8/22/13

IM Lake Placid new swim start: Thoughts


Ironman Lake Placid (2013) was the first time Karel and I shared an Ironman event together...on the same course. Talk about an emotional day for us both, me competing in my 6th Ironman with Karel on the sidelines for 4 of them (IMFL, IMKY, IMWI, KONA) and now sharing the same course together for his very first 140.6 mile event. I can't believe it was almost a month ago!

My hubby is amazing in many ways and makes my life so much fun (even in the most stressful of times). But if there is one thing I can brag about Karel is that he is one hard worker. Not limited to athletics, instead of complaining about situations, he figures out how to survive with the best effort possible.  




I loved watching Karel in cycling races (cat 1) and always loved to hear about the race afterward for cycling is the type of sport where you never know how the race will turn out until ever rider crosses the finish line. 

Webster Roubaix was one of those races that I remember as a real suffer fest for Karel. Dirt covered roads for 112 miles and far from a casual conversational bike ride with sag stops. 

                                                
When Karel signed up for IM Lake Placid, he knew that he could push when running and that would make him a faster runner. It doesn't work for everyone that way but luckily for Karel, he adapted rather quickly and even surprised himself that he actually liked running training (and not just running for beer at the end...although, the beer is still welcomed to him anytime).

As for swimming, Karel continues to improve in the water but he knows he still has a ways to go to reach his goal of qualifying for Kona as it is a goal for both of us to compete on the big island together. Karel continues to work hard in the water for he is a hard worker who refuses to make excuses for things within his control.

When Karel signed up for Ironman Lake Placid, he was concerned about the mass start and not being able to find his rhythm in the water. For someone who just learned how to swim 13 months ago, this was always on Karel's mind for no matter how strong of a cyclist or runner he was and no matter how much he loves to suffer, push and hurt with training, swimming was of his #1 concern on race day ("just survive") for it is not yet comfortable for him to swim in open water around 2000+ people. I'm sure he is not alone. 

When Karel heard about the new rolling swim start, he was happy. It didn't ruin his first IM experience at all as he prepped for race day. If anything, it was a relief for him mentally. 
For myself, I have done 4 different types of swim starts (IMFL, Kona 2x, IMKY, IMWI) so I accept any challenge at the beginning of the Ironman.. Realizing that in a running race, self seeding (or corrals) allows runners of similar abilities to pace of each other, I gladly welcomed the idea of a new swim start at IM Lake Placid. Although many people did not like the new change, I don't see how a different start with the same distance covered is any different than standing among the masses with a group start, among athletes of varying finishing times. For if a race director is looking for a safe and fun race day experience, who are we as athletes to complain about a change without experiencing it first hand. 

Leading up to the race, as a coach and a wife to a soon-to-be first timer Ironman, it was important to me that my husband, who can suffer harder than anyone I know, was safe and comfortable in the water. 

As silly as it sounds for me to be concerned about my hubby and the 96% of other athletes in Lake Placid who were racing for a finishing line (and not a Kona slot), my only concern about this new swim start was not being able to know where my age group standing was throughout the race. I was fine to self seed and challenge myself among swimmers of a similar ability for I ended up with a PR swim and a 10 min PR for the day (and a Kona slot). The new swim start did not take away my enjoyment for the day and sharing the race course with my hubby and 2500 + athletes. 

I feel as a society, people love to waste energy on uncontrollables and love to voice their opinions when things change. Certainly, freedom of speech is welcomed and often brings good change but many times, it is the opinionated person who is unhappy that ends up putting thoughts in the heads of others and creates an all together negative situation/experience for many. 

I try to surround myself with people who give me energy and not take it away from me. That's why I stay away from forum-reading.

Looking back and thinking about a race/event situation that had me feeling worried before the start (yet still signing up for the challenge) was 6-gap in 2009. I love to climb but I am absolutely terrified of the descends in 6-gap. Hearing the horror stories of riders not being able to manage their bikes on the zig zag descends totally freaked me out but I welcomed the challenge with my some-what ok cycling skills. 

I can only imagine what it would be like if a race started at the top of a mountain and all athletes, of similar abilities started together in a mass start and had a time-cut to get down the mountain. I'm sure for many, myself included, would struggle with this start but somehow we'd all find a way to get to the bottom (hopefully safely) to receive our finisher medal and t-shirt. A race director can not stop athletes from racing based on skills but instead provide the best situation for every athlete to have a safe and fun experience. 

The Ironman is not for everyone but it is for the ordinary person who wants to do something extraordinary. It takes a lot of commitment, time and money and certainly a lot of training. I find that for many athletes, training is rushed and athletes need more than a year to prepare. As for Karel, since his body only allowed him to finish in 13th place at his first IM (10:03 - which is still amazing and he is happy), his goal is to qualify for Kona 2015 which means an entire year to work on his skills in the water and to learn how to be a smarter triathlete. For us, this is a lifestyle and not something that we need to rush or to take over our life (and disposable income). 

When I was contacted by Ironman to write about my experiences with the new Ironman Lake Placid swim start, I was excited to share my perspective as a coach and athlete. For my philosophy with life is to keep things balanced with diet and exercise and to live a quality filled life. 

I feel that in order to live a great life, we must spend our energy wisely. Just like I don't waste my energy discussing diet fads or trends or do give-a-ways or discuss products that I don't personally use or believe in, I felt that the best perspective I could offer to others with my article was to give others a better understanding of what the Ironman is all about...in 600 words or less. 

When my article Ironman Lake Placid Swim Start  was shared on Ironman.com I re-read it to Karel and he loved it. We discussed the article when it was in the works and I really valued Karel's perspective as a first-timer. However, when article was posted on the Ironman facebook page, I read a mix of positive and negative comments. I was not surprised by any of the comments except for one which talked about my piece being a "PR piece for Ironman and that it is all about the money". 

My friend and editor Jennifer approached me with the piece by asking:

"What did you like? How was it different? How did it affect your overall race, and feeling about your performance? What are the benefits? Did it change your training?"

A few weeks after writing my 2.4 mile race report from Lake Placid, I gathered the thoughts in my head to be put on paper as to how I wanted to write this article. I was never forced by Ironman to say anything positive about the swim, just like Ironman does not force me or anyone to sign up for Iroman-branded events. I have had amazing experiences at every Ironman-branded event I have attended and because of Ironman (corporation), I get the opportunity to discover  new cities/states with my family and friends and even compete at the World Championship in Kona Hawaii! There aren't too many sports that have the opportunity for adults to compete at a national or world event. Thanks to USA triathlon and the largest growing sport (triathlons) many of us have the opportunity to dream big with a safe and fun venue to do it in (with amazing spectators, race directors and volunteers)

I did not have to write this blog today in reference to my recent article on Ironman Lake Placid Swim Start . As a writer on various websites and in magazines, I realize that no matter how I say something, there will always be happy and unhappy people with very strong opinions either way.

I hope that through my article and my blog, I can continue to inspire others to dream big, to not sweat the small stuff and to make the most of your days, months and years here on Earth.

Happy swimming and don't worry, be happy.


Looking forward to buckling-up for my 3rd Kona Mass swim start in October!