August 22, 2009

Anything is Possible....Almost

I saw this bike in the Ironman Lake Placid transition area after racking my bike Saturday afternoon. My first thought that this guy (or woman) was crazy to attempt the bike at Lake Placid with this piece of ancient machinery. The hills will bring him (or her) to their feet begging for mercy. I started to visualize and feel their pain. There would be a brief moment of joy as they sailed down the 6 mile downhill at Mile 10. I know just what they would think, "Man, I can do this." But what waited ahead would bring even the most confident of bikers crawling into town crying like a baby. That is, if they could make it back to town after 3 moments of truth.
First, there was the hill out of Jay going up Route 86. A long, steady climb that goes up, flattens briefly and then goes upward some more. It's one of those quad busters that leave you crying out in agony as you reach the top. Not to mention a curse word or two.
Second, there was the out and back. Especially the back. The hills coming back rival the hardest of climbs. It's usually hot at this time as well if the sun is out. It was that day.
Third, the last 10 miles into town. I believe they call these hills Poppa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear. Many a soul is flattened here. The first time through it's tough. The second time it's merciless.
But then I started to think of this old clunker and the bravey of its rider. I had found a new hero. As they say in Ironman, "Anything is Possible" and this athlete was going to spit in the face of the naysayers. Power to the people!
So recently, I tried studying the photo to locate the athlete. A few bikes down from it, the number of another athlete, 632, was visible. So I started to looking at results near this number and cross referencing it with the pictures that are available after the race. Eventually, I found him! And it was a him. I looked up his results and that's when I saw it. The DNF. I was disappointed that he didn't finish the race let alone the bike. He had completed the first loop, 56 miles, in 4 hours 28 minutes 23 seconds. If he was to make the cut off, he would need to do the second loop in 4 hours 19 minutes. Tough to do. But it appears he couldn't answer the bell for the second loop. Was he injured? Did the bike breakdown? Or was his psyche too damaged that he threw in the towel and became another IM victim falling short of his goal? I may never know.
One thing is sure, I do salute him for his attempt. And I hope he will try again. But I do further hope that it is on a different bike. Dreams do come true but sometimes you have to have the right equipment.

August 21, 2009

IM Lake Placid-The Race: Right and Wrong

Last post, I spelled out what I did right and what I did wrong during training. So, now I will look at the actual race and do the same.

The Race (Wrong):

1. Nutrition: I thought I had corrected one of my issues: Gatorade. I replaced it with Heed by Hammer for the bike. For the most part, I felt it worked. But when the temperature rose, my desire to drink sank. In terms of "food", I chose 1/2 Clif Bar per hour plus Powerbar Gel Blasts to get me to about 350-400 calories per hour. The heat turned off the desire to eat those foods as well. So, it's back to the drawing board to figure it out.

2. The Run: I always feel this way after a race but I start to question whether I ran hard enough. Did I walk too much? Could I have pushed harder? It's not so much that my run went wrong as much as it is that I wish I felt better during the run.

3. Transition: I need to get better with these. I didn't really improve from 2007 and let me tell you, there is plenty of room for improvement. I think because it's Ironman, I take my sweet time. What does 4 or 5 minutes really mean in a 13 -14 hour race? It means a lot. It really does.

The Race (Right):

1. First Loop of the Bike: The first 56 miles felt good. For the first time, I didn't wear a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and went by feel. I think I pushed as hard as I wanted to on the first loop and stayed within my desired zone. I was hopeful for the last 56.

2. The Swim: I was happy. Beat my previous best by 2 minutes. Thought I could go faster. Thought the second loop should have been faster. But I came out of the water feeling good and pleased with the time. So, the swim was a win.

3. Clothing: I wore the same outfit the entire race and it worked for me. In my Run Special Needs bag I thought I had left a long sleeve Dri-fit shirt. It sometimes gets cool on the second run loop but it turn out I had put a short sleeve shirt in there instead. In the end I didn't need it anyway so I made all the right moves.

The little things matter in this race. And all the experts agree (well, most of them do) that nutrition is the 4th discipline. It's incredibly important especially for me. I always say I will do better the next time. This year I did but I still have many kinks to work out.

August 10, 2009

IM Training: Right and Wrong

After 35 long weeks of training and the race itself, it's time to look back and reflect. Time to reflect on the Training and the Race. On what went Right and what went Wrong.

Let's look at Training first.

Training (Right):

1. Injury Free: I managed no trips to the orthopedic for my knee's or feet. I contribute this to a very measured approach in mileage build-up for the run part of training.

2. Long Rides: I hit every long ride I was supposed to. My longest long rides were significantly longer than in 2007. This came into play for the hills in Lake Placid.

3. Everything in the Morning: I did all of my training in the morning which helped with work and family. It made me tired and I had to go to bed early but it didn't interfere with two of the most important things in my life. Family first. Job second.

Training (Wrong)

1. Nutrition on the Bike: I didn't nail it for the race. I knew the impact and the significance but I didn't nail my plan during training. I should have prepared more for it and taken it more seriously. I should have also experimented more with my beverage of choice on the bike.

2. Longer Runs with Bricks: Even though my plan didn't call for many, I should have implemented Bricks that called for 3 hour rides and 2 or 3 hour runs right after. Most of my long rides (6+ hours) were followed by 30 minute runs. The longer runs may have helped with my nutrition.

3. No Weights or Core Work: Weights was in my plan but Core Work was not. I chose not to do the weights after about 5 or 6 weeks into the plan. It was just too much. I totally ignored Core workouts. When you are swimming, biking and running 6 days a week, it's tough to add a 4th discipline. But, come race time, it could mean all the difference in the world.

Next post I'll reflect on the race itself.

August 01, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day: Ironman Lake Placid 2009 Re-cap

For some reason, in the moments before the start of a long race like Ironman, I am not nervous. I am excited but overall I experience a sense of calm. It might be because I know it's going to be a long day and there is no reason to look too far ahead. And in Ironman where the swim is usually a dogfight, I would need to conserve energy from the start.

So, it was in this state of being after seeing and spending time with my family, I entered the water at 6:45, swam across the end of the lake and stood waiting for the race to begin on the far side. The temperature of the water was perfect, about 70 to 72 degrees but it had started to rain. I was fearing a repeat of 2008 when Lake Placid experienced biblical rains that lasted all day long. I wouldn't have minded rain during the swim or the run but not the bike.

The gun went off and we were off. I started wide right but quickly cut into the line of swimmers along "the line." In Mirror Lake, there is a bright yellow cord below the surface of the water, 8 feet down (?), that lines the course. It's great if you can follow it because there is less swimming off course but it's a dogfight to stay on it. Everyone wants to be there. I got on it about half way down the first side of the rectangular course and stayed there for the rest of the race. But I paid the price. I was hit, poked, rammed, had my goggles knocked off more than once and stopped in the water several times. Usual fare in the IM swim. Around the first turn, a woman competitor actually stopped and said to me "Can you quit doing that?" Doing what? I mean if she meant hitting her with my arms as I swam, I thought to myself, "Is she serious?" I was constantly being hit and hitting others but not on purpose. When 2200 swimmers are packed like sardines fighting for space in the water, you expect this. She had to be a first timer. I paid no attention to the remark and just kept going, trying to get away from her.

I did the first loop in just over 35 minutes which I was happy with. I thought I was faster on the 2nd loop but was actually slower completing the entire swim in 1:17:51 about 2 minutes faster than my previous attempts. I exited the water feeling good, had my wet suit stripped, ran down the red carpet to T1, saw my family along the way and was happy the swim was over. On to the bike and 112 miles.

The rain that had fallen earlier in the morning didn't play a factor in speed especially during the great 6 mile downhill. This stretch occurs at mile 10 and mile 66 of the bike. It's a lot of fun and a brief break from peddling all the uphills at Lake Placid. My maximum speed topped out at 46 miles/hour but there were a lot of people that got it well over 50 going. My bike started to shimmy and I just didn't fell like crashing during the race.

The first loop went really well I thought. I did the first 56 miles in 6 hours 13 minutes and thought I had a great shot at coming in at 6:35:00. I felt good stomach wise so that is the other reason I felt so optimistic. However, around the 60 mile mark, it was strange as if a switch was turned on. Suddenly, I wasn't feeling great. As I started to climb hill, my quads tightened a little, it got hotter out and my stomach felt queasy. I pushed the nutrition thing trying to keep with the Heed, Cliff bars and Powerbar gel blasts. But as I rode it got worse and worse. Still i didn't think I was that far off in terms of nutrition. I still felt much better than in 2007 when I was sick coming into T2. I finished the bike 6:58:32 much slower than I planned. The last 10-12 miles coming back into town are like driving through hell. The scenery is beautiful. The fans are great. But the body is screaming to finish. It can't wait to run a marathon which just sounds down right demonic.

I wasted only 5 minutes in T2 although I wanted to stay longer. My family was right outside the tent as I exited so I spent some time with them before I started my journey. Leaving town is great because everyone is cheering and the energy just carries you. But just past the first aid station as you climb a short hill, reality sets in. I didn't want to walk this soon but I couldn't help myself. I started to notice my hunger for the first time realizing that once again I didn't eat enough on the bike. I passed on the orange Gatorade instead going for the water and some grapes. The grapes tasted good and I kept throwing them down until I reached Mile 10. It was there that one grape thrust my entire race into jeopardy. When it hit my stomach, my body suffered from violent dry heaves. At first I couldn't control them. I stopped walking and bent over. I was still getting them when I knelt down and waited for them to pass. A Someone ran by and shouted to "keep moving. You know Cola settles the stomach." I knew this but was going to put off the cola until later in the race. Unfortunately, I had to re-adjust that plan. Thanks to that racer for reminding me that I had to do what I had to do. And that was to save my race. For the rest of the race all I had was cola, water and cups of ice. I dared not go near the chicken broth or anything solid. I still had some nausea as well.

I met a lot of great people out there. In Ironman, everyone who is at your pace is typically suffering right along with you. So you swap stories as you run, walk and run again. I met a guy from Austin, Texas who was not only doing his first IM but it was his first triathlon! In those later hours as the sun sets, it's like a brotherhood out there. We are all after two goals: to finish and to finish respectively. I picked up some untapped energy with 4 miles to go. I started to put together some strong pushes and came sprinting into the Olympic oval to finish the run in 5:55:03. Not what I wanted but I'll take it.

My finish time for the entire 140.6 miles was 14:29:50. It was about 1 hour longer than my goal time but 10 minutes faster than my previous PR. All in all it was another great day. I said all along that this could be my last but it's not. I will take a few years off because this one was tough on the family. At least the training was. Training and completing three in the last four years takes a toll. But when it comes to Ironman, I'm an addict. And I'm coming back again. Someday.