My First Ironman — Lake Placid 2017 Race Report

Pre-race / Friday

We arrived in Lake Placid on Friday afternoon. The minute I saw the Olympic Oval my heart rate quickened and a grin formed on my face. I had imagined being in Lake Placid for so long that it now seemed surreal that I was there. All of the details, logistics, driving, training and preparation was done – I was finally there.

Instantly one can feel the deep Olympic history of Lake Placid. For those of you who don’t know, Lake Placid was the host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. It is considered hallowed ground by many. Dreams were made and crushed here. It’s where the 1980 hockey “Miracle on Ice” took place. Many past and future Olympic athletes still train and live in the area. There were flags and signage of past Olympics everywhere. The old Olympic torch (although not yet burning when we arrived), gave me goose bumps to see in person.

We parked and headed into Athlete Village. The downtown area was bustling and I was surprised to see so many people out training still. My plan had called for two days rest before the race (and I intended to follow this considering it had been since April the last time I took two full days off). I felt the old familiar panic “Did I do enough? Maybe I should go for a run?” I rolled my eyes at myself – stop.

We had gotten no more than a few feet into Athlete Village when I saw two familiar faces wearing Cleveland Triathlon Club gear. Mike and Julie! It was nice to see familiar faces in a crowd of strangers. They walked me up to athlete check-in at the Olympic ice arena. My family couldn’t come to athlete check-in with me, so I shyly made my way in by myself. The entire time I repeated to myself “I belong here” as I tried not to be intimidated by the other fit and toned athletes. “I’ve worked just as hard as them…” I assured myself.

Athlete check-in was a mix between being horded like cattle and being a freshman at college orientation. I didn’t know what to expect, so I just moved along as I was instructed. I probably looked like a deer in the headlights. They handed me bags, papers and made me sign multiple waivers. They even weighed me. Once I collected everything and passed go, I was finally given my chip timer and I followed the crowds out.

I found my family wondering around the ice arena where the “Miracle on Ice” took place, which was cool to see in person. After that we went back down to Athlete Village where I collected more things and we walked around the expo. I saw a few people I had been friends with on Instagram and it was nice to meet them in person. Finally we were able to go check into our AirBNB, which was a cabin up in the village of Jay (about 20 minutes from Lake Placid).

Our cabin was incredible. If you are going to Lake Placid (whether to race, spectate or just to hang out), an AirBNB is the way to go. Sure we weren’t right downtown, (which I was thankful for later), but being out among the mountains made the whole trip more special. We were pretty secluded, but also right on the bike course if you walked about a quarter mile. Our AirBNB even had kayaks to take out on the river that ran along the bike course! It was perfect. I loved the peace and ease that came with staying out of the craziness of downtown Lake Placid. I found that the closer the race got, the more nervous and anxious I got. It was nice to get away from all that and head back to our cabin.

Once we got back to our cabin on Friday, I went through my race bags and started reorganizing. I had already pre-packed everything at home, but if you know the craziness of Ironman you understand the burden of packing and organizing 🙂

In my bags I saw a small flier for an “Iron Prayer Service” at a local church. It was an hour of praise and worship, speakers and music. I was tired and drained from all of the excitement and I just wanted to nap, but for some reason I felt called to attend the prayer service…and wow am I glad I did! It helped put my heart at ease. There were three speakers – one was an athlete, the second a past athlete and volunteer and the third was the church pastor. After the speakers finished a small group gathered around each athlete there and prayed for courage and safety and thanked God for their Ironman journey. We sang “I am not alone, you will go before me, you will never leave me” and I didn’t stand a chance! Instant tears! But it felt good to cry as we sang. I tried to hide it and took a peek around and every other athlete in the building was crying. They handed out bracelets that said “Believe” on one side and “Trust God More” on the other side. I wore it proudly. Afterwards I talked to one of the speakers who was a volunteer this year. He told me he would be at the very last aid station on the run and would look for me. I left feeling so much better and even more grateful. I really needed that since my nerves were growing rapidly.

After the prayer service we went to meet Mike and Julie at the opening ceremony. It was fun to be among the crowd and Mike Reilly was the MC of the program. Not as many people attended as I thought would have, but I was glad we did. It made it even more special and I enjoyed hearing stories of the charity athletes, watching motivational videos and hearing a message from professional triathlete, Andy Potts. (Who by the way – is the nicest and most down-to-earth guy.) Afterwards we all went out to dinner and enjoyed some pasta. It was a really nice first evening in Lake Placid and I was happy to still have one more day to prepare for the race.

Opening Ceremony!

Pre-race / Saturday

Saturday we slept in at the cabin (by slept in I mean I was wide awake at 7AM). We had coffee out on the deck, which was beautiful and peaceful. I wanted to be back in town at 11AM for an Instagram group meet up and I needed to attend the athlete briefing at 3PM. I also needed to check in my bike and T1 and T2 bags. I spent a good chunk of the morning checking and double checking all my gear.

Downtown Lake Placid was a mad house on Saturday when we arrived. It instantly made my stress level skyrocket. I saw more people STILL training. There were literately hundreds of people still riding the bike course even! I tried to reign in my emotions and nerves, but I instantly felt on edge.

After I checked in my stuff I wanted to drive the bike course. My family was really supportive and helped me talk through it “…so easy spinning here…ok here’s a flat area, so you’ll eat here…” I had studied this bike course for over a year. I had my pathetic handwritten notes out as we drove it, checking things off, circling certain areas, making notes…

But the more we drove, the more I began to panic. The hills seemed massive. The flats seemed small and quick. New hills seemed to pop up every single mile. How did I miss this hill in all the videos I watched? I could feel my stomach tangling itself up in knots. This was supposed to be one of the toughest bike courses in Ironman – now here I am driving it 24 hours before I had to ride it. Was I ready for it? Had I done enough hill training? How was I ever going to finish in time? I started digging myself into a hole. I became very quiet and started to shut down. When we got back into town after driving one loop I was convinced I wasn’t going to finish and felt terrible about the entire race. I was sick to my stomach.

I held back tears as we made our way to athlete briefing. After a series of unfortunate events, which included: thinking the athlete briefing started at 3PM when it actually started at 2PM, and asking a group of volunteers questions about the cutoff times, which they knew nothing about – we headed back to our cabin. (By the way, both of these things made me panic and feel EVEN WORSE about the race! By the time we got back to the cabin I was in very bad mental shape.)

I sat at the kitchen counter with my face in my hands. “Want to talk about it?” My sweet mom asked me. “No.” I snapped like a pouting kid. I didn’t want to talk. I needed to sort through my feelings ASAP. I was spiraling out of control like a crazy person.

I listened to some music. I prayed. I sat out on the deck and looked at the woods, trying to center myself. Finally my mom joined me and I began to talk about my worries and worst fears. We finally came to the conclusion that my body knew what to do and it would perform as expected tomorrow. She also told me she had some letters from some of my friends and family and handed them to me. I read through the letters and as I read I began to laugh and slowly feel better. So many people were wishing me good luck and saying they believed in me. Deep down I believed in myself too, and reading those letters truly helped me to realize that again.

Kind notes from friends & family.

Race Day / Sunday Morning

I laid down around 7PM, knowing we had to get up at 2:45AM. I fell asleep listening to music and the next thing I knew I was wide awake at 2:30AM, waiting for my alarm clock to go off.

I got up and checked my list of things to do on race morning. I had made the list to make sure I didn’t forget to do anything. Breakfast, change, put on Tri Tats, pack nutrition…blah blah blah. All things I had been prepping for. I was surprisingly upbeat. I was still nervous, but it seemed a good night’s sleep and being away from downtown had reset my mind. If anything I felt excited and ready to go.

We arrived downtown around 5:30AM. My parent’s dropped my husband and I off right by transition as they went to go find parking. (I won’t go into detail about missing a turn driving into Lake Placid, which made me start crying as I started to panic about being late! Funny now, but not at the time, haha. Note to self — just follow the damn signs.)

My husband carried all of my stuff for me and was patient with me as I wanted to take a second, stop walking and take some deep breaths. I could feel my pulse quickening as we made our way into transition and I wanted to make sure my emotions were in check. I did not want to mentally spiral out of control like the day before.

Power phrase for the day of — instead of letting my emotions get the best of me or letting the course win I was going to “fight back”.

Transition was a mad house, but it was also exciting. I checked on my bike and transition bags, asked the volunteers a few questions about the exits and made my way out to meet my family. We dropped off my special needs bags and started walking to the beach. I was still surprisingly upbeat and happy. My nightmares of the bike course were far from my mind and I was laughing and joking around. I couldn’t wait to get my wetsuit on and get in the water. I felt so thankful to have my parents and my husband there. Laughing and joking around with them during this time was so special to me.

Does anyone ever look good in a swim cap?? (asking for a friend.)

I warmed up in the water, making small talk with a few athletes around me. Someone sang the national anthem and I stood in the water, beaming at the beach where 2,500 of my closest friends stood, waiting to start Ironman Lake Placid. Shortly after, the cannon went off and the pros began their day.

Swimmers enter the water of Ironman Lake Placid 2017. (Image courtesy of Ironman)

I made my way over to the swim corals and placed myself in the 1:31 to 1:40 time. I ran into Mike and Julie and shared a few last minute excited words with Mike. I had met Mike at the Lifetime Indoor Triathlon in Beachwood back in January. We had met while completing the running leg of the indoor tri. Ironically we were on treadmills right next to each other. We chatted a little and started laughing when we realized both of us were training for our first Ironman in Lake Placid! How ironic! But I believe it was fate that we met. Sharing fears, hopes, dreams and excitement during training helped immensely. Knowing I wasn’t struggling and preparing alone was huge…And there we were, six months later about to enter the water of Ironman Lake Placid. We high-fived as we inched our way to the start.

Mike & I right before the start!

I thought I would be very emotional during the race. You’re talking to the girl who watched every single motivational Iroman video out there. I’m notorious for watching Ironman finishers videos while on the bike trainer and crying so hard I would hyperventilate. My last training run had me in tears as I imagined the finish line…

But the only time I truly teared up in Ironman Lake Placid was moments before the swim start. A woman volunteer was high-fiving athletes as we entered the water and holding both of our hands for a few seconds. She would take a moment and say something and then let go. As I approached her she grabbed my hands and said confidently “You’re going to be an Ironman today.” My lip and chin instantly started quivering. I blinked back tears and grinned. I felt a ripple of excitement spread throughout my body as my feet hit the water. Music blasted and cheers and cowbells rang out. My Ironman had begun.

The Swim

My swim was a blast. Mirror Lake was like bath water and it felt good to get moving. I had read race reports about combat swimming in Lake Placid, but I didn’t have any big issues. Sure there were a few times I ran into someone or someone ran into me, but it wasn’t panic inducing. I think I stopped to gather myself twice and treaded water, but it was nothing to call home about. I even heard a few people talking during the swim, which I thought was funny.

Before I knew it we were on lap two. We had to get out of the water and walk across the timing mats again. I waved at my family as I entered the water again. Music blasted and I felt pure joy. I couldn’t stop smiling. Lap two I tried to find the underwater cable that runs the length of the swim course, but it seemed impossible to locate. Did it even exist?! You could see pretty far down into the water and I thought about the underwater scuba divers that I knew where down there somewhere, watching us quietly. I tried to look down a few times for them, but realized that seeing someone down there would probably scare the crap out of me, so I closed my eyes. About halfway through the second lap I ran into a small yellow buoy. I stopped swimming. “What the – ” THE CABLE! I looked down and there it was! I was right over top of it. It was a yellow color and was just a few feet below me. I was happy to finally see what it looked like and realized that not many people seemed to be following it. I continued swimming and started grinning when I heard the music from the beach again. We were so close! I couldn’t believe I was almost done with my 2.4 mile swim. It was so much fun!

Swim Time: 1:31
Goal Swim Time: 1:30
(I’ll take it!)
I ran out of the water and up to two wetsuit strippers. They had big smiles and greeted me. “Uhh what do I do?” I asked stupidly and we all laughed. They told me to lie down on my back (they had carpet there) and they grabbed the legs of my wetsuit and yanked. The whole exchange took 20 seconds and next thing I knew I was running the quarter mile to transition with my wetsuit over my shoulder. I was laughing, smiling and felt like a celebrity as I ran the street lined with spectators.

T1
Transition time 15:05 (Honestly it felt like 8-9 minutes! Time went SO quick!)

I grabbed my bag and headed for the changing tent. Nice volunteers directed me and I stopped in a porta potty before heading in. People had warned me that the changing tents at Ironman races would be full of sweaty, naked bodies…and they were right! I went to a tiny corner of the tent and stripped down, laughing to myself the entire time. I was busy getting myself ready and a volunteer asked if I needed help, but I really didn’t so I said no thanks. The volunteer went on to help someone who was fully sitting down next to me. She needed her more than I did!

The Bike

I grabbed my bike from a volunteer and she said to me “This is what we came here for!” Which was a quote I had written on my bike to remind myself of when things got tough. During the Iron Prayer Service they had quoted this from a bible verse and I found it very fitting.I smiled and said back “Yes it is!” I heard my family yelling and spotted them waving at me from the top of the bleachers looking over transition. I got on my bike as people cheered and I was beaming. The sun was shining and it felt good to be on my bike again. It felt like it had been forever since I rode it last! I silently thanked myself for tapering as I felt great and ready to ride.

What can I say about the bike? I really have no idea what I even thought about for seven and a half hours! I prayed a lot. I thought about my journey. I watched other cyclists and thought about their journey. I met up with Mike twice on the bike and we shared cheers for one another. Both of us were laughing about how much of a good time we were having.

The first climb out of town was like a long train with bikers strung together. Everyone was well aware not to trash their legs on the first climb out of town. Most people were going about 5 miles per hour, including myself. I was worried about drafting as everyone was so close together and no one wanted to burn the energy to pass. I kept my head down and just told myself to keep spinning and to sit up.I loved the Keene Descent!! Seven miles of screaming downhill fun. My top speed was 38, which I found a little disappointing as I had gone 43 down a few hills while training. I heard some people saying they went closer to 50! (I later found out there was a pretty bad crash going down the descent — scary stuff. Praying he/she is alright.)

The flat out and back was a great time to eat and be merry. I did a lot of praying here. I people watched. I saw some awesome bikes. I enjoyed the mountain scenery. I smiled at everyone and everything. I was so happy.The climb at the cross over to Wilmington was nothing crazy. I had freaked out about it when we drove it the day before, but riding it was like any other training hill in northeast Ohio. I passed a lot of people because I felt good and they were going too slow up the hill. It became a theme that I would pass people on the way up a hill, but they would pass me going downhill on a super fast tri bike. (Some people were going uphill so slowly I don’t know how they didn’t topple over!)

The climb past Whiteface Mountain was unbelievable. The views were insane and I kept thinking “I am racing Ironman Lake Placid right now!!” There were a series of rolling hills and it was fun to ride. I got into a good groove. I saw my family again, which I wasn’t expecting and it made me so happy!

The three bears were fun, especially papa bear as people lined the streets and cheered. It felt good to get back into town. People were out in front of their houses, playing music, dancing and cheering. The energy was unbelievable and I was once again struck with a wave of gratitude and excitement. I was racing an Iroman!! I felt amazing and had nailed my nutrition plan the first loop. I stopped at bike special needs, which was the first time I had unclipped from my bike in 3.5 hours. I went to the bathroom, got another bologna sandwich, made a friend who was also waiting for the bathroom, and refilled one of my water bottles with Power-Ade.

The second loop seemed to go even faster than the first loop. I felt myself getting more comfortable as the miles ticked by. At mile 75 I knew in my heart that I would be an Ironman that day. I knew even if I got a flat I would still have plenty of time left. I’ve read so many race reviews where people complain about wanting to get off the bike so badly, but I was having such a blast! I felt incredible and I was truly enjoying the bike. I was also looking forward to the marathon. In my head this was just a long day. I knew I could overcome it all, it would just take time.

High-fiving my husband around mile 80!

I saw my family outside of the cabin at mile 80. My dad was floating in the kayak and my husband was waiting to give me a high five on the side of the road. It made me so happy to see them and hear them. I pushed on — eating, drinking and taking salt tablets.

Picture from my husband’s video preparing to see me (they were tracking me on the app so they knew when I’d be there). They floated down the river in kayaks watching the cyclists on the bike course!

The only rough patch I had all day happened between miles 97 and 98 on the bike. From what I can recall I believe it’s because I somehow missed eating between 2:15 and 3PM. (How? I don’t know. I thought I ate, but I couldn’t 100% remember. I had been eating every 30 minutes.) At mile 97 I felt myself slowing down. The same group of people I had been riding with for a while continued on and I watched them ride out of sight. “What is happening to me?!” I said out loud to myself. I figured I was probably hungry so I wolfed down some gummies. But I was still hungry. I ate a Stinger waffle. Still hungry. I ate another Stinger waffle and chugged some water. I told myself to give it a few minutes and soon enough I felt myself returning to normal. PHEW. Bonk diverted.

Once we climbed the three bears again and got into town I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe my 112 mile bike ride was nearly over. “Ready to run?!” someone in the crowd asked me. “YES!!” I yelled back, grinning. Again I was surprised at how not annoyed I was at my bike. A few people around me were groaning “I wanna get off the bike!!” and I laughed because I felt so good. I could taste the marathon and I didn’t feel despaired or upset. I just couldn’t wait to experience it all…

Total Bike Time: 7:28
Bike Goal Time: 7:30
(I’ll take it!!)

T2
Transition Time: 13:33

I got into T2 and once again heard my family calling my name. They were everywhere!

The last couple of miles on the bike I felt a few GI issues going on. Nothing too crazy, but enough to make me think I should ummm….you know, hit a bathroom in T2. I did and instantly felt better. I tried not to worry about time as I had over 6.5 hours to run a marathon.

In the changing tent a nice volunteer came up to me and this time she didn’t ask if I needed help. She started opening my bags and asking “Are you changing?” and “What do you need to eat?” She was really funny and we had a good time joking around. She said she was happy to see me in such good spirits. I gargled some mouthwash like I had read about doing and it did the trick – instantly making me feel like a new person. I handed the volunteer a baggie of chocolates with a note written on it – which was my thank you gift for helping me. We hugged and then I was off.

Right as I was heading out of the changing tent I heard the crowd cheering loudly. A volunteer applying sunscreen told me “The first place female is about to finish!” I grinned as she ran in right past me and we made eye contact. She had just finished what I was setting out to do. It motivated me even more and I stepped out onto the course, starting the marathon of Ironman Lake Placid.

The Run

The crowd in downtown Lake Placid was going nuts as runners zigged and zagged all over the street. I saw my family again and kissed my husband. I was so floored and fired up! I beamed as I ran past the crowds, trying to take everything in. I began the run out of town towards the Olympic ski jumps – a sight that had given me goose bumps knowing I would see it during the marathon.

I heard my Garmin beep and I looked down to see my first mile at 9:30. Ok slow down girl. I run a 9:30 on a good day, not during an Ironman marathon. From there I settled in at 10-14 minute miles. I ran until mile 4 when I felt more annoying GI issues. So once again I had to, um…use the porta potty. Once I was done I felt like a new woman, but I was concerned about the electrolytes, water and calories I had lost from my two bathroom “events” in less than an hour. I felt a slight bonk starting to happen. I ran until mile 5 and at the aid station I ate grapes, pretzels and bananas. The thought of eating anymore gels and gummies made me sick. I slugged down some water and Gatorade and continued with this fueling method until mile 15 when they brought out the chicken broth. It was just what I needed and I took it at almost every stop until the end.

I started a run/walk method around mile 6. (I had done the same thing in my previous half Ironman races.) I ran as far as I could and then would power walk until I reached an object in the distance that I would point out for myself.

“Run until you reach that rock. Walk until you crest this hill. Walk this aide station and when you pass the garbage can you need to be running again.”

“Keep. Moving. Forward. Don’t Stop.”

At the mile 18 aide station I saw the speaker from the Iron Prayer Service that I had attended on Friday night. I waved at him and slowed down. We exchanged a few words. “God bless you” he said as I began running again. Once again it was nice to see a familiar face in a sea of strangers. The aid station faded into the background and I was at the turn around, headed back into town.

I knew it would be amazing once I hit Main Street. I kept telling myself that it would be worth it. That it would ALL be worth it once I hit the crowds again. The out and back on River Road was the like the black plague. There were people puking, farting and moaning everywhere. During a few stretches it was like the walking dead when it was pretty dark and all I could make out where stumbling bodies. As I turned onto Main Street my heart went out to the runners limping into the dark of River Road. That is a long, lonely stretch to be on out in the dark. Volunteers were handing out warming blankets and glow sticks to runners heading in. I was lucky enough to be just finishing on River Road when dusk turned into night. This was my home stretch and I could feel the finish in my bones.

In hindsight this was maybe my favorite part of the race. I wasn’t exhausted, but I was tired. Mainly I was bored from being out on River Road. I wanted the excitement of being back in town and I could hear it as I got closer. It was pretty quiet out as I ran in and people were gathered out on their front lawns, hosting parties. They would hear a runner coming and turn and face us and cheer. I’m sure they hold similar parties every year. It looked like fun and something by friends and family would do.

I picked up my pace and didn’t even stop at the aid stations for miles 22 or 23. I just wanted to keep moving and get closer to the finish line area. I could hear it clearly now and the streets were slowly filling with more and more people. At mile 24 the crowd on the last hill was going wild. They had a megaphone and were blasting music. Guys in speedos danced around. You could tell they were drinking and having an awesome time! I laughed all the way up the hill! I turned and there was the main area. Spectators lined the streets, hanging over fences and screaming at runners.

Now my race bib said “Cassandra” on it, because you know, that’s my name. If you know me you’ll know that I don’t like being called Cassie. Ever. My entire life I have had to correct people even though I introduce myself and sign everything as Cassandra. I have literally introduced myself as Cassandra and the next breath the person goes “Nice to meet you Cassie.” (Seriously??) Needless to say it’s a pet peeve to be called Cassie. Throughout the run I had heard “Go Cassie” probably close to 20 times. Each time I bit my tongue and smiled. These people were out cheering for me and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful and correct them, but each time I heard it I would cringe. At mile 25 I began correcting people when I heard it. I made it like a joke and laughed as I said it, but dammit I had spent 6 months training and paid a lot of money to do this – I wanted my memories to be filled with my correct name!! Then I started panicking that Mike Reilly would say “Cassie you are an Iroman!!” At this point I laughed out loud fully knowing that I would march right up to him and demand a rename if that happened. (Spoiler alert — it didn’t.) (PS — what would you do if you were in my situation and being called the wrong name?)

The crowd was unbelievable as I got closer to entering the Olympic Oval. We were at mile 26. I tried to slow down as two runners were ahead of me and one was right behind me. Everything I had read said to slow down at the finish line. One reason is so you can enjoy and remember the moment and the second reason is so you don’t end up in anyone else’s finishing picture and vice versa. I tried to slow down, but it was hard because I didn’t want to weirdly come to a complete stop in the middle of the Olympic Oval. All of a sudden the girl who was behind me blew past me. (I thought to myself, why would you sprint now?! Slow down and enjoy your moment you worked so hard for!!) So I tried to slow down even more to put some space between people. One of the guys stopped to kiss his wife so I had to keep running past him, then I realized he was right behind me. Come on man slow down!! I thought.

My feet hit the red carpet. The lights were in my eyes. I could make out the shapes of the crowd. I heard Mike Reilly announcing names. I thought I’d cry, but really it felt fake to me. Was this really happening? I was grinning from ear to ear as I made my way to the finish line. I heard my husband yelling for me. I realized at the last second he was screaming at me for a kiss, but it was too late to turn around as I was one step away from crossing the finish line. I heard Mike Reilly’s voice and barely made out “You’re an Iroman Cassandra!” A little different from what I was expecting, but at least he said it (even though I finished with a group of people) plus he had said my name correctly! 🙂

Run Time: 5:13
(Run goal — somewhere around 5 hours I guessed)

Finishing Time: 14:42:33
(Finishing goal — I was shooting for around 15 hours)

The nicest volunteer helped me gather my things and escorted me to the food area. I took a sub sandwich and a piece of pizza, knowing that my husband or dad would eat it. A few minutes later my husband appeared and he motioned for me to meet him outside the gate. When he saw me he had a giant bouquet of flowers and gave me the biggest kiss in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as proud of me as he was after my Ironman. He didn’t take his arm off of me afterwards.

We stood around chatting and watching the finish line and it all felt surreal. Once again I was struck with the feeling that this was all fake. Did the whole day really happen? I felt like I needed to be somewhere or doing something next, but I didn’t.

Post race selfie with my favorite people!

The music was great and the crowd was going crazy as they brought the athletes in. We saw the big screen where it was broadcasting online. Mike wasn’t set to finish for a little while still and after watching for about 30 minutes we decided to head back to the cabin. I wanted to stay and keep watching, but part of me also wanted to head back. I also knew my family had been at it just as long as me and they were also drained. I took a few more last minute looks at the magic of the Ironman finish line and we headed back to our car. We ran into more volunteers who congratulated me. I looked at my phone – 22 text messages. I was so tired and emotional I decided to read them all the next day. On our way out of Lake Placid we saw glimpses of the run course and I saw runners still making their way into the night. I said a prayer for them. My family and I talked the whole way back to the cabin, knowing we had made that drive over 15 hours earlier.

I got home and just stood in the shower. I felt like the whole thing had been a weird dream. Did I really just do that? Did that actually happen? I laid down thinking I would maybe try to look at my phone, but the minute I got in bed I was out.

The best support crew around!!

Post Race / Monday

I woke up around 7AM the next day and foggy visions of the day before began to come back to me. Did that really happen? Am I really an Ironman? I felt the soreness in my legs as I tried to get up. My husband stirred next to me. “Did it really happen?” I asked him. He grinned at me without opening his eyes. “Yes it did babe!”

Monday morning we made our way into Lake Placid again. It was cold and rainy and I kept praying “Thank you Jesus for the good weather yesterday!!” I couldn’t imagine how the day would have gone if it had been cold and rainy. (Our race weather was amazing – 70 degrees and overcast.) We went to the Ironman store and bought a few things. Then we went to Lake Placid Brewery and had lunch. I kept thinking how relieved I felt that the race was over. It was amazing and fun, but I also felt really relieved. It was a weird feeling.

After the brewery we went to a bakery called “Cake Placid” and I picked out three desserts that I wanted. (Hey I had just burned 10,000 calories the day before!!) While we were there I was suddenly overcome with extreme fatigue and tiredness. I seriously couldn’t keep my eyes open for one more second! My family understood and we got in the car and headed back to the cabin. I slept in the car the whole drive and then climbed into bed when we got there and slept for a few more hours. When I woke up around 6PM I was suddenly hit with a rush of sadness that the Ironman was over. I can’t describe it. All day I had felt relieved it was over and then in the first few moments of being awake and remembering it was over I suddenly felt so incredibly sad. It was an emotional roller coaster!

The Aftermath

We stayed in Lake Placid at our cabin until Wednesday that week. It was nice to sight see and bum around with no real itinerary. On Wednesday morning we made the drive up to Vermont. We did some wine tasting, hiking (not too much for me as I was still recovering) and stayed over night. Thursday morning we began the drive home and pulled into our driveway around 9PM. It felt good to be home in our new house. My wonderful friends left an awesome sign on our front door step and being home made it seem even more real — I was officially an Ironman and was returning to normal life.

I’ve continued to feel that split sadness and relief feeling since the race ended. I feel empowered and free, but also sad and like working out is suddenly pointless. The “Ironman Blues” is a very real thing my friends! I slept in on Saturday morning this week for the first time since December. Is this how normal people live life? There are no more 8 hour bricks on the weekends. No more 5AM swims. No more constantly taking the bike on and off the trainer. No more having to pack for training the night before…

I keep getting impulses to sign up for Lake Placid 2018. But I keep telling myself just to relax and take it easy. My decision would be purely based on the emotions of the finish line. I don’t want to overlook all of the hard work, time and money that went into Lake Placid 2017. Next year’s race is going to sell out quickly and I need to be OK with that. I am not ready to commit, which means I should wait. When you decide to do an Ironman it needs to be an “all in” decision. I am still on the fence, which means my answer right now is no. That doesn’t mean it will always be “no”. Perhaps I will do another Ironman at a different venue. Maybe I will come back to Lake Placid in 2019. Or perhaps I will just do half Ironmans next year. I am not sure and I just need to relax and figure it out in good time.

I am not even supposed to run until two full weeks afterwards, which is this weekend. The experience, the venue and the race were incredible and I am forever changed, but it’s time to reflect back on my journey.

I have SO many more post-Iroman thoughts and so much thanks to give for my incredible friends and family. My support crew on the ground there were troopers. A 15+ hour day, plus the emotional support I needed throughout this entire process. My friends and family who tracked me coast to coast and sent so much love, support and positivity. I can’t even believe it all. I can’t believe it was real!

More to come!

CHEERS!

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7 thoughts on “My First Ironman — Lake Placid 2017 Race Report

  1. Congratulations! I knew you would finish. Glad that the day lived up to expectations and that the weather cooperated! The emotional roller coaster you experienced is completely normal. I was reading the report and just nodding my head the whole time. Post Ironman blues are normal too (aka PIDS-post Ironman depression syndrome or PITS-Post Ironman Triathlon syndrome) and it blindsided even though I fully expected it. There is just a huge void in your life all of a sudden. Ironman training filled up your free time. Thinking about Ironman training filled every waking minute. Now it’s all gone. Nothing kills a dream faster or more quickly then achieving that dream (and crossing the finish line is as sudden and quick as a dream can die). There is an almost irresistible impulse to replace it with something else…like another Ironman. I almost signed up for another within a few days. I’m very glad I didn’t. If you do another Ironman, make sure it’s the right thing for you (and it won’t be the same as the first). I went back to marathons and tried an ultramarathon…but nothing clicked for me. The passion was gone and so was the enjoyment. I exercise for fitness and it is a part of my life, but I am winding down my racing. Ironman was an obsession (a good one) and I never found anything to replace it. PIDS lasted about 2 years for me. But most move on much faster. If you ever do another IM, try a different venue. Mont Tremblant has a great reputation. But Wisconsin was amazing and would highly recommend it. One last thing…you are a veteran and an expert. Pay it forward. You will find a lot of bloggers and FBers training for their first and clinging to a ledge. Take a few minutes and give them a little love, encouragement or advice. I had a few strangers talking me off the ledge from time to time. It made a world of difference to me. Congrats again…you are an Ironman! (I was never called an Ironman…Mike called my name and hometown…that’s it…I feel cheated!)

  2. Thanks for reading! It was long, but I had so much to say about a day I had been training for and thinking about for so long! The race was incredible and like I said, it was the best day ever and I am forever changed…but honestly I did not expect to feel so damn sad and lost afterwards! Maybe it’s my own fault for putting this race on such a high pedestal. I feel so lost and have no sense of direction with my training and workouts now. I keep having impulses to sign up like you said you did too. A couple of times I almost did it, but each time my husband and I would talk it through and I would come back to the reality that I really don’t want to do the exact same thing all over again, even though it was incredibly worth it and amazing — does that make any sense?! LOL. (For the record – my husband said he would support me in whatever I decided, which is awfully kind of him even though he considered himself an “ironman widower” while I was training!). Also IM LP is my club race next year and some of my family just moved to upstate NY and said they would come for the race in 2018…but I just don’t think it’s a good idea for some reason. I’m not sure my heart would be in it two years back-to-back like that.

    I think I want to do another full at some point, but like you said, try it at a different venue. (I was actually looking at Wisconsin and Louisville for next fall. This would give me plenty of time to relax and take it easy for now. If I sign up for Wisconsin you’ll need to be my race sherpa haha!) BUT honestly I still don’t think I’m in an emotionally stable place to register yet — am I making any sense? I just didn’t expect to feel this weird afterwards. I can’t believe you said your PIDS (lol) lasted for almost 2 years!! I hope I can get to the spot you are in now. Working out for health and because you enjoy it. It has only been 12 days post IM, so I really just need to relax. This rest is well deserved. I’m not even supposed to resume running until next week, which that might make me feel better actually.

    Once again thank you for always talking me off the ledge. I plan to still be a member of the IMLP FB group and I hope I meet someone I can talk to training for their first full! IM should start a mentoring program haha I benefited so much from talking to you and a few others and just getting so much great advice. It was nice to know everything I was going through was normal and you and countless others had been there before.

  3. If you decide to do another, do it now. Like right now! I’m not kidding. You are trained. LP was a big training day. A modified Taper would parachute you right into CDA (still open) or MT. Wisconsin would require a couple more peak training weeks. Lou is too far out. But, I would strongly advise to skip anything IM in 2018. If the drive is there, then 2019 will still be there. I did a lot of back to back races in marathon running. I’ve seen athletes do the same in IM. Just saying… 😉

  4. Loved reading this !!!!! I have done ONE sprint tri ( w2 years ago) and want to he told more swim practice done . Reading your story has just filled me up with crazy excitement to do more tris!! Congratulations !!!

  5. Anne! I am so, so, so happy to hear this! Go after it and chase your dreams!!

  6. I was dyingggggg to know how things went for you it so I googled your name and found the Cleveland news story! Awesome news piece! You did so AMAZING accomplishing this huge goal most people (me included) can’t even dream of. Congrats congrats congrats! I’ve had so much fun reading along during your journey!

  7. Christy!! You are so sweet!! Thank you for “getting it” and understanding a dream that so few do. You are amazing!

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