My Top 10 Triathlon Accessories for 2018

It’s December and that means that it’s time to look back at 2018 and think about the high and low points of the season. Without any major races on my schedule until June, it’s time to start a new training plan and to focus on what worked last year, as well as what did not. I realize that I found a few pieces of equipment and clothing that I was really glad to have on hand this past year with all the time that I put in training for Ironman Lake Placid.

Here are my top ten triathlon accessories from my 2018 season:

10. Cycling Glasses

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Now we have matching glasses.

These glasses were a gift from my husband as we started doing more evening outdoor rides. I had regular cycling glasses from XX2i Optics that had served me well, but were pretty dark. My new pair of Oakley glasses has photochromic lenses that change from a darker tint to less tint as the daylight fades. I don’t know exactly which style I have since this was a gift.

9. Coeur Trishorts

I was looking to buy another pair of trishorts for the Rev 3 Quassy Half triathlon. While I’m not a fan of many of the color combinations in the Coeur lines, I did like these blue ones.

The chamois is seamless and soft and fleecy. The fit was as I expected and I didn’t experience any unexpected discomfort during the race. I’d definitely buy another pair if I can find a style that I like.

8. Cycling Vest

I decided before the same Quassy Half event that I also needed to find a vest for cycling in cooler weather because I am always cold.

This one from Garneau was on sale and fit my needs. It has two large pockets in back which turned out to be a perfect size to stow my jacket (see #6). The vest is very lightweight but does help to cut the wind. The fit is a bit slim.

7. Mizuno Running Shoes

I may have bought these Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 shoes at the end of 2017, but most of my use of them has occurred in 2018. The replaced my previous pair of Mizunos and have held up well. I didn’t have any major foot pain or problems while increasing my distance in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid. I’m a bit sad that they have so many miles on them now because I’ll have to replace them soon.

6. Pearl Izumi Running Jacket

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Pearl Izumi jacket.

This was another item that I think I picked up at the end of 2017, but I got more compliments on it than anything else! It saved my race in the rain and wind of Lake Placid, and I wore it for the entire bike course. I’m not overly fond of pink in my clothing, but the combination of fluorescent pink and yellow was certainly eye-catching. It is officially a running jacket, but it works on the bike just fine. It doesn’t have the standard pockets on the back, but one large one instead.

5. Swim Goggles

A few weeks before Ironman Lake Placid, I decided that I needed new swim goggles. The ones that I had been using in my training were starting to fog up more quickly, despite using Cat Crap defogger. I looked at polarized versus standard goggles and ended up buying three different styles and brands.

After all that, the pair that I used for Lake Placid (and still use in the pool) is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 series, which is what I had before all my shopping. The new pair that I used in my race was untinted because the day was overcast. They fit me better than the other goggles and as long as they’re not that old, they don’t fog up much.

4. Cycling gloves

My right hand goes numb while cycling on regular bars. I finally found a pair of gloves (Giro Strada Massa Gel) that seems to alleviate this to some extent. The numbness still occurs, but it takes longer to start up and it isn’t as bad.

I’ve gone back and bought several pairs of these gloves since discovering them. They’re available in several colors and have small pockets on the backs of two fingers to allow you to remove them easily when they’re sweaty. One problem that I did have with them – if they get wet on a ride, they smell really bad when they dry. I’ve had to wash them a few times.

3. Gu Campfire S’mores Flavor

I found this flavor of Gu while trying to figure out a nutrition strategy for Ironman Lake Placid. These really taste like s’mores. I usually eat Gu on long runs – I find them too messy for cycling. I learned that after 45 minutes of running, my energy levels would start to dip. Around 5 minutes after I ate one of these, I’d feel better. This flavor does not contain caffeine.

2. Stroopwaffle

These are very similar to the Honey Stinger waffles that I had been eating, but with less crumby edges. I discovered this tasty snack on a flight when it was served during the food/snack service. Later, my husband found that we could order these by the case. I’ll typically eat one about an hour before cycling, running, or fencing, after fencing practice, or if I need a quick sugar boost.

1. Walk-On Alarm Clock

So this isn’t specifically a triathlon accessory, but it is one of my favorite items that I’ve found this year. I don’t like mornings and I have trouble getting out of bed and getting my day started. This alarm clock sits in the next room and looks like a small rug or scale. When it goes off, I have to get out of bed, stumble into another room, and then stand on the alarm clock for about 10 seconds before it stops.

If you have trouble getting up for your early morning triathlon workouts, it might help! It certainly helped me to get my day started so that I could make better use of my time to fit in those long training sessions.

That’s it for this year’s finds! Have you used any of these? Do you have any favorites pieces of clothing, fuel, or other accessories that have benefited your triathlon training this year? Let me know in the comments.

Race Report – CJTC Turkey Tri 2018

Just when I thought that my triathlon season was over, I found one more event to participate in! This was the Central Jersey Tri Club’s second annual Turkey Tri, a fun and laid back event taking place over Thanksgiving weekend.

While this was only open to club members, everyone brought a lot of enthusiasm to the event. The Turkey Tri is a virtual triathlon, where each participant completes all three disciplines on their own and reports their times via Strava, but also a Google form.

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Race packet for the Turkey Tri.

Race packets included a long-sleeved t-shirt, race bib, and medal. The event planners had prepared an Athlete Guide which detailed the format. Everyone had to swim, bike, and run in any order, all in one day, on any day from November 21 – 25. The events were timed, with each athlete reporting the distance that they were able to go in that time period.

Bike – 30 Minutes

I decided to start out on my bike because I’m just not a morning person, especially when it comes to cold water (yes, the pool is cold). I also needed to bike before I ran, because the running is the toughest on my legs.

My bike segment was completed indoors on my Tacx Neo trainer, while running Zwift. The map for Zwift was London, and I put myself on the flat Greater London Loop. I worked hard, with my heart rate over 180 bpm for a good portion of the ride. Thirty minutes went by and I had traveled 10.9 miles.

Run – 20 Minutes

For my run, I drove over to nearby Nomahegan Park where I have done a lot of my training. I usually run there from my house, but I wanted to avoid having to cross roads for this event. The weather was overcast and a chilly 41°F and the park was relatively deserted.

I had bundled up in layers – fleece-lined leggings, a base layer top, second layer running top, and my Central Jersey Tri Club tri top over it all. I brought out the winter hat and gloves as well. Oh – and here was my chance to wear my bib for the event!

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Sitting in the car at Nomahegan park before my run. I don’t want to go out there – it’s cold!

My run went well considering that I hadn’t done any running in 4 weeks. I didn’t have any weird aches or pains and pushed myself as hard as I thought I could manage. The path at Nomahegan is about 1.9 miles, and I made it 1.8 miles in 20 minutes.

Swim – 10 Minutes

After my run, I spent some time fueling myself in transition with a roast beef sandwich. I almost took a nap as the day’s efforts were starting to add up.

Finally, I took myself to the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness & Wellness Center in Scotch Plains, NJ for my pool swim. The pool always feels cold to me, so I was a bit reluctant to jump in, but I knew that I’d warm up quickly. This is a 25 yard saltwater pool, and there were plenty of lanes open.

I swam freestyle for the entire thing and started out hard. After 75 yards, I had to breathe more often and felt myself gasping. I backed off a little and knew that I should end up with between 400 and 500 yards. After 10 minutes, I had clocked 475 yards!

Results

I’m not sure how I placed in the event (not really the point of it), but I had a good time fitting all three disciplines into one day of activities again. I need to be more consistent with my swimming and running in general.

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Flat me!

I wish that I had been able to meet up with some other club members for this, but my meandering plan for the day didn’t seem to line up with anyone else’s schedule. It was a fun time and I’ll be sure to sign up next year!

See my other race reports here.

Triathlon Training Ahead

I’m in a bit of a training slump for triathlon for the past few months. I had thought that signing up for Eagleman would help to get me back on track, but so far it has still been tough to find consistent motivation. I thought this would be a good time to step back and look at how I plan out my triathlon training.

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Swim exit at Eagleman

This Is Not Normal

So first of all, I don’t work a standard Monday through Friday job during normal hours. I work an average of three 13-hour overnight shifts each week. Right now they are grouped so that I work four shifts on one week and then two shifts the next. This might sound like I have a lot of free days to train, but it takes another day to recover from those night shifts, as well as some napping before heading in for the first night shift.

All of the triathlon training plans that I have seen so far assume that you have something close to a traditional schedule. The long workouts fall on Saturdays and Sundays, with a rest day on Monday in most cases. The workouts in the plan are structured in such a way that you’re rotating through sessions of varying intensity in the different disciplines in a way that makes sense. If you stick to the plan, it scatters the swims, bike sessions, and runs in an order that (probably) won’t overwhelm your legs all at once.

Add Some Swords

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Summer Nationals Veteran Women’s Sabre Team event – 3rd place.

On top of swimming, biking, and running, I have been fencing for over twenty years and practice for 1 to 2 hours twice a week. This adds another leg-heavy workout to my training, but I’m actually much better at fencing than at triathlon. Old injuries and just practical scheduling keep me from training more than that in a high-impact sport with a lot of repetitive hand and arm motions.

So how do I work around all of my scheduling weirdness? I pretty much make it up as I go. For some people, a triathlon coach may be helpful, but I don’t envision myself hiring one anytime soon. I also squeeze in at least an hour of weight training once a week with a personal trainer and that helps to keep me free from new injuries. I’d love to make it into the gym for that twice a week, but that rarely happens.

What Have I Used?

I started out my triathlon training by keeping it very simple. I already had some cycling experience but I had to learn to run and swim. I bought some real running shoes and started running only a mile at a time until I could tell if my ankles would tolerate it at all. Once that was going well, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA.

When it was time to do my first race, I had bought a Garmin 920 and used one of the sprint triathlon training plans on the Garmin connect training log. This was pretty simple and the workouts were all short, so I just squeezed them into my schedule where I could.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect features sprint and Olympic distance triathlon training plans. Access this by buying a Garmin device.

By the time I was ready for Eagleman training for my first 70.3 distance race in 2017, I needed something more. My husband pointed me toward Trainer Road, which is primarily a cycling platform that integrates with an indoor trainer. We had just purchased an indoor trainer because I was going to need to start my plan over the winter. Trainer Road has triathlon plans also, and while they don’t integrate into any specific device, I could read the workout listed there and then just go do it (for swims and runs). For the swim workouts, I’d jot down the sets on a small Post-It note and then tape it to my water bottle.

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Example of a triathlon training plan on Trainer Road. The bike workouts are used on a power-based indoor trainer. The swim and run workouts are text descriptions.

The plans on Trainer Road got me through Eagleman in 2017, and the Rev3 Quassy Half and Ironman Lake Placid in 2018. The site has options for sprint, Olympic, half, and full distance triathlons. Pick from three options of level and time commitment for each distance. The plans are built in blocks, starting with base fitness, then a build phase, and if you have time for it, a specialty phase. Look around at the plans and then count backward from your race date to see when to start each section. I had built in several extra weeks because I knew I’d have to take a break for certain travel weeks, fencing competitions, and a snowboarding vacation.

Going Forward

Now that I’ve signed up for Eagleman for 2019, I needed to think about how I planned to train again. I looked over plans on Trainer Road and found that it now offers a calendar option. This lets you pick a plan, decide which day of the week you prefer to start on, and then import it into those dates. From there, you can click and drag workouts to different days if you need to. The swim and run workouts also show up!

Trainingplan

This is an example of how a training plan looks after you import it into Trainer Road’s new calendar feature.

If you click on a swim or run workout in the calendar view, you can see more details. I think I’m sticking with Trainer Road for my training for Eagleman again. As the weather turns in the spring, I will do more of the rides outdoors, but the application even lets you import your outdoor rides into the calendar so it’s all visible in one place.

RunWorkoutTR

Close up view of a run workout as seen through the calendar view in Trainer Road.

So that’s my plan for this upcoming triathlon season. What other platforms have you used and found helpful for your training? Do you have an abnormal schedule that makes it more challenging to train? Let me know in the comments below!

Coming Soon – Eagleman 2019

Funny story…

I raced in Eagleman in 2017 for my first Ironman-branded event, as well as my first 70.3-mile (half distance) triathlon. Prior to that, I had only completed sprint distance triathlons and two half marathons. I had never swam that far in open water, and had only ridden that distance once before on my bike. I had spent a good amount of my time training up to the running distance, since that is a weak point for me.

The day of Eagleman came, and I raced. I felt great during the swim, despite getting a little lost on one turn and being swum over by another age group. I started out strong on my bike and felt fast until I was about two-thirds of the way through the course.

Swag

From there on, my stomach complained and I became dizzy with more exertion. In hindsight, I believe I was dehydrated, but at the time I didn’t know that that was how my body would react. I started the run barely being able to walk, but finally found a jog-walk strategy that helped me keep moving. By the last 3 miles of the race, I really couldn’t run at all, but I kept moving and made my way to the finish.

I had been hoping for a better time, but with the heat and dehydration, I just couldn’t move any faster. This past season, my races were all hilly, so it has been tough for me to compare times between any races so far.

Since I now have a couple more races under my belt, I have been thinking ahead about goals for next triathlon season. I don’t do too badly in the shorter events, but I’d like to get faster overall. I signed up to race in the New Jersey State Triathlon in July, for both the sprint and the Olympic distances.

I had been thinking that I would do another 70.3, but it was a toss up between Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev3 Quassy Half), Eagleman, Ironman Atlantic City 70.3, or something a little further afield. My thoughts kept going back to Eagleman and that flat, hot course.

Last week I received an email announcing that all of the Tier 3 entries for Eagleman had sold out. That means that the race was down to the last tier of entries and would likely sell out completely. If I wanted to race Eagleman next season, I needed to decide soon. This race has also been designated as the tri club championship for 2019, which has probably added to the entries.

When I raced Eagleman in 2017, my brother also did the race, and my cousin, sister-in-law, and a friend completed a relay. My husband had considered doing the bike portion of the relay with them, but ultimately decided against it. I know that he’s said a few times that he wished he had ridden in it.

I brought it up to him and mentioned that the race was likely to sell out soon. By the end of the night, we had both signed up. He’s in for a relay and I’m racing the whole thing. Now I just have to figure out how to hydrate and go faster. I guess I’m starting a training plan again in December!

Upcoming Events (Nov 2018 – 2019)

Well I’m out of races to write about because the triathlon season here in New Jersey is essentially over. I don’t want to swim outside unless the water is at least 70 degrees, so any time from mid-September through May is out for me. That means that it’s time to look ahead at what events I’m competing in for this season in fencing, as well as triathlon in 2019.

CJTC Turkey Tri

Well, I guess I do have a triathlon to race in November. This one is put on by my local tri club and is a self-guided indoor (or partially outdoor) triathlon. Competitors will pick one day between November 21 and 25th and will complete a swim, bike, and run all on the same day. They don’t need to be back-to-back, but I’m not sure if they need to be in the traditional triathlon order or not. I’ll have to pick up my athlete packet to find out, I guess.

Everyone tracks their workouts and reports in on their times. I think there are age group awards, but this is my first year participating in this event, so I’m not really sure. But in any case, it’s a good excuse to get some workouts in over a weekend where everyone is typically focused on eating.

US Fencing North American Cup (December NAC)

This is the first of three national-level events that I will be competing in this year and is being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have entered the Vet-40 and Veteran Open events in Women’s Sabre, and chose to forego the Division II and Division I events this time. I could technically fence on all four days (one event per day), but the entry fees and travel expenses make it tougher to commit to that.

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This is what a NAC looks like.

Division II isn’t an unreasonable event for me (I think I finished top 16 in the last one where I had a decent day), but Division I is tough. If I remember right, I believe that my last Division I event had me facing Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis in my first bout (I did get one point on her).

Thrust Fall ROC

This is a regional fencing event in December which features both Division I-A and Division II options. I’m going to fencing both days/events, and I’m hoping that it will be a good warm-up for the NAC that takes place on the following weekend. If I fence well, I can qualify for Summer Nationals.

Tri-State Veteran Cup Events

This is a series of fencing competitions held in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, and is limited to athletes in the Veteran age groups (40+) and is only held for sabre.

I finished second in the first event of the year, and there are at least four more this season. I probably won’t make it to all of them, but I’m planning on at least two more, depending on my work schedule.

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

This will be my first time participating in the Lifetime Fitness series of triathlons. This chain of fitness centers runs this event in January all over the country. I’ll be competing in Florham Park, NJ on January 20th. I don’t have any particular goals for this race (yet) because I’m not really sure what to expect with the indoor format.

New Jersey Half-Marathon

This is a race that I’m undecided about for now. I feel like I need to have an event on the horizon in order to motivate me to run. Otherwise I tend to focus on just fencing and cycling (which is fine, but not if I want to do triathlons). The half-marathon distance is a good stretch on the distance for me, but is also something that I know I can finish (and hopefully improve my time).

What Else, Isn’t That Enough?

I’m sure I’ll find more fencing events as the season progresses, and then there are those other two national-level events ahead also. But it’s too far away to plan and think about those for now. I’m considering a 70.3-distance triathlon, but haven’t decided on which one. Oh, and maybe I’ll do another cycling time trial? I have plenty to keep me busy!


Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid (Part 5 – The Aftermath)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here:

Well, I did it. I completed Ironman Lake Placid. It was a long journey filled with plenty of hours, some pain, stress, doubts, and a lot of hills. It was nearly midnight when I crossed the finish line and collected my finisher’s swag.

The volunteer who caught me was great and directed me to a collection of picnic tables where athletes were recovering. I sat down and she asked me what I needed, then brought me water, some orange slices, and a foil blanket. I felt tired, of course, but not actually all that bad, considering what I had just been through. I gulped some water and chewed on the oranges and let myself just sit and enjoy the lack of movement.

Potties

It didn’t take me long before I was ready to get up and move on. The picnic tables backed to a huge row of Porta-Potties, so it wasn’t the most scenic part of the race, but this recovery area was close to the spectator access. My family was all waiting right there when I came out, and I moved slowly to join them. My muscles still functioned – nothing had cramped or seized up otherwise while I had been sitting.

My family had already taken my bike and transition bags. You get tickets in your athlete packet that allow someone to get in to collect these things for you, and this is something that I’ve always been happy to have available. The last thing that I want to do at the end of a long race is to carry around bags of equipment and keep track of my bike. My special needs bags were still on course, but we left them there. We were able to pick those up the following morning, but if you don’t get them before noon, apparently they dispose of them.

I had to walk a little ways to the car, because there really isn’t much to do after the race when you finish close to the end. In fact, as soon as midnight rolled around, Ironman shuts down the finish area very quickly. Apparently they rolled a truck across the chute and turned all the lights out. When it’s over, they really mean it! I felt terrible for those athletes who may have made it through the swim and the bike course, only to fall short at the very end, to be greeted by darkness in the final stretch.

All of the restaurants were closed at this point, but my family had ordered pizza earlier, and it was waiting back at the B&B. It’s necessary to plan ahead for food unless you’re really fast. However, the first priority for me was a shower. I managed to get through that without falling over, although my legs were having a tough time of it. I ate two pieces of lukewarm pizza, drank more water, and went to bed.

I woke up at least once overnight, and apparently that’s normal for the first night post-race. I didn’t even sleep that late in the morning. I expected to be sore, but I found that my knees and ankles just sort of ached, and I didn’t have that much muscular soreness to start with. I took Advil sporadically and tried to keep moving a little through the day.

Our original plan for Monday was to walk around downtown and do some shopping. However, the rain had returned, so we decided to just lounge around at the B&B, reading and playing board games. Later in the day, the joint pain started to fade and my muscles began to hurt. Everything was sore, *except* my quads, which was actually pretty weird. In all my long training runs or after long climby bike rides, my quads were consistently sore. Put it all together on race day and … quads were fine. I don’t understand why.

Toward evening my back muscles threatened to cramp, so I laid down and went to bed. We traveled home the next day, but I started to feel better. I still moved slowly and didn’t feel like doing anything too strenuous, but could function well enough. I think that the soreness was essentially gone by the third day after the race. My blisters also healed up quickly.

Donuts

I was also hungry and ate a lot. I had eaten carefully planned meals in the weeks leading up to the race, hoping to avoid any unneeded distress, but I no longer cared. On the drive home, I ate most of a half-dozen donuts.

The strange thing about recovery was that my legs felt completely drained with any exertion for about 3 weeks after the race. I went out on a 40-mile ride a week after the race, and my legs just had no strength in them. I would try to push up a hill, and they just couldn’t do it. They weren’t sore at this point, but just wouldn’t respond. I rode in an 80-mile cycling event 3 weeks after the race and finally felt like I was returning to normal by that point.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever do another full distance race prior to competing in this. I didn’t really know for a few weeks afterward either. I certainly don’t plan on another one for 2019, although I’m contemplating a 70.3. I think I would consider another full after that, but I have no specific plans (Maryland, Chattanooga, Barcelona?). Lake Placid was a beautiful place to race, the town was welcoming, and I enjoyed so much of it, but I’m not eager to face those hills again. I would probably race a different course in the future.

My training has substantially diminished by now. I have kept up a degree of cycling, finishing Zwift Academy in September. I’m hoping to swim and run at least once a week, but I’m also back to fencing practices since September.

For next year, I’m already registered for the New Jersey State Triathlon in July (both sprint and Olympic distances). I’ve looked at other events: Eagleman (70.3), Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev 3 Quassy), Jerseyman, Lifetime Athletic Indoor Tris, Ironman Virginia 70.3, or maybe a half-marathon locally. I would like to try to get faster at the shorter distances.

Numbers

That brings me to the end of my Ironman journey for now. I hope this race report is helpful to anyone thinking of trying one, or looking at Lake Placid specifically.

See all my race reports here.

Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid (Part 4 – Run)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here (when they’re ready):

I had just finished the bike course, and I knew I was running short on time. So while I was happy to be through with the longest part of my race, I knew that the marathon wouldn’t be easy. Being sick during the last couple of months of training had meant that I had had to let something go. And that something was my long runs. The furthest I had ever run in training was a single 14.3-mile effort.

I was feeling down about my race at this point, but still happy to be on the last part of it. My ankle had ached during the second half of the bike section, so I was a bit worried about how it would deal with running. But then the volunteer in the changing tent dumped out my bike-to-run bag and OMG – chocolate-covered salted cashews! I had stashed a lot of goodies in my bags, but this was the one time where I really, really needed them.

Cashews

Not a great photo, but those are the cashews!

I changed into leggings and a tank top for the run. The temperature was much better by now and the rain had stopped. I had a long sleeved shirt stashed in my run special needs for later, if I got cold. I dragged myself out of the tent on started the run (er, walk).

T2 = 9:00

I still could barely move, but that was fine. It was easier to eat my cashews while walking anyway, and I knew that the beginning of the run course was downhill. By this point in the day, everyone was out cheering on the athletes. The run course was two loops, with one long out-and-back that led back through downtown, followed by a short out-and-back that paralleled the end of the bike course. So everyone who was running overlapped in town a few times.

I shuffled along as the course turned toward the long downhill section. Then I heard a familiar voice beside me and found my brother jogging alongside me. He wanted to make sure that I understood the cut off times, which I thought I did. All athletes had to reach the turn around for the second loop by 9:00 p.m. and I also had to reach the finish line *before* midnight. I had started my race a few minutes before 7:00 a.m., so in order to make the total cut off time of 17 hours, I’d have to make it to the end a few minutes before 12:00 a.m.

Drake

My brother found me in the blurry dusk.

My brother encouraged me as I finished up my cashews and found that I was now able to jog. He coached me a bit and told me that I needed to get through the run in about 6 hours. I felt pretty good about that prospect now that my legs had started to cooperate. I had done the run in the Quassy Half in 3 hours with a run-walk approach, while still sick and coughing, so 6 hours for the Ironman run should be doable, right?

I have to admit, I was a bit disheartened by seeing other runners on their way back in from the long out-and-back. How far ahead of me were they? How many were already on their second loop? My brother peeled off at this point and I was alone with my legs.

I found that the first 5 miles weren’t really that bad. I had done plenty of runs of this distance in my training, so now that my legs felt better, I was able to keep my pace where I wanted it. I walked at every aid station, and alternated between water and Gatorade Endurance. Later on, I would switch to soda and Red Bull. I had plenty of gels and had planned on taking one every 45 to 60 minutes.

On the way out of town, I did experience some exhaustion-fueled resentment toward all those athletes who were on their way back into town and appeared to be happily walking and chatting with newfound friends. I knew I wouldn’t have time to ease up at all as I made my way through the marathon.

The course led down the hill beside the Olympic ski jumps before making a left turn that took athletes through a wooded area with slightly rolling hills. I felt like I spent most of the run on this road, and I heard complaints that this stretch was boring. However, I kind of liked it. The aid stations broke up the monotony of a long run, and it wasn’t really that hilly. By the time I had reached mile 8, I started to hurt though.

I had blisters on both feet, along my pinkie toes where I usually get them. My left ankle had begun to have twinges of pain, and my right hamstring twitched like it wanted to cramp. I would walk whenever this happened and it never got any worse, so after a short break, I’d run again. My overall pace was steady, and only a tiny bit slower that I would have liked. I knew that I still had to go up the hills back into town (and would be walking those parts), and I knew that I had somewhere over 6 hours to get through the miles (probably closer to 6.5).

Toes

I made this photo little so you don’t have to look at my super-zoomed in blisters/toes.

I made it back to the hills and was relieved that I had a good excuse to walk. But as soon as I reached more level ground, I pushed myself back to my running. The miles slowly ticked by. I passed a few athletes as I went, and at least a couple who were doubled over sick at the side of the road.

The stretch between the ski jump hill and the steeper hill into  town was short and flat, and went by quickly. When I reached the Main Street hill, I walked again, jogged through town, then turned onto the second shorter out-and-back on the course. This section was lined with tents, tri-clubs, and spectators. The run special needs bags were also located here, but I decided to forego my long-sleeved shirt.

As I made the turn-around and sped toward the halfway point, I could hear the finish line. Knowing that I was only halfway through the run while others peeled off to the finish was disheartening. BUT – I was also halfway through! I made the time cutoff at the halfway point at just a little over 3 hours, and headed out again for loop 2.

I wasn’t sure how my ankles, knees, and muscles would react as the miles accumulated. My initial approach was to slow to a walk when something twinged. After a while, I grew tired of this, so I started to just push through those tiny aches and pains, and everything was fine. I never cramped and my ankle randomly hurt, but never got worse. I didn’t have any pain in my knees or my back. I did have to stop at the medical tent to smear Vaseline on my inner arm where it had started to chafe against the edge of my tank top. My blisters still hurt, but felt like they weren’t getting worse.

I tried the hot chicken broth at one aid station, and it was a bit too weird for me to drink much of it. Maybe if it had been a colder evening, it would have been a nicer treat. I reached mile 15, and from there on I just chuckled to myself with each mile. I’d never run this far in my life, and I didn’t even like running! Why would anyone ever run this far?!?! These were the thoughts that cycled through my head. I even continued to pass a few people on the course.

By the time I had reached the long wooded section along Riverside Drive, it was full dark. The course was lit, but there were some long stretches where I couldn’t see the road surface well at all. I made an effort to keep my feet active and tried not to trip on anything. The volunteers handed me a glow-necklace, and the course thinned out. It was pretty desolate out there, but at no point did I ever think that I would give up. I felt in a better place mentally than I had on the bike.

I did have some mild nausea on the second loop and stopped eating my gels. I think I actually took in too much liquid, so I backed off on the water and soda until my stomach felt better. I took three bathroom stops on the run course, and these didn’t take me long. By the third one, the Porta-Potties weren’t in very good shape though.

Despite the automatic tracking app giving my family anxiety and reporting that my pace was all over the place, I was actually very consistent throughout the run. I slowed again to walk up the hills on the way back in, and I now knew that I was going to make it. If I was truly running short on time, I could pick up my pace. I didn’t want to because that would *really* hurt, but I knew I had that effort in me if I needed it.

My brother found me again as I passed through town and onto the last out-and-back, and I also chatted with a nice older gentleman who was struggling at a fast walk. I had given him some words of encouragement earlier, and he was thankful, telling me that it had kept him going. He was going to make it also, and ended up finished just before me.

The turn around felt so far away at this point, but I finally made my last 180 and had about a mile to go to the finish. The spectators had also thinned out beside the road, but in just a few minutes I would see where they went. I could already hear the music and shouting from the finish.

The final part of the run passes through the area that had earlier been part of the Expo and around the Olympic skating oval, which is a paved track in the center of the downtown, set between the ice rink and the high school. Transition had been in the grassy middle of the oval, so the last part of the run was essentially a short trip around transition. My brother met me on the way into the finishers chute and videoed me for as far as he could get away with.

TheFinish

I had been told to slow down as I ran the last stretch. The Olympic torch blazed ahead of me and the fans at such a late hour were incredible – so many people lined the sides of the finish cute and pounded on the sides in rhythm. The lights shone down and I could no longer hear the music over the cheers of the crowd. Hands reached out and I smacked as many as I could as I jogged by. When I crossed the line, I couldn’t even hear Mike Reilly announce that I was an Ironman.

A volunteer caught me after I crossed the finish line. I guess some people collapse, but I was relatively okay. I grinned as she handed me my finisher’s goodies, someone placed the medal around my neck, and I smiled for more photos. The elation of the experience is hard to describe, but all that mattered at that point was that I had conquered Lake Placid. I was an Ironman!

Posed Finish

RUN TIME: 6:14:32

TOTAL TIME: 16:52:32

Next: Part 5 – Aftermath

See all my race reports here.

Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid 2018 (Part 3 – Bike)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here (when they’re ready):

The bike course at Ironman Lake Placid is supposed to be one of the harder ones in all Ironman events, mainly because of the hills. It is a 2-loop ride, so 56 miles on each loop. The Ironman site shows that each loop of the course has 4182 feet of climbing, so that makes 8,364 feet for the entire 112-mile ride. Fortunately that isn’t really the case. If you look at this version of the course, it comes in at 6,822, which I think is more accurate because my Strava recording (using a Garmin Edge 500) registered 6,138 feet over 112 miles.

Discrepancies in the exact elevation notwithstanding, this is still a tough bike course with a significant amount of climbing. I had never focused on my climbing until this year, and had worked on it as much as I could before this event. I’m still very slow, but I feel like I at least built up some endurance for climbing on a long ride.

I had decided to make a full outfit change between different parts of the race because I didn’t think that I could ride 112 miles in tri-shorts. So I changed out of my bathing suit and into bib shorts and a cycling jersey. Because of the weather forecast and my tendency to always be cold, I also wore sleeves, a cycling vest, and a light running/cycling jacket. All of this took me too long, over fifteen minutes. At least the volunteers are ready to hand you your bike as you run out from the changing tent and through the rows of bikes. I was told to shout my number as I ran. The number was passed along by the volunteers, and my bike was right there for me when I reached my row.

T1 = 15:18

The start of the bike course features a sharp 180-degree turn while descending. I had been warned about this on the previous day and had looked it over. I wasn’t worried about myself, as I had done some turn practice for a time trial last year and periodically do tiny circles in parking lots for practice. I didn’t have any other athletes near me when I got here, but watch out for others who may have less control. For visualization purposes, this turn is where the first loop ends and rejoins the course for the start of the second loop. I didn’t have to worry about anyone coming from that direction though, as even the pros aren’t able to swim and then bike 56 miles by the time the slow swimmers start to bike.

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Waving to my family as I start my ride.

From there, the course continues downhill, makes a 90-degree turn to the right, and plunges down a steep decline before another 90-degree turn to the left. The ground was marked with warnings to stay slow. I had already ridden the lower part of this during my practice ride two days ago, so I felt comfortable letting myself fly a bit faster here. Just make sure you’re ready to brake and make the left turn. The road levels off and you’ll make a right turn onto Main Street here, and this is where I felt like I was really on the course.

The beginning stretch between this point and the Olympic ski jumps is a great chance to warm-up your legs. The pavement is smooth with some small rollers, followed by a fun downhill section right as you reach the ski jumps. By this point, I still hadn’t seen any rain, but the sky was gray and foreboding.

Once you pass the ski jumps you’ll encounter the first hills of Lake Placid. This is around mile 2.5, and I think was one of the toughest parts of the course. I hit the climb and tried to remember what I had read about this course: don’t go out too hard on the first lap. I shifted into a low gear, focused on the road directly ahead of me, and tried to find a rhythm for my climb. Raindrops began to fall and the wind kicked up, directly into my face.

For the next seven or eight miles, I was miserable. The rain intensified and was accompanied with squally winds that beat against me as I tried to make any forward (and upward) progress. Even going downhill (for a brief stretch) was tough, as I had to pedal through the wind. It also grew colder, with the wind, rain, and a drop in air temperature of about 10 degrees (F). I cringed for the athletes wearing only tri-kits. My fingers and toes were numb, but I never felt cold in my core, so I knew I’d be okay.

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OMG, this sucks!

At this point, I reached the first out-and-back of three on each loop of the course. This was a nice flat run out to the Olympic bobsled course and back. The first of the aid stations is at the end of it, and the road was more sheltered from the wind. I had been unable to drink anything so far (Gatorade Endurance) because the wind had been too strong to let go of my handlebars to grab a bottle. I guzzled some liquid and tossed away my first water bottle here, even though it wasn’t empty (learning from past experience), and took another Gatorade Endurance from a volunteer.

I turned to the right upon leaving the out-and-back and continued climbing for a short distance further before finally arriving at the Keene descent.

I love descending as fast as possible, so I had been looking forward to this section for some time. I wasn’t particularly happy about the rain and the wind, but I had also ridden in similar conditions before and had decent tires on my bike. I had seen this part of the road when we drove the course, so I knew that there weren’t any sharp turns ahead until the town of Keene. I flew downhill, pedaling into the descent, but kept my hands on the brakes, ready to slow if I felt out of control. The greatest challenge on the descent was watching out for the other athletes. I know that not everyone loves to careen downhill at high speed. But unfortunately many riders didn’t stay to the right either. I tried to shout, “on your left” a couple of times, but either they ignored me or didn’t hear me in the wind. I did manage to pass most of them (only to be later passed on the flat), and rode into Keene more optimistic about my average speed than I had been on the earlier climb.

I had no way to really estimate what my pace would be for the bike course because I had never ridden this far, and I’m still pretty new to hills, only training on them for this season. My time at the Quassy Half bike was 4:16, but that was only a 54-mile course. IMLP was not as hilly as Quassy, but longer, with hills stacked at the end. I knew that if I kept my average pace at 14 mph, I’d finish with no need to worry about the cut offs, so that’s what I looked for on my Garmin.

The next section of the course starts with a sharp left in the town of Keene and follows Highway 9N north. Here is your best chance for some speed, as this section is all flat until Jay. The gorgeous Ausable River will be on your left. You’ll cross a bridge in Upper Jay, make a right turn, and continue with the river on the right. Look out for two aid stations in this section – one just after the turn in Keene, and another a short distance before you reach Jay. I had to stop at one of these to get my nutrition out of a back pocket in my jersey. Usually I can manage that without stopping, but my fingers were still a bit numb from the weather. The squally rain and wind had let up by this point, but the day remained overcast with some drizzle and wet roads.

The left turn in the town of Jay (mile 26) could be considered the start of the climb back to town, although the worst of it starts later, around the end of the Haselton out-and-back. But this hill that you encounter at Jay is the first one you’ve had to climb in a while, so it means that it’s time to grind away on those gears again. From here until about mile 39, you’ll ride some rolling hills interspersed with a few flatter sections.

I was still feeling pretty good at this point, and was looking forward to the Haselton out-and-back and the Game of Thrones-themed aid station ahead (I had spied this when we drove the course). I made a right turn on Bilhuber Road, then after just a short ways, another right onto Haselton Road. This is the second out-and-back on the loop, and the longest of the three. You’ll have to be ready for another 180-degree turn at the end of it, but this section is also pretty flat and fun to ride. After I turned around and retraced my way back south, the sun even showed itself briefly.

The out-and-backs are also fun because you can watch for other racers, and looking for friends and family can help relieve some of the mental stress of such a long ride. Finally I arrived at the GoT aid station and had decided to stop here for a bathroom break. The volunteer that helped me held my bike and my layers and even brushed sand off my shoes so that I wouldn’t have any trouble clipping in when I left.

There is another hill at mile 39, then a flat section, and then the last 13 miles of each loop are all uphill. The third out-and-back (a new addition to the course this year) starts at mile 44.5 (near the start of that 13 miles) and is short but has a steep section to get back onto the main road. This out-and-back is at the ski area, Whiteface Mountain, and has another 180-degree turn. I heard/read many negative comments about this addition to the course, but I liked it. I enjoyed the bike handling involved in the turn and had fun in this short, slightly twisty section.

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Whiteface Mountain. Photo by Theedster123 under Creative Commons license.

From there, it’s mostly straight and all climbing, but with some amazing scenery as you pass alongside High Falls Gorge. The river is still the Ausable River. I can’t really figure out how it flows in a circle around the entire course, but it just does. The hardest part about this section is that you’ll have to keep pushing up hill after hill after hill. No part of the climb is terribly steep, but there aren’t ever enough downhill miles to recover from the climbing until you reach town again. You will find another aid station here, but I had just stopped, so I just continued to exchange bottles and rolled on.

The last few hills are named Momma Bear, Baby Bear, and Papa Bear. They are labeled on the ground so you’ll know when you’re here. Someone had written Goldilocks on a hill right before the bears, and Ray Ray Bear on a tiny steep section after the other bears, but I’m not sure if those names will stick for future years.

If you’ve read about the IMLP course elsewhere, the three bears are the hills that are always mentioned. The build up about them is worse than the actual climbs. Momma Bear is no worse than all the other hills, and Baby Bear is just a bump. Papa Bear is more substantial, but when I got to it on the first loop, the crowds that were here to cheer the athletes on helped me to get through it. Papa Bear is also the last real climb on the course. After Papa Bear, you make a couple turns and roll into town. The end of the loop passes along part of the run course here, but you won’t find any runners on it until you’re on your second loop.

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I hadn’t been able to look over this part of the course beforehand, but it was easy to follow. The roads are closed and the route passes behind the high school to the back side of transition. It meets up with the beginning of the course here at that 180-degree turn, but at this point you’re coming at it straight-in. Also – just next to transition before you ride through the high school parking lot – this is where your bike special needs bags have been staged. I didn’t feel like I needed anything out of it, but I did stop to get a Rice Krispie treat out of my jersey and eat it.

On the second loop, the mental battle became harder. I tend to be really stubborn, so I never had any worry that I wouldn’t be able to tough it out and make it through. It was just an uncomfortable process. I knew how all the hills felt already, and the weather was getting better. My legs were tired, but no more than I would have expected. My average pace had dropped after the hills on the back side of the course, but I was still optimistic that I could keep it at 14 mph.

While the rain had stopped, the wind had not. The climb out of town was very rough, and the Keene descent on the second loop was more treacherous. I had to focus to keep my bike from getting pushed laterally by the wind. Another athlete that I spoke with briefly said that her bike had actually jumped sideways a few inches with one wind gust. The clumps of athletes had thinned out by this point, so the Keene descent was easier to navigate otherwise.

I found that the flatter sections after Keene were still fun, but my average pace was slower than on the first loop. I started to worry about cut off times. As of the 2018 rules, athletes have 17 hours to complete the entire course, but there are intermediate cut offs as well. For the bike course, the first lap had to be done by 1:30 p.m., you had to reach the fifth aid station (about mile 100) by 5 p.m., and you had to complete the second loop by 5:30 p.m. Finally, you must complete the swim and the bike sections in 10:30.

If everyone had started the race at exactly 7 a.m, then the 5:30 cut off would fall at a total race time of 10:30. But with the self-seeded start beginning at 6:40 a.m., I think everyone was in the water before 7 a.m. That complicates your ability to track where you are in regards to that 10:30 cut off unless you are tracking your entire race on one computer, OR if you make a special note of your start time. I was too distracted to do that at the start, and I also used different computers for the swim and the bike so that my battery life wouldn’t fail me.

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The flat part of the course. Photo courtesy of Joyce Pedersen via Creative Commons license.

I kept pedaling, pushing as much as I could, but my legs were feeling more and more fatigued and just didn’t have much to give. I watched in horror as my average speed dipped lower. On the second loop I knew that I couldn’t afford to stop for a bathroom break, but I also didn’t think that I needed to. I hadn’t thought that I had started out too hard on the first loop, but by the time I reached the back side of the course I had arrived at what I will call my “worst idea I’ve ever had” point.

This is something that seems to happen to me in every long event. It’s that time when I start reconsidering all my decisions to ever do a triathlon. This event that I paid money to participate in is now the worst idea I’ve ever had. Every time, I swear I’m never going to do this again as I ponder why anyone would sign up for this in the first place. This typically seems to be the point at which everything starts to hurt. For IMLP, it hit me around mile 90.

My left leg was starting to bother me. My knee hurt, my old ankle injury hurt, my muscles hurt. My neck and shoulders were stiff and sore from being in the same position on a bike for so many hours. My seat hurt, and there wasn’t any way to make it better.

Mentally, doubts start to creep in. I’ve ridden 100 miles before, but never 112. I have to run a marathon after this and I don’t like to run. What’s wrong with me? Will my ankle hold up for a marathon if it’s already starting to hurt?

It started to rain a little. The number of athletes on the course was thinning out. The rest of the course was uphill. But – I had come here to finish. I kept pedaling, aiming for steady progress rather than any surges in speed. I just had to keep moving.

Now, each mile that ticked off on my computer meant one mile closer to town, one mile closer to the run course, and one mile closer to the finish. “C’mon, legs,” I told myself. Push, push, push.

I rode out-and-back at Whiteface Mountain. I climbed past High Falls Gorge. I started to wonder when I would reach the Three Bears. I knew that these marked the last of the climb into town, but I couldn’t remember the course well enough from the first loop. Everything had gone fuzzy in my memory. I had left the gorge behind and was passing through an otherwise nondescript wooded section. Finally, I recognized the road ahead and found that I had reached Momma Bear.

Up and over, pedal pedal, I was almost there! Then I reached Papa Bear. The spectating crowds had thinned out and quieted. The hill assumed mountainous proportions. The only thing that kept me going at this point was knowing that I only had another mile or so of flat or downhill riding once I reached the top. Oh – and that looming cut off time.

I reached the top, surged forward, tried to pick up a little speed, and found the spectators as I reached a point where the bike course and the run course overlapped. I rode past Mirror Lake, made a right turn, swung around and through town, then rushed by bike special needs, ride behind the high school, and made the final turn toward transition.

My eyes fixed on the dismount line and I focused on staying upright, on not falling. I managed to unclip, slow down, and get my foot down. I was shaky, but I had made it!

A volunteer asked if I was okay and I probably mumbled something or nodded. I took a deep breath and swung a leg over my bike. My legs trembled but held me up, and I hobbled across the line.

BIKE TIME: 8:32:05

I love my bike, but I was ecstatic to be off of it. I handed it over to a volunteer and knew that I had to keep moving. There was one small problem though: I could barely walk.

I’ve felt that way on the two 70.3 races I had done prior to this, but not to the same degree. I hoped that I’d loosen up and figure out how to run in a few minutes! But first – I needed to change into my running gear. I shuffled through transition, grabbed my bike-to-run bag, and entered the changing tent.

My time was not what I had hoped for, but I had been uncertain of what to expect. And really – I hadn’t fallen over, crashed, become hypothermic, or injured anything (I think). After the day was over, I would discover that I had completed the swim and bike sections in 10:29:00. I had done it with only a single minute to spare.

Now it was time to run!

Next: Part 4 – Run

See all my race reports here.


Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid 2018 (Part 2 – Swim)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here (when they’re ready):

The swim at Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) is supposed to be one of the more friendly of all Ironman distance swims out there. It takes place in Mirror Lake, which offers great swimming all summer. Several training camps and coaches run swims in Mirror Lake leading up to race day.

The course is a 2-loop swim with a short run across the sand between each loop. The large red and yellow inflatable Ironman buoys mark the course – a straight-forward rectangle with long sides and a narrow base. The end of the inbound leg takes swimmers along the end of a dock and into the public swim area before turning in toward the beach.

Pool

Mirror Lake is as calm as this pool along its shore.

This course is popular because it features an underwater cable (see Part 1 of this race report), good visibility, and calm water (i.e. no waves or wakes). I had heard mixed opinions on following the cable for the swim. The advantage of being on the cable was that I wouldn’t need to sight. The most obvious disadvantage was that everyone else would want to be there, so I’d risk more crowding.

The athletes at IMLP are not separated into age groups for the start, and the mass start that was used in the past has also been eliminated in favor of corrals based on estimated pace. The pros still start first, but after that, it is up to each athlete to place themselves in the section for their estimated swim time.

I slept better than I thought I would before the race, only waking up twice during the night. I’m not a morning person, so any activity that makes me wake up before 9 a.m. is difficult. I had all of my clothes and remaining bags ready to go, though, so I was up, dressed, and on my way to transition efficiently in the morning.

Morning Transition

Transition area on race morning.

The transition area is right along the main street through town and gets crowded early on. We had family drive us there, and I followed my sister-in-law to drop off our special needs bags. These areas were very close to transition, so it didn’t take very long. We literally just dropped our bags on the ground or handed them to a volunteer. On the way to the run special needs area, we could also see the path that we would have to run from the lake to transition.

Next up – last minute bike checks and set up. We made our way into transition, and I attached my bike computer, water bottles, and nutrition. We had decided not to bring our own bike pump, and went looking for one. I grabbed one of the ones from Ironman, but it didn’t seem to fit on my valves. After struggling with it for a few minutes, I gave up and we borrowed one from another athlete.

That was it. I was ready to race. We had at least an hour before the start, so we headed to the shore of Mirror Lake to contemplate the day ahead. The weather was forecast to be rainy for a good portion of the morning, but the exact time of the rain had been changing with every forecast. The day started out with a hint of sun before clouds rolled in over the lake.

Rock Sunrise

Race morning sunrise as the clouds arrived.

My cheering section and sherpas arrived and we people-watched and just took it all in. It was finally time to get ready to swim. I donned my wetsuit and handed off my bag. For those athletes who didn’t have anyone to help them, you could drop off a morning clothes bag at a designated location. That same bag would be provided to you at the end of the race if you used this option.

By this time, many swimmers had already assembled behind the barricades in what I had thought were the faster swim time corrals. I extrapolated my goal time from what I had swam in Eagleman last year, so I was hoping for a swim time of 1:40. My sister-in-law was expecting a similar pace, so we stuck together as we tried to find our places in the crowd.

It was quickly apparent that the sections for each pace were too close together, and the athletes outside the barricade couldn’t get to the right areas. Officials weren’t letting anyone over the barricade either, so we had to keep walking back. At the end of the barricade, there were too many athletes to squeeze in, and everyone had the same complaint – that we couldn’t get to the right pace group. I figured that I wasn’t in contention for any records, so wherever I ended up would ultimately be fine. The race is timed individually when you cross the timing mats.

Once the swimmers at the front started to enter the water, the officials let everyone squeeze in along the beach, between the water and the crowd. At this point, we were able to move up to where we wanted to be, so it worked out in the end.

For the start, no one was restricting our entry to the water, so all the athletes kept walking en masse until we were in the lake. I started my watch – a Garmin Forerunner – did a few dolphin dives at the beginning, and then began to swim.

My general strategy going in was to keep it slow and calm at the beginning, avoid a huge mass of other swimmers, and to keep my breathing to just one side since I think my insistence at bilateral breathing was part of why my swim at Quassy 70.3 didn’t go that well.

From the start, I found that I was on the cable. I hadn’t planned it that way, but because I had moved around the crowd to the right, that had me positioned to the right side of the mass of swimmers on a clockwise swim. I figured that I’d stay on the cable to start with and if I started to get beat up too much, I would find a way to move to the outside.

After a few hundred yards, I discovered that I loved swimming along the cable! I was pretty far to the right, essentially right along the buoys. It appeared more crowded a little to the left, but I was able to complete the entire swim without getting punched or kicked. I did try to stay alert to my peripheral vision and tried to avoid anyone who was doing breaststroke kick, moving erratically, or flailing. Additionally, I experienced some major drafting. All of the swimmers had created a current and I felt like I was being whisked along. I was able to occasionally find someone’s toes to follow, but even without drafting a specific person, I was benefiting from everyone else’s efforts.

One hazard that I had not anticipated was that without sighting, I ran into the buoys! The soft Ironman ones weren’t really a problem, but the smaller permanent ones that are held by the cable were hard and more difficult to spot if I did sight ahead. They were connected by a vertical rope to the underwater cable, so looking out for this was the best way to avoid smacking into them.

The first loop of the course went well and I was able to keep my breathing under control. Before I knew it, I was coming up on the dock and the short stretch before the beach. I could see the sand beneath me as the water became more shallow. I took it easy getting my legs under me, afraid that I may cramp, but I had no problem getting on my feet.

The run across the beach was really short. But even so, Ironman had an aid station there. I gulped a glass of water and jumped back in for my second loop.

My time on the first loop had been a few minutes faster than my goal pace, but as I swam out along the buoys again, my right arm started to bother me. I’m right-handed, and therefore stronger with that arm. In training, my LEFT arm had felt strained on a few long swims, but never the RIGHT one. It didn’t seem to be affecting my movement. I tried to ignore it so that my stroke would remain even, and it never grew worse as I finished my swim.

Swim Finish

On the last inbound leg, I knew that I was going to make it. I had never swam the full 2.4-mile distance in my training. I felt tired as I left the water, but not exhausted. I stopped at the wet suit peelers, but when they pulled the legs of my wet suit off, I had to sit on my butt. Even though they had mats down on the beach, sand still went everywhere! I would be brushing sand off for the rest of the day.

The run from the water to transition was easy. I jogged most of it, up a slight incline, then downhill to transition. The road was covered with mats. I ran into transition, grabbed by swim-to-bike bag, and entered the changing tent.

SWIM TIME: 1:41:37

My time was very close to what I had hoped for. No complaints there!

Next: Part 3 – Bike

See all my race reports here.

Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid 2018 (Part 1 – Pre-Race)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here (when they’re ready):

Well, I completed my first full distance Ironman triathlon on July 22 in Lake Placid, New York. It’s been a long journey of training leading up to it, and it was certainly a challenge that should never be taken lightly.

Ali and Me

I had been practicing at the shorter lengths of triathlon, first to just try it out, then to see if I could do longer distances. Every time I reached a little further, struggled up a new hill, or pushed my pace a little faster, my body kept growing stronger. My previous injuries essentially vanished other than a few aches in my ankle after long cycling sessions. Finally, I signed up for a full distance Ironman. That’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-miles on the bike, and then just a little 26.2-mile run. Yep, it ENDS with a marathon after all that swimming and cycling. Who would put a marathon at the end?!?!

How was I going to train for that? I used a training plan provided by a monthly subscription service called Trainer Road. It is mainly a cycling training tool, and is used in conjunction with an indoor trainer. Their training plans give you options to choose between three options for training time per week, and different stages of the training (base, build, specialty). I had to modify the plans quite a bit to fit in with my atypical work schedule, my fencing practices, and planned travel and events.

Training Plan

I rode several cycling events in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP). I completed my first century ride (100 miles) on a flat course, followed by the Gran Fondo New York, and the Rev3 Quassy Half. You can read about those in the links. I was a bit worried about IMLP after I raced the Quassy Half. I had trouble with my breathing during the swim and just barely made the cut off at the end. IMLP is a hilly course (like Quassy), and I just didn’t have enough race experience to anticipate my pace for the event other than to know that I’m a solid back-of-the-pack-er.

As race day neared, I had been sick since the end of April and had to cut a lot of training out of my schedule in order to get some rest and be healthy. I finally felt better and stopped coughing about 2 weeks out.

I’m not sure that I appreciated the taper as much as I was supposed to. This is the time in your training when you start to back off on the distance and hours so that your performance (theoretically) peaks on race day. With illness cutting into my training, I had essentially been tapering for weeks already. I tried to resist the urge to cram in a few last extra long sessions. I had heard that it’s better to race 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Even during the taper though, you don’t rest. You’re still working out, and my plan called for several workouts during race week, up to a final short run the day before the race.

We drove to Lake Placid, NY on Thursday of race week. I had spent hours making exhaustive packing lists, planning for my transitions, and finally stowing it all in the back of the car. We finally arrived at the venue in the late afternoon, just in time to make athlete check-in.

Bobsled

Lake Placid has a history in sports. This small Adirondack village has hosted two winter Olympics (1932 and 1980), and was the site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey game. It still functions as an Olympic Training Center for bobsled, skeleton, luge, freestyle skiing, biathlon, and other sports.

Ironman has held a full-distance triathlon in Lake Placid since 1999, and the race is the second-longest running Ironman in North America. This year’s race marked the 20-year anniversary for IMLP.

You can’t miss the signage for the race when you drive through the downtown area. The transition area and tents were nearly assembled when we arrived, all centered around the Olympic speed-skating oval off Main Street. Athlete check-in was located in the Winter Olympic Museum.

This being only my second Ironman-branded event, and first full distance triathlon, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. It turned out to be a similar process to the Eagleman 70.3. They verified ID and then handed me a card with my bib number. I had to sign a couple of pages of waivers and verify emergency contact and medical information. Everyone was weighed, and the number was recorded in your waivers. I think this was to help assess dehydration on race day in case medical assistance was required.

Wrist

I received my athlete packet at the next table. This contains your race number stickers (for your bike helmet, bike, gear bags, special needs bags, and your run bib. It also has tickets that you can hand off to friends or family members who can then pick up your bike and equipment bags when you’re done with them on race day. This is where they also clasp a wrist band on you that marks you as an official athlete for the weekend. Get used to wearing it, because you can’t race without it.

After that, I picked up some swag. This bag had a flag, tiny dry bag, a restaurant coupon, and a poster. The last stop was for timing chips. That only took a few seconds as the volunteer assigned a chip to your race number. After that, I marched outside and over to the Ironman merchandise tent to pick up my bag. This was a pretty nice gym bag with straps to convert it to a backpack, although I have heard some complaints about the orientation of the logo. By that point, everything was closing for the day, so I met up with my family and we moved on to check in to our bed-and-breakfast and relax.

The next day brought brilliant sunny weather, low humidity, and only light winds. It would have been a great day for a race. Instead, we traveled to Mirror Lake for a practice swim. First, everything you may have heard about Mirror Lake is true. It is a long and narrow body of water with a public access swimming beach adjacent to downtown Lake Placid. The water is very clear for a northern lake with probably 20 – 30 foot visibility.

Mirror Lake

The Ironman buoys were already in the water to mark the course, but in case they weren’t, other smaller permanent buoys are there for water sports (something with boats). These small buoys are all connected underwater by a cable that stretches all the way across the lake. This is the fabled cable that you can follow during your swim so that you don’t have to sight. It even crosses at the far end where the Ironman course runs, so you can literally follow the cable for the entire race (more on this later).

I swam about 1000 yards for my practice swim, cutting across the course early. It almost felt like a race because there were an awful lot of other swimmers in the lake. I couldn’t quite tell how the end of the swim course was oriented, but I knew that it was two loops with a short run across the beach between them. The water was a pleasant temperature, about 74 degrees F.

We rested after that and then I headed out on my bike for a short spin along the course. Everything seemed to be working on my bike. My husband rode along, and we found a route from the B&B to nearly the start of the bike course. It turned out that scoping out this stretch at the beginning of the bike course was a great idea. The course leaves transition, makes a hard 180-degree turn (which we didn’t see until the following day), and then goes down a pretty steep hill before a left turn. Apparently a fair number of racers crash in this section, so it was good to ride through most of it before the day. The next part of the course leaves town along some rolling hills. We passed the Olympic ski jumps on our right and turned around shortly after that to head back. It wasn’t a bad ride, and I was feeling good about the race.

Ski Jumps

The next day was my last workout before the race. I woke up early (for me) and met my brother for a slow 1-mile run. My training plan had called for 20 minutes with some sprint efforts, but since I had not done that many sprint workouts in training (sick), I cut it short. From there, I only had to pack up my equipment bags and bike and drop those off in transition. For a full-distance Ironman you have the option to change clothes between each leg. Changing tents for both men and women are provided. Instead of your normal transition set-up, each athlete places the swim-to-bike clothes in one bag and then the bike-to-run clothes in another. You grab the bag, take it into the changing tent, and then just run through transition to get your bike. They actually don’t let you store anything else near your bike.

Bike Ready

You’ll also have two special needs bags (bike and run) that are positioned halfway through these sections of the race. You don’t have to drop these off until race morning. Additionally, you’ll have access to your equipment bags and bike on race morning so you can add anything that you forgot. I didn’t place my nutrition/water bottles, bento box, or computer on my bike until race morning.

Once our gear was tucked away, we left town to drive the bike course for a preview. Now my husband had ridden one loop of the bike course that morning, so he was able to narrate our drive with his own experiences from the morning. I’ll save the details of this drive for my section on the bike segment. I felt better about the race after seeing what I was going to be up against. It may have been nice to preview the run course also, but since I was already planning to walk all the hills, it didn’t matter as much to me.

Bike Course

Soon enough it was time to get to bed. I double checked everything I had laid out for the morning, and I think I managed to fall asleep by 10 p.m.

Next: Part 2 – Swim

See all my race reports here.

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