Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ironman Lake Placid race report

Eric Kenney's IM Lake placid race report

“You're not gona make it.”
3 miles of the 140.6 to go and I could barely hear Chris any more. At only 6 miles into the run there were about 10 guys in my age group within 2 miles. Say 14’ max. For a guy with his 2 strongest sports behind him and a spot to the world championships in Kona, Hi falling away with every one that pasted me I knew the next 2:30+ hours would be the hardest of my life. Physically and mentally. And I was slowing down.
“DO NOT WALK! RUN ERIC RUUUUUN!!”, Chris said. And then there was that hand with the lightest push at my lower back.

That last miles of an ironman can be… well, a mind game. Just keep moving. It’s so easy to stop, so easy to start walking. And when you do the response is immediate. Relief.
Leading up to lake placid was your standard peaking affair. Nerves. Am I feeling horrible or just peaked and ready? But it was all there. The training, the mental readiness, experience, knowledge, tools. It was all in place. I just had to wait 2 more weeks for the gun to go off! Ahhhhh!

Race morning. “you guys know the drill right? No wetsuits.” the water was 77 degrees. Right at the, to warm for wetsuits rule. So it was wear one if you want. You’re not counted in prizes or Kona spots. If you want to go to The Big Dance on Oct. 8th, no wet suits. No worries I didn’t care. No use in caring at that point. I had about 3 minutes of “should wear my race top or not? What about the guys with speed suits, how will I know who wore one and who didn’t? oh my god, OH MY. OHH MY GOD!!! ITS ALL GOING TO CRAP! WHAT THE F- “YO! Eric!” Chris chimed in. Most of you know him, if not see the Canada race report from 2010
Dude I can’t believe you got me up this early, You’re pathetic.”
"2 people said wearing your race top would be fine. But your gona freak. Everything loosens up when it gets wet. Get help with it in transition. Put it in your T1 bag, stop whining call me when you’re at mile 30 on the bike

Ok done. Telling myself I’m not cold. Trying to tread water with people packed in like a Metallica concert, 5 minutes to go. Wow that’s a long time… “30 seconds everyone” blared over the loudspeaker.
wow that went fast. Gun goes off and the next 400 meters of the swim were the roughest I have ever experienced. Lake placid is tight at the start. Add in no wet suits and your sinking. I was a bit surprised but head down, nothing fazes you, just go. It thinned out and more so on the second lap. I had some feet for a while but not right on them. I swam right next to a guy for ¾ths of the entire swim. I mean stroke for stroke. For 45 minutes, there he is, not there now. There he is, not there now… get me to my bike! PLEASE! I swam hard. I didn’t feel great but I got a grove that I was maintaining and just pushed.
My swim was all right. 58:50ish… slow, but 12th in my AG no wet suits so… remember my article on how to analyze race results? “Never use time! Ever!” I had no idea during the race about my time and I’m glad.

I was surprised at how long T1 is at IM LP. You have to run like 2 blocks around to get your bag , into the tent, out the other side around the far end of a football field, get your bike and out the other side again. I got help with my race top (impossible to get one when you’re wet) my bike was handed to me, no need to go to the end of my row, and I was off. 4:30 ish, not bad.
Off on my bike.
I settled in nicely. Still riding a bit to hard on the hills but grabbing every chance to coast or noodle as possible. Which wasn’t much. It was all ready windy. And we had a head cross wind for the first section of the loop. Then the hills started, so… no recovery spots on the bike today.

My execution plan:
with a threshold of 320, (weight 156ish) goal was to do 230 norm power give or take for the bike leg. 70% of thresh. I would love to do 72% but I don’t have that crushingly huge endurance engine that some have. I know from training that 70, maybe 71% is tops. Especially with a hilly run course.
~nothing over 250 for an extended period of time.
~get over the first set of rollers as easy as possible. Relax.
~200-210 on the flats until Jay Rd where the hills start.
~again, easy up this the first set of hills on Jay Rd. Grab coasting time every where I can.
~from rt 86 (mi. 45 or so) it was 240 watts all the way to mi 65 or so. (to the big decent past transition) 75’- 90’ effort I figured
~2nd time through same thing except start the steady effort on the hills at Jay rd and start to back off a bit as I get closer to T2 on what few down hills and flats there where.

Nutrition, water, pedaling, don’t draft. The standard. The thing I noticed was I wasn’t picking up any big packs, even down on rt. 9 when you can see far ahead there weren’t big lines of riders down the rd. Was I farther off the back than last year in Canada? Did the first 25 minutes of hills break it up more? Was I farther up in the field? What the hell is going on? I wanted to know. I’m racing. My goal a spot to the ironman world championships. Yes I have to race MY race. But I can still work some tactics into the race plan.
time went. First turn around is mile 25ish I started to count riders coming the other way. 1-2, pro’s, some pro women, he looks like an amateur, bamb turn around. Nice! I’m up. Close to top ten over all amateur now.
Chris is in my head. “OK chill. This is perfect. Better than we planed take it easy over the Jay rd hills, then steady, NOT HARD, up the long climb to mile 65. And we need to stretch out the legs. Your hip flexors and hams are really tight
I was gona just ignore the tightness in my legs but it had to be addressed. It was far less than ideal. I mean the race just started.
Chris treated our body like it was detached, something else. Like a car or a machine that one could just fix or tune a different way. If it didn’t work well one day or the way we wanted it to we just tried to fix it and went for it again another time. I talk about this to all our clients. Depersonalize your ego, your brain, your goals, and your physical being. If your legs suck one day, you’re not a bad person, it’s ok, life goes on. Be mad, sure, but only for so long. Then, it’s over let it go. Fix the weakness and move on. Be grateful you’re here doing this to begin with.

Up the long climb I pushed, much to the dismay of my hip flexors and hamstrings. Steady, “250 tops! Ek.”, 220 felt good. The flatter sections with the now tail wind had me moving well. Easy for a few minutes on the down hills through the finish area, and back up the starting hills. Windy now, keep on the gas. Push, push. A little recovery and food at 50 miles per hour on the big decent to Keene and back to the not so easy flat rd. with a head wind.
Ok , system check: one of the keys of race execution is staying on track. “think where are you now in the race, what are you doing and why? Then think about what is coming up and what you will do when you get there. As this may affect what you do now”
If you do this you are in control. I see people grabbing for food and water on hills, being surprised and un sure what to do at feed zones, etc. if you eat when your hungry, drink when your thirsty, ride hard when you feel good easy when you don’t you’re a victim of the course. The course is dictating your race not you.
~How’s fuel? good, on track.
~Water? Seems ok I missed a few stations early but was keeping bottles I got in my jersey that were not empty from filling my aero bottle.
~Legs? well they are not getting worse. That’s good. My heart rate was (this is the only time you will hear me talk about HR) very responsive. Which is good. Despite the tight legs, as soon as I would let up or coast, it would drop.
~Race strategy check. Over all I’m good, not fatiguing too much, and no one has really caught back up to me that I dropped on the long climb up 86. Another count of riders on the out and back. OK I have to be like at the Front of the race. I mean like THE front, I thought.
Chris. “eric”, he doesn’t capitalize my name as he feels I have not earned it, “lets ease up earlier than we planned, your legs are still really tight. We need to fix this now or we are totally fuc***.” he was right. My position was great. And while I didn’t feel bad, It felt harder than a good peaked effort should feel.
I went eaiser on the Jay rd. hills than planned, stretching at every oportunity I could find. I pulled ahead of the last rider to stay with me at 8 miles to go or so. “hey lookin good, number 2 amateur!” I had heard this 3 times now, it was just registering. Whole crap! I was 10th of the bike in Canada last year.
Every flat section and short downhill (yes there are a few on the climb up 86) I would ease up. Finished off nutrition, stretched, stood up a lot, easy, but out of the saddle a lot in the last 2 miles.
Coming into town was just epic. Huge crowds. I mean F’n HUGE! Up and around into the outdoor oval athletic center that is transition and the finish of the bike leg. I was the 2nd amateur off the bike overall there was 2700+ racers behind me. This felt amazing. I love being at the front. Racing, not just going. Thousands of eyes on me, cheering, yells, screaming. Just amazing in every way.
In the 1:30 I spent in T2 I handed my bike off, shoes, got rid of the bike gear, trash, arm warmers, running shoes on, switched HR straps, got my watch, asked what the temp was “79” ehh hot for me, and was out. I ran out with a focused but calm look on my face, fixed my hair, checked my run form an…
“YO!” ,chris, “pat yourself on the back later pretty boy, last year you were ranked 260-somthing on the run”

Power File:

225 norm power. 156 lb's you can see i did not negitive split the ride. but as I said above i was in a beter possition than i thought, and the tight legs... i ease up eariler than planned.
This is a great example of adapting your race plan. Adapting to the conditions and the way I felt and getting an end result very, VERY close to the original plan. Gotta be dynamic on race day! ohh I did just over 300calories an hour on the bike. the bike was windy. winder than i thought it would be and more so than the last few years I heard. the bitch about the wind was it was a head wind on every downhill and fast section of the course. you could never relax. if you look at the run time this year you'll see some slower times than normal. why? I feel its because folks rode to hard/ the ride just tock to much out of them and the cracked. Hello? racing dynamically! if you even think about MPH and doing xyz MPH for this section and that section, your F'd. it just doesn't work.

Ok time ro run.
System check.
~ legs tight
~running fast 7:30’s,
~feeling good energy wise.
~stomach was tight. Not cramping but a bit tight.
all right, so where am I now, what am I gona do in 3-6 16 miles…”
Stomach is tight, hum, I am gona push nutrition. Normally for me I need more electrolytes with a bad tummy which is rare so if it doesn’t get better I’ll get some pretzels so something. Within 3 miles the stomach was back to 100% and legs loosened up a bit. Back on track.
Run Plan:
~8’ miles, anything better was gravy. Hills, go by PE 100% don’t worry about pace. Imagine Steve Johnson in front of me running with his 400 cadence shuffle that I can barley match.
that’s it.
Most of you know my run training philosophy. Frequency, Quality, Varied/ different types of intensity, and long runs aren’t really “long”. 90’ is a long run. Longest runs I did were 1:50 at 14 miles. This 2:30-3 hour running this is BS. Recovery is to long and you’re just teaching your body to run slow. Now, there is this “train to get tough” and “train to get fast/ for quality” seesaw, ying-yang thing. My feeling is that one should focus on quality most of the time, but like everything in life, you can’t over do it. If you train when everything is ideal ALL the time, I’m not betting on you on race day. One HAS to be dynamic. so go ahead and mix in those crazy long brick workouts… once in a while! Not every freaking weekend! Mix it up! What happens when you try and do some threshold intervals after 2+ hours of riding? It’s a bit different huh… it’s so hard in the sport of triathlon to be complete and dynamic in every sport. Impossible really, but there are a few places that you can be. Biking, start here. It’s the most dynamic sport of them all. Last think you want to be is a one trick pony on the bike. Especially on a course like LP.

The run is an out and back you do twice. More down hill on the way out, more uphill on the way back. I was running fast. too fast. 7:09 first mile. Then settled into a 7:30-7:40ish pace. I went through waves of emotions here. From you’re going to catch the guy in front and win the amateur race, to my legs are tight and I’m gona loose everything, to maybe I can do it, no I can’t, on and on. Just noise. You have to focus on… what? “Where you are now, what you’re doing and what you’re going to do next.”
Turnaround 1, 6 miles. The leader was like 2 miles ahead of me. This guy had 11’ on me coming off the bike. You’re my hero! No one has pasted me yet. This is good. I started looking at race numbers to see what kind of buffer I had. Not much after a mile I had seen 10 or so guys in my field. So, here I am, 7 miles into the 26.2 mile run or 800 mile run as it feels in and Ironman, running to fast with the whole field right on my heals. Back to the, this just isn’t going to happen today, feeling
who ever thought of sponges in ice water for running is a genius. I grabbed them every aid station (every mile) over the head and arms. Water every time. And Infinit Nutrition. My custom mix is 200mg sodium/ 100 calories. (they have a great blend of all 5 electrolytes) I did about 200 cals/ hour on the run.
Up the hills to mile 13 doing good. Pace still strong. On the way back I thought let the legs go a bit, issue here was on this “fast” easy section of rd I was having trouble staying under 8’/ miles. Crap. Still I was 3rd in my AG at this point. It was getting harder to see who was behind me at turn arounds. It seemed like the pack of chasers was… thinning out? I didn’t believe it. 8 miles to go, 7. I thought it doesn’t matter if I don’t qualify, my friends and family will still love me, my grandfather would still be proud. (he died last year 3 days before I did IM Canada) it’s ok just keep moving. 6 miles to go. Aid station I walked. What the F… why am I walking? It was totally involuntary. Water, ice down the pants, shorts, sponges. And I was passed, again by a guy in my AG. I started to run right away and re-passed him immediately. I can’t do this I thought. I’m not a good, dynamic enough runner to get into a shoulder to shoulder battle in the last miles on an IM.
Chris, “OK ek here we are, this is an IM, this whole day is just to get to here. We hold 8’/miles here. On the 2 short steep hills, keep running, if you hit 12’ miles walk and pick up the run as SOON as it flattens out, 2 miles flat from mile 22-24 crush it, as hard as you can. Last steep hill same thing, last mile 1.5 miles run, just run!”
Sounded good to me? I didn’t want anyone to see me and gain hope. First hill I shuffled. Like an old man barely moving. Never went slower than 10’ miles for the short steep climb. Ok crush EK, run, RUN! I saw a few folks I knew, they were screaming my name. I don’t’ respond. Couldn’t, at all. My face felt like those Lemmon headed aliens in the movie critters. Just blank. Nothing there, last hill into town, still in 4th in my AG I figured. (I was really 3rd) Half way up my legs just stopped. “I’m not gona make it”, I thought. “ I can’t do it. I just can’t run anymore.” The crowd erupted, as if they felt like it was their fault for not being loud enough or encouraging enough. It was so load I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. Now I would love to tell you that I could hear my grandfather talk to me and push me along but I’m not. What I did do is imagine that he was next to me with his hand on my lower back, and I did feel lighter.
I started to run. The steep climb turns and false flats. I stopped again, run eric, I said to myself, Run… RUN! I started to run again. 1.5 miles, last aid station. I stopped again, COME ON RUN!!! Water, sponges (yes I was still drinking) nutrition, yes still taking calories, turn around, my legs stopped. FU** eric RUUUUNNN I saw Patrick McCrann, he was a little ways back, he won’t’ catch me? If I can beat him I have to be in a kona spot. Patrick is what comes up when you search for “rock solid” his nick name should be ice man. I was 3rd in my AG and the 8th over all amateur. Coming into the finish is amazing. Huge crowds.
finish line, I couldn’t believe I pulled it off. The last 6 miles were harder than I imagined.

A few mistakes here, first 6 miles were way to fast. But everyone did the same. It looks like everyone slowed down, I just slowed down a small fraction less. Not the best run execution but it got the job done. Down hill or not. You HAVE to be carful with the run. NEVE back time. It never pays you back. The lake Placid run will crush the best runners if you go out to fast. I ended with a 7:51/ mile pace.
Run file:
Kona here we come.


Sparrowhawk said...

Great Race Report. Congrats. It was tough day out there. For you to do the numbers you!!!

Patrick said...

E - You killed it. I am happy to hand over the ICE MAN jersey to you if you so request. See you on the Big Island!

EK Endurance Coaching said...

Thanks P. tell you what. you can give it to me friday 10-7 in Kona, then Sat/ Sunday night over a beer I will be giving it right back! well done your self, saw your report on x-tri.