YogiTriathlete Brittany, acro-yogi to be specific, was gracious enough to not only chat with us on the YTP Episode #12 but she is also sharing her full race report with us below. Check it out, get inspired and let us know what you think in the comments section of this post.
Ironman Lake Placid 2016
by Brittany Friedrich
For 365 days I had been counting down to this day. For 365 days I had been dreaming about the moment I got to run around the oval to the tune of Mike Reilly’s voice calling out those famous words; “Brittany, you are an IRONMAN!”
3:00 AM – I wake up, paranoid I overslept, I check the clock. I still have 30 minutes to sleep but I’m wide awake. I lay there tossing and turning until it’s finally time to get out of bed. At this point, I’ve gotten about 4 hours of sleep. Not a lot, but it’ll do! We leave the house by 4:00 to make it to Lake Placid by 5:00. On the way up, I drink my shakeology (something I started a few months back when I significantly increased my training and my body couldn’t keep up) and had two buckwheat flower pancakes (delicious and so nutritious and healthy by the way) and made sure to drink water the whole way to hydrate.
5:00 AM – We arrive in Lake Placid and this place is ALIVE and full of energy. If it wasn’t still dark, you would have had no idea the rest of the world was still sleeping. It finally sets in; I think to myself, this is it. Today’s the day I’ve been working for. I grab my backpack and bike pump to head to transition when my dad brings things to the tent. First stop, body marking. I walk up and spot a woman smiling and instantly know she will be the perfect body marker. I walk over to her, and with the biggest smile on my face take of my sweatshirt and pants and say “778.” We talk about how this is my first full, how young I am (something I seemed to get a lot of), I thank her multiple times, and she wishes me well as she sends me on my way. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet that today’s the day! I go into transition, set up my bike with my hydration and nutrition, unwrap it, and fill my tires. Triple check everything. I go to my transition bags, take the solo cups off them, check them a couple times, drop off my special needs bags, and head to the tent to meet up with my dad to hang out for a little bit.
6:00 AM – I meet up with Jake, my training partner, and put my wetsuit on. We aren’t set to start until 6:40 but the pros go off at 6:10. Knowing myself, I knew I wanted to wait as long as possible to go into the swim corral so I hang out at the tents and eat a cliff bar and honey stinger caffeine gel. At 6:30 we head over. All morning they had been making announcements to leave the carpet clear and open so people could walk between waves, so I figured I’d have no problem getting to the front. I was very, very incorrect. I said goodbye to Jake, told him to swim fast, and I’d see him on loop two of the bike, and began my journey pushing my way to the front. Everyone was giving me the dirtiest looks for trying to push in front of them; the swim leg is always a touchy subject and it was so awkward having to explain to everyone that I was a sub 1 hour swimmer as I pushed and shoved my way through them. Eventually, I made my way to the front and it was finally time to get started. Because the pros had started 30 min before us, some were finishing their first loop as we were to be starting, which made things a bit tricky. As we were getting started, I realized they were splitting our wave into two groups to let some pros through. As I was about to approach the water, I was stopped. I KNEW I had to be in the first group of swimmers to set myself up for a solid swim time so I sprinted around the volunteer stopping us and joined the group entering the water (in hindsight, probably not the best idea but it worked out).
SWIM – The swim was a madhouse. That’s the only way to describe it. I was kicked, punched, swam over, pushed off course, and pulled on from behind. But I also did my far share of kicking, punching, and swimming on top of people. The first loop was just insane, no other way to describe it. I was so happy to see the dock and know I was going to get a quick break from swimming where I could catch my breath. Second loop was so much better. This time I was able to hop on the cable (for those unaware, Mirror Lake has a cable about 6 feet under the surface you can use to help swim in a straight line). This was so helpful because it meant less siting and more time with my head down swimming. However, all good things come to an end.
Halfway through my second loop, I started catching up to slower swimmers still on their first loop and things started getting crazy again. Even though the swim is my strongest leg, I was so happy to be done with it. As I came running out of the water, I went to put my watch into transition mode and noticed it was stopped at 43 min. Great. Someone had hit me so hard it actually stopped my watch; my first ironman and my garmin wasn’t even going to be accurate, but I knew this wasn’t something I could dwell on the whole race. I ran up to two very nice gentlemen who unzipped my wetsuit and I layer down and in 30 seconds they had pulled it off me. It was awesome! I was on my way running down to the oval for T1. I used this time to get my watch going again, knowing that if I could have accurate data for the bike and run I could figure out how far off/on pace my swim was later.
T1 – Transition went super fast. I ran in, found my bag (although I wished I would have hung ribbons or something on it to make it more easily identified), and made my way to the changing tent. Being one of the first out of the water, things were not too crazy in the tent. I found a volunteer who took everything out of my bag and asked me what I wanted her to do. As I was putting on my helmet and shoes, I had her open my cliff bar and gel so I could take those before I got on the bike. I must have told her at least five times the most helpful thing she could do was make sure my sunscreen made it into my run bag (with sensitive skin/sunscreen allergies I didn’t want to take any chances with what they were using on course so I brought my own water babies along with me). She sprayed me with sunscreen and I was on my way. At some point during this ordeal one of my fellow Team BlueLine teammates had spotted me and came over, gave me a hug, and wished me well as I headed out on my bike. It was great to meat you Gretchen!
BIKE – First, let me say how nice it is to have volunteers doing everything but actually racing for you. Seriously, I ran down the center of the oval and someone was waiting for me with my bike. I didn’t even have to stop running to get it! I was soooo excited to be headed out on my bike. 112 miles. To me, this is where it really all begins. Riding out of town was just incredible. 2 miles of people lined the streets cheering for every stranger that road by. There really is no words to describe the energy of Ironman, it’s just something you have to experience. Climbing out of town I did my fair share of passing as well as getting passed. All the guys would comment on how fast I was at swimming, and I got multiple “wow, you’re so young. 23, I don’t even remember what I was doing at 23 but it definitely wasn’t this” comments, which was pretty motivating. I very quickly noticed my cadence sensor, of all days, decided today was going to be the day it didn’t work. I knew there was absolutely no way I was spinning a 118 climbing up the cascades so I just put my head down and focused on getting to the trailhead, because I knew after that was my absolute favorite part of the course. Many dread the descent, but the adrenaline junkie in me lives for it. Once I got to the top I knew all I had to do was put my head down and enjoy the ride. Not sure which loop it was on, but I hit 48.2, a new high speed for me.
My goal for the first loop was to keep my cadence high and focus on my nutrition and staying hydrated so I could have a solid second loop. Knowing I can carry 50ish oz of water on my bike, I knew I wouldn’t need to rehydrate at every aid station so I made a plan to take bananas at the odd aid stations and water at the evens, that way I wouldn’t have to focus on grabbing too much at once. On my bike, I was carrying my nuun electrolyte tablets (used in place of Gatorade because it makes me sick) and honey stinger strawberry kiwi gels with caffeine. I was drinking frequently and made sure to take a gel every 30 min. I was able to stick to the plan all day and it worked really well! By the time I got to the Jay aid station (bike aid #3), I was starting to feel the chaffing. I knew there were going to be people here I knew so I decided I was going to stop. I pulled in and yelled to a friend from high school so she could call my dad and have him try and put my chamois butter in my bike special needs bag. Huge shout out to Jess! I saw my grandparents at the turn around in AuSable and was so excited to see family. The rest of the first loop went really well and super fast. When I got to the Bears, all I could think was am I really done one loop already and suddenly I was climbing. This was really no issue though because you could hear everyone in town screaming and totally feel the energy. As soon as you crest the hill of baby bear you see people lined up both side of papa bear, excited, cheering, and so happy for you. I knew this started approximately five miles of spectators and couldn’t help but smile. Seriously though, smile. You’re doing this because it’s fun (crazy, right) and the more you smile the more they cheer, and the more they cheer the more you will smile and faster you will go. It’s cyclical. When I pulled into bike special needs and the volunteer pulled my chamois butter out of my bag, I was sooooo happy. I seriously would have given her the biggest hug if I wasn’t holding my bike. She reloaded my nutrition for me while I reapplied chamois butter. This whole stop probably lasted all of one minute and I was on my way again, riding through town and headed out on my second loop. The first 30ish miles of the second loop went really well; Jake still hadn’t caught me yet so I knew I was still staying on pace too (and actually doing better than I expected).
By the time I got to Wilmington though, things were getting painful. Aero hurt and I was ready to be off my bike. Jake caught up to me and I was honestly so thankful. It was so nice to be able to ride with someone I spent so much time training with and be able to chat for a little bit to help take the mind off the pain. Jake went ahead and I knew I just had to make it through the notch and I was done. However, I was totally dreading this. The five miles from the Willkommen Hof Bed and Breakfast right before whiteface through High Falls Gorge is my absolute least favorite part of the course. And to top it off, there was a decent head wind. But I knew if I could just make it through this section there were plenty of people ready and waiting for me in town just as enthusiastic as the first time around. I was fortunate enough to make it through towards the front of the pack so no one had really started making their way towards the finish line yet. When I rolled in on my bike, there was yet another volunteer waiting to take my bike and I was running into T2.
T2 – Transition went super smooth and pretty quick. Switched my helmet for my visor, put on my socks and sneakers, and a quick respray with the sunscreen, another cliff bar, and I was on my way. Running out of the tent I realized my sunglasses were sprayed with sunscreen and there was no way my jersey was going to clean them off.
RUN – Looking everywhere for someone I knew, I was about to stop and ask a random stranger when I finally heard my dad screaming. Preoccupied with his phone taking pictures (typical dad), I headed my sunglasses to Jake’s dad and he cleaned them right up for me (thanks Randy!!) and I was on my way. 26.2 miles stood between me and Mike Reilly, but I couldn’t let that get to my head because I still have a long bit ahead of me. Running out of town was again, incredible, and this time everyone was yelling out my name because they could see it on my bib. Running out of town I saw my brother and Cassidy riding in on the motorcycle, which was so exciting and gave me a little boost of energy. First loop went great!
I went into the marathon knowing I was going to use the 9:1 method, run 9 minutes, walk 1. With the aid stations being every mile, it worked out do perfectly that I could walk every aid station and focus on hydration and nutrition, and run the distance between. It was warming up so I made sure to grab sponges at ever aid station that had them, filled my hat with ice, and put some down my sports bra to keep me cool. I grabbed a water, and two orange wedges every time and was on my way. I knew I wanted to walk the big hill up to the horse grounds and the big hill up to the turn in town both loops just to keep my hear rate down, which I think worked well because I had a great first loop right on target pace. Headed out for my second loop I was so excited to see the Hamilton’s and have Alexis run with me for a little bit. I got a mile out of town and there was Joe, and I was able to run with him for a bit too. He told me my swim time and broke the bad news that I missed the Roka gift card by 2 seconds, but then told me I was in third place going into the run which was awesome!
Before I knew it, I was turning onto the “desolate” River Road. I say “desolate” because although it’s filled with runners, there’s hardly any spectators so sometimes it can feel very lonely; 7 miles of putting one foot in front of the other and just focusing on getting to the next aid station. This is when things started going “downhill.” My hamstring started acting up. About .2 miles from every aid station my hamstring started seizing up, but I knew if I could just make it to the aid station I would get to walk and it would feel better. Around mile 18 I caught back up with Jake, having hamstring issues himself he had slowed his pace for a bit. We ran together for a few minute, offering words of encouragement and support. For a quick second, I considered trying to hang with him until the end but although it doesn’t seem like much, 8 miles is still pretty far from the finish and was enough to send me into a downward spiral if I didn’t focus on running my own race so I let him run ahead and told him I’d see him at the finish. 8 miles left and I just kept telling myself “DON’T JOIN THE DEATH MARCH.” Then the weirdest thing ever happened. Somewhere between 6 and 7 miles from the finish, I started dozing off. I actually started falling asleep when I was running. How is that even possible!? I knew I needed to get caffeine in me immediately so I took two honey stingers gels and I was golden! The rest of River Road is a bit of a blur and I was so excited to be headed back into town. I met up with Joe at the base tent and he road next to me as I was running the rest of the way into town. I said by at Lisa G’s and he said he’d see me at the finish. I’m honestly so thankful for the people this sport has introduced me to; thanks for coming up to Placid and cheering me on Joe! I caught back up with Lex and she ran the rest of the hill with me. We parted ways at the turn onto Mirror Lake drive and I knew it was a short little two miles until she was waiting for me at the finish line with a medal.
Running down Mirror Lake Drive the second time was so amazing, people remember you and they are cheering you on right to the very end. I could hear the finish line, Mike Reilly, everyone cheering and all I could focus on was getting to the finish line. I honestly couldn’t even tell you if my hamstring was still bothering me at this point. I ran (maybe sprinted) down the hill to the oval, grabbed my Thin Blue Line flag from my dad, and I was on the oval. Quick check to make sure no one was behind me and I put up my flag flying behind me as I ran. Everyone was yelling and suddenly I realized this was the moment I’d been working toward for 365 days. I rounded the top of the oval and I heard Mike Reilly say “come on home Brittany, you are an IRONMAN!” and ran into Alexis’s arms. I finished in 12 hours, 10 minutes, and 40 seconds. About 50 minutes faster than the goal time of 13 hours I had set for myself. Saying I was excited and had a great race was definitely and understatement.
7:00 PM – The rest of the night was full of celebrations, the usual post-race chores, and of course joining the finish line party to cheer the rest of the finishers on. Seriously, if you haven’t experience an ironman during the 11-12 o’clock hour, it’s something you should put on your bucket list. There no words to describe the energy and excitement that fills the air. I was fortunate enough to medal the last lady to cross the finish line and congratulate her as she melted into my arms. And to top it all of, I got a picture with Mike Reilly! I had the biggest smile on my face after Mike Reiily looked me in the eye, told me I was and ironman, congratulated me on a great first race, and gave me a hug. 21 hours later and I still wasn’t ready for bed.
Thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me on this journey. To my dad who drives me to all my races, my mom who cheers me on from home when she can’t join. My grandparents (who actually experienced 2 months of my crazy training while I lived with them) for coming out so early to cheer me on during my first bike loop. My mom, brother, Cassidy, John, Nicole, Greg, Lisa, Matt, and Nate for cheering me on all day long. The Hamilton’s, Devin’s, and Painter’s for running around Lake Placid all day to follow us crazy people.
Thank you to my good friend Josh at joshuathompsonfitness.com for the countless hours he’s given me devolving nutrition plans, recovery plans, and doing everything possible to keep me injury free up to and after the race including k-taping, multiple massages, and Active Release Treatments.
Thank you to Team Blue Line for allowing me to share this journey with you, and for all the words of encouragement leading up to the race.
Thank you to the Connell’s for allowing me to join the finish line party and give back volunteering after my race had ended.
Thank you to BJ and Jess at Yogitriathlete (find them on Facebook and Instagram) for the support leading up to race day and giving me the opportunity to share my story! (Remember what I said about this sport connecting you with great people, here’s another wonderful example!)
There’s so many people who have reached out to me, both before and after the race, and I can’t name everyone but just know the support is so greatly appreciated!
And a huge thank you to the 3000+ volunteers who gave up their day to make this day possible for all us athletes. We wouldn’t be Ironmen without you!