…to borrow a line from Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel in 1875… “nothing great is easy”. And IMLP was not easy. But it was great.
So to set the stage… 13 LOSTies signed up a year ago to do IMLP. Four were Ironman rookies (Julia, Dylan, Lambrina, Roger)… and one (Lambrina) could not swim… at all!… and the rest of us just needed a new challenge.
12 years ago, 3 years before I attempted the English Channel and started LOST Swimming as an afterthought, 4 of us did our first Ironman… Ironman Lake Placid. After one particular Wednesday night run out of the Running Room (which we still do to this day!)… and a few pints (several) after the run (which we also still do to this day), I told Alex that the bank I was working for could probably get us into IMLP for free and his response was that now famous LOST battle cry: “I’m in!”. Peter said he wasn’t though… as he couldn’t swim. Several beers later though, he could… and shouted with a little less exuberance: “umm… I guess I’m in too”. Followed by the other famous LOST battle cry: “How hard could it be?!”. We even got Deanna to join us a few days later… and then there were 4!
In 2003 few people had heard of Ironman. None of us had ever even met anyone who had done an Ironman, back then. In 2003 it was just the 5th annual Ironman in Lake Placid and the only other one in North America was IM Canada in Penticton, BC. Tells you how much the sport has taken off since then.
We really had no idea what we were getting into. But somehow all 4 of us completed it in the driving rain and hail. And my wife and 3 young kids (5, 9 & 12) were all there to cheer me in!
Skip ahead 12 years and this time I was competing against my wife and now 24 year old son. And tons of people have done an Ironman, but Ironman is one thing that isn’t diminished by the number of people that have done it. It never gets easier. And there is no “easy” Ironman. But there are some that are harder. And I would argue Lake Placid is among the very toughest… including Kona.
It didn’t disappoint this year either. And in case climbing 6800 feet on the bike and 4 large hills on the run wasn’t enough… weather again played a major role.
When we arrived on Thursday it was rainy and cold. Rain sucks. And it really sucks when it’s cold. And it sucks even more when you are going down the “Keene decent”. A windy, 10 km downhill. So steep that if you don’t touch your breaks you can easily get up over 70 kph! (I looked down VERY briefly on the bike on Sunday and saw 75 kph… before I hit the breaks)… I shudder to think what speed Brett and David got up to?! Pushing 100 kph? Let’s just say it’s a white knuckle ride.
Having said all that… the forecast changes constantly in Lake Placid, and we were all watching the forecast all week… all of which, right up until the night before said “rain”. But Lake Placid being what it is… it didn’t rain. It was hot. REALLY hot… and humid. 33C or so. And no one was expecting that.
So off we went.
Naturally I liked the swim. Partially because I like swimming and partially because by comparison it is much, much more enjoyable than what was to come on the bike and the run!
They had a “rolling start”, which I’ve never done before, but worked pretty well. It just means it is essentially like a mass start, but through a narrow starting arch. Which essentially limits the number of people that can start at one time. Your time doesn’t start until you cross the starting line anyway, so it doesn’t matter. And they used “self-seeding”, which is really smart. Like in a running marathon, they had guys in the crowd of swimmers standing there with estimated finish times, so you seed yourself where you want to be. If you are slow and want to be at the front… go ahead. But you are going to get trampled… and generally most people tend to want to avoid that.
Dylan and I were literally in the front row of about 15 swimmers across. Which was kind of cool. And scary. Like everyone, I was wondering if I was overestimating my speed a little. I really hadn’t done much swimming at all, but the bit I had done felt pretty good… so what the hell… I was at the front. Actually, with about 10 seconds to go I grabbed Dylan by the shoulders and pushed him in front of me. Second guessing myself. And giving me someone to draft off of!
Dylan dropped me immediately. A couple dozen swimmers blew by me in the first 150 meters or so. So naturally I thought I seeded myself wrong. But by 300 meters I had reeled them all back in. Cool.
I swam right on the rowing cable for the first lap, shoulder to shoulder with the 2nd and 3rd place women… well girls. They looked about 25 years younger than me! We finished the first lap and you run out on the beach for about 30 feet and back through the starting arch for the second loop. The second loop was fine until the second half. Then I got to see what it was like to get punched and kicked. In a mass start, as a strong swimmer, you usually get clear water, but with the 2 loop course and the “rolling start”, it delayed people to thin things out… but it meant we started lapping the pack. In fact, as we started running up out of the water, I thought “hey, that looks like Eileen?!”. It was. Boy, was she surprised to see me finishing my second lap! (in fairness to Eileen though, she did start quite a ways back!)
I didn’t know how I was placed or anything… top 50 or 75 maybe? Not bad for an old guy in a crowd of 2400 or so. I ran into the change tent, seeing only 3 other people in there is kind of an ego boost. And one yelled over “hey, DAD!” Dylan was just changing into his bike gear too, so I climbed over the row of chairs and he and I sat there and visited while getting changed. We had all the time in the world now… our race was over. Now we had an Ironman to do. We knew our moment of glory was gone and we had a ton of time and big mountains ahead of us, so we weren’t in a hurry anymore. Pretty cool to be racing with your son.
Dylan won the 18-24 age group in 56 minutes, 17th overall… I was 57 minutes, 24th overall… and 3rd in my age group! A bit of rip off there… some small consolation, one of the guys that beat me out of the water didn’t finish, so officially I was second. Briefly.
That was the highlight of Dylan and my races. The fact that I’m not going to go into nearly as much detail about the bike and run tells you something.
I actually had a good bike. Caught in no time by Brett… then David… then Al (screaming “on your LEFT!!!… to try and make me fill my pants!)… then Darren and I had a nice visit as he rolled by. I won’t bore you with the story of how hard the mountains are… but they are really hard. And you know that fast downhill, well, as Joanne says “what goes down, must go up”. A fair bit slower though. For me, a 7:00 hour 180 km ride on the bike is fine.
Then came the run. And the heat.
My goal was to finish. And to only walk during the aid stations… and the 2 big hills coming back into town. And I did… so I’ll call a 5:12 marathon a good run too, almost 2 hours slower than my best marathon time… but hey, that’s Ironman Lake Placid for you.
The nice thing about the double, out and back course is that you get to see all your buddies… a few times! I saw Eileen (she looked really strong, and was, she got some
revenge for me lapping her on the swim… she beat me by a few minutes on the run!)… I saw Lambrina a few times on the run, she looked strong too. She was a rookie, but she’s a very experienced marathoner and knew enough to do the training… and she did. I saw Brett when I started the run and he was coming back into town, I only had about 4 km on him and I knew he’d be lapping me soon! He didn’t. The poor bugger blew up. No injuries or anything, just the heat got to him. When you are “red-lining” it like that the extra heat can do you in. And it did. But he was smart, he shut it down and walked it in with a smile on his face. A sub-3 hour marathoner, who has never
walked in a marathon… and he walked the whole second half… and got ‘er done. Pretty cool (oh, and even walking the second lap he beat most of us!). I chatted with Alan a few times, he was just doing his thing… and got it done. And I saw Al coming in on the last lap… he looked like he was going to explode! I don’t think I saw anyone in the whole race trying harder than he was! Holy crap that guy races hard. But like he said “that’s how I race”. Speaking of how one races… then you have Darren… played 18 holes of golf the day before the race… and bowled (but that’s another story in itself?!)… and still kicked ass. He’s not inexperienced or stupid… he just can’t sit still! I saw Dylan several times and I would always cross the road and yell and cheer and give him a high five… I thought he must have been in the zone or something because he never said anything. He later told me he couldn’t. That’s how hard you work in an Ironman sometimes… that talking, even
briefly is hard and a waste of energy. I also saw Joanne. She didn’t have a good day. The heat got to her too. She’s completed 4 other Ironmen… but 2 of them she ended up in the medical tent with an IV because of dehydration (actually just 1 she ended up in the medical tent… IM Cda she ended up passed out on a park bench with me, Brett, Lamb, Maisey, Jill and Julia trying to take care of her!)… so given that she had been down this road before and knew how the story ended… she pulled the plug after walking most of the first loop and not being able to eat or drink due to the heat. It sucks to have to pack it in… we all know that… but it is still a very hard thing to do. But it was a good call.
I finished. Felt pretty good. Not my fastest IM, but maybe my best race… and I did kick my 38 year old butt… I beat my time from 12 years earlier by 11 minutes! Joanne was already out of the medical tent by then and met me at the finish, it is always nice to see a familiar face at the finish. But the best part of my race was waiting a half an hour to see Dylan finish (okay partly because I beat him… after he beat me by half an hour in his first 1/2 Ironman!), but mostly because of how heart warming it was to see him finish. I’ve done a lot of endurance races and sometimes I forget what it’s like to do that first one. He came across the finish sobbing. I was a bit scared at first, but then realized he was just that emotional. If you haven’t done a race as hard as this, and most people haven’t, it is hard to adequately express how much the physical exertion effects you emotionally. Strips you to the core. Congrats Dylan… you are an IRONMAN!
Congrats to all my LOST buddies, you are all IRONMEN! (yes, Joanne, that includes you! The previous 4 still count… they can’t take that away from you!).
Also thanks to all the LOST supporters too… it was really nice to see your smilin’ faces out there!… Celine, Angela, Jazlyn, Ethan, Mark, Matthew, Georgie, Joe (great hat!) and Rick… well, maybe not Rick… but everyone else! ;-p
Another great adventure.
So as Darren, David and Al were saying the next morning… “what’s next?!”
… oh, and here are the results… for those that are into stuff like that! haha!