After a fantastic race last year, I trained harder and smarter than in the past, and was hoping to cut of a big chunk of time from my 9:49 finish last year. Working with a coach was eye-opening. Running was often at a surprising easy pace, and riding included a greater variety of efforts than I had worked at in the past. Swim sessions were longer and harder, but that's what I needed. Instead of maybe 7,000m per week, I typically surpassed 10,000m each week, and those 10,000m included a lot of hard efforts. I also had a swim coach critique my stroke for a few sessions, but I didn't have too much to change. I ended up cutting about 15 seconds per 100m over the past few months, though I had plenty of room for improvement after a relatively pathetic 1:10 last year.
The training went well and I felt more ready than ever before for an IM. I was fitter, stronger, and leaner. I improved my diet around the beginning of June by adopting a Paleo-type diet, resulting in a few pounds of weight loss.
Stacey and I drove out to Lake Placid a few days before the race. We stayed at a nice B&B in Keene Valley, far enough from town so as not to be distracted by the commotion of the race, and our gear preparation in the days leading up to the race went smoothly. The night before the race I was nervous and excited, and I told myself to embrace those feelings because there aren't many times in life that one experiences such anticipation.
For the obligatory breakfast summary, I woke up and quickly ate a banana, two English muffins with peanut butter, and a canned Starbucks drink for a total of about 900 calories three hours before the race. Stacey and I headed into town and arrived with plenty of time to pump our tires, pack our Bento boxes, and otherwise prepare for the race before heading for a final porta-john trip prior to entering the water.
10 minutes prior to the race start, we waded into Mirror Lake and moved to a position about midway across the starting line and perhaps five rows back. Stacey moved a few rows further back as our area became more crowded. When the gun fired, everyone began swimming, but no individual could control the pace - each person was forced to swim the pace of everyone around them. The start wasn't rough, but I had to look up several times to see how close I was to getting kicked in the face by nearby flailing feet.
The first loop was a steady effort. I couldn't select whose feet I sat on, so I just kept swimming. Near the end of the loop, I worked my way to directly above the yellow guide line connecting the buoys a few feet below the water. I exited the water to complete loop 1 in a new PR: 31 minutes and a few seconds. Once in the water for loop 2, I sat above the yellow line and tried to latch onto some feet. I found a good pair and lowered my effort to avoid slapping the draftee's foot. A few minutes later, I realized a gap opened and I wasn't drafting. I went back to my normal, steady pace for the rest of the swim. To my surprise, the swim got very crowded on the second half of the final loop. As I approached the finish, I looked up to see that I was going to lose a few minutes on the second half. Still, I improved 5 minutes over last year with a 1:05 swim. I've got to cut at least 5 more minutes for next year! The swim didn't take much out of me, and I ran in T1 at a slow pace to avoid a HR spike.
I decided in transition to race in just my singlet, since the sun had come out, but I did the swim without it on so I could start the bike warm if it was raining. T1 was longer than normal as I spent an extra few moments getting the singlet on.
My plan for the ride was to ride at 140 bpm or so for loop 1, increase the HR a few beats per minute for loop 2, and use my powermeter to cap my power at 260 W for the beginning of the ride and the climbs. Despite those metrics, RPE would be my central governor.
Nutritionally, my plan was about 300 cal./hour, mostly in the form of Infinit but I took along some Powerbars and gels for some additional calories. I carried two bottles, each carrying 280 cal., on the bike with two more in my special needs.
The course was crowded at the beginning of the ride, but I capped my wattage at about 260 W for the climbs just out of town. I let the over-excited riders pass me, and that group even included a few AG women. My HR read 140 bpm or so shortly after I hopped on the bike, and I was happy that the swim and T1 didn't result in a ridiculously high HR. Unexpectedly, my HR increased to above 150 bpm after just a few minutes on the bike. I allowed myself to ride at that elevated HR, thinking that my HR would settle down once I started the long decent into Keene, but as soon as I resumed my effort after the descent on the road toward Jay, my HR went right back up. Screw it, I though, just race. There are too few opportunities to race to play it safe and ride at 180 W so my HR can be where I want it. RPE and wattage were where I expected them, so I just quit looking at HR.
I steadily moved through the pack on loop 1, and finished the loop in about 2:34 feeling okay, but not great. As I passed special needs, I made an on-the-fly decision to not stop for special needs and instead to use the on course Gatorade and water. I've used Gatorade in my previous two IMs and never had an issue.
Loop 1 power file:
Loop 1 stats:
76 rpm (but it really hovered between 80 and 85)
149 bpm avg.
202 W avg. (including zeros)
I began passing pro women early in loop 2, and by about 20 miles into the second loop figured I had passed all the pro women. I started feeling a bit fatigued on the out-and-back portion of the second loop, and then felt even more tired once I started the climb back into town. I buckled down, raised my RPE a bit, and continued onward. Passes became less frequent because the riders weren't very concentrated ahead of me. I passed a fewmale pros once the climbs began.
Check out my monstrously huge legs (it's no wonder I had the fastest bike split in my AG):
I was drinking all my Gatorade as soon as I filled my front bottle. IM aid stations are so close that I've typically passed up every other one even when relying entirely on hand-outs. This time, I grabbed a bottle at each station and drank it quickly.
The climb into town felt much tougher than last year. The wind had picked up and made the climbs even tougher. I raised the RPE to what I would normally describe as midway between IM and HIM effort. I just wanted to get off the bike. Just keep going, I told myself. The harder I went, the earlier I'd be done. Still, I kept a bit of an eye on the power meter and kept the wattage down at times, though not with the vigilance I had exercised at the start of the ride.
I finished loop 2 in about the same time as loop 1, for a total of 5:10 (good for the fastest bike split in my AG, I believe). Given the increase in wind, my nearly even pacing is a negative-split-esque effort.
Loop 2 power file:
Loop 2 stats:
76 rpm (again, mostly around 80-85)
152 bpm avg.
206 W avg. (again, including zeros)
Total (per my CPU):
220 W avg w/o zeros
204 W avg w/ zeros
1st in my AG, I believe
At this point I was worried. My legs were more thrashed than they were after my other two IM rides. I was surprised how much the ride had taken out of me. Regardless, I had confidence that my running legs would come after a mile or two. No matter how I've felt off the bike in the past, I've never run horribly.
I got the Garmin going as I started and was happy to see my HR settle in around 160 bpm at a comfortable RPE. The first few miles weren't bad, although they're basically downhill. I passed a woman pro without a biker in front of her near mile 1, so I didn't catch several women on the bike. Still, I pressed on and caught another AGer, whom I later realized was Richard Pady (he crushed me at TTT). We chatted briefly, but he pulled away as I began to have trouble digesting food. Everything was pooling in my stomach. With only 4 or 5 miles down, I began to think I was going to be in for a very long day. I just told myself to keep going.
Over the next 10 miles or so, my mood swung between feeling good and feeling horrible. I checked the Garmin shortly after mile 13 to get a split, and realized I had only turned it on without pressing start. I seem to do that every race! I pressed start to begin recording data, and post-race I discovered my first loop split was 1:33 – 4 minutes slower than last year.
I began pushing the effort. I had about 6 miles left to go, and still hadn't walked a single step (even going through aid stations). I re-passed an AGer that had passed me several miles before. I knew I was approaching top three overall (well, AG overall). I started to close in on another AGer as I approached the hill back into town. Once again, I picked up the effort – I didn't want him to try to stay with me, and I certainly didn't want him to be able to stay with me if he gave it a shot. I ran up the hill into town with more effort than ever before and continued with the high pace. As I approached a brief out-and-back section at mile 25, I didn't notice any AGers ahead of me. Unfortunately, I failed to spot the leader of my AG even though I was within a minute of him (and probably more like 30 seconds). After turning around and heading toward the finish, I realized I wasn't going to get caught, but I kept my pace up because, why slow down now? I crossed the finish line with a 3:19 marathon (1:34 and 1:44 for the halves, still good for 2nd in my AG, I think) for a total of 9:41, and 8 minute PR. (Of course, the races are never the same, and I consider this year's LP to be tougher than last year's.)
Loop 2 of the run Garmin file:
Stats for loop 2 of the run:
13.1 miles, 1:46, 8:11/mile, 152 bpm, 1940 ft ascended
I was half thrilled and half disappointed. I didn't take much time to enjoy the finish, instead just hunched over and held my knees as a pair of volunteers approached. I wrapped an arm around each so they could support me as we moved away from the finish line. "I think I need to go to the medical tent," I responded when asked how I was feeling. The pair of volunteers handed me off to another volunteer, this one tasked with guiding racers to the medical tent. I thought I was dehydrated, and asked to be weighed. The scale read 154 lbs, about 10 lbs lower than I weighed in at two days prior at registration. The med-tent bouncer thought I was doing okay and sent me away. That was fine - Stacey had advised me against getting an "optional" IV.
I walked over to my family and asked for a Sprite from a cooler I packed before the race. I took a single sip, rested my weight against a fence separating the finish area where I stood from the spectators' area where my family was, and decided to head back to the med tent. I was feeling nauseous. A few seconds later, I could barely support myself. Two guys in the med tent held me up, and I leaned forward and threw up. I stood upright again, then hunched back over and puked a second time. The two guys had me step on the scale again, and I now weighed a pound or two less. This time, the med tent bouncer admitted me and I was carried over to a cot.
My temp was a bit low – 95 degrees – and my blood pressure was 88/56 or something like that. After two IV bags and some medicine whose name I don't recall, I felt way, way better. In fact, I felt better than a similar time period after my other two IMs.
My biggest positive from the race was running every step of the marathon. I'm proud of that because I started the run feeling a bit thrashed. My mental toughness was better than ever before. On the other hand, I'm disappointed that I ran just 3:19. I think with some salt tablets I could have absorbed calories better on the run and shaved several minutes off my time.
I think my progress over the past few months is good, and I think I can execute a better race and cut some more time. The easiest time (though none of it will be easy) will be improving my swim.