Ironman USA Lake Placid - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Lake Placid, New York
United States
Ironman North America
Total Time = 11h 23m 52s
Overall Rank = 419/2502
Age Group = M 40-44
Age Group Rank = 80/477
Pre-race routine:

Executive Summary:
Trained a lot, had a bike accident and subsequent surgery, stubbornly refused to bow out and continued to train, raced, and then finished.

Pre-accident goal - sub 11 hours.
Post accident goal - Not to crash and finish the race.

Event warmup:

Journey to Start Line: Admittedly I love Iron distance races. There is something alluring about doing endurance racing and sharing in the suffering with 2500 others at the same time. This passion can not be explained to a rational person. Training for this race was more intense than the other two iron distance races that I trained for and was showing in improved performances in international and half distance races leading up to Lake Placid. Unfortunately, the intensity and duration of the training was also coming at a price - the balancing act between training and husband and fatherly duties was becoming more and more difficult resulting in my priorities being all out of wack. This ultimately came to a head on the night of June 17 in the form of a "discussion" with my wife, Nanci. The end result of the talk was definitely fruitful and I vowed to not let the training get in the way of me being the best husband and father possible. However, the next morning (June 18) during a planned 5:45 bike ride my thoughts drifted to self-centeredness again and I wanted to ramp up the training one last time before the July 24 race. And then, after just 1:30 hours into the ride, came the accident.

I was on my normal route, but decided to head south through Eastport when my wheel slipped on the wet metal drawbridge floor and sent me to the ground. Immediately I knew the crash was bad due to the weird twisting of thumbs and fingers on my hands. I called Nanci to come pick me up and when she arrived I told her that we needed to go to the hospital. After x-rays and c-scans the diagnosis was a broken 4th metacarpal in the right hand and a broken and dislocated carpometacarpal joint in the left hand. The doctor indicated that I would need to see a hand surgeon next week with surgery very likely. Also, the nurses wrapping me up told my wife that we would be getting real close over the next couple of weeks (i.e. bathing me, feeding me, driving me to work, typing my work reports, etc). In light of our discussion the night before, I told Nanci she needs to be more careful of what she prays for. Then the thing I dreaded most: after asking about my Ironman race just five weeks away they told me to forget about it and that maybe next year you can do the race. In effect, it would be a "miracle" since surgery might not be available for another week and then recovery would take some time as well. This left me quite despondent as I already had all this hay in barn. Yet I was still very thankful that the crash was not any worse than it was, plus I got the added benefit of some sorely needed time with my wife.

The next day (June 19 - five weeks before IM-LP) I scrambled in my mind on how I would be able to do the race. I'd never met Dr. Jeff Gelfand before but knew of him through the work he had done on a Romanian child brought over by my church. I figured that was the hand surgeon that I needed to see and said a prayer asking somehow he would be placed into my life. This prayer was answered almost immediately. That day I was viewing my local club president's (Ashley) facebook post of the triathlon training camp (taking place in Lake Placid of all places) when he mentioned that Jeff Gelfand just took him on some beautiful back roads around Jay and Wilmington. I replied and asked if this was the same Jeff Gelfand the hand surgeon and gave my diagnosis. Ashley responded yes, showed him my diagnosis, and he indicated that I should call his office the next morning for an appointment. June 20th, the next morning, I saw the doctor. He looked at the hands and x-rays and told me that I needed surgery. He then asked me if I still wanted to do the Ironman. Yes! was my response. OK, he replied, but we need to get you into surgery this week. Surgery was scheduled for June 22 (two days later - I love our health care system! - and 4.5 weeks before LP) and two screws were inserted in both broken bones. After surgery I was instructed to rest for a while, but by next the Tuesday I could start moderate training again via trainer rides.

I've always hated getting on the trainer but at this point trainer rides were a necessary evil and only way at the time that I could keep my fitness base. Two hour, three hour, four hour and a mind numbing six hour trainer session were in store for me. Overall, I logged over 25 hours on the trainer in my basement within a two and a half weeks (thank goodness for the Tour de France on TV). After July 1st, I started running again, though swimming would have to wait until the incisions healed (two weeks after the surgery).

On the afternoon of July 15, just four days before I was supposed to leave for Lake Placid, I was scheduled to see Dr. Gelfand for x-rays and hopefully get clearance for the race. In the morning I went for a swim and saw my swim coach David Wendkos. We talked about the race and he asked me my bib number. "#1980", I responded. David being a hockey fan immediately said "It's a miracle!", alluding to the USA hockey team and their "miracle" gold medal performance in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. I had had my number for a couple of weeks but it never dawned on me the significance of that number at Lake Placid considering my circumstances. As soon as he said it I got chills and immediately knew that I was going to do this thing. Sure enough the new x-rays came back showing that the screws were still in place with good healing so I was cleared to race!

Once in Lake Placid I needed to test out the hands on the road. A trip down the descent to Keene revealed that I had lost quite a bit of my nerve since the accident was still fresh in my mind. Also, being on the trainer for so long my bike handling skills were sketchy at best. Plus the road down to Keene was in terrible shape with plenty of bumps and patching asphalt on the shoulders and right side of the road. I could not afford another spill so I vowed to stay out of the aero position on race day and, if needed, ride the brakes.

Another thing I needed to get sorted out was the splint on my left hand which I planned to swim with on race day. Knowing that the USAT has rules governing this I sought out the swim official and he cleared me for use with the splint and taping of the right hand fingers. The only thing left now was to show up and race.

  • 1h 14m 9s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 45s / 100 yards

For the swim, which was a wetsuit optional race (i.e. water temp 77 degrees and Kona qualifiers must go sans wetsuit), I selected to go with the wetsuit as I knew there was no chance for KQ at this stage. I lined up in the front and to the right and with the cannon blast we were off. The swim was actually quite fun and I didn't mind the contact with my fellow swimmers. First loop came in at roughly 35 minutes. On the second loop I was just right of the underwater cable pretty much the whole way to the end. Finished the swim in 1:14:09, by far my best IM swim (by over 6 minutes) even with the splint, taping, and lost time in the pool due to the accident. All that time during the winter and spring in the pool with David pushing me definitely paid off.

Transition 1
  • 06m 41s

T1 was uneventful other than a bad mistake of not stopping by the sunscreen applicators for a quick rubdown. This would come back to hurt me both in a bad sunburn way and also in accelerating dehydration issues that I would eventually experience later in the race.

  • 5h 52m 17s
  • 112 miles
  • 19.08 mile/hr

The bike course is one of the most beautiful courses I've ever been on. If you have a chance to ride this course don't pass it up. Riding out was fairly well bunched until the Keene descent began. I promised loved ones that I would be conservative on the descent, but the adrenaline of the race overtook my better judgment and the race to Keene was on. Being pretty nervous because of the recent crash I elected to stay out of the aero position and rode on the bullhorns all the way down. Top speed was around 41mph according to Garmin connect so I imagine I lost some time on this section as many people were blowing past me. Once the flats started I got comfortable and rode fairly steady until the climbing back to town where I was able to move past some people. First loop was around 2:50. Knowing that a positive split is inevitable on this course I nursed myself around the loop again and finished with an overall bike split of 5:52:17 (19.1 mph average and an IM bike PR). Considering that the hands were still a little tender and that I had lost a little of my nerve I reckoned this to be a great overall ride. Also my first goal had been crashes. My nutrition on the bike consisted of two Clif bars, a PB&J sandwich, a number of water bottles, and maybe two Perform bottles. In hindsight the liquid consumption was too low, especially considering that I took a couple of salt tablets on the way as well. This error would eventually hamper my run.
Transition 2
  • 04m 28s
  • 4h 06m 19s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 09m 24s  min/mile

The run out of T2 is a steep downhill which can hurt if you are not accustomed to running off the bike and onto descents. Once past the downhill portion I settled into my stride and started off at 8 min/mile paces before slowly dropping off to an 8:30 min/mile pace. During the first half of the run my nutrition consisted solely of coke, chocolate mocha gels and occasional salt tablet. Run split for the first half marathon was about at an 8:27 min/mile pace, or around 1:50. At this point I started to believe that I could make my pre-accident goal of a sub-11 hour IM as long as my pace didn't drop off any more.

Then came a real scary moment of the race. I started to feel the urge to pee and decided to stop off at the port-a-potty and upon relieving I noticed that my urine was dark brown, like the color of the coke that I had been drinking. Oh crap, are my kidneys shutting down? I immediately stopped running and started to walk but pondered whether I should DNF as I knew this likely meant there was blood in my urine. At that point I stopped the coke and gel nutrition and decided to walk instead of running. At the aid stations I made a concerted effort to drink as much water as I could to see if the color of the pee would change. If it didn't, then a DNF was likely. After two or three more aid station stops I decided to "go" again and was relieved to see the color change to dark yellow - I was still dehydrated but at least my body was processing the fluids. With about 6 miles left I began to run again and was set on stopping only at the finish line. The last bit was very tough and the climb back into town hurt the most but I realized the quickest way to get this thing over with was to run it.

I finished the run at 4:06:19 (9:23 min./mile pace), again a PR marathon for me even with the walking and nutritional mistakes.
What would you do differently?:

More water, no salt tabs.
Post race
Warm down:

I immediately asked to go to the medical tent and described my condition to the medical volunteers. After weighing me (lost 5 pounds, or about 3% body weight) they said to push the fluids and food and it was not necessary for an IV. After many water bottles my color came back to clear and only then could I celebrate my accomplishment with the biggest burger I could choke down. Overall time was 11:23:52, an IM PR by over 33 minutes even considering the challenges I faced before the race and, subsequently, during the run.

Event comments:

Many thanks to all of the well wishers over the past five weeks, to Dr. Gelfand for his skills in putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, to my beloved wife Nanci (my IronMate!) for her support, and to the Great Physician for healing me in such a rapid manner.

In retrospect, I view the accident as a blessing and correction I certainly needed. And, though I fell short of my pre-accident time goal the fact that I made it to the starting line and actually finished was a far more satisfying achievement. I don't know how many IM races I will do in my life but I'm certain that this journey and race will never be forgotten.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2010-11-29 12:00 AM
01:14:09 | 4224 yards | 01m 45s / 100yards
Age Group: 191/477
Overall: 911/2502
Performance: Average
Suit: Sleeveless
Start type: Wade Plus:
Water temp: 77F / 25C Current: Low
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 06:41
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
05:52:17 | 112 miles | 19.08 mile/hr
Age Group: 95/477
Overall: 454/2502
Performance: Good
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 04:28
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:06:19 | 26.2 miles | 09m 24s  min/mile
Age Group: 88/477
Overall: 470/2502
Performance: Average
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]