Radical Immersion

Ironman Training with Life, Marriage, Children & Work

Category: Lake Placid

Data Nerd Heaven — IMLP and Other Ironman Races

Why have I never seen “Coach Cox” before.  This website is chock full of all sorts of interesting analyses on a wide variety of Ironman races.

Two of the many conclusions drawn:

1. This year the swim was slower across the board.

2. The Kona qualifying age grouper — and the pointy end of the race in most age groups — was faster than expected.

Great website but be careful, it is a blackhole for time.  Once you start looking at the charts and data visualizations, you’ll be hooked.



Catch Up

All the experts — real and self-proclaimed — say that there is no catching up when you miss workouts and fall behind on Ironman training. Look ahead, get back on the plan and go forward without dwelling on what didn’t happen. Not so with a blog where I can go back and catch up.

Last weekend the whole tribe went to Raleigh to visit with friends and to watch as Dana and I swam at Lake Jordan. It was big fun. She covered 1.2 miles in 45:12 or the same time that she had a year ago when she swam a mile in an open water swim. I ended up third overall with a 57:47 for 2.4 miles. The Lake Jordan swim was the first time that Dana and I raced together and I really liked it although we have some things to learn about logistics. I nearly missed the start and Dana could have used a bit more time with the port potty lines.

I think this is the first race, of any kind, that I did not get a personal best time going back more than two years. Reflecting on this point has been interesting. I swam well, felt strong, and generally had a good morning. (Sighting was bad, I selected the wrong goggles and my time was slower than IMLP 2012 split by more than four minutes.) Also, I know that it is freaky and a fluke of amateur athletics to have so many consecutive best times. But I liked my streak. I didn’t talk about it. It was more like a no-hitter in the dugout — I knew, but did not speak of it. In a word, I was proud. Pride lays us all low. It is a good reminder. And notwithstanding the broken streak, we had a blast.

After the race the tribe rallied for a family portrait.

After the race the tribe rallied for a family portrait.

About two or three weeks ago, I met this woman on a ride. She too is training for Lake Placid. She was nice and is quite speedy and lives in the neighborhood. Maybe I pick up a few tips.

I did the Whole30 nutrition plan in April. It more or less worked for me. I really miss desserts and chocolates but I’m not failing throughout the day, have lost some weight and generally continue to improve my health and fitness.

I’ve nearly completed my long-ride/run transition from Powerbars to Bonk Breakers. The impetus was the Whole30. Neither is compliant but the Bonk Breakers are made with more food and fewer additives. They are also more expensive and harder to store on the bike. But, I’m figuring it out.

Also, I’m behind on training. The comparison of my planned training versus actual training for last three weeks have not been stellar. But, there is always been tomorrow. A big ride plus a 45 minute run is scheduled for the morning before we all go to the first evening movie of the summer shown in the playing field of the neighborhood school. The series is sponsored by a dear friend who is a local businesswoman and stalwart for the community.

I cannot wait.

Tolerance for the Inevitable — Making Peace

Elsewhere on this blog I shared my view of running.

I run because it is basic — not much gear to maintain, no travel time to the pool — and because it is necessary in order to finish a triathlon.  Between running and me, there is no love lost, only tolerance.

In the four weeks before Ironman Lake Placid, I had only run six times for less than 22 miles.  For that matter, in the two weeks before the race, I had only run six times.  The longest was 51 minutes and each was fraught with anxiety.  I didn’t want to re-injure my leg; I didn’t want to under-train; I didn’t want to overtrain considering I was coming off of a couple weeks of inactivity.

Altogether, during the 30 weeks of preparation, I ran 564.81 miles or the equivalent of 21 and 1/2 marathons.  I topped out with nearly 130 miles in June.

By the time I made it to Lake Placid, I did not seek a grand running experience, only tolerance for the inevitable and strength to persevere.

The course begins on a long downhill.  This feature is particularly cruel.  Not only is it necessary to come back up the hill, twice, but everyone comes out of transition with legs accustomed to turning over 90 or more times a minute.  Running with that cadence produces a fast pace.  With more than four hours of running in front of me, I did the first mile in 7:33 before settling into a few miles in the 8:40s, a few miles just over nine minutes each and then into the 9:40s.  It was mile 10 before I broke the barrier of 10 minute miles and still had not pushed my heart rate out of the 140s.  This was zone two running but the pace was slowly slipping away.

Around mile 11, I decided that I would cast off the nutrition plan in favor of liquids only.  Like clockwork, during mile 15 I hit a spot of trouble.  It was potentially end-of-the-race-trouble and no doubt due to the poor decision on nutrition.

The plan was simple — easy enough to remember regardless of fatigue.  With aid stations located every mile, I would drink Perform at mile one, water with a Gu gel at mile two followed by water at mile three and every fourth mile I would skip to give my stomach a break.  Approximately once per cycle I would take an Enduralyte salt tablet.

The plan worked well, as long as I followed it.  But then I didn’t, and it didn’t, and the dizziness came.  Somewhere around mile 15 I found myself presented with three options.  I could keep running and stare at the white line on the road because it was a bit more steady than the horizon.  I could stop, regroup and try to figure out what to do.  I could walk until either the next aid station or the until the dizziness ended.  I chose the third option and knew that I had to eat something.  Splits no longer mattered, time was irrelevant, I had to figure out how to keep moving toward the finish line.  After a some walking, some running I stuttered into the next aid station and forced myself to eat Gu Chomps.

I was back on the four mile plan for nutrition.  The next time it came around to eat, the Gu Chomps went down, the water went down, and then everything came right back out.  Nutrition for the last hour was whatever I could get down and keep down.

Later, looking at the splits on my watch, I learned that the walk only lasted about three minutes.  However, there is another two minutes between when I decided to start running again and actually began to run toward the aid station at mile 16.  It took two full minutes for the signal to get from my brain to my legs and for my legs to acknowledge the new instructions.  If there is a measure of fatigue, it can be found in those lost two minutes.

From this point forward, I walked through every aid station and probably added a good 45 seconds per mile to my pace.  Curiously, each time I started to run after walking an aid station my right knee would have a terrible pain.  It was dull and the ache would last about a minute.  At least seven or eight times the cessation of this pain was announced by a sharp electric stinger starting in my left elbow.  It would fire down my forearm.  At the time, I learned to expect them.  They were little psychedelic friends produced by my brain to keep me alert and to help mark progress forward.  They only occurred after the dizzy spell and each time followed the same pattern: walk, food/drink, start to run, tremendous limp-inducing pain in knee, pain fades, ZAP! stinger in left elbow.  How does one look forward to a nerve induced electric shock?  I don’t know, but I did.

The run was not entirely a slog.  I chatted briefly with Vinu Malik on the course.  He got a kick out of being recognized and that I use his products.  I had a nice conversation with Pete Jacobs as he lapped me headed toward a second place finish.  He could not have been more pleasant.  There is a section of the course that takes you straight toward the towering Olympic ski jumps and the eye is drawn upward beyond the treeline to the heavens.  The jumps are like great flying buttresses of an athletic cathedral.  Maybe I was going a little out of my head out there, it was hot after all.

I may be crazy to run an Ironman, but you won’t catch me jumping off of one of those things.

I danced through nearly every section where spectators provided music including to Creedance Clearwater Revival (three times), some reggae and too much club music, and something by Ozzy Osbourne.  I was induced to some wild air guitar during Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child O’Mine.

Coming through town around mile 24, I found a lady holding a sign that read “Shut Up Legs.”  I must have been the only one to recognize its profound genius because when I did my best Jens Voigt impression and thanked her, she went wild.

In the end, my leg held up.  I was ready.  I have plenty of room to improve starting with pacing.  I thope to  never again spend the last 10 miles of any race being passed with such regularity.

The run did not transcend like the swim.  It was not exhilarating like the ride.  But it did provide its own meditative, rhythmic calm.  It was an integral part of a wonderful experience.  I came to the point where I enjoyed it.  Out there, with cups of ice and sponges stuffed in my shirt, after reaching the social depths of having peed myself in the middle of the road and before being lifted up by the rush and thrill of the finish line scene, I made peace with running.


Love the Work, Or How I Nearly Wept

Yesterday over lunch, a friend and a natural runner, asked if I had a mantra during the marathon to help carry me through.  I did not.  Upon reflection, there were a couple of things that came to mind during the bike ride and one of them was the simple observation, admonition even, to “love the work.”

To love the work is not the same as to have fun, to enjoy oneself, or even to be happy.  These things are derivative and therefore inferior to love — even love for the work.  Poets and philosophers have tackled love, and you won’t find the answers here, but I can tell you that love is bigger, more grand and comprehensive, and beautiful than a hard bike ride.  This is no small achievement; a hard bike ride is a lovely thing.

Love is not consuming, it fulfills.  Love is not for thought and analysis; it is lived.  Love is not measured in watts, calories, cadence, miles, or elevation; it touches and forever changes hearts.

As I rode on the first serious rolling hills of the Ironman Lake Placid bike course and approached Wilmington, I heard my inner voice: “Love the Work.”  It may have been the ethereal beauty of a bagpiper’s music from earlier in the ride echoing through my mind.  I’ll come back to her in a bit.

The Course, Nutrition & Splits

The 56 mile looped course offers a bit of everything.  Out of transition, there are a handful of technical, 90 degree turns that are taken with speed because the Olympic Oval sits on a hill.  Out of town, there are about ten miles of rolling hills that lead to a screaming descent to Keene.  There are gentle inclines and false flats for an hour of riding through Jay, Upper Jay and out and back to the village of Ausable Forks.  Real rolling hills begin within meters of making the turn toward Wilmington and if you are not in the small chain ring with all of your food put away, it is important to get that way in a hurry.  After another short, flat, fast and noisy out and back on Haselton Road outside of Wilmington, the climbing begins.  I’m told there are five named hills back to Lake Placid: Little Cherry, Big Cherry, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear.  I’m told they stair-step and there is either a flat or a slight decline before each of the next hills.  My experience was of a 12 mile climb into the wind.  It was not too hard, but it was relentless and required focus to anticipate the correct gearing.

My nutrition plan was to take something every 30 minutes.  On the bottom of the hour, half a Powerbar.  On the top of the hour, a Gu gel.  Every hour take one bottle of Perform except the first hour where I drank 20 ounces of liquid Powerbar.  At the top of every hour, alternate one Enduralyte salt tablet and one Advil or chew one GasX tablet to prevent bloating on the run from all the gels.  I also took water as needed to drink and to douse my head and back.

My heart rate on the bike course averaged 135 and 136.  I rode the first 56 mile loop in 2:58:41 with the first 30 miles covered at 22.76 mph (1:19:06) and the latter 26 miles at 15.67 mph (1:39:35).  The second loop took 3:02:29 and had better climbing but slower flats with 30 miles at 21.1 mph (1:25:18) and the last 26 miles at 16.05 mph (1:37:11).

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Div. Rank Overall Rank Gender Rank
30 mi 30 mi 1:19:06 2:17:32 22.76 mi/h
56 mi 26 mi 1:39:35 3:57:07 15.67 mi/h
86 mi 30 mi 1:25:18 5:22:2 21.10 mi/h
112 mi 26 mi 1:37:11 6:59:36 16.05 mi/h
Total 112 mi 6:01:10 6:59:36 18.61 mi/h 49 212 197

What I Won’t Soon Forget

The bike portion of the race was more than half of my day.  It also was the driving factor for how well my legs were going to respond for the run.  Taken together, I don’t think it is likely that any amateur will overtrain for the bike.  When in doubt during training, go for a ride.  How fast you can ride in an easy aerobic, aerodynamic position is the determinant of how much pain you’ll have on the day and how fast you will finish.

Fortunately, the bike portion gave me a lot to think about.  There were sights to see — like an elderly couple in lawn chairs roadside sitting with a pair of huge goats — and good experiences.  Around mile 95 I heard the distinct repeating thwack of a broken spoke. I was approaching and passing the guy and so I told him what the sound meant.  He was horrified.  I told him not to worry and to look for the motorcycle with neutral race support.  They had wheels.  Less that two minutes later I flagged the motorcycle down and pointed the crew to the guy behind me who was riding on borrowed time.

The rest of what I hope not to forget anytime soon:

  • The first time down the Keene descent I had stuffed half a Powerbar in my mouth.  About two minutes later, while still chewing, I was dumbstruck to see that I was going 48.5 mph and my heart rate was 220 and apparently climbing.  It took me a minute to figure out I wasn’t working but the bit of food was too much.  I wasn’t breathing enough.  The added adrenaline of the descent was a combination for a heart rate spike all the way up to 233.  On the second descent, I also ate but with smaller pieces.  My heart rate was all the way down at 103 at speeds approaching 60 mph.
  • Speaking of that second descent, I had the skyrocketed heart rate in mind.  Once I started the descent in earnest, I tried to listen for my heart before peeking over at my watch.  I guessed that it was well under 120.  I could feel everything calming and easing — I was relaxing on the saddle and on the aero bars.  It was nice to see that it was even lower than I had thought.  Even though it only lasted a few minutes, the second descent was serene.  I heard my own heart more than the wind.
  • Leading up to the descent, I was so excited to see two goofballs dressed up as Gumby and Pokey that I rode over onto the shoulder to high-five Gumby.
  • I didn’t know my bike splits while on the course.  If it had an effect, I’m sure it was positive.  Thinking about times and splits would have taken away from the beauty of the course.
  • On beauty, WHOA!  There were high mountain lakes, marshes, rivers, brooks, waterfalls, a huge valley and mountains.  Lake Placid has a lot of mountains.  Next trip: More cowbell and more pictures.
  • Peeing on your bike is not difficult.  Getting everything started can be a challenge.  I was a three time winner on this front.  What is difficult is to drink through a bottle that has a foil safety seal underneath the cap.  This happened to me after the bottle station at mile 90.  After a minute of fiddling around, I stopped and had the foil off in less than 20 seconds.
  • Climbing out of town on the second loop, there was a guy leaning on his bike all by himself at the side of the road.  As I passed, he quietly commented that I should relax and drop my shoulders.  It was like a personal coach, right when I needed it.  Without thinking, I took the advice and instantly noticed that it was easier to get up and over the hill.  Wherever you are, thank you solitary mountain climbing coach man.
  • There were a lot of motorcycles on the course and penalties were assessed for blocking and drafting.
  • I nearly even split the course.  Next year, I want to negative split and to gently increase the pressure throughout the ride.  It is a big ride and should not be underestimated, but it can be raced as well as ridden.  I rode cadence and heart rate all day and throwing in some benchmarks for time wouldn’t hurt me next time around.
  • Coming up the last hill — a steep hill — into Lake Placid was surreal.  There were crowds on the road — the metal barriers were used closer to city center.  There were police and ambulance lights flashing.  People in costume, with drums and horns and bells, and there were people riding backward in the line and suffering on their pedals 110 miles into the day as I pedaled up, over and past them.  Note to the reader, I rarely if ever ride past anyone on an uphill.  At the top of the hill there is a 90 degree right hand turn and for another 20 meters the rode pitches up again.  At the top of the final rise there was music blaring and it was an outrageous, cheering, crazy party.  I felt strong.  It was an echo of how I came out of the water and it was stunning.

The Piper

The bagpiper was playing from up in the air, to the right.  She was perched with sheer drop of some 20 feet below her, in the greenery where trees improbably clung to the mountainside.   To the left, there was a lazy river making its way from Jay to Keene.  The road ahead was gently sloping upward.  She wore, I think, a bike kit and a kilt.  As I approached, I couldn’t figure out what was happening.  What was that sound and where did it come from.  When I saw her, I rose up off my bars in an overhead salute and clapped my hands as loudly as I could.  I was nearly crying behind the fancy glasses for no apparent reason.  This woman played for the joy.  She created beauty and shared it with all who would pass.  No doubt, there was a personal message in her act for a loved one who was riding that day.

It was a moving message for me.  And then she was gone.  I was up the road.  It was like a dream and the sweat trickled down my nose and I went back to the work at hand.  I loved the work.

How I Spent My Weekend, By Kent Lassman

At 23 minutes, a bit long.  Heavy on the emotion.  Wonderful images telling the story of the race.


My favorite sign from the IMLP racecourse: Shut Up Legs.  Around mile 22-23 of the run.

The funniest sign that I saw, just before the three bears (named climbs in the last 12-15 miles of the bike course): Goldilocks Is A Pussy.

Signs that all of the various triathlon and Ironman stuff is wearing thin: Last night Dana commented that the stubble on my legs was irritating in bed; my cycling shoes have been banished from the house for good.  One too many pee breaks just could not be rinsed out.

Signs that all of this triathlon and Ironman stuff might be able to sustain for another year are also found around here.

Cupcakes to Celebrate

My family threw a surprise party with two dozen friends, co-workers, neighbors and fellow bike geeks. I was speechless.

Nice Photo Gallery in This Article

Some professional pictures of the race at IMLP are in the gallery of this article on the race.

Five Weeks Left — Is It All Uphill?

This image went up on the official website recently.  It is sobering. When people go to upstate New York to ride, they ride mountains.

On Saturday, I did a 104 mile ride with 2,523 feet of climbing.  I went out toward a place near Frederick, Maryland called Sugar Loaf Mountain.  I rode hills.

It took 5 hours and 44 minutes and the weather was fantastic — no headwinds to speak of, no rain.


Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you

I spoke with six people this morning about where we will stay.  Don’t look for us at the Blackpine Inn, Bigelow Cabins, Best Western, Mountain View Inn, or Art Devlin’s.  Keep your fingers crossed that the last conversation pans out.  Logistics for a family of six can be a bear…