Every race is different. Every time it's a new experience. People around you and more importantly you. You are different. For better or worse you are a different new person shaped by your life, experiences, training and more. At Ironman lake Placid in 2013 things were every different than the last time I did the race is 2011 but I wouldn't know how different until well after the finish line had come and gone.
~The view from the house we stayed at was... well, you get the idea.
If you ever need to wake up at 3am. wide awake, more alert than maverick right after he "flew right through his jet wash", do an Ironman. Then you get the bliss of drinking coffee, readying your special needs bags, walking to transition at a rate that would rival most Olympic speed walkers and then... Wait.
With the earlier 6:30 start time me and my to racing pals had a measly 40 minutes to kill before the gun. piece of cake. Take in "The scene" body glide up. look at the wet suit, and... 39 minutes to go. With the new start format we all congregated on the beach instead of the floating start. Still a very intense moment. 3000 people getting ready to start what is likely their #1 event all year. Maybe in there life. The energy and the tension is indescribably. I lined up right in front and got the first and biggest reality check I would get all week. Two guys sitting on a bench, wet suits on, looking tough, big arms, they had that focused look on their faces and... no legs. Makes all your "bad workouts" or that missed pool session because of lightening seem, not really that big of a deal to say the least.
Pro men start, BANG. pro women, BANG. some hand shakes and "have a good day's" to people you have never meet and we are off, into the water we go. I settled in quickly and was leading the race for a few 100. yeah me!! The swim went off without indecent. The chaotic first 1000 simply turned into a very chaotic last 1000 with the new, I'm sorry is the ironman to hard for you, start. I still feel that the new rolling start is total BS and I will likely not do another IM with this start. If I wanted to have a leisurely day I would go golfing. Most fast people don't like it because it eliminates the "race" you are on a chip time not a gun time. Most slower people who don't like it either because this new procedure puts them right next to each other from the get go. for all you people who can't swim and are upset because you are "loosing time" DO SOME FU**N PREPARATION! better yet, go tell the guys with no legs your, "problem".
After weaving through the crowd to the exit I was out and into T1. The volunteers are absolutely awesme at every race I have done. Into T1 change tent. "what can I do for you?" "get my bike out # 1669." "Ok got it. what else can do?" "get my bike out # 1669." this repeated until I ran out. who ever you were, you're awesome! calm, and focused. You are all awesome.
Onto the bike and into the Rain:
Chris put that thought out of my head quickly.
I took it easy down the fast decent and recovered well. Full gloves on, arm warmers and a piece of Mylar space blanket up my jersey I was comfortable. I went back and forth with some guys on the long flat section down rt. 9. every thing was now in full operation. stomach felt good, legs good, HR low, watts right there. "we can't seem to figure this out can we" some guy said to me as he passed for the 10th+ time. "obliviously you haven't raced much idiot! #1 this is perfect, just stay legal and #2 few people hang with my on the first lap of the bike without walking and crying the last 15 miles of the run so.." EASY Chris! Good thing I can keep him in my head better than I did in the 90's. such an ass! I said, "I think we were doing pretty good! and smiled. And it was true this was perfect. legal, free, speed!
The first time up the climb I was moving to the front of the race but there were strong guys around. I wasn't simply riding away. My legs felt a bit heavy also. through transition, I missed my special needs feed. I was going to grab it as I was draining my bottle of Infinit much faster than normal. it was gone! humm...
"figure it out after the decent, we got riding to do." Chris said in his so understanding tone. sarcasm font.
Onto the rollers, big decent and rt. 9 again. The decent was drying out so I bombed it. Never left the aero bars. One big race execution thing that EVERYONE does wrong at IMLP is thinking of the bike in its 2 loops starting and ending at transition. After climbing for an hour plus on the first lap you arrive in town and start your second loop, which starts right away with BIG hills! you must think of the first climb as 1:30 (if your fast) maybe up to 2hr's of mostly up hill riding until the big decent were you get a break. I was with several guys coming into town I dropped them all on teh next set of rollers and didn't see any of them again until the end of rt.9. 30 miles or so later! And my watts went down if anything on this section.
The last time up the hill my legs were heavy again. and I was a stiff in places. shoulders, back and the quads just didn't feel like magic. Chris took the flame thrower to those thoughts but they kept coming back. I grabbed a few bottles of perform for some extra calories but I felt fine in that regard. Into transition and out quickly, onto the run and a HUGE eruption of cheers. You have to do this race, coming into town is unreal. There are so many people watching its indescribable. and there is this aura that hangs in town. its Olympic... I don't know what. but when you are there, racing, you can feel it every time your in town.
Within 1/2 a mile the tightness was gone, energy was high, I was trying to slow my pace (it was to fast 7:20-7:30) I caught and then passed someone. The road was clear I was 2nd in my Age group. It was all the same. 2 years ago at the 2011 IM LP. it was all playing out very similar. when you have time read this report from 2011. It worth the time and while I am not fond of my own writing, it has, for whatever reason, seen several Thousand hits since that July.
Down to the turn around. OK Ek here's the uphill, just manage, hold your intensity and we reset for "overtime" at half way. "No one can fuc** hang with us dude! are you kidding me! all systems go Eric lets get this done", Chris this was confidence building and but there was this pain in my foot. right in the bottom like someone was stabbing me. my right foot, which was strange because it was my left ankle that had blown up 2 wee... "IT'S FINE EK, RUN! AND STFU!" Katie Blackmore went by in the opposite direction racing inte pro womens race. she wasn't far behind me. she yelled some words of encouragement and "there's 2 girls ahead of you Eric!" the 1st and 2nd pro women. I smiled and said quickly. "well... get your ass up here and there will be 3 ahead of me! She eventually caught me and came in 2nd on the pro women's field. Awesome to see friends do so well.
I sometimes describe pacing of an Ironman as Running from Goblins. We have all dealt with them before. On long training session and races. They start the race shortly after you and just follow you. They are faster and they WILL catch you... eventually. Everything you do and don't do is simply trying to stay in front of them as long as possible. Go to hard and slow down they catch you all at once. At first they flick your ear and tug at your shorts. Then one will jump on your leg, then the other, then your back, then they start punching you in the gut, pulling your hair and tripping up your feet. "you have to stay just ahead of the goblins for as long as you can, if they catch you 6 miles into the run, its over, you simply can't deal with them for that long" -I will tell people.
Ok, so onward, pace was good. but the pain was getting worse had spread to both feet and now.. the ankle was throbbing. Trough half way and starting back down "you're top 5 EK!" This barley registered. The next 6 miles are so are, as I look back now, a learning experience that reinforced something I have known but didn't realize just how important it is for racing long. They say you never really appreciate something until it's gone.
So. You know what happened? Nothing. I honestly can not tell you what happened in those miles. They are blank. Totally empty I didn't look at my watch, Chris was gone. He is very necessary for me as most of you know by now but I didn't realize how important he was. I always knew how you had to be hyper motivated to race 140.6 miles. Well, give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, show a man how to fish he'll eat for a life time. I have now been shown what happens when the killer motivation leaves. If you do not have the motivation, the fight in you, to push every moment of every minute in the last 6-13 miles of an Ironman you will not succeed in reaching a high goal. Period. As I approached the turnaround that marked about 7 miles to go I looked at my watch. I was running 10:30/ mile pace on a flat to down hill stretch of road and my body stopped. I curled my toes reached down to loosen my shoe laces for the second time. I did this quickly in the first lap as well. I thought about what people would say behind my back. In have been cursed with hearing people talk about me behind my back. An e-mail once that some how I was put on and clearly shouldn't have been. In the next isle in a grocery store, (yeah believe that crap?!) In the locker room at riverside boat club as I was out side about to walk in. It haunts me. anyone that tell you "I don't care what people think of me." Their lying. it sounds great and I believe you don't want to care about what people think but you do. Ladies that are disagreeing with me, don't wear makeup. Just for one day at work. I dare you.
I started running again, walked an aid station, ran again, walked a hill ran... wait no I couldn't. my legs locked up and ankle folded. I stopped, bent down, hands on my knees. "its over" I thought.
As I stood back up I saw a 4 wheeler type vehicle bringing supply's to the aid stations and I thought, "come on hit me. just graze me enough so I fall and I can stop" My roadie friends will know what I mean we have all been in those races where you are just BEGGING for a flat tire. I mean making deals with God for just a little flat tire.
So I walked. I thought I'll run there, after the hill, I'll run. I never did. I saw my friend and athlete JR coming from behind . I'll run with him. didn't happen. seeing him race well cheered me up. I stopped to tell Christy, Evren, and Tara thanks, some high fives and I was back off. Then I saw my other good friend and Ek Endurance Coaching athlete Savas. He was on his way at mile 15 or so. And he looked amazing. Coaching him was a challenge. He averaged about 6.5 hr's a week. He is not "talented" as some are with that genetic ability. He's fit, he played soccer, he rowed crew in college and after. and used no data of any kind in training. Seeing Jr and Savas lifted me up.
Those who can't do, teach" ?
No shame in that for me, if could give up all my victories to be the best endurance and athletic coach in the world, I wouldn't even hesitate. I stopped a few more times. My feet hurt so bad. I thought I was moving (walking) well but as I came to the large crowds in town there was no "you can do it, get the run back, come on!" I saw several "ohh shit" kinda looks. I saw my mother and brother in law. "Are you OK?" I handed them my fuel belt, " yeah I'm fine. see you guys in a bit." I said. I walked into the Olympic oval I think everyone there high fived me or touched my shoulder. The crowd was so loud. I looked behind me as runners came by and passed me, I waived them by and gave them a congrats as they came by. It was there day. I made sure I didn't impede on anyone's finish before mustering a wounded, manatee like hobble to the finish line. "Eric Kenney you are an.." " Yeah, yeah we know Shut the hell up!" Ahh Chris you're such and ass...
I went straight to the exit after some food, saw Lindsay and my parents then headed back into the finish area to wait for Savas. Think this guy is happy?
"Even Tom Brady doesn't make it to the supper bowl every year" a friend told me. True. I have qualified for Hawaii twice. Last yr. at IM St. George someone said that I "got lucky". maybe I did, I've been told you don't do something twice in a row on luck. A director from a pro cycling team once said about Paris-Roubaix "To win you don't need to have good luck, you just need to avoid the back luck" I think this is more the case with racing an Ironman.
After the race I saw a friend Patrick. he said "Dude! what the hell happened to you?!!?" This was refreshing for me really, I didn't just fade, something "happened" and apparently it showed more than I thought. I still wonder if I would have pulled it of even if my ankle and feet were 100% fine. In training I had some very positive results. some better than ever before. I also had some that were shy of the last 2 years...
I won't blame it on my ankle, we will never know. people say to me, "awe man, you were right there. doing so well! its to bad." well, yeah but that's the IM story. "I felt so good until mile 13 on the run. really? No shit! If you dont' have "IT" with 13 to go in an IM you will fade, hard, at best. What is "IT"? Everything.
The physical, mental and structural capacity to push your self to the brink or you will wind up that big part of the statistics bell curve.
Whats next? When? Will I be back? ...ask Chris.