Posted by: kellietris | July 30, 2012

IMLP Race Report Part One! Roll with the punches.

Hooooooly crap you guys, I am an Ironman. Spoilers, right?!

Before I get to the juicy stuff, I have to thank the course support. My parents, Jay, and my friends Claire and Joe made the trip to Lake Placid to wait on the side of the road all day waiting for glimpses of me passing by and were awesome cheerleaders. My sister was following closely at home. My coach Denise, and Doug, also from the Sustainable Athlete, were in town as well, offering cheers and double checking my health along the course. In addition, countless people who I don’t know (and I few I only know from twitter!) were out there cheering my name or even just my number, and that is incredible. So thanks.

I drove up Thursday morning and spent Thursday afternoon and Friday hanging out in Lake Placid and at my cabin in Saranac Lake basically taking in the atmosphere and vegging out, trying to keep off my ankle as much as I could. Right, the ankle! So last weekend I swam the Nubble Light Challenge down in York. It was really fun, and incredibly chilly… down to the mid-50s at its coldest spots and never higher than 62-63 degrees. When I stood up after the 2.4 mile swim and went to run for the finish chute, through all the numbness I felt some pain in my ankle. By the end of the day it was uncomfortably swollen and painful to walk on. X-rays on Sunday were negative and I was diagnosed with a sprain of one of the tendons on the inside of my left ankle. No big deal, just gotta run an Ironman in seven days! I kept it wrapped and taped and in an air cast and lived on ibuprofen last week. By Saturday I was feeling optimistic walking around on it. I would not run on it at all until I came out of the water on the swim.

I have an obscenely terrible headache right now, but OMG my bike goes here!

As if that weren’t daunting enough, I woke up Saturday feeling like my eyes were going to burst out of my head. I woke up once and was going to have breakfast with Renee and Christina, my houseguests for the evening who were volunteering and spectating at the race, but decided I had to go back to bed immediately. I felt awful. My mom came over and got me up again around 10:30 and I made it up and out of the house. Still no appetite, the thought of food made me sick and my head was pounding despite ibuprofin. I had a migraine! I’ve only started having them recently and it took me a while to recognize this one. As in, we checked in my bike, walked all over 80-degree Lake Placid in search of food, and drove the bike course, and I was wanting to die about half the time. We went back to the cabins, I took a pill and a nap, and I woke up a few hours later with no headache and a slight migraine hangover. Props to my parents for putting up with me while we were out, I was wicked cranky as you can probably imagine. I obsessively-compulsively packed my transition bags Saturday night and was ready to go.

Pre-race! No jitters here. PVC ladies: myself, Erin, and Anne.

Sunday morning Denise and Doug picked me up at 4:45AM with my friend Erin who was also racing. I was still pretty calm through the car ride, and as I put the final items into my transition bags. It was when I got over to the front of the lake that I started getting really excited. Not nerves, just excitement. I did  manage to forget my sunglasses were on the top of my head and had to run back to transition riiiiight before it closed to get them in my bike bag, and I did run back to transition and forget that my cap and goggles were in the bag I left with my parents, but in the end all the pieces were where they were intended to be and that’s what counts!

I got into the water at about 6:40. The pros were set to start at 6:50 and the age groupers at 7:00 sharp. I had a plan. I wanted to be about 10-15 people deep off the dock and maybe 4 or 5 people deep from the front of the line at the start. I got exactly to that spot just before the pros were started and hung out treading water there for ten minutes as the water around me filled up. For the unfamiliar… Ironman races traditionally start with a mass wave. Unlike most smaller triathlons where there are wave starts organized by age, gender, relays, or whatnot, Ironman prefers they set off one cannon and BOOM everyone goes. In the case of Lake Placid, this means 2500 athletes squeeze into one end of narrow Mirror Lake and when they say go, everyone goes. People are pretty good at seeding themselves by ability- you’re not going to put yourself on the front line if you know it’s going to take you two hours to swim the course. Still, there are two thousand people vertically treading water and at the sound of the cannon they all try to go horizontal. It gets crazy.

Pre-swim, in the corral… so many wetsuits! And also, me. 

There is also a quirk to this particular course that is useful, and that is a cable that runs 5′ below the surface of the water which is used to anchor the buoys. In theory if you find this elusive cable, you can swim the whole way to theother end of the lake without looking up to sight the next buoy. 2500 people want to be on this cable. I knew not to dream that I could find it on the first lap of the lake, but hoped the second time around I might get lucky once the crowd had thinned out a bit and find myself on top of it. Well, to have a plan is one thing, to execute it is another!

My goal was to swim somewhere around an hour. I didn’t have a lot of true ‘goals’ for this race other than the most obvious and daunting: FINISH. That being said I thought I could easily pull off an hour in the swim based on training camp and my general swimming abilities. So I’m on the line, hearing people accidentally bumping into each other treading water, joking that ‘hey, it’s not the last time we’ll get kicked today!’ and ‘remember, don’t take it persoanally!’. Mike Reilly,  the voice of Ironman, got everyone pumped up, and the countdown was on. 7:00 hit.



I swam with my head up until I felt safe to put it in the water. This took at least 25 yards, closer to 50 for sure. No major injuries sustained in the melee! You kind of swim protectively- being aware of where the legs of the swimmers in front of you are, and where the elbows of the swimmers next to you are… and try to avoid being whacked by any of these. The course is a rectangle, with large yellow buoys heading out and orange ones coming back. At the far end of the lake are three red buoys- these three you must keep to your left. The others you are free to swim inside, but fewer people do. I had intended to swim just inside the yellow buoys, but quickly found myself waaaaay inside them, to the point I was swimming back at an angle to get  back towards the course. I kept swimming into people’s feet. Some of them were going towards the buoys, some were going in the complete wrong direction- I don’t like to draft off other people mostly because you can’t be sure they’re going the right way! The whole first loop went similarly. I found it very frustrating. I found the cable on the way back in on the first loop, and got super excited about it! I followed it for a short time until I came upon the person in front of me who had also found the cable, and was going just a tad slower than I was. It would have taken a pretty severe acceleration for me to get by them, which I didn’t want to do since I knew the day that lay ahead of me, but I also didn’t want to slow down because come on… I wasn’t slowing down!! In the end I had to abandon the line, hoping to find it again later. I went back to the inside and battled a bit more. The buoys went by one by one, and I got back to the dock. In this race you have to exit the water, run through a timing arch, and get back in where we started for the second loop. Song blaring over the PA system? ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ (Obviously)

ooooohhhhhhhh we’re halfway thereeee……(except that 1.2 miles is nowhere near half of what’s to come!)

I totally started singing at the top of my lungs as I got back in the water. At least one guy gave me a funny look. What?! Sometimes you just gotta belt it. I dove back in and got into another battle over which direction we should be swimming in. Mom was watching from shore and saw me get clocked a couple times in trying to go the direction I wanted. Probably looked worse than it felt! The second loop was a little less crazy than the first, but not much. I did find the cable, but every time I did I found myself in the same quandry, unable to pass without wasting a ton of energy but unwilling to slow down. I gave up on it and just swam to the inside. I just kept on keepin’ on, until I got back to the beach the second time. I climbed out of the water, took off my cap, and the swim was done.

Final time: 1:07:10, 11/38 age group, 484/2277 overall.

Obviously that’s seven minutes more than the hour I had been hoping it would take, but really? I don’t care. I did what I could given the space I had, and that’s alright. I’m glad I didn’t try to get in front of every pair of feet that I came upon and burn myself out. Yeah, I wish I could have had the lake to myself (I totally could have broken an hour in that case), but nobody else did either. Lesson learned. I don’t know where I would have started instead, but next time (yup) I’ll do it differently.

Bike bags waiting for their swimmers…

Out of the water there is a 300ish meter run to the transition. They lay down carpet over the whole thing which is way easier on the feet than the pavement, obviously, and the whole run is lined by people screaming and cheering and shouting for you. It was so energizing… the first taste of what was to come later on the bike and the run. I got out of the lake and immediately felt the pain in my ankle. Ugh. I tentatively took my first few steps since getting out of the water and running was how I had initially injured it, and it didn’t feel great. Mom said she saw me at that point and knew I wasn’t excited about it from the look on my face, and she was right. I was really worried about what it was going to mean for the bike and the run if I had trouble with the 300 meters to transition. I walked a few steps, and jogged a few more, and ultimately slowly cautiously ran the rest of the way. By the time I got to transition it was hurting less, and I honestly don’t remember it hurting at all when I took off on the bike. Whew.

Transition took me just shy of 13 minutes. I decided beforehand that I would rather take a few extra minutes and be comfortable than blow through transition and forget something crucial. I’ve heard horror stories about forgotten sunscreen, nutrition, sunglasses, etc., and I didn’t want to screw it up and be miserable! Off with the bathing suit (men’s and women’s transition areas are separate tents so people can just strip down), cycling shorts and jersey on. Sunglasses. Helmet. Water bottle full of nutrition powder stashed in my back pocket for the second part of the bike. Chap stick. Sunscreen liberally applied. Socks… oops. No socks. Somehow, despite packing every pair of cycling socks I own, none of them made it into the bike bag. I guess we’re going sockless! Never had blister issues with my cycling shoes before, hope I don’t start now!! The tape I had put on my ankle had come off in the water, and I wasn’t concerned about it hurting on the bike, so I decided to just go. No socks, no tape, no wrap, nada. Fingers crossed!

I ran out of the transition tent. Someone with a bullhorn yelled my number to the volunteers in transition. By the time I got to the rack where my bike was, a smiling volunteer was waiting for me with my bike in hand.

Time for a bike ride.

[This obviously took forever to write, I PROMISE I will try and get through the bike and maybe even the run by the end of the week…if you haven’t heard from me and you’re actually waiting to hear it, yell at me so I’ll get it done!]



  1. AWEsOMe JoB! congratulations! it must be an incredibly feeling to have accomplished that! I’m currently an Ironman-in-training, so major ReSpEcT to you! I’m coming up to Phippsburg this weekend for a week. I’m looking for group swims or advice on good places to solo. I’ll be coming with several kayakers, so support is available. I don’t have a wetsuit, but would like to think I could handle 65 degree water for an hour or so. I see there’s a daily swim at Crystal Lake in Grey @ 6am per do you know if that is still going on?
    Thanks for any insight you can provide, and again WaY to Go on the Ironman!!!!!

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