This is long.. but nearly as wrong as the race.. enjoy reading!
Ironman Lake Placid was my first Ironman and as anyone who has trained for a long race, can tell you it’s a journey. A journey of grace, strength, self discovery, personal limitations, and friendship. I was lucky enough to share much of this journey with 3 amazing women.
To fully understand the journey I have to start at the beginning. In September 2008, four intelligent and sane women contemplated doing an Ironman and if we did, which one? We looked at courses, locations and personal schedules and it looked like Lake Placid would work for everyone. So in a moment of solidarity and weakness (I was weary from work travel and Nation’s Triathlon Volunteer co-coordinator duties) I sent my Community Fund money in for an Ironman Lake Placid. I recommend this option for the races that fill up fast (or on site). The cost of the donation was comparable to the hotel room, travel and the time off work, and I could deduct it from my taxes.
Now I was going to do an Ironman, but was too scared to tell my family! I spent the next 3 months coming up with a training schedule that would begin right after the first of the year (7 months!) and the courage to tell and invite my parents.
The training schedule was busy with multiple double workouts a week and long hours. Coupled with monthly work travel, a second job coaching swimming, non-triathlon friends, a new boyfriend and a unplanned move, I learned the importance of Planning, Perspective, and Priorities, a philosophy of Margie Shapiro’s, which I quickly adopted to maintain balance.
After all, what was my goal? TO HAVE FUN! The training was the longest and among the best part of the journey. We had several training weekends planned, one in Placid, and one in Deep Creek. I had a great swim group at Eastern Market, AJ was an excellent bike partner and I enjoyed the quietness of my long runs on Wednesday nights. Ryan helped by making meals on long training days and I felt like I was maintaining some balance in life, making it to book club and the occasional happy hour.
Training was going well. I was tired and hungry all the time but was feeling good. I had just finished a great half Ironman in New Hampshire when, with 6 weeks to go I developed a horrible pain in my left quad on my long run. I thought it was just a knot, but even with a week of rest and less mileage it still hurt. So it was off to the doctor, where I heard a horrible thought “stress fracture.” My first thought was “WHAT.. My bones are strong, I drink so much milk, I moo!” (I am from Wisconsin after all). My second thought was “this is not a good detour on this journey.” It was another week before I could get an MRI, so I prayed for the best as I continued to ease up on training. Thankfully it wasn’t a stress fracture, but a bad IT strain from a weak butt! I was looking the best I had ever looked, how could I have a weak butt? I had to taper workouts due to the pain and defiantly learned a bit about strength and personal limitations.
I was blessed to be very busy with work, a car problem, and a construction contractor at my house the weeks leading up to Lake Placid and therefore didn’t have much time to worry about the race. I also had the amazing support and help from Ryan. It didn’t phase me when the race wheels I had requested were given away, and I ended up with 808’s instead (a faster wheel, so a mistake to my benefit!) What did worry me was somehow I now had a 23-11 cassette! Yeah not sure what happened to the 25-12 I had trained on, but it was no longer with me. This is what I was going to race on and this caused some worry!
Thankfully the house that Sara had gotten for us was very close to the start so I didn’t have to get up crazy early on race morning. I had a 4:30 am wake up call, but no complaining, my folks were up at 3am to get into Placid before the roads closed. Ryan had gotten up a little before me and when I turned on the light he was wearing a shirt that my sister had help him make. It said Sherpa on the front and “Go Aunt Kimberly Go” on the back. There was a swimmer, biker and runner that had been colored by my nephews and niece. He had a Captain one for me and a set for my parents too. My sister is my best friend but with 3 little kids, she wasn’t able to make the trip. This way she and the kids were definitely going to be with me all day! CRY #1.
I was pretty nervous, and could barely eat. I choked down half a bagel, a hard boiled egg and some orange juice. I grabbed my special needs bags, wetsuit, goggles, and water bottle and headed over to transition with the girls and Ryan. I stopped at my bike to pump up my fancy tires. Thanks to Collin’s help the day before I had figured out how to pump up the tires with the extender valve. I was a little freaked when the pump kept flying off, but took a deep breath, loosened the extender and the air went in! Dropped a peanut butter and jelly in my transition bag and was off to body marking.
The Volunteers at an Ironman are amazing! I had a 10 or 11 year old boy write my numbers on me. I thought it was pretty cool when he was done he asked me to sign his shirt, with my name and number. He even said “I like your name”… okay nerves calming a little more. As I headed to the swim start, I lost the girls, but Ryan was by my side and we saw my folks in a prime watching location. It had begun to rain, which made putting on a wet suit a little harder. With wetsuit on, I kissed and hugged my parents and Ryan and headed to the beach, running into Joe, Scott and Maureen on my way, I was going to be amongst many friends today. Once I entered the water, I was calm. Why I wasn’t worried about getting bashed in by the 2257 other people, I don’t know. I just felt at home, and ready to race!
Goal 1:00 Actual: 59:23 (2nd in age group!)
I started in the middle of the line 2 people in. I was very surprised that there was no real count down, so when the gun went off I was a little startled. I am normally a relatively considerate swimmer, but there were a lot of big guys in the water, and I knew if I didn’t swim over them, they’d swim over me, so over I went. Sorry! I got into a good pace, was feeling the draft and was surprised that it wasn’t too crowded. As I rounded the first turn (about ¼ way through) a dude punched me in the face. OUCH! Guess I wasn’t going to make it through without a few scrapes. It was tough to see the buoys on the turn back into shore, I later learned it was pouring and that may have been why. First loop complete and the clock read 28:40. Right on pace.
A short run on the beach and I was back in the water. I was feeling good, keeping my stroke long, not working too hard and I was able to swim on the cable for most of the second loop. Unfortunately there was someone who kept touching my feet the entire second loop… SO ANNOYING!! I had about 200 yards to go and I got a horrible knot in my right calf. The kind when you can’t even move your leg. I could see the clock and really wanted to finish in an hour so I kept pulling! I was on shore and the clock read 59:23!
Goal:10 Min Actual: 5.55
I had 2 very nice lady wetsuit strippers help me with my wetsuit and then I was off to run the ¼ mile to the gear bags and changing tent. On my way I say Sara, Ryan and Eric and Tom, who were working security. I grabbed my bag and ran into the tent. Because I was on the early side I had plenty of attention. 2 nice volunteers dressed me, fed me my peanut butter and jelly and put sunscreen on me. Did I mention the volunteers ROCKED?!?! The volunteers in the bike racking didn’t hear my number called so I got it myself and I was off.
Goal: 7:00 Actual: 7:04.34 (15.8 mph)
There is a big hill with a sharp turn right out of transition, the boys from the house were right there, and after the turn I saw my parents and Ryan, holding a poster of a picture of my nephews and niece in their swim, bike, run shirts! CRY #2
The first 6-7 miles are a slow uphill climb, and with the long ride ahead of me I tried to remember to keep it slow, since my adrenaline was so high. It was a number game, get my nutrition in and take it easy in my 23-11, it was going to be a lot tougher the second time around. It was raining very lightly as I started the decent down into Keene. I was too scared to look at my computer speed but man is that decent FUN! When I looked later I topped out at 46.1 mph.
I was feeling pretty good, and trying to workout the knot in the calf, with little luck. The thing about being a fast swimmer means, a lot of people passed me, a few even stopped to chat. I hit the out and back, where I dropped my chain and saw almost everyone from the club. On the climb back into town, Matt and Kevin passed me and were both looking strong. We got to the infamous Mama and Papa Bear and the crowds were going crazy. Loop one almost done.
I stopped at special needs for some more sunscreen, a new peanut butter jelly and a new waterbottle. I should have dropped my arm-warmers. I came past the oval and heard my name, around the school, down the hill and there were my parents and Ryan again. I blew them a Big KISS and was off for loop two. The second loop wasn’t as easy. It was a lot quieter the second time around, and I had more time to think about the pain I was in! My back was starting to hurt and my right leg was still tight from the calf cramp and the changing in pedaling I had been doing to work it out. I wanted to stop and stretch, but kept going. Right before the climb into Wilmington, at mile 78 I stopped to stretch and Kip passed me, he looked good! I hit the out and back and had defiantly slowed down. I ran into Kevin on the way out. He had had 2 flats, but was still positive. I stopped to give him an extra tube and co2 cartridges and was on my way. (I was thankful for the second stop!) Right after the turnaround Joe and AJ flew past me, both looking fresh as a daisy, I wasn’t feeling the same! But I remember thinking, “I have 25 miles to go, the same distance as an Olympic, I can do this.” I was happy with my nutrition up to this point and just wanted to be off the bike.
As I made the turn to take the 10 miles back into town, a BIG headwind hit and my speed slowed dramatically. The 23-11 had caught up with me, and standing on the hills hurt my calf. With 4 miles to go, I passed Kip who was having some stomach troubles, if he was pushing through so could I. As I rounded into transition the crowds had thinned but Sara was at the Aid station cheering loudly, it was nice to see a familiar face. I handed my bike to another great volunteer and walked to the gear bags.
Goal 5 Min Actual: 8.36
I was so tired and sore, I had NO idea how I was going to run a marathon. I sat down and started to cry. CRY #3. Again the volunteers were awesome, calming me down, helping me with my sunscreen, getting me Gatorade, making sure I had plenty of body glide on and sending me on my way. Everyone else was running out, I had to walk.
Goal: 5:00 Actual: 5:01.36 (11:31/ mile)
My parents and Ryan were standing just out of transition, waiting for me on the run. I stopped to talk to them, thinking I’d tell them how I was feeling, but found myself crying instead. CRY #4. They were very encouraging and pushed me on my way. I could walk the entire thing and still finish in plenty of time, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I also saw Jim on my way out, and unfortunately was still a little teary for his bright smile. I was going for a walk/ run, 5 minutes running, as much as I needed to walk (more of a walk then a run). Not the best policy, defiantly not the plan, but my calf hurt and my left IT band was starting to act up.
As I ran down the hill to make the turn onto River Road, Ryan was there waiting for me. He said how proud he was, gave me a kiss and sent me on my way. CRY #5. I saw AJ going the other direction and she looked very strong and happy. The out and back felt like forever, but I was moving forward and a lot of other people were walking too! On the way back I saw the sign my parents and Ryan had made, got their electronic message and saw Julie and Angela.. My legs weren’t feeling great, but my stomach was doing much better then I expected and the support kept me going. I climbed my way back into town, where I saw Sara with her “Get out of the Hurt Locker” sign, and had to laugh a little. I had walk/ run the first loop in 2 ½ hours. If I could do the same for the second I would finish in 14 hours but I was actually starting to feel a little better, so I resolved myself to run more on the second loop, I just wanted to be off the course!
On the second loop I ran in between the aid stations. I meet Melanie who kept me moving for at least 8 miles and I tried to thank as many volunteers as possible for all their encouragement. I was feeling better had gotten into a rhythm, was having fun and was going to finish while it was still light out! As I came back into town I saw Sara, Jim and Jim with their signs and smiles. I only had 1 more mile to run and I was starting to pass people (the first time all day!) I could do this!
I rounded into the oval and there were my parents and Ryan right at the finish line, screaming so loud they couldn’t even hear the announcer say “Kimberly Clauer from Arlington, Virginia, you are an IRONMAN!” But I heard it, and surprisingly didn’t cry! (This is where I thought I would cry).
Goal: 13-14 hours Actual: 13:20.02
My journey was complete! It wasn’t easy, but I learned so much about myself and was so blessed to have the most incredible support along the way, that I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am happy that I did everything well that was within my control (nutrition, thanking the volunteers etc.), dealt with the things that were out of my control (calf knot) and had fun out there with my friends!
If I were to do another Ironman (not saying I am) I would bike even more, ride with faster people more often, ride on a 25-12 ;), try to run even more of the marathon and try and go see the last set of people finish. I heard this was amazing but ended up with some bad stomach problems, and never made it back down to the finish-line.
Thank you everyone for your support, prayers, understanding, advice, love and for sharing this incredible journey with me.
I meant to say "This is long, but not nearly as long as the race"
appearntly I was a little sleepy!! ;)
You are AMAZING! What a great race! Congrats on a fantastic performance! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us!
Kimberly, thanks for such a great story. As a fellow swim coach, I can understand those extra duties take up part of your life. You swim time was blazing! Congrats and welcome to the off-season.
Great race and super impressive swim! When I dream at night, I dream of being able to swim 2.4 miles in under one hour. :-)
And yes, I recommend all the gears as possible for the Lake Placid bike. At Lake Placid 2007, I road with compact cranks and 12x27 cassette on my tri bike with 650 wheels.
fantastic race! When I dream at night, I dream of being able to SWIM. :)
To be able to keep your grueling schedule, and deal with an injury, all while keeping up your training, is amazing. Not many people could cope with all that and still have such a great race, and terrific finish time!
When I grow up, I wanna be like you!!
Kimberly - YOU SO ROCK! Congrats.
I hope to be 1/2 the woman you are next year - that's my limit. You are unlimitless - YOU SO ROCK!
Maureen & your swim student CLARE!!!!
ummmm...cry #6 right here (seriously, everything makes me cry). you guys were all so inspirational!! congrats again!
Great race report Kimberly!
Damn... did the water in your wake evaporate? I'm not quite sure who would win a race between you, Michael Phelps, and AquaMan!!!
Sooo glad we found each other and rode together for a bit on that first bike loop! That's a great bike time given the tiny cassette you were riding on!!!
You slugged it out with the run course and never let it stop you. Congratulations on a job well done! Kimberly Clauer, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!
-Matt "hurt locker" Ferguson
Forgot to add - RYAN Rocks too - He must really like you if he kissed you in that state. Yuck!
You so rock!
Loved reading your report Kimberly - great job out there!
You guys are super tough - you totally earned that title!!