IMLP 2012 – View from DC Tri Snapple Team Member

Race: IM Lake Placid
August 13, 2012 12:00 am  by 

This is the race report from DC Tri Snapple Team Member Mindy Ko. More of her amazing posts can be found on her Blog.

Ironman Lake Placid

How do you write about an Ironman race in one blog post? How do you explain to people – parents who think this is a “healthy hobby”, or co-workers who think this is just what you do instead of Margarita Hours – that Ironman is an obsession…a 10-month ordeal that involves more than just swimming, biking, and running?

Ironman Lake Placid was so much more than a singular race on July 22, 2012. There was the high a month before the race, when I conquered the Diabolical Double with Sarah and Carolineand realized that my legs wouldn’t fall off after 10+ hours of cycling.

Then there was the supreme depression when I got hit by a car 10 days before the race, emerging with bruises, allegations of breaking her headlight, and a very unfortunate loss of confidence on the bike.

What a journey!

But I made it. I made it to Lake Placid, bursting with excitement…peeing my wetsuit in sheer joy.

If I could draw a picture of what the entire weekend was like, it’d be this:

The entire month leading up to Placid, I was smiling and glowing with excitement. I checked lake temps daily, cleaned my bike chain until it reflected my image, and test-ran on the healing quads. I even cut ice cream out of my daily diet, although Bart caught me cheating nightly several times.

The night before the race, I couldn’t sleep. No surprise. 4:30 am finally came, and I immediately stuck my timing chip on. Not gonna leave that behind!
Breakfast of 2 bagels with PB, took the pre-race dump, and we were out the door. What perfect temperatures – the morning was slightly chilly, but the sky looked clear. Today was gonna be awesome.

Gear bags triple-checked; bike nutrition secured; wetsuit, goggles, and pink cap in hand – Let’s Go! 

Bart and I secured each other in our wetsuits and did the ol’ good luck kisses. I found Caroline just as I entered the water, and we did the “OMG this is it! We are 2 girls and let’s jump in the water and kiss each other on the cheek!” ordeal in genuine excitement.

The water was the perfect temperature with a wetsuit on, and I quickly warmed it up a bit more by you-know-what-ing. The cannon for the pros went off, and I felt a surge of adrenaline as I made my way to a good position about 20 feet from the dock, 2nd line back. This was it! 10 months of training and dedication, boiling down to today! There’s something magical about treading water with 2,500 other triathletes, all our heads bobbing up and down, fixated on Mike Reilly, assessing which feet among the front line you want to catch and draft off of.

The Swim: How many gallons can I swallow without puking?
Race cannon went off at 7 am, and I turned my gear to ON. Burst out, quickly run over by some Clydesdale behind me, and promptly had a panic attack.

Recalibrate quickly from panic attacks by finding Zen in backstroke…but find it faster than 800 meters.WTF!?! This was not supposed to happen! I was supposed to be charging forward, not fighting to breathe and struggling not to get run over!

The 2-loop swim course at Placid is lined by a cable about 5 feet below the water’s surface. It’s obvious from the picture to the right what this creates: a whitewater fury to fight for the best possible position just above the cable. Let me tell you, 5-foot Asians do not win these wars against behemoths who grab at my ankles and clobber my face with their fists of incompetency.

Well, I did what saved me when I suffered from the same hyperventilation inColumbia: I flipped over onto my back and tried to just calm my breathing. It took me the better bit of nearly 800 meters to finally calm down enough to flip over and attempt a slow and methodical freestyle. To be honest, I doubt the backstroke hurt me by more than a minute; the draft was so strong in the first lap that each stroke carried me almost double the normal pull.

Even during the second loop, the fight for the cable continued to be relentless. I must have swallowed about 24 oz of Mirror Lake water. Just boxed in, sitting in the draft of whomever wouldn’t kick me in the noggin.

Finally, I heard Mike Reilly’s voice yelling splits to those emerging from the water. Just 50 more meters…25…10…To be honest, I was a bit relieved to be out of the water. Swimming is my strongest leg of the three, but swallowing all that lake water made me burpy, and I wasn’t too keen on the thought of being in that whitewater mess for any longer than necessary.

2.4-mile Swim: 59:29
4th AG, 23rd Female

Lessons Learned from the Swim:

  • Learn to dolphin-dive. In Placid, you exit the water after the first loop and run for about 10 meters on sandy beach before re-entering the water for the second loop. I ended up bellyflopping because my ballet skills from 20 years ago have long since left me. Maybe the fact that I take 2 steps and am crotch-deep in water is also a reason for my ungraceful water entry…

Big kudos to my dimpled Xterra Vendetta for helping me break the hour barrier!

I ran into transition and stripped down, apologizing to the 2 wonderful volunteers who were helping me. “Sorry I’m flashing my cootch in your face, and thank you, and you both are wonderful, and can I have a cup of water, and oh wow, you already got my wetsuit and goggles in the bag? OK, I’m off! See you in 7 hours!”

A Rollercoaster Ride on my Bicycle

I grabbed my P2, which had been released from the bike shop just a week earlier due to damages from my accident. I was ready to rock n’ roll this bike course! My tentative goal was 7 hours, with maybe a stop or 2 for back stretches and refueling if absolutely necessary. Despite some teammates telling me that wearing my cycling shorts with the thicker chamois would only waste time in transition, my butt was quite thankful for the extra cushioning.

The first 7 miles of the 2-loop course takes you along the ridge with a minor hill, but then bombs down into Keene. This descent was FUN! I’m not quite bad-ass enough to go in my aero bars and NOT touch the brakes on steep descents, but I’d like to think that I got some free speed as I screeched my way around corners (with dudes bombing past me at 45 mph).

Fast forward 40 miles to the “Three Bears” – three climbs that take you back up to Placid. I don’t know where the climbs really began, I was having so much fun. I rode for a bit with a guy who introduced himself as Chip Berry’s friend, exchanged some exclamation-filled sentences with Caroline when she passed me, and generally was pleased that not too many of the chicks blowing by me had 25-29 on their calves.

The final mile climb back into town made me feel like I was wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Seriously.

People were yelling at me, screaming that I was amazing and awesome and almost there, and I couldn’t stop smiling. They ran alongside me, chanting my name (written on each race bib), shaking their fists in my face. I laughed. I didn’t even feel the hills. I think my idiot smile goaded them more, because the more I smiled, the louder they got.

The second loop was…sigh…disappointing. Around mile 60, I was disgusted at what I’d packed  in my bento box. “I don’t want another Clif Block! I hate HoneyStinger chews! Stupid Clif bars!! My EFS flask tastes like sh*#!!” Luckily, the aid stations came about every 10 miles, and I happily grabbed bananas and stuffed them into my mouth. On any other day, I think bananas are only good for making banana bread, but when you’re on the fourth hour of a very hot and long day, your ass melded to a bicycle seat, a banana is the PERFECT way to get calories.

As I was slogging up a hill at about mile 90, some guy passed me, turned around, and yelled in my face, “Filipina?” I was so confused. Clearly, he was talking to me. I screamed back at him, “I’m Chinese.” And he looked so disappointed.

I hit the low at about mile 92, when all I wanted to do was get my butt out of the saddle, and have a dripping ice cream in a waffle cone hand-dipped in chocolate while relaxing in Mirror Lake. The last 20 miles passed by so slowly – I ignored the beautiful scenery and just tried to get to transition as fast as I could. I ended up meeting Melanie Yu along the rolling hills, and finished up the bike with her. We grumbled about how long the last stretch was. Finally, the Three Bears popped into view. Up, up, up, I climbed…and the same cheer crew stuck their faces into my line of vision and rang cowbells.
This time, however, I was a lot less cheerful and bubbly.

Finally…transition! Here we go! I didn’t even wait to get into the changing tent to take off my bike shoes. Stripped those off and walked across the gravel to hop into my running shorts!

112-Mile Bike: 6:41:30
8th AG, 111th Female

Lessons Learned from the Bike: 

  • New goal set for next year: Learn to bike and learn to crush hills! I dropped in place and confidence as the 112 miles wore on…I’m not sure whether I need a quad injection or to increase my cadence…hopefully I’ll figure it out by next season!
  • Salt tabs are key. I took one every hour in the first loop, then every 45 minutes during the second loop – I am pretty certain that without the salt tabs, I would have emerged a lot more dehydrated.
  • Keep smiling – the volunteers and race supporters love it!
  • Eat, eat, eat. Even when I didn’t want another Shot Block or swig of my EFS flask, I knew that I’d hate life during the marathon if I didn’t load up on the calories on the bike! Thanks to Snapple teammate Matias for my nutrition advice on the bike!
Emerged from transition with a fresh pair of run shorts, and decided that a 20-second stop in the Port-a-Potty would be worth it. Even though I drank 6 water bottles of fluid during the bike, I hadn’t peed once. Not once in 7 hours. I know, right!??!!? Where did it all go!!?!
My First Marathon: 
13 Miles of Stomach Cramps, 10 Miles of Walking, and 3 Miles of Grit

My twin sister makes marathons look easy. Since we are twins, then by the Law of Substitution, the following should be true:

Identical twins are (more or less) equal.
Mindy and Phebe are twins.
Mindy = Phebe.
Phebe runs 2:45 marathons.

Therefore, Mindyshould be able to run a 2:45 marathon.

However, once you introduce the following, the above may not hold true:

  1. Mindy has been injured the past year: hamstring (pulled), knee (weird pain on outside), and quad (hit by car on bike).
  2. Mindy’s longest training run was 13 miles.
  3. Mindy weighs 15 pounds more than Phebe.
  4. Mindy has a run form that is known to others as the EVIL HEEL STRIKE.
So, it should have been no surprise when I broke down at mile 5 of the run. But it was a surprise. I thought, or rather desperately hoped, that I would somehow find the will to run the entire marathon in under 4 hours. I guess I am just that optimistic.
Miles 1-5: I valiantly ignored the baby in my belly. No, idiot, I didn’t get knocked up! My belly was bloated with gels and shot blocks and Clif bars that didn’t digest properly on the bike. It’s a horrible feeling to run when your stomach is protruding, you’re actually trying to fart so some of this gas will be released, and your feet feel like wooden blocks. But, at least I was running.
Miles 6-10: Suffering hit me. I decided that I’d walk all the aid stations and tried to settle my still-swollen belly. I farted a couple of times, and pretended like it was my feet scuffling the ground, heehee. My mood picked up a bit when I saw my training friend Caroline out there. Bart and Snapple teammate Erik were killing the course – both of them looked strong. I exchanged high-fives with John Schaller, who was also doing his first Ironman. I couldn’t even muster sucking down another gel, so I took in Coke, water, and some deliciously salty chicken broth.

Miles 11-13: The route rolled back through town, taking you up 3 pretty steep hills. I gritted my teeth and started to run again – I didn’t want Bart’s nieces Coco and Avery to ask why I had “given up!” Ran through town, made it around the corner, and promptly started to walk. Out of sight, I was left to that demeaning voice that yells, “Why did you sign up for an Ironman? Why did you think this would be any fun? Why do you listen to those idiot masochists who have IM tattoos? You…will…pay…

Miles 14-23: Every single step hurt. I’d muster up my feet, do a little hoppy dance, and start to run, but as the pain started to shoot up my quads, and the injury on my right knee grew agonizingly unbearable, and my feet swelled from the heat, I conceded to walking. I didn’t care anymore. There, I said it: I didn’t care if my marathon time was 6 hours, or if I had to walk the rest of this – in the moment, I just wanted the pain from the pounding to disappear.
I was so, so, so happy to be done! Finished off with a chocolate milk and hugged Caroline, kissed Bart, and, as I was walking through to get my 3 jugs of chocolate milk, ran into my pal Gramps and several others I had seen along the course.My stomach was still a knotted mess. It never quite settled down and I felt like a vomit or a huge poop mid-race would do wonders for me, but neither happened. My stomach was swollen from the  nutrition on the bike, and I didn’t take in any nutrition on the entire run course besides liquids and a bite of a cookie. I just didn’t want anything in my stomach.

Now, a week later, I’m kicking myself for not having gritted my teeth and just sucked up the pain. That’s what Ironman is about, right? Ignoring the pain from pushing yourself at moderate pace for 12+ hours? I’m so mad that I walked 10 miles of the race, so mad that I simply stopped caring about the time on the clock, so mad that I didn’t even find motivation as I saw Erik, Bart, John, Caroline, and Melanie running. They were running! And I was walking.

Misery loves company, and I quickly made friends with an old guy. When I say old, I mean about 65 years old (and that is being gracious). Jim Adams was amazing, and we quickly found walking partners in each other. Jim has done Eagleman the past 19 years and IM Lake Placid every single year. He assured me that walking was not quitting, but warned me that once I entered the Olympic Oval, I’d better run, because noone walks through that finish.
When I saw the Mile 23 sign, I announced to Jim that I needed to run this last 5K. He announced to a sideline cheerleader that I was going to run. “She’s going to start running!” announced the sideline cheerleader to his dog on a leash. Soon, Jim and my cheerleader were sending me off with good vibes.

Mile 24-25: Whence the Runneth Commence.
My run felt like I was hobbling along at a 12:00-min pace. Every step hurt, but as I started to climb that 2nd hill into town, I felt like I was the women’s leader in the Boston Marathon. Sure, I was just some first-timer who had managed to muster up just enough of a foot lift to stimulate a run, but people were yelling at me, chanting, “Up! Up! Up!”
I smiled, and these people must have been met with a lot of gloom and glares, because as soon as they saw my tired smile, they yelled louder. They screamed my name. So this is what makes Lake Placid so great! Why weren’t these cheerleaders at Mile 15 of the run? I wish I had paid them to stand along the entire course!

Mile 26: I run with another 65-year-old.
Right around the last turnaround, I caught a very wrinkly man who was clipping along at a very decent pace for any age. I came up behind him, and asked whether he was on his first or second loop. He gave me the answer I wanted, and I exclaimed, “That’s perfect! Let’s run together!”
He grumbled, “OK” and picked up his pace a bit.
We ran side-by-side for a minute, then I caught sight of a girl in my AG who had passed me while I was walking at Mile 15. “Let’s catch that girl in the pink who’s walking – she’s in my AG and I just need to pass her,” I told my new friend.
He grumbled, “OK” and picked up his pace a bit.
I followed suit, and soon we passed her…and then another girl in my AG!
“Look, we’re almost to the oval!” I exclaimed to my new friend. “Let’s pass that guy.”
He grumbled, “OK” and picked up his pace a bit.

We entered the oval and that old man took off. Thanks for running with me for a mile, Gramps!

I started to tear up because so many people were cheering for ME. I started to give high-fives, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Hello, everyone, did you know that I’m about to be an Ironman!?!?!?!

Heard Bart’s voice somewhere near the finish line. Crossed that finish line and was promptly sandwiched by 2 volunteers, who seemed very concerned that they should carry me and wrap me in an aluminum foil blanket. “I don’t need that,” I convinced them.

26.2-Mile Run: 5:06:10Lessons Learned from the Run: 

  • Getting in the long runs is crucial.
  • You can’t wing a marathon.
  • If 70-year-olds can do it, so can I.
  • Suck it up and pick your feet up.

Ironman Lake Placid: 12:57:31

12th AG, 160th Female

Wrapped up the night by stumbling back to our rented house, wrapped up race details with Ken-Ichi and Bart, and got a nice steamy shower.
Post-race EatFest was a pizza and an enormous ice-cream sundae in a waffle cone. I met the wonderful crew of IMLP racers at the midnight finish, and we cheered the last finishers through while stuffing our faces with wonderful chocolate cake.

The days following IMLP, I was in a slump. A depression. Girlfriends consoled me that this was typical, and I was experiencing post-IM depression (not to be confused with post-partum depression!). It was over; all my training, all the early mornings, all the 6-hour bike rides in 100-degree heat…it had all ended!

I didn’t have the race I wanted. I’ve already heard the “it was your first, don’t be too hard on yourself” BS. I know all this, and I quietly nod my head, but deep down, I really wanted to do better. I wanted to be able to mentally block out the pain, to run just a little faster, to at least be able to say “I couldn’t walk for 5 days after because I pushed myself so hard.”

And I know that the only way to fill this void, to cure this post-IM depression, is to sign up for another Ironman. Boy, this “healthy hobby” is addicting!

Goals for 2013 Tri Season: 

  • Run healthy and injury-free.
  • Learn to turn that heel strike into a mid-foot power action.
  • Get some power on the bike.
  • Figure out a nutrition plan that my stomach can digest.
  • Avoid the panic attacks in the water.
  • Keep on smiling.
Finally, the shout-outs and thank-yous: 
  • Bart: You make each day happier than yesterday.
  • Dotty, Bill, Avery, Coco, Ally, Eddie, and Pre: Thanks for the cheers, the sidewalk chalk, and the wonderful support on race day! We love you!
  • Caroline: seeing you on the bike and run gave a little pep to my feet and put a smile on my face!
  • Ken-Ichi: Redemption in Vegas 70.3 Worlds.
  • Sarah and Katie: couldn’t ask for better training partners!
  • The Ko Family: Wo ai ni. Hopefully the next Ironman races I do, you’ll be at the sidelines!
  • Matias: My nutrition guru!
  • The Ice-Cream Man at Stewart’s: For digging me extra big scoops for my post-race dessert!
  • The Snapple Tri Team: Lost Barn rides, the best tri family ever, and a special kudos to AJ, Phil, and Sean, for giving me super tips on LP!

And huge congrats to fellow teammates Erik Reitinger, Bart Forsyth, and Kate Galinus, who all had amazing races at IMLP!