Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ironman Lake Placid Report - DNF

It's now two days after IM Lake Placid, and I'm still trying to come to terms with how my day ended. On the Saturday two weeks before the race I developed an injury on my left leg that was a bit perplexing. I had done a longer ride and run in the morning, and some time in the afternoon the area just above my left ankle felt a bit sore. I initially thought I must have bumped into something - it just felt like a bruise. However, it got a bit more sore before going to bed. On Sunday morning I was scheduled to do my last long run - 2:15 - but I only got about five minutes from home before turning around. I knew something was wrong and running was pointless.

On Monday morning I called a sports podiatrist that I've seen in the past. He has raced Kona twice and has helped me out in the past with a few injuries. I was really hopeful that this would be similar. However, with less than two weeks until the race I didn't know what was feasible. On Tuesday I saw him and we took a few x-rays, which revealed no fracture. Over the next ten days I got three rounds of EPAT (a shockwave therapy to break up scar tissue and promote healing), but the pain was still there. I got the last round of EPAT on Thursday, the day we headed towards IMLP. There was still some pain, but I was still a bit hopeful things would still be ok.

On that Thursday we stayed at a hotel a bit north of Albany after driving for three hours. With two little ones (5 years and 22 months) longer car rides aren't that enjoyable, and breaking up the drive makes sense. Also, with hotels charging 3x the normal rate for IMLP we saved a bit of money by not staying in Lake Placid for four nights. On Friday we drove the last two hours and got Jackson registered for the IronKids run once we arrived. Katie ran with Jackson in the race, which he did great in. He was super proud and, as it turned out, was the only one in our family to finish a race this weekend!

After his race I went over and did the registration thing and then we eventually headed to our hotel - a very basic room for a lot of $$$. I had wanted to stay a bit closer to transition, but prices were absurd, so we settled on the Quality Inn, which was about 1.5 miles from the oval. On Friday afternoon I got in a short swim from our hotel - the water was shallow and a mucky mess, but I swam for 15 minutes.

I'd say that 95% of my workouts this year involved waking up some time between 3:30 and 4:30 am, and on Saturday my body wanted to get up around 4:30 even though I'd set my alarm for 5:00. As a result, I was down at the swim start just after 5:00 to take the picture below. I was the first one swimming the course and didn't have to do any fighting for the cable! I did one loop in 34 minutes and figured about doubling that would be reasonable the following day, which was spot on. 

After swimming I did a quick bike ride, going down the 'Bears,' taking a right onto River Road, and then returning on a reverse of the run course. Everything seemed good on the bike, and I was back at our hotel around 7:00 AM to grab some breakfast before the family was even up. Katie headed out on a run after they got up. A few hours later we headed over to transition to check in my bike and drop off bags. After that it was time for Hannah to have a nap, and I took her to sleep in the car as I drove the bike course. I got a good feel for the hills heading out of town, the descent into Keene, the fast section to Jay, then the climbing to the long out and back, which I felt was the coolest section of the bike course. Lots of winding through some fields along the river and eventually into a densely forested area before turning around. Then it was back out to Wilmington and the climbing section back into town. I felt that the course was pretty good and that most sections were in good shape for a little Sunday ride. 

That afternoon we went to the pool at our hotel for a bit and then headed back to the room for a pretty early bedtime. I was in bed around 8:15 and luckily the kids slept pretty soundly. It took a little time to fall asleep, but I slept well and got up when my alarm went off at 3:25. I had decided to change up my race morning breakfast from the past. I had been going with a TON of applesauce (like 6 cups!), but I decided to keep it simple with a bagel, Powerbar, a handful of raisins and a Gatorade. That was around 800 calories to start the day, and over the next few hours I took in another 600 or so Calories in the form of another Powerbar, Cliff Bloks, Gatorade, and one gel. 

I left our hotel around 4:00 to walk to transition, but after only a few minutes someone stopped and offered me a lift. He wasn't racing, and was out looking for coffee, and I greatly appreciated to lift! As a result of getting a ride, I got to transition before it opened, got body marked, and entered at 4:30. I got my bike set up with nutrition, spare tube, computer and water. I made another nutritional decision to go away from a complete liquid Infinit diet to having a concentrated 1000 calorie bottle, two packs of Cliff Bloks and  Powerbar. This totaled a bit over 1600 calories, and I think that it worked great. In the past I've had to visit the porta-pottie on the run, but that didn't happen (although I only did one loop I didn't feel any need to stop for #2). 

I left transition around 5:30 to go drop off special needs bags and eventually head down to the swim start. My left leg felt 'ok,' but I still had no clue about how the day would go. Eventually I got the wetsuit on and got in the water for a brief dip, but it was a bit of a joke to actually get a swim warmup in with so many people in the water. Getting down near the front of the swim start was a bit of a challenge, as it was a complete bottle neck. I ended up jumping the fence rather than trying to fight through well over 1000 people. 

I decided to put myself near the front of the 1:01-1:10 crowd, knowing I'd fall somewhere in the middle. I ended up doing the first loop in 33 min and the second in 35 for a 1:08 swim. This was about 90 seconds slower than my last IM, but with about half of the swim training from pervious year, it's a fair trade off. Running to transition, my left leg definitely hurt quite a bit, but I put it out of my mind and was soon trading my wetsuit for a helmet and bike shoes. Leaving transition I was 54th in my AG, but in a good spot to start hunting folks down. 

For those not familiar with the bike course, it can be split into a few distinctive sections. There's some climbing out of town for around 10 miles, a very fast downhill section into Keene, a fast section from Keene to Jay, a good climb up to a longer out and back, the out and back section, then all of the climbing returning to the town of Lake Placid. The profile and splits tell the story of how much variation there is in speed over the course.

After around five miles of biking the forecasted rain began. It actually held off longer than predicted, which was nice. However, with the rain came some pretty gusty wind, and the downhill sections got pretty sketchy, especially the first part of the descent into Keene that goes by a long lake. At the top of the descent I was right at 240 AP and by the bottom I was at 210 - lots of coasting! Upon reaching the bottom it was time to cruise for around 8-10 miles, which went quickly heading to Jay. I was making pretty good time and averaged around 26 mph in that section. There is then a pretty steady climb to the turn to the longer out and back. 

The out and back section was a great place to gauge where I stood, and I counted around 45 or so folks ahead of me, but I was eating into the AG field. After making the turn and heading back it was time to cruise for a little more time before the climbing began. Soon it was into and out of the town of Wilmington and onto the last section of the loop. Those last 11 or so miles include lots of rollers with a short out and back into the Whiteface ski area parking lot. This section didn't have great pavement, and I ended up loosing my BTA water bottle. As a result, I went around six or so miles without water. I did take a few sips of my concentrated Infinit bottle to get a bit of hydration in there. I was making pretty good time and by the time I returned to town I'd probably passed around 20 or so more folks. 

After leaving town the second time the rain and winds seemed to intensify, and it was beginning to take longer to overtake other athletes. There is a short out and back into the Olympic bobsled area, and upon leaving someone shouted out that I was 23rd OA. By the bottom of the descent into Keene I had passed four more folks so I knew I was 19th OA. I continued to cruise along in the stretch from Keene to Jay and did some trading back and forth with another rider. My power was a little lower than on the first loop, as at times I had to freewheel to stay in a non-drafting spot. It would have been very easy to draft for several miles, but I didn't even consider it. Somewhere in the section between Jay and the return from the out and back I moved into 2nd in my AG and into the top 10 of the amateur field. Sam Gyde (a decent athlete!) was well ahead of me in my AG. I later found out that he was injured and never started the run - maybe I should have done the same. As a result, when I began the run I would be 1st in my AG.

One thing I'd kind of forgotten about the IM bike is that there are lots of mental ups and down - lots of times where the legs hurt, then a few minutes later they're completely fine. There were quite a few times where I asked myself if I should even start the run - 'what was the point?' I asked myself. The end of the second loop was pretty lonely except for some stragglers finishing their first loop. I saw quite a few folks walking their bikes up the hills - smarter gearing would have definitely helped them out! Heading back into transition it was pretty much me and lots of slower folks. Soon I was getting out of the shoes and into transition. Looking at my bike data it does look like I did favor my left leg a bit, as a 46/54 power split isn't usual - generally 49/51 or 48/52 is the norm, with my right leg being a little more dominant.

As my feet hit the ground I had some pain in my left leg, but told myself it wasn't that bad. I grabbed my run bag, and went into the tent, where it was me and one other guy. I did a complete change, opting for a tank top and tri shorts. I was in and out in a little over three minutes. It was pretty cool to be the only runner around (with only a handful of folks up the road), and I got lots of cheering. The leg was feeling sore, but run-able. The first few miles went by pretty quickly, and I was soon turning onto River Road. After a few downhill miles this section of the course is relatively flat with a few little rollers thrown in. The pace was in the 7:30-7:40 range and I kept telling myself that everything would be fine.

After a little time on River Road Heather Jackson passed me in the opposite direction in the lead for the pro women. A few minutes later the second place woman and I passed. Then I counted five AG athletes - that was it. I was 6th overall amateur and feeling pretty good. Stay strong, I kept telling myself. The turn around came at mile 5.5 and soon I saw other AG athletes behind me. About halfway back on River Road I as passed by someone in my AG. However, it was at least a mile or two between me and the next athlete in my AG. I knew I was in a good position if my leg remained in a 'manageable' state. I exited River Road and began the ski jump climb, and then the relatively flat section towards the 'Lisa G' hill into town.

Climbing up that hill was a bitch. It's a steep hill, but the steepest part (until the turn onto Main St.) is soon behind you. However, you have to keep climbing all the way up to Mirror Lake, where it flattens out for the out and back section. I saw Katie and the kids as I passed the gas station across from transition. Once at the lake I assessed my leg and still was feeling ok. At the special needs area I grabbed my secret weapon (seen below), and chomped down on a few fish. Soon I got to the turnaround and headed back along the lake. I was feeling better than expected and realized I was only a bit over one lap away from reaching my goal.

However, things have a way of coming to a crushing halt, and as I headed down the 'Lisa G' hill at the start of my second loop my left leg began to hurt a ton. My gait was almost instantly affected and my positive thoughts from just a few minutes before quickly were dashed. At the bottom of the hill I stopped to try and stretch and briefly massage the leg, then began 'running' (hobbling) again. I quickly realized I'd come as far as I could and the injury was finally getting the better of me. I made it to around 13.6 miles before I realized it was either walk or drop out. 

In 2014 I had an IT band injury heading into the Boston Marathon and made it to around mile 17 before the pain forced me to stop running. At that point my only option was to walk to the finish, as Katie was waiting there for me and I had no way to contact her. This race was different, and I had no desire to simply finish, walking the last 12.5 miles. I had to make the difficult decision to get off the course and walk back up the hill into town. Knowing the position I was in and 'only' needing to average around an 8-8:15 pace to probably get a KQ was very tough, but I feel it was the correct decision. I eventually found Katie and the kids and broke down. I had put in so many training hours, put my self in the position I wanted, and couldn't reach my goal.

I've had plenty of time over the past two days to reflect on the day, and looking at results, the last KQ in my AG was a 10:05 finish. That means that over those last 12.5 miles I could have run a 8:30-8:45 pace and still finished in 3rd in my AG. Of course I can speculate all I want and maybe I could have managed that pace after getting through the initial pain and just tolerating it. However, I thought of my family and the long three week trip we're about to embark on and being hobbled along the way when I need to help out, and that would have been selfish on my part.

In the end I'm ok with how the day turned out - I really didn't expected I'd get as far as I did on the run. Of course, without the injury going into the race things probably would have gone differently, but I'll never know, but I felt like I was in shape for mid 3:20's run. It was a good experience, and I gave it all I had. I'd like to think I'll give a KQ another shot, and I've casually suggested IM Norway (June 1st) next summer to my wife. My brother in-law lives in Hamburg, Germany, which isn't very far away, and we've already talked about visiting him next summer. For now, I'm going to let my leg get completely better before I consider my next move. It's time to be a good father and husband and spend as much time with my family over the remainder of the summer. I took too much time away from them to devote to training, and it's time to give back, get healthy, and enjoy life. 

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