Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Very Long Race Report for a Very Short Race - Ironman Lake Placid 2012

I wasn’t going to write a race report – thinking I didn’t have a race. But I did, it just didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

The days leading up to the event where great – I felt a little like a rock star (and ML would tell you I acted like one) My best friend flew in from Detroit and one of my newest friends came up from Syracuse to be with me and my family at the house we rented. I wasn’t allowed to do much except sit with my feet up and hydrate. I wasn’t nervous, but it was obvious that I wasn’t focusing on much other than the race losing my wallet one night and the car and house keys several times!

On Saturday I received a package from one of my Disney Diva friends loaded with goodies for after the race. Saturday night my coach and her family joined us for a big pasta dinner. That was when the shirts were presented. ML had taken various pictures from my collage and put them on t-shirts with “Team Deborah” at the top…….everyone had a different picture or caption that was an important part of my journey. Very cool!

I slept well considering, awaking up at 3:30 just before the alarm went off. My morning routine was exactly at it had been for all my long training days. Everyone else was up by the time we left for transition. I went to body marking and then I added my nutrition to my bike and gear bags making sure everything was in place – I thought of all those nameless people in the race videos I watched hundreds of times – now I was one of them. I went to the T2 team tent to get ready for the swim. One last trip to the porta-potty had me a little freaked out because the line was so long and I didn’t have much time. About ten people back in the line I was headed for there was a mom and her four children. She wasn’t paying attention. I slipped in the line. Yes, I cut in front of four small children – I am not proud of it, but they didn’t have to be at the start line in a few minutes.

I entered the water and scanned for the perfect spot – ha! I located my family and friends on the shoreline and swam over to wave. They got some great pictures. I looked around the crowd of 2500 other athletes and thousands of spectators. I looked at the spot where I had stood one year earlier, on the shore watching from the outside. I thought of everything that it had taken to get from that spot to the water I was now treading. I thought of all the times I had almost given up. Nothing has ever felt quite as good as that moment. I was going to have a great day. I started my watch 2 mins early.

I started in the middle – behind the thick front line of risk takers and the heavy curve of the apprehensive lining the shore. When the cannon went off I lowered my head and swam very relaxed into the crowd. I never felt the “washing machine” effect and I was rarely hit with the exception of one good whack in the head. And surprisingly I found myself right on the cable. I was stuck however. In retrospect BJ was probably right advising me to go right to the flags for the start. Starting behind that line made it very difficult to pass people. Once I got around a group, another one was right there again. Despite never really getting a long strong stroke pattern I went 37 mins for the first lap. About 2 minutes slower than I had hoped for a 1:10 finish.

I tried to yell to my family at the start of the second loop but that was fruitless. I choose to swim wide on the second loop hoping I could gain some ground. Thank God for the guy next to me! Because we were wide I wasn’t paying attention to the buoys and was about to shoot right past the turn around to the next yellow buoy – he saw me going in the wrong direction and yelled “the red one, the red one!” Finally the crowd was breaking up a bit and I had my own space closer to the buoys on the way back to shore. 1:15:35…17 minutes to get on the bike. I HAD to be on the course by 8:30 because every minute on the bike was going to matter.

Luckily I had a seat and a volunteer in the changing tent. T1 - 10:51 and I was on the bike four minutes ahead of schedule. I also had space at the mount line and easily got around the switch-back without incident. My family was yelling and waving as I went down Colden (well, the ones who realized I had changed from blue to pink – the others missed me.) That first climb is like the Syr. 70.3 prison hill – my least favorite part of the course, but I felt good. Eat. Drink. Off to Keene. I was amazed that I barely touched my brakes for most of the descent. It was obvious which athletes had not ever been on the course before – they were very hesitant. Who can blame them - that stretch is scary! I was very happy to see the bridge and the sign for 9N – just 3 months earlier I had ridden the course with a friend and had a picture from that very spot. That seemed like a lifetime ago and I was certain that my brakes were not at all hot the way they were that day – progress.

The next 15-20 miles were flat. Eat. Drink. Grab water at the aid station. Try not to think about the tight turn around. I was right where I wanted to be time wise. It was fun to see people I knew on the out and back. The weather was perfect. I was having a great day. You know how they say if you don’t like the weather in central NY just wait five minutes and it will change. That was one of the first things I learned in triathlon; whether you are feeling great or you’re in a dark place, just wait and it will change. And with that right turn to Wilmington it all changed.

I had felt this pain in my lower right back a few times recently. I’d stand and stretch or get off the bike and use the bathroom and I’d be fine. So I figured, wait five minutes and it will change. But it didn’t. The added pressure from climbing was making it worse. When I hit a short flat or a downhill it would let up enough to hope. By “cherry #3” I was in tears. Every time someone would ride by I would turn my head so they couldn’t tell. Finally I hit Hazelton Road and a few miles with no hills. I thought I’d stop at the aid station and stretch and hit the porta-potty hoping it would help. But instead I just kept going, afraid I wouldn’t continue if I got off. It was starting to get hot in the sun and when the next bout of pain started I pulled over across the road in the shade, tried to stretch and not let people see the tears. I wished I had put Tylenol in my special needs bag or bento. I thought if I could get just a couple more miles I’d have a chance to recoup on the second descent into Keene and the flat into Ausable. That would get me to the last 20 miles and maybe the pain will stop. But then it hit me – there was the “prison” hill to get through before the descent. Ok then, just get back to Lake Placid and then reevaluate.

Eat. Drink.... Drink? I was on bottle four and had a full bottle before the swim – nearly 120 oz and I had not gone to the bathroom; that can’t be good. There was less than six miles to go to get back to Lake Placid and suck the energy from the crowd to go again when I saw an aid station. I pulled over, got off the bike, handed it to the volunteer and sat on the pavement and sobbed. I was done. Seven months of training hundreds of hours, 4:30 am mornings, two broken toes, several meltdowns, thousands of dollars and it all ended at mile 50 on the bike – not even half way. Once I started to compose myself the volunteer asked what was wrong. I told him and they called for medical.

I tried one last time to go to the bathroom before agreeing to their assistance– nothing. And with that I was off to the med tent. I knew my friend Ginny would be there. She had done Lake Placid 3 times before getting to the finish and she would know exactly how I felt. I asked for her the minute we got there. I watched as her hands covered her face and she mouthed the words “oh no.” She gave me a big hug – no “its okay” no “everything will be fine.” Instead she said “you will not give up – you have to come back and do it again.”

It has not been easy – one minute I am fine and the next I’m a mess. I try to focus on three things;

#1 - One of the last pieces of advice I got before heading to Lake Placid was that if it didn’t go as planned it was not the end of the world – “be grateful you were able to be out there at all, plenty of people have much bigger problems.” That helped me to put things in perspective and make the right decision.

#2 – As hard as it was for me to be at the finish line as a spectator, I was able to watch my friends and my teammates finish for one of the first times ever. (Reality for a back-of-the-packer!) I knew how hard they had worked and it was a thrill to see their dances and expressions as they heard Mike Reilly call them “Ironman.”

#3 – And this is the most important - not for one second have I second guessed my decision. At that moment, on that day, it was impossible for me to continue. I have no doubt that was the reality…..but Impossible is Temporary :)

P.S. The jury is still out but the pain was either my kidney’s shutting down from the inability to absorb the liquid I was drinking or a kidney stone. TBD.

1 comment:

  1. You handled this with incredible grace. I know athletes who can't handle a bad workout with this much grace much less a day that did not go as planned.

    YOU are amazing.