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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A Slave to Ironman Training (Week 22 & 23 Recap)

Where am I? What’s happening? Who am I?

As the days tick by I can feel my stress meter increasing. My mind is a blur and I am constantly tired. I am having fun don’t get me wrong. But as I whimpered “does it ever end?” to my husband yesterday on my way out the door for a run, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had gotten myself into this situation!

I can’t even remember what life was like before Ironman training.

*today is actually 47 days until LP!

I feel like every situation or event in my life is dictated by Ironman…

  • A kayaking date we scheduled months ago? No. Too tired after my long brick.
  • Happy hour? Only if it ends at 6PM, plus I won’t be drinking alcohol because I have to be up at 4AM.
  • A family party that starts at 11AM on Saturday? There’s no way I’ll make it. I will only be a few hours into my 6-hour ride and would still need to run afterwards…

And before you say “No no no…Ironman training is all about balance and still making time for your life commitments.” Not right now. I honestly couldn’t image skipping a workout because my anxiety level that I am not ready is quickly taking over my life.

I am the strongest and fittest I have ever been in my entire life…but 140.6 miles strong?! I still can’t wrap my head around it, although big training weeks do help my anxiety a bit. (See why I couldn’t imagine skipping a workout right now!?)

Week 22
Total Mileage: 182 Miles
Total Time: 18:09

Week 22 was my most fun week yet. (Remember I did say I was having fun training — just worrying a lot as well!) It was Memorial Day weekend and I knew a three day training bender was on the horizon. Over the course of the long weekend I covered 181 miles!

80 Miles on Saturday!

Saturday: 2 mile swim, 80 mile ride and 5 mile run (I felt great! I was SUPER focused on nutrition and making sure I was eating every 45 minutes and drinking a ton. You can see how this effected me and just proves even more how important nutrition is. I got done with the bike and felt perfectly fine to run.)
Sunday: 12 mile bike and 13.2 mile run
Monday: 65 mile bike and 4 mile run

By Tuesday morning I felt exhausted and could feel a cold coming on. I had pushed hard, but was proud of my efforts and discipline.

This is how I recovered after my long weekend of training!

I was also able to stock up on nutrition for the last few weeks of training. Only $70 later at Dicks…I needed to order online, but I had used up everything I had over the long holiday weekend.

Looks like Halloween!

Week 23
Total Mileage:165 Miles
Total Time:17 Hours

Week 23 was a little challenging, but having Monday off for my long ride was a life saver. That weekend I was heading up to the Finger Lakes in New York for my best friend’s Bachelorette Party and I knew some drinking and relaxing was going to take place. I actually ended up taking my first rest day since May 9 on that Sunday. That’s a good thing because we enjoyed a lot of wine all weekend!! I did still manage to get in 12.5 miles on Saturday before most of the girls were up. My other two girlfriends ran 2 miles with me (miles 7 and 8 for me), which was nice to have a little bit of company. Also I took PTO on Friday and got in another ride on the trainer and met one of my girlfriends at this AMAZING pool out in Geneva. It’s an Olympic training facility called Spire and has an Olympic size pool! In my normal pool, if I want to swim the full 2.4 Ironman distance I have to swim 87 laps — in Spire’s pool it was only 43.5 laps!

We also practiced swimming in our wet suits for a few laps since I am racing this weekend and I haven’t worn my wet suit since last July! It was just SO amazing!! My normal pool only has 4 lanes (sometimes less) and usually I have to share a lane with 2+ people. Spire has 10 lanes and the lanes are double in size, plus my friend and I were the only ones in the entire pool. It’s crazy! Definitely made me enjoy my 2.4 mile swim more than usual!

Wine tasting!

Fun to hang out with my girlfriends in the middle of the day on a Saturday — normally peak training time!

This weekend I am racing both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I am racing an Olympic distance triathlon and Sunday is my b-race of the year — my second 70.3 Half Ironman! I am super curious how Sunday will go. It’s crazy how last summer I thought 70.3 was HUGE. I mean don’t get me wrong, it still is a HUGE distance…but it’s not 140.6 huge. I am a little nervous, but considerably WAY less nervous than last summer. This will be my 4th year doing this race (but first attempt at the half distance this year). So I am pretty comfortable with the venue and how the race is ran. I am most nervous for the swim. I just haven’t done an OWS since last August. I hope I am OK in my wet suit as well. Sometimes I tend to panic and have to focus on staying calm and in control. I hate when it feels so tight that I cannot breathe! But if I breathe slowly and calmly I will be fine.

I am really hoping to PR compared to my Half Ironman last summer because I am in way better shape now and because I am comfortable at this venue. Also racing back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday will help to simulate a longer distance at race pace.

I’m chomping at the bit to see a starting line! Here’s to hoping this weekend goes smooth and helps boost my confidence levels.

Ironman Training 3 Week Recap – Weeks 19, 20 & 21

Week 19 was a fun week, primarily because I got to attend the Cleveland Triathlon Club tri camp. I only went one day (oppose to camping and going three full days), but the overall experience and knowledge gained was awesome. Plus I LOVED being able to train with other people! (Most times I am a lone wolf when it comes to training.)

Week 19
Total Mileage: 110 Miles
Total Time: 11:15 Hours

Camp was a blast and I felt really good about how I handled the hills of Mochican State Park. I know that I am good at climbing and can remain steady. To me it’s about getting it over with. Hills make long rides go faster. If I am dreading a hill at mile 24 — then mile 24 is going to appear a lot more quickly! (It’s all mental really.) Most riders just suffered up the hill ever so slowly and I felt like I was going to topple over if I slowed down like that.

The weather was fair. Decently chilly, but not totally miserable and the rain held off for Saturday at least! I also attended a swim clinic at camp and found out what has been causing my knee pain during my long swims — I tend to swim pigeon toed! (I know — seriously?!) I was given some drills to try to correct it and some pointers to think about. (Swimming is hard you guys. I don’t have the muscle memory of a good stroke. It’s constantly thinking about your motion the ENTIRE swim.)

I went to tri camp on that Saturday and then the following morning on Sunday I ran a 5K in my hometown with one of my girlfriends. I knew my fitness had increased and I am in great shape — so I figured I was going to PR this race. Although I think I’ve gotten the same time before (25 minutes). I was happy to see that I also got 3rd female overall in the 5K. This is probably because there were only 71 participants in the 5K, but STILL! (Although I was laughing to see that the 2nd overall female was in the 10-14 age group,  LOL!)

Week 20
Total Mileage: 169 Miles
Total Time: 16:39 Hours

Week 20 was my first 100-mile ride. I knew I needed to just get it over and done with. It took me just over 7 hours to complete. It left me feeling exhausted and a little worried about the 8:10 cutoff for 112 miles during the actual race. Mentally though, it was even tougher. The fact that I was out there solo didn’t help. At one point I was playing “scattergories” in my head with myself. Also I rode on a bike trail that crossed over a lot of busy roads, so I know I won’t have to stop and start like that during the actual race, which will shave down on time. I also realized I need to get better at eating on the bike. I would stop for 10 minutes at a time. During the actual race I plan to stop twice to pee and that’s it. (None of this “peeing on the bike” nonsense I have heard about!)

I was so happy to see this.

I was so happy to see this.

It was cloudy and overcast during my 100-miler and I didn’t think twice about sunscreen until it was too late.

I read online — 14 X 8 = 112. So I just need to focus on going about 14 miles per hour on the bike. In theory when I read this I was like “WOW. 14 miles per hour?! That’s nothing!!” But the bike course in Lake Placid is like no other. Hills upon hills. I’m wondering if I can maintain even 14. Luckily I live in a hilly area and have ample time to climb and practice still. I am still nervous though. Sometimes it really shakes my confidence to look down at my speed while climbing and see 12 miles per hour. My strategy will be to hold 14 during the majority of the race and allow myself to recover under 14 for 1-2 minutes after each climb. Then I will need to power the downhills. Last week I reached 41 miles per hour on a downhill. I’ve heard you can get upwards of 50 down the hills at Lake Placid!

Week 21
Total Mileage: 177 Miles
Total Time: 17:20 Hours

I’ve read a lot about average training volume and time during Ironman training. I know I can’t compare myself to other people’s training, but I did read one guy’s theory that he aimed to average about an Ironman distance (140.6 miles) a week. I read that and figured it sounded pretty reasonable and it would be a good gauge for me. Obviously I am still following the Be Iron Fit guide, but this also gives me a good base to aim for. Also I followed the Intermediate Program for the first 20 weeks of training and just recently switched to the Competitive Program last week because I felt like I had more to give.

I feel like recently I have climbed over a plateau in my training. Although I am still nervous and questioning myself most days, I have honestly felt myself get stronger over the last 2-3 weeks. It’s hard to explain. On Sunday I rode 57 miles in 3:45. At first I felt defeated because I completed the Half Ironman bike in 3:10. Then after I thought about it I realized that it was a great time. My race goal is to be at 56-60 miles by 4 hours. I was 15 minutes early and I climbed A TON of hills on that ride. For the first time in weeks I felt a wave of relief wash over me…I would make it. If that ride was the first half of the race then I would have probably made the 8:10 cutoff. Having that feeling was a huge confidence boost. Also I plan to take the first lap of the bike very easy, then start hammering out the second loop, so hopefully my second loop time will be faster.

There’s so much to think about!! The constant stress hanging over your head. Can I do this? What if I fail? The breakthrough moments where you believe you can. Trying out nutrition plans. The threat of GI issues in the back of your head. What if I bonk? What if I can’t remember to eat on time? What if I stop too long and miss the cut off? The anxiety to pack everything. The nerves of a flat tire. If I’m already stressed about the cut off time — what if I flat and have to take 20 minutes to change it? So many concerns, thoughts, worries…

Then add in a little thing called buying a house and BAM

And yes that is what’s happening. We close on our new house TWO WEEKS before the Ironman. We close July 6. Ironman Lake Placid is July 23 and we are staying the following week. My only defense is that I will be tapering, but the thought and craziness of moving and things being out of place is beyond me. My husband has assured me it’s going to be alright, but I know myself and my nerves and I know I will be a basket case. I’m not sure how this is all going to work. Training is a part time job right now. Throw in the other things and I’m not sure what will happen…

The only thing left to do is to keep plugging along I guess. I am thrilled about our new house. I’m also over the moon about the fact that I will have a home gym in the basement. It’s our first house and that is SO special, but the timing here isn’t so great. We’ve been house hunting for almost 10 months and for it to line up this way!? It’s a double edge sword. At this point I’m just laughing… laughing because I’m nervous, excited and to keep from losing my mind!

Here’s to Week 22 — CHEERS!

Ironman Training – 2 Week Recap {Weeks 13 & 14}

We are cruising through Week 15, and that means training is about half way over — which is absolutely terrifying. Some days I feel great and like I’m making progress, other days I feel panicked and behind (even though I have not missed a single workout!)

30 weeks is simultaneously forever and also not enough time…

Week 13 was my first full week at the new gym. The pool is crazy crowded every single time I go, but thankfully people are really nice and understanding. Nobody likes sharing a lane or “circle” swimming, but it’s gotta be done.

Week 13
Total Mileage: 95 Miles
Total Time: 11:03 Hours

In Week 14 I began to see some serious run improvements (and even more so in Week 15). I’m usually around a 10:00 pace. It’s comfortable for me. I venture out and do a little faster from time to time, but pretty steadily I’m right around 10 minute miles. In Week 14 suddenly a 9:20 or 9:10 pace began to feel comfortable and normal! Even into this week’s training I ran a few 8:30’s and felt really good! It’s amazing to feel a legit breakthrough like this! I can’t wait to run again tomorrow to see how I feel.

Week 14 was also my highest numbers yet. Yep…we are slowly, but surely getting there my friends!

Week 14
Total Mileage: 103 Miles
Total Time:12:17 Hours

Lately I have been throwing in my rest day whenever and wherever I need it. Sometimes it’s during the week and sometimes it nicely lands on a Sunday, in which case I sleep in and then go hiking and out to lunch with my husband!

Convenient and fun rest days!

Convenient and fun rest day hikes!

My longest indoor training ride was a few days ago in Week 14. Three and a half hours!! *GULP* It was brutal, but more so mentally than physically. Afterwards I swore off never riding indoors longer than 3.5 again, but as the week plays out, my 4-hour ride this Sunday is looking more and more like another indoor ride… UGH. I don’t know what to do. I’d have to drive 40 minutes away to find bike paths or not-super-packed roads to ride on. Also it’s pretty cold here still and I don’t want to be miserable. Nothing is more exhausting than biking around in the cold trying to fill time and/or miles.. BUT if I just do it on the trainer I don’t have to drive anywhere, it’s warm, it’s safer and I know my exact time and mileage without having to lollygag around.

There will be a time and place for an outdoor long ride, I’m just not sure it’s this weekend.

Preparing for my 3.5 hour ride

Preparing for my 3.5 hour ride

But what am I going to do for 4 hours? I watched two stupid movies on my 3.5 hour ride and that barely did anything for me. I’ll admit I teared up around 3 hours because I was so bored and out of my mind and I wasn’t sure I was going to get through it. But afterwards I was so proud and happy to see 50 miles on my bike computer!

What do you guys do to pass the time on the indoor trainer? Movies? Music? Puzzles? Books? A tranquilizer?

Keep on keeping on… and pray for me and my 4-hour ride.

Week 3 {Pushing Through}

This week was a tough week for me.

I had a lot going on at work and on top of it I was deathly sick. Like so sick and coughing so hard I contemplated going to the ER a few times. I was short of breath and coughing all day, everyday and I was miserable. I didn’t want to dial back my training either because I was afraid I’d lose momentum, so I powered through. It went fine other than I knew I wasn’t in the right heart rate zones during a few workouts and I just had to chalk it up to a loss. I still got in my time and mileage, but they weren’t all super quality workouts.

The good news is that I feel like I’m on the rise back up. I’m not at full strength yet, but I felt like yesterday and today was a good, solid effort in training. I coughed a few times, but nothing compared to what it has been. I think I’ll be back to full strength by mid-week (I hope at least). I also believe having good nutrition helped me through this week. The hubs and I are on day 13 of 24 of the Advocare 24 Day Challenge and we’re still going strong! I’m down 4 lbs and he’s down 13 lbs — LOL. It’s all good though as I’m only about 8 lbs off from race weight and I know it’ll come off fairly easily with consistent training and nutrition.

Week 3
Total Time: 8 Hours
Total Mileage: 63 Miles

week-3This week it was nice to feel my swim improve. It’s crazy what three weeks of consistent swimming and drills can do. I already feel like my swim endurance is 100% better than it was during week 1!

Second picture of me laughing is courtesy of my husband dancing to my music in the living room!

Second picture of me laughing is courtesy of my husband dancing to my music in the living room!

The hardest workout of the week seems like it’s the day where my plan calls for a bike session and then a swim in one day. It’s just hard to figure it out logistically. My gym with the pool has ONE spin bike, so if I go and someone is using it I’m outta luck. So I have to start my day super early at home on my trainer and then head to the gym to swim afterwards. At this point I don’t want to split up my training yet. I like doing it in the morning and being done with it for the rest of the day. I know this workout is going to get tougher too when the time and mileage increases.

Overall I’m just thankful I’m starting to feel better. A few of my treadmill runs this week were straight sufferfests. I’m not even thinking about outdoor runs or rides at this point because I don’t think my lungs could take the cold air. So I’m stuck indoors for the next few weeks. I haven’t been hit with cabin fever quite yet, so it’s all good  🙂

Here’s to week 4 and feeling more like myself again!

5-miler

Week 1 — Onward To The Long Course

dare-to-beginLast week was the first week of training for Ironman Lake Placid 2017!

It was pretty laid back and chill, except for the fact that I am in TERRIBLE swim shape.

Not even kidding I struggled to swim FIVE laps in a row without being out of breathe. (Insert face palm for only swimming twice since August!! *sigh* it’s my own damn fault though.) My first of two swims was the worst. I felt so defeated and deflated after that swim. I later told my mom to remind me of this moment in a few months. I know the swimming endurance will come back and I’ll be confident again, but it’s hard not to listen to that little whisper in the back of your head asking “Will you ever be ready?” The good news is I have plenty of time. So much time that when I hear that little voice I laugh and tell it to shut up, because I know I will be ready and it was ONLY week #1.

I did have another irrational moment of panic after another swim when I looked at my Garmin and thought “Jan 2” said “June 2” and my stomach did a flip. I seriously rolled my eyes at myself because I need to just chill. Like seriously girlfriend, slow your roll and chill.

Overall I’m happy with my mileage, time and effort the first week and I am looking forward to another full week of training.

WEEK 1
Time: 7 hours, 17 minutes

Mileage: 56 miles

week-1-stats

The Countdown

T-minus 21 days until I officially start training for Ironman Lake Placid 2017.

ironman-tentAt this point I am busy transferring the “Intermediate Program” from Be Iron Fit into an easy to digest and understand Excel document. I’ll keep one printed off at home, one printed off in my car, one printed off at work and then install it as an icon on my phone. I won’t be able to NOT find out what I have to do every day  🙂 It will basically be plastered everywhere. I also still plan on tracking everything via the app, “Addaero” because I really like it and I used it for my half Ironman training.

We’ve also booked our cabin for Lake Placid, which is so exciting! We’ll be driving up Friday, July 21. I’ll go to athlete check-in on Saturday, July 22 and then race on Sunday, July 23. We’ll stay July 24 and 25 (hang out, hike — if I’m even able to, etc.). Then we’ll head home on Wednesday, July 26.

Lake Placid 2017 Cabin!

Lake Placid 2017 Cabin!

It’s an 8 hour, 20 minute drive from Cleveland, which is going to stink, but I can keep my bike assembled and we can pack down the car. Also my parents and my brother and his partner are going to come up and stay in the cabin with us. It’s pretty exciting, but hard to believe it’s still seven months away and so much planning has already gone into this.

So far my training has still been decent during my “off-season”. I did a 6-week conditioning and weight program in October and wanted to complete it again in November, but I only ended up doing 2.5 weeks of it this round. We ended up going out to California for a few days and it kind of fell apart after that. But that’s OK because I’m still working out and keeping my base.

San Francisco was a blast though and I’m glad we made time to go!

san-franI got a tattoo in November that I’ve been wanting for about two years now. I knew I had to get it in November because I had to be out of the pool for 2 to 3 weeks after getting it. I got “fearless” on my left rib cage. It’s meaningful to me because throughout my life I’ve used “fearless” as a power word, and not just with racing and training, but throughout my life. Fearless with change, fearless with people, fearless with places and new opportunities. I never not want to do something because I’m afraid of it or I’m afraid of going alone. I read an article the other day that was explaining why people train for Ironman triathlons and it said “because it scares you as much as it excites you…” And that may be true, but I want to remind myself to live in a fearless way — to feel the fear and to do it anyway.

tattooI NEED to get back in the pool now at this point, but I just don’t want to yet! The good thing about the Be Iron Fit training plan is that swim training starts out very basic at first. I’ll be swimming only two hours a week for the first 10 weeks, which I’m happy about. I’m also looking into getting underwater headphones because if you haven’t caught on — I truly don’t enjoy swim training. I worked really hard for my half Ironman to become a better swimmer and I think I turned into a decent swimmer, definitely not fast by any means, but solid and strong and I finished the half Ironman feeling completely fine. I just gotta bite the bullet and dive back in – literally.

I’ll be doing the Lifetime Indoor triathlon and the JCC Indoor Triathlon with two of my friends on January 8 and February 12, so besides training I’ll be looking forward to both of those “races” coming up.

I know we are now in the home stretch to training and also the danger zone as it’s really easy to get sucked into bad nutrition and lazy holiday downtime at this point in the year. Gotta keep my eye on the prize though because I want to start December 26 with a solid base and attitude. The hubs and I are also doing the Advocare 24-day Challenge again starting January 9, which I’m really looking forward to because I really enjoyed it last year.

Happy holidays & keep training hard!

ironman-christmas