Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ironman Lake Placid 2017 Race Report

Final 16:27:48
(2111th out of 2195 who finished on time - 2340 starters. 1572 men, 623 women; me 1523 among the men, 226 place in the M50-55 bracket)

The clock shows time of day at 11:25

The last time I wore my wetsuit was two years ago for the race in Wisconsin.  The last swim I had was for last year’s race in Chattanooga.  I should at least have done a cursory refresher swim.  I take several minutes to get into the groove, where my breathing has settled into a rhythm, and I’m at a steady pace.  This day, it didn’t want to happen.  I’ve gained 5 or 10 pounds, and the wetsuit felt tight.  I just couldn’t get my breath.  I took off the nose clip, to get more air when I breathe.  I did side-stroke for most of the first leg, out to turn-around for the first lap. My side-stroke is almost as fast as my front crawl, so I was making okay time, and could have finished that way.  I noticed a guy beside me with a really slow turnover.  That’s a good idea.  I slowed my stroke cadence down to half.  At that speed, I was able to get enough air, and calm my heart and breathing.  After turn-around, I was fine, and picked up to a comfortable speed doing front crawl.  I kept to the outside, letting the fast swimmers past completing their second lap.  The professionals set out at 6:30, and some made it back to the beach for the crossing to second lap even before I was in the water.  We age-groupers began at 6:40, self-seeding with the slower swimmers like me in the back.  I was with the final few, getting into the water at 6:58.  We each get 17 hours on the clock from when we start, so my deadline was a minute and a half before midnight.  I better not need that. 
Swim 1:56:11

I'm just going through the gate here. About 2300 in the water already.

Friday, for fun I decided to bike up the hill to Whiteface Mountain.  I didn’t get as far as the entrance where it transitions from the public road to the switchbacks to the peak.  Drenched In sweat after 5 km (it’s another 15 to the top) I turned and went back to the motel.  On that downhill I rode the brakes so hard, the wheel rims got so hot that one of the labels came unglued and peeled off.  Far from giving me confidence, it increased my worry over handling the long downhill early in the course.

Me at left, in shirt with white and red swoosh pattern
My bike strategy was take it easy.  Real easy.  Save it all for the run. I took a lazy, slow pace through the early section, always using the lowest gear up the hills.  The long downhill section to the village of Keene wasn’t as frightening as I remembered from my scouting ride last year.  It’s long, but not nearly as steep as that incline to Whiteface.  I’ve practiced a bit of downhill, and learned to stay in the saddle instead of putting my weight on my legs.  I still braked plenty, keeping it under 50 km/h, a speed I’m comfortable at.  It was still surprising how long the descent goes for.  The first section is through the gorge alongside the river, where there was a headwind blowing on us, keeping my speed down.  Then another downhill.  After that a “use low gear next 2 miles” sign, and more downhill.  Another low gear sign, and still more fast descending.  Finally comes the village.  Not over yet.  The sign says  “Welcome to Keen.  Use low gear”.  Another fast downhill. 

He's got my bike. In five minutes they start taking timing chips
The weather was perfect.  Cool around 20 C in the morning, with the water about the same temperature as the air.  Mostly cloudy at first, with more and more sun coming out as the day went on, but still comfortable.  Cool again after sunset.  Monday it rained all morning.  That would have sucked going down those long hills.  

Next comes the flats.  Many kilometers of flat, straight road by the river.  It’s a slight breeze as headwind from the North here.  This is where the aero bars excel.  I put my head down so I could barely see ahead.  This was the only section where I pushed a hard pace.  I flew along, banking time.  An hour of that, and more hills.  I turned the corner going past my motel, and he’s put out a sign for me and the other two athletes staying there.  That felt good.  Down the long hill.  It surprises me for the second time today with how far it goes on with the downhill sections.  I just don’t get the feeling of doing that much climbing to come back.  The climb may feel deceptive to me because it’s slight and steady along a river.  Lots of river on this course.  The flats have a long out-and-back.  I count riders behind me.  52.  About 30 of them will start the run.  My bike computer turned up dead this spring.  I don’t care how fast I go, so I just left it.  That made it really difficult for me to judge my pace on course. I can’t tell how far I’ve been or how long to get there.  At the Wilmington aid station, she advised me to hurry, because it was getting late.  I was estimating my bike finish at 5:00 pm, half an hour before cut-off, but I had all those hills to climb.  By the time I made the outskirts of Lake Placid, it was 5:15, with another hill to go.  I rolled down the chute at 5:25.  No time to saunter through transition.  Have to be on the run course by 5:40 or they close the gate and we’re done for the day.  I’ve made it by 5 minutes. 
Bike 8:11:36
I had a good, but slow, run for the first hour and a half

The intention was to save it for the run.  That worked out well.  I settled into the 5-hour marathon gait which I perfected at the Ottawa marathon.  The splits on my watch showed that I was behind target, but I had the energy to go for a long time.  Most everyone was on their second lap, heading to the finish line.  At 15 km in, my left ankle suddenly gave in.  It hurt a lot, but I wasn’t going to slow for that.  I talked to it, and told it to hold together, but  the response was, “No, we’re limping”.  I couldn’t make it run smooth.  I hobbled along like that for half a block, deciding what to do.  To carry on might mean permanent injury, or worse: being expelled.  I settled into a fast walk, which the ankle was able to do.  Like that I was about 2 hours 45 minutes getting to start of 2nd lap.  Every now and then I stepped up to running for a spell, and the ankle was okay.  Everything hurt through my legs. How do I know when it’s going to give out again, or if it’s for good next time? So I ran down the occasional hill, but mostly kept to a steady fast walk.  The long walk to the finish took the next 3 hours.  Finally I got there at 11:30 with Mike Reilly shaking my hand, welcoming me in. 
Run 5:57:25.

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