Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lake Placid 2009

It's taken some time to be able to focus on what this race truly was: one of my best managed races and definitely best managed Ironman ever. I needed a little time to feel sorry for myself. You see when all is said and done, I am still lacking that check box on my "list." You know the one, the one that says "Hawaiian Ironman." I was fairly close last year, 2:30 - 3:00 minutes, almost by accident. I was closer this year: 105 seconds. And there was no accident. I threw down the best race I had in me last Sunday. The only problem was 12 other guys did the same thing and did so a little bit better. It's frustrating because I wasn't at my physical best. No excuses, it was what it was. For whatever reason I just did not have my good biking legs. My time was decent, but slower than what I needed. Everything else was spot on. In fact I even bested my swim projection by a minute or 2. I don't even think I could have made up all 105 seconds in T1, which is normally where I drop lots of time. I wasn't blazing, but in the crowd I was in based on my swim, I managed T1 pretty well. I maybe left 30 seconds out there.

The day started at 4:00am with the usual routine: choke down the apple sauce, sports drink, powerbar and banana. Try to enjoy about 1/2 a cup of coffee to get the heart started. Take care of business. Wander over to transition and get things in order. Because this was my 4th time racing Lake Placid I have the drill down pretty cold. So at 6:25 I proceeded to the water and at 6:40 or so I made my way into the lake and found my spot on the far side of the course. I like to keep the crowd to my left because I most frequently breath to my right when swimming. This keeps the stray hand/foot/you name it out of my face while trying to get some air. This year I also found some buds to hang with before the canon went off. This helped greatly in calming the nerves. Nonetheless when the canon sounded, pandemonium ensued. If you've never seen an Ironman start, it is a sight. This picture doesn't really even do it justice.
It's a no holds barred cage match. In 2005 I had my swim cap pulled off my head. This year my teammate got a rib cracked by a kick. If you ever have the opportunity to experience this madness, you'll know why I put such a premium on conserving energy and staying relaxed rather than trying to put in my absolute best time. Sure if I were a faster swimmer and could get out in front of the pack, it'd be a different story. However I'm not. I covered the first lap in 32 minutes which was about what my "unmolested" practice time had been, so I was content. Now the goal was just to not fade too much on lap 2. I came out of lap 2 in 34 minutes (lap 2 is a little longer than lap 1 because you have to swim out from the beach rather than starting right on the line, so I was pretty satisfied with my performance. I was tired but not beat and my heart was not racing so I was able to quickly focus on transition. **Note to self: Get velcro strap for Garmin watch. The regular one takes too damn long to put on. Also, maybe go back to wearing heart strap in water, so you don't have to phutz with it in transition. Combined this was probably 45 seconds.**

The big problem of the day was my bike ride. Okay, I say problem but it's all relative. I had a respectable bike time of 5:35. However, I felt like I was riding in mud most of the day, and I had an annoying lack of confidence in my new tires because they have a lot more "rebound" than my old ones. This means the bike bounced more over the ever present ripples in the black top on the 6 mile decent into Keene. This lack of confidence in turn led to a slow maximum speed of 42mph, well down from the nearly 50 I did the year before on exactly the same bike setup except with my Michelin Pro Lights, not the Hutchinson Fusion 2s. Not an excuse, I just need to be a better bike handler. Because I'm not I lost time. Despite this lack of "sack" assuming I didn't fade I was still exactly on target for a 5:28-5:30 until about 20-25 miles to go. It was at that point that the wind kicked up and my legs went away from me. I had cramping issues in both hamstrings which got so bad that I had to pedal standing the last 4 miles of the ride. Ironically if I had done a bit more climbing in the standing position earlier in the ride, I might have avoided some of the cramps. Oh well, maybe next time. I happily handed my bike over to a volunteer and ran to get my transition bag for the start of the run. I had one cramping episode in the transition tent but quickly got my shoes on and walked out to the run course. I knocked back a gel and some water and started off on the final, albeit long, leg of the race.

The sun which had made much of the bike fairly uncomfortable, stayed hidden for much of the run. Good thing too, because when it came out it got pretty unpleasant. I've got the burned shoulder blades to prove it! The human body is an amazing machine. Despite debilitating cramps during the end of the bike, I had no issues running. In fact I set off easily hitting my planned 7:10/mile starting pace. The goal for the run was a 3:23, or 7:45 per mile run with the usual walk for 10-15sec every even number aid station. I put my heart rate in the middle of my aerobic zone, known in QT2 lingo as Z1, and just cruised. I had no leg issues this year, and really no nutrition issues either, with one exception: Gatorade Endurance just isn't working for me. Maybe I need to train with it more, but by the end of the day it was really pretty nauseating pulling it down. I used more straight water this year as opposed to previous years, for rinsing down gels and pieces of Powerbars, and that helped the emptying of the gut quite a bit. There were no head in the clouds, "losing it" moments. All clear headed and ready to go. I had one fairly rough patch with about 5 miles to go. I think it was a combination of the heat, and actually purposely slowing a bit to ready myself for the final drag into town.

The last "surge" into town went far better than expected. The hill up to Main St. in Lake Placid usually feels like Everest on the final lap. This year I recall being surprised at how, when I put pressure down on my feet, my body actually lifted and moved smoothly forward. Don't get me wrong, it was hard. But my heart did not seize. In fact I didn't even hit my threshold heart rate. As soon as it flattened out a little I was able to start rolling again and with only 2 miles or so to go, I scoped out the competitors ahead of me. Sure enough teammate Andy was still in range. He had passed me during my rough spot (he had a great run), and my ego really doesn't like being passed! :-) So I squeezed up the pace and waited to see how close I really was at the final turn-around. The last stretch is mayhem with people on their 1st lap, people on their 2nd lap, and bikes still coming in. It's a little tricky trying to run hard and pass people without hitting something. However, I managed to stay upright and hit the turn a scant 10 seconds behind Andy and some "talkative" guy apparently in Andy's age group. Frankly I couldn't tell if he was being encouraging or just annoying to Andy, but either way I was now going to put the hurt on the guy yap'n at my teammate. When he saw me pull up he thought it was Andy for a second and then realized it wasn't (he told me this after the race). However he tried to hang with me even after he knew we were not in the same age group. Well it did give me some satisfaction to hit gas and turn on some of the speed I developed during endless indoor track sessions this last year. I gapped him with authority and flew into the finish hitting the line in 10:13:56. I had reset my goal after the bike to finish in 10:15 or better. It was nice to beat that target. And as last year, Tim was there to greet me on my arrival.

So I sit here reflecting on an experience that in retrospect I really enjoyed all the while recalling saying to Leanna after the finish, I don't think I ever want to do this again. It really hurt today. I mean I had Apollo Creed's line from Rocky in my head "Ain't gonna be no rematch!" Leanna said I was just having one of those "I'm never drinking again moments." She was right. She usually is. Some of what is creating this feeling of satisfaction and, dare I say bliss?, is realizing that this race experience was really enhanced by being able to share it with family, friends, and teammates (okay that's redundant, my teammates are friends). The moment that will be with me forever was the volunteer coming up to me in the food area and telling me my family was looking for me. Sure enough when I looked up, there was Dylan on grandpa's shoulders looking, no searching, for me with a true honest intensity and yearning and shouting "Daddy, daddy!". It was a far cry from the "battles" we have around the house when even at 3 he "challenges" the other male in the house for supremacy. No in this place at this time all pretense was gone and just pure emotion from him, and in kind from me. He yelled. I cried and went over to give him a big hug and kiss. And of course Alexandra was there too, hidden by the fencing. I reached over and gave her a big hug and kiss as well. She gave me a high 5. Yes this part was/is more important than Hawaii.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Home stretch

16 days to go. I'm well into the taper. Things are good physically. I had a touch of tendinitis in my ankle after my peak volume period, but that's clearing up. Had a rare double flat tire during my last big training ride. Had just enough co2 to repair both, but wound up riding the last 80 miles or so on 2 partially inflated tires.
Leanna still makes progress though not at the pace we'd like. She is driving a little again, so it seems the vertigo has subsided for the most part. So I'm back at work full time again. Yeah, turns out I didn't miss much. Still have to get my staff's reviews done. I'm about a month late with those. Also am behind on some project status reports. But you know what? I really don't care much, for 3 reasons:
1) We already know there are no raises for like the next 3 years.
2) My manager told me he's not putting me in for a promotion.
and most importantly
3) In a little over 2 weeks I'm going to be hitting Ironman Lake Placid with by far the best form I've ever had, and that includes last year. While there's always quite a bit of luck involved, most everything else has been addressed.

So it's back to being a Dad/Husband/triathlete who also has a job which (mostly) pays the bills. Could be worse actually. I could be stuck with just a job, and that would be so much less fulfilling of a life.