Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

Here we go. We headed for Lake Placid on Thursday morning and I was pleasantly surprised that my wife and daughter were ready to roll at seven am. This is always a potential stressor for me as I like to leave when we say we are going to and not thirty minutes later. My parents and Mike Matheson would be following us to LP so I was pleased we were ready on time. The trip to LP was uneventful and we rolled into town and got settled about 2:30pm. I took some time to show my folks around and begin to lay out their “spectator race plan” for Sunday. It’s tough to walk into a new place and figure things out in a hurry but we did our best to lay out a plan that would have them seeing me a total of nine times throughout the race. This was important to me because my folks have always enjoyed attending my athletic events but had only been to a couple of my triathlons. Let’s face it, watching a tri can be hard work, you’ve got to move around quickly and then do nothing for a couple of hours. The spectator experience is improved if there are more familiar faces racing so I knew that having some friends in the race would help to pass the time for them.

My plan was to get a thirty minute easy run in to shake out the long car ride. It was hot and I was getting ready to bag it when Dave Brackett suggested we go and get it done. Glad I did. It helped a lot. I felt awful for the first fifteen minutes or so but by the end of the run around Mirror Lake I was hitting my stride. I got a pretty good night of sleep Thursday night and was up by 6am to hit Mirror Lake with Dave and Mike. Pat Kelley joined us for a loop. It was fun to see Pat taking in the whole Ironman experience for the first time. You could see the “I am SO going to do an Ironman” look on his face all weekend. It was great to have him around. I call him “Mr Positive”. This guy is a lemonade maker and I have never seen him down.

It think it’s important to note that LP was to be my first triathlon of 2011. I decided not to do a “half” as prep and focus on training instead. As a result, I really had no idea what to expect for a swim time. I knew I was stronger and faster than in ’06 (1:16) but I was excited to see what I could swim on loop in for a time. I had a great swim and hit the beach in 32:00. Whoa. That’s six minutes faster than my first loop in ’06. Dave was right on my heels as we hit the beach.
I was thrilled as I really hadn’t pushed it too much. I was confident I could repeat it on Sunday – even in a crowd. I figured 1:05-1:06 was certainly doable if I played it right.

Later that day we all biked the run course and did a few fast sets just to open up the legs a bit. Nothing heavy, just getting ready. I tried to stay off my feet but ended up on them more than I would have liked. Bailey had gotten a terrible sunburn the Tuesday before we left so we were dealing with that and then Jodi got a migraine and was in bed most of Friday. I tried not to stress out but I don’t think I did a very good job. Fortunately they both came around on Saturday and I was able to get my head into my race.

I drove the bike course with Dave and Mike Saturday morning. I hadn’t travelled the Ausable Forks out and back yet so I was looking forward to seeing how it laid out. I liked it. I spent most of the rest of Saturday lounging around after we got the bikes racked. I got a 90 minute nap in and felt about as good as I was going to feel. I was in bed at 9pm and asleep by ten. Here we go.

I had a few goals for this race. I’ve been doing this long enough now so that “finish” is assumed. Of course I want to finish but I wanted to go “Sub-11” and was confident I had the training to do it. This would allow me to accomplish my second goal which was to beat Dave (11:10) and Jared’s (11:00) times from 2010. My last goal was to beat my friend Mike MacDonald. Mike’s ’09 time was SEVEN seconds better than my ’06 time. I’ve been telling him for two years that I want my seven seconds back. I knew Mike was dealing with some aches and pains but had also thrown down a 5 hour “half” at Mooseman and capped it with a 1:35 half marathon. SO, I knew he was hurting but he was also in good shape and ready to rumble. My last goal was to have a solid run. I have a history of letting it all hang out on the bike and trying to hold on for the run. The bike is my strength so backing off my effort is a tough pill to swallow. I committed to doing this though and I was ready to execute.

Race morning started with the decision to wear a wetsuit or not. Due to high water temps Ironman announced that you could still wear a wetsuit but if you did you would not be eligible for age group awards or a Kona slot. I gave this serious consideration. I bumped into Kurt Perham and talked it through with him and made my decision. I was in Lake Placid to have my best Ironman. Going without a wetsuit would slow me down by at least ten minutes and likely screw up my bike split. I simply have not done the open water/no wetsuit training to have the confidence to pull this off. I am not a “swimmer”. Some of my friends are excellent swimmers and were able to deal with this change. They are also Kona contenders (which I am not…..yet) so it was an easier decision. I went with the suit and stayed with the plan. Glad I did.

It was time to go. I said goodbye to Mike and Dave and Meg (my athlete that was tackling Placid as a first timer) and seeded myself up front about 20 yards off the dock. Figured if I could get out and into a rhythm before the “wicked fast” people ran me over I’d be in good shape. The gun went off and it worked perfectly. I had open water almost immediately and had little or no contact. I stayed off the buoy line right at the edge of the fray and stayed on some feet all the way down. I was swimming hard but it felt good. I was staying within myself, checking my effort and was psyched I had gotten this thing underway without getting knocked out or half drowned. Now I just needed to execute. I had a pretty uneventful first lap and saw that I was 31:52 coming out of the water. I dove back in ready to repeat that effort or maybe go a little easier. About 1/3 of the way out I started to not feel well. Couldn’t figure it out. I wasn’t hungry, wasn’t cramping…felt strong….hmmmmmmm?? Then the light bulb went on. I was overheating in my wetsuit. OK, now what? I’ve got a little less than a mile to swim and my body temp is rising rapidly. I slowed my pace considerably and pulled the wetsuit away from my neck to get water into it. It helped. I did this several more times on the way back. I figured I was better off to give up a few minutes in the water than to pooch my entire race. I was able to limp it in and got out of the water in 1:08 or so. I cooled down quickly and seemed to have avoided a disaster. I looked for my family and friends as I shot through the chute passing people on the way to T1. Rubbin’s racin’ right?

On my way to my bags I noticed Brackett had come and gone. I just chuckled. The guy always tunes me up in the swim. I can pound him every Friday at Crystal Lake and he shows up on race day and trims me up. WT? Oh well, I figured I’d reel him in on the bike and it would be nice to say hey. I hit the tent and got geared up for the ride. As I exited the tent I saw an “OA” shirt in front of me. It was Brackett. Classic. We mounted the bikes just about the same time and headed out. We went back and forth for the first 40 miles and then I eased away from him. I had no idea where MacDonald was so I put him out of my mind for the moment. I passed my friend Mary and she looked good. I would learn later that she was struggling. I couldn’t catch Angela Bancroft but that was not on my list of things to accomplish on the bike. I had hoped I would see her by the end of the bike that that didn’t happen either. I knew if I didn’t see her by then she’d be gone. She ran a 3:10 marathon in January and I knew better than to think I could catch her on the run.
The bike went well, I hit my numbers. For you numbers geeks out there I rode at .703 IF, with a TSS of 279 and a VI of 1.1. In my estimation, I nailed it. This effort set me up for a great run. It was HARD to bike that easy, I wanted to HAMMER IT, but I knew that I would suffer to a 4+ hour marathon if I did. So I behaved. I learned a lot too. So, good solid bike. I won’t bore you with more insignificant details.

The run. I transition quickly and headed out. My plan was to run the first six miles at 9:00 pace to settle into the run. Couldn’t do it. I was running too fast. Felt too good. This is a dangerous place to be because a marathon is 26.2 miles, not six. I slowed enough to see that I had averaged 8:30 through six and decided to try to hold that for the next twelve and see what happens after that. I was looking for MacDonald too. I honestly didn’t know if he was ahead or behind. I found out at the turn-around. I saw him on River Road heading back. I looked at my watch, timed my distance to the turn around and then doubled it. He had four minutes on me. Interestingly, neither of us acknowledged one another. I think we were both hoping to sneak by without the other knowing it. Hehehehe, I love this stuff. I decided that I would not try to reel him in until we got back to town. Run YOUR race Bob and see what happens in the second half. I got back to town and saw Mark Bancroft and Jeff Small. I said “gimme the gap on MacDonald”. They timed it on our way back through and shouted to me that he had 1:40 on me. Perfect. I looked at them and said “he’s mine”. I came down around the corner near transition to head back out onto the second loop and my dad yelled to me that the gap was 1:20. I was closing on him, maybe too quickly. I slowed up a bit and tried to be patient. I wasn’t trying to catch him and then give it back, I wanted to time it right so I could hold on and beat him. Mike is a strong runner – he ran a 41’ish 10K on July 4th so I know he had good fitness. He said he hadn’t run since then due to foot issues so I know he was rested too. Ughh. I got through town and out on the flat headed for the ski jumps and I saw Kurt. “What’s the gap?”. “Forty five seconds”, “well, I guess this isn’t his lucky day Kurt, he’s mine”…..”Ooooohhhh, Bootstrap…’s a little early to be talking trash, 11 ½ miles to go there big guy!” He was right. WAY too early to be throwing the gums around but I did it to motivate myself. I basically was calling myself out, setting the bar and letting people know what my plan was. And THAT is exactly what propelled me through the last miles. I caught Mike just before the next water stop with around 10 miles to go. That’s a long way to try to hold off a good runner. It was at this point I let go of my plan and decided that I was in a race. This is right where I wanted to be with Mike. He settled in behind me but I knew he wasn’t going to let me get away. I just went to work laying down solid miles and trying to keep it around 8:30’s. It would slip into the nines later in the run but that was OK, I knew I was on pace to run 3:50 or so. The problem is that “on pace” means nothing in a marathon, particularly an Ironman marathon. Your world can come to an abrupt halt in a matter of seconds so you have to manage your situation very carefully. I didn’t try to run away from Mike, I just tried to keep piling up solid miles. I only looked back once at a water stop as I fueled and I didn’t see him but I knew he was there. I managed to get back to town without him getting past me. I hit the turn around and headed toward the finish with about a mile to go. I saw Mike and estimated I had about a minute. I didn’t panic, I knew he would push so I tried to put one more solid mile into him. I figured he didn’t have much more than me and if I gave him any room at all we’d be looking at a sprint finish. Now, those that know me well know that I live for that kind of stuff but I wanted no part of it at Ironman. My quads and hip flexors were on fire so I ran as fast as I could (8:48 mile 26) and it was going to have to be enough. If he came for me at that pace than by God he earned it. I came into the oval and looked over my shoulder a couple of times on the way to the finish. No Mike. Got him. AND my seven seconds.  . I took a second before I finished and scanned the bleachers for my family. They were all there screaming at me, it was awesome. Mike came in about :56 later and we congratulated each other. I love races like that where you have someone you know out there trying to beat you and you them. It makes for a great day. Win lose or draw, it’s some of the most exciting moments I have had athletically. I think people that race me know that they are going to get my best every time. As I have gotten faster I have found that there is a target on my back. So be it. Honestly, I like chasing people more than I like being chased but it’s all good. Mike and I had a pretty good duel and I’m sure we’ll do it again real soon. He’s a great competitor.

So that was the race. I was 177th overall out of like 2400 or something. 28th in my age group. The last Kona slot went to a guy that raced 10:08 so it appears my decision to go with the suit was a good one. Swim was 1:08, Bike was 5:37 and the run was 3:49. All personal bests for a total of 10:45. My friends Mike and Dave both finished as well and so did Meg. Angela and Mary both earned Kona slots. Nice work ladies.

This is not a solo sport:

I want to thank my family for supporting me in my triathlon pursuits. I know at times it is extreme but I do my best to balance everything. Thanks again to my parents for travelling out to watch and support me. I am very proud of you both for your recent weight loss and renewed commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to my friends Jared Buzzell and Stan Skolfield at Orthopaedic Associates. You guys have helped me tremendously over the past year and I truly appreciate it. Jared, thanks for making the spectating experience for my family so much better. Great stuff. Thanks to Dave Brackett for jumping back into Ironman for a second year in a row. It was great to have you along for the ride. We’ll get recovered and plan our next big adventure. Congrats to Mike Matheson on his return to Placid. Great to see you racing again Mike. Thanks also to the Stokes and the Grover’s and Co. for coming out to watch and support all of us. Pat Kelley – future Ironman, thanks. To the Bancroft and Small families, thanks for all the support, I’ll catch her someday! Mary Lou, Erin, Stacy and Carrie, thanks for the encouragement out there. Super fast guys that I follow but that also support me, Steve Tenney, Brett, Owen and Al Bugbee. Thanks Mike Foley. Thanks to all you guys and girls that come to The Speed Lab all winter long to suffer with me. Misery loves company. Thanks to all of you that watched online on Sunday! It was a blast.

I hope you enjoyed the race report. Thanks for taking the time to read about my adventures. I hope that in some small way it motivates you to get after whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do. This is a short trip we’re on and I don’t plan on looking for any change back when I’m done.



  1. Great report, Bob! I like how you are very open and honest about your goals and experience. You were incredibly disciplined with your trainig and race execution. You should be proud about your accomplishment. Now we just need to find something to go head to head!

  2. I loved your report, especially your play by play on the run with Mike! You raced so intelligently and it totally paid off. Nice work.
    (and fun to hang with you post-race!)