IMLP 2016 – The Revenge Race
This was my 6th Ironman, first time stepping to the start line at Lake Placid, one of the toughest ranked Ironman events there is on the calendar.
The story of this race really begins a year ago when I herniated my L4/L5 disc 3 days prior to the race and was loading my car to leave town as the starting gun went off.
The synopsis – racing M 50-54 (51), FTP – 261(all time high), weight 152(All Time Race Low), W/KG 3.8, Vdot~47.
Swim 1:09 – PR by 12minutes !; Bike 5:47; Run 4:10; total time 11:15:34 (11 minute PR over IMAZ 2014), 10th in AG & 209th Overall.
This was my revenge race. I entered this race with a mission, time goals, and place goals. All of which had me in a bit of an anxious state of mind. Overall goal top 10% of age group. Time goal: 11:15.
The training build:
Swim – Swimming has always been my limiter. I’ve always been a back of the pack swimmer that left me passing many cyclists out of T1 (900+ in IMMT ’14). To complicate matters, I had rotator cuff surgery at the end of the 2014 season and have still had long term weakness & issues with my left shoulder. This year, after a heavy bought of PT, I entered the pool in April and vowed to build to 12,000 yards per week as 3×4000 yard swims. This would give me a total build of 140,000 yards to IMLP as compared to 77,000 in 2015.
At the end of May during a training camp in CO, Danielle Santucci pointed out a missing technique to my swim stroke. Came home, consulted with a coach and made one slight change that has resulted in swim speeds increasing by around 10”/100 in training and equally faster long swim times in both pools & lakes. While my overall volume suffered as I dropped off for the CO camp & subsequent weeks. Still ended up with a total swim volume of 104,000 yards for the build. Not where I targeted, but much improved!
The bike is my strong point. This is where the story ties into last year’s debacle and the positives that came out of it. After getting my head & heart around the fact that I was doing no racing last year I laid the foundation for 2016. I recognized that in most years I do a late season event (IMAZ, NYC Mary, etc) that has me carrying a slowly declining fitness level into November and then slacking off for November & December followed by a rebuild that usually results in achieving the prior year’s peak or just slightly higher.
I recognized that I now had the opportunity to do a trainer block. Due to nerve issues in my leg from the disc, I couldn’t ride out of the saddle, and I live in a hilly area. On the advice of Tim C, I loaded up the 8 Week TrainerRoad 40k TT advanced plan and got to work. This gave me a nice break for the holidays, though I did strong work throughout the break, I entered the OS strong & fit, and able to run. The one negative is that in my post LP depression I went on a bit of a caloric binge.
After participating in Al Truscott’s informal camp (400 miles in 6 days of riding at altitude) Jeremy Behler noted during the camp how much stronger I seemed on the bike from when he rode with me in Tour of Cali a year earlier. The camp was followed by a Trail Ragnar relay. I came home and made my weekly 2×20 wko into a FTP test. 4 weeks of solid rides, confirmed a lifetime high FTP of 262 (previous record 247). Still heavier than I wanted to be (161) at end of camp, I focused hard on nutrition and calories.
If there is a weak point here, it is probably on volume. While I had a lot of strong base miles, by the time I got to Lake Placid, I only had 4 rides of 100 miles or more under my belt. I could tell by my rides and by my Strava power chart that my 5 hour power was suffering.
The Run –
Probably not a lot to report here. I generally did well with my running build, getting through all conditions. I actually enjoyed getting out there on the hot & humid days to do training runs as I knew that it was great training for race day. While I got in some strong long runs during the build (17, 19 & 20) I did not have a strong weekly volume number. Most weeks I was looking at high 20s to mid 30s on mileage and that just is not enough.
Race Week –
For those that knew me when I raced sailboats, my favorite place was Block Island. I think it is safe to say that I’ve transplanted that love to Lake Placid. It’s my hometown race. I see lots of people from my suburban NY community, the EN community and have always been a mountain & lakes person more than a beach person. My only lament is that I’ve never spent a week hiking the area around LP.
I left home for LP having bottomed out at 151 lbs. An adult lifetime low. The last time I weighted this was roughly 1997. I stayed on diet when we arrived in LP sticking to salads, and protein shakes for a couple of days before carbing up.
I came up with Jill and her two tweenage children and stayed at the Golden Arrow. Up to this point in our relationship of a year and a half, I am a poser as far as Jill is concerned. She met me after my shoulder surgery and has yet to see me do a race. She and the kids knew I was on a mission. That said, we had a fun filled week of tubing on LP, messing around on mirror lake and getting in my prescribed training. I had a couple of great swims in mirror lake. I can’t imagine that there’s a better swim site in triathlon! I also previewed the Keene descent. Having ridden this course a number of times in both directions, I knew what to expect and bombed it in pretty windy conditions. On run # 2 I hit a top speed of 54.9 & got myself into 10th place on the Strava segment 10 seconds behind John Withrow.
If anyone has any interest in learning to descend better on a tri bike, I did this with my hands on the bullhorns and my chin pressed on my arm pad. Way lower than I would be in the aerobars and with full control on a windy day.
Packed my bags working off checklists & dropped everything off at transition around 1:30 on Saturday avoiding the mad rush earlier in the day. Back to hotel, feet up & got mentally prepared for race day. Actually passed out for a nap around 4, woke up around 5, had a high calorie shake (frappucino) and now couldn’t fall asleep at 9:30. Realized I had Xanax in my travel kit for planes & took a half of one and promptly passed out with three alarms set for morning. Woke up naturally around 2:30am & drank half of a high calorie fruit shake. Back to sleep for 2 hours.
Up at 4:30, dressed and off to transition promptly at 5:15.
Took care of bike. Went to port-a-johns, then out of street clothes & off to team picture.
I opted not to do a warm up swim. The warm up area looked like an undersized fish bowl with a lot of guppies in it. While waiting in line at the 1:10 marker, Mike Weinmann introduced himself. (I still had the top of my wetsuit down & he saw the EN kit & my name written on the inside of the wetsuit) this broke the tension with great conversation. Additionally, my friend Dr Stu stopped by and gave me props.
The Swim – Estimated time (1:16), actual time 1:09:30 – IM swim PR by 12’
Never heard a gun, but everyone in front started moving and without trepidation I was off. Ironman has gone to great lengths to reduce swim anxiety, having done IMAZ 3x, I know what rough swims are, I felt that this was pretty close to full contact for the first 1000 yards and pretty strong contact beyond. I did a good job of swimming the underwater cable and not sighting much which was more for distance purposes. I also felt I was stroking too quickly and not really doing a good job of swimming my “new” stroke. The trip back on the first loop got me into some better open water. I found that psychologically, while swimming on someone’s feet is actually faster, for me, it seems more stressful, like I am in current and not moving forward as well. Something to work on for the future.
I hit the beach at the end of lap one and looked at my watch in disbelief, 33 minutes(official time to the lap point was 34)! Got in for round two, again, some contact, but a lot more open. I did space at some point and drift to the right away from the cable, to be redirected by a volunteer on a SUP and got back on track. Thought I saw Mike W at the turn as he had a very distinctive wetsuit, and pushed forward. Uneventful return trip, staying on the cable and focusing on stroke. Hit the beach, saw 1:09 on the watch and was pumped.
Ran past the first group of wetsuit strippers, pointed at 2, wetsuit off, got up, started jogging the long run to T1, passing many people and running on uncarpeted pavement as necessary to KMF. As you enter transition, not much room for passing, especially when Dino Sarti is in front of you, but exchanged positive mojo, got bike bag, put on all, including shoes, and trotted out to get bike. Saw a volunteer with mic announcing race numbers and yelled my number at him. Made sure I took it easy jogging around the corners as this is the place to slip with bike shoes on, bike was waiting for me at the end of my row. Mounted and got going.
Bike – Estimated time (5:50), actual time 5:47
Full 1st 1/2 2nd 1/2
NP = 178 185 169
AP= 168 175 160
VI= 1.06 1.06 1.06
TSS= 271 146 125
AHR= 135 133 136
The first ¼ mile is straight down a hill where each block is a road crossing you that flattens out (think SF style hill here) and a sharp left turn at the bottom, then an easier right onto the main road out of town. After I got going on the main road, I got my gloves on (cheap throwaway work gloves at the advice of JW) and immediately started sucking down my first bottle of Gatorade and focusing on watts so as not to overdo it on the hills.
Felt all was good, letting people ride passed me on the hills and then passing them on the flats & downhills as they coasted through them. It’s actually quite comical to watch what our coaches teach us play out in person. I saw throughout the bike how over the course of a few hills, people hammering them almost always slowly faded in the rear view.
Hit the top of the Keene Descent & opted to ride it exactly as I did with training, much easier to do with two full lanes dedicated to the race. (as of this writing, I not only bested my overall descent time from Friday, but had the KOM on Strava for the day & a 3rd overall right behind JW).
Got to work on the TT section that makes up the next segment of the course. When I hit the beginning of the out & back to Ausable Forks at Jay, I realized that there appeared to not yet be any bikers, or very few, on their way up to Wilmington and that for the first time, I was experiencing being in the “front”’ of the race. As exciting as this is, it also threw up a huge caution flag to me not to be too excited and let that carry me away, stay focused on watts, stay aero, and ride my own race.
On the Climb to Hazelton, I spotted a neighborhood friend who I swim with a lot and knew she was trying to podium/KQ. I burnt a slight match to catch up to her on a hill and we chatted for a bit. After a few motivational words to each other, I backed off and got back into my box and allowed for her to do the same. Again, working the hills, the EN way, I watched a lot of people slide back through this section.
Climbing through Wilmington Notch I noticed that the headwinds were already pumping a bit, despite it being only 10:30 in the morning. While low in speed (I use under 12MPH as my opportunity to get out of the aero bars) but in headwinds, stayed aero. Climbing up to LP and seeing the crowds develop as you summit the papa bear climb is truly exhilarating. At this point, I was practically riding alone already. Cruised through town, hear Mike Reilly give me a shout out on the PA, negotiated the turns and back side of transition and got to work again.
The Keene descent was even emptier as was the whole second lap. I felt that I had probably over-rode the first lap a bit and focused even more on staying on my target wattage. In hindsight, looking at the post race data file, my wattage decreased throughout the race (a fair bit of it consciously) but my HR increased throughout.
The last 10-12 miles felt rougher than they were. I knew I never overworked myself, I knew I rode according to plan. I did have a slight cramping developing in the inside of my left quad above the knee, which has happened on all of my long rides. I always chalked that up to improper nutrition. Today, THAT was not the case (7.5 bottles of Gatorade, 5 Gels & 1.5 bananas for the bike leg) almost perfectly to the nutrition plan from the CoreDiet people. It occurred to me that this could be a residual issue from my disc herniation as this was the muscle that wasn’t firing for a few months and probably had training limitations.
Finished the bike, leaving the shoes on bike and trotting off to get my run bag.
Lost the Garmin file on my 920 during confusion with my entourage grabbing me across the finish line, so these are off the tracker:
0 – 3.9 8:25
3.9 – 7.3 8:49
7.3 – 11.7 9:16
11.7 – 12.6 8:21
12.6 – 17.1 9:16
17.1 – 20.5 10:38
20.5 – 24.7 11:09
24.7 – 25.6 9:26
25.6 – 26.2 8:58
Total – 26.2 @ 9:32
Immediately out of T2, I heard someone calling my name, and realized (looking back) that it was Jill & her kids, quick run back for a kiss and good vibes and off I went. I was pretty worried about the run & when the wheels were going to come off, sooner or later they would. I ran pretty hard down the hills, and the run out to the end of river road seemed forever. I kept an eye on HR which was solidly pegged between 140 & 142 (after initially being more around 142-145) and I knew enough to stay focused on this as I was supposed to be targeting 135-138.
The trip back is obviously the tougher direction and I stayed on task. I got my aid station routine down pretty quickly. Ice into Coach Ps race saver bag, bag in hat, Gatorade, go. I grabbed some clif shot blocks from the 2nd aid station & had one per mile per Nutrition plan. Grabbed a banana half at two or three aid stations. I also ran into most aid stations before stopping to walk and collect what I needed, and quickly got going again.
I managed to slowly run up the ski jump hill and got a good way up the first part of townie hill before walking it, once I hit the left turn at the traffic light I was running up the last 2/3 of that hill to the brewery and was happy to be on the out and back and done with lap 1. I never found Jill on the trip back through town. I ran pretty hard down the hills and through the bottom half of town, the energy & the crowds were simply awesome. Somewhere in this stretch I did stop and walk about 30” around the horse grounds. By this point, I had a pretty good hurt going on in my left knee. I thought it could be an IT Band issue, but as time went on, began to believe it was something else.
Again, once on the outbound on river road, I stopped to walk about 30” up the first small hill there and then kept it going up the rest. At the end of river road, I lost about 2:30 stopping in a porta-john, trust me, it was necessary. I probably gained about a minute of this back on the slightly rested legs in the next mile. Someone on the side commented on my “nice pace” as I went by. Coming up the hills was a bit tougher this time around. I did run partially on both Ski jump hill & townie hill. I almost caught up to my friend Joanne on townie hill, walking just a little further before resuming my run. I only stopped for the aid station on the out of the Mirror Lake Drive out & back, saw some friends spectating there including an awesome shout out from Paul Takac who I met at the EN dinner 4 years ago here in LP.
While this is all going on, fatigue is setting in pretty hard and for lap two my HR was averaging in the lower 130s…
When I approached the last aid station which I skipped, and approached the LP Brewery, I allowed a smile and felt great to be making a right turn and heading into the oval. In the chute, a guy in my Age Group sprinted passed me, I tried to catch up, but didn’t have the legs. Crossed the line & was grabbed by two volunteers. My friend Dr Stu was right there and had some great words, more importantly, I pointed to where Jill was just over the fence. Hugs & kisses, Hugs w Joanne who finished a couple of minutes ahead of me and a great welcome to the finish from Coach R! (I felt very popular!)
In retrospect, this was a breakthrough race for me. I got to experience the race from the front of the pack and recognize where I still have room to improve.
I think the main items (separate discussion) to focus on are:
– Continuing the focus on body comp, attaining the goal I have by IMWI in 7weeks & recalibrating a lower, upper limit for next winter.
– Increased number of long rides as well as a focus on building 5 hour power
– Increased run volume by nailing more runs during the week
– Have a plan in place to finish rehabbing shoulder and working on swim stroke for 2017
Lastly a note of thanks. The support I’ve received from really smart people I’ve befriended on the Endurance Nation team both in and out of the forums is immeasurable. Every piece of advice and knowledge has been a privilege to receive from these people who truly want to help. While we are more of a self-coached team and I don’t call on the coaches a lot, both RnP have always been there on the spot with answers, encouragement & the desire to see me do my best. I don’t always show it well, but I am truly grateful for the privilege to play this game and to do it in the company of this team and the many friends I’ve made through it.
Next up, IMWI, but first a little mountain bike ride in three weeks!