by Jenny Redding
3:45AM time to rise and shine race morning! Of course, any other day I am ravenous when I wake up but on race morning it is always a project to eat. I stuck with peanut butter and a banana and some coffee. During the week leading up to the race I try to eat food that doesn’t have a lot of additional fiber or seeds – especially whole flax seeds. The wreak havoc on my GI track. I also take 2 Imodium the morning of the race to ward off any potential GI issues when I am running.
Transition opens at 4:30 and there was not much for me to do but check my tires, put my nutrition on my bike and pair my bike computer. I headed back to the hotel room to try to relax for a few minutes. It wasn’t relaxing so I headed to the swim start. I ran into a few friends, warmed up in the lake and seeded myself in the 1:10 to 1:20 swimmers. Last year I was farther up and I didn’t like being overtaken every few seconds by waves of swimmers. This was a good choice for me.
I also have been working on my anxiety at the swim start. I have found that swimming a little bit in the beginning with my head out of the water gives me the ability to breathe through that initial heart rate spike and shortness of breath. For me, any swim where I do not have to stop at the beginning is a good swim!
There isn’t a lot to report on the swim; my primary goal is to not have such a big gap getting on the bike that I cannot overcome it. I felt good, the swim didn’t take too much out of me and I managed to not get kicked, hit, or pushed under the water. Out of the swim I found a wet suit stripper but for some reason I was afraid if I got down I couldn’t get back up. But they can’t pull off your wetsuit while standing so I managed to lie on the ground. I am not sure why this seemed so difficult but it was.
Off to T1. I saw Jon to the left on my way to the oval. I always look to get a read off of him about how I am doing but at this stage of the race he knows I need to focus on the bike and run and not think about the swim. So I am just happy he is there and I know I need to keep focused. Farther down on the right were my daughters cheering for me. I love that they come to Lake Placid for this race. Beforehand, I let them know the only expectation I have of my daughters is to encourage me to run me up the hill after Lisa G’s, so whenever I see them anywhere else on the course I am happy. I did hear other people call my name, but I wasn’t able to identify them. Thank you, whoever you are, for shouting my name!
T1 was a breeze, I grabbed my bag ran into the tent and put on my helmet, sunglasses, and shoes. I had debated briefly putting on a long sleeve shirt before the swim but I decided it was warm enough not to wear it. This was a decision I was very happy about later in the day.
On the bike there were a lot of people heading out, which is usually the case for me based on my swim time. The roads were damp but overall it was a fantastic day so far. I focused on getting out of town and then settling in and eating. I had packed 2 cliff bars, 1 homemade granola bar, and 3 sleeves of Gatorade chews. I had bought a bunch of gels but I forgot all about them until I packed my stuff to leave Monday.
I had experimented with a few different bars and I had the best outcome with the cliff bars. It was quiet climbing out of town I was looking forward to the descent. It came much sooner than I was expecting. With the roads still damp and a lot of other riders around I took the first descent easier than I planned to do the second loop.
After Keene is my favorite part of the course. This is where you get to settle in and really ride. I was on fire! I felt like I had a motor on my bike. There was a bit of a tail wind and the miles clipped away with ease. I kept an eye on my IF (intensity factor). The goal was .78 to .8. Jon and I discussed prior to the race what my strategy should be. I have been able to ride .76 to .78 in the past and still run relatively well. But here we wanted to make the extra push to shoot for qualifying. We also had a backup plan in the event my power meter didn’t work. (In Texas, my Garmin 500 never paired with my power meter). My goal time for the bike was a 5:50. I have rode Placid in 5:54 and 5:58. This would mean an average of 19.3 MPH (the backup plan). Fortunately we had such a backup plan because about 2 hours in to the ride my power stopped picking up in my Garmin. I was good. Heading into Wilmington my average MPH was 22.
The first loop flew by. It was cold and windy the last 14 miles into town and I probably pushed a little harder than I should but I saw that I was going to finish the first loop in 2:45. That would buy me a few minutes for the pain I was expecting in the second loop. At the top of Papa Bear were tons of people cheering and screaming. Jon looked very excited now and I knew I was kicking some ass. I let him know that I no longer had power of cadence feedback but since we had a backup plan I could still keep focused and watch average MPH.
Going through town is incredible I had passed a ton of people so the course was much more open and I could actually ride full speed. I also always hear my name announced which is cool because I never remember hearing it when I finish.
Then it happened, the sun came out and never went away. It got very hot on the bike. I made sure I kept my focus on nutrition. My strategy was to eat a lot on the bike to avoid being undernourished on the run like in Texas. I made sure to eat every half hour or so. In addition to the Cliff bars and granola bar I had packed, I grabbed gels at the aid stations and stuck to mostly the Gatorade. Typically, I will alternate between water and Gatorade but it was hot and I could feel that I need the electrolytes. Plus, I really like the orange Gatorade Endurance. I also grabbed a half a banana and a mini cliff bar. I was not successful in eating all the Gatorade chews. The packaging is terrible and I dropped them before I could get them out of the wrapper.
The second loop was not as pretty as the first but I knew I needed to keep strong to make the 5:50 goal. I was still passing people and I just continued to keep that goal in sight and push over each hill. The descent was dry and I had all the room in the world. I flew down that hill. It was incredible. 9N was not as fast as the first loop but still proved to be as fun and beautiful as always. Last year at mile 90 I hit a wall. I was tired this year but it didn’t feel the same. I could muscle through the hills and I was still managing to pass people. Turning to go to Wilmington my average MPH was closer to 20 so I knew I had to work hard but I also know that there are a lot of opportunities to make up speed in the last 20 miles. I had plenty of time to make my goal. The head wind was still there going up 86 but now it was blazing hot too. I took advantage of the flat sections and rode. The crowd at the top of Papa Bear had thinned but I didn’t care, I knew I was going to make my goal and I even had a few minutes to spare.
I got off the bike in 5:47 and change which is a PR on that bike course for me. I can never run in transition off the bike! I am so stiff. I hopped in a port’o’ John quickly to relieve myself. I never had to go on the bike despite drinking 6-8 bottles of Gatorade and water. That was an indication of the heat.
I changed quickly and declined the sunscreen in transition. Probably not a good idea! On the run I knew I felt better than I had in Texas. I could actually run! I was not very hungry, which was the plan so I settled in and tried to get in a rhythm. Jon and the girls were at the top of “Rich Clark Hill” along with tons of people from Buffalo. I felt like a rock star running by them.
On the way down to River Rd. the 1st – 4th place men went by. I saw my friend Dan Szajta run by with an amazing time! Then came River Rd. It was blazing hot! I was in Lake Placid, what was the deal with this heat? And, where did all the wind go that I had on the bike? I had to slow down through the aid stations. I don’t remember how far I ran before I decided to walk some. I also had the feeling like I could go to the bathroom, so I stopped in a port’ o’ John. It must have been 200 degrees in there. I was worried I would pass out and no one would know where I was LOL So I was out of the potty and back on the run.
The first out and back on River Rd. was not fun. I did have the sense that I was doing well since there were not a lot of people out there. That was good but a little boring too. River Rd provides ample time to reflect on why one chooses to participate in such crazy and hard event. Needless to say I decided several times that I would switch to short course, but I would make this one count since it was going to be my last full distance. Mind you, I say this in every marathon too.
Off River Rd. and back to town on the first loop is tough because you want to be so much farther along than you really are. I was coming to the bottom of the hill and there was Jordan and Jenna waiting for me. They wanted me to run but I didn’t think I could. They were full of support and told me I was doing really well. They got me to run at least part of the way up that hill. at the top were all the Buffalo peeps screaming and cheering. Jon was there and he let me know that I had an excellent chance of qualifying. Of course I was telling him I was going to die and I couldn’t possibly make it (I definitely say this at the half marathon point in every ironman!). He knew I could dig deep and keep going. “You’ve never been this close” and I think he might have said something like suck it up but in a much nicer way.
In town, it is almost impossible to walk because there are so many spectators. The crowd gets you through the horrible fact that you are still running uphill! I had not eaten much so I grabbed a gel. I try to eat a few gels on the run to keep up my energy. This did not sit well and gave me a HUGE cramp in my stomach. I had no idea what to do. At this point, I circled back and saw Jon. I let him know about the cramp. I was in second place at this point and he told me to get some salt.
I knew there were people with salt up ahead. I also knew that there was a trick to the salt because a friend took some in Texas and tossed it back and it was a tube of plain salt! I asked the girl how to use it. Lick you thumb, tip the container, lick the salt off your thumb. Repeat every couple of miles. This is the most disgusting thing ever! I couldn’t get the salt taste out of my mouth. The cramp went away but I attribute it to the gross taste of the salt keeping me from thinking about the cramp.
I have never been in second place in my age group in an Ironman. I knew there were three slots for Kona. I had no idea what the gap was between me and the first place and third place racers in my age group. I also didn’t remember passing any people in my age group on the run. Once again, I am out on River Rd. Now I am focused on finishing. The miles go by relatively quickly. I still had to walk through a lot of aid stations because it was hot and I could feel my skin was suffering from not using sunscreen.
I didn’t want to lose my place. I started to try to run through aid stations. There were a lot more people on the course now and I was seeing my friends and one of the athletes I coach. On my way into town, I saw another of my athletes. I was so excited to see her out on the run course.
Then, I got to the bottom of the hill where Jordan and Jenna were once again waiting to encourage me to run, not walk, up the hill. They told me I looked great (I felt much better than the first time) we walked a little and then shuffled up the hill. Jon was there cheering for me. I turned the corner and headed into town for my last out and back. The slowest feeling miles of the entire race! I had no idea at this point if I had lost my lead. I was focused on finishing. With about .5 miles left I glanced at my watch to see what my marathon time would be. I felt that I had walked a lot and that I maybe was going to be running a 4:15 which I knew would have been to slow for a Kona spot. Much to my surprise, it read 3:49! OMG I was coming in under 4 hours for the marathon with 2 pointless bathroom stops!I crossed the finish line and was caught by, Dave, a member of the BTC. It was nice to have local person there at the finish. When I saw Jon he gave me the news. SECOND PLACE in my age group. Was that possible??? Second place, I couldn’t believe it until I had the award in my hand. I was so hot I went back to the hotel and jumped in the lake.
I was able to go back a watch my athletes finish their races with ample time to spare. What a fantastic day and great race. I would not change my strategy or execution. From 63rd in my age out of the water, to 4th off the bike, to 2nd after the run, in my book that’s a great day.