November 29, 2006

The Trade Off Factor

If you have ever trained for an Ironman, you know that the following statement is true: Training puts a strain on family life. In another post, I’ll discuss what you need to do to take the plunge but for this one, I’d like to address the “trade off factor”. The basic premise is that if you are going to receive then you have to give back. When I started training for my first Ironman last year, I had the family’s approval. However, I don’t think anyone realized the size of the commitment that was to follow. (More on that later!) This year, I was at a disadvantage. My wife and my three daughters knew exactly what I and they were getting into. So, there was a price to be paid or better yet, a trade off. In this case, it was our basement. It was cold, dark and not a place where three girls ages 16, 12 & 10, want to hang out with friends. It had to be renovated. And it had to be renovated by me. So, in addition to my $450 entry fee or whatever it was into Lake Placid, I am paying for my desire to do Ironman in another way. Every night and every weekend, I’m spackling, hammering and painting so my girls can have a “cool” place to go. And then I can train with a guilt free mind. I was hoping to finish before training officially started but it’s not looking good. Oh, well, I guess I’ll have to set up my trainer somewhere else!

November 25, 2006

My Old Friend the Pool

Although, I don’t officially start training for IM LP 2007 until December 6, I jumped in the water the other day for the first time in a long time. The pool has been a stranger since July 23. Oh, we’ve gone out on a few casual dates since then but nothing serious. I recently looked at my training log from 2005-06 and I had been in the pool quite a bit around this time last year. And in 2005, my “official” training program didn’t start until December 24. That was a mental bummer. But this morning, I finally rose out of bed at 6:15 (quite late!!) and arrived at the Y 25 minutes later. I have been dreaming of this for weeks and living with the guilt for not making it a reality. However, the ice was broken and I slipped on through. Even after the short session, the endorphins were firing. It felt great! I’m back with my old friend the pool. I don’t want to push too hard, so maybe, I’ll hit the trails with my mountain bike tomorrow. Let the pool sit for the weekend. Play hard to get. But maybe I’ll surprise my old friend and attend a Masters class Monday morning. Oh, wouldn’t that be nice! Hope there are no technical problems with my alarm clock.

November 15, 2006

2006 Ironman Lake Placid Final Thoughts

The “high” from race day lingers but it’s slowly fading. Training for 2007 begins in a few weeks. Here are some final, fragmented thoughts that I wanted to get down as my last and final on IM LP 06.

*The “Watch Me Finish” clip on the Ironman USA website is incredible. Watching that moment when you become an Ironman is priceless. Hint to first timers: try to finish by yourself with no other participants around you. You’ll get a better shot!

*The Black Bear in town is excellent for breakfast. Not bad for lunch too!

*Swim the course on the Friday before the race. It makes all the difference in the world.

*Take a weekend in the Spring and train in LP. Getting to know the bike course can be quite helpful. I didn’t do that the first time around but will try to do it in 2007.

*Make sure you get the right size T-Shirt after you finish. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t check and it was 1 size too small. Fortunately, I was able to rectify the situation.

*Thank as many volunteers as you can. They are the best! They make your race a lot easier, let me tell you.

*Say thank you to the spectators as well. They stay there all day cheering you on and calling out your name. It’s inspiring.

*Experiment more with your Heart Rate Zones during training unless you are quite positive about them. I have some doubts about mine and wonder if I could have pushed a little harder on the bike.

*Push hard on the bike during training once or twice.

*Get your free massage at the end of the race.

*If you want to sign up for next year, remember that as a participant this year, you don’t have to lay out any cash for about 3 weeks.

*Ironman North America runs a great race!

November 10, 2006

2006 Ironman Lake Placid: Part IV

The Run

I had a better time in T2. It was 5 minutes plus. I felt really good coming off the bike and onto the run. The legs felt fresh and I knew then that the bricks that I had done in training were about to pay off. As I exited transition and ran into town, I felt like I had a huge smile on my face. I was riding high from the fact that I was actually doing an Ironman. Was it a dream? No, this was reality. The volunteers and spectators were just great. Since your race number has your name on it, they cheer you on and call your name out as you pass them. I tried to thank as many as I could.

My strategy was to run to every aid station, grab Gatorade, walk through the station and then continue running. I also decided to walk up every steep hill. At first I was confused on the run as I was seeing other runners coming in. I didn't realize that is was an out and back. I was drinking orange Gatorade Endurance which was a good change from the Lemon-Lime on the bike but I was starting to get sick of it anyway. It was beginning to get that syrupy taste but I tried to force it down. I didn’t want to bonk. Chicken broth was being served and the thought of it was making me sick. I was going to try Coke but didn’t want to hit on it so early in the race. I scrapped my own nutrition (Clif Shot Blox, Z Bars) and dumped them after the first loop when I saw my daughters Molly and Grace. Basically I was drinking the Gatorade, eating oranges and grapes and at one aid station they had watermelon, which tasted great. Unfortunately, I never saw the watermelon again. I finished the first loop in a little over 2 ½ hours and was happy with that. I knew I would be slower on the 2nd loop but at least mentally I had a shot at a 5 hour marathon. It was also the first time that I have ever run 26.2 miles. The crowds were incredible as I headed out and they gave me a boost mentally.

At 15 miles I had to go to the bathroom and lost time waiting for a porta john to open up. I saw Jim coming down the road and he passed me. I never was able to catch up to him after that.

The 2nd loop consisted of a bit more walking than the first loop. But at around mile 19 or 20, I was passed by 2 people who were fast walking. I decided that I wasn’t going to let that happen. I picked up my pace and ran past them and stayed ahead of them for the rest of the run. My stomach was starting to knot up and I was drinking a little Gatorade at aid stations and eating only grapes, which tasted great. I wasn’t sure if they were good for me but they were going down. The Gatorade was starting to gum up my mouth. I decided to start drinking the coke and that really gave me a boost. It also settled my stomach. At around mile 22-23, a guy named Scott started talking to me as we walked up the last major hill. He looked a little flat so I got him running again when we reached the top and I persuaded him to drink some coke. He was glad he did. He was number 1000 and I guess it hit people a certain way because they all remarked about it. At this point it was starting to get dark out and I just kept thinking that I was about to finish my first Ironman. That thought alone kept me going. The emotions started to creep in. Although, I wanted to try and finish before dark, I was happy with where I was. I noticed that the spectators that we passed on the 1st loop out were still there on the last loop in! They were just incredible all day. And at this point, they were really urging us on. Scott and I ran together all the way into town where he saw his family and stopped to say hello to them. But I just kept going. The pulse of the crowd was really pushing me on now. I hit one more aid station before the turn around and gulped down some more coke. That’s all I needed. I saw Jim a little later and shouted, “Jim O’Hagan, you are an Ironman!” He screamed back at me wishing me well. I met up with another guy, forgot his name, but he did tell me this was his 18th Ironman. Psycho!

I made the turn and started to pick up my stride. Near the lake I started to sprint. It felt just incredible. All the training days of getting up at 5 AM to swim, the long bike rides and long runs, the physical therapy sessions, the agony over whether the knee would be ok, it was all coming to a successful end. As I ran down the chute and into the Olympic oval, I saw another friend, Jim R., and he screamed at me that I had done it. I entered the oval and started to look for my girls who were going to cross the finish line with me. I saw them on the right less than 100 yards from the finish. We were lucky because no one was behind us and no one was in front of us. We sprinted to the line broke the tape and my arms went into the air. I was finally an Ironman! The voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly shouted out my name and that felt real good! 14 hours and 39 minutes. It was longer than I expected but I’ll take it. What a great feeling! I thought I would lose it emotionally. In fact, I envisioned it but I held it together. I was just too overjoyed and seeing the family waiting with smiles on their faces was the ultimate reward.