Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

It is Wednesday and I've had 3 days to soak up the experience of Ironman. I am finally feeling human again, and I finally have internet access so it's time to write up my RACE REPORT! (Also, I can almost walk down stairs like a normal person)!!

The first thing I want to do is thank everyone who has supported me for the past year of training. At times I may have been cranky, selfish, a bad daughter, and a bad friend. Sometimes I feel like I do not deserve the friends and support that I got during the race. My parents were there cheering for me and supporting me for the duration. My coach was there coaching TWELVE athletes through the race. I had Train-This friends/alum., creepy blog friends (haha), as well as the other TT athletes doing the race, and countless others at home tracking me online! All in all, it was a fantastic support system that I could not be more grateful for!

That being said..

Lake Placid is NUTS during Ironman week. People wearing compression socks are everywhere, there are bikes worth thousands of dollars, the parking lots to the bike shops are packed. It's just complete insanity. Ironman is all about waiting in line. I waited in line to register. I waited in line to buy merchandise. I waited in line all freaking weekend!

Thursday I registered, got my gear bags, bought some Ironman goodies, did my workouts, and went to a Train-This dinner at Don and Chris's, the original bromance brothers of Train-This. I also bought a spare tubular so that I would have mine for the bike and Kim's spare in my special needs bag (aw how adorable, Kim and I both ride identical tiny bikes with 650c wheels).

Friday I can't even remember what I did other than the athlete banquet which was really fun! Oh, and I drank 2 beers: one courtesy of Matt Kellman and the other, Ultra Adam.

Saturday I had to get my bike ready to go and pack of my transition bags. I had a minor meltdown about whether or not to rack my transition bags on Saturday. The athlete guide says it's mandatory, Mary said that you can bring them in Sunday morning. I'm more of a "follow the rules" kind of girl so that freaked me out. I talked to Ken about it and I calmed down. I wound up taking my bike AND my bags in on Saturday to rack them. The morning was stressful for me and I was glad to get it taken care of and get out of town. There's just too much going on, too much traffic, and it was freaking me out. I watched American Flyers in my condo with Ultra Adam during the afternoon (this was good as it took my mind off of the race for at least a little while) and then I packed up my special needs bag and got everything else ready for the morning. I barely slept at all on Saturday night.

I woke up at 4:00 am on race day to eat my breakfast of protein shake, banana, and 2 fig newtons. I also had to gather up my nutrition. I took a shower because I wanted to at least START the day feeling clean! I took the shuttle into town at around 5:00 am. I had to put my nutrition on my bike and retape my tubular onto the back of my bike because the duct tape fell off overnight.

I got rid of all of my extra clothes and took my special needs bags to Mary where I met White Hot and ran into Jeremy, Glenn, Rae, and several TT athletes. I felt excited, calm, happy. I walked over to the swim start.


There were people EVERYWHERE - in the water, on the shore, wow! Mary wanted me to start on the right. I actually started more to the right side of the center, a few rows back from the front. It was a good choice. For as terrified of the mass swim start that I was, I was calm and not freaking out at all. The cannon went off and I started swimming. I tried to swim as passively as possible i.e. no grabbing legs, no elbowing anyone, I just let the chaos happen. It was surreal. I was PARTICIPATING IN A FREAKING IRONMAN! I angled in towards the turn buoys and went around them, and got on the cable on the way back. I could feel a MAJOR tow along the cable, people aren't joking about the whirlpool effect in the Lake Placid swim! I was out of the water and running across the mat to jump back in at around 31 mins. I hopped right back on the cable and let the current suck me along. I swam very easily. The time flew by and the next thing I knew, I was DONE. I ended up with a much faster swim time than I thought I was capable of which was a GREAT way to start the day!

Swim: 1:07:04


It's a long run from the swim into transition. I laid down and a guy yanked my wetsuit off of me. I ran through a HUGE crowd where I saw Kim and Travis yelling for me. I grabbed my bag and ran into the women's changing tent which was fairly empty. We (we being me and my volunteer) got my socks and shoes on, helmet on, sunglasses, bib # and salt pills were grabbed and I was out of there. I actually ran right past a volunteer and grabbed my own bike.. force of habit I guess? I also ran past the sunscreen volunteer and I was wearing absolutely none. Whoops!

T1: 5:32


I was freaking PUMPED to be on the bike. The bike is fun, it's fast, and I love it! I saw Mary and Ultra Adam a little ways out of transition. I knew I had to take it easy on loop 1. It's hard to do. I was surrounded by men that were flying past me. It was hard to let them go! It rained a little on the first loop. I peed twice on the Keene descent (once on each loop). On the 9N section I started getting passed by teammates: Jochen, Jackie, Kellman, and Don all passed me on 9N! It was nice to see them and see that they survived the swim! Loop 1 went really well and I was back in town with a split of ~3:05. I saw my parents in the Train-This tent, I saw some other random people. I felt like a freakin rockstar riding through town because it's lined with fences and there are people EVERYWHERE!

The 2nd loop.. was harder. The big climb out of town that I didn't notice on the first loop seemed to take forever. The downhill was still fun, as was 9N but I was getting passed by more and more people which was discouraging. By the time I started climbing on 86, I was tired. I had a very low point climbing past Whiteface where I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the top. I was in my small chainring the entire ride back from that point. I was worried that I had screwed up my bike pacing on my first loop. But I got pumped up again after climbing Papa Bear because of all of the spectators and coming back into transition. My nutrition for the bike was spot on - it went exactly like I had planned it.

Bike: 6:23:59, 17.5 mph

Threw the bike at a volunteer, hobbled into transition and got my running shoes on. I have never been so happy to see my running sneakers! I dropped my salt pills exiting transition and ran back to get them. I made sure I had a volunteer apply sunscreen on me because the sun had started to peek through the clouds. I couldn't have asked for better weather for race day - 70s, cool, overcast - it was PERFECT (which led to KILLER race times).

T2: 3:44

Immediately after exiting transition I saw some of my blog friends, Mandy and Jon. I heard them yell my name and I know I made eye contact, but it's hard to tell if people actually knew me because my bib had my name on it in giant letters. It's cool having lots of people yell your name but it makes it hard to distinguish friends from strangers when thousands of people are all screaming at you! I figured out who they were like 20 minutes later. But I appreciated the cheering! I believe both of them signed up for IMLP 2011 and I plan on going and cheering for everyone next year!

Anyways, I was psyched to be running and knew that the finish line was close (relatively speaking). For some reason, I had this thought in my brain that the Ironman marathon would be easier than a regular marathon. Really? Don't ask me why I thought this. The marathon was difficult from mile 1. I had side stitches/cramps from mile 1 to the end. At the start of the run, I was easily on pace for a sub 12 hours finish - I needed a 4:15 marathon to make it. Halfway through the run, I had kissed that goal time goodbye. I tried everything to stop the cramping: salt pills (I seriously took like 40 on the run alone), Powerbar Perform, pretzels, water, cola.. nothing worked. I gutted through at a sub 10 min/mile place for a while and then my quads were just.. done (maybe around mile 18). Just like what happened in the Philly marathon. Aerobically I felt fine. But with the cramping and the quads, I was screwed. I just kept slowing down. 10 minute miles, 11 minute miles, 12.. etc. Seeing Train-This teammates on the run was a life saver. I yelled at everyone I saw. I yelled that they looked great, or to keep moving. I tried to motivate and it turn, it motivated me.

I saw my friend Greg at the aid station near the turnaround. He was great - he cheered and told me I looked strong. I think I yelled profanities at him multiple times, such as "this f$*&ing blows" and "I feel like SHIT." I had SUCH a bad attitude on the run. Luckily, Greg did not let my bad run hinder his choice to register for IMLP 2011! At around mile 20 I started to get really upset and emotional. I knew I wasn't going to make my goal time (and Mary's estimated finish time) of under 12 hours. I was near tears and slightly hysterical and had to walk to try to calm down. I was upset and disappointed with myself. I was worried that Mary was going to be disappointed in me (perhaps Ironman makes people slightly delusional???). I was walking DOWN the hills because going downhill made me cramp up more (this is normal for me) and my legs felt like they were going to buckle. I just wanted to be done. Actually I REALLY just wanted to walk but I wouldn't let myself (other than through aid stations). I saw Kim right before turning to go up the hill for the out and back on Mirror Lake Drive. She made me feel better - Kim is such a good cheerleader and friend! Travis and my friend Adam were also in that area before the big hill.

I finally made it to the oval. Jeremy and Glenn were working security for transition and they both gave me high fives. It was great to see their smiling faces! I zipped up my tri top (hahahah) and made my way around the oval. I crossed the finish line and Mike Reilly announced "Alexa Harding you are an IRONMAN!" I couldn't help but smile! I got a medal around my neck, my finishers shirt and hat. I saw Mary and Ultra Adam in the corral and I went around to find them, and found my parents also.

Run: 4:38:37, 10:38 min/mile

I thought I would be more emotional after finishing an Ironman but I wasn't. I guess I can chalk that up to being somewhat of a perfectionist - I am never happy with my results and always strive to do better. I am not sure what caused the cramping in the marathon - perhaps pushing loop 1 of the bike too fast? I am going to chat with Mary about it after everyone has calmed down from Ironman and after I've had some time to think on it.

However, I am over it. I finished in 12 hours, 18 minutes, and 56 seconds. I am a freaking IRONMAN!

Total: 12:18:56
13th in AG!


  1. Woohoo! Yay, yay, yay! I loved reading your race report! You did so awesome! Congrats on becoming an Ironman! :)

  2. Took 3 days for the emotions to come but when they did they hit me like a brick. Great race Alexa. Wish I could have hung with you on the run. Thanks for the boost.

  3. WOOO HOOO!! You did GREAT, even with your crazy run! Was that my Greg you were talking about? lol

  4. no that was a different Greg, but I saw your Greg also!

  5. Just started following your blog this week.

    Congratulations, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!
    and 12:18 is a super respectable time...Enjoy it all.

    I have enjoyed reading your race report and all about the last few weeks before LP.

  6. Fantastic report, Alexa. You've got ME getting all emotional. Way to pull it out! You are IRON!!

  7. Awesome job and awesome race photos taken of you! You looked SO strong out there! Glad that Mandy and I could be the creepy stalkers cheering you on that day! It was fun! Rest up! You deserve it!

  8. alexa you rocked it!

    13th in at Placid is simply outstanding!!!!

    I am impressed!!

  9. you are amazing! i am so glad i was able to share this long journey with you! Cant wait for next years training rides....maybe we'll have to find a different route!


  10. It was so fun reading your report after reading Jon and Mandy's, to get all three perspectives. Congratulations on finishing a great race!

  11. Hi this is your favorite creepy blog stalker (well, one of them!) ha! You are freaking awesome, congrats on such a strong finish on your first IM. Seriously, you rocked that race, I couldn't believe how fast you were when I saw you on the bike the first time.

    I am shooting for 16:55. ha!

    Your report of the swim made me feel better about that a little. I definitely want to talk to you more about it when I get closer.

    AND you transitioned from bike to run so freaking fast, Jon and I almost missed you!! I actually saw you about 5 times think, and you looked strong every time!!

    Congrats again, you are amazing!

  12. Nice job on IMLP. Great race report too. Your race times were almost exactly the same as my first IM. Except mine was IM Florida, a much easier course! I had a goal of 12 hour and did 12:19. You'll get it next time. Probably crush it.

  13. First, I love your note under post a comment - after reading that, I just had to be a creepy blog stalker friend!

    Anyway, I found your IMLP race report while blog surfing for IM race reports (I'm doing IM Louisville on Sunday and reading others' reports has been inspiring/comforting!). I really enjoyed reading your report... and Congrats! 13th AG is awesome!!


I love creepy blog stalker friends! Don't be afraid to leave me a comment!