Thursday, July 29, 2010

Putting the Disaster Back in "Disaster Magnet": IM Lake Placid Race Report

The Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) race report blog... I considered not writing it. I considered curling up in a ball and hiding for a few years until I could face my reflection again. Then along came an angel named Ruth. Ruth is my husband's cousin's wife. She is also my friend and, oftentimes, she is the singular voice of reason and perspective on Facebook. Ruth made me realize there's more to a race than the end result, and helped me pinpoint meaning behind my IMLP debacle. This could be it: the Disaster Magnet blog NEEDS the disaster stories. I mean, where would I be if it were another "look how wonderful I am" athlete blog? Ruth also said that I might inspire others to look at things differently through my own mishaps. That's all I ever could hope for as a legacy.

So, then, how do tell this story? It didn't really start out a disaster-in-the-making. It started out a smart race strategy playing out exactly as planned, an almost-perfect execution backed up by strong fitness and brain-work. I did not enter IMLP to "finish" -- I entered with the goal to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Upon arriving in Lake Placid on July 21, the J-Team (my husband Jim, my amazing friend Julie and I) had a plan. The plan was to stay calm and relaxed and scope out the area, transition zone and course logistics to ensure no surprises on race day. The rest of the time would be spent sightseeing in the little Adirondack village that had the distinction of hosting the Olympic Winter Games not once, but twice, in 1932 and in 1980. My parents-in-law, who also wanted to see the Adirondack region (and the race, bless them), would meet us there.

The plan worked well. By the end of the next day we had taken care of the vitals:
  • the race registration
  • the "scope out"
  • the "course drive" (viewing the bike course)
  • the yearly tradition of eating (and drinking) at a local brewpub -- this time we hit two: Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and the Great Adirondack Brewing Co.
  • the grocery shopping at the local Price Chopper (in college, it was affectionately known as a "Chopper Run")
In the following two days came sightseeing at the former Olympic venues:
  • the Olympic Museum -- which displayed such things as medals from different games, Sonia Hennie memorabila, and bobsleds throughout time
  • the ice rinks -- including Herb Brooks Arena, the legendary place where a bunch of USA college kids shocked the world by beating the Soviets and winning the Gold Medal in 1980
  • the massive towering ski jumps
  • the ski-slopes of Whiteface Mountain (via gondola)
It was a memorable three days, but race morning finally arrived on July 25. We awoke -- well, I "arose" after a sleepless night -- at 3:30 a.m. The pre-race preparations went smoothly: shower, drive to start, body marking, bike prep, final transition bag check and dropping off of special needs bags. The swim started at 7 a.m.

The 2.4-mile IMLP swim is a two-loop counter-clockwise course in Mirror Lake with a deep-water mass-start. Jim - the engineer - had already determined that the geometry of the course -- a very narrow rectangle -- provided just a small distance penalty for swimmers starting wide to the right. Using my husband's geekiness to my advantage, I started on the front line and my swim went perfectly. I stayed relaxed, found a set of feet to draft off and experienced none of the usual crowded Ironman swim clobbering, despite warnings from other athletes about this particular swim. The result was my fastest time -- just under an hour.

The swim-to-bike transition at IMLP is a long run from the lake, but it went very quickly, and I was on my bike in a flash. It did help that I had my bike racked at the very end of the bar, adjacent to the run path. (That was luck, not skill.)

The 112-mile bike course is also two loops. It starts with a very short steep downhill followed by a left turn. Here's where the fun began. In classic Disaster Magnet style, I hit a bump in the road at the bottom of the hill and launched both my nutrition bottles -- this, after SPECIFICALLY replacing my bottle cages with new "no launch" models a few days before. I had to stop and retrieve them for two reasons: littering is prohibited on the course and all my race calories were in them.

The bike course leaves Lake Placid via the road past the Olympic ski jumps -- another steep, short downhill. At the bottom? You guessed it -- another bump in the road. My bottles became projectiles a second time. Retrieving them took a few moments longer this time because a state trooper decided to help out by tossing a bottle back to me. Doesn't he KNOW I can't catch? The rest of my ride would be characterized by constant bottle checks. In fact, I got so paranoid about bottle catapulting that I almost didn't notice when my gel flask was ejected out of the pocket of my bike shorts. I am NOT making this up. It was a comedy of errors. At one point, I even collided with someone else's bottle left in the road. Fortunately for anyone behind me, the impact with my front wheel gave it a perfect spiral and sent it into the grass.

So yeah, the IMLP bike course. The difficulty of this course is matched only by its beauty. It follows scenic hills, rivers, gorges and even takes in the slopes of Whiteface Mountain. Stunned by the scenery, you may reach a point of bliss during which you happily forget the 13 miles of hills coming in the latter part of each loop. The best part of the IMLP bike course is the aptly-named "screaming descent" into the town of Keene. Except, I was the one screaming -- from fear of spontaneous combustion upon reaching speeds I'd never seen before. The descent comes just after the climb out of Lake Placid.

The climbs on the IMLP course are deceiving, and I believe a five- to ten-minute deficit in the two loops is almost inevitable, irrespective of your ease of effort or biking prowess. I stayed in an aerobic state and finished the second loop about seven minutes slower than the first even though my bottles stayed put. I arrived at the bike-to-run transition feeling relatively relaxed and exactly where I wanted to be time-wise. OK, maybe not exactly. I had hoped to be a little faster, but I refused to panic. My bike nutrition had been flawless -- no nausea, no light-headedness, no dehydration.

The bike-to-run transition seemed like a maze, but all I had to do was follow the finger-pointing of the volunteers. They sent us right by a wall of porta-johns. This is a good thing if you have to "go." This is also a good thing if you DON'T have to "go" but want to give other competitors the slip because they DO have to "go." When I got to the change tent, I had yet another projectile awareness. As I grabbed my socks, shoes, hat, Gu Roctane and Endurolytes, I noticed I had lost one more thing on the bike course: my asthma inhaler. I started repeating the revelation: "my inhaler? my inhaler is gone!" The poor volunteer helping me dove desperately into my transition bag to find it. "No, no! I LOST my inhaler on the bike!" She was not amused, but, as I can say about all the volunteers, she is a saint.

The 26.2-mile run starts on a downhill, rolls a bit, then continues on a downhill -- the same downhill that the bikes follow past the ski jumps and out of Lake Placid. It would have been easy to hammer that hill, but I held back and listened to the voice of reason, the one that studied those "how to race Ironman" books, blogs and articles for six months. Jim and Julie informed me I was 12th in my age group and the leader was only 15 minutes ahead. I went out relaxed, took in water, sports drink, and Gu exactly as I trained. My pace was around 7:15-7:30 per mile on the downhills but then settled around 7:35-7:45. The run course is also very scenic, but eventually it's an uphill battle back into town. My pace dropped to 8:30 on the uphills.

Heading into the second loop, Jim and Julie yelled to me that I was now running in fourth place in my age group. After the downhills, I started to feel a bit bloated so I interspersed electrolyte tablets in my feeding regime. I had to walk a bit from the bloating, and noticing my distress, another athlete asked if I was ok. I said "I just need to throw up." His response? "Just GIT'R DONE!" Some people apparently have a much better grip on these things than I do -- that was NOT my first thought. Around mile 17, it got itSELF done. My stomach distress vanished instantly, and I was back on pace, feeling good aerobically but beginning to feel some fatigue in my legs. I continued to drink well and managed to pass two more women in my age group. The leader was all that was left. I was at 19 miles.

Little did I know that my race was about to come apart. The nausea came back, and at the next water stop, I was bent over vomiting many times. Out came the entire contents of my stomach -- basically, a LOT of liquid. The volunteers at the aid station sat me down and tried to work through it with me. They surmised I was severely dehydrated. They also noticed I was shivering. They gave me sports drink, pretzels, a wind-breaker jacket and a mylar blanket. I got up and tried to start running again. I managed to walk-jog to the next water stop, but I was losing focus and I decided to seek medical help. That was the end of my race.

The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground wrapped in blankets with tremors in my body and begging the medical volunteers to help me finish. Instead, they stuck me with an I-V and put me in an ambulance to the finish line. At my request, one of them called Jim to tell him what happened and to meet me at the medical tent.

This was NOT how it was supposed to end. I was supposed to hear my name as I crossed the finish line. I was supposed to get my Kona slot. I was supposed to get my Ironman P.R. How did this happen?

At this point, I'm lost in analysis, determining where to go from here, what signal I obviously missed, and what I might do to avoid having the same thing happen next time. Did I say next time? Oh yes. There will be a NEXT time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

No Miracles Left for me in Lake Placid

Here's a quick update for anyone curious about how my Ironman race went in Lake Placid yesterday (or wondering why I DNFed). I had my fastest IM swim, a good bike time, and was having the run of my life when my stomach shut down sometime in the late miles of the marathon. After an epic vomiting session around mile 20, I was hit with severe dehydration and collapsed after seeking medical assistance at the aid station around mile 21. For most of the run, I was feeling strong, and when I dropped out, I was in second place in my age group, on pace for a sub-11:00 Ironman and a likely Kona slot.

I haven't quite recovered from the disappointment and sense of complete and utter failure. People say it will get better with time and distance, but today, my eyes are too filled with tears to see that far. I had such high hopes, long training hours and money invested in this race and now I have nothing to show for it.

I spent many hours lying awake last night analyzing what might have gone wrong: too aggressive a pace, a sleepless night before, nutrition errors, etc. But the thing that most frustrates me is how rapidly and decisively my race fell apart with no opportunity to regroup. I begged the medical volunteers to help me find a way to finish, but they said my race was over and put me in an ambulance to the finish line.

I had expected to arrive there in a completely different state (and state of mind).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Once and Future Goals

Seven days to Ironman Lake Placid and I'm well into my taper. I've been sounding like a broken record complaining about how sluggish and heavy I've been feeling (the usual taper doldrums) and how worried I am about all the little aches and pains that are creeping up. Jim says I'm "saying exactly the same thing you always do during a taper." I'll have to trust him on this one.

The last time I was in Lake Placid, I didn't even know Jim. The most, and only, significant thing about Lake Placid was its Olympic history as the site of the "Miracle on Ice." It was a place to which you could never really "go" because the only way to "go" there would be to do it in a time-machine set to February 1980. And at my age, the excitement of seeing Mike Eruzione's goal in person would probably kill me.

But, in 1984, I did "go" to Lake Placid. Not in a time machine, but in a car. AND it was during the summer, when there was no snow -- and no hockey. I was with my college boyfriend and his brother and another guy who had some insane idea that he was going to hike to Mount Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks, carrying nothing but a book of descriptions of "edible plants." We were such a bunch of hippies that we thought it was a brilliant idea. We dropped him at a trailhead, nine miles from his destination, and headed for Lake Placid.

Driving through Lake Placid was not what I expected. Lake Placid was not the "great city in the clouds." It was a little Adirondack village. There was one main road and the Olympic ski jumps rose above it like the towers of a great European cathedral. And just like that, it was gone. A tiny little mountain town that captivated the world by being the site of the ultimate underdog story. As a hockey fanatic, that U.S. Olympic moment was such a huge part of my formative years that I still use it as one of my "I remember exactly what I was doing when" stories. Going there the first time should have been a pilgrimage, but instead, it was just a "drive-by." Besides the ski jumps, the only other thing I remember was a hot dog stand called "Custard, Mustard and Brew."

Going back will be the pilgrimage. This time, I'm looking for my own miracle, my own underdog story. Physically, I'm in the best shape since my 2003 bike accident. But Ironman is mostly a mental race, and I want to do it right, with a good race strategy. Miracles rarely happen without some help from the weather, equipment and smart planning. But at the end of the day, I just want to know I did the best I could.

As most of my friends know, I'm notorious for setting goals based on passion, way above what's achievable, that usually end in failure. This time, I wanted realistic goals, based on logic, that don't depend on anyone else's race. I started out with some goals that were 99.9% reachable and worked downward from there. So without further delay, here are my Ironman Lake Placid Goals:
  • Stop at "Custard, Mustard and Brew" (I Googled it, and it still exists. Failure rate: 0.1%)
  • Make the pilgrimage to the Olympic ice hockey rink. (I didn't Google it, but it MUST exist. Failure rate: 0.1%)
  • Pack clothes for all conditions (even snow) and PUT THEM IN MY SPECIAL NEEDS BAGS. (After hypothermia in June in Coeur d'Alene, I think I've learned my lesson, nonetheless, it's not failsafe, so failure rate: 5%)
  • Go to sleep early, the goal request from J-Team member Jim. (Knowing my history, failure rate: 30%)
  • Smile at least once on the run. (Feasible if I do it at the beginning of the run, failure rate: 32%)
  • Stay focused and go out easy on the bike and run. (Knowing my history, but remembering success at the Pittsburgh Marathon, failure rate: 35%)
  • Enjoy the experience, no matter what happens. (I've been getting better at this, failure rate: 37%)
  • Get a decent finish line photo -- i.e., one where I'm mostly conscious, standing up straight, and my eyes point in the same directions. If possible, raise my arms and attempt to smile if my facial muscles still work. (I've partially succeeded in this in the past, failure rate 42%)
  • Stay out of the medical tent! another J-Team goal (As the Disaster Magnet, I've never successfully done this in an Ironman, failure rate: 70% ... i.e., not impossible)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Uncomfortably Numb

There are eleven days to Ironman. I have two race simulation workouts left. I should have done one today, but the J-Team stayed out too late learning all about wine, so today has been declared a day off.

But now I'm dealing with the most uncomfortable thing about the Ironman taper -- the sluggishness and lethargy. Sitting in front of the TV, my legs feel like two balloons. What causes it? How does cutting back to 50% of my training make me feel like I've gained 50 pounds of water weight? No matter how many times I experience it, it's still disorienting and panic-inducing. It's hard to do nothing when you're used to training an average of 2-3 hours per day. During a taper, all sorts of things start to creep in:
  • Depression, anxiety -- for many of us, training is the "drug" -- it's how we self-medicate for daily stress, but nothing is more stressful than a big important race looming on the horizon
  • The so-called "phantom" pains -- strange pains just pop out of nowhere in places that never hurt before
  • Heavy legs -- this could be a real effect of holding onto water and carbs or it could be the effect of drinking too much wine last night (there's no way to be completely sure but I'm going with the former)
  • Sleep issues -- the body isn't working as hard, so it has much more energy and not as tired as usual
Here's where athletes sometimes make mistakes. I made the "big one" before the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2008. With all the extra energy and no long run, I spent the weekend before the race cleaning the walls of and painting my kitchen. Who knew painting was such a strenuous activity? I woke up the next day with severe hip pain that translated into an excruciating last ten miles of the marathon. Lesson learned. When they say "don't use the extra energy during your taper to do spring cleaning," that INCLUDES housework of any sort (except, perhaps, sitting down and folding laundry).

The other mistakes I don't want to make this time is gaining or losing weight. It's quite easy to gain weight during a taper when you're used to eating huge amounts of food to keep up with the huge amount of calories you're burning. But losing weight is something I never thought about until I dropped more than five pounds in two weeks going into the 1999 Cleveland Marathon. I still don't know how it happened, but it resulted in my starting the race in such a state of fatigue that I had to drop out of at mile 15.

But, to get away from the usual Disaster Magnet-type thinking (i.e., negative), there are things I plan to keep in mind during my taper: reduce mileage while keeping the intensity up, drink more water daily to hydrate well and keep my appetite in check, practice relaxation techniques, and get more sleep.

And maybe, think positively.

(For anyone struggling with the same taper doldrums, try putting your mind at ease with this article: Marathon Taper Traps)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Race Resolutions, Relaxation and The Real TB

Twelve days to race day. I wrote in an earlier blog that I'd set some goals for the J-Team (previously known as "Team J"). One third of the J-Team -- my husband Jim -- spoke up last night after reading the blog.

He gave me a sort of tell-tale smile: "Does one of these team goals involve sleeping the night before the race?" Ouch.

Good question. I vaguely remember "sleeping" was one of my early-season race resolutions. Have I done anything about it? Not really. Four months ago, I was supposed to start going to sleep early. I didn't even start going to sleep early THIS month.

I defend myself: "I'm getting energized for my race by watching the Tour de France."

Jim strikes back: "DVR." Damn. So much for that excuse.

I guess I'll be practicing nightly relaxation exercises for the next twelve days. And no caffeine after noon. And no.. um.. *sniff*.. no three-hour nightly Tour rebroadcast.

If that doesn't work, there's always my secret weapon. The British indie band Turin Brakes. When all else fails, it's the one thing I have going for me when it comes to sleeping at night: Turin Brakes' 2003 album "Ether Song." I rarely mention it. Why? you ask... Obviously, when mentioning your favorite band, the last thing you want to do is tell potential listeners that one of their amazing albums is the equivalent of counting sheep.

There's so much more to it. When I first heard "Ether Song," it wasn't the sonic version of a siesta. It was a constant companion in my waking hours -- a brilliant mix of stormy and calm that sent shivers down my spine no matter how many times I listened.

Then came the accident -- the closed-head trauma, the neck injuries, the neck brace, the stuck-in-one-position-staring-at-the-ceiling-sleepless nights, the I-might-as-well-be-taking-speed effect of the steroids. After I struggled for hours one night while watching the time tick away, Jim suggested I try the iPod (perhaps my whimpering was keeping him awake?) It was that moment I discovered the drug that was "Ether Song."

I drifted through the first three songs, and, the next thing I knew, it was five hours later and daylight. That's a pretty powerful drug. The next several days, I tried other albums with no luck (well, to be fair, I did have intermittent luck with Radiohead's "Kid A"). But as soon as I played "Ether Song," I was out like a light. So this was it.. my favorite band puts me in a coma.

Little did I know that shortly thereafter, I would actually have the opportunity to tell them that. How, or more importantly, WHY, would you ever tell musicians that their music puts you to sleep? And why would you make it one of the first things you ever said to them? I still don't know, but at least I got a chance to explain... and, oddly, Turin Brakes' singer, Olly Knights, was not at all surprised by my revelation. He was almost, dare I say, thrilled to hear it. Like it was planned that way. Maybe to him, "Ether Song" didn't induce sleep, it induced a state of complete euphoria.. that then translated to sleep. The perfect drift off...

And there it is. My secret weapon. Something I will have to call upon once more because I didn't work on my anxiety issues and race-week panic attacks. And what's wrong with that?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Swimming for my Life - and for Team J

T-minus 13 days to go to Ironman Lake Placid. This past weekend of workouts was the last opportunity to significantly effect my race (the age-old 14-day rule). Now it's taper, taper, taper, and rest up. We leave for Lake Placid in nine days. Tomorrow night is the first pre-race logistics meeting of Team J (Jim has suggested we change the name to "The J-Team").

I have several race concerns, but only one real fear -- the Ironman swim. It usually hits me before the race, and yesterday was the day, when I went for an open-water swim. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I will NEVER get used to the mass chaos of the Ironman swim. I don't know if I'm the only one who feels this way, but there's something really terrifying about being in the water with over 2000 people all swimming for the same point, like we're all one microsecond away from drowning. I am deathly afraid of getting clobbered by all those arms and legs, especially when it seems like most people around me are not very good swimmers.

Here's an idea: people who don't stand a chance of swimming between 50 minutes and 1:10, stay out of the front lines. You know who you are. My goggles don't stand a chance with your flailing arms and legs. Please don't force me to kick you in the face when your hand "accidentally" wraps itself around my ankle. And what's up with that? Why do you GRAB my ankle? I may have lost weight this year, but I am NOT a lane-line. (Besides, you shouldn't be grabbing the lane-lanes anyway!) Just the thought of the trouncing I'll suffer sends chills down my spine.

And yet, amazingly enough, nobody drowns.

Now that I've declared my swimming fear, I can say that I am looking forward to swimming in the pre-race warm-ups that week. It's where the reuniting of Team J really hits home. Julie and Jim take it upon themselves to babysit me and my stuff and work out registration details and logistics while all I have to do is get in the water and swim. And they do it all while both carrying cameras to catch all those Disaster Magnet moments. They're my lifeline. When I see them standing on the shore, they're like two great beacons or lighthouses keeping me safe (it helps that they're both tall). This year, in addition to surviving the swim, I'm setting some goals with Team J in mind. I'll write more about that in an upcoming blog.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


There are 15 days and three hard workouts left, and I'm currently trying to keep the fear at bay. The questions started this week with my taper. It was over 90 degrees every day and yet, when I ran/bike/swam, I was running/biking/swimming faster than I have all season. This isn't something that usually happens during a taper.

During a taper, I usually feel worse before I feel better. Heavy legs and lethargy are the rule. This time, the lethargy is there, but the speed is also there. It doesn't make sense. Taking one rest day shouldn't translate into "fastest times of the season" during my training sessions, and yet, that seems to be what's happening. I don't know whether to panic that I've tapered too soon or feel good that my taper is "working."

This season I've been using a training plan and workout suggestions from two sources: the book "Going Long" by Joe Friel & Gordon Byrn and an Ironman Training plan from Ben Greenfield through the Training Peaks website. I worked up a program to specifically address my major personal limiters: bike speed and muscular endurance. I mostly customized training suggestions from Joe Friel's book and threw in hard run workouts from Greenfield because they were similar to what I've successfully done in the past when marathon training. I worked through the confusion of how many long (80-100 mile) rides and (20+ mile) runs to complete -- Friel doesn't give any numbers, and Greenfield has only one century ride and one really long run (not even 20 miles). I also reasoned through my mental inability to do hard intervals daily as suggested in Greenfield's plan. Sometimes, I just threw in a mental break and did an LSD (long slow distance) workout midweek to alleviate other mental stresses (such as work). As my doctor would say, I self-medicate by running, and this year, I often needed to remind myself that endurance training is still fun. I hope this does not sacrifice my performance in Lake Placid.

So now, as I said in a previous blog, my biggest concern is how to taper. The two training plans are radically different in their tapers. Friel suggests a three week taper ("peak") with four race-simulation bike-run workouts -- with mostly recovery and rest in between. Greenfield suggests many short but hard interval sessions similar to the weekly structure of his training plan. I decided to go with Friel's plan because, with my lack of races this year, it makes more sense to practice race-simulations, and I selfishly wanted more rest because last week I was mentally and physically spent.

However, now I'm experiencing quite a different feeling. The key in the next two weeks will be to keep a lid on the stress and stay positive about all the work I've done. As my husband says, "focus on racing smart and just do what you have to do, and the rest will fall into place." Hmm.. it makes sense. Even the Disaster Magnet can understand rational thought once in a while.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Can't Register Unless You Have A Good Story

Yesterday, I completed the registration process for the Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida (that's a mouthful!). It took about three hours, two false starts, and I have more gray hair now than I did yesterday morning.

It all starts with a piece of paper. After you pay your registration fee at the qualifying race, you are handed a qualification "letter" with a password and an outline of the registration process (what, I'm not registered completely when I write the check???). After the line "please make certain you do not lose this letter," the bullets on the page explain exactly how and when you are to "complete your registration" and exactly what will happen during the registration process.

Except, what's on the page is not what happened yesterday when I started the registration process on Now, I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack, but I'm pretty sure I can follow directions, and my first attempt looked almost entirely unlike what was described in the directions. So I gave up. But because I started already, I deleted my browser cache and cookies just to be sure my first attempt "history" was eradicated.

Then I ate lunch. Before attempting the registration again, I had to be sure my morning swim had not depleted me of more than physical energy.

I made attempt number two. Attempt number two was entirely unlike attempt number one. This time, the Ironman site had a message telling me to login to (hmmm.. did I miss this the first time? or was it not there?). I decided to login first because I never got the option in the previous attempt. Then I clicked the qualifier link on A-ha! After completing the waiver, the system "found me" and the "continue" button actually showed up on the page this time. I clicked it and proceeded to the registration page. Cool. Name, password, address, emergency contact, USAT number, ... easy enough.

NOT EASY. After the factual details, the registration page requires (yes, REQUIRES) you to tell stories. I tried to submit the form without stories. I got a big red line of text telling me to COMPLETE THE REQUIRED INFORMATION. I closed the browser. I had no stories.

The REQUIRED INFORMATION was none other than what seems to be a request for a "human interest story." I wondered: does everyone have a story to tell? What if I just want to challenge myself? I felt guilty I had nothing to write. And I couldn't remember what I wrote the last time I completed such a form -- perhaps I just typed: "not applicable."

I thought about it. OK, I have a story. I went back to my computer. I made attempt number three. In addition to Education, Occupation, and Employer, I looked at the following three items:
  • Significant Personal Achievements
  • Interesting facts about you
  • Please share significant information relating to your 2010 Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 training or participation
There it was: "Interesting facts about me." I entered the following:
My nickname is Disaster Magnet because almost every time I enter a race, some kind of natural disaster occurs at the race location.
There it is. And here's the history to back it up:
  • Ironman Utah 2002: freak wind creates huge waves during swim, buoys blow away, athlete drowns, swim is canceled, race is reconfigured.
  • Ironman Hawaii (Kona): uncharacteristic rain all week, race day rain creates havoc for first few hours of race.
  • Whirlpool Steelhead Ironman 70.3 (Benton Harbor, MI) 2008: swim canceled at last minute due to dangerous surf, AFTER athletes already completed warm ups.
  • Greater Cleveland Triathlon 2008: Swim canceled due to dangerous surf (in Lake Erie of all places).
  • Firmman Half-Iron Triathlon (Narragansett, RI) 2008: Race canceled due to Hurricane Hanna.
  • Pittsburgh Marathon: downpour followed by a bomb scare in downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Mooseman Ironman 70.3: downpour entire race, and the day before, the Olympic-distance race had to be reconfigured due to early morning severe thunderstorms and road washout.
  • (The non-race disaster) In 2003, I was hit by a car while riding my bike - six days before Half-Ironman Utah and couldn't race due to head and neck injuries.
I don't know if being the Disaster Magnet will make me a human interest story, but you never know. Stranger things have happened. And I needed a story.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Taper's the Thing

After 27 weeks of hard training, it all comes down to two things: the taper and race-day execution. It's a lot of pressure to put into a three-week period, but ironically, the taper is all about reducing the pressure, both physically and mentally.

Thus, here I am, starting the three week taper to Ironman Lake Placid. I have a lot of questions - questions I probably shouldn't be asking at this point. But, as the Disaster Magnet, I am riddled with them. Did I train hard enough? Did I do enough long runs? long rides? Could I have added another weekly workout to my swim training? Did I do enough race-simulation bricks? Should I have added a second weekly long ride? Am I mentally prepared for this? I don't know if I'm the only one who goes through this, but as a self-trained endurance athlete, I always question whether I've done enough or done it right. If I had a coach, I might be asking the same questions, but I guess someone would be there to answer them.

So, yeah, here I am, starting the three week taper to Ironman Lake Placid. I did my last really intense workout yesterday. A hard 3.5 hour bike ride with hills followed by 1.5 hours of running. It was a good workout and it should have given me confidence. I practiced race-day fueling and learned a few more things -- such as, it's easy to recover from not eating enough on the bike, and, if it's hot, I should back off on eating during the run. More things to pack into my brain for race day.

But, then again, I'm getting ahead of myself... I'm STARTING the three week taper blah blah blah. I should be right about at the breaking point. Am I? My body is wasted. My mind is frazzled. Last week, I dreaded every workout. Sounds about right. All I need to do now is reduce the volume, keep the intensity, and maintain focus. Easier said than done. How much should I reduce? What's the right intensity? What if I do too much and I'm tired on race morning?

Wait.. wait! I'm STARTING the THREE WEEK taper.... Day 1: rest. recover. relax. get a grip. I've successfully executed a taper before. Many times. I know what I'm doing.