April 2012, Backyard Burn, I'm turning out crowd-pleasing ten minute miles when a wild root appears. I choose Stumble-and-Fall attack. It's not very effective.
The doctor predicts I will be better in 2 weeks. He is wrong by 2.5 months.
Six weeks before race day, my wife asks, "If I can get a refund on the hotel, will you consider not going to Lake Placid?"
"Are you kidding? This is Ironman, baby."
The water was cool-to-cold, so I lined up in my cheapo wetsuit right in the center, superhero style. The gun went off and a hockey fight broke out. 10 minutes later I passed a group of people calling for an ambulance. Not a good start for the day, but I think the guy ended up being okay.
I escaped the swim with a cut on my neck, three face punches, two dunkings, and an uncountable number of kicks. A few times, my right hand, left hand, and both feet came down on human body parts in succession. I was swimming on rubber.
I was the world's biggest Plinko chip until I found the guide wire running from buoy to buoy. After that I just held the line and let people bounce off of me. The world's fattest guardrail.
Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes (or so)
The bike course is distinguishable from my training regimen in this way: There are zero 30 mile climbs in my basement, and the wind does not blow in my face down there for 3 hours at a time.
The course climbs out of town for, I don't know, 10 miles. Then it drops off of a cliff so steep you can smell the brakes burning and the underwear filling up. This hill is ten miles long and the only merciful part on the course.
After that, it was pretty flat for a while, running next to a pretty stream. The stream runs in the same direction as the race, so that means it's downhill. And it was so clear you could count the trout. So I counted trout.
It warmed up in the afternoon and eventually we made the turn where downhill turns into uphill and downwind turns into upwind. And there are 26 miles to get back to town.
The ambulances started showing up and the stream disappeared. I started counting ambulances. When it got to six, I told myself, "If it gets to ten, I'll re-evaluate my race strategy." It got to ten really, really fast.
The new strategy is to put in the least effort possible, which turns out to be quite a lot at Lake Placid.
A couple of hours later, I made it back to town and started the second loop, which was much like the first only much, much slower.
Time: 7 hours and 59 minutes (or so)
I did some quick math. My watch said 9:40 (or so). Great, only 6:20 left for the marathon. I saw my wife in the transition. She didn't know I already had ice cubes in my boonie hat. I couldn't tell her that my legs wouldn't run.
"I'll be back at midnight."
"No you won't"
"I'll be back in six hours."
And I pretended to trot away.
You can look up the run profile, if you want, but you have to see it to understand. At least I did. I didn't understand at all.
It goes downhill for six miles. Then it goes uphill for seven miles. Then it goes downhill for seven miles, and back up. The 0.2 miles of the Olympic oval are flat.
I started to walk as soon as I cleared my fan club's line-of-sight. I was overheated, bad. I had ice in my hat. I had been pouring water on my head and back for hours. I couldn't even trot the downhills.
Out of gas. 25 miles to go. 6 hours. 15 minute miles. I'm 30 minutes short. Apollo 13 style.
Check the math.
Check it again.
Wait a minute.
It's only 5 o'clock. Is that right?
8 hour bike. 2 hours for swim and transition. Sunbaked head.
7 hours. 25 miles. 15 minute miles. Zero energy.
"Can you walk 25 miles on these legs?"
"I don't know"
"Can you walk 13?"
"Can you walk 6... there's always volunteers at the turnaround."
"Okay six. No more."
"A lot of people are being carted off."
"A couple of them look like DC Tri."
On mile 15, I caught a fellow walker from Brooklyn named Maureen.
At 11:21 pm, I crossed the line to cheers I could not hear.
Someone tell me why I just signed up for that?
My race report is coming soon but unfortunately I was a victim of the carnage you speak of when medical pulled me off the course at mile 16 on the run...tough day out there mate, congrats on battling through and finishing!
I'll be back next year to give it another go. I was surprised the heat got so many people. Almost got me.
At some point, this race turned into a biology experiment.
lol great race report.
funny how everyone during an IM is doing the calculations on how much time things will take, which makes it even tougher to do this after being out in the sun for 8+ hours that basic math seems hard at times.
to answer why you signed up for the race after hearing this?
its because you hear about how tough this race is that makes you want to do it. if it was guaranteed that you would finish no matter what, then where would the challenge be.
good luck next year.
The pokemon reference at the beginning was the best intro to a race report EVER.
Ironman rarely ever plays out the way that we envision them prior to the start. That's the beauti of them. Shit happens and you adjust. Way to hang tough Brad.
Rest up and train hard over the offseason. I'm going to need for you to pull me up the hills of Poolsville again.
Hee-larious! I'll definitely have to keep your good humor in mind as I make my first IM attempt at LP next year. My view is, the closer I come to 17 hours, the better chances I'll have of spending some quality time with Mike Reilly.
Great race. Congrats!
When they know you're going to finish in the dark, they make you wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces so you don't get run over by a car.
I found an extra one on the side of road and put it on.
After the race, still in the chute, this skinny guy with an intense look on his face comes up and says, "Hi, I'm Andy."
"Hi, I'm Brad."
"Can I ask you a favor," he said, "Can I have one of your necklaces?"
"Sure, no problem." I gave him the pink one. Haha!
So we chatted about the course and whatnot for a minute. He agreed that the wind was tough. And it occurred to me at the time that it was strange for a racer to still be in the chute asking for a necklace, but whatever, a purple gorilla could have been talking to me at that point and I would have accepted it.
It wasn't until I walked away that I realized that Andy was Andy Potts. And he was there to mingle with the late finishers.
And I was one of them.
How awesome. That goes above and beyond the tradition of the winners greeting the late finishers at the finish line.
Thanks so much for posting... of course, I'm a climber and my big fear is steep downhills on the bike. Please reassure me that "a cliff so steep" is an exaggeration... ??? Is it worse than Savageman? And, were there any bike crashes?
I didn't see any crashes on that part...
I haven't been to Savageman, but trust me, this is a steep, long, curving hill.
I literally smelled brakes burning. I did not actually smell shorts filling up. That was an exaggeration.
There are two main steep parts to the same hill. The top is steep and straight, so no big deal, you can basically just cut loose if nobody's in front of you. The road is smooth the whole way down. I only saw one pothole, which I uncharacteristically missed (twice).
The hill flattens out for maybe a half mile before the second, winding steep part. It's not like I panicked or anything, but it's steep enough that I know I was breaking 40 mph while feathering the brakes.
I'd recommend surveying it before race day. And keep in mind, if you are a mid-pack swimmer, it will be crowded.
Congratulations and thanks for the read! Looking forward to it next year!
Great post and congratulations!
Excellent write-up! It was great seeing you out there on-course. I remember seeing you on the second loop, trying to figure out what your pace would be to get to 11:59 -- but that it looked like you had it under control.
@cocha, the descent is pretty straightforward, and not as technical as what you see in Deep Creek. As said above, the main descent is in two parts - a mile section or so that's pretty straight, so you can tuck and go, and after a 1.5 mile slight roller section along the Cascade Lakes, a 4-mile section with twists and turns towards the end, but even the tighter turns are relatively wide (like Falls Road to McArthur) It's possible to bomb the descent on the second loop (when the bike course is less crowded) and barely touch your brakes. I didn't see any crashes on the downhill, but did pass one guy who hit the deck on a flat section (errant bottle?). If you were DNF'ing the bike, it probably was from the heat, not wrecking.
Yup, I think we passed 3 times out there. Thanks for the encouragement!
After I figured out that I was walking each mile at 15 minutes plus or minus 5 seconds, the math got really easy.
When I got silver dollar sized blisters on the balls of both feet at the same time, I had to recalculate how much time I could spend looting a hardware store for duct tape.
Luckily it didn't come to that.
What kind of pedals do you use? A friend had the same giant blister issue at IMFL and thought it might have resulted from his Speedplays (or at least they were a contributing factor).
I use Look Keo, as recommended by my NTP mentor a few years ago.
This was clearly a shoe/foot/sock thing combined with the fact that I was walking hills instead of running flats.
Next year - hiking boots.
Brad- great write-up! I may have video of you finishing. Despite how spent everyone is (spectator and athlete), the whole town comes back to watch the athletes cross the line- the atmosphere was more intense this year than I've ever seen it. Truly amazing!!
The descent in Lake Placid is 'bigger and longer' than in DCL. There are some steep sections in DCL for sure but they're more technical with some tight turns so you build up speed but have to brake pretty quickly. In Lake Placid, the grade isn't as steep but there are less turns so you'll build up enough speed to hit Mach 1. I think my max speed on race day was 47.1mph so, as Brad suggested, pack an extra pair of shorts in your T1 bag... you may need 'em! ha
As for the crashes, I saw a few but those were simple user error (bike handling on the hairpin out & back turns) or faulty water bottle exchanges (took out Alejandro last year too). I only saw one crash on the descents and it was the first big hill heading out of town by the ski jumps.
Now that we've all scared you a bit, don't concern yourself too much with this aspect of the race. Trust in your training and you'll be just fine. If possible, get up there prior to race day for a training weekend as it pays big dividends to preview this particular course. I'll be looking to put together a trip or two next spring / summer so stay tuned...
If you do happen to have video, I'd like to get it if possible.
I ran into a friend of yours on the course. He saw my DC Tri shirt and said, "Do you know Matt Ferguson?"
I said I know his name, but I don't know if I know him personally.
He said, "Yah, he's a tall, skinny, Beavis looking character..."
So there's that.