Ironman Lake Placid
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Ironman Lake Placid - Triathlon
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The gun went off right on time and we immediately began to move forward in a very calm and orderly fashion. We went across the starting mat in under 2 minutes from the gun, and then we are swimming. For the most part it was very calm and surreal: with the rolling swim start you are immediately on feet and cruising in the draft. For some reason though I found myself very, very tight and really having to work to reach to stretch out. I just figured "ah, well, eventually I will get loosened up." But I never really felt like I did, so on the second loop around I moved away from the cable, swam wide and tried a little DPS work which seemed to help somewhat.
Generally I really liked the new swim format. Afterward James and I spoke and we seemed to have similar experiences: it was mostly smooth without much contact. But when there was contact it was violent, but I don't think intentional in any way. I took two of the hardest shots to the head I have ever received in a swim along with one good kick to the stomach and had my goggles stripped twice. A couple of those incidents happened at the turn around the pier to the exit mats - normally I would swim wide around a 90 degree turn like that but because of the immediate proximity to the exit it was impossible to do so. I really think that is the only thing IM should work out with the new format at LP: a straight shot in to the beach and a longer run around might be a better solution - the current set-up just makes the turn too congested.
That said the second time around the pier was much more orderly, and then just a short final leg to the exit.
Up out of the water and running, goggles and swim cap off, then top pulled up over my head and off with goggles and cap in the sleeve. I dodged the wetsuit strippers like always. The strippers are some of the most enthusiastic volunteers and I hate to not let them do their job, but I don't like to get all sandy and I can get my bib john off very fast while standing up anyways. The long run to T1 is always fun, as both sides are packed to the gills with screaming spectators. Somewhere during the run I realized it was raining, and I thought how cool it was that it had not dampened the spectators excitement at all. I peeled off into a corner just before grabbing my bike transition bag and stripped off off the rest of my wetsuit. Grabbing my bag I ran all the way through the changing tent to the exit before sitting down - it seems like it is always the most crowded by the entrance but lots of room at the far end. helmet on, socks on, and shoes on. This year I elected to wear my cycling shoes instead of my tri shoes - I have been wearing them a lot (since I have been riding my road bike mostly) and I really like the micro adjustability they have on long rides versus the velcro straps of my tri shoes. Since they take a little work to get adjusted correctly, I just slipped them on and waited to adjust them on the bike. Up, and the ziplock with my gloves, arm warmers, and nutrition stuck down the back of my shorts - I am off to get my bike.
The transition was set up this year so that there was no overlapping traffic and everyone had the same distance to run, which was nice. I had to grab my own bike this time, which was no big deal. As I was running toward the mount line with my bike, something happened, but I still am not exactly sure what. As I got closer to the exit, it was a little congested. I was running on the left hand side of my bike with the seat in my right hand. In order to dodge some traffic I switched my bike to my left hand and sort of jumped around the back wheel so that I was on the right side of the bike as I continued to run. I bobbled the bike a bit and had to kind of quickly twist and bend to catch it and just as I did I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in the lower right side of my back. I kind of twisted and bent over and simply thought to myself "this is not good," but kept running toward the bike out. The mount line was a lot more clear than in years past and I got away fairly easily, but alarmingly in a good bit of pain.
What would you do differently?:
I really am not sure what happened. It is a little bit of a blur it happened so fast, but the little bike bobble seemed so innocuous - really just a quick motion to catch myself, nothing more than that. I don't know if I stumbled more than I realize due to my loose, unbuckled shoes, or maybe my back for some reason was really jacked up from the swim and the little mis-step was all I needed to tweak it. Regardless, I was mostly just startled to find myself hurt by such a little insignificant thing.
I rolled out of T1 gingerly, and as soon as we got clear of the first little downhills I pulled on my arm warmers and gloves. Sitting up and twisting around really got into my back though, so this was a difficult task. At least I was actually much more comfortable in the aerobars than I was sitting up, so I took advantage of that through the flatish downhill section out of town and tried my best to stretch out my back to no good effect. When I got to the climb up to the top of the Keene descent, I had to sit up and that is really when I realized that I was probably in a bit of what could be long-term trouble. When I sat up my low back would spasm. I stood up and tried to stretch, but that was bad. I stopped briefly to stretch out, and that was worse. Down the descent into Keene I just stayed in the aerobars and freewheeled the steepest parts. It was raining fairly steady at this point, but for the most part folks were spaced out well so it was not too bad. At the turn in Keene it stopped raining and at that point I really started getting serious about trying to figure out what to do. At the out-and-back turn around in Au Sable Forks I tried stretching out one more time but just could not even stand up straight without significant pain, so it was there that I pretty well decided to DNF - I just saw no way I would be able to run a single step if I could not even stand up straight (much less a whole marathon), so now it was just a matter of when. I was actually making fairly good time despite having to keep the effort low - I just could not put a lot of power to the cranks as my back would spasm every time I tried. I thought briefly about just going around a second time and completing the bike, but honestly that did not seem like it would do much for me. I thought it would be a lot better to cut my losses, get checked out as quickly as I could, cleaned up, fed, and then back out on the course to watch JT as much as I could.
I rolled into town just a hair-bit faster than last year, and at a much lower effort. So at least I have that tiny little moral victory to enjoy!
When I got back to the transition area and rode up the hill to the bike in, a couple of volunteers came hustling up and asked if I needed medical attention. I told them that I thought I would like that and when I eventually able to get off my bike they thought I was bending over to take off my chip strap. They said "NO, NO. NO, Don't take off your chip unless you are dropping out!!!!" and I kind of laughed and told them that I was not taking off my strap I just could not stand up straight. Then I asked if they would be kind enough to take the strap off for me.
It was quiet in the medical tent, and I pretty well had all the docs to myself. They worked on me for about 45 minutes and got me upright, but any twisting or stepping up or down was painful. Their diagnosis was a "locked SI joint," which thanks to Google I now know is the "Sacroilliac Joint" which transfers weight from the spine to the hips. Who knew I even had one of those, much less two!*
Once they got me moving somewhat I racked my bike, and grabbed my morning clothes bag and then went and sat in the completely empty changing tent and collected my thoughts. Every time I adjusted my position to get comfortable the pain reinforced my decision to drop out of the race. eventually a volunteer came in and was surprised to see me there by myself and asked if I needed help. I asked if he would help me change clothes and he was more than happy to have something to do, I think. With his help I got changed in short order, and then made my way back to the hotel. I stopped by Starbucks so that I could get wireless internet service (cell service is all but non-existent in Lake Placid during Ironman week) and sent a message to Joy and Steve letting them know I was out of the race, OK, and headed to the hotel.
I actually got showered rather quickly, and just as I finished up S&J arrived back at the hotel. Steve offered me an ice cold beer, which I gladly accepted. We commiserated a bit, grabbed a bite to eat and then we headed out to spectate. We caught up with Ms. BrotherTri while she was out watching for James and she told us he was looking pretty good when he went out on his first run lap. I got to see JT come in on her second bike lap and she looked great - finishing over 45 minutes faster than she had in the previous year! SInce she did not know that I had DNF'd though I hid from her while Steve and Joy cheered her on - I did not want her to worry about me at all. We hustled around to see her leave out on the run - again I stayed out of sight, but it was great to see her smiling!
From there we headed to the brewery for the best seat in the house - wha-hoo! - NOW you are talking! It was a great place to watch as you could see racers both coming and going. Unfortunately we somehow missed James, but Jen still looked good completing her first lap. None of her splits were showing up on Ironman Live (of course!) but she was carrying a MyAthleteLive GPS transponder, so were getting good estimates on her time whenever we could get cell service to go through, and she was KILLING it!
While she was out on her second loop it started raining really hard in town and the crowd started to thin out a lot as everyone dove for cover. However Steve took that as a sign that the runners actually needed us the most at that time and went out in the rain and rang his cowbell and shouted encouragement as loud as he could. I figured I could do that too, and pretty soon we had a big crowd going crazy in the pouring rain.
I like that everyone had their name printed in big block letters on their bibs, so we shouted to everyone by name and gave as much encouragement as possible. It was incredibly exciting to see everyone coming in, some smiling, some crying, others just with teeth gritted and faces locked in fierce determination. It was the most fun I have enjoyed for a very long time - it is remarkable and inspiring to get to see up-close just how much completing the Ironman means to so many folks - it made me really happy just to get to get to see it all.
On her last time out and back past the brewery I came out of hiding and we all went crazy for Jennifer when she came by. This time she was all business - no smiling and focused on getting herself to the to the finish line. I have experienced that same look an new all of her energy was split between driving her legs forward and doing timing math in her head: if she hustled she was going to break 5 hours for the marathon. We raced down to see her come around the oval (she was flying like the wind) and we hear Mike Reilly say those magic words: "Jennifer Treter from Atlanta, Georgia - You are an Ironman!!!"
Since I was still wearing my athlete bracelet, I could get onto the oval and I was there to catch her and we hugged what seemed like forever and then I really started boo-hooing, which I think actually startled Jennifer more than me. I was just so happy to see her finish so well: beating her time from last year by over an hour-and-a-half! She is a real inspiration - it is crazy how she can maintain such a balance in her life between work and training. I am truly humbled by her accomplishments.
We quickly got JT bundled up and a hot pizza in her (the night before the race she had said that is what she wanted when she was done and we ordered one for her when she was about 20 minutes from the finish line). We gathered up her bags (tribike transport was responsible for our bikes) and headed to the hotel to get her scrubbed down. Around 10:30pm we shuffled slowly back down to the finish line party, and it was absolutely rocking! we stayed until after midnight to watch the last competitors come in. It was remarkable. We saw a good friend of ours come across a little after 11:30pm which was extremely exciting as he has had some really bad luck with this race: last year he DNF'd just a few miles out on the bike because of excruciating stomach pain - and it turned out he was passing a kidney stone of all things! This year he arrived in lake placid with a terrible fever and found out he had a bacterial infection on the friday before the race and was put on a serious round of antibiotics. It was tough, but he finished this time around, and that is what counted for him. He was ecstatic.
The atmosphere and crowd is beyond belief in that last hour - those late-night finishers are like rock stars when they cross the line. It is a truly amazing accomplishment that they have done what they have done.
What limited your ability to perform faster:
So suffice it to say this was just not my day, race-wise. But in every other way it was an awesomely spectacular day otherwise. In retrospect I am extremely happy that my race went south as early as it did and am very content with my decision to to drop out after the first bike loop (reinforced by the fact that I am sitting here typing this with an Icepack stuck in the back of my pants). It was such a fun and rewarding experience for me to get to watch the race from the other side of the fence for a change. I will be honest: for me, training and racing has always simply been a lot of fun, but it has never really been a cathartic or life-changing experience for me. But after getting the opportunity to watch all day and witnessing the full gamut of emotions played out by racers and spectators alike I have a new-found respect for the role it plays in so many lives. Making it around really is a big deal.
Even though I failed to make it anywhere close to the finish line on Sunday, I will treasure this day for a long time to come. It was so much fun, and I was inspired by every single racer that I saw go by. I am still horse from yelling all day. Seeing Jennifer execute the race that all of her hard work made possible brought a tremendous amount of joy to me. She was honestly the only Ironman I needed on Sunday.
*Update - I just got back from my own Doc here in Atlanta and his diagnosis is actually a mild tear to my "Lumbar Erector Spinae muscles" on the right side. He says it is a common injury caused by bending over at the waist and then twisting sharply when the muscles are at full extension. I have to keep icing my back and try to minimize stretching it. I do have some movement exercises to do every hour, so at least I have something to do. I can walk, but no running for at least 10 more days. I can try out swimming and riding this coming Sunday and just respond accordingly if I have any pain. When I got home from the doctor I of course googled "Lumbar Erector Injury" and most of the search returns were to forum discussions about crossfit and weight lifting. That sounds about right.
Last updated: 2012-11-20 12:00 AM
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Reader's Digest Condensed Version:
Longer Boring Version:
About two weeks before the race two of our very best life-long friends (Joy and Steve) decided to come up with us to spectate, which was really exciting for us - Ironman can be a long day day and there is nothing like having friends and family there to cheer you on. We flew into Albany on Wednesday Afternoon, jumped into the rental van and headed straight up to Lake Placid. We quickly checked into the Mirror Lake Inn and grabbed a late dinner at the Cottage across the street. Afterward we took a leisurely stroll down to the oval - it was really quiet out as not many racers where in town. The proverbial "calm before the storm" that would begin rolling in on Thursday.
Up early on Thursday, and went down to check-in first thing. Then a loop around the swim course in the afternoon. The water temp was 72 degrees and I wore my sleeveless Desoto top, which was just fine. We had another swim scheduled on Saturday morning, and as the lake temperature was supposed to keep falling I planned on trying out my long sleeve top then. We had lunch at the Brewery and met up with James and Stacy for dinner. James and I met briefly last year for a swim, but it was really nice to get to spend more time with both him and Stacy this go-round. We had a great time with them.
On Friday we had a short and easy brick of 45 minutes/30 minutes. We rode out of town on the run course, but instead of doing the out and back we looped all the way around to ride up the Bears at the end of the bike course. The effort was low, I felt great, and the weather was awesome. Immediately after the ride we met up with Joy and Steve and they went with us on a lopey little out-and-back run around the back side of the lake. We spent the afternoon hanging out at the hotel's beach right off the swim turn-around and then later that evening the four of us celebrated Jennifer and my anniversary (together for 22 years and married 16!) with a long, luxurious dinner at the Brown Dog Cafe, then another stroll to walk off dinner and dessert.
On Saturday we got up and headed down to the swim start to meet up with the BT folks. We found James, but with the new swim configuration it unexpectedly made it difficult to meet up with folks - we were not smart enough to pick a rally point ahead of time. Klassman and Cornick were evidently both there, but we failed to find them. Ah, well - we will plan better next time. I swam about 20 minutes in my long sleeve top and decided to go with it for race day as the water was a little cooler and I know it is slightly faster from the couple of times I have worn it in shorter races. Afterward we grabbed brunch and then organized all of our race gear and walked it all down to transition. We spent about an hour there re-familiarizing ourselves with the transition details, and then went back to the hotel to put our feet up. For dinner we did our now-traditional visit to Jimmy's 21.
Our alarms went off promptly at 3:30am on Sunday morning, but I was already awake and antsy. I had a quick breakfast and since it was still early I did some light stretching. We walked down to the athlete village arriving right around 5am and quickly got body marked, aired up the tires, and organized all of our last minute stuff. Unlike in years past, this year the bike and run special needs were separated by some distance, so we dropped off our bike stuff first and then said our good byes/good lucks with Steve and Joy and they took our stuff to the run special needs area while we went off to get warmed up. It is awesome to have Sherpas on race day! They actually wound up carrying bags down for several other stressed-out-and-running-late athletes as well.
We got to the starting line and found that due to the new swim start the beach was fenced off and open to athletes only. It was kind of nice as they had a lot of port-o-potties that were available only to racers which made the final stop very speedy.
Shared a final bit of "good luck" time with JT, then we both went in the water for about 5 minutes of warm-up. I easily slipped into my corral in amongst a bunch of folks that were all aiming at 1:05-ish. We were lined up about 15 meters behind the starting arch and only had to wait about 5 more minutes until the pros went off.