So, the good. My new bike bag from my friend Brad was SO good. No longer did I need tools to dismantle and reassemble my green machine. All I had to do was pop off the wheels, deflate the tires a bit so they did not explode on the plane, remember to remove the CO2 cartridges from the bike’s tool box and attach the bike frame to the transport frame inside the Sci-con bike bag. Much easier and quicker than my previous system and to make it even better, this transport system rolled along with very little effort. Total win!
Another good was how I felt race morning. We were not staying super close to the race venue, so we were up early (like 0400 early) so Rob could get me in transition around 0515. As per usual, I did not sleep soundly the night before but in the morning, felt surprisingly relaxed and calm. I wasn't experiencing the normal undercurrent of dread, the “oh no, what did I sign myself up for?” Overall, I was calmly excited and looking forward to the day. After all, I had done this 10 times before so knew what was ahead and felt confident I would finish. My aggressive goal of 11:50 was creating some internal chaos in my emotional brain, although logic was telling me to put that aside and focus on one piece at a time. I was well trained and as prepared as I could be. First up was transition and getting organized.
As I was leaving the car, Rob had suggested I take my phone and call him when I got down to the lake and he would find me and take my phone. This was new…and generally you do nothing new on race day so I left the phone behind and figured I would somehow find him at some point amongst the zillions of people milling about the swim start. Despite hanging around on the periphery of the mass of black neoprene, I never found him. 10 minutes before race start, I scoped the crowd for a wetsuit zipper-upper who demonstrated care and concern about the task at hand and requested assistance. The chafe on the back of my neck at the end of my swim was a reminder that I had not chosen wisely after all. Oh well.
So, the swim. Hmm, a bit good but a bit ugly. Triathlon is non-drafting on the bike but you can get a few minute advantage if you draft on the swim. You can draft on someone’s feet or the hip - both have danger spots though. In previous swims, I tended to avoid being that close to someone if I could help it but then I was making my way through the water without the advantage of someone else cutting through the tension of the water and pulling me along. So, I was on feet a lot but this meant I was in the grand melee of people in the middle of the pack closely following the buoy line. Men and women have different coloured swim caps issued for the event - pink and green (I am sure you know which gender was which colour…). Anyway, swimming next to a pink cap was good; but green equalled nasty in this particular event. A female hand might connect with you once and then the next stroke is placed where you are not; the wearers of the green caps would connect with my head, then my neck, then mid-back (pushing me down with the force of their stroke) and sometimes a leg if I surfaced from the depths with enough time to receive yet one more powerful stroke. I managed to maintain my cool and continue swimming straight for the next buoy despite this pattern repeating several times over for 2.4 miles. Mirror Lake was warm which eliminated one unpleasant element, I am not sure I would have fared as well had the temperature been several degrees cooler. Second lap of the swim the water was choppy, so we knew the weather was changing and the wind picking up. I exited the water to somber grey skies.
So, the bike. This too had elements of good, bad and UGLY. Within minutes of getting settled on the bike we navigated some steep downhills and turns. I am a confident rider and my plan was to settle in, get my heart rate down and ride for a bit before worrying about starting to fuel. Within the first 10 miles, we encountered some awful headwind. By 20 of the 112 mile ride, I was close to being hypothermic as the driving rain had started, the wind had not let up and we were on a long downhill section towards the city of Keene. My teeth were chattering, my body shivering, and my hands shaking. I contemplated stopping in a port-a-potty to get out of the rain and wind and warm up. I regretted leaving my arm warmers and gloves in transition. I tried to remember if I left my cycling jacket in the car and was willing to risk disqualification if I saw Rob on the course and had him hand me my jacket (triathlon is an individual event and outside assistance is against the rules). I started to think about warm blankets, or tropical places and was thankful for every opportunity to ride uphill as this was a chance to generate some heat. I warmed up by 60 miles but that 40 or so miles took a lot more energy than I had expected. The route for IMLP was two loops through some beautiful areas; lots of trees, colourful rock - much of the ride along the Ausable River and its arms. The rain let up for sections but the triathlon gods were not kind with the wind. You would expect that a headwind on one side of the mountain would result in a tailwind on the other side, but this was not the case. Winds were from the front or side but seldom at your back pushing you along. Second loop of the bike was warmer with less rain but the same wind. The last few hills towards Lake Placid were easy to tick off as they were named. First I encountered Goldilocks, followed by Mama Bear, then Baby Bear, and finally Papa Bear which as you can imagine was the worst of the four. Once you conquered Papa, you just had a few more kms and smaller climbs until you were cruising through ironman central in downtown Lake Placid.
The total distance to cover in under 17 hours is 140.6 miles or 226 km. The majority of this is on the bike so there are rest periods where you are going downhill at such speed that it is pointless to pedal. There is no rest on the run. It’s just you and your feet pounding the pavement for thousands of steps. There is something magical that happens in the last mile or so of an ironman marathon though. In that last mile, suddenly your feet don’t hurt quite as much, your breathing becomes easier, your mind clearer, and your mood generally happier or at least headed towards happiness in the anticipation that you can stop moving soon. The booming announcer, bright lights and red carpet of the finish chute welcome you into that place of relief. The clock showed 13:21 as I crossed and I was ok with that. It was not my best, it was a far cry from the 11:50 goal I started with, but it was not my worst; it was ok given how my day went. I was in tears of both relief and grief when I found Rob. Yes, I had finished my 11th ironman but I was shattered that I had missed my goal by so much. In my post race fog, I had not calculated how long it had taken me to shuffle with hundreds of other neoprene clad bodies down the swim chute to start. My official finish time was 12:55:45. Still an hour plus beyond my goal time but registered as less disastrous in my tired brain. I had been 52nd in my age group exiting the swim, moved up to 14th on the bike and held that position through to the end of the run. In looking at my stats, I was still passing people on the run despite feeling like I was hardly moving at times.
Overall, I had a good swim, a longer than usual bike but not a terrible run as I ran the distance in 4 hours 34 minutes. Yes, I finished but after doing several of these, that is no longer the only objective. I know I can do better.