Thursday, July 28, 2011

2011 Ironman Lake Placid- Swim

Race Morning
I awoke at the disgusting hour of 3:15 am. Previously, I didn't know that 3:15 am existed. I had heard rumors of the wee hours of the morning, how they are still referred to as 'morning' with absolutely no one astir. For long distance events, the theory says you should eat many calories roughly 3-4 hours before the gun goes off. This gives your system adequate time to digest the calories, absorb the nutrients, and send them to the proper areas of the body. I choked down about 800 calories of grub and sat on the couch sulking about how it was early.

Around 5:30 (ish) the sun started to rise and I could see that the ground was wet. Maybe Mirror Lake temperature dropped enough to be fully legal. I would have checked the official website save for the fact that I had absolutely no internet connectivity without stalking the neighbor's house. I woke up the Wife and got the dogs moving.  Unwilling to venture out, I packed my wetsuit and the rest of the gear.

Since transition closed at 6:30, my plan was to leave the cottage and drive to the transition area with the Wife in the car at 6:00 am.  I would hop out and mosey my way to the bike while the Wife would take over the driving responsibilities, find a place to park, and do her thing. Well, I'm kind of a procrastinator and didn't actually arrive into transition until 6:24. Six minutes and counting. Plenty of time. (FYI- I was not the last one in.)

I sauntered over to my bike, filled up the fluids, synced the Garmin with my heart rate monitor, and made my way over to the bag drop. Once at the bag drop, I felt a little Shakespearean: To wetsuit or not to wetsuit? That is the question. I opted for the wetsuit full knowing that I had little-to-no chance of qualifying this year. It just wasn't in the training. More on this topic later.

This was just the first bag drop. During the Ironman, they have something called a 'Special Needs' bag. Actually, they have 2 SN bags: one for the bike and one for the run. You are allowed to put whatever you want in your SN bags. They are precariously placed at the halfway point of each discipline. Common items placed in SN bike include: food, spare tires, CO2 cartridges, clothing, nudie magazines, dead bodies, etc. Whatever you think you might need later in the day. This is sort of a race contingency plan in case anything goes wrong. In my SN Bike Bag? One bottle of calories, one Cliff bar, and 2 caffeine pills. In my SN run bag? 3 gels (that's it). Why do I bring this up? Only because you have to walk from transition to the SN area, roughly 1/4 mile away to drop off the bags. Either that, or have a loved one take the walk for you. However, you should remember that the Wife (my one and true loved one) was out parking the car and doing her thing. Add on at least 1/2 more mile on to my day's mileage just so I can have some flavored sugar later in the day.

The Swim
As I mentioned, I opted to go for the wetsuit option, officially negating my chances of any sort of prestige, other than finishing. At this point, finishing seemed like the only option so it was an easy decision. As you can see in the picture at the right (feel free to ogle), the air temperature was not that bad.

As a disclaimer, this portion of the race report may sound a little arrogant. Certainly not my intention. If you are bothered by this, be patient. By the time I finish with the 3rd post, any shred of arrogance will be wiped off the net in a fury of humility.

My goal was to go out comfortably and conserve energy. My slowest Ironman swim time was 1:03. My fastest was 0:57 (times are in hours and minutes). Sub-60 minutes is considered relatively fast.

I'm in the green cap
The swim course is 2 laps. Roughly 2500 people all started at the same time. This is only a half truth. Maybe a 1000 people started at the same time. A few intelligent racers hung back and waited for the fray to take off in an attempt to get out of the open water boxing match. When you pack a large number of people into a small area, there is bound to be contact. This year did not disappoint although I personally experienced much less pounding than IMLP 2010.

For a 1000 yards, about 1/4 of the swim, the pack of swimmers gradually thinned itself into pace lines. I was swimming along with a small group of about 6 swimmers who seemed to know how to swim in a straight line, a rare commodity in a triathlon. I spent a lot more time drafting than pulling and felt like I was barely working. The worst places for water wrestling happens at the turn buoys. As the buoy approached, there comes a bottleneck effect. The packs in front of us slowed to make the turn while we, formerly stretched out, bunched together. The result is roughly 3 or 4 packs of swimmers all trying to swim in the same place. It's a mass swim start all over again. The second turn buoy was only about 25 yards away making this stretch of the swim more physical than the rest. The glory here goes to the strong and confident (both which apply to me in the water). Due to the fact that there were a couple of groups bunched together, I was able to jump into a faster paced group after turn 2. The next 1000 yards was faster, smoother, and less physical.

At the conclusion of the first lap, we had to exit the water. That's right, climb out of the drink and on to the beach, run over the timing mat, and dive back in. As I came across the mat, I glanced up and saw that my swim time was sitting just over 28 minutes. I really wanted to sit back and admire my time, but I had a whole day of racing still ahead. I trudged on. Here's a shot of me (in the wetsuit with a red X on my chest and green conehead) flying into the water for lap 2. As you can see, the other racers in my group are heading into the second loop with the same amount of gusto and it was easy to stay in the same pace line.

Lap 2 tends to be a little slower and calmer than lap 1. There are several reasons for this fact. First, we have to swim from the beach to the pier before heading back on to the course. Lap 2 is a little longer. Second, the adrenaline of the start of the race has long since faded. The attitude has changed from, "Let's do this thing!" to "Wait, we have to go around again?" Third, and most obvious, we're a tad bit tired from brawling and swimming on lap one. Since we wasted our proverbial wad on the first lap, life tames down a bit as we head back on to the 1.2 mile loop. Even the area around the turn buoys was uneventful. I swam with the same group of guys and gals the entire way. If it wasn't for the fact that we had our faces in the water for most of the time, I am sure these people would have become my best friends. Alas, we have drifted into anonymity without even the common courtesy of introducing ourselves. Such a missed opportunity.

As we ended the last lap with 2.4 miles of swimming under our wetsuits, we had to climb onto the exact same beach from a mile ago. Again, I glanced up at my time and spied a time of 59:17. I was in under an hour. Just to tell you how nice this time is (I promise I will be humble soon), there were 24 professional athletes who finished the race (all without a wetsuit), 15 dudes and 9 ladies. My time beat 10 of them. Overall, I was in 95th place out of more than 2300 Ironman who finished the race, all while taking it relatively easy on the swim. This is the reason I don't stress swimming that much in training.

If you are an avid Bantee, you would know from prior race reports that I have struggled getting out of my wetsuit. IMLP solves this problem for me. Lining the swim exit runway is a large contingent of strippers. I absolutely love strippers. These volunteers work happily and do their thing without asking for a even a dollar for their services. My responsibility, peel my arms out of the wetsuit and drop it to my waist. I spy a couple of strippers, point and smile. They smile back and wave me in. I run up and sit down in front. One hottie grabs my wetsuit on the left while the other grabs the suit on my right (Hint: pick your strippers wisely). A quick 1-2-3 and they yank the suit off my body, over my legs, and they help me off the ground. They literally strip me out of my suit and send me on my way.

From strippers row, we have about a 600 meter run to get to transition. This distance is not counted on the day's distance total but the time counts. Hardly seems fair but since all the other athletes experience the same haul, there's really no need in arguing the point. Here's a short clip of me, post stripping, taken by the Wife, 'running' from the beach on my way to the changing tents.

So there you have it. The first part of my Ironman Lake Placid 2011 experience. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.


  1. Very fast swim! I'm super impressed and very jealous that you didn't have to swim in the frenzy the entire time.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.