IM Lake Placid 2011 Race Report
Disclaimer: long, not proofread, and full of TMI. Read at your own risk.
I decided to do Ironman Lake Placid over one year ago. I don’t really have any heart moving reasons. I just saw it as the next step in the sport that captivated me 5 years ago and as a nice personal goal. No bets, no drunken i-phone registrations at happy hour, nothing to prove to anyone. Just me, three sports, and 140.6 miles. I thought I was doing it to cross the finish line and hear someone say “Alejandro Escobar, you are an Ironman”. Little did I know that it was the journey, and not the destination what made this experience so memorable.
My official training plan began 6 months before race day, the week after I got back from a wonderful 25-day vacation in New Zealand. I had kept in really good shape during the off-season, and did a lot of hiking and bike touring in New Zealand so I had a solid foundation to start.
Most of my training went without any problems. No real injuries, bad colds, or anything that forced me to skip any long bike rides or runs. There are always a few hiccups here and there but I would say that I did 95% of my scheduled workouts. So coming into tapering I felt that I was physically ready, which also kept me very calmed.
1. Pre-Race Week
I drove up to Placid on Wednesday. It was an uneventful but fun drive thanks to Bryan Frank’s company, and a great lunch stop with Karen Willard and Janie Hayes. Janie was all jokes trying to get me so register for Coeur d'Alene 2012 right there and then.
Thursday was really hectic. I woke up really early, I swam about one loop of the course, ran for about 40 minutes, and immediately got in the car to go to Burlington, VT to pick up my parents. Made it back to Lake Placid with just enough time to drop them off at their hotel and go check-in.
Friday and Saturday were tough. I was really nervous and felt that I was getting sick. I wasn’t really, I was just really freaking out. I think I almost got voted off the house because I was really a nutcase. I kept saying that I was really worried about things outside my control. I knew my training would carry me to the finish line, but I was worried about things you can’t control.
2. Race Day
I had a really good night before the race, which is odd since I can’t sleep the night before any races. Go figure.
That day I was actually not as nervous and anxious as I had been the previous two days. Everything before the race went as planned and before I knew it I was in the water getting ready to start.
I had heard so many horrible stories about the IM swim starts that I was mentally ready for a split-lip. It ended up being really easy. I started really wide (to the right of the course) and not too far from the start line, and stayed wide and had almost a clear swim for the whole 2.4 miles. Yes, there was some contact at the beginning and the turn buoys, but nothing different than your local triathlon. My swim was much better that I had anticipated or hoped for. I was really happy at that point.
Ironman transitions are just awesome. You get your bag and volunteers start helping you as if you were a baby. It rocks. I was in and out of there in no time…well, no time considering that for 112 miles of bike riding I wanted a bandana, sunscreen, bike gloves, socks, etc. It was still a faster T1 than I had anticipated. I was still really happy at that point.
I’m not going to describe the IM Lake Placid bike course for you. You can read a gazillion blogs about it, but I will just say that it’s gorgeous. The first 40ish miles of my bike ride were great. I was holding back a bit, having a great time, moving really well, following my nutrition plan,…just having fun and a good race. Then disaster hit. At a bottle exchange, as I reached to grab a bottle with my right arm extended and my eyes fixed on the bottle I found myself flying over my bike. According to the volunteer that helped me after the crash I hit a bottle that someone had missed and it was rolling down the hill. Flew over the handlebars and landed with my right hip/groin on the bars. I got up and was surrounded by volunteers making sure I was OK, my bike was OK, and helping me find all my gels, bars, glasses, etc. The crash managed to take both my bike computer and garmin out of commission. The bike computer was totally gone, and the garmin wristband broke. I put the garmin in my pocket and I flew blind for the rest of the bike ride. (disclaimer here: I have my garmin set-up to show time and average speed when in bike mode, and I use the bike computer for current speed and cadence)
Back to the fall. I got back on the bike but the pain was not the usual wipe-out pain. But what was I supposed to do, quit? Not an option. I just fought through it.
A few miles later (mile 48), BOOM, back wheel tube blew-out. I stopped and very calmly took a look at it. What I saw was a tire with the rubber detached from the bead, about 3 inches in length. No dollar bill can fix that one. I had put a new tire in my special needs bag so I was hoping that if I put a new tube with just enough air I could make it to mile 56. That didn’t work, as soon as I added a bit of air the second tube of the day blew-out. So I just took the tired out and stood on the side of the road asking for a new tire for about half an hour. But of course, who rides with an extra clincher just in case? So after about 30 minutes a tech support car saw me and stopped. The guys were very helpful, got a new tire from the car and change it. I was chatting with them through the whole process and the guy pumping the tire got too excited and blew-out the tube (that is tube #3 for those counting). So new tube, wheel on, and I’m off. Silver lining: I was able to eat a whole bar and bottle of energy drink as I waited.
The rest of the bike was uneventful. Just pedaling through pain, not knowing how fast I was going hoping for the best. I thought I was making good progress and the pain was manageable so I was not happy but still had my game face on.
The second I got to T2 and dismounted I knew there was something wrong. When I straightened my body a sharp pain in the groin/pelvic area hit me. My thought was: great, I’m done. Went to the tent, sat down, did my T2 routine as planned and when I stood up the sharp pain came back. At this point all my goals, dreams, and expectations about time were long gone and there was only one number that mattered: 17 hours.
I began running hoping that the pain would just go away. My legs felt strong, my nutrition was good, I think I had it. The pain was hard, but I was able to run most of the first 13ish mile. Pain was getting worst so running was a better way to be done with the race sooner. But when I hit the big downhill out of town at the hald point the groin/hip pain got unbearable and had to start walking, then limping. I thought about quitting at mile 20ish when I was an ambulance on the side of the road. But I kept going, I new I had plenty of time to stumble to the finish line if I had to.
I ran the last 400 meters just on pure adrenalin. Crossed the finished line and went straight to the medical tent. Finisher pictures, hat and T-shirt didn’t matter. There was a lot of swelling and pain and the doctor said it looked like a bad hip flexor strain or rupture. They gave me ice and sent me home but asked me to see a doctor the next day if I was still hurting.
3. Post Race:
(What happened in the next 12 hours is not my proudest moment, but I’m going to be honest and please don’t crucify me for sharing. I just want to be honest about this whole experience) I got out of the finishing area and will admit that I was extremely disappointed. I hugged Sandy and cried a bit. I think that my conditioning was really good but my luck was not. I felt like I had wasted 6 months of my life for nothing. I wasn’t even that tired, just in pain. I called my coach but didn’t really want to hear his kind words. All I could think of were what ifs. Got to the house, told the story and got very nice words from my fellow triathletes. I still didn’t want any of it. They were all celebrating and I didn’t feel happy. I was borderline annoyed. The finished medal said I was an Ironman but my heart didn’t. Went to bed very depressed. I woke up in no better mind set than the night before. I didn’t even care to go to buy finisher merchandise.
***Skip this paragraph if you are squeamish***
As Monday morning progressed the pain was getting worse. Then I took a shower and saw that my right testicle and whole front of the hip was swollen and bruised so I went to the ER and they thought I had a ruptured testicle. They sent me by ambulance (no siren) to another bigger hospital for an ultrasound and in case I needed surgery. The doctors there also asked for X-rays and thought, based on the bruising and type of swelling, I could have a leaking femoral artery. They also called an urologist to check me out. After some tests and a couple doctors, the news was good. No leaking artery, the testicle was just badly hurt but not ruptured, but they think the ligaments in my hip overstretched during the fall. (they described it as what happens to women when they give birth, I’m still trying to understand what that means)
It’s Wednesday. I’m back home after a painful trip back to the DC area. I’m still disappointed but I’m trying to be less emotional about the whole thing. Training for this race introduced me to some incredible people and solidified some old friendships. I am extremely lucky to have found so many fun, smart, talented, and overall nice comrades in suffering, sherpas, and training buddies. If I had the option of having a perfect race but not having gotten to know these people, I would NEVER take it in a million years.
But I’m human and I need revenge. So that's why on Monday evening, less than 24 hours after limping through the finish line, laying on the sofa icing and elevating my injured ‘parts’, I registered for Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2012.
Great Report good training and bad luck enjoy the rest of the summer let all the injuries go away and you will have your sweet revenge on 2012
Damn. It really took some balls to finish under those circumstances (okay, someone had to do it!).
Great report. I've had some tough races so far this year too and it can be tough to avoid being hard on yourself, even if there was nothing you could do differently. Best you can do is rest, step back, evaluate,and move forward with a new goal. Glad to see that part is working out!
I had always heard that IMLP was a ball-buster, but damn.
I'll second what Brian said. Way to show great perserverance! I owe you more than one beer at the next HH. Oh, if you need to know anything about CDA, just pick my brain.
I'm totally impressed! You stared down death and kicked his butt! Awesome race. And what an amazing swim: 1:06... I need to get swim lessons from you!