2014 Lake Placid Race Report Series: Doug Johnson, 10:42, 55' PR!

Ironman Lake Placid was my 3rd Ironman and 1st wearing the EN colors.  I had my best build to date for an Ironman by staying motivated and relatively injury free.  The only modification I had to make was a significant reduction in swim volume the last few weeks due to a sore shoulder from falling off my bike.  When I toed the line on race day I had no worries about my body, training or race plan.  I had the typical weird/butterfly feeling before the race, but I embrace it.  That feeling is one I look forward to on race morning and the only bad part is that it can’t last a little longer.

My major goal for IMLP was to race to my full potential.  Bad nutrition at Louisville last year caused me to have a major meltdown on the run and my goal was to come back to the IM distance with a vengeance.  While I didn’t declare a time goal out loud, I secretly wanted to break 11 hours and if really pressed by someone I would admit to this goal.

IMLP July 27, 2014

34 years old
5’11’’, 170 lbs
FTP 316 (4.09 W/Kg)
VDOT 55

RESULTS

Overall:  10:42:07 (includes 2nd lap of swim and T1)  – 55’ PR

SWIM – 1:07:38

IMLP has a rolling start from the beach where you seed yourself amongst other athletes based on your estimated swim time.  I’m a 1:05 – 1:10 swimmer so I lined up near the front of the 1:00 to 1:10 people.  There is a rope underwater marking the entire swim course and my objective was to find it and keep it visible.  I breathe to the left and the buoys were all on the right so it was critical for me to find the rope.  I found it in the first few minutes and was able to stay on it for the entire swim.  This swim was the roughest long course swim I’ve had.  It felt like there were a lot of other people fighting for the rope.  During the first loop there was a lot of contact and I figured by the 2nd loop it would spread out a little but that never happened.  I think this is a result of a big concentration of people with similar swim speed.  People were clawing at my feet, I got knocked in the back of the head a bunch of times by people’s hands coming forward, somebody landed their stroke in the middle of my back and proceeded to start pushing me underwater.  I started swimming with my elbows out really wide to protect my space.  I finished the first loop and had no problem transitioning to lap 2.  A funny thing I noted when I started lap 2 was during one of my breaths I saw someone “flying” through the air to jump into the lake.  It wasn’t a dive it was well performed belly flop!  Then, about 2/3rds of the way through my 2nd lap the rain started!  I was never able to get into a rhythm during the swim and it felt like my heart rate was much higher than it should’ve been for the amount of work I did.

T1 – 4:21

T1 was almost perfect.  I came out of the water onto the beach without a problem.  I was able to pull the top down from my wetsuit quickly and found a big dude to pull it off, that went well. I ran to transition, found my bag and entered the changing tent.  There was plenty of room in the tent when I entered.  I ran towards the back and found a volunteer.  I dumped everything out and asked him to put my wetsuit away.  I took my cycling shoes out of the ziplock bag, put them on, grabbed my helmet and took off.  As I came out of the tent I heard my number announced and thought “yes” because I figured a volunteer would have my bike pulled from the rack for me…wrong.  A volunteer went to grab my bike but he picked the wrong side of the rack.  I’m glad I saw it because he was going to try to pull it through anyways!  I ran down and grabbed it and took off for bike out.  I ran across the dismount line and slowly mounted the horse without any problems.

Bike – 5:38:12

My bike split is the part of the race that surprised me the most.  From a time perspective I had a great ride on the bike.  My split was 15 – 20 minutes faster than I was expecting.  I was able to avoid the major stuff that a lot of people were involved in due to the weather.  In fact, my only thought on the weather was coming out of T1 I thought to myself “well this stinks, it’s going to rain on the bike ride.”  I played some of the technical sections of the course a little more safely but I never felt cold and never thought about the rain except for it making my computer harder to read.  I didn’t get caught up racing against people.  I really felt strong for most of the ride.  This was my first race using off-the-course nutrition and I think that went very well for me.  I was able to hit the appropriate aid stations without a problem.  Despite not being able to follow my nutrition plan exactly I think I managed it well and was well prepared for the run.  I peed several times on the bike and even late into the ride so I know I was well hydrated.  I enjoyed getting crushed by people on the hills only to fly past them down the road never to see them again!  My favorite part of the bike course was probably the TT section on top of the descent to Keene.  The scenery is beautiful there and you can really move.

From a critical analysis standpoint and viewing my bike data from a perspective of wanting to improve and get to the next level it was not a perfect ride and there were a bunch of things that happened.  Based on my race rehearsals I targeted 225 watts as my goal power.  I figured this would give me a bike split of 5:50 t0 6:00 with a manageable TSS.  Here is the data from my power file:

Duration:                    4:52:37
Work:                     3653 kj
TSS:                       231.3 (intensity factor 0.689)
Norm Power:          218
VI:                           1.05
Distance:               99.761 mi
Elevation Gain:      1798 ft

                                   Min      Max     Avg

Power:                    0          476      208      watts
Heart Rate:            110      174      146      bpm
Cadence:               2          147      84        rpm
Speed:                    0          50.9     20.3     mph
Temperature:          53.6         77            60.9         Fahrenheit

The data only shows 99.8 miles because my powermeter stopped registering with 12+ miles to go.  Not a good thing to happen on the toughest part of the course but I’m grateful it happened that way rather than after riding only 12 miles!  The PM battery was fresh and this has never happened during training so I’m not sure what the problem is.  I rode the rest of the ride by RPE.

Aside from the PM issue there were a bunch of other things I dealt with on the bike.  The first was my heart rate.  I never felt like I was able to get it down.  My goal coming out of the swim was to get my HR back down without having to back off the power too much.  No matter what I tried I just felt like it was too high.  Every time I looked at the numbers I was in the 140’s.  Both race rehearsals I averaged 130’s. Looking back this may have been weather related.  As I said, I never felt cold on the bike.  I’m wondering if I really was cold and my body was working to get/keep the core temperature up?

The next issue was nutrition.  I have been drinking 40+ ounces of Perform per hour and a powerbar gel every half hour.  This has worked really well throughout training and race rehearsals.  During the race I couldn’t drink as much as I previously had.  My stomach just felt more full than it should’ve been for the amount I was drinking.  About 90 minutes in I took a saltstick pill and every hour after that.  I’m not sure if that helped or not but I kept forcing as much perform down as I could tolerate and I would say by the 150 minute mark I could tolerate a little more fluid.  I still didn’t digest though like I did during training.  As a result I backed off from trying to hit my initial goal watts. Additionally, you’ll note that my VI is a little high.  I would attribute this to the rain during the 1st loop.  I had a tough time reading my computer for the first 2 hours.  Later in the ride before my PM conked out I got a headache for some reason and I was starting to lose focus a little bit.

During the 2nd loop of the bike the weather turned nice and the sun started to come out.  It was a lot of fun to ride at that point.  At one of the aid stations on the 2nd loop I grabbed a bottle of Perform and as soon as I put it up to my mouth I smelled something funny.  I took a big gulp and I had a strong chemical taste in my mouth.  I think someone had just put on suntan lotion or bug spray!  Awesome!    I saw Coach P somewhere near the 3 bears section of the course on the 2nd lap.  I had just gotten out of the saddle to stretch or burp or something and said “oh crap” when I saw him.  I didn’t want him to think I was riding out of the aero position all day!  He yelled to me it was really warm out on the course and to fill up on fluid and to loosen up my grip on the bars.  He also told me to get wet for the run.  Seeing him gave me a nice boost of energy at a tough part of the ride!  Even though the timing was a little off I took a gel right around that time to front load the fueling for the run.

On Northwoods Road I had my last bike issue of the day.  On the last uphill of the course I fell off my bike!  The course was a little congested with a couple slower riders, I had just passed a guy and was trying to give him room for when he decided to hammer up the hill.  I got too close to the edge, went off the pavement and plopped sideways onto the road.  I wasn’t hurt (just my pride).  Picked it up real quick, had to ride backwards on the course to get back on my bike, turned around and got a bunch of supportive comments from the spectators.  Lesson learned, no more Mr. nice guy anywhere on the course during a race.

T2 – 2:03

T2 went very well for me.  Somewhere between Mirror Lake Drive and the dismount line I was able to take my feet out my shoes and put them on top for a quick dismount.  As soon as I dismounted I realized I forgot to hit the stop button on my bike computer.  I thought oh well, I can’t worry about that.  I took my helmet off as I was running, grabbed my transition bag and ran towards the end of the change tent and found a volunteer.  I had 2 ziplock bags, 1 was my go bag with my fuel belt/race number, sunglasses and hat, and the other ziplock had my shoes and socks.  The volunteer started to open my go bag and I told him not that one.  I already had one shoe out and was putting it on so he grabbed the other one out for me.  I grabbed the go bag and headed toward the exit but another volunteer wouldn’t let me out until I had my number on in front of me.  That cost a few seconds but nothing major.  The only thing left was my glasses and hat, so the go bag might not have saved me much time.  I will use it again though in the future.

Run – 3:49:54

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/552369466

I won’t lie…I looked at the clock either going into T2 or coming out of T2.  I did some rough math and figured out if I ran a 4 hour marathon I could go under 11.  For better or worse this became one of the things I focused on during the run.

As soon as I got out on the run I started thinking about what I had to do to run the marathon.  I assessed how I was feeling.  I was a little dizzy which happens to me after long rides sometimes but otherwise I had a lot of energy and my legs felt good.  My EZ pace + 30 seconds is 8:24, but I use 8:30 to make the math easier.  I ended up running a little slower because the slower pace felt “right.”  What I didn’t think about was what I was supposed to be doing at the aid stations.  For some reason I forgot to start walking at the first aid station until I was half way through it.  I was able to pour some water on myself and get some perform but I missed getting ice.  Alright…I’ll just do it at the next aid station.  At the 2nd aid station I started walking and grabbed a couple cups of water from Steve West.  I recognized him when he handed me water and I’m sure he cheered me on but I didn’t process that interaction in my head right away.  The next aid station is where I finally got into a rhythm and started doing things right.  Perform at every aid station except when I was too full.  A powergel at miles 3.5, 9.5 and 13.5.  After the last gel my stomach was feeling pretty full and I couldn’t get another one down for the remainder.  I wasn’t nauseous and didn’t have cramps or anything though.  Mile 19 was where my “line” started.  When I hit that marker the thought of how good it would feel to quit crossed my mind.  I didn’t let it stay there though.  At that point my focus became to just get to the next aid station.  Somewhere in the last 7 miles I tried some coke at an aid station.  It wasn’t flat so I ended up having a burpy feeling for 4 or 5 minutes on the run.  I didn’t notice any pick me up so I’ll probably stay away from it in the future unless I’m having a major meltdown.  I know looking at a course map the hill coming back into town on the 2nd lap may be the toughest part of the course but with the crowd there I got a surge of energy and was able to finish strong until the end.

The high points of the run for me were …

On the way back out of town on the 2nd loop somewhere around Mile 14 I came across Steve West again.  The run was mostly flat/downhill and I had just come out of the heaviest spectator area and I felt really good.  He ran alongside me for a few steps and it was a great pick me up to talk to him and tell him how my race was going.  The section of the course in the village from the uphill through Main Street and out and back on Mirror Lake Drive is just awesome.  I got so much energy from the crowd both laps here.  I felt invincible. Seeing and hearing the EN spectators on Main Street was awesome!  Seeing my parents on Main Street, especially my Dad who hasn’t seen me race before, was great!  I was surprised to see him out in the street audibly cheering me on and giving me a high five!  Seeing all of my EN teammates throughout the run provided a ton of motivation!

Additional run notes…

3:49:54 would be a 4 minute open marathon PR for me and is a 5 minute IM marathon PR.  It’s definitely fun to tell people my marathon PR is from an Ironman!  I ended up using mostly heart rate for the run.  I tried to keep it in the 140’s and this allowed me to run a fairly evenly paced marathon.  I never hurt “that bad” and wonder if I really pushed myself hard enough on the run.  I’m deathly afraid of blowing up during the race and err on the side of caution on the bike and the run.  I saved a massive amount of time by learning to pee while moving.  I had to go 4 or 5 times during the run and if I had to run into the woods or a port-a-potty that would’ve easily taken 5 minutes and the loss of the PR.  I came off the bike well fueled and hydrated.  I think this allowed me to run without taking a ton of nutrition.  Generally speaking I felt strong, however, my stomach felt full for the last 9 miles or so.  I think I need to work on my run nutrition still.  I’d like to get a 4th gel in during the run.  I talked to Coach P about 15 minutes after I finished.  Similar to what everyone else has said, it was great to see him there at the finish line and awesome to have the support of one of the coaches at the race!  He asked me a bunch of questions about the race and I was amazed at how out of breath I was and how long it took me to think of and annunciate the answers to the questions he was asking me.  Weird!

A few of the things that were really helpful to me for this race were…

Attending camp in June

  • It was awesome meeting EN teammates there.
  • The knowledge of the course Coach P shared took me to the next level of race preparation
  • Steve Ross and the OSC (Ottawa Sleeper Cell) took me out on a course preview the first day of camp where we had similar conditions to the race.  I think this is one of the reasons I didn’t even flinch when the rain hit on race day.

EN forums

  • Posting workouts in the IMLP forum really helped to stay motivated.  It was awesome to see what my teammates were doing and then see them execute on race day.
  • I started to get PF towards the end of my build.  I received some advice from Antoinette and Jen and Elizabeth that was really helpful in preventing a full blown injury!

Strava

  • Connecting with other teammates not training for my race was really motivational.
  • It was great seeing what they were doing and providing support for each other.

Teammates

  • Leading up to the race I had several conversations with Ed Croucher about training and about the course.  It was a big help to think about that stuff a little more in depth than I have in the past.
  • I roomed with Arun Mathur at IMLP camp and he organized our 2nd RR in LP.  It was great meeting him.  Doing the 2nd RR on the course was huge for me and I owe that to him!
  • Leading up to my race I had a conversation with Mariah Bridges.  Even though I felt pretty confident about my training she gave me a big boost of confidence and set my mind straight going into race day.
  • One of the cool things that happened leading up to this race was sharing a house with teammates Steve West and Carlos Sanchez.  It was great meeting both of them and talking about race experiences and a lot of other things leading up to the race.  This definitely made for a great atmosphere during race week!

This race was a breakthrough for me and I’m excited about that.  What I’m even more excited about is that I feel like I still have a lot of potential to improve.  I think I executed pretty good but not perfectly.  There’s time to be had there.  I believe I haven’t reached my full potential on the bike and still have watts to gain.  My run is a little weaker this year than it has been in the past and I think that is partially due to my body comp.  I trained and raced “heavy” this year.  I should be racing around the 160 lb mark and on a course like LP that is huge.  I have time to gain on the swim too.  It’s just a matter of getting some one on one coaching and putting in some additional time.  I look forward to continuing to train and race with everyone on EN!

Thank you for reading my report and thank you everyone for the encouragement and support!

 Please go here to listen to Doug’s podcasted interview with Coach Rich Strauss

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Coach P

All stories by: Coach P

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