2014 Lake Placid Race Report Series: Ben Hales

Ben Hales, Ironman Lake Placid Finisher!

Ben Hales, Ironman Lake Placid Finisher!

Before the report, a few race week “thanks” are due.  First, my incredibly patient wife, Kendall, was both a tremendous comfort and huge help during the week.  My brother, Ethan, (also competing) and my sister-in-law, Cana, made the entire trip a blast and I think we all laughed more than anyone has a right to during an IM week.

I also was most impressed and appreciative of how organized, supportive and SMART Coach P was during the week (he is always smart, I just don’t always listen). For my first IM in TX 2 years ago I listened to everything Coach P said and promptly forgot it as soon as the race started.  The result- a miserable day and a trip to the Med tent after.  Finally, the EN team was a very supportive bunch and I am glad I had the chance to meet many of you.

A special thanks to Simon who was a great race captain and all around gentleman, to boot.

The Race:

13:06 (really)/12:09 (officially), 1:24 swim (completed both laps), 13:09 T1, 7:03 bike, 6:41 T2, 4:19 run

I really only had two macro goals for the race-

  1. Handle nutrition and hydration properly and not end up in the medical tent and
  2. Find a way to finish with a time that was 12 hours something.

Swim – 1:24

I am realistic about being a pretty slow swimmer and planned/hoped for a 1:20 swim.  I’ve been having a shoulder problem all year that has limited my pull on the right side and has resulted in some less than straight swimming.    I lined up towards the back of the 1:10-1:20 group (I think) and was right on pace with a fairly relaxed 40-minute first lap and a pain-free shoulder.  I started picking up the effort on the second loop in the hopes of getting a negative split before “Thor” decked me in the bridge of the nose, knocking my goggles off.  It was a pretty good blow and I was dazed with eyes watering and a nice bruise/cut to show for it.  I got things put back together and started moving again until the turn where Thor’s twin brother smacked off the goggles again.

After round 2, I moved outside and decided sacrificing a little time in exchange for less contact might be wise.  The Thors were not respecting my box so I moved my box elsewhere.  On the return leg I noticed the rain was falling pretty steadily and my thoughts immediately went to what that meant for the bike and the descent into Keene.  I was very fortunate to be able to finish my second loop and realize I must have just made it with an overall 1:24 swim.  I am not sure how well I would have reacted to not being able to complete it and have a great deal of respect for those who had to exit and were able to keep their heads and go about their day.

Bike – 7:03

Was obviously pretty slow in transition but I was taking my time making sure I had absolutely everything ready for a wet and cold bike.  I apparently also took the time to make crepes and espresso but eventually got out there and started the process of strangling my brakes on the way out of transition.

Living and training exclusively in New Orleans has given me almost no experience with riding on hills and I was already worried about the descent after riding it on Friday.  On the way down this time I was shivering, jumpy from the lightening and absolutely scared to death.  My goal of finishing at 12:XX was immediately replaced with making it through the bike in one piece and as a result I went as slow as my brakes and the laws of gravity would permit.  If I had a dime for every “on your left” I earned during the descent I could have retired.  I was able to make it down and started to calm down during the flats, although I still was very cautious in the rain and pretty darn cold.  My natural reaction to such a cautious and slow 1st half of the bike would have been to try and make up time on the uphills but I was able to retain Patrick’s mantra of nothing mattering until mile 18 of the run and decided that my new focus for the day was to stay within my watts and have a strong run, regardless of the time.

To that effort, my goal of being the most hydrated athlete out there to avoid cramps on the run was a solid success and I managed to “rinse” my poor bike 8 times.  The 2nd loop of the bike was far better in dry conditions and I really felt good on the flats and climbs.  I slightly negative split the 2nd loop and moved on to a better transition and onto the run.

Run – 4:19

Out of T2 I noticed my quads were pretty sore so I figured the run might be a bit of a challenge.  While my flatland Z1+30 would have put me at 9:30/mile I targeted just keeping it easy and under 10:00/mile for the first 6 and then see where we were. The house we rented was on Sentinel Road just after the uphill heading out of town and it was great to see Kendall  and Cana and their never-ending inventory of (mostly inappropriate) signs every time I passed.  I assumed my brother Ethan was way ahead of me after that long bike but learned it wasn’t the hour and a half plus I figured it would be.   After 6 miles I still felt a bit sore but was comfortable holding the pace and decided to try and keep a 9:30/mile pace through the halfway point and then think about allowing myself to expand to 10:00 after that.

I was making up a lot of ground running up the uphills but decided to walk half of the big hill in town.  I saw Ethan on the run and then passed him after mile 9.  I would like to say I passed him with pure heroics but in reality he was having a really tough time with stomach issues and it was holding him back significantly.   I hit water and perform at every aid station with a gel every 3 miles through the halfway point, used the bathroom once and was still feeling OK heading out-of town again, although the downhills were really hurting my quads to the point that I kind of looked forward to uphills.

Once headed out past my well lubricated cheering section (and I don’t mean Body Glide-these girls brought the New Orleans party to LP) I decided I was still feeling good enough to try and hold 9:30’s but promised myself I would readdress it at mile 16.  A slight detour and delay to the bathroom on mile 14 but nothing too bad and by mile 16 I was feeling the aches and pains but still felt good enough to hold 9:30’s and pushed off the decision on what to do with my pace to mile 18.  There, I felt good enough that Coach P’s words about earning the right to run with these people at Mile 18 hit home and I slightly increased the pace (and started drinking Coke at every aid station).  I also realized my pace was good enough that I had an outside chance to finish under 13 hours but didn’t want to ruin my day chasing it and made the decision not to look at my overall time until mile 23.

I kept my pace steady and at mile 23 took a look and saw it wasn’t realistic but thought 13 hours and single digit minutes could be my new goal and went from there.  My quads still hurt but it was pretty steady and never really seemed to get worse throughout the run. The rest of it is kind of a blur but my last 3 miles were my fastest of the day and I crossed the finish line with absolutely nothing left in the tank.  The 4:19 marathon was probably better than anything I could have hoped for having no experience running hills.  My stretch goal coming in was 4:30 and I have to credit the execution lessons learned from the 4 Keys for that.  Swallowing my pride and sticking to the plan, despite it meaning a 7-hour+ bike split resulted in a good run and passing a lot of great bike splits on the run.  Most importantly, no trip to the med tent!

At the finish I saw Coach and P and was really struck by how much care and attention he gave to each of his athletes, particularly those in need of medical attention.  I hung out at the finish until Ethan got there (a heroic victory over a nasty stomach) before heading home and watching the rest of the race in front of our house.  Thanks, again, for all of the help, support and wisdom from Coach P and EN members, all of your help was invaluable.  While my wife says I am now retired from full IM’s (she said that last time), I can only hope mine is a boxing retirement and I can get back in the ring with you guys before too long.  Until then, see you on the 70.3 circuit and thanks again!

Go here to listen to Ben’s interview with Coach Rich

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