I recently had the honor to watch a true Yogi Triathlete (YT) in action. My hubby Brian or BJ or the beej or just beej competed at Ironman Lake Placid just a few weeks ago. His execution was delicious to watch. His swim was smooth and drama free, his bike was in check and paced perfectly despite not having his bike computer or heart rate monitor working. A fabulous treat sent in from the universe, no doubt. As for his run, well let’s just say for 26.2 miles he moved through the field of athletes. He was solid; strong and calm. I could feel his steadiness and presence as he past me cheering at different spots on the course. It was, by far, his most graceful performance and with a smoking fast 3:28 marathon a glimpse that there are more good things coming for this YT.
Without further ado, here’s the beej:
It’s a long one, but hopeful this can shed some insight for future Ironman competitors who want to tow the line in 2014 and test their minds. I find reading race reports helps me put things in perspective and gives me a gauge on how to wrap my brain around this epic event. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any feedback or want further details. This is a journey to test your limits, and see what your made of. Enjoy.
Woke up early, 3:00 am. Needed to get breakfast down before 3:30, which included 1-1/2 cups of apple sauce, 1 scoop of Vega protein powder, and a full banana. In addition, a full 24 oz bottle of Perform. I had been loading up the belly for the previous 24 hours, and I could feel the weight of the food and hydration I had been taking in. But I believed this would work and all shake out in the end. Finished my drink about 4am. Then just chilled in the hotel room getting last minute items organized. Weather looked good from where we were, and that’s overseeing Mirror Lake. Great location! It was warmer than it had been in the previous few days. And no storms like they were predicting. No need to worry about the weather, not much you can do to change it, just roll with it.
Walked down with Jess to Transition to get body marked, load up the water bottles on the bike, and drop off my special needs bags (in that order). Found it funny to hear athletes telling the race support how ‘they’ wanted to drop off bags first, then get body marked. Walking over to the spot that our friend Jeff had scooped up, right on the shore at the swim start, I had to make a bathroom stop. Decided I had enough time to jet up to our hotel and get back with plenty of time. Need to remember that for next year. Got back to the start area to see Jess and Brian who was also racing. A little chit chat, then off to put our wetsuits on and get to the starting area. The walk by the boathouse took a little longer than expected. The crowds there were crazy. Worked my way through and ran into Christine, an old friend I grew up with whom I reconnected with over the past few years. Her husband Jeff was racing too. Got a big hug and good luck, and sent on my way.
The new swim start has you self seed your starting position based on your expected finish time. I chose the group 1:01 – 1:10. Positioned myself at the far right, just a few rows back. They have sign with the start time and a bungy cord stretched across to break up the swim groups. As the group in front goes, you move up until they release the cord and you can filter under the starting blow up banner. I didn’t have time to warm up, but ok with that. You can get your feel within the first few 100 yards or so and no rush to sprint out from the start. It’s a long swim. Found the line immediately, and was able to carry it for most of the swim. I was bumped around a bit still to start, swimmers going from left to right, and not sighting. Got my goggles kicked off twice, and had to adjust but soon back on my way. Really got into a nice groove, especially on the return trips. With the great cloud cover, I was able to bilateral swim for some time, which means I was a comfortable pace. And although they said you could not swim ‘inside’ the buoys, I took it about 3-4 feet inside of the cable. And when swimmers were straying too far inside, the kayakers would force you back. The only little harry section was the turn around. Those big red buoys were crazy. And that stretch from one red buoy to the next was so short. Water was super choppy, and swimmers were awkwardly trying to get around them.
But once turned, I got back into a solid rhythm and back on the line. I bounced from side to side passing some swimmers, sticking on the feet of others. Good chance to draft. I was in the moment of the swim throughout, focusing on each stroke and being there, in that moment, feeling the water and my surroundings. I felt great on the swim. No lower back pain, no panics, nothing. Just a steady, solid effort.
Got out of the water on the first loop and had to adjust my goggles. Took me longer than expected to get back in and going. But found the line again, and charged ahead. Didn’t look at the clock when I exited, no need to occupy the mind with that time.
Exited the water, ran to a stripper, and had my wetsuit ripped off. Ran to T1 in a slippery mess as the carpets were wet, and it was slightly drizzling. Slowed down so as not to fall or wipe out and end my day too early. Found my bag, grabbed it, and ran into the mens changing tent. Dumped out the gear, a few extra things were in there too. Wasn’t sure how the day’s weather would change. I decided to put on my arm warmers, and gloves, and headed out. As I was running to my bike, in my bike shoes which I rarely do, I saw a few people who were slipping and falling down to the wet grass. One had bloody fingers, that was a sign to just slow down and be safe.
Mounted the bike out of T1 and started the ride down the twisty downhill which as a bit sketchy as well. Off I was, on the 112 mile journey I was definitely prepared for. Right away, as I hit the flats before the ski jumps, I started my nutrition, 1/2 Vanilla Crisp Powerbar. I practiced this during training, and knew I would have an undulating course ahead until I got to Keene Valley, so this was a good opportunity to begin fueling. It was muggy out, but I was dressed perfectly. Made it to the first big hill, and just settled into an easy pace. Lots of cyclists flew by me. I just let them go. I stuck to my plan, and patience would be on my side.
As I left T1, I was trying to get my HR to read by pressing the lap button for the this next phase. But no luck. And then my bike computer wasn’t reading speed or distance. I spent a few seconds trying to adjust, but realized I was snaking on the road, not safe in wet conditions. Decided to just move on with no heart rate, no speed. Just feel. Thankful that I know my body well, and have trained alot this season by feel.
The first lap was pretty uneventful. Just rode along, staying in my comfort zone, never pressing too hard or too easy. Just steady. A huge peleton of cyclists passed me as you turn right in Keene Valley for that fast stretch. Probably 20-30 riders all grouped together charging along. This was a good opportunity to not judge, and think about something out of my control. Just got back to the job at hand, and concerned myself with the now…my now.
Kept hydrating every 10 min with Perform, and every 50 min with a 1/2 Powerbar or Powerbar Gel. Sprinkling in water sips every now and then and pouring some over my head to stay cool. On my way back from Au Sable Forks, my buddy from Colorado pulled up along side, and enjoyed some friendly conversation for a bit. So great to meet up, and know we would be on the course together for most of the ride.
Spun up the hills, cruised over and down the downhills. Kept it easy effort, and consistent. Every pedal stroke I tried to remain present, and not get too far ahead of myself. Bringing myself back each time was work. It’s not easy to stay in the now, takes work, but worth it I found as I reflect on the day.
Finished the first lap, pulled into the specials needs section, ditched the gloves, kept the arms, changed out water bottles, and back on my way. Saw Jess right there cheering me on, it was awesome! Out for the 2nd loop. Tried to keep the same intensity, if not dialing it up slightly. Never surging too much except to pass groups and avoid drafting. Met up with Brian again for a bit. After about 70 or so miles, my left knee started to feel strained. I pushed through and knew it would be fine come the run.
Hydration on the bike was super key. Although I had to pee maybe 7 or 8 times. Only once did I actually stop at a portojohn. Otherwise, just kept it on the bike. The last stretch back into Placid from Wilmington was definitely tougher on the 2nd loop. But again I just spun up the hills and tried to keep moving forward. I can say now that I should have gone a little harder, my legs were not sore but I was being cautious of getting burnt before the run. Next year.
The back section near Papa Bear hill was not as difficult as I expected. If you spin up that hill, there is no need to stand and crush it. Really felt comfortable going up, and the crowd there was awesome support.
Cruised back into T2 riding a high from the crowd support. I didn’t really know my time at that point, just that it was somewhere around 6 hours. Which is what I had in my mind pre-race. After passing my bike off to a volunteer, I ran to the bags to grab my running gear. Back into the changing tent, I had to pee so bad. Dumped my bag out, popped an ibuprofin (something I don’t normally do) and made it to the tent exit. A quick bathroom break, some sunscreen slathered on by those awesome volunteers, and off I went for my favorite part of the race.
Down the hills you have to take it easy, especially on the first loop. It’s no joke, downhill after downhill, you finally get to the bottom near Lisa G’s and you go up slightly, then mostly flat/downhill to River Road. I was comfortable, legs were ok, just needed to warm up a bit to get my ‘running’ legs going.
Cruising to River Road I started to find my groove. Steady out to mile 5/6 at the turnaround, I was hydrating each aid station, taking in 1/2 gel each 3 miles. My stomach was solid, no issues. I think my first mile was 7:30, based on some math (not great when you’ve already been racing for 7 hours). After that, I just left it alone and ran on feel. Forgot to drop the heart rate monitor, so it just went along for a ride through the 140.6 miles. I was hesitant to bring it on the run to begin with before the race, I prefer just racing by feel anyway.
I had stopped in at the EN 4 keys talk, and they hammer home the point of nothing matters until mile 18 of the run. And so I had that in the back of my mind, but focused on each step and present moment awareness. I was passing people at this point, some I passed quickly, others I was able to catch, run with for a few steps, then ease past without extending any extra effort. Turned right off River Road and headed back to town. This is where I felt a surge of energy. But held back with so much more to go. Cruised along that stretch, up the hills in town and along the short out/back before the 1/2 way point. Saw my childhood friend Christine and her family and that was big motivation, as well as the Fuel Belt Team tent on Mirror Lake Road. Jason came out and gave me a high five, and cheered me on. I was ready to tackle lap 2. At this point, I knew I was somewhere around 1:42?ish for the first first lap. I was starting to pick it up. I saw Patrick Mcrann from EN on the 2nd hill into town. He was just saying steady and calm, I think. Another friend Chris Crema whom I saw earlier in the day out on the Wilmington stretch at an aid station, was there in town on the hills too. He was screaming me on too, can’t say how much us athletes appreciate this. I saw Jess and the dogs on that Mirror Lake section too, I had to cross the bike traffic to give the dogs a hug, and kiss my wife (which I almost forgot to do!).
Picked up steam and was feeling good. Drinking Perform at each aid station, and sucking down gels. Pouring water on my head and kept moving. Stomach was a bit full at times, but nothing that would make me stop. So my nutrition was spot on I would find.
Running back out on River Road on the 2nd loop, I found I was running by myself, cruising through athletes. One by one. They were walking, or stopping or jogging at a slow pace. I was just able to run strong and keep moving. Wow I thought, this is awesome, and truly awesome. I pushed to mile 18, then said to myself, “just pick it up slightly and get to mile 20?. Did that by taking 2 short 30 sec walking breaks through aid stations. Figured this would save me in the final miles. Saw Tom from FB running strong not too far behind me, Brian and Kevan all on River Road – quite the popular place to be!
As I passed runners, I was picking up confidence that I would finish this thing running, and running strong. Not just ‘getting by’ to the finish. Up the hill after River Road, I was the only person running. Passed maybe 20 walkers. I know some were probably on their 1st loop, but I used it as motivation to stay strong and keep moving forward. I was smiling too. Where does that come from? Being happy in life, having a great partner (Jess), and being in the moment, soaking up every piece of this race. I was confident in my training, my experience, and my mental strength.
Smiling and running well, quads hurting of course, I cruised past the horse grounds and continued to pass athletes. I caught up to this one EN runner and seemed to be running my pace. Hopefully we could pull each other along. But then he stopped at a port-o-john, and I just kept going. Got back into town and the hills. Oh boy. They are not easy, and on the 2nd loop, actually had to walk for 30 sec during it. Saw Jess rooting me on, and Patrick from EN right there at the bottom of the hill urging me on. Back to running, I found extra strength in getting up those hills out for the final stretch. Found I was the only one running my pace. Again on Mirror Lake drive got a pick-me-up from Jason and FB tent. Up the final small hill, hit the turnaround, and less than a mile to go to the finish. Finish strong, finish strong…that’s what I kept saying to myself. It’s all downhill. The pain in your legs is ok, it’s not going anywhere, and nothing you can do about it. Just run. As I was finished the hill down to the entrance to the oval, my hamstrings, the left on specifically, started to seize up. Probably lack of salt, so I slowed and relaxed ever so slightly, embraced the hurt, and once on the flat road again, I picked it up. Onto the oval, this was going to be great! Smiling and running, I hit the finish line. Unaware of official time, I just wanted to run through the finish. And did just that.
Greeted by 2 volunteers, they took my chip, wrapped me in a space blanket, and handed me my finish shirt and hat. I was dizzy, really dizzy. Sat down, drank a coke, and saw Jess. So happy to see her smiling face. I knew I should start rehydrating, and eating something. Cravings were for the pizza, cookies and junk food at the end. But opted for watermelon and orange slices. I knew they were better options than the other stuff which, for right now, would not be good on my stomach.
Another Ironman in the books. What a race. I was so happy to have accomplished this race, after a DNF in my last IM. Never did I doubt that I would finish. Not sure what else I can say except I’m happy and satisfied with myself. I believe in me. I know I am capable of more. And with patience, hard work and a strong confidence in yourself, anything is possible. I’m grateful for the life I have and the people surround me.
Thanks to Jess. From her daily words of wisdom, pushing me to be better, and constantly producing flavorful and healthy meals, I could not have done this well without her. If you know us, we draw upon the connection we have developed over the 16 years together. It’s a strong, unbreakable connection that continues to become stronger and stronger as the years pass. Also thanks for the massage work, getting me on the roller daily, teaching yoga at home as well as those classes at NPY, it just doesn’t end how much you’ve helped me.
Thanks to Lucho! Wow, I was so well prepared for this race. I never had weeks where I dreaded a workout or training, as the plan was mapped out to perfection. I was never broken down or burnt out. I trained consistently, and kept recovery front of mind. Lucho knew what I was capable of, even if I didn’t at times. And having that sounding board when you have questions or doubts about a workout and what to do in certain scenarios, is so worthwhile. Thanks Lucho for your advice, honesty and belief in me as an athlete. I appreciate all you’ve done for me in the past year.
Thanks to my parents. We all know who we are today has much to do with our upbringing, and my parents are hard, hard working people. There is no doubt I get my work ethic from my parents. I have to thank them more often because that ethic is part of every piece of my life, work and play. So thanks mom and dad, you truly are role models in the truest sense.
And thanks to all my friends and teammates and coworkers who listened to my training stories and accepted the limited free time I had to do anything else but train. I am thankful to all.
Oh, and of course my acupuncturist Dr. Cristy Sica from Newport Acupuncture. I was feeling the load one time this season, and my right knee was not feeling 100%. Actually went through a training weekend in Placid with this pain, but trained through it. After continuous sessions with Dr. Sica, I was able to resume training and get to the starting line healthy with no issues. Thanks for the needle work!