Wow, where to start? There are so many things that I want to say, but I will try to keep this as short as possible.
I chose IMLP as my first full IM for 2 reasons I LOVE the area and it is a lake swim. I did not chose my first IM to play to my strengths because as I pretty much suck at climbing on the bike. The 5800′ of gain on the bike course was my biggest concern for IMLP, so in my training, I focused a lot of my training on hilly routes. I felt pretty good going into IMLP, but I was also pretty sure that I’d be on the bike for 7+ hours. I was hoping to keep my run under 5 hours with the advertised 1600′ of elevation gain (it’s actually around 850′ thank the Lord), and my swim around 1:30. Add them all together, and I was anticipating 13:30 plus transition times, so I figured around 14 hours, but I knew my bike could be longer or my run could be shorter, so best case 13:30 and worst case 15 hours was the range I gave my support crew. If I finished within that range for my first full, I’d be thrilled. I also had to keep in mind that I have IMNC in October, so I needed to recover quickly, so I didn’t want to push myself to the limit in this race, and with it being my first IM, I wanted to enjoy the race and take it ALL in. So, my goals were to finish between 13:30 and 15 hours and to enjoy the day/moment.
My family and I arrived in Lake Placid on Monday before the race. We rented an apartment through AirBnB for 8 nights. It was about a half mile from the start and athlete village which made everything very convenient. If you are looking at IMLP, I’d strongly suggest you check into renting an apartment, condo, or house as the hotels book up quickly and are often more than some of the rentals….plus you have your own kitchen in a rental!
My plan for Thursday was to get up early before much traffic, and to ride out of LP and down the Keene descent. I wanted to check out how steep it was and the road conditions prior to race day. My husband got up early with me, and left a bit after I did, so he could pick me up in Keene. The descent wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be, and I was able to ride most of it in aero position. The curves were large sweeping curves and there was only a small section of rough pavement. It was much easier to maintain aero than some of the curves and pavement in the North GA Gaps that I had ridden. Jason met me in Keene, and we headed back to the apartment.
Thursday was also athlete check-in starting at 9AM. My family wanted to play golf, so while my husband took the kids golfing, I headed down to athlete village. Of course, I arrived early, and check-in and athlete village weren’t open yet, so I wandered through the village anyway as the vendors were still setting up. Shortly, everything was open, but since athlete check-in was up the road(maybe a 1/4 mile) and I was already at athlete village, I visited the store. I am not superstitious, and the finisher stuff at Ironman events is now being put out when the store opens instead of waiting until Monday, so yes, I bought a finisher’s jacket along with a shirt, backpack, coffee cup, cycling jacket, visor, and probably some other stuff that I just can’t think of. I never had doubts that I would finish the race unless something horribly unforeseen happened and I was taken off the course by medical, so I really wasn’t worried about buying the items ahead of time. They all went in the backpack and would sit in the corner of my bedroom though until after the race. On my way out of the store, I stopped back by the village and signed my son up for the IronKids race that he wanted to do.
Now, off to athlete check-in. Nothing eventful here, it was smooth, and I was in and out within 10 minutes. Then, I walked back to our apartment and the family returned from golfing shortly afterwards.
On Thursday afternoon, a few of my training partners and their spouses, Clay, Shari, Dani, and Troy, arrived in LP to support and cheer for me at the race. I can’t thank them enough for traveling so far just to see my first IM. I was excited to see them and spend some time with them over the next couple of days.
Friday was spent with the group. Clay, Dani, and I did an early morning swim of 1 loop in Lake Placid. Then, we changed and headed to Bacon’s Meat & Greet. I’m sure it was awesome, but we were there early and were starving, so we decided to ditch it, and our families all headed into town to eat some breakfast together. After breakfasts, the ladies all headed off to shop some, and Clay went with me to the athlete briefing. I figured I should actually attend this one since it was my first full. After the briefing, I got to snap a quick photo with the Voice of Ironman Mike Reilly. Then, off to gather the family for the IronKids race.
Everyone met by the lake for the IronKids race, and guess who was announcing it? Mike Reilly! My son probably didn’t care, but I thought it was pretty cool, and I made sure to tell him to give Mike a high five as he came to the finish. The first race for the kids was a Splash n Dash. I tried to get my son to do it, but I couldn’t ever convince him, but I’m hoping next time, he’ll be game after seeing the other kids do it. There were some tiny kids out there and they were rocking it! A few did the run in their goggles and swim caps still, but they were awfully cute. It was finally time for my son’s mile race, and he had a blast as usual. He’s really starting to enjoy running, and he’s starting to ask about cycling! Score!
Through this point, I was feeling pretty calm with no nerves. After all, this was just going to be another training day to get to my A race in October. I woke up early and did my short ride and run with Dani and all was fine. I returned to the apartment, had my breakfast and coffee on the porch in a sweatshirt, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather while my family still slept.
Bike and gear bag check-in were from 10AM-3PM, so the next thing was to get my bags packed. This was the first(and only) time that nerves actually hit. Having to pack things the day before and get things in the right bags required forethought and planning. Something that I’m not prone to doing. It drives my friends nuts (probably my coach too) that I literally wait until the last minute to pack things, but I work that way. The less I think about things, the better I do. Overthinking is a stress inducer and zaps precious energy out of life that I don’t have time for. My hands were literally shaking as I tried to go through in my mind what I needed in each bag. I sent Dani a text telling her I was nervous. This is the only time I remember being nervous prepping for a race, and I totally blame it on the need for forethought. I got my stuff ready to go in the bags and snapped a quick photo of the contents. The photo was so I could review what the heck I put in the bags later in the day in case I questioned it because as much as most triathletes are type A personalities, I really am not. I am not a lists person. I have what I need jumbled in my head somewhere and then I try to pull it back out. Sorry to disappoint all my friends who think I am organized and type A, but I promise, I AM NOT. Now, off to bag drop off and bike check in.
Those are my bags with the red cups and green tape. It was suggested on the IMLP Facebook page to not double knot your bags because after swimming and riding, your fingers may not work so well to untie them. Instead, someone said to put a solo cup over the bag and to run the strings through since you hang your bags at IMLP. This was to keep the rain out and your stuff dry as well. It did rain after drop off, and my stuff remained dry, so it worked. The green tape was to help me spot my bags.
After dropping off my bags and bike, my nerves were gone, and I headed back to the apartment to chill until evening.
Saturday evening several churches in LP had prayer services for athletes, so our crew went to one together, then we all went our separate ways for dinner. I wanted a low key dinner in our apartment, so back we went.
For most races, I arrive at transition when it opens, and that was my plan for IMLP. I got up early ate my usual pre-workout breakfast, drank my coffee, prepared my Ucan and water bottles for the day, and was ready to head out. This time, I had my entire family in tow to head down to transition(usually they come later). As we walked towards transition, I realized I had forgotten my special needs bags, so my husband went back to grab them as the kids and I headed on down. Clay was waiting outside of transition for me, so the kids waited with him as I headed in to put my nutrition in my transition bags. By the time I came out, Jason had made it with my special needs bags, and we headed towards the two special needs areas to drop off those bags. Both the bike and run special needs were pretty close to the swim start, so I sat on the grass while Clay took one bag and Jason took the other. They returned quickly, and I made a quick bathroom stop, drank 3 scoops of Ucan, then after a few minutes, it was time to head to swim start.
The swim was a rolling start, and athletes were to self-seed. I got in line around the 1:30 mark. As I entered the water, my plan was to stay to the far left. In Mirror Lake, there is a line about 4 feet under the surface that follows the swim course. Most people battle to get on this line, so I had decided I would stay far outside and avoid the battle. It was extremely foggy race morning, and I couldn’t see to the next buoy to sight, so I just sighted off the people to my right since I knew the group was following a submerged line. Even staying outside, I was regularly getting kicked, pulled on, swam over, and hit. It seemed that no matter how far outside I stayed, there was still someone trying to get over the the right where the rope was. The first loop was quite the battle. As I came out of the water and started the second loop, I followed the same plan until I reached the turn buoy. At that time, I got pushed to the inside, and I realized that I wasn’t being hammered as much, so I stayed there on the line. I guess once we were on the line, everyone was where they wanted to be, so no one was getting hammered as bad. The remainder of the second loop was very smooth. Out of the water in 1:26, and off to T1.
Division Rank: 83 Gender Rank: 429 Overall Rank: 1732
I had specifically told my crew that I was going to have a picnic in transition because Coach Chuck always tells me not to in 70.3’s, but Chuck and I hadn’t talked a ton about the actual race. He had given me a race plan, and we had chatted a few times during the week about the course, the town, and the weather, but I hadn’t really spoke race specifics with him because I knew my plan, and honestly, we just don’t usually talk a ton of race specifics because it’s just not something I need. IMLP was my B race for the year, and we had spoken in the past that I was treating it as a training day. He had told me earlier in the week to enjoy the day because you only get one first IM, but I guess I hadn’t let him know just how much I planned to enjoy the day and take it all in which I found out later concerned him a bit when saw my T1 time as 12:48 in IronTrac, and my bike and T2 didn’t help. He was apparently a bit concerned until the first couple of run splits.
The run from swim to T1 was fairly long. I did run it, but it was a narrow piece of carpet, and I got stuck behind some walkers a couple of times and had to pass them on the uncarpeted part which slowed me down a tad. I grabbed my T1 bag, went into the tent, dumped it on a chair, and proceeded to get everything together. Cycling jersey on, baggies in pockets, sunscreen on, gloves on, dried my feet, socks and shoes on, frozen 3 scoops of Ucan in cycling pocket, and off I went…..just not that fast.
As I headed through the bike area, volunteers were getting people’s bikes for them, but as I approached my rack, the volunteer didn’t hear my number and hadn’t grabbed mine, so she took off after it as I stood waiting. Then off I went to the mount line.
The bike course at IMLP is 2 loops. It starts with a climb out of LP which is a pretty good climb, then a steep descent of about 7 miles into Keene(15 mile mark), followed by about 20 miles of fairly flat riding, to finish the loop with about 20 miles of fairly continuous climbing from Jay back to LP. Most people just talk about the last 12 mile climb from Wilmington to LP, but you are actually climbing for about the last 20 miles of each loop. There are a few rollers, but IMO you are climbing for the most part. Also, most people talk about the 3 bears being horrible, but to me, the worst climb on the course is out of Jay heading towards Wilmington on 86.
I headed out on the bike and saw my family right at the start. As I climbed out of LP, I just dropped into an easy gear and spun up the hill. It was a significant climb, but not bad as long as you were smart. I was glad to reach the top and head down the Keene descent.
As I descended, a lot of people were being cautious, but since I had ridden the descent Thursday, I was able to take advantage of the speed on the descent. Most riders were very courteous and keeping right if they were moving slower, but a guy and I came up quickly on one rider hugging the yellow line even without anyone to the right. He called on your left, but she didn’t move, so he went into the oncoming lane. She glanced over, noticed him, and moved slightly right. I then called on your left 3 different times, and she never moved over any further, so I proceeded to pass her in the 3-4 feet between her and the yellow line. She didn’t maintain her line down the hill (which had been stressed in the athlete briefing along with not blocking on the descent), and she drifted into me. I saw her coming and I was already slightly in front of her, luckily, as she bumped the rear of my bullhorns with her bullhorns. She jumped, over corrected, and almost wiped out, but she was able to maintain control. I continued down the descent without further incident.
As I made the turn on 9N in Keene, the course became fairly flat and remained that way to Ausable Forks and back to Jay. The lady from the Keene descent hammered to catch me on the flat section and to inform me that I almost made her crash. We exchanged a few words about rules and maintaining your line, and she pushed on past me. I quickly caught myself annoyed by her and starting to push myself and settled back into my race. There were a lot of miles left, and I wasn’t going to let her get under my skin.
The ride to Ausable Forks was very scenic, and I enjoyed the views of the river and mountains. The road was a bit rough, but a few weeks before the race, the cracks in the road had been filled, so even though it was rough, there were no dangers of catching your wheel in a crack. After the turn around in Ausable Forks, you return to Jay and start climbing as you turn right on 86. This was a long slow climb. Again, I didn’t want to burn any matches, so into my granny gear I went. The remainder of the first loop was fairly uneventful, and I came into special needs. Again, that picnic philosophy here.😉 I stopped, drank my 3 scoops of Ucan that was now thawed, and grabbed a PB&J out of my special needs bag. I ate about half of it, then off I went. As I headed around the back of the Olympic Oval and back out onto loop 2, I felt pretty good. I had drank about 40 ounces of water with 1 tablet of Nunn in it, had the Ucan, and half of a PB&J. This was more than typical of me on a training ride, so my nutrition seemed to be fine.
The climb out of LP on loop 2 presented a bit of trouble. My right hamstring started cramping. I had never had issues with cramping on training rides, and my fueling was better than I had done in training, so my only thoughts were that I probably pushed too much on some of the hills on the first loop despite trying to take it easy, so as I approached the top of the climb, it seemed to be getting worse, and I stopped to stretch. After stretching, it felt better and I had a descent plus 15 or so miles of fairly flat, so I hoped it was gone. For the next 20ish miles, the hamstring felt pretty good, but then as I headed out of Wilmington, I could feel the cramp returning. It wasn’t a sudden strong cramp. It was just gradually setting in the more I climbed. At this point, I just wanted off the bike because I knew if I could get done with the bike, it would most likely loosen up on the run. I had to stop two more times heading back into LP and my left hamstring decided to join in on the fun by the time I got to the bottom of the 3 bears, so when I reached the top of Papa Bear, I was thrilled because I knew the end was near. The run was not a concern for me, and I was almost done with the hardest part. The last section is lined with spectators as you come into LP and circle behind the Olympic oval to enter to T2. I was done with the bike in 7:25:41.
Division Rank: 77 Gender Rank: 384 Overall Rank: 1748
As I came into transition, Clay was working in T2 taking bikes. He grabbed mine, asked me how I felt, and I was off to grab my bag. T2 was interesting. Let me start by saying that I am completely thankful for volunteers and appreciate everything they do! But, I am someone who prefers to be left alone and likes to handle my own stuff. I came into the tent, and a volunteered followed me. Ok, no problem. If I need something, I’ll ask. She instructed me to have a seat and she’d help me. I found a chair, sat down, placed my bag on the seat next to me, and proceeded to remove my cycling shoes. This is where I started biting my tongue. The volunteer grabbed my bag off the seat next to me and dumped it on the tent floor. Ok, the floor was wet. I have no idea if it was water or pee, but I imagine it was a mixture, and I had my clean, dry stuff in the bag along with run nutrition and water bottles. Deep breath….I grabbed my shirt, it seemed dry still, hopefully nothing landed in water/pee. What do you need? I’m a bit annoyed, so I just bit my tongue. Maybe if I don’t speak, or ask for anything she will leave? I grab my socks as well, and they are still dry, then I start putting what I don’t want back in the bag. She tells me to leave it. I put it in anyway because I want to make sure it gets back in the bag. I still am not speaking, and she isn’t leaving. WTH? I really just want my picnic time and to be left alone in my thoughts. Stop talking to me and asking me questions! I need to think. I have an order and your questions are screwing with my thought process. ADD here lady! Ok, dry socks, run shoes, now a clean shirt. Can I help you? -no, go away…ok, I didn’t say it, but God I was thinking it! OMG, now she’s in my personal space pulling the back of my shirt down. BACK OFF(again, in my head)!!!! Personal space lady, personal space! Just keep breathing, just keep breathing. You’d think this invasion would have sped me up, but no, I was still taking my time, hoping to be left alone. Shirt is now on. Ok, sunscreen, this one she can help with. I finally speak and ask her to apply it to my back. I grab my nutrition, tell her thank you (for the invasion), and off I go. Seriously, volunteers are awesome, I just don’t handle help with stuff well. Keep doing what you do volunteers. One day, I will need that help I’m sure. T2: 11:23
Two loops with 2 out and back sections on each, 26.2 miles total, and I’ve already swam and rode for a warm up because I must be nuts.
My plan was to use a run:walk. I would run 2 minutes, walk 30 seconds. Doing this, I can keep an 11 minute mile pretty easy, so that was the plan. If I felt good later, I could always drop the walks.
The cramps from the bike were gone as I had expected to happen, and my legs felt pretty good. There was a nice long downhill past the ski jumps (which means you have to go back up it), so I cruised down that part feeling pretty good. As I headed out the long windy road to the turn around, I noticed a lot of people were already walking casually. I wondered if they were on their second loop or first. I felt comfortable with my 2/:30 and continued to maintain it. I was starting to see people vomiting as well which made me start to think about vomiting and hope that I wouldn’t. I had heard that people often get GI issues that cause it, but I just felt hungry. So, I started taking in solid food on the run. I had a Pure Bliss bar ( http://pureblissorganics.myshopify.com/ ) , so I ate it. My stomach was no longer burning from hunger, and I felt better. It was also pretty hot, so at every water stop I started putting ice in my bra, dumping ice water over my head, and drinking a few sips of water. I continued this process through the first loop. I walked every water stop in addition to my 30 second walk breaks to make sure I got what I needed. The hill by the ski jumps was a booger, so I finished the run I was on, then I walked more than my 30 seconds up the hill. I had an entire loop after this one, and I wasn’t going to kill myself on an early hill.
As I got back into LP I passed my family and support crew and I stopped by special needs to grab another Pure Bliss bar and ditch my fuel belt because I wasn’t using the bottles of Nunn in it, and it was just added weight to carry. I also took a gel for some added energy and electrolytes, but overall, I was just hungry. The out and back after special needs was lined with people most of the way as you came back towards the Olympic Oval before heading out on loop 2.
One loop to go, 13.1 miles, it’s still daylight, and I still feel good. When is the wall going to hit? I’ve not pushed, but I’ve also never ran more than 4 miles off of a 100 mile bike ride and 15 off of a 50 mile ride. Surely I’m going to hit the wall. Soooo many people are now walking. More people are puking. I shouldn’t be feeling good still should I? My stomach is burning. Maybe this is what it feels like before you need to puke? No, I think I’m just hungry. Maybe I need some Gatorade. –This is the conversation I was now having with myself– So, at the next water stop, I decided I’d start taking in a couple of sips of Gatorade, and I started eating some more of the Pure Bliss bar. Then, I grabbed some pretzels later on. The more I ate, the better I felt. I WAS STARVING! I really had no idea what nutrition was going to be this late in an IM for me. I was done well before this is training, so it was all an experiment at this point. Luckily, my stomach was fine and better with the added solid food. The further I got into loop 2, the better I felt. After the turn around about mile 6, there was a guy jamming on an inflatable guitar. Maybe I was delirious, but my pace was good, I was feeling stronger, and I was having fun at this point, so I stopped for a second to head bang, play an air guitar, and sing with him before continuing on my way. Approaching the big hill gain, I went with the same theory, and I walked a bit longer than my 30 seconds. I had started picking my pace up a tad on the run portion, as I headed back into LP. Then, I was there. I saw my family as I came back before the final turn for the last 2 miles out and back. I was going to be an Ironman in about 20 minutes. I stopped and hugged my family, then picked the pace up to finish those last 2 miles. I could hear Mike Reilly announcing finishers the entire last 2 miles. What motivation could be better! I made the last turn around, and headed back. I skipped the last couple of walk breaks as I ran down the last stretch by Mirror Lake surrounded with people on both sides and made my way to the Olympic Oval. As I entered the oval, words can’t do justice for the feeling you get. You feel like a rockstar at IMLP as you enter that oval. People holding their hands out on both sides giving you high 5’s. Mike Reilly announcing other finishers as you circle the oval. Then, you come around that corner and see the finish line and the Ironman carpet. Stephanie-You are an Ironman!
Run: 4:46:43 Finish Time: 14:02:39
Division Rank: 62 Gender Rank: 297 Overall Rank: 1353
As I finished, a volunteer met me, “how do you feel?”
Me: “I feel good.”
Her: “You look like you do. Do you need anything?”
Me: “Water.” She grabbed my shirt, hat, and some water after I got my medal, then she put me in line for my photo and went back to the finish line. As I stood waiting for my photo, I noticed everyone else still had their volunteer. Hmmm…I finally got my wish to be left alone by a volunteer, but wait, I want FOOD, and I have a ton of crap in my hands. Those people are sitting down, and their volunteers are getting their food for them. Well, lesson learned, don’t say you feel good at the finish, and don’t wish to be left alone so much because I could have used some help carrying my food then, but I managed, and my family apparently wondered if I was ever going to stop eating and come out. ;-P
I just want to take a second to say thank you to my husband, Jason, who supports me in everything I do. I have to say that I am extremely lucky to have a spouse who supports my adventures and NEVER complains about the time that I spend doing them. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have a spouse like him.
I also want to thank Coach Chuck( http://www.tricoachgeorgia.com/ ) who puts up with my non-sense and smart mouth, yet knows when to tell me to DYJ (do your job). He has been my coach for 3 years now, and I need a coach like him who can be a smart ass when needed. I’m sure a lot of coaches would be a bit to easy on me, but I need someone who is willing to push me beyond my comfort zone even though I hate him at times.
And last, but not least, I want to thank my training partners and teammates who have joined me on hundreds of miles, cheered and supported me at my race, and not let me slack when I wanted to.