Ironman Lake Placid - 2022 Race Report

IMLP 2022 Race Report

Race Date: July 24, 2022

Just the Facts


Swim Split: 1:28:53 - 51st AG / 363rd Gender / 1,457th Overall

Time in T1: 10:51

Bike Split: 6:20:21 – 4th AG / 89th Gender / 539th Overall

Time in T2: 8:06

Run Split: 5:40:37 – 30th AG / 287th Gender / 1,104th Overall

Total Race: 13:48:47 – 12th AG / 194th Gender / 865th Overall


The Full Story

Keeping to my plan, my high-level goals for this race (and this year) remained to have fun playing the game and to enjoy the feeling of being an athlete. Tier two goal (if there is such a thing) was to not panic during the swim (ideal) or, if panic did set in, to manage it without a full on, flip onto my back, gasp for air and climb-the-ladder-to-Jesus response. Third level goal so unimportant I barely contemplated it was to break 7 hours on the bike split. And so we begin…

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Sunday morning before race day – weird feeling in my right ear Sunday morning sends me (escorted by my 11 year-old son) to the nurse during family weekend his sleep away camp. I can attest that the nurse’s office looks smaller than I remember it looking when I was 11. Nurse applies ear drops whilst son, who gets swimmers ear every summer, supervises.

Sunday evening before race day – weird feeling progresses to throbbing pain.

Monday before race day – Doctor at home diagnoses swimmer’s ear and prescribes medicated drops and no water for 7-10 days. I laugh. Doctor knows me well enough to laugh with me.

Tuesday before race day – Decide the smell of my bike shoes is unbearable and wash them. Put them on bike rack to dry and then forget about them and drive the car. Lose one bike shoe. Ponder how a 112 mile single leg drill would play out whilst digging for backup bike shoes. Locate backup bike shoes and while walking barefoot across the lawn, step on a wasp. Scrape stinger from bottom of foot, treat with soap and water, alcohol, After Bite and ice. Ponder wearing full body bubble wrap for the rest of the week.

Wednesday before race day, pick up college roommate (Forest), who flew in from her home in Ohio to sherpa for me. This is her first triathlon ever. What a way to break her in.

Thursday before race day. Check in, buy merch, wander around the village. Thursday afternoon, practice swim. I read that dropping stroke count to 55 bpm or so would help keep heart rate down, so I try it. Make it about 150 yards from the dock before goggles fill up and water in face sends me gasping for air and climbing-the-ladder-to-Jesus. Thrash to shore and beach self. Look up and realize the person sitting on the shore is a friend. She tells me that when she panics, she prays the Hail Mary over an over until the panic subsides. I file thought away. Gather nerve. Finish swim.

Friday before race day. Organize group to ride Keene descent with Sami, James, my friend Jeff and me. The road to Keene is pretty banged up with chunky patch repairs. Loop it twice (getting a ride to the top each time) with an eye toward really nailing my line and noting any particularly rough road. Ride road bike (“BB”) instead of TT bike (“Eloise”) because the forecast called for showers and Eloise, who has carbon clinchers, doesn’t stop well in the rain. BB has disk brakes. She goes from 25 to 0 in about two seconds. BB feels like a four-door luxury sedan on that descent. Come off the hill confident in line and form. This is gonna be fun. Take BB for a final check ride. Four miles in, IT band and back explode in pain. Check pedal alignment – something has gone pear shaped. I haven’t ridden BB in a while and I’ve been making micro adjustments to Eloise – those adjustments add up to about an inch and a half offset from seat to pedal when you compare Eloise to BB. There’s nothing to do. I’ve got to ride Eloise on Sunday. Oh boy.

Pasta dinner on Friday night with my team. Pasta is not the right call for me and it takes three days for my stomach to settle down. Memo to self - stick with shrimp and grits or salmon, sweet potatoes and rice in the days leading up to an event.

Saturday before race day. Pack up gear bags which is SUPER easy because I’d saved my bags from IMLP last year and everything was already in the appropriate bag. Move bike gear from one blue bag to another blue bag, run gear from one red bag to another red bag, etc. Highly recommend this approach. 70.3 bags work just as well. Rack Eloise, let some air out of the tires, drop off the run and bike bags and head back to team house for awesome family style dinner. In bed at 7:30 PM. Forest works some DJ magic and comes up with a song that holds a 55 BPM rhythm – it’s “Moulin Rouge” and it sits perfectly in my head. I’m hopeful it will help me control my swim stroke rate in the morning. I’m asleep by 8:00 PM.

Sunday. Race Day!

Up at 4:00 AM. Coffee and what I consider to be the hardest part of any Ironman – getting breakfast into my belly. Breakfast is two packets of instant oatmeal (one flavored and one plain) mixed with a glob of peanut butter, salt, a mashed banana and some raisins. It’s like glue going down but it works.

I’m always distracted on race morning and today is no different. Stop at run special needs to drop off bag, put down bike pump and leave it there. Bring two bottles of Infinit for cages and two bottles of water for torpedoes. Put bottles of Infinit in cages, get pump from Forest who retrieved it from Special Needs, drink water instead of loading bike torpedoes with water, thereby setting stage for a zero water start to the bike. Stellar. Head to swim start.

Forest grounds me before I step into the coral. She holds my hands and runs me through each of my senses, starting with “tell me five things you can see that are pink,” then “tell me four things you can hear,” “tell me three things you can taste,” tell me two things you can smell,” and “tell me one thing you can feel.” I am calm as I head to the water.


Swim

I seed myself with the 1:20 – 1:29 group. I did the loop in 1:23 last year, so this makes sense. I go out hard right instead of my usual hard left. I am a right-side breather and the effect of this move is that I’ve put the whole race to my back. All the thrashing and the chop is happening behind me. I’m swimming, from my perspective, alone, humming “Moulin Rouge,” in my head (“hey sister, soul sister, soul sister soul sister”) right up until the pro field laps the age group field. The pros come through like a freight train. I take a hit and the opportunity to freak out is *right* *there*. I mentally grab for something and I get the Hail Mary, but it mashes up with Moulin Rouge so now I’m singing “Hey Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary” in my head. It’s weird but it works and so I go with it. The panic subsides and I get back to a rhythm.

Though I went wide, the course is a mosh pit and I keep getting sucked into the fray. I get hit at the turn buoys and from time to time when I get too close to the cable. I’m nearing the end of the first loop and I wonder if I’ve been hit in the head one too many times because I’m hearing things. I hear a voice say, “Connie! Connie! Connie!” with each breath. I look up and Sami – all bright eyes and big smiles - is looking right at me.

“SAMI?”

“How you doin? You okay?” she asks, like we’re chillin’ in the parking lot at Tobay.

“How did you find me?”

“Your white sleeves. I could see you from everywhere.”

I make a mental note to ALWAYS wear my white sleeves on the swim.

Sami and I swim the second loop together. I’ll be honest – it’s awesome. We exit together and as a result, I get some of my favorite race pictures ever. I get a huge hug from Forest at the exit and see the rest of the crew as we run the chute from the lake. I swim a 1:28, which is 5 minutes slower than last year, but I don’t know it at the time because after last year’s misread watch debacle, I know I can’t read the display, so I just hit the lap button and move on.

Swim Split: 1:28:53 - 51st AG / 363rd Gender / 1,457th Overall

I grab my bike gear and head to the change tent. Out of the wetsuit. Towel off. Suck down a gel. Spray tri slide everywhere. Spray sunscreen everywhere. Pocket my electrolyte chews and honey stinger waffles, get into my socks, shoes, helmet, sunglasses. Pull on bike gloves as I head to my bike and head out of transition.

Time in T1: 10:51

Bike

The bike is becoming my favorite discipline, overtaking my long-standing favorite, the run. I head out with my coach’s instructions firmly lodged in my mind. Ride conservative and smart. Make the climbs work for you. Vary the cadence. Coast the descents to recover. Be smart on the first loop so you’ve got legs for the second. We didn’t do a full taper going into Placid – rather we did a “drop in” a few days before the race. Last season I completed five century rides, two in Lake Placid, two on the trainer and one outside near my house (flat course), and then I rode a 7+ hour split. This time I’d done two century rides in total, both at Harriman State Park. I had not done a single century on the LP course, simulator or otherwise. As I roll out of T1, the thought forms in the back of my mind: Am I ready?

Wow, am I ready.

The course is hot and windy. I’ve had slight stitch in my side since the swim and it refuses to settle. I try to relax onto the bike, rolling my neck and shoulders and finding a comfortable spot on my saddle. I lean down for a sip of water. This is when I realize I’ve no water in my torpedo and no water in my lower bottle because I drank the water I was supposed to put on my bike when I was pumping up my tires. Once upon a time, this would have freaked me out. Instead, I laugh. I’m such an air-head. I know the first aid station is at the Bobsled Turn. I drink my hydration mix until I reach the aid station, where I stop to fill both of my water bottles and try to work the stitch out of my side. I work my way to the top of the Keene descent. I’m passing a few people on the climbs, but for the most part I’m trying to be patient. It’s crowded and I am sure there will be time and opportunity to pass further into the loop.

I stay on my aero bars on the Keene descent and ride pretty tight to the line I chose on Friday. People are riding two and three abreast, so I’m yelling “on your left” a fair bit. Most people move over, some more quickly and willingly than others. I reach the bottom and make the left turn into the flat portion of the course.

I have a tailwind – I can tell. I don’t feel like I’m working hard but every time I look down at my cassette, I’m in what I usually consider to be my “hard” gear. Big ring up front and only three up from the bottom in the back. Part of my brain is saying “you can’t ride that gear” and part of my brain is saying “well, you’re riding it, so shut up and ride.” I shut up and ride.

I take water from every aid station to drink and to pour down my tri-suit. I’m working the climbs and coasting the descents. I’m up the Notch and the Bears and when I see Nicole, my adrenaline surges and I’m flying up the hill onto Northwood Drive. Left onto Lake Drive and the Hot Mess Express House, with the cowbells and pom-poms, sends me into overdrive. I can’t see my speed but I feel like I’m flying.

The Personal Needs station catches me by surprise, which is silly because I’d been there earlier in the day – and I have to jam the brakes to not overshoot. I replace my bottles of Infinit, grab more chews and honey stingers and, most important to me, snag my iced coffee and bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. I re-apply tri-slide and head back out… or try to. The hill is steep and the station is crowded and I’m struggling to get going. I miss my clip once… twice… three times before I finally catch the pedal and now I’m off to the races, iced coffee jammed in my aerobars and egg sandwich stuffed down my shirt.

I’m the happiest racer on the course as I head past the horse grounds, noshing on my sandwich and sucking down my iced coffee. OMG it’s so good. I drop the trash at the Bobsled Turn aid station and head for Keene Descent v.2.0. I’ve got one eye on the horizon because the forecast called for storms and I want to be through Keene before the rain hits. The Keene descent seems more crowded to me on the second loop, and a lot of people are riding in clusters. I get forced off my line by three people riding across the road and I have to choose between the rumble strip and a particularly bad patch of road. I choose the bad patch and when I hit it, the jolt sends both my bottles flying off the back of my bike. I look over my shoulder in time to see them skidding across the road.

Sh*t.

I have no backup for the bottles. I check that I’m clear to stop and double back. A volunteer helps me look and we locate one bottle. The other is down the side of the ravine and probably in the river. Crap crap crap. I’m literally down 50% of my liquid nutrition for lap 2.

This is where I make the first of a cascading series of bad decisions.

Bad Decision Number 1: I decide to ration my Infinit for the loop and supplement with a Gatorade from an aid station. I should have kept to my normal plan, finished the first bottle of Infinit on schedule and turned to the Gatorade once the Infinit was done. But noooooooo. Bad Decision Connie is in the house.

The second loop goes quickly as I continue my push-the-climbs-recover-the-descents approach. I snag a Gatorade but I don’t drink it. I go through six (yes, six) bottles of water. I’m riding strong and keeping my eye on the sky because I want to be off the bike before the forecasted thunderstorms roll in. I’m probably paying more attention to the weather than to my nutrition.

This is Bad Decision Number 2. I can’t control the weather. I can control the nutrition. I should have focused on the controllable.

I’m on Lake Drive and I call “on your left” as I pass a rider. I’m level with him when he hurls an empty water bottle from right to left, across two lanes of the road and into the run course turn-around. I nearly have a heart attack as the bottle whizzes past my face. He nearly has one as well and is apologizing as I drop the hammer and get the hell out of there. I finish the bike course without incident but when I come off the bike, I pick up my bottle of Infinit and my heart sinks. It’s still about 1/3 full and the Gatorade bottle is untouched. I’ve taken too much water and not enough calories on the bike.

Sh*t. Again.

Bike Split: 6:20:21 – 4th AG / 89th Gender / 539th Overall

I’m into T2 without looking at my watch. I have no idea what time it is or if I’ve had a fast or a slow bike split. All I’m thinking is that given the cloudy / rain stormy forecast, I didn’t pack a hat in my transition bag – only a visor. It’s hella-hot outside and I’ve got no way to put ice on my head. I’ve not had enough nutrition. It seems early in the day and maybe I over-biked the course. My legs feel fine but still the thought cements itself in my head: You’re gonna DNF.

Time in T2: 8:06

Run

I’m all smiles as I hit the run course. Physically, I’m fine but mentally I’m Dead Woman Running.

I reach the first aid station and it’s hot. I rarely feel heat – I’m always cold. This time, the heat gets into my head and I make Bad Decision Number 3: I blow off my marathon plan.

I don’t take my electrolyte chews. I don’t drink my Infinit. I take some chips and some ice and some water and some Coke and I jog on. Every aid station is exactly the same drill. Ice. Water. Coke. A few chips. By Mile 6, I’m nauseous and I stop taking anything but water and ice. I actually dump my Infinit out of my bottle and replace it with ice water. I see my teammates and friends and even my coaches out on the course and they ask how I’m feeling and I make Bad Decision Number 4: I lie through my teeth to everyone. Every time I’m asked, I give the same answer - I’m great. Doing great! How is everyone else? Maybe if I’d told *anyone* what was going on, I could have gotten off the path to destruction I was traveling. But I kept going… without food… without electrolytes… just water and ice.

It's hot. My run turns into a jog turns into a wog turns into a walk turns into a shuffle. People are feeling the heat all over the place. I see people throwing up. I see people staggering. I’m at Mile 18 when the entire horizon starts to tremble and the road starts swimming beneath my feet. The realization that I’m in deep trouble hits and a part of my brain seems to step away from my body. It’s narrating my symptoms and I swear, it says in a British accent, “Here now… this *is* interesting… our athlete is experiencing the phenomenon known as ‘blowing up on the run’.”

I realize I can’t close my hands and when I hold them up, they are so swollen, I can barely flex my fingers. I’ve cleared the turnaround and am approaching Mile 20 when I see a friend going the other way. She sees I’m in trouble and offers me some salt. I take it, not knowing it’s the last thing I need.

At the next aid station, I see Rich Barkan going the other way. He calls out to me and I barely respond, which brings him to my side in a hurry. He assesses me and after I flunk the loose triathlon version of roadside sobriety test, he tells me to go to medical. I nod and shake my head at the same time. He threatens to walk me to medical, which would mean backtracking by half a mile for him. I wave him away and totter off. He is not happy.

I approach the medical tent and I finally make a Good Decision. I stop. I’m struggling for my name and my current address and I can’t remember the last thing I ate, but when speaking to the volunteer, I am clear that I’m on loop 2 and I want to finish the race.

I’m shaking.

I’m dizzy.

I’m nauseated.

I have Shrek-hands.

I manage to say something along the lines of “I make bad choices but which baddest and how to fix? Help.”

The volunteer sits me in a chair and has me turn out my pockets. He grabs my electrolyte chews. He tells me I’ve got too much sodium and water in my system and not enough of the other essential minerals. He says I’m bottoming out and asks if I can get a chew into me. I feel people putting mylar blankets around me. The chew dissolves in my mouth and I’m watching people vomiting and staggering and it’s all feeling a bit surreal but then the first chew is down and he’s asking if I can take another. I do and a few minutes after it’s done, the horizon stops trembling and my hands begin to deflate. Just then a woman puts her arm around me and announces that they’re going to transport me to town. The volunteer, who I learn is named Scott, stops her. “Don’t touch her. She’s got five miles to go and five hours to get there. She’s finishing today.”

I nod.

I’m finishing today.

Scott gets me to my feet. I’m pretty solid. He hands my chews to me and tells me to suck on another at the ski jumps before I make the turn to town. That’s about a mile up the road.

I make my next Good Decision. I follow his advice.

By the time I’m up the hill and through 22 miles, I’m actually able to alternate a little shuffle jog with a shuffle walk and I can make fists. I see chicken soup at an aid station; I take it and instantly I feel much-MUCH better. I make a mental note to put a thermos of chicken soup in my special needs bag at Mont Tremblant.

I pass my team as I approach Mile 24 and they are cheering their heads off. Nicole jumps in with me and I know she’s there but I can’t really get it together enough to react. I’m a mess. I wish I could have been more gracious in that moment. I make the final turnaround and as I come back to where they are gathered, I stop to ask where Forest is and to tell what happened. Forest is at the finish, they tell me. I start to say how sick I got and Dionne, who is absurdly supportive and absurdly efficient, says (and I quote): Finish now. Talk later. Go.

I go.

I get to the Olympic Oval and I make my next Good Decision. I stop and look around. I remember finding Rich and Beata Kopec. I see Fran. I see Forest, my sherpa who flew in from Ohio. I make sure I get all the hugs that are available for the getting. Then, finally, I cross the finish, but I am not done.

I go straight to the Medical Tent and ask to send a message to Scott in Medical on River Road.

“Please tell him Connie finished and he saved my race and thank him very much.”

The race director assures me the message will be delivered.

Then, finally, I am done.

Time for French fries.

Run Split: 5:40:37 – 30th AG / 287th Gender / 1,104th Overall

Total Race: 13:48:47 – 12th AG / 194th Gender / 865th Overall

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