Ironman Lake Placid, July 23, 2006, the 11th of my career, was different for a lot of reasons. For the first time in my career, I was not in proper form on race day. I broke my right clavicle in a cycling race in late February and had surgery March 1. I spent March and April in a sling, so no swimming or running for 2 months. When I got out of the sling in early May I could not even touch the top of my head with my right hand! I spent May in physical therapy 3 days a week, still no swimming or running, but cycling almost every day to get ready for the Race Across America (RAAM) in mid June. I spent 2 weeks in June traveling and racing RAAM, an amazing experience, cycling 3,043 miles from San Diego to Atlantic City in just over 5 days! But when I returned home June 22, I had only 1 month until IM Lake Placid! Still lots of physical therapy, then my health club closed my pool the month of July for renovations! Augh!
So I had less than adequate training for this Ironman. I still only had about 60% flexibility and strength in my shoulder and had swum only a few times, and run barely 10 times since February. My longest run was only 12 miles! So I headed into Lake Placid with an unusual race strategy – see if I my shoulder could complete the swim without too much pain, ride the bike as hard as I could, and see if I could run the marathon. No pressure, just a fun, long catered training day!
The first race day surprise occurred when I arrived at my bike in transition. My front tire was flat! Fortunately I had brought a spare (call it racer’s intuition that morning) so I did not have to rip the spare off my bike. I stripped off the old tire but quickly discovered that my spare did not have enough glue to adhere to the very wet wheel rim. After about 15 minutes of standing in line, I managed to get a few pieces of rim tape from mechanics in transition, but time was running out! I changed it just as transition closed and I was virtually alone, still with several blocks to walk to the swim start and get into my wetsuit! In transition when it closed? – another first for me! The changed job was less than perfect, the tire was not centered on the rim, but it would have to do. I’d just have to see what happened when I starter riding. No worries, this was supposed to be a training race anyway!
The swim at Lake Placid is always crowded, 2200 athletes in a narrow lake. It’s a water start so I drifted to the far side knowing I would not be contending. I couldn’t fight the battle with only one good arm anyway. After about 20 minutes on the first lap, my shoulder finally warmed up and I slogged through the rest of the swim. At one point I even stopped and rotated on my side to rest my shoulder. It’s amazing how quiet and peaceful it was in the middle of that pack of over 2000, only the sound of soft splashes all around me. I exited the water 12-15 minutes behind my normal swim time, firmly in the middle of the field. Man it was crowded! I’ve never been surrounded by so many people exiting the swim! The transition tent was packed, not a seat anywhere. It was chilly in the mid 50’s and light rain, so I spent more time putting on arm warmers and a vest in addition to my usual routine of checking blood sugar, cycling socks and shoes, etc. I even took the time to change the lens on my sunglasses! Clearly I was in no hurry!
I was very skeptical of my front tire so I watched it closely the first couple of miles in the slick rain. It seemed okay so I pushed the pace. I spent the first half of the bike passing every person I saw. I felt a little awkward blowing by them, almost as if I should apologize and explain my poor swim and shoulder. I finished the first loop in a fairly conservative 2 hours, 45 minutes, but my blood sugar at the mid-point was almost 300, a problem I frequently have in Ironman bike segments even though I rarely eat much. I need to eat during the bike, but doing that and keep my blood sugar down is a challenge. I took a quick injection of 3 units of Humalog insulin, knowing that I would both be working hard but eating and drinking regularly on the 2nd lap. I was hoping to finish in around 5 hours, 30 minutes, which now required an even split, and I felt very strong for lap two, still passing everyone I saw. But after about 90 miles, my legs suddenly gave out. I was not passing people like before, just holding the same pace.
I hit the final climb up Whiteface Mountain, the last 15 miles, feeling weak and sluggish, losing lots of time. I finished the bike feeling drained, suspecting low blood sugar. A quick check on my One Touch Ultra meter confirmed it – blood sugar 60. Way too low. I sat in the transition tent, sipping my carbohydrate drink in no particular hurry. I had passed over 750 athletes on the bike, but a few hundred were already out on the marathon.
I started the marathon still feeling weak and slightly nauseous, trying to get my blood sugar up, running with a bottle of high carb sport drink and a flask of Clif Shot gel. I know I had not eaten enough during the bike, worried about overloading my blood sugar. Now I was paying for the lack of calories and carbs in my system. I’d also been careful to drink heavily, but my stomach pains told me I was dehydrated as well. Add that to my lack of run training and my marathon was not going to be fun. I pushed it as hard as I could for the first 6 miles out passed the giant ski jumps, but with each mile my stomach felt worse until I was reduced a slow jog and walk. Returning to town after the first half of the marathon I felt it was best that I withdraw and save my body the abuse just to finish. I’d gotten everything I hoped for out of this training race, a post-injury swim test, a good bike workout, and a little running.
I’ll be spending the summer getting ready for Ironman Florida Nov. 5 and the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships in Australia Nov. 19. See you then!