Ironman Lake Placid 2011 Race Report
We left for Lake Placid at 3:30 in the morning on Thursday July 21. We had hoped to be out of the door by 3 but that’s how it goes when you are taking a family vacation. We planned for a 12 hour drive and hoped to get my ironman registration done by 4 that afternoon. On the way, we stopped at a lakeside picnic area for lunch and watched the boats on Lake Erie. We encountered some road construction on the way and that caused us to miss the 4 pm registration by about 15 minutes so we went ahead and checked in to our cabin. The temperature Thursday was in the upper 80s and windy, not unlike Ohio. This was not at all typical for the Adirondacks. Upon entering our cabin, we discovered that it did not have air conditioning and most places except for the fancy hotels did not have AC either due to the normally cooler dryer weather. Needless to say our first trip into town was to the hardware store to buy a couple of fans! After we got settled in the cabin, I received an unfortunate phone call from my sister-in-law that my brother Mike had died. I decided to do the race on Sunday anyway and as it turned out the funeral was not until Tuesday. Mike had suffered a series of strokes about 5 years earlier and his health was going down hill. He was only 54 years old.
By Friday the weather had started cooling off. In the morning, I met up with Luke and Michelle at the beach on Mirror Lake and we swam the course. If felt nice and easy. I got registered, picked up my race packet and we went putt-putt golfing at Pirates Cove. We had a good time but Nathan got scared by some skeletons on the course.
On Saturday we made it a very easy relaxing day. In the morning, we drove part of the bike course, played in one of the beautiful trout streams and drove to the top of White Face Mountain, the site of the Olympic skiing during the 1980 Winter Olympics. We had a really good time, it was super windy and you could look down on the village of Lake Placid and see all the way to Vermont and Canada. At noon, I checked my bike and gear bags in to the transition area. In the afternoon, we took a leisurely train ride from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake. The train ride gave me a good opportunity to kick back and relax. Got to bed by 9:30 pm and stared at the ceiling for awhile until finally falling asleep.
Woke at 3:30 Sunday morning for my pre-race oatmeal. Got out the door by 5:00 am and took a shuttle bus into Lake Placid. Checked my bike special needs bag that contained my lunch for the day (tuna sandwich, Doritos, and Coke) and then we all headed over to the swim start. The atmosphere was electric. So much anticipation! After having family prayer, I slipped on my wetsuit and headed to the swim start and made my way into the water. The cannon went off at exactly 7:00 am and I had seeded myself at what I thought looked to be about the middle of the pack and as close to the course buoys as I could get. I knew this position would be "survival of the fittest" swimming for the first couple minutes, you could hardly move. Some people were yelling "no kicking" because it was almost impossible to get into a steady swimming motion. I got whacked in the head a few times and almost had my goggles kicked off twice. This swim was much more physical than the swim at Ironman Wisconsin in 2007. But once you got moving, it was just incredible to be surrounded by swimmers on all sides and literally swept along. The second loop thinned out a little bit and I was able to settle into a good rhythm. I felt like I was having a pretty good swim. I finished the 2.4 mile swim in 1:21.
Ran up the chute through the crowds to the swim to bike changing tent, put on my helmet, bike shoes. A volunteer got my bike for me and I was out onto the bike course for the first 56 mile loop. The course started out of Lake Placid with some small climbs followed by a very fast descent into the town of Keene. My max speed at this point was 47 mph. Then came a long steady climb from the town of Jay to Haselton. At this point, I had a 20 mph average. At mile 38 on the bike, there was a spectator with one of those big silly foam hands by the side of the road and some riders were slapping the hand. I was in a good mood and decided to do the same but in a split second, I lost my balance going uphill at maybe 8 mph and crashed. I fell on my left side and my left hand got crushed between the handlebar and the road. I quickly picked my bike up. The guy with the silly hand said he was really sorry. I told him it was not his fault as I surveyed the damage. My front wheel was out of true and rubbing the front brake, so I opened the front caliper. But on my left hand, the tip of my thumb was almost ripped off, chunks were tore off my other knuckles, and my pinky finger had about a 2 inch long deep gash to the bone and was bleeding a lot. I had a couple of paper towels so I wrapped it and kept going. I told one of the other athletes what happened and he provided that age old wisdom "Live and learn." I couldn’t agree more. I figured I had to stick with the plan and make my bike split really count as it is my strongest sport. That meant both keeping up a good pace and being smart with my nutrition. I continued to eat on the bike as planned for the first loop and stopped at the end of the first loop and met the family to eat my lunch. While I ate my tuna sandwich, Daphne hosed off my bloody wound with a water bottle and got some clean napkins. Then I headed off for the second loop. I stopped at the first water stop for an extra 5 minutes or so and got a volunteer to help apply band aids on my hand. I felt good on the second lap and pushed the pace although I could not tell how fast I was going because I had lost my wheel speed sensor magnet during the crash. I forced myself to keep eating…Hammer bar, peanut butter and jelly, etc. up until mile 90 and I kept drinking water and Perform up until the end of the bike. I finished the 112-mile bike ride with an 18 mph average which was a bit slower than I had hoped, mostly due to the time spent dealing with the hand.
At bike to run transition, I grabbed my run bag and that’s when things changed. For some reason, the pinky finger decided to start bleeding really good again. Apparently being in the aero position on the bike prevented a lot of the bleeding. Several volunteers said "you need to go to the medical tent." Actually, I had to agree. Although I knew it was going to add time overall to the day, I did not want to run a marathon with my hand bleeding all over the place. So I went to the medical tent. As they pulled my file while I sat on a cot and waited I looked around, and it was like a MASH unit in there. There were various types of injuries, including the lady on the cot next to me, who had crashed on a descent. Nothing broken, but just some real bad road rash (by the way, she ended up passing me later on the run). Others were hooked up to IV’s for dehydration and various other things. I felt pretty lucky as they just Steri-wrapped my finger so I could start the run and gave me a plastic bag with ice to ice it. The crowd support at Ironman Lake Placid is just incredible. Cow bells and signs everywhere and people yelling your name (since it is printed on your bib). I was amazed at how good I felt starting the run in large part because I got the nutrition right on the bike. I decided to hold back for the first half of the marathon and give whatever I had left at mile 18. I added ice to the bag for my hand at every aid station and started drinking Coke over ice the second half. I still could not believe how good I felt for the second half of the marathon. Tired yes, and did not turn the legs much over 10-minute miles but never felt in danger of not finishing. After doing a few quick calculations in my head at mile 20, I knew that a sub 12 hour finish was out of reach due to the extra time added as a result of the crash. But for the crash I would have been very close to my goal sub 12-hour finish. So at that point I decided to enjoy the moment and just finish the race happy to be alvive DOING IT. Ran the marathon in 4:26.
Rounded the corner in downtown Lake Placid and sprinted through the finishing chute in the Olympic oval to the roar of the crowd and Daphne and the kids screaming my name and crossed the line overjoyed that this part of my journey was over with a total time of 12:26:01. Considering the added challenge of the day I was very pleased with this result! [As a follow up: I revisited the medical tent upon finishing and, check out this blessing: I had a volunteer medical staffer examine my left pinkie finger, he turned out to be an orthopedic hand surgeon from the University of Rochester and (I kid you not) his name was Dr. David Mitten! He said the cut severed the central slip tendon on top of the finger, that’s why I could not (and still can’t) straighten it and it’s not just a trivial injury. So it looks like surgery will be in my future]