Lake Placid is a special place for quite a few reasons. It was my very first Ironman back in 2010. I have a spectacular experience, with family and great friends there to cheer me on (see commemorative photo, below), and ended up setting the amateur course record. Since that time, Chris and I have traveled to Lake Placid many times for vacation in winter and summer to visit family, train, enjoy the mountains, and cheer on friends for the Ironman. Most importantly, Chris and I will be getting married in Lake Placid in less than three weeks!
This has been an exciting, fast paced year. Despite the hectic schedule I have been super motivated to train, in large part due to some GREAT training partners and taking a FUN approach to racing this year- doing the races I WANT to do, not the ones that might get me the most points or have the largest prize purses. Granted, I’ve had to miss a workout here and there, but workouts in general had been going better than ever, always a good sign!
We headed up to Placid on Wednesday AM before the race, arriving at our little rental around 6pm. Since the race doesn't offer homestays, we decided to get a pretty affordable rental out in Jay, NY (30 mins from Placid) right along the Ironman bike course and decided to share it with my parents who were traveling up to support me at the race. We ended up with a cute little Adirondack-style apartment in a very quiet area nestled in a pine forest. Between my mom and I, we had brought enough food to feed a small army. Seriously, the fridge was PACKED. No one would starve.
Thursday we had a busy schedule, but not one race-related item was on the to-do list! Instead, we kicked off the day with an 8am meeting with the pastor who will marry us, followed by an appointment at the reception venue, then a few hours of work, followed by an appointment at the rehearsal dinner venue and then a quick bite to eat and more work calls for Chris. Thank goodness my mom had the foresight to pack us a picnic lunch. When 6pm came, we finally had time to jump in Mirror Lake for a little swim!! It was marvelous! I felt surprisingly fast in my wetsuit and felt like I had a good feel for the water. It was nice to head back to our peaceful spot in Jay to relax and eat a great dinner that my mom had prepared.
Friday morning I slept in and relaxed and read out on the porch for a bit with my coffee, before heading out for a little taper run with strides, then off to the noon pro meeting in Placid. I was determined to spend all day Friday gathering together the final race-related items and doing the final pre-race errands that typically plague me the day before the race. I wanted Saturday to be relaxed and worry- free. I mostly accomplished this, with the exception of actually packing my race bags!
I also spent some time writing down my detailed race nutrition and pacing plan. For my nutrition on the bike, I decided to go with two water bottles each containing 4 servings of First Endurance EFS liquid shot (gel) mixed with water for a total of 800 calories, something I’d never tried before. This turned out to be the best decision ever, as the mixture tasted sort of like a vanilla milk (minus the dairy taste) and went down quickly and easily with no GI issues and gave me sustained energy throughout the bike. I also added 5-6 bottles of on-course sports drink for another 800 or so calories, and at the halfway, I would have a Boathouse Farms mango protein smoothie for another 400 calories and a dose of protein. I also planned to eat a bar at some point for another 250 calories. On the run, during the first 13 miles I planned to take a gel every three miles, with sports drink and/or coke at the aid stations in between. During the second half of the run, I planned to take a gel every 2 miles with sports drink or coke at the intervening aid stations.
Saturday we headed over to Placid and sought out the Active Release Therapy (ART) tent for my back, which had started to do its usual painful flare-up that happens every 3 months or so, particularly when I’m overly stressed or my shoes are worn down. After spending 30 mins with me, my ART lady (who was awesome) told me that my back was "really messed up" but that she was able to get a few of the trigger points out. Kind of reassuring, I guess??
Before I dropped off my bike, Chris drove me out to the Keene descent so I could practice going down it a few times. I still have a long way to go with my descending skills, but I do much better when I've ridden the course previously, ideally several times. So Chris dropped me off at the top, and I went down, then we loaded the bike back in the car and drove back up to the top, repeat. I will definitely say that riding the hill on race day is so much easier without cars zipping by, too closely in some cases. Also, interestingly, the hill wasn't as bad as I remembered from previous years!
On Saturday evening we went to the pre-race prayer service on Mirror Lake at the church where we’ll be getting married, which was pretty cool and a great way to spend a pre-race evening! We headed back to the apartment and had a gluten-free pasta dinner with cilantro pesto and shrimp. It was almost time for bed, but I was feeling a bit restless. Chris gave me a pre-race pep talk and reminded me that I wasn’t racing to put food on my table or for a paycheck- I was racing to glorify God and this requires an extremely different mindset. Some of my competitors would be racing scared, but I could race with confidence knowing that only positive things could come out of my day so long as I stayed focused on this goal. I so appreciated this reminder!
Saturday night was not the best night of sleep… my stomach hurt a bit which kept waking me up, and in the morning I woke up feeling a cold coming on. We had some Zicam on hand so I took some and popped a few in my pill bottle that I’d be carrying on the bike, and planned to take some every three hours. I tried to eat my planned pre-race breakfast, a gluten-free waffle sandwich with almond butter and jam, but my stomach still was not feeling great and one bite made me gag- I couldn’t even eat a single bite of it. (However, not to fear that this food would go to waste- Chris later found my discarded waffle sandwich in the car and finished it off!) I had also planned to take in a Boathouse Farms mango protein smoothie and thankfully that went down easily. 400 pre-race calories is not ideal but would have to do.
When we arrived at the race site, I was pretty quick to get my gear situated so I’d have plenty of time to sit and relax prior to the Ironman. For a race this long, I love having this bit of quiet time to just relax and contemplate what I’m about to do! Unfortunately, I ended up on the world’s longest port-o-potty line which cut into my relaxing time, but still had a little extra time prior to race start. By this time it had started raining a bit, which would continue for several hours and make for a wet descent on the bike course.
The pro women lined up and before long, we were off! I worked so hard to get on some fast feet and we had a nice paceline going for a bit, but after a little while I noticed that the feet in front of me had slowed down significantly and had lost the feet in front of them. I put in a surge to try to try to catch them, but despite going as hard as I could, I was barely getting just a hair closer and knew I could not sustain the effort long enough to catch up. About halfway through the first loop, the water started to get extremely choppy, almost like a storm was brewing. I exited the first loop in 29 minutes, definitely a good time for me. The second loop was a mixture of faster age groupers passing me, and trying to get past the slower age groupers who were still on their first lap. I tried to get on any feet that passed for as long as I could, per Chris’s pre-race advice. All in all, a great swim for me in 1 hour! Thanks to my swim training buddy Tommy and technique lessons from swim coach Mark Lisinsky for the improvements this year!
My goal on the bike was to take the descents as fast as possible (meaning no breaking…) take in a steady stream of nutrition, not go too easy on the bike (something that has plagued me during my last two Ironmans), and spin up the climbs at a high cadence. Overall I met these goals fairly well, and never once felt low-energy though I do think I could have gone a bit harder on the bike (but an improvement). I followed my nutrition plan perfectly, except for eating the bar- I just could not force it down- and I think this plan worked great, particularly the EFS liquid shot mixed with water. I’ve found that taking in as many calories as my body will allow on the bike and run is so essential to having a good Ironman race.
The only low point on the bike was this one large pack of age group guys that plagued me from about mile 80 onward. Not only did this group of men not seem to care that they were blatantly cheating, they also did not seem to care that they were sabatoging my race and that of other non-cheating athletes around them as it takes tremendous effort to pass a pack within the allotted timeframe, only to have them NOT drop back, draft off of me for several minutes and then re-pass, starting the whole process over again. I finally just gave up and hung back the legal limit, but at a slower pace than I would have liked to be going. It was truly appalling to see guys who most likely ended up qualifying for Kona getting away with this and acting like there is nothing wrong with it. The course was NOT crowded at all at this point- there was no excuse.
Overall, the weather could not have been better- overcast and/or a little rainy the whole ride, with highs in the low 70s. I even saw Chris out on the bike course TWICE- he rode the course in reverse to cheer me on!!! On each loop in the ascent back into town, I imagined myself jumping into the river that runs alongside the course post-race. Though it wasn’t that hot out, I the idea of it just sounded so great right then and I definitely planned to come back to do this. I just LOVE the Lake Placid bike course. It makes an immense difference to be riding on a beautiful and challenging Ironman course… when you are racing for 140.6 miles it needs to be worth it!
The marathon was by far my favorite part of the day. Not only were so many awesome friends racing out on the course, the support (from friends and family and even people I didn’t even know) was incredible. As I started the run, someone yelled to me that I was in 8th place. My legs were feeling pretty beat up but I remembered this same feeling in my legs during the 2010 Lake Placid race—I told myself that this was a normal part of racing a hilly Ironman and that I just needed a mile or so to transition my legs. I saw Chris again and he told me that I needed to pick off 3 women on this loop. Chris’scousin Adam and his wife Anya had also travelled out to cheer me on, and were AWESOME cheerleaders! And of course, my parents were there taking photos and cheering for me in town on each lap. After about 2 miles, I started to feel great and my legs were feeling pretty good. I ran by feel, checking my Garmin every few miles but mainly running at what I felt was a good pace. The skies were still overcast which made for some pretty awesome run conditions! I followed my nutrition plan exactly. The other part of my run plan involved, shuffling, not running, up the two steepest hills on each loop, using mainly my glutes and hamstrings and using my quads as sparingly as possible. I had a couple of other athletes I was kind of pacing off of and I noticed that when I did this, I would fall back dramatically on the hills but would then catch them after the hill as I was able to resume a strong pace after the hill rather than having the hill take the life out of me.
I gradually started passing the other pro women and eventually moved into 4th place. Typically in the latter portion of an Ironman marathon, I walk a few steps at each aid station to get and take in nutrition, but that was not needed in this race and I only stopped once when I missed a nutrition handoff. My quads started to really ache around mile 18. I tried so hard to catch 3rd- people kept telling me she was just around the corner- but ultimately I missed 3rd by 2 minutes. So many things go through your head during the last several miles of an Ironman. The pain in my quads was so acute (all the hills?) I remembered our friend Anthony telling me to enjoy every pedal stroke and step of the race, and despite the pain my body was in, I was truly LOVING every step of these last few miles! There’s nothing like nearing the Ironman finish line, and truly few things better than crossing that finish line when you’ve had a good race. I ended up with an Ironman swim PR (1:00) and marathon (3:11) PR finishing in 9:50. I also finished 11 minutes faster than in 2010 when I had an incredible race. This being my first time racing the same Ironman course twice, it was so cool to be able to compare the races and see improvements over those years, despite a drastically different training plan now vs. then- in particular, nowhere near as much time spent training!
During the first hour post-race I was not feeling so great, couldn’t take anything in, threw up, and was so sore I could barely walk. However, the miracle of the day is that my back didn’t bother me at all during the race, my cold symptoms stayed fully at bay (but came on full force post-race) and my stomach, which hadn’t let me eat anything pre-race and for about 8 hours post-race, was 100% fine during the race itself and I was able to take in my nutrition without a single moment of GI discomfort. God truly blessed me during this race and a big thanks to all of the wonderful friends who were praying for me during the day.
MANY thanks to the wonderful people and sponsors that allow me to both work full-time and race at the pro level- namely, Fast Forward Triathlon and coach Eric Bean, Inside Out Sports, CompuTrainer, First Endurance, Cervelo, and Rudy Project! And in a different sense of support, thanks to Chris and my parents for traveling to nearly all of my races this year and providing such great encouragement. (And finally, many thanks to Southwest Airlines for awarding Chris a companion pass so that we can enjoy two-for-one travel for the next 17 months!!! Definitely will be taking advantage of this in a big way).