I wasn’t going to put another race report out into the world …buuuuut I had a bit of an experience that I still need to fully process, and thought #onemoreblog might help me digest this thick wad of FEELINGS.
The quick background: A little over a year ago, a group of my beloved Wattie Ink. friends decided to make Ironman Lake Placid an unofficial team race. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make the return to Ironman, though, as things have changed since my last rodeo: first, I’m dating a dude who thinks (or, thought) Ironmans are “dumb”; second, I’m pretty sure I’ve reached my own physical and genetic limitations, and have tipped into my decline; third, every Ironman has its own personality, and I was very sure that Placid and I wouldn’t get along. Coach Steve and I “talked” (texted) it over, though, and he encouraged me to give it a try: if this would be my comeback and/or last Ironman, I might as well do it among friends and at one of the original and most adored events in North America.
I didn’t tell a ton of people that I was shooting for this event. However, shortly after DNFing Wildflower (I had a tough go of it that day, felt joyless, and no amount of positive self-talk convinced me to finish the run), Dusty posted a video of me training with a few hashtags that let the cat out of the bag. Ah, modern love.
Last day off before training starts back in earnest tomorrow. That means I get to sag for this chick. Fun watching such a good athlete train. She’s preparing to crush some dreams in July. #IMLP #triathlon #wattieink #running #ironman @karinlanger
A video posted by dustynabor (@dustynabor) on May 17, 2015 at 11:33am PDT
As much as I wanted to be secret squirrel about my race, letting people know my plans was mostly good: a number of people then reached out with excitement, encouragement, and firsthand knowledge. Wattie Ink teammate Heather Catchpole sent her Garmin files, and my long lost high school swim teammate, Mandy Lovett, told me all about the course, town, and competition. The bad side was reality slowly set in, and I came to realize what a hard-upon-difficult-upon-intense day it would be.
A few notes about my training and preparation:
I’ve been swimming 3-4 times a week, almost exclusively long course. I’ve really learned to love long course meters and finally got used to metric paces. Mirror Lake, the Lake Placid swim venue, is basically a loooooong long course pool: it’s so calm that no specific open water work was required. I did head to the ocean once just to make sure my wetsuit still fit. Thanks to CVMM and my lanemates, as well as Jonny Caron, David Cameron, and Matt Biondi for tweaking my stroke.
There’s a ton of terrain in our area, so I was better prepared than I thought for the Placid bike course. I had heard some really frightening things about various grades and descents there, but as usual, it’s an exaggeration. Sure, my W/kg could have been more advantageous for going UP the hills, but I drop like a stone on the descents, so at least there’s that. I currently own the QOM on (part of) The Descent into Keene.
Most of my runs were on pavement and about as “flat” as you can get in our area. I do a lot of short out and back runs over steady grades and rollers. Most mid-range runs involve intervals, which I like to do over familiar territory around a lake (flat, but still not Chicago flat). Any medium and long runs (1:30-2:30) with no specific paces were a) rare, and b) done out the front door on a route with a profile pretty similar to Placid’s. I probably should have done more pace work over more terrain and paying more attention to grade adjustments, but that’s just not how it worked out.
I use liquid nutrition on the bike (PowerBar gels on the run—they’re deliciously liquidy and easy to swallow, other brands make me choke), but started supplementing with solid food too. It becomes too easy to goof up calorie intake when you’re racing or when the weather is different. So, I did long rides with medjool dates, salted and stuffed with almonds. Sweet, salty, crunchy, satisfying, potassium and sodium, and avoids gel and/or flavor fatigue. Six stuffed dates were in my bento box on race day, one for each hour. I think I ate three of them.
Pretty standard equipment for race day: blueseventy Helix wetsuit; Reynolds 72 front and Element Disc rear; Jordan Rapp was kind enough to Teflon treat a chain for me, which I entirely credit for breaking my Best Bike Split prediction by a few minutes; the new Diamondback Serios F (with modifications just for me by Hypercat Racing); and I found running shoes that match my kit, which everyone knows is the most important thing EVAR.
I completed several 20+ hour training weeks, which is COMPLETELY new to me, and saw steady progress with fitness during each. I didn’t really break down, and I actually enjoyed the training stress. I’m not ever pain free (I limp around like Tiny Tim on a daily basis), so I’m so so so happy to have made it through training for this event. MAT with Blair has continued to be magic. Coach Steve and I built my run up from multiple 20 minute runs per week in November, through track workouts all winter, to a PR half marathon in February, and a PR run off the bike at Oceanside, to 6 weeks in a row at well over 30 miles during my Placid build. (Don’t laugh! That’s a LOT for me!)
Approximately 27 days before the race, it became clear I would be celebrating my *ladytime* on race day. I hoped it wouldn’t affect my energy levels, and I was pretty sure cramps wouldn’t be noticeable as long as I kept moving, so it was just a matter of managing my …erm… humours. Basically I didn’t want to shit my pants or bust out of my kit with bloat (no such luck on the latter). I cannot recommend a menstrual cup highly enough for active ladies: you can SBR all day and not think about it (provided your flow is light enough) –no waterlogged cotton nothing, no juggling supplies in porta-potties, no chafing string in the chamois… etc.
Taper went *almost* perfectly. I was grumpy and paranoid of injury, and actually cut a bike ride short because I was screaming at every car that passed a hair too close to me (that might be the PMS, not the taper talking), but made it through unscathed. I did, however, “crunch” something in my foot about 3 weeks out of the race. I pulled a little toe extensor or something, which made for some sweet swelling on the most tender part of my already-limpin’ foot. Steve and I decided to drastically reduce run volume leading in to the race (i.e. no running at all the last 10 days). I aquajogged and bought Hokas to walk around in to let it heal up.
OK SO ON TO THE RACE.
The swim was awesome. As you may have read in Dusty’s race report, we accidentally swam together, and split a 28 something at the halfway point. We came out of the water 5 seconds apart (WITH ME IN THE LEAD, THANK YOU) at 58-something minutes because the entire 4th quarter was about body surfing. Seriously, due to the rolling start, the FOP swimmers had to just slip and slide around on top of the BOP swimmers for half a mile.
The bike was gorgeous. I got to preview The Descent into Keene and the Climb from Wilmington on some training rides, but the rest was a mystery. GORGEOUS. The ride felt hard over some annoying rollers and during the last 10 miles, but I had a blast. I saw a whole flock of the fluffiest brown chickens ever. Did anyone else see that? Probably not. I wonder why I don’t race faster?
The run was also awesomesauce. I felt like I was at Camp Placid, a training camp for tri dorks! I was having a great time exercising and felt well prepared and invincible. The first loop went by in a flash. A little too quickly, as it turned out. Everyone tells you about the scary bike course at Placid, but no one tells you about the run. Maybe I’m just THAT BAD at pacing over hills or something, but holy crap! At any rate, the first half-mile is straight downhill. Then you climb back up, and go straight downhill at mile 2 again. Through mile 6, the course is a nice (rolling) net downhill. So I kept looking at my watch like “well, I’m going a little too fast, but I’m going downhill, so maybe it’s OK.” NO, KARIN, IT IS NOT OK. I made it back up all those hills just fine, but by the time I came back down them again on the second loop, my legs were absolutely shot. At mile 16, I told myself I’d only walk the aid stations, but I started walking 50 yards before and after the aid stations too. After a few refrains of “I’m strong enough to run right now, I’m strong enough to run right now,” I wasn’t strong enough to run anymore. My legs just weren’t having it.
I walked. A lot. I found a few other walkers who were keeping up good paces, so tried to speedwalk with them. I met a woman in my age group (and didn’t get her name, damnit!), also walking, and we lamented how stacked our race was—complete with the reigning F35-39 Ironman World Champion, and a ton of others. I had picked out 10 other women who could be competing for spots 2-5. So yeah, I was hoping for a podium, but was not holding my breath for one of the two Kona slots.
I started to recover before the race was over, and was able to put together a little 10+ minute mile jog for a few sections of road. I walked back up the hills, got a pump up from Mandy and Brian Lovett for the umpteenth time that day, jogged to my friends outside our rental house, started laughing too hard to keep running, picked it up again, flat-hand slo-mo “ran” for the crowd (“LOOK HOW FAST I’M GOING!”) and bobbled my way to the Olympic Oval, finish line, and Dusty (who waited 80 minutes for me).
I’m extremely grateful for all of the support before, during, and after the event, both physically and virtually. I love my “team” who keep me going every day, and those who jumped in especially for this occasion. I can’t possibly mention everyone because it takes a village, but I hope you all know who you are.
The simple fact is that I fucked up my race. I tried to keep SOME of my sense of humor and perspective, but I also shed some tears over it a few days later when it hit me (in public, after a few bottles of wine, sorry Dusty). Disappointment is only natural after pouring so much into something, and I needed to mourn a little bit.