Ironman Lake Placid - Here We Go Again!

Although I just finished two big races in the last 2 months - the Richmond Marathon and my first ultra - I still have another, even bigger race that’s  actually been on the docket longer than either of those officially were. I don't think I really advertised this anywhere except an Instagram story, but at the end of July last year, a few weeks before I signed up for Richmond and a couple months before I signed up for Seashore, I registered for Ironman Lake Placid l (July 28, 2019)!



GULP.

This race is no joke. With a calm (meaning no current) swim, a reported 8000+ft of eleven gain on the bike and at least 1000ft on the run, it's regarded as one of the most difficult Ironman courses in North America, and certainly more difficult than the two I've done. IMNC has one of the fastest swims, as it's point-to-point with the current the whole way, and the bike and run are both pancake flat with a couple of hills. IM Louisville was tougher, but 2/3 of the swim course was downstream, the bike was hilly but not mountainous, and the run was pancake flat. But Lake Placid isn't just known for its difficulty; it's also regarded as one of the most scenic courses in IM. I have never even been to the Adirondacks, let alone raced 140.6 miles through them, and despite how challenging it's going to be, I'm looking forward to an experience unlike any other I've ever had.

Source: Ironman
Truth be told, this race is so scary that it wasn't even on my radar until recently. When I first started venturing into long distance tris, back in 2014/2015 when I was thinking about and completing my first half Ironman, I didn't consider any races that weren't in my comfort zone: flat and in familiar locations. The same was true for my first full Ironman(ish), which took place on the same course as my first half. Although I had never been to Wilmington, NC, specifically, I grew up in coastal South Carolina and Virginia and had spent plenty of time on the coast in between. Everything about the distance scared me for both races, but nothing about the course did. Even deciding to do Louisville was a pretty big jump - I had never set foot there nor spent any amount of time anywhere close to there, and the rolling hills were terrain I wasn't used to. Now the jump from Louisville to Lake Placid makes that first jump seem like the tiniest of baby steps! I have friends who have done this race (including one who did it this past year as her first full - now that's badass!), so I know it's totally doable and isn't as crazy as I'm making it out to be, but it still feels like a pretty big deal to me. It's just crazy to look back and think about how far I've come since just a few years ago.

It’s been almost 6 months since I clicked, “Register” and agreed to let IM take alllll my money, and the race is still almost another 6 months away! It feels like forever ago that I registered and it’s crazy that race day is even farther away, but I’m sure the weeks and months will pass in no time, and it will be here before I know it. 

But in the meantime, I have some work to do. A lot of work to do. 

My Ironman training plan is 30 weeks long and officially started on December 31 (not as convenient as January 1 would have been, but close enough). My previous IM training cycles have both been 20 weeks long, but this but this plan starts with a 10-week base-building period since I have done little to no swimming or cycling since IM Louisville in October 2017. In fact, I did exactly ZERO triathlons in 2018, my first year without any since I started in 2013!

Swim
I swam four times in January and 2.5 times this summer (the 0.5 was an attempt at open water swimming where I had a panic attack and basically just floated on my swim buoy for like half a mile). I have a weird love-hate relationship with swimming, as I love the act of swimming and being in water in general, but I hate the monotony of the pool plus all of the pre- and post-swim time wasted driving to the pool, showering, etc. It's just such a time suck and I feel like I spend as much time on the prep as I do actually in the pool. So it should come as no surprise that I have made basically no attempt to get myself there when I had no real reason to (i.e. nothing to train for).

I figured I would wait as long as possible to get back into the pool and doubted I would make it there before my LP training started, but I got a wild hair one Friday at the end of November when I was off work (I work 9 hour regular days and am off every other Friday) and asked my dad if he would go swim with me. It was about a month before training officially started but I was going to have to rip the Band-Aid off sooner or later, so I decided to just go ahead and get it over with. I ended up swimming about 5 times in December and, miraculously, it was not as bad as I had been anticipating! Getting back to it didn't feel as hard as other times I've come back after a long break. Maybe I was on to something taking almost a whole year off...
Total (post-Louisville, pre-Lake Placid): 10.8 miles 
(0.74 miles/month average)

Source: Ironman
Bike
Although I completed the Mountains of Misery century in May (for the second year in a row) my training for that was abysmal and, relative to the difficulty of the task at hand, virtually nonexistent. Life was very busy this spring, and the couple of months leading up to MoM could not have been busier. We moved in with my MIL for about a month, I started a new job, we moved into our house, my MIL got married and we helped with some wedding tasks (I was actually on the trainer the morning of the wedding, fiddling on my iPad with the DIY Photo Booth app we were planning to set up at the reception, until about 2 hours before the wedding), we had a pet die, and there were just not enough free hours to ride my bike. I'm proud of completing MoM for a second year (10k of elevation gain is no joke for this flatlander!), but, true to the title, it was a much more miserable experience this year than last year when I was actually trained for it. After that half-assed couple of months of MoM training, I did some spin classes during marathon training (July-November) but I don’t think that did a whole lot to build substantial bike fitness or endurance.
Total (post-Louisville, pre-Lake Placid): 643 miles 
(44.3 miles/month average - but 102 of that came from MoM alone!) plus 8 spin classes

Source: Ironman
Run
While I did take off from triathlons in 2018, it certainly wasn't to sit on the couch and do nothing. The reason I spent so little time swimming and biking is because I wanted to switch gears and really focus on running for a while. This time last year I had basically been long distance triathlon training for 2.5 years straight, and mentally I just needed to do something different. I hired a coach from February-July and although my longest races during that time were a few half marathons, I ran more training for those than I had ever run, even training for marathons. It was met with mixed results - I PRed my 5k and I came within a minute of my half marathon PR, but also blew up at my goal half marathon and ran 10+ minutes over my PR - and by the time I started marathon training in July I decided to try self-coaching again. That, too, was met with mixed results - I developed an injury halfway through marathon training that cost me some training time, and while I was healed enough to run the marathon by the time race day came around, it was kind of a disaster. And, finally, I ended the year with my first 50k!
All that to say, my goal to focus on and improve my running in 2018 didn't quite come to fruition, but I ran a lot.
Total (post-Louisville, pre-Lake Placid): 1,610 miles 
(111 miles/month average)

Source: Ironman
Looking at the numbers, it's pretty obvious that this was a year of running and not much else. And although it didn't go quite as planned on the PR front, I still think it was a necessary and welcome change from what I had been doing the last couple of years. For a while I was strongly considering doing a 70.3 in fall 2018, but in retrospect I'm happy with my decision not to do any triathlons in 2018. This time last year I wasn't planning on doing a full IM in 2019, but I wasn't not planning on it either; it just simply wasn't on my radar at the time. Looking back I think I would have gotten

I'm really happy with the amount of running I did last year, but not so much with the quality. Overall it was my slowest year in recent history and I felt like I was just off for a lot of the year. I'm not sure how but I never got burnt out doing so much running, but just as I'll be majorly upping my swimming and biking, I will be dialing back my running. As grateful as I am for my break from triathlon, I generally feel better and more balanced when I have all three in the mix and am looking forward to getting stronger at each one, one week at a time!

3 comments

  1. Go you!! I can't wait to follow along. Although it honestly sounds intense (those heightssss), Im sure it'll all come together by the time of the race

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  2. Ahhhh so exciting! Yay! Those pictures from the course look STUNNING. Way to put yourself out there and do sign up for something awesome. This is 100% obviously not the same thing at all, but I thought I'd be way in over my head doing Rock 'n' Roll Seattle this past June, and I totally was (Seattle has hills! Chicago...does not! Haha.). It was easily the most challenging half course I've ever run, but it was also EASILY, like not even anything close to having any competition at all, the prettiest and most scenic course I've ever run. It wasn't my fastest half by a long shot, but honestly it was my favorite race to date just because it was SO pretty. I hope you have similar feelings about Lake Placid!

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  3. Yay! The break must have helped you because I've gotta say, you really seem like you're back in your element since you started IM prep. Excited to follow your training!

    While I know it's nowhere near comparison to triathlon training, getting the Peloton and incorporating spinning into my training has been really eye-opening for me too. While cycling (or any other exercise) will never be as gratifying as running, it wasn't until I got into this that I was able to see my previous habits (aka, run all the miles and don't do anything else) in a new light, and it confirmed what I've long suspected but never wanted to admit: the reason my running career derailed a bit was that I got bored and felt stale. I don't think I could ever give up running and race training, but I've finally learned that it's okay to feel bored with it sometimes. It doesn't mean I've stopped liking it, I just need to make sure I'm keeping things fresh and checking in with myself to make sure I'm still enjoying things.

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