My first Triathlon
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Ironman USA Lake Placid - TriathlonFull Ironman
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Lake Placid, New York
Ironman North America
66F / 19C
= 13h 17m 1s
Age Group Rank
“The Swan Song : Ironman Lake Placid 2008”
“It is the springtime of my loving, the final season, I’m to know.” “You are the sunshine in my loving, so little warmth, I felt the torch.” “ Speak to me only with your eyes, it is to all of you I bring this tune…”
This was my 5th ironman triathlon at Lake Placid in it’s 10th anniversary and like all the one’s in the past, it is a long, arduous trip the start line in which there are no guarantees. The over 4000 miles of bike training, 1400 miles running, 40 hours of swimming, 52 hours of weight and miscellaneous training is complete and all that remains is in the hands of God. At the risk of sounding cliché’, the only thing you can control on race week is your attitude, which has the greatest impact on the final result.
Race week brings with it incredible stress as we are challenged to keep ourselves in check with limited training. We have to avoid overstuffing our neurotic pie-wholes and slicing our fingers off with the electric saw as we do small projects around the house to keep our sanity. More specifically in my case is dealing with the social aspects of hosting a family from Oregon which included many dinners out and on the road as well as a party that got a little out of control on the Monday before the race. It was a good distraction for the most part and considering the potential for collateral damage it went well. I still had 2 full days to pack and prepare for our 4 am departure and slide into position for the race.
We began our trip and as we arrived on the ramp to the Meadowbrook Parkway, we noticed the road was completely closed to construction. We, however, merged on the road just past the closure and were happily on our way with our first drop of good karma. Oh, did I just say, “drop of good Karma?” We can talk more, much more about that later! We managed the trip in less than 5 hours, arriving in Lake Placid by 9:30 am and went into registration mode. Karen takes Casey and Amy to the pool and like clockwork we follow the plan that has worked for years. I arrive at registration and at the back of the line is my training buddy Brian from Yorktown Heights that I took many trips to Bear Mountain. It’s great to chat with him about our final preparations as he did some racing and training in lake Placid and I closed it out with a Montauk ride and a classic solo trip from Manhattan which poetically concludes with a 7 mile run of central park.
“It’s that strange magic, gotta strange, kinda magic”, as I head back to meet with the family and we gear up for the kids splash and dash race. The kids decide that they are not going to do the race and as we relax in the hotel, the skies open up and it’s thunder, lightning, a total downpour and yet, another bullet is dodged. The sky clears and I decide it’s time to take my traditional loop around the lake. I gear up, head down and depart from the hotel beach in the direction of the swim start. The water is comfortable, but my wet suit is tight and my left leg beneath my knee is getting chaffed. I get to the beach and there’s a guy just standing in the water that I nearly bump into as I make my final approach. I stand up and he apologizes. I look back and its “Slowpoke” aka “Bernie the attorney”, one of my best friends from Long Island competing in his 2nd ironman. I’m starting to think this is just plain weird and overly coincidental that within a few hours of being in Lake Placid I’ve accidentally and literally have bumped into my two main men! We chat for a while and I get back to swimming the loop. I get half way around the lake and begin to have a mild panic attack in the water! It just so happens that I have a propensity to calf pulls when swimming that renders me completely incompetent in the water. More times then I care to admit I have found myself grabbing for ropes in the pool, with the latest episode on the last swim of the last lap in the town pool. It’s no secret that the swim is a deal breaker for me in this race and despite my 20 years of lifeguard experience and close to 10 years of racing, you can begin to understand the title of my report. I decide to make a “bee” line for the hotel, which is directly to my left, but much further off the line then anticipated. In reality, the distance from line to shore makes up the difference in distance, which remained to the last buoy, so at least I maintained a portion of a psychological edge. I arrived at the hotel and was hooked by some kids fishing off the dock. “We got a big one”, they shouted! I couldn’t agree more, a big fish out of water am I!
I was still feeling good, despite my horrific fears of the swim that continued to mount and break me down. I pushed it aside and remained focused. It was time to meet up with my family and my brother Tony, his wife Lynn, and my 6’ 4” 225 pound 19 year old nephew that made the trip for the second time in the past two years at Lake Placid. Unfortunately, they had transportation woes coming all the way from Florida and so my girls and I went for dinner and then it was off to IBSEX. We were the first to arrive with the exception of Mary and her husband, who would later be best known as a popular character from Marvel comics and was a huge hit throughout the day. A gal named Jo was there, not Oreo jo who we missed along with Kelly, Schack, Sto, Hammy, Cindee, Kinger, Latrick, Coach Jean HHH, BBB, DTK, BOFF and so many others, but apparently an inaugural jo, which she made pretty clear throughout the night. Josef, who I later found out was not Spanish
(but then again neither am I, despite the name Armata aka Fleet
) was in attendance with his wife. My brother and his family arrived and it was a great reunion. Tony is a sweetheart and one of my best friends! Big Fella, Scoot, Dug, Garv and Banger arrived which meant Garv-aid would be in full swing and that kind of support/abuse on the run course 4 times is enough to get you pumped and keep the good times a rollin’! Schep arrived triumphantly after a 200 mile solo effort to Lake Placid along with uncle Terry that was still wondering, “why did I let Wicked Wanda sign me up again?” Bernie the attorney, aka slowpoke was wondering the same thing, but among many had the opportunity to personally thank Wanda, who might have not made the trip without the help of Chip her husband and her daughter Chelsea. Traci arrived with her children and her mom and was ready to go! Burke showed up with his wife and Weston who has been doing a documentary of ironman also made an appearance. Finally, the Mayor Woodman graced us with his presence in his unprecedented 10 out of 10 trips to Lake Placid, which included one year all the way from Vietnam and competing in his 19th ironman. He is truly the Mayor of our friendly forum and an inspiration to all of us. I was sad that Nanook did not make it and we never had a chance to see each other, but I know he was with us all weekend and had a great race. Caryn from Rye also missed our grand affair, but we caught up with her later that weekend. Local clubs like Team in Training with head coach Steve Tarppinean whose colors I fly in the race as well as Bob Cook, Jose Lopez, Meredith DeRossa, Rich Barkin from Runners Edge were in town for the race either supporting or competing. I also ran into former training partners Carmello and Daryn that I met at the aqua center and was excited to see in town. The players were all in the house and it was time to get one final good night sleep as race day evening is pretty much a bust in terms of solid sleep.
The post-race day includes final preparations, test ride taken on the run course, which includes a visit with the cherries and bears in the final hill of the bike course, and packing up for the big bike sleepover. I ride conservatively down the hill and out of town. At the bottom of the hill my front tire explodes and similar to 2006, I have gotten a flat on my test ride and knocked them out of my system. The good karma continues to flow and I’m really feeling like I’m being helped dramatically to the start line. It seems the biggest bump in the road has only come from my own paranoid, delusional breakdown in the water, thus reconfirming our old cliché, it’s your attitude!
I return to the hotel just in time for the rain to start pouring down and my grin is uncontrollable and yet another strange confirmation in fate and the path I’m following is being cleared. I pack my bags, swing down to the oval and kiss Jenny II goodnight. “We are going to have a great ride tomorrow!” I called Bernie and we began to review some questions he had as final preparation. I was trying to be patient, but the oval was a little over an hour before being closed and Bernie has nothing ready! We climb the monster hill to the Crowne Plaza and begin sorting through his stuff. I’m mortified by his choice of costume, er, ah race clothes, but excited about the fact that he finally learned how to clip into his Bike. Bernie is me back in 2000, with little training, experience, a heart of gold and a long, long day ahead of himself. His lovely wife Jen is wheeling around 3 young children which is one more then my brave, caring, and courageous wife had when we were in this situation 9 years ago. His sticker sheet with his numbers were printed backwards and when they reprinted them incorrectly a sweet, buffed women that only came up to his chest offered some words of encouragement. Heather told Bernie not to sweat the small stuff and to make the numbers work. He was fine with that and would later learn that he received advice from the queen of Lake Placid herself…that’s right…Heather Fuhr! It just does not get any better then that as we close out final preparations and prepare for the ironman!
1h 18m 13s
01m 51s / 100 yards
Race morning arrives and in many ways it’s a combination of relief and total terror. So many fantastic details of race day preparation are behind us, but the cold, darkness of the mountains prior to the race and the tension in the air is indescribable and it takes every part of your positive being to release the paralyzing affects of the morning and get ready to tow the line. You rehearse in your head all you’ve done and one by one you begin to see friends that relieve the tension. I see Caryn for the first time and I am relieved she made it to the start. Mary and her marvel- comic dressed husband are creating a stir and putting smiles on people’s faces. Special needs bags are dropped, bike is checked and that last porta-potty visit is nerve racking as they announce the close of the transition area and prompt people to get to the start. I’m still not body marked and trying to stay calm. Finally I get my turn and go to get marked. Age 44 marked on one calf and a smiley face on the other to help spread the cheer. The march to the swim and it feels like I’m going to the gallows. I see Brian’s wife Melissa and she greets me with a smile and sends me on my way with wonderful words of encouragement. I’m feeling parched and a community Gatorade is passed. I get in the water and establish my position by the dock. I’m feeling dehydrated and already starting to panic that my calf may blow if I’m already in this state. I spot a bottle on the dock and that wonderful feeling of being watched and taken care of returns with a rush. A woman turns to me and says “That official just saw you drink from the bottle and may dq you for abandoning equipment.” I began to argue with her, explaining that it’s not my bottle and then decided I’m wasting good energy, downed the remainder of the water and slid away. Some of that positive energy was lost on that exchange, but then the Star-Spangled Banner began and standing directly next to me with his hand on his heart is non other than Mayor Woody Freese! I needed nothing else to send me off with the absolute greatest amount of confidence. I then spotted Caryn and paid it forward as she exclaimed what great vibes from that brief meeting was quite helpful in starting her day! The cannon exploded and the maniacs were slapping, kicking, thrashing while I held my ground. I followed my plan, slid along the dock and worked my way to the left. I began to swim on my own terms next to the support team and followed the boat line as opposed to the one with three thousand maniacs. I was feeling exhausted, anxious, and began to panic. The race was going on without me to the right and I was doing all the work without the benefit of the draft. You can’t have it both ways, either solo and safe or psycho and draft. I finally made the move and compromised a bit to get back in the race. I wanted to quit, but there’s just no turning around after going so far to the start. I lowered my head, cranked to the end, made the turn and found the line. It was all good and I finally knew I was through the hardest part of the swim. I climbed out of the first loop and the pro time was 50 minutes, which put me at 40 minutes. I did the math wrong and thought I was on pace for a 1:30 which had not been done since 2000. I jumped back in, found the line and owned it the rest of the swim. It was miraculous! Nobody was near me? I couldn’t figure it out and with the exception of one breast stroker, whom I finally zipped around I, had the entire lake to myself? The rain started pouring down, but I could care less as this deal breaker was just about broken and I was on my way with a 1:18 finish! A few minutes less then last time, but given my paralyzing, overly conservative, off the line approach from the start, I was thrilled.
6h 37m 13s
Stripped off the suit and greeted my family braving the beginning of a long day in the rain as I jogged carefully on a slippery mat to the oval. Melissa gives me the thumbs up and sends me down the ramp. Her husband Brian banged a :59 and it was nice to see her sticking around another 20 minutes for us late arrivals. The change tent was foggy, smelly, dirty and totally packed. Plenty of motivation to get up and out, while making sure to have all the necessities in 12 minutes. The vest was a no brainer and I almost did not pack it! It saved the day as it’s no secret the remainder of this race would be about the rain that not only did not stop, it pelted us sideways and took its best shot at crippling the field. A constant theme, which is obvious and repeated frequently in my mind, was “I’m out of the water and nothing can stop me now!” The first loop had its challenges which includes keeping the rubber side down on Keene with a continuous, deliberate and carefully calculated break job throughout this nasty slope of terror! The force feeding in the rain began and trying to stay warm continued to be an issue. The energy was being sucked from your body as you attempted to hang on to your bike from crashing and curl your body in close in an effort to stay warm. I heard somewhere that people urinate while riding and I could never quite understand this concept or imagine how this could be done? And so on this day, a new lesson was learned that was not only practical in terms of time conservation, but outstanding as a tool to stay warm. The downhill’s now served a “tri-fecta” which allowed you to rest, pee, and get warm all at the same time. Please understand while this may seem to some as disgusting, it was practical and necessary. Imagine, your bodily functions are actually aiding you in surviving what was a continuous on slaught of rain, hail, and some of the nastiest conditions I have ever faced! There were times I had to tip my helmet down to prevent the blinding rain from punishing me any further. The first loop was over in 3:10 and after seeing my family in our traditional 56 mile marker I was happy to climb out through town, fist pumping the crowd and brave one more loop. I kept repeating the theme, “I’m out of the water”, but the cynical side of me was getting sick and tired of that mantra as we were seemingly never getting out of the water. It was time to conquer Keene again and what has always been repeated is “don’t let this slippery slope end your day!” Managed to sail through this section, but not without a price. The cold, hard, rain combined with monster nervous tension left me with spasms in my back and more tightness in my legs that should otherwise be the case at mile 66. I eased into the next section, knowing that I had to find some recovery before the final stretch of grueling ups that is inherent in this course for close to the last 30 miles. I continued to eat like a champ and began to mentally prepare for the marathon. There were some signs of a break in the rain only to come back with a more furious dousing that became laughable. I was fine as I approached town and laid my final bit of rubber on the pavement with a 3:25 second loop and a 6:35ish finish. I was greeted by my family and Peter Cotter, his lovely wife Jen and little Sophie who smiled and fist pumped me from the hill. A beautiful magical site along with my gorgeous wife, daughters and family as I went to lace up my shoes for the beast!
5h 01m 4s
11m 29s min/mile
The run is a good place for me, out of transition in 8 minutes and my goal of 12:29 is in reach. I depart from the tent and search for my children. Despite some warnings about spectators being too close, I swing next to the barrier, grab my Casey and Amy smooches and head down the hill. The pounding is ridiculous and you can’t feel your legs. “At least it’s not raining” was a mistake as it began to pour once again. “At least I’m out of the water?” I giggled and moved on to find Garv-aid in tact. The Fuller brothers, Schep, Big Fella, Garv, Art, and to my surprise, the return of Johno, who has been missing in action from the page for over a year. The support is fantastic, but now the business of finding my legs and a bathroom is my biggest priority. I have a “no walk” policy on this course, but I probably overdo the bathroom stops, which pretty much include every other mile on the course. It’s my way of taking a break, checking my heart rate and then getting back to the race. It works well for me and becomes necessary on this day as the cold, wet, rainy day has taken more from me then expected. I reach the first timing matt at the end of the road and that’s a huge lift as it’s time to get back to town. I finish first loop in 2:15 and I’m afraid to let my family see me as I’m a total train wreck! Mentally, I have no problem finishing this thing, but physically, I feel beat down and know that I have to be smart. I take one more bathroom stop, juiced up before seeing my family. I look fresh which is a combination of my rest stop method and acting job. Based on my condition, I re-establish my goals to play it safe and shoot for the sub 13 hour finish. It’s not worth the medical tent, or potential hospital visit and possibly crashing completely. I stay with the plan, continue to shuffle and take my breaks while doing the math. I’m 9 miles away, reach for my endurolytes, which strangely enough I was no longer hearing in my fuel bag and they are gone! I have a momentary lapse and convince myself that between the drinks on the course, the fluids that I had been taking in like a champ, you should be just fine. I didn’t really believe it and given my history in the last marathon with a half mile to go that put me down with uncontrollable spasms, I had a hard time with this set back. Although Bob Cook, owner of runners edge and good friend was out supporting me on the course, he was not going to appear like an angel with a bottle of Gatorade in hand to save the day like he did at the Long Island Marathon. I reminded myself that at the time I was trying to knock down a 5 minute mile to qualify for Boston, was in an all out sprint and abused myself in that last mile. I reminded myself to keep it real and stick with the plan. I was about to skip the next bathroom stop and once again, the voice inside my head said “stick with the plan.” I did just that and found a capsule with 7 endurolytes the exact amount needed for the last 90 minutes and I was totally stoked! It was a pure pleasure ride from this point despite all the pain. I’m a moron, it’s an oxymoron, irony, coincidence, never really get that, but who cares I’m going home! I know at this point it’s been so much about survival on one of the most brutal days Lake Placid has ever dished out in it’s 10 years and just getting it done in tact is totally medal! A final scream to garv-aid, the long haul up the hill and the smile returns to the face. I know that many folks still have another loop and a possible 3-4 more hours to go and my heart bleeds for them. I do my final thing down the home stretch and Wonderful Wanda is there to greet as she is always there and been tremendous over the years as a great support for this race. The finish had some anticipated challenges. My daughters have crossed the line every year and this year NA established a new rule that only allowed one child. I expressed my concerns to one of the top dogs and while he gave me the green light, the captain at the staging area threatened to dq me if I tried to bring both daughters through the line. My children are the true champs in voice and spirit as the unselfishly pleaded with me to continue through the shoot and not put my race in jeopardy. They get those virtues from their mother, my darling wife Karen, who has taken me to my 5th ironman finish with a 13:17 in it’s 10th year anniversary!
It was time to clean up and get back to the oval for the midnight hour. Bernie was still out there amongst others like Burke who eventually finished at 17 hours and a few seconds and was given all the hardware. Way to go Burke! They were going to need some help coming home. We waited in anticipation for the final finishers and at 11:40 p.m. I saw Bernie with the green glow on his head that he wore like a crown. He’s a king, a great friend and I was so happy to see him reach the line. We packed him up, wheeled his family up that nasty hill to the Plaza and then returned to gather all his belongings. It was a nostalgic finish to a time in 2000 when my wife’s h.s buddy Kerry Fredericks, who lives in Saranac, was there to help me with my gear and family at midnight in one of the longest days of my life. It felt real good to be there for Bernie and somehow pay it forward.
We closed the trip on Tuesday with a 17 mile, 6 hour, class III-IV whitewater rafting trip that pretty much took me out! No report for this one, but in short, I was scared to death, mostly for my children and my body was really shot! I wound up slightly hypothermic, puked my guts out for the entire evening, spiked a nasty temperature and thought I was going to die! The reality was that despite how bad I felt, the rain that poured for 12 straight hours on the day of the ironman raised the water level on the river to a level that took us above the rocks and helped us to cruise safely home. The final day on the river could’ve put me away if it had not been for all that rain and what seemed to be all wrong on race day, was just right for my family on the river. The good karma that was with me throughout the trip never left my side. Despite appearances that masked itself in the form of torrential downpours, there was a reason, which is never really understood. The path that was paved to get to the finish was clearly a blessing and one in which I will forever be grateful!
Last updated: 2008-07-28 12:00 AM
01:18:13 | 4224 yards | 01m 51s / 100yards
0F / 0C
Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:37:13 | 112 miles | 16.92 mile/hr
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:01:04 | 26.2 miles | 11m 29s min/mile
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]
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