Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lake Placid Ironman race report (my 1st IM)

On July 26th, I participated in my first Ironman at Lake Placid. If I was told 5 years ago that I would swim 2.4miles, bike 112 and run 26.2 miles in one day, I would have laughed it off. It was an absolutely wild day that I will remember for the rest of my life. This is also my first race report, so beware..

4am - The 3 alarms I set start going off. (never too careful) I probably only slept for about 3 hours total. I smiled at Kate, shook my head and started moving.

I ate as much of my bagel as possible and sipped on my Starbucks ice coffee that I bought the day before. I had a nervous stomach but was able to eat around 3/4 of the bagel and throw down an Ensure.

5am - I walked over to site with Kate, Mom, Tony and fellow GSTC member, Dave C. The body markers are ready to go, so I go to one with the shortest line. A nice women with a southern drawl puts my numbers on me. I ask her to borrow the marker for a second so Kate can put a K on my wrist. The K is so whenever the negative thoughts start to creep in, I would have something to help motivate me forward.

Its amazing how quiet, but electric the crowd is. There is something in the air...

6am - I check my transition bags and put my nutrition on my bike. I pump up the tires and do a ridiculous once over/bike check. Basically the equivalence of kicking the tires.

630am - I give everyone a hug and walk over to the water. As I walk to the water I am smiling and at ease. I am pretty nervous, but it feels good. The adrenaline is pumping.

650am - The pros go off. The crowd is buzzing, AC/DC is playing and I cannot believe I am here. I am standing in the water and notice how many people are staying pretty far back from starting line. Basically there is a large group at the starting line, a big hole in the middle and a large group in the back. My intentions were to start about 2/3rds back, but in a spontaneous decision, I said screw it! I swam to the to the front group.

700am The cannon goes off and I am swimming into a mass of people. The water temperature rises, waves start happening and body parts are everywhere. I had read how rough the swim start can be, but I fortunately didn't have that big of an issue. I found that as long as I kept moving forward, I seemed to be in more control. I did get clubbed a couple times and kicked once pretty hard, but it wasn't too bad.

The first turn definitely sucked. Just a wall of people, treading water and kicking like frogs. One very annoying thing that did happen a lot, was people grabbing your legs and kind of pull themselves forward. After the 3rd or 4th time, I started getting a little defensive and increased the cadence of my kick. It got the point across.

The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful. Long, but not much happening. I did look for some feet to draft, but the pace never felt right. So I basically zig zagged a lot.

Swim Time - 1:14:42
Goal was 1:10, so close enough!!

Running to transition I see a large group with bright orange shirts that say, Team Cavanaugh. Its my crew and they are going nuts!!! I smile, throw a wave and I am off to get on my bike.

Transition to bike
I am pretty much a minimalist when it comes to transitions, so I am in and out of transition tent rather quickly. The transition tent is kind of gross, so I am very thankful for my quick T1 time.

I run to my bike and I am off.

The Bike -

In cycling terms, I am still a relatively new cyclist and I never really know what to expect. Some days I ride with the front of the pack and other days I am in the land of mediocrity. I got on the bike and did feel pretty good on the first 7 miles of climbing. Its not a crazy grade, but you are just always going up. My HR was jacked from the excitement, but I wasn't pushing it. After the climb there is a 7 mile descent. It can only be described as one word, SICK!!!. My top speed was 46.8 miles and I was loving it. Definitely in control, but fast enough to get the blood pumping.

The next 35 miles I kept a solid pace, but was starting to notice dehydration might be an issue. I had already drank 3 bottles of water and I was still thirsty. I was making a concerted effort to bump up the water.

The last 11 miles of the first loop are a long steady grind back into town. Living at sea level, hills can be a challenge. During the climb, I was pumped to see my buddy Dave C. He looked great. His cadence was high and he looked calm and collected. I was still concerned with my hydration, so I asked him if he had gone to the bathroom yet. (Yes, I pee while riding my bike) He responded that he had and he felt good. We talk for a couple more seconds and then I push off. I yelled back, See you on the run!

As I biked through the "down town" of LP, I was searching for my family. And there it was again, the sea of Orange. Give another big smile, hammer down a little and shoot up a small hill. There are people everywhere and it is so electric. It kind of feels like the craziness of the Tour de France. (At least in my head) I am so impressed by how loud and pumped up the crowd is. As I pass by the Olympic center I see my parents. The smiles they had on their faces will forever be burned in my mind.
I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

So back out of town and up the hills, again... I have a few quick conversations with fellow competitors and get to the top of the hills. Back down the huge descent. Again I am plus 45mph and feeling pretty good. Towards the end of the descent, I say a rider layed out in the road. There are EMTs and State Troopers there, but the person is not moving at all. Scary stuff.

Once you get through the downhills, there is a nice flat section where you can push at or around 22mph. I was passed quite a bit on the first lap, but I am now starting to get those people back. One thing with flat portions, that happen at every race, is drafting.... Drives me crazy. (Most Tri races are non drafting and the IM is no exception) Several packs shot by in peloton fashion. I used to get really pissed and start to hammer the pedals, but I would burn out. Not an option in this race.

At this point in the race, there was no question about it, I was really dehydrated and still hadn't peed. Not good....

During an out and back portions of the course I see another buddy Dave L. He was roughly 15 minutes ahead of me. (at least I thought that to be the case) He is a much stronger cyclist and so I was surprised to see how close I was. My cycling was definitely below where I had hoped it to be, so when I saw him, I knew he had to be having a tough day too.

The final 11 miles back into town on the second loop REALLY sucked. I still hadn't gone to the bathroom and the sweat was pouring off me. I am in my easiest gear, but still feel I am pushing really hard. All I could think was, get me off this friggin bike. To add to the fun, there is a pretty strong head wind and the humidity has continued to climb. I finally get to the last hill, which is stupid steep, I jump out of the saddle and push to the top.

I rip through the downtown again and see my family/friends. I throw another smile, this one forced and head into the transition area.

Total Time 6:19:29
Goal Under 6 - Still a little frustrated with that

Transition Tent
I cruise through transition without any issues. I am excited to get out and run, but can't help to think, "I have to run an F'n Marathon now... What am I thinking!" I hit the road and quickly find my family and friends. The orange shirts are awesome!! I realize after running for a couple of minutes I still have my bike junk in my jersey pocket. I see a trash can and toss it all. Probably $10 worth of stuff, but not worth carrying for 26.2 miles.

The spectators are so awesome! I am feeling pumped and just hammering along. I get to the first mile marker and check the watch, 7 minutes.... I was so jacked up, I ran a 7 minute mile! Really, really dumb move. Complete rookie mistake. I quickly get myself in check and slow the pace way down.

I feel good, but still have not peed. I don't mean to keep bringing this up, but it had been about 8 hours. A very obvious sign of severe dehydration. I was pretty nervous I might pass out at some point. I immediately started taking in water and flat cola at every mile. The cola tasted so goooood!

For the next 11 miles I was running around a 9 minute pace and feeling good. I saw Dave C and found out our buddy Dave L had to pull out during the bike. Shortly after seeing Dave, I ran by another teammate Tom. Tom had a big smile, looked good and we both were moving forward.

The marathon portion you end up running through downtown quite a bit, so you get to see your "fans" several times. Every time I ran by them I made sure I smiled. I am so thankful for them being there, the least I could do was pretend that I felt good.

Right around mile 17 the wheels came off. I walked through a water station and when I tried to run again, my legs weren't having it. After a minute or so, they finally cooperated and I was able to push off. I continued to do this for the rest of the race. I remember thinking at mile 18 that at least I almost done. The funny thing was, I still had 8 more miles to go. Not really all that close.

Much like everything else with this race, experience with the run/walk goes a long way. When I would start to walk, I would put my hands on my hips and drag along. Meanwhile, other athletes were walking in stride and passing the dead weights such as myself. Yes, there is even strategy in walking....

It was really cool to see the pros while on the run. Granted they were on the second loop while I was on my first, but I was still out there with them.

I met some great people while out on the run. I found everyone to be extremely friendly and easy to talk with. Even though we were all in some pain, we still found the ability to laugh at ourselves and enjoy the day. One of the things that I love about triathlon is how honest it is. There is no hiding on the course. Your body is giving you feedback and you have to deal with it. There isn't another option.

When I saw Dave and Tom again, they too had been brought to a run/walk strategy. We all made the best of the situation and continued to move towards the finish line.

At mile 24 you pass through town for the final stretch before heading to the finish line. It was so awesome! My family and friends were going crazy. A buddy from the GSTC tri club was running down the sidewalk yelling, Paul! You are going to be an Ironman! I felt amazing.

As I ran into the Olympic rink towards the finish line, my legs felt lighter and the air seemed cooler. I saw the finish line and couldn't believe what I was about to do. I crossed the line at 12:16:49. Paul Cavanaugh, you are an Ironman!

Run 4:33:31
Goal Sub 4:00hrs - Who cares, I did it!!

The finish all seemed very surreal. A sweet volunteer asked me if I was ok and I remember replying, "I think so???" She walked with me so I could I have my "finishers" picture taken. I asked her where I could get some food and she walked me towards the tent. Again she asked me if I was ok before she left me to help with another athlete. I shook my head yes and thanked her for volunteering.

I went over to the food tent and saw some of the best looking pizza I had ever seen. I grabbed a slice and a water. I sat down, ate my pizza and just tried to take it all in. I almost felt like that the day didn't really just happen.

As I sat there a little dazed, I thought, What the hell am I doing??? I gotta find my family!!! It only took about 30 seconds thanks to the orange shirts. This part is a little grey for me. I hugged everyone and remember thinking, I hope I don't smell to bad! They all looked so happy and excited.

We grabbed my gear/bike and started the 3/4 of a mile walk back to the hotel. I cannot remember the conversations, but do know I felt amazing.

After a quick shower, we went out to dinner where I tried to have a celebratory beer. A Saranac Pale Ale. I wasn't able get it down, but it felt great to just order a beer.

I unfortunately I found out that my other friend Dave C had to be brought to the medical tent and was given 4 IVs. It really sucked that both Dave C and Dave L could not cross the line. Its hard to celebrate when your buds have had misfortune. They are both kick as triathletes and they are going to come roaring back.

So it is finally done. I am going to take it easy for a little while and enjoy myself. 7 months of training for one day seems crazy, but crossing that finish line is absolutely worth it! I cannot stress how thankful I am for Kate, my family and friends. The support I received throughout was amazing.

On a closing note - I am signed up for next year and I finally peed.....:)