Life lessons at Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP)

author : mhan22
comments : 2

If you are calm while everyone around you is losing it, you probably don’t know what the hell is going on.

13:12:00. I missed my A goal (11:00:00), also missed my B goal (12:00:00), but I did reach my C goal (Finish). At roughly 8:15 Sunday evening, I heard the words, “Matthew Hanshaw, you are an IRONMAN”. It was quite a remarkable day that began with turning off my alarm at 3:58 a.m., 2 minutes before it was set to ring. I was excited, nervous and ready to go. As the day moved on, Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) demonstrated a few of life’s lessons that I thought I would share.

If you are calm while everyone around you is losing it, you probably don’t know what the hell is going on.

On Sunday October 22nd at 3 p.m. on OLN-soon to be VS Network, my race is going to be televised. I tell you this so that you might watch the beginning of the race. Now, imagine me in my wetsuit, relaxed, ready to go, a confident calm has taken over my body. Then the canon is fired. From the canon shot count to 30, that was when my goggles were kicked off of my face. You really have to watch what 2160 people huddled together for a mass swim start looks like to understand the gravity of this problem. I went from calm to full-out panic in just 30 seconds. Fortunately, I was able to collect myself and turn in a respectable time. The swim is 2.4 miles and I finished in one hour and 16 minutes (1:48 per hundred yards).

Jokers get dropped.

I may have told you about my experience with the fellow in the pink tutu at the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) last fall. Pink tutu guy was only a few feet in front of me at the start of the MCM and I was determined that if all else failed, he was not going to beat me (I neglected to mention the rhinestone tiara he was wearing as well). I last saw him at mile 23, striding comfortably away from me, and I knew I had no hope of catching him. Well, apparently, to learn this life lesson you have to precede the marathon with some swimming and a 112 mile bike ride. On Sunday there was one person who thought it would be cute to enter the race on a child’s chopper style bicycle. It was complete with the banana seat and little horn. He was one of the 113 people who weren’t able to finish the race. The only thing more fitting would have been if he had worn a pink tutu. I finished the bike in 6 hours 29 minutes, a little bit over 17 miles per hour.

We lose some good people along the way.

In a race like this you get a chance to meet new people, especially during the run. People of similar ability tend to clump together and push one another toward the finish line. It might be important to point out that a race like this reveals you. You can’t hide out there, and as the day wears on it is like the onion analogy. Layers keep peeling away until you are left with the essence of who you are. You wouldn’t believe some of the personal stories that are shared between complete strangers. I suppose catharsis is part of the peeling away process.


There was one particularly hard stretch of run coming back into Lake Placid. It is a steep uphill at mile 12 and 24 (two loops on this course). I was at mile 12 and struggling with the fact that I hadn’t even been to the half way turn-around; a woman and I were encouraging one another up that hill. There are a lot of spectators at this race and our race bibs have our first name on them so the spectators know what to cheer. So they started, “GO GRETCHEN, GO MATT” the whole way up that hill. Gretchen not being a common name, it got my attention. I thought to myself, “So, you are here.” If there are any pictures of me crying out there, it was on mile 12. To know my Mom, you know that this event was her type of venue. I


MLP is known as IRONMAN USA. Its colors are red, white and blue. Its emblem is the shape of a flag. The event is held on the Olympic grounds. As it happens, this particular Gretchen and I parted ways after that hill. I made it to the turn, and suffered through that hill a second time. I was relegated to walking and jogging, but still had a fair time. I finished the 26.2 miles in 5 hours and 11 minutes which is less than 12 minutes per mile.

It’s not all blood and guts.

Lake Placid it a truly beautiful place. Amid the suffering, I had some very peaceful, enjoyable moments during the race. And for all of the images of health conscious exercise fanatics that an event like this conjures, there is one dichotomy. No one knows why, but Coca-Cola is like an elixir from heaven at the end of an endurance race. From mile 20 to the finish line, I went from aid station to aid station passing up the oranges, grapes and Gatorade just to get more Coca-Cola. (Look away Aunt Nan) I used the Coke to wash down the chocolate chip cookies.

Anything is possible.

The winner of the race finished in 8:38:15, while the last IRONMAN to cross the line did it 49 seconds before the midnight cut-off. In all, I put in a solid middle of the pack performance. But I was struck by all the exceptional performances I saw that day. The race volunteers were exceptional, the spectators were exceptional, my family was exceptional, and the 75 year old man that finished in 16:12:17 was exceptional. IRONMAN inspires exceptional performances.


There is a video of the 1999 Hawaii IRONMAN that captures Dick Hoyt pulling, riding and pushing his 37 year old son Ricky across the finish line, having completed the entire 140.6 mile trek. Ricky has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound. Dick says at one point, “I’m just doing what any other father would do for his son.” He is truly exceptional, and is another example of what IRONMAN taught me…Anything is possible.


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date: July 30, 2006