my thought process in signing up for IM Lake Placid was four-fold.
4. Iconic Ironman race.
i've always wanted to go to lake placid and visit this two-time olympic town. its the site of one of my all-time favorite sports stories - miracle on ice, when the 1980 USA hockey team defeated the Soviets, who were nearly undefeated in the previous 7 olympic games (they won gold 6/7 games).
theres a movie. its awesome. please watch it now, whether you've seen it 39 times or not. watch it... AGAIN. and while you're at it, watch cool runnings too because i'm feeling very olympic today.
(im so proud of how i put that last paragraph together. if you understood all of it, you are my spirit animal and i just virtually high fived you.)
momma flew into DCA late wednesday night in prep for us leaving early thursday morning. my chiropractor, dr. taylor taylor at full motion life and sport in arlington, virginia (seriously, now go there) graciously agreed to meet mom and i at 6:30 for some last minute work on my wonky neck and then we headed to the great green north that is upstate new york.
yep. this isn't it. please don't tell the freak in the picture.
guys - this is because it was the 1932 rink, not the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena - which i didn't realize until monday afternoon. but i was ignorantly happy for four days, so who cares.
oh hai Mark #2.
we headed to expo to grab the signature IM backpack and then i decided to squeeze that 45 minute run in before the BASE team dinner. I ran part of the bike course on the fairly flat and shaded area along the lake. so freaking beautiful, i couldn't stand it. i couldn't keep my HR down, i just wanted to GO FAST!
Dinner with the BASE team was delicious - went to the Three Bears - highly recommend. had a bloody mary with my salmon and potatoes - SO GOOD. we finally made it to the house where everyone was staying, unpacked and got settled and went to bed fairly early.
there was a cat. hi, CAT.
up at 6 am for 7 am swim. met up with matt and angela - who i didn't realize was angela naeth until 5 minutes into the swim because im a moron.
watch out - the claw will get you.
beckie and i, SOAS sistas 4 life
had a quick 20 minute dip in mirror lake - felt awesome - followed by 45 minutes on the bike and a 20 minute run. i biked the run course which was beautiful and goes past the olympic ski jumps and ran a short 10 min out and back along the end of the bike course along the lake. was feeling solid and pumped to be done with everything before 9 am.
we went to the expo to buy things and visit people. i got to hang with angela's dog, zoey, as well as the race wheels dog. DOGS.
mom and i went grocery shopping and stocked up on snacks and meals to tide us over for the next few days and headed back to the house. i napped for awhile in ellen's normatec boots (stellar) and relaxed watching tv on my ipad.
while hanging out in the afternoon, i decided i needed to try the infamous descent into keene so mom and i drove out and i borderline survived my quick 7 mile trip down
pasta primavera for dinner with a small salad and it was early to bed again. no issues sleeping, but do i ever?
similar morning for saturday - 15 min swim sans wetsuit preceeded by a photo op with angela, 45 min spin on bike (run course again), and 10 min run. weather was awesomely cool. we checked out the expo and the pro panel. cynthia was on the panel (WHOA celeb status) as was shawn booth (the bachelor dude) plus the pros. i loved hearing andy potts talk - very humble and professional, he seems like a really cool guy. we should be friends. somebody tell him.
customary pre-ironman big breakfast
angela and i
cynthia, ann marie, and i
(ann marie did IMNC last year when the bike course was cut to 56 miles - cynthia and i met her because she did the second 56 miles at the BASE trainer party while we cheered her on after she completed the swim, shortened bike, and run - total bad ass lady. so awesome to reunite with her!)
it was back to the house after the panel because my brother was arriving! SO EXCITED. he stayed back in the house and napped while mom and i dropped off transition bags, checked in bike, and drove the bike course. it didn't seem as bad as the elevation map made it seem so that boosted my confidence a little bit. i didn't even realize we'd driven "the three bears" until we were past them!
dinner for the evening was the standard chicken parmesan - which has been the go-to meal for most of my races in the past couple years.
I had a Stella, as is customary, that i spilled on the table when i got excited that MARK MHLEY had arrived. its true, i can no longer do ironmans without this man. he's been present, either racing or spectating, at 4/5 races i have done now. thank goodness for this human.
we went to bed - chris and i turned on miracle (duh) and i fell asleep pretty soon after.
up at 3:45 am and didn't feel stellar. the goal was to get out of the house by 5:15 am which we easily accomplished. i ate 1/2 of a blueberry bagel with peanut butter and a banana, but my stomach was feeling strange and i was not at all hungry - which is weird. each bite felt like i was chewing cardboard.
mom and i headed to transition - she dropped me off and i checked my bike and loaded it up with water bottles and nutrition. tires were full, put in a low gear and bid daisy good-bye. i walked out and met up with mom and did a short 10 min shake out run. i felt terrible. i was sluggish and my stomach was jumping around. as soon as i finished, i wanted to cry, but instead i attempted to eat more of my bagel. i was getting stressed that i couldn't eat a solid breakfast. when mom went into subway, i sat on the curb and dry heaved a few times but nothing came up.
we walked over the swim start, i put on my wetsuit and got ready to go. i wasn't excited, i was dreading the day that lay in front of me and just had a bad feeling in my gut. literally. i lined up with the 1 hour group and before i knew it, i was running into mirror lake to start the day.
i swam about 100-200 meters before i felt like I COULDN'T BREATHE. i've had panic attacks and asthma attacks before, but never while wearing a constricting wetsuit in deep water surrounded by a mass of neoprene-wearing humans. i put my head up and breaststroked a few times and decided that this was where i would die. i struggled to get to the first kayak (yep, i was that person) and held on for dear life. she asked if i was okay, i attempted not to continue drowning. a minute later, i decided i was good and set out only to discover not only was i decidedly not good, but i was, in fact, worse.
kayak #2 (yes, thats as far as i made it the second time) asked if i wanted to pull out of the race. i honestly paused for 5 seconds and considered it. "nope. i'm good now," i responded, lying through my teeth. i slowly swam away from the kayak, staying on the tow-line which was surprisingly not crowded. i knew i was swimming slow, but it was forward motion, so i made peace with that. i made it back to the beach in this fashion, looked down at my watch and saw 35 minutes. oh hell. at this rate, it was going to be a 1:10 swim, my slowest by many minutes minutes. i ran out and back into the water telling myself i was on the homestretch, not even thinking about the majority of the race that still lay ahead. the second loop was uneventful. the water temperature was lovely, i didn't encounter anyone significant and it was easy, clear swimming.
swim: 1:08 something. oh christ - slowest swim ever.
T1: out of the water. thank god. i ran to transition in a blur, thankful to have survived the swim - what a crazy new concept. grabbed my gear and headed out to miss daisy, crossing my fingers that the day would improve.
i saw my family as i headed out on the bike - YAY! i started off awesome, taking in the calories i had depleted earlier, staying on top of my game for the first two hours. i wasn't breaking any personal speed records, but i was biking a smart and conservative race. the descent into keene was a little unnerving due to the wind - i was thankful i had done the descent prior to then and knew what to expect. by no means was i in aero for more than a minute at a time - no, no, no - too scary. rubber side down prochnow. the psychological wheels started to come off between 2-3 hours when my gut started to act up.
i dry heaved a couple times, but things were staying down, so i was hopeful. kept HR low in the climbs and before i knew it, i was back in town. i hit a small bump and i felt some rubbing on the back tire. in my head, i had a rear flat and i was not happy about this. i kept going for another mile and it seemed to be consistent - i could feel and hear a constant rubbing. i looked back and my bento box was cockeyed and i reached back to grab just as it started to fly off the back of the bike.
so now im in town where the crowds are, carrying this large, hard plastic QR bento box in my right arm and steering the bike with the left for two miles, looking like a damn fool. i head into special needs and try to re-attach it, but the plastic piece is busted so i throw it in the special needs bag, not thinking to grab anything in case of a flat tire. i chugged a mt dew, ate a couple EL Fudge cookies and headed out for round 2.
the next three hours are blurry. i vomited multiple times. stopped in the porta-potty for liquid lava to pass through my body. literal crap. i ate food only for it to come right back up. i was a mess. i was miserable and angry as i watched my avg speed decline. i was hungry but i couldn't chew my food. it was one of the least fun 3 hour stretches on a bike i have ever endured. as i cruised back into town, i started to feel a little light headed and i almost cried thinking about the marathon that still lay before me.
eff this bike and eff this helmet and eff these shoes. i lubed up my toes and put on happy socks. i grabbed my hat and sunglasses and water bottle and headed out, dizziness still present.
i realized i still had bike gloves on. i heard someone yell, "go heather" and i whipped around and took off my gloves and handed them to... a complete stranger. "you're not my mom!" i wailed in the face of this random lady, confused about the situation. i looked down and realized this nice, innocent spectator was only reading names off of bibs and did not, in fact, know who i was. i turned around and started to run, figuring i would just throw the gloves away. i then saw my mom and chris and threw my gloves and an assortment of wrappers from my kit at them. "i feel TERRIBLE!" i cried to them, and my brother, supportive as ever, ran a block with me as i lamented about my day thus far. "i'm so proud of you sis" he said, and i straightened up and attempted to run.
i saw the rising tide gang and mark at the bottom of the hill and when they asked how i was i said, "terrible! HAHAHAHA!" with a panicked laugh and lisa ran with me while i shared my day. at the first porta-potty, i stopped and realized i had actually gotten my period, since the day just couldn't get better. i had an inkling it would happen that morning and lisa - bless her heart - gave me a tampon that morning which i shoved in a side pocket. "HALLE-FREAKIN-LLUIA". Also, more lava. GREAT.
I kept a respectable pace for a few miles and then started to die and slowly came to the realization that i was going to struggle to COMPLETE the race in one piece. granted, i'd be in under 13 hours - god willing - but that number in itself was a little heartbreaking considering i'd never had a finishing time over 11.5 hours before. i tried to fake smile for my family and friends but they knew how bad it was going. the majority of the marathon is a blur. i ran some, i walked more. i eavesdropped on conversations around me like the creep that i am. i made all kinda of portapotty stops.
as the marathon dragged on and i shuffled in a somewhat forward motion, i began to high five kids. and smile. i wanted them to think this was fun (was i delusional? it was effing miserable). i was still feeling horrendous, but eventually, there were only a few miles left. a man with a "63" on his left calf came running up next to me. his name was chris and he had done this race countless times. he pushed me to stay with him and i valiantly tried until we reach the last big hill and then... he crushed me. and my soul. damn. i tried to keep him in my sights and i made up a smidge of ground as the streets flattened out but i never quite caught up to him. we skirted the edge of the olympic oval and before i knew what was happening, the finish arch was looming.
i remember nothing about the chute, the finish, or anything - except for seeing my mom. thats when my memory kicks back in. i saw her, i collected my shirt and hat - all the while keeping eye contact with her. i don't remember if i even took a finisher photo. when i made my way to her, i collapsed a bit, and i cried. i cried in relief for the day being over, i cried for the time spent training only to end the way it did, i cried for just the damn fact that i felt bad.
so - we sat on the lawn. moments later, i heaved the remnants of gels and coke onto the grass with my head between my legs, recounting the day in between bouts of vomit. at least by then, i had almost finished crying.
its glamorous, this sport. dead sexy even.
my brother wandered over and the first thing i smelled was rum. i love this kid so much, but alcohol was the last thing i wanted to be smelling. however, the fact that he was pretty drunk took my mind off the odor of Captain permeating the air around us because he always makes me laugh until i cry. then he gave me a hug and told me he was proud of me... and i lost it again. i switched from vomiting to bawling. like kristin bell says, if I'm not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, i'm crying.
i was at a solid 12.
i cried and laughed and cried more. it meant so much to have my brother and mom there and I really missed my dad. eventually, i got on the phone with dad and with some friends and they helped calm me down and make me feel better. it was such a hard day - physically and emotionally. i went to some dark places and really had to push to keep moving one foot in front of the other when i just wanted to curl up around a trash can in sweatpants with my dog. but those are the moments in time that make you stronger. just like climbing the wintergreen mountain at camp will forever be emblazoned in my memory, as will that one time i did that one race at lake placid.
we meandered our way through the crowds to get my stuff and drove home. that first shower after a race is always glorious and this one did not disappoint. i put on some comfy clothes and mom and i headed back to town to meet the spectator gang and watch the midnight finishers - always my favorite part.
the next day was the highlight of the trip - OLYMPIC GLORY.
Miracle. Herb Brooks.
Nerding out so bad to Olympic everything.
And then... it happened. I got to see the actual arena where all the magic happened. My heart skipped a beat. I'd waited years for this moment.
"DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!"
We celebrated the Olympics all morning and ended our time in Placid on a very high note. Will I ever do this race again? Nope, I'm good. But I learned so much about myself and what I'm capable of doing that I have no regrets. as they say - anytime you finish an Ironman is a good day.
I did leave New York feeling significantly unfulfilled and - as fate would have it - a college friend and her family would soon leave me feeling overwhelmingly inspired. So, Ironman Maryland ended up being next on the list for 2017. Some day, when I get my life together, you can read all about it...