Aug 9, 2015

Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid - July 26

After a full year of hard training, Ironman Lake Placid finally arrived! I was very happy to arrive in Lake Placid a full four days before the race. This gave us an opportunity to check out the course and get familiar with the area before the gun went off at 630am Sunday morning. With the exception of some trouble with my shifters (which involved getting a new pair installed two days before the race), the lead up to race day was both relaxing and enjoyable. I felt confident that I would have a realistic chance of achieving my ultimate goal of qualifying for Kona (the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii). Unlike qualifying for the Boston Marathon where you have to run under the qualifying standard for your age group, qualifying for Kona requires you to place well in your age group - regardless of your time. I figured based on the numbers that there would only be 3-4 slots in my age group (of the 50 total slots) - this would require a great race and likely a little bit of luck. For those who are not aware, final slot allocation is determined on race day based on the number of official starters in each age group. If there are no starters in a particular age group, then that slot will be moved to the next calculated age group within the gender. If an automatic qualifier in an age group chooses not to take the slot, or has already qualified, the next eligible finisher in that age group may claim the slot that has rolled down. I figured I needed to come top 5 among males 30-34 because I knew that Corey (overall race winner), who was also in my age group, would be turning down his Kona slot. Regardless, an Ironman is too long of a race to focus too much on placing - especially considering you don’t know very much about the competition. 

The Cape Bretoners are set to go. This is a shot after we dropped off our bikes!
Swim:  1:04:14 (3800m)

For those that are not aware, Ironman Lake Placid has switched to a self seeded swim start – which means you start the race when you want based on your anticipated swim time. I was hoping for a swim of 1:03, so I should have gotten in the water between the signs indicating 60 and 70 minutes. Corey (Deveaux) was hoping for a swim of 59 minutes, so I decided to enter with him rather than standing back waiting to enter the water by myself. When the gun finally went off it felt more like a mass start. It was very crowded with a lot of jockeying for space in the water. Looking back now, I don’t think my entering the water early made things worse. It sounds like everyone found the water very crowded.

The swim is a 2-loop course and after 1 lap I was very pleased with a time of 31:21. I’m still not sure what happened on the second lap. I felt as if I swam just as faster or even faster that the first loop. The only thing I can think of is that because we were more spread out on the second loop that perhaps I didn’t draft as much as the first loop. My time for the second loop was 90 seconds slower (32:51).

I exited the water in 160th  place overall (19th in my age group).

T1:      5:08

Overall I was very pleased with my level of efficiency in T1. I took advantage of the wetsuit strippers and then ran the 800 meters from the beach to get ready for the bike. After many years of triathlon, I’ve learned to keep it simple in transition. I always say “don’t bring anything to transition unless you absolutely need it.” When I grabbed my T1 bag, I quickly ran to the change tent, put on my helmet and socks, then grabbed my bike, and headed for the mount line. Because my shoes were already clipped to my pedals, all I had to do what jump on and go.

Bike:    5:30:33 (180k)

Based on my training, my coach (Matt) was confident that I would be able to achieve a normalized power (NP) of 230-240 watts. Because there are a few good descents, the plan was to lap the power to zero before and after the descents and to not worry about power while going downhill.  For example, the descent to Keane was 10k and was very steep. I averaged over 60 kph on both loops without even pedalling. I just tried to focus on maintaining power numbers when I was not descending. On the first lap I did a great job of this with an NP of 231. Originally, I was hoping to be get through each lap in 2:40:00 so when I came through at 2:40:50, I was very pleased – especially considering I still felt great.

I had no reason to stray away from the plan for the second lap. I continued to feel great until about the 130k mark.  At which point the wind picked up considerable and it got the best of me temporarily. I knew this was going to have an adverse effect on my overall bike time, but I didn’t realized until the end just how much. After the race I learned that my NP was 228 (only 3 watts lower than the first lap), but my time was 2:49:43 (almost 9 minutes slower than lap 1). I was pretty disappointed at the time, but I had to put it in the past and focus on the run. I should note that once I talked to my coach, and saw the bike times of others at the top of the leader-board (almost all had a much slower second lap), I was more content with my effort on the bike. To view my Training Peaks bike file click here. In terms of fuelling, my goal was to consume between 350-400 calories per hour. I achieved this by consuming four bottles of Gatorade (180 calories each) and 15 Gu energy gels (100 calories each).

I got off the bike in 54th place overall (13th in my age group)

T2:      2:55

I don’t think I could have gone through T2 much faster than I did. I racked my bike, changed socks, put on my sneakers, visor, sunglasses, race bib, and then I was off. At that point I was glad to be off the bike and very much looking forward to the run.

Run:    3:27:29 (42.2k)

My original plan was to shoot for a run of between 3:10 and 3:15. Once I started running and realized just how hot it had gotten (27C), I figured a goal of 3:15 would be much more realistic. Although I was very hot, I still felt great and come through the half at 1:37.

I continued to feel great until about the 16-mile mark.  Unfortunately, the heat was starting to get the best of me. The fact that the spring/summer in Cape Breton had been much cooler than normal was not helping matters. My pace abruptly slowed from 7:15-7:20/mile to 8:00/mile +. I knew that the wheels had come off, but my experience had told me that there was very little/nothing that I could do. I just tried to stay as cool as possible and continue to take in calories. I was so hot at the aid station at the 19-mile mark that, after passing the water and ice by mistake, the only liquid left to dump over my head to cool off was coke. Desperate times call for desperate measures – I dumped two big glasses of ice-cold coke over my head. I’m sure I was getting some looks from the volunteers at the aid station, but at that point I didn’t care. From this point forward I walked through each aid station to give my body a break and to make sure I got in as many calories as possible. The final 7 miles was (more than likely) my toughest 60 minutes of running ever. I had also came to the realization that a Kona slot was likely not going to happen – which made it even tougher to finish as strong as possible.

Total time: 10:10:19 (24th place overall – 7th in my age group) Click here for full results

I was pretty bummed when I crossed the finish line because I knew a time over 10 hours likely wouldn’t be enough to finish in the top 5 in my age group. However, I was pleased to learn that, despite a time that was a lot slower than I was hoping for, I had finished 7th in my age group. This meant there was still an outside chance of snagging a Kona slot at the roll down. Unfortunately, I learned the next morning that it was not meant to be. Despite the fact that Corey turned down his slot, there ended up being only 3 slots, so the final slot went to the 4th place finisher in my age group. I was very disappointed that I would have to wait another day to attempt to get to Kona. However, I was proud that I finished 7th out of 190 in my age group, and 24th overall out of over 2400. And even though my time was slower than my last Ironman (9:56:21), I was pleased to place better this time compared to rest of the field. At Ironman Mont Tremblant in 2013 I finished 10th in my age group and 41st overall among age group participants.

Post race with my beautuful wife Lisa - who has been so supportive over the past year!