- Sister Madonna Buder
I likely had one of the more unique Ironman weeks. I arrived home from Italy Tuesday night, July 20th, giving me just four solid days to pack, get myself to Lake Placid, rest and conquer jetlag. I spent the entire day Wednesday working from home and juggling errands prior to my early Thursday departure with a fellow tri club member (my boyfriend Mark would drive up late Friday with my bike and gear). I pulled up my meticulously prepared packing list - I can't recommend this enough for an Ironman, or any trip for that matter - and got to work. I was miraculously finished and in bed by midnight so not only had I accomplished a mountain of work in one day, I had powered through Day 1 jetlag like a pro.
The next couple days were wonderful. I checked in for the race, spent time with my friends Chris and Laura, who also raced IMWI last year, and enjoyed a beer or two from the Lake Placid Brewery. I did a short run with Laura on Thursday and a group swim Friday morning. I spent the rest of Friday in bed with my laptop, legs up, sipping G2 while sorting Italy photos. I peeled myself from bed only to attend the Athlete's Dinner and have another beer (carb-loading, you know...). Mark arrived Friday night with my bike and the remainder of my gear so everything was in place.
In the spirit of continuing to defy all logic as it relates to Ironman preparation, I had an unconventional day-before-the-race routine as well. I took care of the loose ends - had my bike checked out and took it for a spin, packed the gear bags and dropped them off, racked my bike and thought about Special Needs. But I also walked around town a bit with Mark rather than staying off my feet. We had lunch a bit later as well since our dinner plans weren't until 7:15. Rather than hit up a local restaurant for basic pasta, we had a reservation at Kanu at the Whiteface Lodge, our favorite Lake Placid spot. I ate a regular dinner with regular people and wasn't wearing a stitch of spandex. I didn't consume any electrolyte drinks, but rather a couple glasses of a nice, older Bordeaux. After all, I wasn't going to go pro or qualify for Kona on Sunday so I figured I might as well enjoy a beautiful Saturday night with my boyfriend in the place we love. It was perfect.
I was in bed by 10:30 and asleep by 11, pretty much a pre-race record for me... thank you jet lag! I got up at 3:30 a.m. and attempted to get going while allowing Mark a few more precious minutes of sleep. I know how exhausting it is to be an Ironman supporter and wanted to delay the start of his day as much as possible. So I sat in the semi-dark, already dressed in my race clothes, sipping coffee and nibbling my new favorite breakfast food thanks to Italy - toast with Nutella. I prepared two pieces but only managed to consume one, such is a race day stomach. All in all I felt great, but as usual, the emotions were on overload. I get very reflective before an Ironman and am likely to shed tears at least once.
We walked to Special Needs to drop off my bags and got a pre-dawn glimpse of the swim course. It always looks so calm and peaceful in that first morning light before 2,500+ athletes descend upon it. The walk was long and helped to calm the nerves. By the time I got to body marking I was feeling great. Whatever the day would bring was fine with me. I may not have trained the hardest, but I was ready.
Before getting into the water, we found a good spot for Mark to watch the swim exit so I had a hope of actually finding him. I suited up and said goodbye, knowing it would be at least 14 hours before we had another quiet moment. I swam across the lake to find a less aggressive start position and the National Anthem started as I floated in the water. I can't explain what it feels like to be in the water with so many athletes, wading and waiting, simultaneously anxious, excited and terrified. It's one of my favorite parts of the day and you know the moment that cannon goes off you'll be moving until later that night. It's incredible.
Oh the sea of humanity. You always here about how crowded and brutal the Lake Placid swim is so I was prepared for battle. It was definitely crowded, but likely due to my ultra-conservative start position, it thankfully wasn't brutal. I started far to the right of the docks and buoy line but not on the beach. I chose to be in the water a safe distance from the fasties right at the line, but not all the way in the back either. I think it was perfect. I reached the start line in a matter of seconds, but the first few hundred meters were slow going. You are literally sandwiched between people on all sides at all times. If I couldn't take a stroke I just stayed on my stomach until a sliver of water opened up to get my hand through. This spread out a tiny bit as we moved on, but the entire first loop was pretty compact. The draft is simply amazing. The water is crystal clear so you can see everyone around you and pick your draft targets effortlessly. You also don't need to look up to sight. I think the clarity of vision is why it was less physical than the IMWI swim, where you feel like you're swimming in the dark.
As I reached the end of the first loop I could hear the music and Mike Reilly's voice so I knew I was getting closer. I took a moment to look up - the spectacle of an Ironman swim is like nothing else so you want to pause and look at least once. My goggles were fogged so I couldn't see the clock until I was on the beach and was not happy with what I saw - 53 minutes. Listen, we all know I didn't put in the pool time I should have but 53 minutes for 1.2 miles was slow even for my slowness. I was a little disheartened but kept moving. The second loop was much more spread out, but it was here that I took my first and only kick to the head. Good to get it over with. It was really uneventful in general. I couldn't tell if I was faster, slower or the same as Loop 1 so I just tried to stay comfortable. As I neared the exit I ripped my goggles off expecting to see 1:40+ on the clock and was elated to see 1:29 instead. The Pro head start must have still been on the clock when I exited Loop 1! Silly Kristin.
Time - 1:29:51
This time I was able to run to T1, a nice change from IMWI. I looked like a deer in headlights as I searched the crowd for Mark and instantly changed to happy and smiles when I found him. I got a quick hug and was on my way, very happy with what I accomplished in the water given my training um, challenges (slacking).
The tent was dark, crowded and steamy so I grabbed my bag and did my quick work right outside the door. Only apparently I wasn't so quick. My transition times continue to be disgraceful! I must work on that. The rain started just as I left the tent. It was going to be a white-knuckling ride down the slick Keene descent.
Time - 11:12
Time - 11:12
Up next... the bike.