Monday, July 27, 2009

The ironman at Lake Placid

After a very quiet week, where I only swam twice and nothing else, the ironman kicked off on Sunday July 26. It had been raining all night and the roads were wet when we drove to transition. The clouds looked threatening but it was dry for now. The forecast was for scattered thunderstorms, some severe, with the chances of rain increasing as the morning went along. I was quite apprehensive after my downhill-in-the-rain adventure on Thursday.

When we got ready for the swim, the skies opened up and a cold rain fell. It kept on raining throughout the swim, in short bouts that were quite intense. I started on the far right hand side to avoid traffic but even so the swim was a battle all the way to the turn buoy. It was a bit better on the return but not much. I swam 40:56 in lap one. In the second lap I swam closer to the midline and was able to follow the yellow string that connected the buoys. But it was a fight all the way to the finish and at one point my mask got kicked off. Second lap at 40:25 for a total of 1:21:21.

It was dry now but the skies were dark. After a long run to the transition I decided to take it easy and make sure I had everything. Transition one took me 10:46, another first. The first loop on the bike went very well, although the start was slow. I raced downhill to Keene, hitting speeds of 47-48 mph. The low profile front wheel really helped my steering. What a difference a day makes. Just two days ago, I had eased down the descent in driving rain, trying to survive in one piece. Now the roads were dry, the wind was easy, and the road was clear. An exhilarating ride, those 9 miles!

I rode well for the first 36 miles, often hitting in excess of 25 mph. My first split showed 21.72 mph even though it contained some short but nasty climbs. The second time around I would average 20.27 on this stretch, showing the first signs of fatigue.

My splits were 1:39:28 for the first 36 miles, 1:11:30 for the half and then 1:46:35 to 92 and another 1:18:33 to the end. That last 30 I did at 15.28 mph! Talk about a slog.

Overall it worked out to be 18.87 mph. Not too bad, especially when you realize that all was more or less OK for the first 86 or so. Then my speedometer battery died, and so did I. I had to drag myself up the last hill. Overall, the weather stayed dry except for a few sprinkles, but there was a ferocious headwind up the Whiteface climb to the finish. I could really sense the lack of long distance riding here.

It also became very hot and muggy and I was sweating profusely making the second major downhill feel rather chilly.

When I hit T2, I could barely walk. My left foot hurt badly -not sure why- and I was crampy and stiff. I also felt empty. T2 took 8:07, another long delay. But even that was not enough to allow for some recovery. The run was painful and slow and I was unable to find a pace that I could hold. I ran and walked the first half at 2:19:06 and the second half at 2:20:45, for a total of 4:39:51.

I knew the race was over when I hit mile 91 on the bike. I just wanted to finish. I did so in my slowest time ever, 12:16:11. Even Switzerland was faster by a minute, but in Switzerland I did not have to deal with a complex transition process.

It never rained again during the day, other than a few sprinkles on the climb. But it was plenty hot and muggy. For some reason the weather here is never very good. It is either cold and windy, raining cats and dogs, or hot and muggy. And it can change in a heartbeat too.

I am glad I finished but it is clear I wasn't ready for an ironman. Having no racing bike and having done only a few long rides so far this year, I was sorely lacking in preparation. The bike leg killed me. It took 5:56:06, again one of the slowest.

Although Lake Placid is tough, I don't think it is any harder than Switzerland or Canada. I just need to prepare better next time. No excuses here!

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