The Iron Couple
Mirror Lake from the hotel
My Ironman Lake Placid journey began a year ago in July. Anh and I went up to volunteer in order for me to get guaranteed registration for 2011. My lovely wife has been by my side from day 1. Without her I would not even imagine how much more difficult it would be doing and preparing for such a race.
For 2011 Ironman Lake Placid we arrived on Thursday. The drive up to Lake Placid from Queens was roughly 5-1/2 hours. We made our usual stop at Denny’s for breakfast/Lunch. The plan was to swim on Thursday to test out my new Aquashere Kayenne goggles and also new purchased sleeveless Xterra wetsuit. However I would try the wetsuit on Friday because I wanted the test swim to be right about race time, 7am. We got there at 3:30pm. My swim time on Thursday without the wetsuit was 42 minutes. This had me a bit worried because I wanted to do a sub 1:20 swim. On Friday I made sure to use the wetsuit to see the time difference. Sure enough I swam an easy 40 minutes. Jason who is a twitter friend of mine was also doing the race and we also happen to be in the same hotel met for the morning swim. Mirror Lake makes for an incredibly enjoyable swim. The fact that there is a yellow cable attached to the buoys makes sighting non essential. Feels pretty much the same as following the lane lines in the pool. I only sighted to get a sense of distance from the turnaround and environment. I am extremely pleased with the performance of the Aquasphere Kayenne goggles. The fit, visibility is incredible. Those will be my goto lens in the future. **sponsorship would be nice if you’re reading**
I picked up my race packet on Friday after my swim and affixed labeling where required on my bike, helmet and race belt. Took sufficient time figuring out what I would need in each of the four bike/run bags.
I barely made it to the athletes banquet. Thanks to Alex Gonzalez, who also is a twitter follower and participant gave Anh an extra ticket so we both attended. I had a serving of mushroom and cheese ravioli with 3 rolls – yeah quite the Carbo load. Mike Reilly stole the show. He is the “voice” of Ironman. You want Mike Reilly to call your name when you enter the finishers chute in your first Ironman. Also on hand was the ever inspirational, Matt Long. His story will never get old. He embodies the true human spirit of resilience. The banquet concluded then went straight into the “mandatory athletes meeting” at the horseshow grounds. Some important details may have been left out of the meeting and guide for newbies like myself, such as being able to gain access to your gear bag race morning. For folks who drove in from outside town may have been bummed by that fact. Nothing like fresh nutrition for race day.
On Saturday morning I gave my bike a 15 minutes test ride to make sure everything was on par before dropping it off to transition. I got to the top of the descent before River Road and headed back. Didn’t want to build any lactate in the legs from climbing. This was immediately followed by a 10 minute run. A fast transition was welcomed thanks to Anh who waited with my run gear bag outside the hotel. The bike was great, but my Achilles felt tight. That had me a bit worried – may have just been race nerves – so I decided to include KT tape in my Run gear bag. I checked in my bike and bike/run gear bags mid Saturday afternoon. Released some air from the tires as always to prevent them from popping due to the heat. However when I returned to the transition area later with Andy I realized that the front tire was flat. I didn’t remember releasing so much or all of the air out. That was a puzzle so I went back to pick my pump up from the resort to test out the tire. The minute I inflated the front tire it was apparent with the gush of air being released from the valve that I had a flat. I swapped out the tube to a new one from my saddle bag. Now there weren’t any more spare tubes in my bag so I bought some more from High Peaks bike store. You may call it being over prepared, but at this point I had 3 spare tubes in my special needs bag and 2 in my saddle bag. With an Ironman you need to have control over what ever you can. Having sufficient gear and tools – control!
Racking the beast up
Transition Area over 2500 bikes are racked here
Final run through with the Iron Team of what to expect in Transition
We dined at Arena for my final Carbo loading before the race. I had eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti. Have I mentioned how much I was craving a beer all week. I held restrain however until post race.
I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly race night.
Getting ready for the swim start
Got up at 4am. Transition was schedule to open at 5am. I had my usual race breakfast; peanut butter sandwich and 2 eggs over for ultra distances. Thanks to the huge advantage of picking a hotel close to transition, that made going back and forth from the race center no problem at all. This came in very handy on countless occasions. Headed to transition inflated my tires to 125psi. Usually I ride at 145psi. My tires max at 175psi. But the consensus was to pump it to a lower pressure today. Made my final checks and headed to my gear bags. Loaded my run gear bag with my fuel belt (more Carbo pro/Accelerade). Returned to the hotel to pick up my special needs bag and swim gear to head to the swim start. The special needs is about 1/2 mile to the drop off so allow yourself sufficient time here.
At the swim start I positioned myself to the middle right of the shore. The swim was not wetsuit legal. So those vying for a Kona spot had to do without. Not me, not today. I would gladly be using my wetsuit.
Swim is done here. May need to hurry it up.
The previous night I met a fellow racer in transition, who told me to swim without the combative aspect you need to just maneuver through the open gaps. That’s what I kept going for during the entire 2 loops of the Mirror Lake swim. At the first turnaround I glanced at my watch and it read 19 minutes. Wow! I thought I am really having an awesome swim here (I borrowed Anh’s sports watch, I don’t ever use my Garmin for open water races, the distraction of getting the huge gadget kicked off my wrist is not a concern I care to have). Kept swimming with a smooth easy stroke. Before I knew it I was making my way out of the water to shore for the second loop. Finished the swim in 1:16, 4 minutes below my sub 1:20 goal.
T1 was as fast as I hoped for minus the waiting line inside the changing tent to the bike mount.
Caution needs to be used out of T2 and down the first descent. The hill out of town is a bit tough, so I just used that opportunity to get some nutrition and get my bike legs flowing using the small chain ring, spinning at 90 rpm. The bike gets very crowded up the climbs, I wasn’t worried here about drafting violations because the head referee had affirmed at the athletes briefing that uphills are not his concern, he was going for violations on the flats, especially to Jay from the town of Keene. I was eagerly looking forward to the descents into the town of Keene for some “free” speed. Even here extra caution needed to be used because most riders are braking quite a bit and it’s difficult to keep passing on the left because other riders get caught up or are coming from behind. I did the best I could while staying safe. The ride up to Jay was more less flat with minimal rollers so I pushed as much as I could while trying to save my legs for the second loop and marathon. Can’t believe I’m saying this. A marathon after a 112 mile bike! The hills back to Lake Placid are relentless. On the second loop it may have gotten the best of me I was subdued to just maintaining a smooth conservative rhythm. I nailed my nutrition on the bike as in training. There was an aid station at every 10 miles on the course. My nutrition bike setup was: aerobottle, seat tube bottle and down tube bottle. I intentionally left the profile design aerorack in the back empty for on course hydration. At the aid station I loaded up on Ironman Perform and water. In my aero bottle was Carbo pro/Accelerade. On the frame was a spare Carbo pro/Accelerade mix and water or Ironman Perform. In my Tri shirt was a single EFS liquid shot and a spare if needed in my special needs bag. In the bento box was 8 powergels and my canister with 12 Meta Salt tablets. I took 2 tabs per hour. Again all my nutrition was per training. On the bike I didn’t venture into new territory on nutrition or performance. A fact I am proud of is that I rode as close to an even split as I could have executed. The first loop was 2:58 and the second 3:03. Finished the bike in 6:01 closely missing my sub 6 hour goal.
All our signs unfortunately disappeared
Babe makes the best supporting tees
Bike to run was pretty quick as well minus the fact that the volunteer rearranged my compression socks. Not his fault whatsoever. The volunteers were incredibly helpful to us all the way to the finish. The mishap with the socks issue was that to put compression socks on quickly in transition they need to be positioned in a precise manner, which I did and also they are Left and right foot specific. So he accidentally took them off without me noticing and I had to redo them. No biggie here took care of it. Got sunscreen from him and headed out. I saw Anh right out of T2 and sent her lots of kisses and was off to run a marathon on my way to becoming an IRONMAN.
I felt great at mile 1. That’s mile 1 of a 26.2 mile run. This would subside for the next 4 miles. At mile 5 I was in the hurt locker. Not pain per se. It was the fact that I did not at this point get my running legs back yet which normally comes right about mile 1 during my bricks. I was not able to push the pace as in my brick training. The panic of **walking my first Ironman** scared me. I wasn’t convinced or wanted to be of walking the next 21 miles. Not today! Very fortunate to me I brought the extra EFS liquid shot from my bike special needs bag along with me on the run. So I stopped, drank some of it, washed it down with water while walking. What seemed an immediate effect had me running more in control now. This time with more zest. My hip flexors were not MIA anymore. They were back! My cramping whatever this was went away with every step. Contrary to my previous marathons of running and drinking through aid stations, today would be vastly different. For the next 21.6 miles I would walk from the start to the end of every aid station. A strategy I’ve also tried in training, to stop and hydrate at every mile on my long runs. This may have lost me an easy 1-2 minute per mile, but that strategy would prevent me from blowing up and not walking 12-15 minute miles. I persuaded myself to run up every hill no matter how slow I was going. Worst case I do a recovery walk down that hill. The spectators, volunteers at Lake Placid continued to be a breath of fresh air. At mile 11 on the first loop or mile 24 on the final loop, there is a very challenging climb. I was able to muscle through that climb with help from the PA system, someone would keep calling out “Up” “Up” as runners approached the climb. On this climb and the climb from the ski jumps I did them by looking down not up at the top. Going to the restroom on three different occasions did not help my sub 4 marathon, but again it’s to be relaxed and comfortable.
This one was on the run at River Road, again no sign of it
Entering the oval
On my final loop while making my way to the oval running down Mirror Lake drive to the finish I came upon a group of last loop finishers. As with every race my tank always has some extra juice left for a sprint finish. This is what I did In order to get my personal moment of glory **sorry but I needed that one**. I quickly sprinted pass them down Main St. into the oval for the final 100 meters and walked to the shoot while pumping the crowd with the **palms up cheer** and there was the moment that every aspiring Ironman triathlete dreams of “Alex Paul from Astoria, New York” …….. “You. Are. An. Ironman” announced, Mike Reilly. Sweet all so sweet! 140.6 miles is done. I was guided to the athletes post race area where I chowed down 3 slices of pizza and hydrated before reuniting with Anh, my #1 fan. We would then walk to Golden Arrow, shower and head back to the finish later to reign in the final finishers before the midnight cutoff.
2011 Ironman Lake Placid
Look out for me at 8:37 in the video
Overall Finish time: 11:32:50
Overall Ranking: 478/2307
Age Group Ranking: 72/256
I will not deny the fact that initially I felt disappointed with my run off the bike. My immediate thought was “dude what the hell” I may not do this distance again if I feel so bad. However that thought was tampered down the minute I settled, slept and realized what a great run I happened to pull off especially feeling the way I did at mile 5. I won’t rush and sign up for an Ironman in 2012, but I will definitely pursue more in the future. This sport, I continue to admit, is as humble of a sport as one can be involved in. Sky may be the limit but when the body does not correlate with the mind’s ambition, you have to submit to the days outcome.
IM Beer fix
Pic with Heather Wurtele she won the female Pro division while crashing the course record
Pic with Andy, Race finish Oval is to the left
I would like to thank my family, friends, all who made this race possible. First and foremost my wonderful and loving wife, Anh. She is the rock upon which my dreams are made. She is the one who continues to push and support my dreams. She makes it all possible. God gives her the strength and to him will the glory be praised. There are many fellow athletes, friends who need to be acknowledged as well: Cesar, Charlie, Andy, Daniel, Adam, Alex, Chio, Christine, Maria, Brian, Michelle, and the remaining awesome buddies……..,, Participants I met on race weekend include: Ismael, Adrian, Carlos, Andy, Jason, Kevin, Mike, Alex. Incredible comeback stories I heard frist hand: Matt Long (which most of us know by now, if not look him up), Mike (who told me that he was hit by a truck finished in 14 hours), Kevin (68 year old from N.C who also finished)..and the Ironman stories continue………Also last but not least thanks to those who provided my bike, triathlon and nutritional needs and services in NYC: Matt from Bicycle Habitat, Brandon from SBR Shop, and Ed from RepartoCorse.
Thank You Volunteers