while they are supposed to be faster than just wearing your tri outfit, they don’t offer any buoyancy. Ryan and I had heard rumblings of this from our friend and teammate, Henry Tragle, on Friday. So, on Saturday morning Ryan was lined up at the Blue Seventy tent at the expo to buy us swim skins. At $295 a piece, that seemed pretty steep for something I wasn’t going to get a lot of wear out of, but Ryan wanted them. I was grateful for this decision as we stood on the beach on race day. I was actually shocked at how many people still wore wetsuits, but I was happy with my decision to go with the swim skin. Ryan and I started wading out toward the swim start. I was pretty surprised at how much room there was in the center, so, against all advice I had heard, that is where Ryan and I began treading water waiting for the swim start. I tried to limit my energy expenditure while waiting, but I was shocked at how hard it was to tread water for 5 minutes. I tried floating on my back, my stomach, it didn’t matter. Unless I actively tread, I’d sink immediately. I remember it being a lot easier to float before I started training for triathlon. My old built-in rear flotation device is much smaller these days. The clock ticked down, I told Ryan I loved him and then BOOM! The cannon went off……and all hell broke loose. Oh my goodness. I have never experienced anything like it. In a split second, all the space I had was completely gone. I found this video on You Tube. It does a pretty good job of capturing the swim start. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpXlJI1IZt4.
It was, honestly, more like wrestling than swimming. I kept my breathing mostly calm, but at 112 lbs and with no wetsuit, staying afloat was tough, especially with guys, much bigger than me, in wetsuits swimming over me. I’d swing my arm forward to take a stroke, only to land on top of another swimmer. At the same time, the person behind me was, literally, on top of my legs. It was unreal. We had been told that there were divers in the water below us. I remember thinking at one point, “I’m going to sink and no one will know until it’s too late. I hope a diver sees me.” The crowd you see in that video lasted for the first length out, around 800m. That was the toughest 800 meters of my life. At about 500 meters out, I realized that I had to get the heck out of the scrum, and just swam right to get to the outside of the masses. That was MUCH better. I took the first buoy wide and then the return trip back for the first loop was so much easier. I finally found some open water and concentrated on my form. I got out of the water after my first lap in just under 35 minutes! That had been exactly what my target was. If I could just do it again for my second lap, I could come in at my goal time of 1:10. I felt confident this was doable since I was pretty sure the second lap would be faster now that the crowd was thinned out. The second lap felt smooth and strong, so I was disappointed to see that my total swim time was 1:14 when I got out of the water. I’ve learned time and time again in races that just because I may feel like I had a crappy swim, I can recover and have a great race. I didn’t let the time bother me and just kept moving. Official time: 1:14:21. This was the 46th ranked swim in my AG of 123 (wetsuit included). Ugh. It was faster than my IM Louisville time, so that’s a plus, I guess. Still, though, I must improve this. Training alone isn’t helping. I need a swim coach. It’s apparent.
I hit T1 running. I felt like I was running the giant slalom to get through all the people dilly dallying down the LONG, transition shoot. As I always do, I had run through the transition over and over again in my mind and knew where everything was. I had no problems finding my bag. No problems getting in and out of the changing tent. I was running to pick up my bike in the grassy field of transition while wearing my bike shoes. All of a sudden my good ankle rolled and I heard an audible, loud pop. Oh shit. This has never happened to me before, but my ankle felt like it completely popped out of joint. It didn’t feel like a traditional sprain. It didn’t hurt right away. It just felt like it dislocated. I was in mid running stride and the next time that foot hit the ground, I heard another pop and I felt it go back in. Completely freaking bizarre and terrifying. I kept moving while assessing the situation. No pain. Nothing. The gods were looking out for me today. All in all, total transition time was 4:35. I quickly scanned the results and it looks like that would place me about 6/142 of the total women who did not wear wetsuits. I made up a bunch of time here, and actually, as it turns out, even passed Ryan in transition.
Got on the bike, took it easy on the steep, short descent out-of-town and then it was on. The bike is where I really wanted to pack a punch. It’s a two loop course. I was about a mile out of town when I heard Ryan on my left. “I love you,” he said. “I love you too,” said another guy to my right in response. Lots of love out there on the bike course. I kept him in my sights being sure not to draft him. How much would it suck to get a drafting penalty for drafting your own spouse? I passed him back as the uphills began and then he passed me for a second and final time just a few minutes later. I fought the desire to keep up with him. I knew I had to keep it easier on the first lap. The descent into Keene was a blast. I flew down it, only touching my breaks once or twice. Even with a pretty significant head wind, I hit 40mph on this stretch. Not as fast as I was hoping for, but the wind was pretty significant. I hit the turn toward Jay and was really hoping for a tail wind, but it wasn’t meant to be. I had wanted to keep my HR under 165 during the first lap, but, found myself failing miserably. In fact, for the first 56 miles my average HR was 167. I was feeling great, though, and seeing a bunch of FeXYies cheering all along the course all day was giving me a huge boost. I’d see Ryan at all the turn arounds just a mile or so ahead of me. It was so much fun. I was loving the bike. I started getting a little nervous, though, because I knew my HR was higher than it should have been. I was pushing too hard and I knew it. I just couldn’t stop myself. Coming into bike special needs, I knew I was in trouble. I definitely felt more fatigued than I had planned on. I was hopeful I could hold on. Passing the FeXY tent and returning to the Olympic Village was such a high that I temporarily forgot I was tired. I kept reminding myself to have fun and enjoy the moment. A few times when the crowd was quiet, I put my hand to my ear with all the flourish and build up of Hulk Hogan and people started screaming for me. It was awesome. By the time I reached the climb out of Lake Placid, though, there were no more crowds and I realized I was out of gears. This hill definitely felt a lot easier the first time through. This isn’t good. The second loop consisted of a mild bonk. Now, there were other factors that aided in this. For starters, I think the wind picked up pretty significantly for the second lap. My max speed on each lap is evidence of this. The first time into Keene, I reached 40mph, and I don’t remember doing a ton of pedaling on some of the steeper sections. I was mostly just letting gravity do its work. Again, my max speed the first time around was 40mph. The second time, I felt a TON slower, BUT I was in aero and really pedaling through much of the descent. My max speed the second time was 37.7mph. That’s a pretty significant difference. I really do believe the bulk of this, if not all, was wind. I also stopped to use the bathroom the second loop. I just really do not know how people pee while biking. I envy these people. At mile 75, I just gave up and stopped at a port a john. Even with all this, I was seeing Ryan at the turn arounds in roughly the same place, so I knew I wasn’t losing that much, if any, time to him or to my other teammates, it seemed. I’m grateful for that because it kept me from falling into a terrible fear that I had blown my race.
Lap 1: 19.9mph avg speed/ 167 avg HR/ 2:51 time
Lap 2: 17.9mph avg speed/ 160 avg HR/ 3:03 time
Total: 18.9mph avg speed/ 164 avg HR/ 5:54:04 time
Transition 2 was pretty uneventful. As before, I had mentally rehearsed where everything was and what I needed to do. I ran into the women’s tent and a volunteer immediately took my bag. My friend, Amy Spriesterbach, was also volunteering in the tent and came over too. I had two volunteers for the price of one! I remember saying something like, “this is only a half marathon, right?” Jokes, as usual, are my coping mechanism. I was in and out of transition in 2:04, again one of the better transition times I saw posted.
So there was no avoiding it anymore, I was on the run. I was coming off of injuries, minimal run training, had had some kind of strange ankle issue in transition 1 and had a mini-bonk on the bike. I was not overly confident going into this run. Yet, while I assessed things in the first few minutes, everything felt fine. I had no pain in either ankle or foot. All things considered, I actually felt pretty good. In fact, I even managed to dance to the YMCA while it was playing on my way out of town.
My goal was to try to run 8:30s out to the first turn around, 8:40s back into town, 8:30s back out to the River Road turn around and whatever I had back. I had also planned on walking the bigger hills from the beginning. There are 2 of them and you pass them both 2 times each. My first mile out felt controlled and where I needed to be, but it ended up being 7:46 pace. Damn. Too fast. I tried to slow it down, but the second mile was 8:15. The third was even worse at 8:04. In fact, my first 9 miles averaged an 8:21 pace. I felt the same as I had in training, though. My lack of run training hasn’t impacted my initial speed, but it’s just limited my endurance. I really had the feeling that it didn’t matter how much I slowed it down on the front end, I was going to struggle on the back end either way. River Road was the worst. At this point, you are furthest from the town and there is no one out there. At mile 5ish, I really felt like I was starting to have problems. I started drinking one of my Fuel Belt bottles with pre-race, a highly caffeinated drink. That helped for a while, but my mind wasn’t cooperating with me. The dark voice kept telling me that I still had 21 miles to go. This was going to be a disaster. I just kept willing myself back to the turn back into town. There was a pretty nice sized hill there and I had promised myself I could walk it. I was relieved when I finally made it there and got a walk break. It was at this point that I saw Ernie coming in the other direction. “How are you feeling?” he asked. “The same as I look, ” I told him. It definitely felt like the beginning of the end. I knew I would finish, but it might be ugly. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to start running again. I had prepared myself that I might be walking til the finish from here. However, when I got to the top of the hill and started running again I found that I, surprisingly, felt pretty good. It’s amazing what a little walk break can do.
The run back into town was a nice reprieve from the loneliness of River Road. There were FeXYies at aid stations, Katherine Liola and Scott at the corner of Main Street and music blaring. The turn onto Mirror Lake Drive was awesome because I knew I would see my mom and the rest of the folks at the FeXY tent. My pace picked up again and I felt rejuvenated. Similar to the bike, I was also seeing Ryan and the rest of my teammates at the turn arounds and felt like my pace wasn’t slipping too much. I wasn’t losing too much ground.
The second lap became about not getting caught walking by friends and teammates. I knew roughly where a bunch of our teammates were spectating and I knew roughly where I should expect to see my fellow racers. I also really did NOT want to get passed by anyone I knew. That really kept me moving. I made little deals with myself. “Okay, Lisa, if you run to that phone pole, you can walk to the top of the next small hill.” I just broke it into little pieces. When I reach the turn around on River Road for the second time, I was able to assess where other teammates and friends were. I knew that unless I blew up, I should be able to make it to the finish without getting passed. I also knew what time I needed roughly to have a shot at Kona and I knew my swim and bike were already a combined total of 15 minutes too long and there was no way I could cut an additional 15 minutes off of my A goal marathon time, so I just kind of chilled out. I walked way more than I would have if I thought I had had a shot. I saw Ryan running down Mirror Lake Drive back to the Olympic ring. I knew he had had a great race. He looked strong. I was so proud of him. “Take it the fuck home!” I screamed at him. Probably too strong of language with families all around, but I was so excited for him. I passed the FeXY tent and got a little burst of energy, but, shortly beyond the tent, I started walking again. I only had a mile to go and I was walking. Out of the blue from behind me came my dear friend, Alice. She was at the end of her first loop and I was finishing my second. How could I schelp around when she had to get back out there and do it again? She cheered me on. I rounded the last turn around and said to her, “Come on, Alice. Let’s run this next mile together.” As I started running again, two other racers I didn’t know who were running near me gave me words of encouragement. I was so out of it, I don’t remember saying anything back. I wish I had. It was so amazing of them to encourage me while they were suffering through the same thing I was. It’s stuff like this that makes the Ironman experience so amazing. It was wonderful to make the turn toward the Olympic oval while others were turning left still to go out for their second lap. I was so happy to be almost done. I turned into the oval and immediately heard a group of FeXYies scream for me.
I ran around the oval, saw the finish line and just smiled. I was so happy to be there. I heard them announce me, crossed the finish line and hit stop on my watch. It was only then that I realized that I had still PR’ed my time from Ironman Louisville. I couldn’t believe it. I had been looking at my mile paces on the run, but I hadn’t been watching the time. I was so happy. I looked up and Ryan was standing right at the finish. I cried the moment I saw him. I was just so relieved that we both made it and had good races. I just stood there and hugged him. In the end, it was a 3:53 marathon. Definitely a time I could be proud of given all the obstacles. To also get an IM PR was more than I could have hoped for just 3 weeks prior. Ryan ran a stellar race and finished with an amazing 10:57. I was so proud of him. After a few minutes, we were able to reconnect with my mom and my father in law. My mom is always so proud and emotional. I was so happy to have her there. I’m also thrilled that Ryan’s dad, Bill, was able to come to Placid and watch us. He’s a proud dad, for sure.
Total time was 11:08:56, and 8 minute PR from last year. I was thrilled with it.
Getting to the finish line had its challenges for sure, but, in the end, it was a great day.
After going home and getting some rest, food and a shower, we all headed back to the finish line at 11pm to watch the last finishers cross the line. What an amazing time that is. It’s the best party going. These people have been out there for 17 hours. That is incredible. They are of all ages, all body shapes and all Ironman finishers. Their medal says “finisher” just like mine does. It’s awe-inspiring to see what some people push through. The final person to cross the line, finished in 17 hours and 8 minutes; 8 minutes after the cut off. She won’t be an official finisher. Try to tell this crowd that…..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmaYrvpx8wg&NR=1.
I walked home, exhausted, but happy with how the day had gone.
Today, again, I was an Ironman.