IM Lake Placid - behind the scenes part II (Race day)

As athletes, we have a few ways of defining a great performance. 
Often times, it is a time goal that signifies that one race was better than another race. 
Certainly, chasing a time goal is doable when it comes to the shorter distance races because much of the race performance is based on effort, good luck and the ability to push hard.
Of course, sometimes a longer/short swim course, tough course or weather can slightly affect the overall time but in short distance racing, athletes often find it easy to chase a time goal and often times, can train and race hard enough to beat that goal. 
As for the longer races, there is so much out of our control on race day that it is a disservice to the human body to chase a time. Sure, it can be done and sometimes it is doable but in the case of racing for 140.6 miles, the time on a piece of paper doesn't tell the entire race story. 

Athletes often get frustrated if a time is slow on paper in a long distance race. Well let me tell you that only YOU as the athlete can tell your race story. The piece of paper (or internet/live streaming) does not tell what you actually had to do to get that time....regardless if the time is fast, slow, good or bad. 

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, it was a special experience to be with our athletes on race day. It's always special to share first Ironman experiences with our athletes (as we often do at IMFL each year) but with several of our athletes racing IM Lake Placid, we had the unique opportunity to see our athletes in action. If our athletes were chasing a time goal, we could  have easily sat at home and tracked our athletes to see if the time was achieved after 140.6 miles of racing. 
But that's not why our athletes train. 

Our athletes train for success. And sometimes success is found by having a great day and other times a successful performance is one in which you have to overcome obstacles, adjust the plan and dig really, really deep to finish.

All of our athletes (including Karel - who raced only the swim and bike...more on that soon) had a successful day. It may not have been the day that they envisioned but that's all part of the fun of being a long distance athlete. If you can't handle the unknowns and uncontrollables that happen during a 140.6 mile, all day event, then long distance racing is probably not the best event for your body and mind.

It is a special gift to call yourself a long distance athlete and I firmly believe that to be a successful long distance athlete, you don't need to be fast or chase a time goal but instead, be the smartest athlete you can be on race day. 

Our Trimarni athletes (and friend Chris) got up around 3:15am on race day morning. I woke up around 4am. Although my athletes don't mind me around, I didn't feel they needed their coach and dietitian with them at 3:30am as they were getting into the zone. 

Around 4:45am, Campy and I drove the guys a few blocks down the road by the oval (next to Crown Plaza) so that they didn't have to walk and sent my good luck vibes to the guys before heading back to our house. The atmosphere in our house was very calm and there was a lot of positive energy in the house, which was nice. 

The other ladies in the house (and my mom) walked down to the race around 4:30am and then I walked myself down after I returned the car and dropped off Campy (it was early for him so he had no trouble going back to bed). 

We met up with our group down by the water after transition closed at 6am. 
There was open water swim time available for the athletes at 6-6:30am so after the guys lubed and suncreened their bodies, it was time for a quick pic before saying "See you at the finish line!"

Thank you Xterra Wetsuits for sponsoring the Trimarni team!! Our athletes just LOVE the comfort and speed that comes with their Xterra wetsuits

It's been a while since my mom has seen me race in an IM (last race was Kona 2011) so it was great to have her at the venue to watch Karel's 114.4 mile race (this was the first time she saw Karel race in an Ironman). She is a great spectator and sherpa. She was out all day cheering for everyone!
It's not the same without my dad being present with us but we always feel like he is watching us on race day. 

Aside from this amazing race venue, I just LOVE the rolling start at IM Lake Placid. It took about 20 minutes for everyone to get in the water but with the self seeding based on anticipated swim times (ex. 1:05-1:10, 1:10-1:20, etc.), it made for a very smooth start to the race. 

The water was calm and the weather was perfect. Although it did sprinkle on us spectators near the end of the swim, it wasn't too hot or too cold in the morning. Of course, the weather always changes in the mountains. 

Love swimming in Mirror Lake!

At 6:30am, the athletes were off, starting with the sub 1-hour swimmers.
All of our athletes did great in this 2 loop (get out of the water for a few seconds) course. I managed to squeeze my way to the barricades after the swim suit peelers so I could cheer for our athletes after they exited the swim. 
Because I didn't know exactly where our athletes started, I wasn't sure on their swim times.
Karel was the first from our group out of the water and my watch said 1:07....well, he ended up swimming 1:05 which is a GREAT time for him (and a PR swim)!!
Looks like I need to step up my game because as I try to drop seconds as a life long swimmer, Karel is dropping minutes as a newer swimmer!
I cheered for Adam, Joe, Heidi and Mike (I missed Chris somehow) and everyone had a great swim to start the day. 

I knew that once our group was out on the bike, everyone would feel more relaxed. 
The temps were in the 60's and there was cloud  cover when the athletes got on their bikes so that was a good start to their day. 

After our crew was on the bike, I walked back to the rental home (it took about 20-25 minutes) to eat breakfast #2 and to track our athletes. 
As an Ironman spectator, you have to do a lot of math to anticipate when your athlete may arrive in the case of a two loop course. I figured that if Karel had a great day on the bike, it would be safe to arrive around 2:20 on the bike. So with a 1:07 swim (chip time 1:05) plus transition time (in this race, the transition is quite long so a 5+ minute T1 time is normal), I was thinking that I had 3.5 hours before I would see him (or around 10am). 
Well, as I was chillin with Campy (who was exhausted from his early wake-up call), I started to get a bit worried I would miss him so around 9am, I headed out on my bike (with my Oakley backpack filled with snacks and my running shoes) with my cycling shoes and helmet on (as well as yoga pants and a tank) to ride toward River Road to catch everyone on 86 as they were making their way up from Wilmington before climbing "the Bears."

It took me a while to get to River Road as I took some back roads to avoid traffic and closed roads. I got a little worried that I was cutting it short so when I got to River Road, I put myself in TT position (note to self: next time don't wear yoga pants on the bike, wear cycling shorts!) and pushed hard for 4+ miles. 

When I finally got to River Road, I saw 2 guys pass by and I hoped I didn't miss Karel. I put my run shoes on and leaned my bike against the railing on the side of the road and got my phone camera ready. 

And just a few minutes later...there was Karel!!! 

I acted as if I had been waiting there for forever :) 

Now let me tell you how awesome it was to have so many sherpa's on the course. We had my mom at the rental home tracking the guys and Taylor, Erin and Erica were by the oval. My mom would text me when the guys reached 44 miles (timing mat point) and then I would text Taylor when I saw one of our  athletes. 

After I saw Joe and Adam, I biked my way up the climbs to the cheering section at "Papa Bear" and then cheered for Heidi and Mike. 
I was so happy to see all of our athletes on loop 1 of the bike before I made my way back to the rental home. 

Taylor did an amazing job capturing some great action pics of everyone! 


Our athletes were easy to spot on the course in their Custom Canari Trimarni outfits. 
Here is what everyone was wearing (which they had all practiced in their race day outfits several times, especially during this mini "training camp" which we have them do 4 weeks out from race day):
Karel - Kona edition short sleeve tri suit
Joe - Green short sleeve tri suit
Adam - Green tri top and tri bottoms
Mike - Green cycling bibs and cycling jersey (changed into tri shorts and tri top for the run)
Heidi - Pink run top and tri shorts

Apparently, Karel forgot that he was racing in an Ironman and took the section around the oval and behind transition as if it was a crit course. I think he gave the volunteers a bit of a heart attack feeling as he was flying around the corners and barely touching his breaks down the hills behind transition area. Needless to say, the situation was a bummer that Karel made the decision not to run off the bike but he had a lot of fun riding and pushing hard on the bike. 

I was tracking everyone back at the house and my plan was to drive and drop off the girls and my mom on the run course (around mile 1.5) by taking some back roads after Karel finished the bike (since the rest of our group would arrive at least 15-20 minutes behind Karel). 

As I was tracking Karel, I noticed that one of his bike segments was very slow so I thought that maybe he got a flat tire (even though he can change one very quickly). As always, I wouldn't know the real story until I heard from Karel so I waited and waited and waited and while watching the live feed of Bike entry on Ironman.com, I saw Karel arrive into transition. 

It was sad to see him just walk to the side and not run to the changing tent. With Karel hurting his foot 8 weeks prior to Placid, he did everything he could to believe that he would be able to race in Placid. Although Karel is still planning to race in Kona (and run), Placid was Karel's A-race where he wanted to place top three overall. It is the perfect course for him and he was in great shape to do so. However, part of being an athlete is learning how to overcome tough situations and I am certain that with this being Karel's first injury (in cycling racing, the only times that Karel was hurt was when he was stuck in a crash), this was and has been a very tough time for both of us. Injuries are no fun and it's easy to make the wrong decisions which can delay healing. Not running off the bike was a hard decision for Karel but the right one. It would have been just too risky to take the chance to run in Placid and to possibly not race in Kona. 

Thanks Trimarni athlete Dan for this great pic!

So now a behind the scenes moment (actually two of them!):
When Karel returned home (he had his run shoes in T2 so he could walk home after he turned in his chip) from his 114.4 mile "race", I wasn't sure what emotions Karel would be feeling. I stayed at home hoping to see Karel before I headed out to cheer for our athletes on the run. 
Karel said he was riding behind/with Dave Mirra (former Pro BMX racer turned triathlete) on the second loop as Karel was moving his way up in the field of top male athletes (no pro athletes at this race).  Dave was hauling a$$ according to Karel. As Dave and Karel were riding on the first turn around on the second loop, they spotted a male athlete who was passed out, lying on the ground - he was one of the guys in front of Karel on the bike. 

Karel said he thought he was 8th overall at that point and was continuing to move himself up. Karel and Dave stopped to help the guy on the ground and Karel told Dave to continue on with the race since he wasn't running and he would wait until help arrived.

After Karel got back on the bike, he had a hard time getting his rhythm back after the long stop. His body was cramping from the stop and it was a tough effort to get himself back to the transition area.

Karel said he waited about ten minutes for the ambulance to come. He was very happy with his swim and was on course to ride around five hours which he was also happy about.
With his long stop, Karel rode 5:16 (21.24 mph average) and moved himself up to 2nd place AG and I think top 10 overall. Karel said if he was racing the run, he would not have biked as hard as he did.

It's a bummer that Karel couldn't run but Karel's ability to remove himself from competition to help out another athlete was very thoughtful.
In the end, Karel was happy with his decision not to run, even though it was a very hard one to make before the race and even in the moment during the race. 

With one of our cheering sections down by the ski jump on the run course (great sign Erin!!), Karel and I walked toward the "climb" back into town to wait for our athletes. 

Dave Mirra having fun out there!
Since our athletes had already made their way out on the run course, Karel and I heard from Erica (Joe's wife) who told us that she talked to Adam (who was out on the run course) and said the he saw Joe walking his bike after he got two flat tires. Uggh. Joe was in a great place physically and mentally for this race (his 2nd IM distance and first Mdot IM race). 

Finally, Joe finished the bike so we were relieved that he was ok. He ended up getting a flat early in the race and quickly fixed it with a gel wrapper to "seal" the hole in the tire. However, Joe got another flat and it nearly shredded his tire so there was no way to fix the flat. Joe was in the moment and started walking and removed his bike shoes because it was hurting his knees. We don't encourage our athletes to ever walk with their bike but instead, just wait until help arrives.
Joe finally got help from bike tech support and they gave Joe a new tire so he could get back into town. Despite the major setback, Joe still started the run. 
However, by the time he was heading back into town around mile 10 or so, he told his wife Erica that he was ready to quit. His feet were hurting so bad (from the walking on the hot pavement with his bike) and he wanted to just call it a day and save his performance for Beach to Battleship Ironman in November (which he is registered for). 

Karel and I didn't know that Joe wanted to turn in his chip so we were just cheering for our other athletes as we waited to see Joe to hear the full run down.
It was so awesome to be on the "climb" into town because we knew our athletes needed us at that point. It's a heartbreak of a hill in that it is long and then there are still ~2 more miles of running before making the descend and then running 2 miles toward River Road (which is a lonely road of 4 miles out and 4 miles back before heading back into town, climbing back up to town and then 2 miles before reaching the finish on the second loop). 
Heidi was looking SO strong!!! She had to adjust her plan/approach a bit due to the heat - as it was hot and getting hotter out there but she always looked so strong and her form was amazing!) 

Before we saw Joe, Erica gave us a call and told us that Joe wanted to quit because his feet were hurting so bad. 

Karel and I talked about the situation and we both came to the conclusion (it was not a hard decision) that we did not want Joe to quit. It is so easy to just say "there will be another race" but not always is it that easy to get the body and mind ready for another Ironman (even if the race is on the race schedule already). Joe invested too much time, effort and money into this race and although his feet were hurting, he was still able to keep good form and his overall fitness was there. 
He was in a very, very low spot so when we saw him, we gave him a little talk that he had two options. He could wait for Trimarni athlete Mike and run/walk with him or he could get some attention at medical if it was available at special needs or at one of the aid stations to take care of his feet.
Joe was ok with both of the options but certainly it took him a few miles to go from the mindset of "I'm quitting at mile 13" to "I still have 13 more miles to go." 

These are the moments when sometimes we need others to help make decisions for us as athletes. Sometimes the right call is to quit but in this case for Joe, quitting was not an option. Just because your day is not going as planned, if health is not compromised, you have to find your why as to why you won't give up. 
Whew....being a coach is hard work! 

Trimarni athlete Adam was having one amazing first IM experience. Karel and I did some math and with Adam feeling so good, we gave him a little extra motivation that if he could run sub 2:20 for the next 13.1 miles (for his second loop), he could break 12 hours which was one of his race goals. 
The funny thing is that Adam's watch stopped working in the first loop so he had no concept of paces or even his overall time. But he didn't let that get to him. And even though his longest training run was 14 miles (which was on purpose), he was still in-tune with his body and running with great form. 
Adam accepted the challenge and we purposely gave him a time goal to keep him digging deep when times got tough in the later miles. 

Another first timer Ironman - Mike - was hanging in there. He had plenty of reasons to not give up and he really stayed determined for all of the run. It was so great to see his awesome body in action! 

Energy break!! Ice cream for Karel.....

Then pizza!! (sadly, the beer had to come later the next day as Karel was out and about for the rest of the day Sunday cheering for our athletes). 

Once again, it was great to have so many Trimarni sherpas on the course. My mom would text me when they saw an athlete and Karel and I would be ready by the climb. 
When all of our athletes were on the 2nd loop, Karel and I started to make our way back to town, near the finish line. We figured that Adam would be in first around 12 hours and as we were sitting on a curb, we saw Adam...wow, he was WAY under 12 hours!!!!

Karel and I made our way inside the oval and nearly 20 minutes under our anticipated finish time for first-time Ironman athlete Adam, there he was!!! Not only did Adam have one amazing race but he ran a 3:55 marathon (his fast marathon ever!) with no watch and a long run of 14 miles!! 
Way to go ADAM!!! Finish time 11:41.23!

Then it was time for Heidi to make her way in. This was her 10th Ironman so experience was in full force as she knew how to adjust her plan with the warm temps and a few minor tummy grumbles. 
Way to go Heidi!! Finish time 12:35.03!!!

Our Trimarni photographer Taylor finally gets to be on the other side of the camera with her Ironhubby Adam!! 

YAY!! You are an Ironman Adam! (And love how the coke says Superstar!)

We waited on the grass for a little bit before Karel and I headed back out on the course to bring in Joe. Nearly 5 hours on this feet after being out on the bike course 1+ hours more than planned.....it was finally time for Joe to finish his day. He absolutely earned his Ironman medal!! 

With good reason, Joe was disappointed but in the end, it was the right decision to keep on going even though it took Joe 13 hours and 16 minutes. The easy decision is always to give up when times are tough and Joe fought through and overcame the obstacles in his way.  

And the best part is that after he took care of himself and got his mind into a better place (which as we all know, isn't easy when you are racing and in the moment), he ran strong for the last 10 miles and averaged around 9:14-9:21 (with walk breaks)! Way to go Joe - we are so proud of you for finishing!

Karel and I had one more athlete to bring home and we were so excited for Mike to become an Ironman for the very first time!!! 14 hours and 4 minutes later....Mike heard the words he had been wanting to hear for the past year......Mike - you are an Ironman!!!! 

After all of our athletes (and our friend Chris) crossed the finish line, we all headed back to our rental home. I just love the post-race talk where everyone tells their stories and we (coaches) finally get to hear the inside details. 

Much later that evening (around 10:30pm), our athletes went out to celebrate and by 11pm, Karel and I were passed out in bed, exhausted from all the excitement and emotions. 

So there you have it. The inside details and behind the scene moments of racing for 140.6 miles.
It's one thing to see a time on a piece of paper but it isn't until you hear the details from the athlete (or see them in action) that you really understand what happened on race day and what the athlete had to overcome to make it a successful day to earn a finish medal. 
Congrats to everyone who raced IM Lake Placid - it may be a beautiful venue but it is one tough course!

(And a big congrats to IM Lake Placid Trimarni nutrition athletes Meaghan, who placed 5th AG 25-29 and a HUGE PR of 12:03.30 and first time IM athletes Bret, Angelie and Rachel!! Thank you for letting me work with you on your IM and race day fueling.)