Friday, August 13, 2010

IM Lake Placid Race Report: A's version

As E already relayed, we had a nice trip out from Denver to Burlington, VT (who knew that tons of other people would be trying to catch the parking shuttle at 4:30 in the morning?). The 6 am flight was a bit rough, but we were prepared with homemade meals, and a ~2pm arrival was a nice treat (flying East is always a chore from Denver, but this was better than our usual red-eye into NYC where you leave at ~midnight and arrive at 6am, the perks of traveling to race, not for vacation or business!).
A nice late lunch on Church Street got us fed a decent, bigger meal, then we pointed the rental car North and West and headed for the ferry crossing of Lake Champlain. Our plan was then to drive in and preview ~1/2 the bike course, from Ausable Forks all the way to Lake Placid as we made our way over to our lodging in Saranack Lake. Heavy rain challenged this plan, you couldn't see much, but we got a sense that the area was green, pretty, and somewhat hilly. Once we found NCCC (North Country Community College) we had some trouble finding check-in for the dorms. Eventually we backtracked and parked near a building with "Visitor" parking spots, only to read a sign with directions on where to go to check in (back out towards the entrance, then left, right, left over the RR tracks, right, and first building on the right. No we did not get it right on our first try, but by our 3rd or 4th try we found it!).
As we moved in, we learned that our accommodations were a bit more rustic than we anticipated. Luckily, we were able to just roll with it. We unpacked our clothes into the dresser and headed out for a quick run to loosen up and shake out the travel, then found dinner and a grocery store (bought bars of soap and contemplated a cheap shower curtain).

That was Wednesday. The next couple of days we settled in, laid low, and got ready to race. We had 2 GREAT swims in mirror lake, picked up our bikes from TriBike Transport, rode the only flat miles of the course to spin out the legs and make sure the bikes shipped fine (between Upper Jay and Jay), and read and rested. I was sleeping well (not the case before St. George), we were fueling well (cutting back on fiber, still no coffee for me until race morning), and all signs were good. The only small hiccup was my watch dying (I use the timer to remind me to eat and drink on the bike) during our second Mirror Lake Swim. I swung into the expo, though, and picked up a new one at the Timex booth (I may have paid too much for it, but it sure was convenient to just stop in there and get a new one right away).

This trend continued race morning. We woke early (4 am, I think) and tried not to make too much noise and wake our suite-mates, Tommy (from Long Island) and Rob (from 'Jersey). A breakfast of pop-tarts (no fiber), banana, juice with carbopro, and coffee (no coffee maker or french press, so some Starbucks via thingies from the grocery) and we were out the door. Rob had shared his secret parking spot with us the night before, so we headed there and got pretty close to transition. Then we got body marked, did a warm-up hike out to the special needs drop off spots, and headed back to transition to add nutrition to the bike, pump up tires, apply body glide, and turn in our dry clothes bags. Somewhere in there I lost my swim cap, but I easily picked up a new one on the beach.
Once we were fully in our wetsuits, we headed into the water, swam a tiny bit, then floated over to the shore opposite the beach to stand and wait a bit for the pro start before finding our spots. We ended up in the middle, ~3 people back from the banner (start line). It was a beautiful morning, a great day to race! Off in the west, a tunderstorm cloud was building, but it was also sunny where we were.

The cannon fired and we started to swim. This swim is 2 loops, a short beach run in the middle. The course is a long, skinny rectangle and the buoys are set on a cord that runs the length of the course, a meter or two below the surface. The whole way out to the turnaround on the first loop I spent passing people. I was to the right and just out of sight of the cord, but tracked well due to the total number of people also tracking off that line.

Part way down, my right hip flexor started to cramp. Uh-oh! I ignored it as best I could and swam on. The return of that first loop went smoothly, but I began to notice some rubbing under my right armpit. I was in my sleeveless wetsuit and the leash for the zipper was caught up in there. I fixed that during my beach "run" (more of a walk for me as I was fixing my clothing, and I still forgot to look for my split time on the clock!) and all was good for the second lap. Except now it seemed like everyone was passing me, not the other way around. I swam steady and strong, but added a left calf cramp to my right hip flexor stiffness/pain and got a small nick in my nose from another racer's watch (I think that was my only real contact during the swim, pretty good for a 2700+ person start in a tiny lake! At that point, though, we were almost done and I decided to just chill a bit, there was no reason to get hurt too early in the day). My 1:04 was an OK time. A tad slower than the 1:00-1:03 I was hoping for, but in the ballpark. My sleeveless wetsuit is easy to strip and I was soon carrying it and running down the road toward T1.
T1 was as quick as I could make it (on with the helmet, race number and belt, socks and shoes, sunglasses, and a swipe of chamios butt'r) but the long run on the road from the lake to the Oval makes this a slower T1 than some. I had a much smoother mount than at St. George, and was soon flying through town and out onto the course.

The first loop of the bike went well and I finished it right on target for pace and effort (both perceived exertion and heart rate, but I was only glancing at this every so often and getting "real time" readings). E passed me early in the first loop, after Keene I think. We ended up staying close to each other for ~10 miles before he moved on ahead. My nutrition was spot on for the whole bike: 4 powergels, 1 bottle of carbopro-nuun with ~200 kcal, 4-5 bottles of Powerbar Perform drink (really like that stuff, goes down easy and worked well for me), and 4-5 bottles of water in the front aero bottle with The Right Stuff electrolyte concentrate added (this was the key to good nutrition for me, I think, 4 doses of The Right Stuff). Oh, and 1 gasX. I meant to take 2 of the 3 gasX I was carrying, but lost my 2 spares somewhere out there on course. My second loop on the bike felt good, solid, and strong, and I hit a faster speed on The Big Downhill since it was less crowded this time (just over 55 mph, I think), but I lost a bit of focus on the climb up from Wilmington and gave up a fair bit of time (7+ minutes!) there unintentionally.

As I rode back into town that last time, I was focused on a fast T2. I had decided to ride with my road shoes, not my tri shoes, so I was not able to get my feet out and leave my shoes on my bike (I tried, wasn't going to happen), but I was still able to run in them, grab my bag off the rack thingy, get into the right change tent, swap shoes, socks, and headware, and get out in ~2:30. What I forgot to do was pee. And I had to GO. Luckily, I have skills, and before the first aid station (at 0.4 miles, I think they said) that problem was gone. All this might explain why I said nothing to Lisa as she cheered for me on the way out of T2 (thanks Lisa, I was just in the zone, and it wasn't even the run zone yet!).

I quickly settled into my pace on the run. I felt good. After my pee, and a gel and gasX, I was flying. Comfy, steady, on target. I was happy. I was making my dreams come true! This feeling survived until I was back in town and nearing mile marker 10. Kerrie had just passed me looking strong (on her way to running the fastest run of the day for the female age groupers) but I knew something was off with my tummy. I had been taking in a cup of drink at each aid station and using the icy sponges to stay clean and cool, but my lower GI was off having its own raucous party. And the party was OVER. A quick (1:33 or so) pit stop in a non-locking porta-potty and I was back, running very strong, and cruising uphill and into town. Justin Daerr passed me on his way to the finish and I used him to pull me up the hill, through the second turn around, and then to slingshot me off into my last run lap.

I started my 2nd lap and felt strong and solid. It was time to hold onto that feeling and start creeping up, faster if I could. I held steady until mile ~18, then noticed my hands and fingers start to get tingly. It was odd. Odder yet was my response: I just settled in, on auto pilot, and got it done. I started taking cola at each aid station, and upped it to 2 cups of drink, too, so that was at least 3 cups per aid station. My tummy felt great and stayed that way until the finish (this is a MAJOR victory for me, first time in 7 ironmans that the nutrition was spot on). I started having to walk the aid stations, though, so that I could grab all those cups before I got to the other end. I moved onward, but in kind of a blur. And I guess I was in full-on shuffle mode here, not really "running" anymore.

But I was not aware of any of this. I was getting it done and was just unaware of how much I had slowed. The final 8 miles were a blur. That is really all I remember. I came back into town, climbed the hills, got a big smile as I saw E heading for the Oval and the finish as I headed out for the final turn around, and then joined him there myself. Here are some screen shots of the first and second loops of the run. You can see my potty stop, and then how pace slowed with ~8 miles to go, and where I walked the aid stations.

Lap 1 of the run... see my potty stop at mile ~10?

Lap 2 of the run.... what happened with 8 miles to go, and can you see where I was walking the aid stations?

In the end, I PRed the race by 49 seconds and PRed the run (for an Ironman) by ~2 minutes but missed my goal times (total and for the run) each by ~16 minutes. That's a lot. Could I have made that up all on the run? Not sure. Am I frustrated? Yes. Am I still oddly pleased at that race I have, the effort I gave, and the outcome? Yes. Do I have any clue what happened and why? No.

I was really ready to run a 3:40. Trained and ready. It was not a reaching goal, not a pipe dream, it was doable, oh so very doable. In the end, though my nutrition finally seemed spot on, I was likely under fueled on the run. I had planned to use race drink as my sole source of fuel, but had neglected to think about dosing using their cups. I probably was not getting enough of anything. And the gel I grabbed, off the table after some hunting and gathering, with 2 miles to go was too little, a lot too late.

After finishing, I was exhausted. And Sore. All over, everywhere. I saw E, bust still used my Volunteer Catcher to walk over to the athletes food area and sit. 1 bottle of water, 1 slice of pizza, 1 ham sandwich, pretzels, grapes, 3 cookies were consumed while we sat and chatted with Kerrie and Kau. Then I changed into better clothes, and we went to the car to drop off gear and grab the wheel bag. Next was a trip to tribike transport to drop off the bikes, then we headed onto the run course to cheer for people. We swung into the Lake Placid Brewery, but the wait for a table was over an hour, so we went to their tent out front and bought a hamburger and chips to share, and 1 beer each. Then we headed back to the dorms and chatted with our room mates (Rob had a good day cheering, but Tommy missed the bike cut-off and was trying to cope with his first DNF). As usual, I slept very little that night due to being sore everywhere.

The next day, I was still sore all over! Deep breathing was impossible (so was deep sighing, like when the 3rd and final Kona slot rolled to 4th place and she took it, I was 5th). And laughing? Not an option.

We had a good morning in Lake Placid before rolling out and heading to Plattsburgh where we had a room booked in an awesome B&B (it was Eric's birthday, AND this was halfway back to the airport). It was so relaxing there! We ventured into town for dinner, then picked up a pint of banana fudge ice cream for dessert, which we shared in their mosquito-proof gazebo.

The next day we took the ferry over to VT, drove down to Burlington, and spent a few hours roaming Church Street and the lake front. It was a nice day, but HOT, so we didn't walk too much or too fast. Our flight wasn't until after 7 pm, so we had time to kill. We wandered, then lunched at the Vermont Brewery, then went to the used book store, then wandered some more. In the end, we went to this "museum" called the Outdoor Gear Exchange and looked at a lot of things made in Colorado. I enjoyed Burlington, the state of VT, and the Adirondacks very much, and would love to go back there again. It was a great trip!

One final thought: I am not sure why I am so troubled by missing my goal times, and the Kona slot. I had a great race. I was fairly steady loop to loop. I nailed my nutrition, before (can anyone say breakfast for dinner???) and during the race. The weather was PERFECT for me, definitely not too hot like it can be at Canada. I am plagued by some of what Kerrie says, here, yet for me some of it IS about the journey, and for me, I get to share the training hours and miles with my family (and my best friend, E). Yet I missed my goals, and that is very hard (for my ego) to swallow and move on.

I guess the conclusion I am reaching is that Ironman is just not for me. I did well, learned lots, and had fun preparing and racing 7 of these things over the last 5 years, but I am just not as good at this as I want to think I am. I can run a good open marathon, I can rock an Olympic distance tri, I'm a good skier, and I can hike with the best of them, but this Ironman thing, not so much. That's OK, next year's race still sold out before lunch the next day, so there are enough others out there to keep this thing going! And I am trying to tell myself that this is not giving up, it is moving on to something else. Work with me here.... and come along for the ride if you wish.


1 comment:

kerrie said...

hey amber - sorry i was in such a rush when i saw you and didn't have longer to talk! don't give up on IMs yet!! i think IM CdA is still open ;)

you are one of the fittest chicks i know - an endurance machine- and you have a super work ethic....perhaps you just need to give some different kinds of run training a try. try something you haven't done in training before because if what you are doing isn't getting you the results you want, you need to change it. i think faster than a 3:40 is totally within your reach....
i am still somewhat concerned about your nutrition though because having the 'runs' and slowing at the end clearly show something is off(it certainly wasn't because of aggressive pacing.....)
anyways, i would so like to see you figure this puzzle out....

as for the whole "journey" thing, lol, oh yes, you certainly can enjoy the journey but i do think at the same time you need to be focused on your goals and meeting them. own the race and be accountable for it - and you certainly have done that. my only gripe was with people putting endless sacrifice, time, effort and money into training and then at the last minute, saying that they didn't care about the outcome.

let's chat at some point.