October 31, 2006

2006 Ironman Lake Placid: Part III

The Bike

I was shivering uncontrollably for about the first 5 miles. It was overcast and drizzling but it really wasn’t that cold out. But for some reason, I was shaking. I was glad I put my long sleeve dri-fit shirt on. It helped but it really didn’t matter because I was in a daze. A good daze. Al these people were cheering me on and the feeling was just unbelievable. I kept checking myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I’d wake up soon and realize that I never pushed the final button to register. It was Sunday morning and I was lying in bed. But I was actually doing this! I was a participant in an Ironman event. That fact alone kept a smile on my face the whole day. I tried to say thank you to as many spectators and volunteers as I possibly could. It was their support and encouragement that carried me through and made this day special.

The first part of the bike course is rolling hills. I had heard that the first 6 to 7 miles was straight downhill but that is not true. You don’t reach that until mile 10. But when you do? Pure joy! If you are a speed junky, you’ll love it. I got the bike up to 40 MPH but there were people passing me so I know they were pushing 45-50. The road was mostly dry but I just didn’t want to push it too hard. All I needed to do was crash 10 miles into the bike. After that rush, the course continues on with a mix of flats and rolling hills. The scenery is just breathtaking.

My two main goals on the bike were to stay in my HR zone (65-75% of Max which was about 132) and to hit my nutrition targets. I was targeting 400 calories per hour which I pretty much hit. I drank Gatorade Endurance exclusively with some water mixed in. The goal was to down one 150 calorie bottle of Gatorade Endurance per hour. As I would approach another hour, if I wasn’t finished with the previous bottle, then I would guzzle it so I could start the new one on time. It took longer on the bike than planned so I ended up running out of my own nutrition. So, I started substituting bananas from the aid stations. This was definitely helpful to me later in the race. I think they helped prevent any muscle cramping. In terms of the target on the HR, I finished with an average of 138. Did I push just right and save enough for the run? Or could I have pushed harder? My time was about 45 to 60 minutes slower than I planned.

There were two big challenges on the bike course. First, the road into Wilmington before the out and back is a long steady climb that just gets tougher and tougher as you go up. I tried as best I could to stay in the HR zone but still slipping above my target quite a bit. The advice that was wringing in my ears was don’t attack the hills. So, I didn’t. On the 2nd loop, Jim and I pretty much climbed together and kept each other in check. It was also much more painful on the 2nd loop. The legs were getting weary. The second challenge was the last 10 miles into town. These were a series of tough, successive climbs that just were killer. Again, especially on the 2nd loop. Jim and I were pretty much together on this part as well. We both remarked how we couldn’t wait to run which sounded crazy because we had a marathon ahead of us and that was still the great unknown. But as you know, when you are in the saddle for such a long time, it’s good to do something else. Anything. I was just ready to get off the bike, plain and simple. That last 10 miles into town just beat me down.

As I came into the transition area, my wife Sean, the girls and my father in law Al were there to great me. Jim was right behind me. It was the furthest that I had ever ridden! My longest training ride was 105 miles. The feeling of finishing that ride was like being on top of the world! And it’s not bad that someone is there to take your bike from you as well. Special treatment for everyone! As I made my way to the changing tent, I was psyched to be off the bike and into my running shoes.

October 25, 2006

2006 Ironman Lake Placid: Part II

The Swim

There I was standing on a small patch of beach about to begin the Ironman. I just kept pinching myself. It was a mixture of nervousness, excitement and disbelief.

Jim and I waited until about 6:45 before we entered the lake. I looked for the family one last time but never spotted anyone. Later, my daughter Molly said she was there at 6 AM but I never saw her. Bummer! I wanted to see them before the start. We swam across the lake to the far right side and decided to stand along the shore as the last bars of the National Anthem finished up. For some reason I felt unbelievably calm. I saw Paul, Mike, and Ken, three friends from the Y and wished them all good luck. Promptly at 7, the cannon boomed and we were on our way. That’s one amazing thing about Ironman. This race starts on time no matter what.

For the first part of the loop out, I stayed far right. The water was so crowded even out there. At Lake Placid, everyone tries to hug the inside line because about 8 feet below the surface, a bright yellow rope line runs the length of the course making it easier to stay on track. However, it’s rough in there. There's a lot of kicking and punching going on. But even though I stayed right, I still got trampled on. At one point I sucked up so much water that I was choking for what seemed like 5 minutes. I was able to regain my composure and never once hyperventilated. The turn was crazy as everyone was trying to get around the buoys all at once. On the leg back, I nudged my way to the insdie, close to the yellow line. As I said, it was rough in there but I was able to stay there for ¾ of the race. As I came in, I looked at my watch and it said 38 minutes. I think it rivaled my fastest 1.2 mile time. I was ecstatic. On the second loop, it was still very crowded inside but I was able to stay on that line for the entire second loop. When I came out of the water, I thought my watch said 1:07. I couldn’t believe it!! I found out later my time was 1:19 but was still very happy.

I was through the 2.4 mile swim within my target time of 1:20! I was in awe that I was in this race to begin with and I kind of swaggered out of the water. When I finally snapped to, I had one of the strippers take my wetsuit off. What a luxury that was! I began my run to T1 and saw some friends along the way. They screamed “great job!” and it gave me a lift. I ran into the tent and a volunteer handed me my bike transition bag. For some reason I was shivering so much so I took my sweet time. I was in no rush. But I was just taking in the whole scene knowing it would be a long day. When we were sitting in this tent, he felt like we were preparing for battle. Paratroopers getting ready to jump. Everyone wanted to get this bike ride to get going but we were all a little fearful of it as well. Because when the bike ends, it’s time for a marathon! After 15 minutes+ in T1, I finally exited. As I was running to get my bike, I saw my daughter Molly and it really juiced me up. A volunteer helped me with my bike and I was off. The seat and aero bar pads were dry thanks to the bags I put over them yesterday. Thank God. Although, would it have really mattered? I mean I was estimating being on the bike for a minimum 6 1/2 hours. Wet aero bar pads should have been the least of my worries.

October 23, 2006

2006 Ironman Lake Placid: Part I

It has now been exactly 3 months since the 2006 Ironman Lake Placid race. But for me, since it was my first Ironman, it feels like yesterday. Even though the birth of this blog came less than a week ago, I figured the statute of limitations would still allow me to debrief the biggest race of my triathlon “career”. Over the next 4 or 5 posts, I’ll review how it all went. It’s now or never. Training for the 2007 race starts in a few weeks and the memories of 2006 will start to slowly fade away.

Part I. Our arrival in Lake Placid up to the start of the swim.

My family and I arrived in Lake Placid on Friday, two days before race day. I felt like I was jamming the entire pre-race warm ups in between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. We swam the entire race course, went for a short 10 mile bike ride, picked up the race numbers, packed my race bags, etc. Next time, I’ll try to arrive a day earlier. The weather on Friday was beautiful and the hope was that it would stay this way. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It rained hard and steady on Saturday afternoon. We had to rack our bikes in the rain. Plastic bags were placed over the seats and the aero bar pads. The transition area was already soaked and muddy. Special needs bag had to be tied air tight so our bike and run gear stayed dry. We spent the rest of Saturday praying for sun on race day. Dinner was at 6 and then the rest of the night was spent doing last minute checks, hydrating and just resting. The five of us were packed into a tiny hotel room so right away there was some friction between what I needed to do (Go to Sleep) and what the family wanted to do (Watch TV).

The alarm went off at 4 AM and I jumped out of bed. Since my wife and three daughters were still sleeping, I used the bathroom as my final staging area. I made some coffee so I could get the nature call thing out of the way. I ate 500 calories, dressed, grabbed my special needs bags and went to meet my buddy Jim in the lobby at precisely 5:20. There was a light rain falling outside which bummed us out but it was what it was. The weather was just something to deal with. I was nervous but glad that this day had FINALLY arrived.

We had a 5 minute walk down to the transition area, with bikes and special needs bags in hand. We got body marked and walked over to drop the bags off. Downtown was humming and Jim and I started to feel the Ironman buzz.

Back into transition to set up my two Gatorade bottles and pump up the tires. I forgot my pump so asked someone if I could borrow one. No problem. It was the calm before the battle. We were all facing the same challenge today and everyone was happy to help someone out. After setting up my food in my bento box for the first bike loop, Jim and I decided to head down to the water. We walked on the red carpeting that would be our path back to transition after we exited the swim. This was the first indication that Ironman was special. The carpet was red not green like most other races! The path was already lined with people and we felt like rock stars approaching the start.

October 20, 2006

To Live and Die for....the Mets

Ok, I realize that this is only my second post and already I’m straying from the subject of triathlon. But following and rooting for the New York Mets is a great passion of mine. Heck, I’ve been doing triathlon for over 9 years but living and dying with the Mets for over 37 years! Since those magical nights in 1969 while watching the Metropolitans over take the Orioles on our black & white TV, I’ve been hooked. So, it is with these words that I declare that I’m in mourning right now after the 9th inning loss to the Cards last night.

Since this is sill my off-season for training, watching the NLCS provided some great distraction during this time. Training for my second Ironman (Lake Placid 2007) will begin soon enough so I’ve been enjoying my time watching the games. But now all that is over. And soon I will crank it up for another season. Training for Lake Placid will officially begin in early December. Right now I’m filling the days with a variety of activities including Mountain Biking, Weights, Yoga, some swimming, some running and some road biking. Nothing too strenuous, just keeping it loose and keeping a careful eye on the diet. And dare I say it one more time before retiring the phrase until opening day 2007: Let’s Go Mets!

October 19, 2006

First Day on the Blog

If you are reading this, then Welcome to My Blog! This is my very first post on my very first blog. So, thank you for finding me and reading what I have to say.

The central theme of this blog will be about triathlon for the average age-grouper. I'll focus on training and racing tips not just from me but from people like me as well as the experts. And it will also be about life. How do we fit all this training into our lives and make them both work?

I have been inspired by so many great blogs I’ve been reading over the last few months. Some have been triathlon related and some have not. They have all been an inspiration. My thoughts and ideas for this blog have been years in the making. My first idea was to create a website with the same theme before I knew what a blog was. But after reading others and understanding how blogs work, I knew this was the way to go.

I want to uncover the “secrets” of triathlon for all the newbies and veterans alike. (Whatever those secrets are; at presstime, the definition for secrets is debatable). Even if you have been doing triathlon for years, there is always something new to learn. I want to talk about motivation. What keeps us going at 5 AM on a cold, January morning as we rise from our bed and hit the road for a bike or a run or plunge into an icy, cold pool? How does our real life with family and friends overlap into our training and racing schedules? How do we keep everyone in our lives happy? These are some of the stories other triathletes want to hear and most want to share. But I’ll need your help to tell them all. So, please make sure you leave your comments on my posts with your thoughts, ideas, tips and stories. Let’s help each other. Let's make each other laugh.

Well, that’s it, for now. That’s the basic idea for this blog. I’m sure its content will certainly evolve over time. But when you strip it down, it will all still be about the Swim, the Bike and the Run. (There are other things it's about but I'll get to them another time.) Thanks again for checking out the Iron H blog! Hope you enjoy it.