I knew it was going to be a good day when “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath starting blasting through my earbuds as I enter the speed skating oval/transition area on race morning. Was it coincidence? I think not. I have over 2000 songs on my iPhone and I had shuffle-played them all while driving to town. I think it is going to be a great day!
The alarm went off at 3:45am and I immediately rose out of bed. I had taken my Heart Rate Variability like I do each morning and it read a 55. Not great, but I didn’t exactly have a great night sleep either. I felt as though I was awake more than I probably was. Despite that, I didn’t feel too bad for 3:45 in the morning. I proceeded making my usual breakfast fruit smoothie and a couple cups of tea.
I finished packing up my “specials needs” bags, which I am able to access at the halfway point of the bike and the run, with extra inner tubes, socks, and nutrition. Skratch Labs hydration mix, Chunks of Energy Chia Chunks, Amrita Bars, and a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches form the base of my nutrition program. I am not fan of a lot of gels and the typical sugary, processed race nutrition that most people use. I see so many people have stomach issues and those are usually the culprit. I did throw in a couple Clif Bars and Honey Stinger waffles for some variation too.
We were off on our way to town. Denise dropped me off at the intersection of RT 86 & 73 at the top of the hill by the Sunoco station. I made my way up the road to the transition. It was still kind of dark and it felt like a quiet pilgrimage up to the speed skating oval. A few rain drops started to fall as I made my way up the street, but it never really amounted to much. I entered the transition area and headed over to my bike to put my water bottles on and my “bento box” full of nutrition. I double-checked my bike and made sure the tires did not go flat over night. All good.
I then headed to the bag racks and added more food and hydration mix packets to them. I passed my coach, Scott, on the way over there. I re-tied my bags and broke the one string on my run bag. Ugh! “Relax…no big deal” I thought to myself. I managed to “MacGyver” it so that it was ok. Next, I left transition and headed to the body marking area in the street just in front of the oval. I got in line and waited my turn. I had gotten in a longer line and a woman in a Polish bike jersey signaled to me to jump in her line which was much shorter. I was then marked with my number on both shoulders, both thighs and one the back of my left calf. Of course they would not leave a calf unmarked, they put my race age on my right calf too. I don’t think anyone could not figure out what number I was.
I then waited a bit at the Mobil station for my wife to show up. Cell service in Lake Placid was awful the entire week, so texting is impossible. I bumped into Coach Scott again and we chatted a bit. His tire pump died on him while pumping his tires up. Why does that stuff always happen at the worst times? He managed to get another one, so it was all good. I then realized I left my special needs bags laying on the ground in transition and ran back to get them. Whew! They were still sitting there. Slight panic averted!
I headed back and got in the porta-potty line and then Denise and my in-laws showed up. I finally got to the porta-potty and no TP! Ugh…Guess I will have to hold it for 13 hours! Actually I didn’t have to go that bad, just want to take a little insurance evacuation. TMI? We then headed up to the swim area and I dropped my special needs bags off at the appropriate areas. The walk to the stone wall on Mirror Lake Drive felt like miles and took forever. I was walking briskly back to the swim chute since it was getting time to start and I was still carrying my wetsuit. I got back to where Denise and her parents were standing and I quickly put my wetsuit on. We had a tearful goodbye and good luck and I made my way down the chute to the swim start. Time to get this party started!
I felt sort of like a herded cow as I made my way to the seeded swim sections. I was looking for the 1:11-1:20 finish time section and it seemed impossible that I would get up there. While standing there, I felt a slight tweak on the rear of my wetsuit. It was Scott again…LOL! The red-faced girl next to him and behind me was like, “it wasn’t me!!”. Definitely a tension-breaker! So we shot the shit again as we tried to make our way to the start. I also saw my friend Robin, from the Troy Jacobson IMLP Camp standing along the railing. We said Hi and she said she would be on aid station #4 on the run course. This would be great to have another friend out there in no man’s land on the run. Scott eventually worked his way up to the 1:00 seeding area and I found my way into my section. The cannon went off for the pros a little before the rest of us.
Before I knew it, a second cannon went off for the age-groupers and the line began to move. I put my goggles on and florescent green swim cap over top. I weaseled my way over to the left side of the herd so I would be on the outside of the group for the clockwise swim. I also thought maybe I could see Denise and the family since it looked like they headed over there. I never saw them though. Before I knew it, I was passing under the big red Swim Start gate, hitting the start button on my Garmin, and submerging into the water. Here we go!
I started out easy since I hadn’t warmed up at all and eventually settled into my rhythm. There were no issues at all. The water was a nice temperature. Not too hot, not too cold…just right. No one hitting me and mostly clear water to swim unobstructed. After about 17 minutes I was rounding the big red tetrahedrons marking the turn back to the beach at 0.6 miles. The turns are always a little congested, but it is a narrow course, so it didn’t last long. The swim back went just as smooth and even thinned out a bit. Before I knew it, I was exiting the water for the first loop. I tried to look in the crowd for family, but my goggles were all blurry at this point. I hit the lap button on my watch at ~37 minutes and back into the water for another loop. Still feeling good and only 1.2 more miles to swim!
The second loop was even better. I was swimming the outside again, but noticed on my right side breath that there was no one between me and the buoys. I then angled over to the rope that is sunk a few feet beneath the surface. This helps so that you don’t have to keep looking forward to site the buoys to swim straight, and your times will increase since you are not swimming so far. I kept the rope in sight most of the second lap. I veered off a couple of times, but not a lot. Before I knew it I was grabbing the sandy bottom of the beach and standing up. I jogged through the swim exit and hit the lap button on my watch. Time: 1:16:54. Nice! This was the easiest swim I have ever had in a triathlon.
I started unzipping my wetsuit as I headed over to two available “wetsuit strippers.” They quickly pulled down my wetsuit to my waist and instructed me to laydown and they ripped my wetsuit off my legs. One helped me up and the other handed me my wetsuit. Done. I then jogged down the chute that lead to transition. The chute was long and lined deep with cheering crowds of people. I tried to scan both sides while still keeping a steady jog. I finally heard my wife screaming my “BRIAN!!” as I was about 10 feet past her. I stopped and quickly ran back to her trying not to obstruct the other athletes behind me. I gave her a quick kiss and then on my way. Right before I entered transition I spotted my parents and my dog, Yuki, who looked like a drowned rat. Apparently, it had rained pretty good while I was swimming. Funny I never noticed it. I gave my Mom a kiss and Yuki a pet on the head and headed into transition.
I quickly grabbed my blue bike gear bag and made my way into the very crowded changing tent. I found an empty chair and sat down to get my bike stuff on. A volunteer came over to help me. I got out my helmet, sunglasses and shoes and was on my way out to get my bike. The volunteer took my bag and would put it back on the rack. There was a volunteer calling out numbers for other volunteers to get bikes out, but my number was not called out, so I headed down the aisle to get my own. Another volunteer was in the aisle next to me and she quickly helped my find my bike. They had apparently spun it around to the other side so I had to do the limbo and get into the next aisle. I got my bike and headed out the bike exit to the mounting area.
T1 Time: 0:08:45
I headed around the sharp turn and down the hill onto the bike course. Denise and her parents were along the side of the road yelling my name as I cruised by. They must have sprinted to get down there so fast. I made my way down the steep, wet streets very cautiously so that I could make the sharp turn at the bottom. They had a wall of hay bails set up at the bottom and I did not want to be the one who crashed into them. Success! The first loop of the bike went very smoothly and my legs felt so good. It felt effortless at times. The only issue on the first loop was the long downhill from Cascade Lakes to Keene. The road surface is horrible and it was pretty wet. I have previously gotten up to 47 miles per hour on here, but this time 35 would be my limit. My brakes were not stopping me as well as normal with the wetness on the carbon fiber wheels. I was not about to take any chances here.
The stretch from Keene to Ausable Forks and back to Jay was a real cruise. I think we had a tailwind cause it was really nice. I unfortunately dropped one of my Amrita Bars out of the little side pocket of my jersey. Guess I should have kept that in my bento box. Crap! I still had a Clif Bar and plenty of Chia Chunks so I was still ok. I consistently popped the chia chunks in my mouth the whole way while sipping my hydration mix. I did not stop at any aid stations to take on more water since I wanted to empty the four I had before the hills started. I also had a small bottle with Ucan Superstarch in it that I sipped occasionally too. Not the best tasting stuff, but I think it is a good slow-release carb that I think works well. It does give you some serious farts afterward though. But for me that is nothing unusual. LOL!
Coming into Ausable Forks a bike whizzed by me with a TYL (Tri Your Limits) cycling jersey on. I knew it wasn’t my coach Scott and then realized it was John from work. He also swims at Rodale Aquatic Center where I used to swim. I sped up to him to say Hi. I hoped I wouldn’t regret burning that match, but it wasn’t too bad. We chatted briefly and then I dropped off since John is a faster biker than I am. He has also finished IMLP a few times now so I figured I would not be able to keep with him. I checked my time through the 30 mile split timer and it was just under an hour and a half. Crap…I am looking at a ~3 hour split for the first 56 miles! I was thinking it would be like 4 hours. I was not feeling like I was going real hard either, so I just kept at that pace.
Next it was up the climb from Jay to Wilmington. It is a pretty healthy climb, but I just love it. It was nice to get out of the aero position for awhile and spin an easy gear. The thing I love about the Lake Placid course is the variation. Flat is ok for a little, but too much and I get sick of it. I like to climb too. The stretch from Wilmington back to Lake Placid is a steady climb up through the gorge. It was recently paved so it is pretty nice. It felt great the first time through. I managed to drop a whole Clif Bar right at the entrance to Whiteface Ski Area. Ugh! Note: Cut these packaged bars up next time and put them in my Chia Chunks baggy. I still had some Chia Chunks left so it was not an issue. I think I over did it on the food, but I would rather have too much than not enough.
I finally reached the “three bears” climbs before heading into town for the 2nd loop. There are a bunch of crazy spectators lined along the climb almost in Tour de France style as you ascend. It is pretty fun. As I reached the top of “Papa Bear” hill by Cobble Mountain Lodge, Denise came popping out aside me and running along. We chatted a bit until I made the right turn into town. Pretty cool! I cruised into the crowd-lined Mirror Lake Drive and picked up my special needs bag. I pulled out more chia chunks, Amrita Bar, a PB&J and some Skratch Labs packets and was on my way for lap #2. I did the first lap in a little over 3 hours which is an hour faster than I had planned. Hmm..better chill a bit on the second lap.
I weaved through town and behind the high school and down the hill. I spotted my parents and Yuki down past the hay bails and gave them a wave as I whizzed by. When I got on the climb past the ski jumps, I pulled out my PB&J and started chowing on that. The peanut butter was getting stuck in my throat, so I had to take sips of liquid in between bites. Here I am climbing a hill with a PB&J in one hand and a water bottle in the other. And I was passing some people too! Lol! The PB&J really hit the spot though. The descent down to Keene was here in no time. This time it was dry…sweet! There was also less people this time, so I could let it fly a bit more. Not sure how fast I got going this time since I was going too fast to look.
The 2nd time through Keene to Ausable Forks I was getting tired of being aero. My ass was really starting to hurt being in this position so long. I was relieved to hit the climb to Wilmington again and sit up a bit. I stopped briefly to pour some water from aide station and a Skratch Labs pack into my water bottle. My legs were starting to feel it a bit on this stretch back to the end. Not terrible though. What you would expect after 80 miles of riding. I did manage to get an Amrita Bar into my mouth this time without dropping it. Yum! I also kept popping Chia Chunks the whole time keeping a fairly consistent feeding routine. I think this would be key to the rest of the day for me. My coach had said that I would not feel like eating during the race and that I would have to force it a bit. Ha…ha…not me. I had no issue wanting to eat the whole time on the bike. For once my non-stop hunger becomes advantageous.
Back up the “three bears”, into town and straight into transition this time. The bike is over. Time: 6:24:38(7:50:17 overall)…Excellent! 36 minutes ahead of my plan. I just hope I didn’t tank my legs though. I will soon find out.
I gave my bike to a volunteer and headed for the run gear bag hanging on the rack. Then into the changing tent which was much less crowded this time. The volunteer in the tent just ripped my bag open and assured me he would get my a new bag. I changed into some fresh socks, which felt sooo good. My cold, numb feet started to regain consciousness. I put my run belt, fuel belt and run shoes on. I ditched the run hat and sunglasses since it was still totally cloudy out. I popped a few salt pills and b-lined for the urinal in the tent. My pee looked pretty dark which worried me a bit. I needed to keep sipping liquids. I headed out the tent and over to the sunscreen appliers. The one girl even rubbed some on my head…what are you saying I am bald?? Lol! Good idea really.
My transitions were a bit slow, but it is the first time I had done them in this format. I know next year I can definitely shave off at least 5 minutes from here.
T2 Time: 0:07:58
I was out of transition and onto the run. The first mile is all downhill out of town. I felt really good here thanks to gravity. Denise and her parents were down at the bottom of the hill by Lisa G’s I said Hi and cruised on up the little hill and headed out of town. My legs felt a little crampy up the hill which worried me at first. I think it was from all the downhill and it went away pretty quickly. The first 13 mile loop of the run went very well and my legs felt phenomenal. Apparently, I did not burn my legs on the bike. I ran past the house and Wendy was out front and yelled some supportive words. A mile later I was at the 6 mile turnaround and heading back to town.
I fast-walked up the hill by the metal bridge by the ski jumps just to save my legs a bit. I was going as fast walking as some were running anyway. I was back into town and the whole family was cheering for me as I went by approaching the big hill into town. I slowed down to say Hi and pet Yuki a bit and then onto the hill. I walked most of the way up until the turn on Main St. I was on track for a 2 hour half marathon first loop. Wow, maybe I could PR my marathon during Ironman? My one and only marathon was a 4:30, but I was nursing a IT Band issue and really took it slow.
Making the turn on Mirror Lake and having to head all the way back out to River Road again really messed with my mental state. This is where is got tough. When I passed the family I told Denise this loop may not be quite as fast. I struggled a bit and had a few bouts of walk-run. I always walk the aid stations to get water in without spilling it all over myself, but now I was walking some in between. I also starting feeling something in sticking up in my left shoe. I thought there was something in there but I stopped and took my shoe off and there was nothing. I then took my sock off and still nothing. I ran my hand in my shoe and could not feel anything. WTH?! There was some excess thread in my sock that may have been causing it so I just took it off. One foot sockless and one not. It seemed better and I continued on this way.
On the way down to River Road I struck up a conversation with a girl in a No Meat Athlete shirt and she was telling me about her day. It helped get my mind off the drudgery of doing another loop. When I reached Aid Station #4 things started picking up again. I started drinking Coke with some water for some quick energy which really helped. I also started challenging myself to run for longer stretches and I was beating these challenges.
After the final turn and reaching the 20 mile marker I got a 2nd wind and running become the prominent method of movement again. I could feel the finish looming ever closer. I knew I got this thing now. I fast walked the hill be ski jumps again, but that would be the last hill I walk today. I was now running all the way to the finish. I even
walked ran the big hill into town and up to Mirror Lake Drive. My family had now situated themselves along Main St. in front of the transition area. I heard them yelling and gave them a big smile while holding up two fingers , indicating only two more miles to go. Fans lined along the street were yelling my name, which is listed on my bib, and words of encouragement the whole way. It was awesome. I reflected on all the training and hard work it took to get here and was so stoked that it was coming to the grand finale.
I made the last turn on Mirror Lake Drive. It was only one mile now to the finish. Just then, the sky opened up and it poured! Oh great, I am going to finish in a downpour. It really felt good though and I needed a shower anyway. How timely! It had stopped by the time I reached the oval and I took the right fork this time into the speed skating oval…this is it! Spectators lined the barriers cheering away. I high-fived a bunch of people as I rounded the bend. There were a few people in front of me and I tried to slow a bit so we had some separation. I took a glance up at the Jumbo-Tron and tried to take it all in. I could vaguely hear “Brian Schwind, You are an Ironman” being called over the loudspeaker with all the cheering fans. It wasn’t quite the finish I had expected after watching all the late night finisher videos, but I did it and that is all that really matters. I was scanning the crowd for family in the finishing chute, but did not see anyone. I came through the finish line and gave a little “hockey-pump”. I did it!
Run Time: 4:39:44
Finish Time: 12:37:59
As soon as I passed the finish line I was quickly escorted by a couple volunteers who asked if I was ok. I was! They put a foil wrap around me that had “Refuel with Chocolate Milk” on it. I wasn’t too happy about promoting chocolate milk, but the warmth felt good. The volunteer, only one now, paraded me around to different people to get finisher swag, water, and take my race chip off my ankle. He then walked me around a bit and I said I was good. I spotted the family behind the fence on the side and went over to say Hi. I didn’t see Denise and first and asked “Where is Denise at?” She was standing just to the left and gave me a look like duh…here I am! I gave her a big hug and kiss and then proceed to give my Mom and Mother-in-law hugs and kisses. My Dad and Father-in-law got high fives. I thought I would be more emotional at the finish, but I wasn’t. Maybe too tired to be. I was happy though. I don’t think it was totally set in yet.
I started getting a little dizzy while talking to them about post-race plans. I went and sat down for awhile. A volunteer came by and asked if I wanted a piece of pizza. Hmmm…I have been plant-based for over a year now, but I think I can break the rules for this. Sure!…I said. It was soooo good!! chatted for a bit with another first-timer from DC and even had another slice of pizza. That stuff is addicting!
I finally mustered up the energy to get moving again. I collected up all my transition bags and my bike and met up with my wife. We walked down the hill to the parking lot on Wesvalley Road. Most places were closed at this point(~9pm), but we headed over to the Dancing Bears on Main St. I had a couple Lake Placid IPA’s and yes, another Pizza!! What the hell!
After chowing down, we went back to the finish line to see the final finishers of the night. It was so cool. So much energy!! I could not believe people were still out there that long. This is what I expected the finish line to look like. Everyone was dancing and music blasting. Mike O’Reilly was up and down the finishers chute dancing and carrying on. One girl entered the oval at few seconds before midnight, but she didn’t cross until after 12:00. Not sure if she made it or not.
After that, we then made our way back to the car and headed home to River Road. I took a quick shower and slide into the covers around 1AM. Just before my eyes closed I thought to myself….
I AM AN IRONMAN!!
…And I fell off to sleep! I think it finally sunk in.
Thanks for reading!