Holy crap IMLP is in the books. Here’s a not-so-brief race report if anyone is interested.
Thanks everyone for all your love and support.
It wasn’t the race of my dreams, but it was exactly the race I needed. This was my fourth Ironman, and, despite being 4 hours off (yes, that’s hours not minutes!) my personal best, it is my most meaningful race. Ironman Lake Placid was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Two years ago I had a major depressive episode. I was(am) dealing with PTSD from some events recent and long ago and the end of a 12 year relationship. I was ready to throw in the towel, and tried a few times.
After many months of hospitalizations and half a year in a treatment center, I started to find myself again. My confidence grew and I began to see hope in the future. I made a list of things I wanted to do with my new life. On the top of that list was do things that scare me, and do another Ironman. I (was) terrified of biking downhill.
In October I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid.
My training for IMLP started around that time when I adopted my dog Azuri, a catahoula puppy who loves to run. We ran together every day, and in January, I ran my first marathon after all the hospitalizations. She trained with me, going as far as 17 miles, and running the Pacers 15K.
Things were good, but as is life, it didn’t always stay that way. Training went reasonably well, until it didn’t. At times, I struggled to get out of bed, and other times, I ran 20 miles with Azuri while pushing a cart full of camping gear. I did some unconventional bike training; a 60 mile mountain bike ride, 70+ on 3 mile loops through the arboretum, 3 days straight of riding hills of rural Maryland 60+ miles a day; and then some weekends, I barely left my room. It was a roller coaster mentally and physically, but training always helped.
I was hospitalized once over the course of training, but without the goal of IMLP, it likely would’ve been more.
The last month and a half was especially tough with the loss of a friend to gun violence, a cousin diagnosed with cancer, a relapse of a depressive episode, and an injury to my popliteus (likely due to letting my strength training fall by the wayside). I trained, and even raced, as best I could, but I felt like I was barely staying afloat.
Last week the car my friends were supposed to take to Lake Placid had some issues rendering it temporarily not driveable. So, instead of leaving two days before packet pickup and meeting everyone there, we all packed into my minivan; 2 dogs, 4 people, luggage, food and gear; and left for Lake Placid at 5am on Friday. We arrived at 4:54pm, 6 minutes before packet pickup closed.
That would be the theme of the whole weekend – cutting everything close.
Race morning came, and I was feeling good. I had my usual breakfast, I pooped(!), everything was ready to go and I felt calm. I seeded myself in the 1:10-1:20 swim start as all my previous races were in that range, it seemed reasonable. But the swim was crowded and it appeared that wherever I went, someone followed. I had a blast battling people off, but it definitely showed in my first loop. I was off my normal pace by about 5 minutes. I wasn’t stressed, I got back in the water and did it all over again. I love the swim. I love everything about the swim- the contact, the waves, swallowing water, everything. Except, the cold. I lost feeling in my fingers, and had to stop a few times to warm them up. The water wasn’t cold by most standards, but it was for me.
My swim was off PR pace, but I knew going into this race i wasn’t shooting for any time goal. Secretly though, I wanted to finish by dusk.
I hopped on my bike and within minutes I could feel my popliteus screaming at me. I yelled back and practiced some mindfulness. It started to subside. I got to the infamous Keene descent and my heart was pounding. One of my goals going into this race was to ride confidently downhill. I started conservatively, then gradually let go. By a mile in, I was hitting 40mph and loving every moment of it. I achieved my first goal of the day. I was pumped.
But IMLP bike is no joke. I rode the first loop slow and steady knowing full well the second loop is where the race begins. By mile 60 though my stomach was howling. I got diarrhea. I had to stop, again and again and again. I started to struggle to get gels and chews down. Despite not letting my heart rate climb, drinking water and tail wind, and following my 20minute nutrition strategy, something wasn’t right. I was nauseous and pooping…a lot.
By now I realize I’m probably getting close to the cutoff…and the last 20 miles are mostly uphill. So, I started singing and grunting. I was doing anything I could to get my mind off my intestines and the impending cutoff. Somewhere I found the mental strength to push through the nausea and I biked into the transition with 6 minutes to spare.
I left transition as quickly as I could, and as soon as I started to run, I felt like I was going to vomit. So I walked. I looked around me and I discovered the art of power walking. I did that for the first mile then came upon my housemates and dog. They ran alongside me as I whimpered. My dog, confused, just wanted to play. In converse and pumas, they jogged with me for a half mile until I pushed them away, fearful of getting disqualified.
But not too long after, the dry heaving returned. My vision started to blur. I found an aid station and sat down. I ate more gels, drank cola and took salt. After a few minutes and making a few new friends, I got up the strength to keep going. For the next 8 miles I’d battle nausea and dry heaving. I pass my family almost in tears. It took so long to finish the first loop, there was no way I could finish by midnight.
I see my housemate and I cry. I’m convinced I can’t finish. Today just wasn’t the day. I couldn’t see straight and was still heaving.
They would have none of that.
Dishing out a plate of tough love, they told me to get my ass in gear and started to jog alongside me. So I started to jog. Then, I started to run. I ran. I didn’t stop running until I hit each aid station. I grabbed cola, water and broth. I ran again. I ran the up hills. I ran through the dark. I kept running. I come around the bend miles later and see my housemates again and a giant uphill. I run it.
I run another 2 miles and see my sister. She tries to talk to me, but I’m channeling everything I have to keep moving forward and not vomit.
The finish line is finally in sight and it’s clear I’ve made it before the cutoff! I jog into the oval and a fellow athlete sees the line and trips. We had all traveled this journey this far and nothing was getting in the way of everyone realizing their moment. We help her up, brush her off and away we all go to the next chapter of this adventure.
The finish was surreal. I felt like I was whisked away to some enchanted fairyland. This was my fourth ironman, but this was my biggest fight. Never, in all my races -not even my PR- have I ever felt so whole when I crossed that line.
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to take this journey, and have all these experiences and emotions along the way. I found myself in uncharted territory in this race, and in the process, discovered a little more about myself.
Onwards to Ironman Maryland!
* In reading through my medication paperwork, the intestine issues were likely caused by not staying on top of my med regimen in traveling and racing. Ugh.