Hi everyone — letting Andy hijack the blog again to post his Ironman experience… enjoy! – Candice
Ironman Lake Placid 2011 Race Report
For those of you who just want the numbers they are
2.4 Mile Swim 1:22:16 (2:09 per 100 m)
Transition 1 10:58
112 Mile Bike 6:27:09 (17.36 mph average)
Transition 2 4:27
26.2 Mile Run 3:40:47 (8:25 mile pace)
Total 11:45:35 (Overall 589/2538 and 82/216 in the Male 30-34 Age Group)
My day started at 4:30. I set three alarms just to make sure I got up. I was in bed for eight hours and got about 5 ½ hours of sleep which is better than I had anticipated given my pre-race excitement. The first words Candice said to me were, “You’re going to be an Ironman today.”
I had a bowl of cereal and a bagel; got my things together and Candice and I were out the door of the hotel around 5:20. I went to transition to check on my bike. Candice had left a note at my bike the night before to wish me good luck which was very nice. I got my body marked with my race number and age then put on some body glide, wetsuit, swim cap and goggles. Candice applied some sunscreen to my face and then we went to meet with my family on the beach around 6:35. We took some pictures, everyone wished me good luck, and I got a kiss from Candice and got in the water around 6:45.
There is something special about the start of the Ironman. I had seen it once before and it is a powerful scene to see 2500 extremely determined athletes in the water all at once. In a way the start line is the end of a journey. Training is six to nine months long and folks put in eight to twenty something hours a week of training. Making it to the start line healthy and prepared is a huge accomplishment in itself. Also there is an electricity in the air knowing this is the calm before the storm.
The swim is a two loop course around a rectangle. I positioned myself on the outside and about 40 yards back from the start line since I am a little slower swimmer. I treaded water for six or seven minutes while I waited for the cannon to go off. I had heard some horror stories about the Ironman swim start and I went in expecting the worst. Some folks get kicked in the head, goggles broken, pushed underwater, etc. However, things were not that bad. I got a few minor kicks and elbows but nothing too bad. There was a little congestion which slowed things down some but overall I was able to get into a decent rhythm. The second lap cleared up as people were more spread out and I was able to get into even more of a rhythm. There is a rope line five feet under the water which you can follow if you get close enough which makes it easier to see where you are going. I was too far to the outside to see it on the first lap but I was able to use it some on the second. Sighting was not much of an issue and I did not veer off course so that was a small victory in itself. I was out of the water in 82 minutes which is about where I expected to be. I felt completely fresh and had no fatigue at this point.
I ran up to a wetsuit stripper and had them assist me with getting my suit off. The strippers are a big time saver. I saw my family and Candice and they were all screaming. I tripped while I was waving to them and almost fell but was able to keep my feet under me. Transition is about a quarter mile from the swim exit. Most folks were jogging slowly or walking but I ran over. I mean, hey, why waste time?
The actual transition area is inside the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. This is where the bikes are racked, the changing tents are located and the transition bags are racked. I picked up my swim to bike transition bag and went into the changing tent. I had all my nutrition in the pockets of my bike shirt. It all proceeded to fall out when I put my shirt on so I spent a minute picking that all up and putting it back. I put on my helmet, gloves and cycling shoes and jogged out of the changing tent. I made a quick stop at the port-a-potty to go pee and grabbed my bike off the rack. I jogged over to the exit of transition to start the bike and had to wait about a minute and a half because there was a line to get out. Everyone had to go through an archway that was about 10 feet wide to go over the timing mats and this just took a little while. Oh well.
I had ridden the bike course a few times before so I was familiar with the course. Knowing what to expect was definitely a big plus.
I have a LeMond road bike with clip on aero bars which has served me well. There are plenty of folks at Ironman with much more expensive bikes. Some are as much as $15,000. Mine was much, much less than that. You can spend a lot of money on triathlon gear but you can also get into the sport without breaking the bank.
It was not long before I realized I had left my swim goggles around my neck. In the rush to get through transition I put them around my neck and just forgot about them. You are not allowed to give things to your family or friends and they are not allowed to give things to you so I was stuck with them. It was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but it was a little annoying.
The bike is also a two loop course, 56 miles each. The first two or three miles are downhill or flat then you have the climb out of town. Everyone is pretty tightly bunched in the first eight or so miles especially on the hills. You are supposed to be four bike lengths behind the person in front of you or you can be penalized for drafting. The drafting rules are not really enforced in the first few miles of Ironman though since everyone is so close since we all left transition around the same time. After about forty minutes there is a six mile descent into the town of Keene. Usually descents are the best part riding. Gravity is doing most of the work. However, the descent into Keene is really steep and the road has several significant turns which I had to slow down for. The local road repair crews added some blacktop to parts of the road but it is a bit rough still. It is not fun hitting rough road when you are going 40 miles per hour. But I survived the descent (on both loops). Then the course hits some flats with a few rolling hills for a good stretch. I was able to keep up with my nutrition plan which consisted of water, Fig Newtons and apple cinnamon flavored Hammer Gel. There are aid stations about every ten miles on the bike and I picked up new water bottles at almost all of them. I was able to finish up the first lap in 3:10 which was a little faster than I had anticipated; but not so fast that I thought I had set myself up for trouble later on. I did not want to be a first-lap hero. I wore a heart rate monitor which I get some feedback but primarily I pace myself based on perceived effort.
The first lap was a breeze. At no point did things get tough. On the second lap I hit a few mildly rough patches after mile seventy where my legs were feeling a little out of it while ascending. However, none of the rough patches lasted for more than a few minutes. On the way back into the village there is a series of hills they call Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear. Papa Bear is the last, and largest, climb of the three and it is reasonably close to town so a ton a spectators that come out to cheer the athletes on. It is really intimate since they are so close. Half are on the double yellow line and half on the white line, plus during the ascent we are all climbing relatively slowly so we aren’t just whizzing by them. There is so much positive energy on Ironman day. Everyone genuinely wants the best for the athletes.
I did not have any mechanical issues on the bike! I was psyched since getting a flat is not uncommon, especially on a long ride. I saw Candice and the family on both loops and finished the second lap in 3:17:09 for a for a total bike split of 6:27:09 (17.36 mph average). My goal was to be under 7 hours and, if possible, be under 6:45. I was really thrilled that I was able to break 6:30. At the end of the bike I was ready to get on with the run. It is not comfortable being in a bike seat that long. Also, I did not have to pee on the bike! I have done it in training but it slows you down because you have to stop pedaling and you have to be going downhill. I went in my wetsuit at the start, the port-a-john in T1 and the urinal in T2 and that was it.
I dismounted my bike and handed it to a volunteer. I jogged to the rack and got my bike to run transition bag. There was a great volunteer who helped me take my bike shirt off and put my run shirt on (talk about service!). Plus we had a laugh about me still having my goggles around my neck.
I put a small plastic water bottle in my transition bag that I thought I would carry with me for the first mile. I never run with a water bottle so throwing it in was an afterthought but I ended up keeping it with me for the whole race.
This is where the race is made or lost. What would it be like to take on the 26 mile monster after the bike? Would I be crushed by the distance or would I be able to tough it out?
The run course consists of an out-and-back that you get to do twice. The first mile is all downhill. I ran it in 6:22 because it just felt right. I was glad to be off the bike and onto the run. After about three miles you turn onto River Road which is a bit secluded and there are considerably fewer spectators. It was about 3:30 and the sun was beating down. From miles three to four things started to get really tough. This was the roughest patch of the whole day. I knew going into Ironman that this would come but I did not expect it so early in the run. I thought I was going to have to walk. I was frustrated that this was happening so early. I stopped for about 20 seconds and stretched my calves and that made all the difference. I got a second wind and I settled into a “new normal” which ended up being an average of 8:25 mile pace. Normally I do not run 8:25 mile pace. However, this is what my legs were telling me I had in me; so what choice did I have?
Ironman running was not the fast running I am used to. In normal races I am used to fast miles just pouring out of me. I get in a flow in the 6:20 to 6:30 range for most road races between 10k and the half marathon. I have even done the marathon at 6:28 pace. After the first three miles Ironman running was difficult. I worked much harder to run these “slow” miles than I had in any of the faster marathons I had run before. At no point were these miles just flowing out of me. I knew before the race that my pace was going to have to be in the 8:00 to 8:30 range. The slower pace was forced on me by heavy legs. I so seldom run on “heavy legs” that I sort of forgot what they were like. This was my first ultra-endurance event and I knew I was signing up for running some tough miles. Ironman did not disappoint in this regard.
My nutrition strategy for the run was to take sports drink at every aid station for the first 18 miles then switch to de-fizzed cola for the last 8 miles to get a little caffeine kick for the end. The aid stations were located about every mile. I also filled up my water bottle that I grabbed in transition. I am so glad I brought that little water bottle. It was so nice to have constant access to water for the whole run. The aid station refueling usually took about 5 – 15 seconds but other than that I ran the whole course.
There are two big hills on the course which we go up and down twice each. I told myself before the race I wanted to make sure I ran up them, especially on the second lap. There were so many people walking or run/walking the hills but I was able to run them on both laps. The last one is brutal. It is at mile 24, it is the steepest hill on the course and there is a 90 degree turn half way up. Once you turn the corner it just keeps going. I know the run course like the back of my hand so I know it keeps going but it is still tough to turn that corner and see the ascent continue.
My primary time goal was to break twelve hours for the day. I also wanted to break four hours on the run and ideally be in the neighborhood of 3:40. With about five miles left I realized that if I could hold my pace I would break 12 hours and probably be under 11:50. This was all the motivation I needed to drop the hammer on those two killer hills. I rocked the hills and by mile 24 ½ I knew I would be under 11:50.
The finish line is on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. There are bleachers on one side and a hill on the other and there are hundreds of people there. I could hardly believe it when I ran into the oval. I had a huge smile. I had thought about my finish for over a year and it was finally here. I turned onto the final straightaway and I could hear Candice and my family cheering. Mike Reilly, the emcee, who is THE voice of Ironman said, “Andrew Totman YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
I crossed the line and was given my medal, finisher hat and finisher t-shirt. I met up with Candice and my family. I felt fine for about 10 minutes then I started getting light headed and I knew I needed something to eat. I got two slices of pizza and sat down to eat them and I felt better after that.
The entire day was great. I was a rock star for the day. Just the way Ironman should be. I could not have asked for anything more.
I will probably do Ironman again, but not in 2012. I enjoy training but it is a big time commitment and I want to focus on other things for a while. I will probably give the marathon a shot again since I can train for them in a lot less time. I will probably keep up some cross training and do some shorter triathlons as well; maybe the Syracuse Ironman 70.3. However, for the next couple weeks I am going to take things easy and recover.
There have been several projects that I have said I would get to “after Ironman” that I will get started on like building bookshelves for the living room and taking down the monster trees in the back yard. Plus my sister is getting married August 12th!!!
Thanks to everyone who supported me through this, especially Candice. She was super supportive through the months of training and I appreciate all she has done. My family and friends have been great as well. Everyone has listened to me talk about triathlon more than most folks should be subjected to in a lifetime. Now when someone asks what I did on the weekend the answer won’t be a long bike on Saturday and a long run on Sunday. It was also great to know so many folks were following online and via Facebook. Thanks for all the support and well wishes.
Also, I would like to say that anyone can cross the finish line at Ironman. You just have to want it and put in the training. Even if you have little or no athletic background it is still doable. There were forty three people in their sixties and three men in their seventies who finished the race on Sunday! The triathlon and running communities are so outgoing and friendly. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed. More experienced folks are happy to help the newer people get into the sport and the social aspect is great. Utica and Syracuse have such great running and tri communities and there are races most weekends during the spring, summer and fall. If you want to run your first 5k, do a sprint tri, the Boilermaker, a marathon or Ironman you can do it.
See you on the roads!