The beginning of the last day of the journey started at 4:19am for me. I had set my alarm for 4:20 and my father walks in to tell me it is 4:19. Thanks Dad, I could have used that extra minute of sleep, I would have been so much faster!!!
I got up and had a bagel and a stinger waffle to start the day. Drank a little bit of Gatorade and my Dad brought me over to the hotel where everyone else in the group was staying. I had dropped off my wetsuit and clothes at Janet and Brian’s room the night before so I didn’t have to lug it around. I also had made up my Ironman Perform drinks for the bike the night before so I just had to grab them out of the fridge on the way out the door. The ride over was short and pretty quiet, my Dad wished me good luck and I walked the rest of the way to the hotel. Before big races like this I get pretty focused and quiet trying to make sure I don’t forget anything.
I got to the hotel room and threw on my bike shorts that I was going to wear under the wetsuit and we all headed down to get numbered and put our nutrition on the bikes. Halfway down the street Brian says “I know what Julie forgot”. Julie’s face has panic
written all over it, but realizes quickly that he is talking about the bike pump. She heads back up to get the pump while the rest of us get numbered. She finally gets back, gets numbered and we head into the transition area. I go to my bike bag and get my Garmin out to record the ride and get my bike all setup. One of the best tips of the weekend of Brian’s many was to double bag our transition bags. It rained the night before the race and some people opened their bags in the morning to find their stuff soaked.
After leaving transition we head back up to the hotel room and wait around, try to drink some water. I have been drinking for two days now to make sure I’m hydrated and yet my mouth feels dry. Just the nerves of the upcoming event. Everyone goes to the bathroom one last time even though I’m sure we all went right into the Lake and pee in our wetsuits. Just before we leave the room I take down a PowerShot Gel quick to get a few more calories before the swim. I didn’t eat that much in the morning, I just find it too hard
to eat a lot before something like this, again, probably nerves.
With wetsuits on we head down to Mirror Lake. The swim was wetsuit optional, meaning that if you wanted a slot for Kona or an award for something you had to swim without the wetsuit. I choose to swim with the wetsuit because I knew I wasn’t going to be anywhere near a slot for Kona and also to conserve as much energy as possible on the swim. The water temp was 77 degrees, so getting into the water was no problem. We swam over to the back of the masses and stood near the beach to watch the pros go out, they get a 10
minute head start. After the Pros left they played the National Anthem. While they played the National Anthem my thoughts drifted to my brother-in-law serving in Afghanistan, as usually happens. At that point I said to myself that no matter what happened today I wasn’t coming out of the race unless they pulled me out, no quitting! After the anthem I turned and hugged Janet, Julie and Brian and wished them good luck and moved up toward the front of the swim start.
I started the swim about 5 people deep from the line and just about in the middle. After watching the videos of the swim starts I really wasn’t sure what to expect, would it just be bodies banging into each other or what?
The gun goes off and we start. I start out breathing on every stroke and sighting on every other stroke to try and figure out what is going on. People are packed in all around me and I’m looking for some open water. Even though the Lake was calm with all the people swimming it became very choppy quickly, more choppy than I expected, but nothing that
interfered with my swim. After a few minutes I was able to get past a few people and see some open water. At this point I’m probably about 15 feet from the line. The line I’m referring to is the line under water that goes the length of the swim and holds the buoys. The problem now becomes the people that started way out to the right that are trying to get to the line, they continually cross in front of me, which while kind of a pain, isn’t too bad. The other thing that is happening now is some of the moron swimmers that are
wound up and probably over exhorting themselves are hitting the back of my calves while they swim and I’m having trouble moving around some of the people crossing over. Instead of just swimming around me, if they are that fast, they are just slowing us both down at this point. I finally found some open water and swim a little right to get to it and get the guy off my legs. Now that I’m about half way down the first loop before the turn I can finally start to relax a little more and breath bi-laterally. For me this is when the swim really started as I was able to just relax and go, I’m almost on top of the line, I stayed probably about 3 to 4 feet away from it the rest of the swim. After making the turns relatively easily and coming back in without incident I look up at the clock and see that it says 41:xx. My first thought, was “well that sucked”, then I realized that I had to take 10 minutes off because the pros had not finished the swim yet. The second loop I pretty much stayed 3 to 4 feet away from the line and just relaxed and passed people, because by now anyone faster than me was already ahead of me. As I came in toward the finish there
was one guy who was trying to pace himself off of me, which I thought was pretty funny because he was dying just trying to keep pace. I actually started laughing while I was swimming watching him and thinking to myself, buddy, we have 138 miles to go after this, relax and enjoy it. Finally he got to close and caught an elbow from me on one of my recovery strokes and disappeared. I ran out of the water and the clock read 1:03, I was pretty happy with that. I had expected between 1:05 and 1:10. The wetsuit strippers were great and I was off to T1. On the way Melinda popped up from out of nowhere and screamed to me that I was doing great, she seemed to pop up everywhere during the day! I think I also saw Kim and Dave as well during that transition.
The first transition is kind of long because you have to run about a ¼ mile to the transition area. I jogged down, grabbed my bag and headed into the changing tent. I took my time and made sure that I had everything on that I needed, threw the wetsuit back in the bag and headed out to get my bike. That was another long haul as I had to run the entire length of the field just to get to my bike. I grabbed my bike, started the timer, crossed the timing mat, mounted up and was off.
I knew what to expect on the bike, we had come to ride the course a month before. I had always been warned by Coach Brian and a few other people that have done Lake Placid to not get caught up in racing out the first 8 miles. I feel like I did a pretty good job of listening to that advice as everyone passed me. I think I may have passed only one person and it took probably half a mile to do it. Funny thing is he said to me “It’s tough isn’t? Letting them go”. He was right, it was hard to watch all those people go by because I knew that I could keep up with many of them. I just kept telling myself to relax, enjoy the day, go easy and finish. Finally made it to the big 6 mile descent into Keene. This really highlighted my lack of skills as a cyclist as I was all over the brakes. Watching riders passing me at 40, 50 and probably up to 60 mph, I topped out at 33 and it probably wasn’t on this part of the course. My biggest problem was the Zipp 808s I had on were catching wind and making me pretty nervous. I wish I had more time in the saddle with those on, during windy days. Also wish that I had went out and found some big hills in NH to practice descending as there is nothing here in MA that remotely compares to those descents into Keene.
I did make it to the bottom unscathed though so that was good, because I saw at least one rider who didn’t. Headed out to Ausable, NY for the out and back part of the course and average around 18mph to the 30 mile marker and was around 18.3 before starting the climb to Wilmington. I saw Julie both times on the turn around but never saw Janet who was in front of her. I guess I could have been rolling through one of the water stop and missed her. Like the first climb I just took my time and spun up the hill, never really pushing myself too hard. I just kept thinking in the back of my head that I have a
marathon to run and I want to run not walk. The head wind in the High Falls Gorge area was pretty good, but I kept aero pretty well and just kept going. Finally got to the Cherries and Bears. We had taken a ride on the this part of the loop a couple days before so I had it pretty much memorized at this point. Power past a few people heading up Papa bear as there was a big crowd and I felt pretty good. It was a lot of fun riding through town. Coming through Special needs for the bike, Melinda once again popped out of nowhere to yell to me. It was fun seeing everyone while I was out on the course. After seeing Melinda I saw Kim and Dave on the back side of the Adirondack Inn and then when I came around to the front I saw “Jules Crew”, wow can Heidi scream!
Average speed for the first loop was 16.5, I had slowed down more than I wanted to but it really didn’t bother me, not sure why because at other races it would have. I was enjoying the day and having fun on the ride and since it was my first Ironman, maybe it was just about getting to the run this time.
Then it was off for the second loop. For me the second loop was very much like the first. Planning for the race I had thought in my head that I would push hard on the second loop if I was feeling good. Well, at the start of the second loop I was feeling pretty good. I had followed my plan of taking a Gel on the bottom part of every hour and a Stinger Waffle on the top of every hour, so I knew I was getting my nutrition. I was also drinking a lot of Ironman Perform. I think on the first loop I went through 4 bottles. I went through my Speedfil one of my reserve bottles and one from the race course. I purposely held back the other of my reserve bottles because I had put 2 salt sticks in each bottle I prepared and I
wanted to make sure I took some in on the second half of the course.
When I finally made it to the Ausable turn around again I was feeling like I didn’t want to eat anymore. I was a little worried about that. I felt like if I forced myself to eat something I would get sick, so I took a little bit of Gel from my flask and just continue to drink as much as possible. I have always found that hydration is what lets me down in the past
and I was determined not to let it happen this time. So every water stop on the bike I would grab an Ironman Perform and re-fill my tank. The great thing about this was that it was always cold and just tasted great because it was getting a little warm on the second loop. For about 2 hours I didn’t have any solid food, I did have a few more salt sticks from my dispenser to make sure I didn’t cramp and that I was retaining at least some of the fluids I was drinking. I stood up for a few of the small rollers before you get to the Cherries and Bears to get my legs ready to run. The first time I did that my hamstrings felt
really tight, but they loosened up quick and the next few rollers I stood to go over I was fine. I remember Janet warning me that her Quads killed her last year because she didn’t get out of the saddle so I kept that in mind. Something else off the check list that I remembered to do.
Finally just before I came back to the Cherries and Bears I had another Stinger Waffle and my stomach seemed fine and I continued to sip on the Ironman Perform the rest of the way. Surprisingly there were still people on Papa Bear yelling for everyone coming up the hill and that gave me a boost of energy to go up those final hills. My legs felt strong going up the hills, but on the flats I felt like I couldn’t maintain speed in the second half for
long periods, not sure what that was about. Overall I lost a little more time on the bike and end up at 16.3 mph. That is by far the slowest I have ever gone on my bike. Instead of dwelling on it I just put it out of my mind and moved on, can’t change the past and to be honest, I’m not sure that I would change my bike ride. Yes, it was slow, but I felt comfortable the entire ride and my legs never hurt on any climb. I guess that means I went too easy on the bike, but again, I was worried about the Marathon, something I had never done before. Coming through town I saw all of our group’s supporters again. They were great, yelling out encouragement and cheering us all on.
When I finally got off the bike for the second transition my legs were feeling pretty good and I took my time and walked to get my run transition bag and headed for the changing tent. I sat down in the changing tent and my head was feeling pretty hot like I was over heating and my arms were red because I forgot to put on sunscreen. I changed as fast as I could into my run shorts and shirt, smeared some Glide on so I wouldn’t chafe and be sore on the run. Threw my bike stuff in the bag and started to head out of the tent. Hey! Wait! Where is my watch? I looked down by where I was sitting and spotted, threw it on and was on the way out of the tent again. This time I stopped and had the sunscreen guy smear some all over my arms and neck. Gotta love the support you get at an Ironman, I didn’t even have to get my hands all slimy! Off to run!
This is what I had been thinking about most of the day. Especially after the debacle at Patriot where I was barely able to run because I had dehydrated myself on the ride try to get a fast bike split and not carrying enough water. I started to jog down the street, heard the family yell and looked over, gave them a smile/wave and headed down the road out of town. As I headed down the street I was thinking, “Hey my legs feel pretty good!”. My Quads were not hurting, my calves felt good.
The only problem I had at this point was my stupid watch GPS was picking up the satellites! Crap, how am I going to pace myself like this? Finally about 5 minutes into the run it kicked in and I was starting to get readings, and the readings were just what I wanted to see. I did 8:50, 8:53 for the first two miles that it recorded. I quickly slowed myself down a little bit, I was thinking if I could do 9:30 pace that would be great. Walk each water stop for about a 30 second delay and then run a 9 minute mile to the next water stop. That first water stop was the most important one though, they handed me that ice cold sponge that I was able to put under my hat and keep my cool. I continued to squeeze the cold sponges on it the rest of the marathon and it felt great.
Around mile 4 or 5 I heard someone running right behind me. They were pacing off me, and it was starting to bug the crap out of me. The foot falls were loud and they never said anything. Finally I turned and started to talk to the guy and he was actually quite friendly. Turns out he is a marathon runner and usually does around a 3:30 marathon but was hoping to do 4:15-4:20 for this one. I’m thinking in my head, “I’m sticking with you my new best friend Al and you are bringing me in for a 4:15 marathon!” Well, Al was nice to chat with and I ran with him for about the first 10 miles when his wife came out to meet him with some juice and I just kept on going. His best tip for me was to power walk up the steep part of the two hills. I did that and it worked out great, my legs felt good at the top and I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly again.
At around mile 7 I saw Janet on the run heading out to the turn around and about a minute later I saw Julie heading out too. It was good to see them, it meant they had very good bike rides and were having a good race. Where the hell is Coach Brian? Must be dragging an anchor around the course!
As I came up the hill into town to finish up my first loop I saw my family cheering for me. They all had on matching red shirts to support me. It was the first time I realized they had the shirts on. It was pretty cool to see them all.
I pretty much cruised through the first loop of the run in around 2:05. I was very happy with that and thought if I could keep that pace it would be awesome. My legs felt good and so I kept to my strategy.
As I headed back out I saw Julie coming up the hill into town, she was about 20 minutes behind me. She was having a very good run. As I went back down the hill and through the first water stop I saw Janet coming down around through the water stop. She was also having a very good first half for the marathon.
Finally at around mile 16 I see Brian for the first time. I yell to him and he yells back, good to finally see him and know he is ok. It is such a long out and back on the run that it would seem impossible not to see everyone out there.
At mile 19 though, things got a little bit scary as I started to get a pain in my left leg near my knee. It wasn’t the knee itself, but felt like the tendon on the side of the knee. It was kind of a dull pain that was getting worse. I would only feel it when I was going up the little
rollers. This was not good, I had 7 miles to go and I didn’t want to slow to a walk. I tried changing my stride a little on the uphill part of the rollers and extend my legs a little more and stretch the knee. The pain didn’t go away, but it didn’t get any worse either.
I had been looking for Julie and Janet again after the turn around but this time they were not where they were the first time. This time I didn’t see them until I was almost at mile 21, they were slowing down, but the good news was they were both still running when I saw them and were going to finish with having had a very good Ironman.
The last 5 miles, I kept to my strategy and made it up through town to the short out and back. Where is the damn 25 mile marker?! And where is the damn turn around?! Running along Mirror Lake Dr. I just wanted to get to the turn around, it seemed like it was the longest mile of my life. I see Brian again, not sure how far ahead of me he is from the turn around, but I’m not able to catch him in my final sprint to the finish line. Finally I see mile
marker 25, hey, wait? Isn’t it just a mile back to the stadium? Why am I not turning around? Did they measure this course right? Once I hit that turn around I knew there was less than a mile and my legs felt good except for the little bit of knee pain, which went away once I knew there was under a mile. I started to stretch out the legs and push to the finish. I notice a guy from the local TriFury club, I thought about saying hello, but screw that! I’m almost there, it is time to get this thing done. I’m pretty sure I managed an 8 minute mile for the last mile. The crowd really gives you a rush of energy, running into
the stadium I high fived every kid as I ran around to the finish line.
I didn’t know what my time was going to be as I came into the stadium as I never looked at any of the clocks once I had left the swim. I knew from my bike ride that I wasn’t going to be able to make it under 12 hours, a goal I had stated earlier on this blog. I looked up and it
read 12:26:xx, I was pretty happy with that. I just ran my first marathon in 4:14 and my first Ironman in under 12:30.
My Journey to become an Ironman had come to an end.
I want to thank everyone that supported me through this journey, especially my family for putting up with me being gone for most of Sunday on long bike rides.
Also want to thank Coach Brian and Janet, who are now 2x Ironman Finishers, for all of their support. They took Julie and I under their wing and guided us through this journey. Sending out training plans for each weekend and creating bike courses and run courses for us to ride. Constantly fixing Julie’s bike, a task that no one would envy! Guiding us around the Ironman course on a training weekend where it never seemed to stop raining. All of their insight and knowledge from doing this event the previous year really made us well prepared so we were able to have a fun day and enjoy our Ironman day. Thank you!!!