Ironman Lake Placid Race Report by Sophie Evans

Posted: September 27, 2010 in News, Race Information, Race Reports

Sophie EvansI have been reluctant to write a “race report” … always struggled to believe anyone would actually want to read it  However, for those who know me and my horrific memory, I figure it would be something I may regret not doing.  So, I am writing it down so that I can always remember what it was like to complete my first Ironman….

My Ironman experience started several days before the actual gun went off at 7am July 25th … packing alone was stressful enough to get my heart rate up.  I did my best to create a list of everything I needed, but also benefited from the wisdom of those more experienced than me by checking out what I could find online.  I came across one particularly detailed list that included over 200 items … crap, I need a bigger car!  I was sure to pack a couple of days early, but the benefit of my advance planning was canceled out by the sleep I lost when one of those damn lists would pop in to my head and I needed to confirm I actually had packed everything I needed.

The car was packed up with three bikes (Blake’s, Nas’, and mine) in tow. Blake and I began our long 14+ hour drive up to Lake Placid Wednesday at 6am.  An uneventful trip with the exception of the lunch stop at Friendly’s (first time I had ever eaten at this fine establishment)…It came back to haunt me within 30 min of consuming it – nuff said!  We’re sticking to Subway next time Blake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday morning started with a quick walk over to Mirror Lake for a test-drive around the swim course with Blake and Nas.  I am not a fan of open water swimming to start with but this water FREAKED me out!  I panicked the first outing (30min) because the water was this deep black abyss.  The buoy line, a supposed “highlight” of the Placid course as it allowed swimmers to keep a straight course without regular sighting, actually made things worse because it skewed my depth perception … mid-swim hyperventilation was not in my race plan?!  The only way I made it through was to keep my eyes closed when my head was in the water and open to sight only!  This was not good and I was beginning to get a bit worried … at least I would get to share the experience with 3000 of my closest friends – not very reassuring!

Friday morning I went out for a short bike ride.  I didn’t get very far because my front derailleur wouldn’t shift out of the big ring and i was heading up hill from the start of the course.  I was pretty sure I was going to need all my gears for the hilly course.  So back I went down the hill to the house…so far this was not going well!   Bike went to the shop for a couple of hours while I did the athlete check in.  I managed to skip a station at check in and leave without my transition bags (of course I did!).  So back I went!  Stephanie, this is where I think your business model would work perfectly…for idiots like me!!!!!!  Later that day I went for a short run and I couldn’t help notice the way my fellow triathletes had suddenly taken over this sleepy town.  I also became very self conscious when every guy I saw had smoother legs than me! argh, I had a date with my razor later!  Friday night was the mandatory race meeting.  I don’t think I heard a thing because of the not-so-little voice in my head that kept repeating – “holy crap, all these people are starting at the same time in that small area at the start!”

Saturday morning started with a quick test of the bike… all good!  Then back to the water for one last pre-race swim, gulp!  Not quite as much hyper ventilating but still not comfortable!  Things were moving in the right direction!  Then back to the house to fill up my transition bags/special needs bags, which is more difficult and stressful than one would think!  Next it was time to drop off my transition bags and bike at transition area … bye bye bike!  I walked back past the pro section and gawked at the bikes … who knew you could fit that many gels on a single bike!  The rest of the day was spent eating, walking around town and relaxing.  Saturday night meant final preparations for the morning, including special needs bags then off to bed ….sleep was minimal!


My alarm went off at 4:45am, wow I did get a bit of sleep!  I forced myself to eat breakfast (porridge, 1/2 banana, and some coffee).  With some calories in my belly, I shifted focus to dressing and working on my race-day hair.  Yes that’s right I said hair!  I had just cut it significantly shorter a few days prior so the usual ponytail wasn’t going to happen and it was long enough that I couldn’t keep it down.  Elastics and hair clips is torture under a helmet for 6+ hours!  So some creative braiding was in order….not so cute but functional!  Blake and I left the house at 5:30 to walk the 1mi to the transition area to check our bikes and transition bags again.  Then it was another mile to drop off our special needs bags.  Yes, we were complaining about that 1 mile before heading out on our 140.6 mile adventure!  But before that adventure started, we had a challenge to find a port-a-potty without a 30 min wait (so we walked again)!  A few minutes before the start I put on my wetsuit, handed my bag to my mum and kissed her goodbye.  I was then walking into the starting shoot and there was no turning back!  We found Kerry Troester and we all swam across to far side away from the buoy line and closer to the front.  Coach Marty said this would be the best place for me to start even though every part of my body wanted to stand on shore until everyone else went in first.   It’s 2 minutes before the start and I am floating in the water, no treading water needed in the wet suit!  I am having some terrible thoughts at this point because I cannot figure out how I am going to swim when there are so many people around me that I cannot even stretch my arms out.  Then I notice I don’t see another woman other  than Kerry, just big muscular men….oh jeez this is gonna hurt!  Then it’s the national anthem and whoa was that the gun?!  I guess so because EVERYONE is going!  I dog paddle a few strokes and swim with my head above water for a while until I have enough room to stretch out.  It was rough and I was kicked in the chest, gut, and shoulders quite often.  I kicked much more than I normally would only to keep people from pulling at my feet!  But to be honest, it wasn’t nearly as horrific an experience as I thought it would be.  The good thing was i didn’t even think twice about the deep black abyss!  I came out of the first loop of the swim with the clock at 44 min.  Slower than I was hoping for but at least I was on track to make the cut off!  Then back in I went.  The first few meters I was excited because I noticed that i was swimming side by side with Kerry!  But it wasn’t long before I lost her while trying to dodge all the other swimmers.  The second loop was much more pleasant and significantly less stressful!  Getting out at the finish of the swim I looked up at the clock, 1:10 … whoa how did that happen?!  Big smile on my face as I head up to the famous wet suit strippers!  Side note:  I had bought a sports bikini bottom that ties up to wear under the wetsuit so that it would not be pulled off with the wetsuit.  However, when I saw the lengthy run from swim to transition area, I ditched the bikini and pulled on a pair of shorts!  Heard a funny story after the race about a Japanese man several years ago who clearly didn’t think through the process and wasn’t wearing anything under his wetsuit!!!!!

OK, back to the race…  I was running to transition with wetsuit in hand and belly nice and distended, I must have swallowed 1/2 of Mirror lake and a whole lot of air while I was hyperventilating!   I located my transition bag, ran into the change tent and found a chair in the dark to observe how everyone else transitioned!  And get this, they had ladies there to help you undress and dress!  Before I left I made sure to pop a couple Maalox to deflate my swollen belly.  Over 10 minutes later I went to find my bike.   Shortly after I mounted my bike I noticed Blake zoom by me down the hill!  Don’t think I’ll be catching him.  A quick wave to my amazing family and I was outta there!

I settled in on the bike and notice right away that I have to pee. Mirror lake has made it down to my bladder all ready, ugh?!  Oh well, let’s see how long I can hold it!  So, a bit of climbing out of town and it starts to rain, oh s*@#%!  I say that because I know what is coming …. the LONG and very fast descent (7 miles of it?!).  I have never been so scared and out of control in all my life.  I think I got a couple of looks because I was screaming the entire 7 miles!!!!  By the time I reached Keene (the bottom) my inner thighs, shoulders, and triceps were screaming from clenching so tight!  And to think I would have to do that again.  After Keene I tried to take in some calories but it was a struggle…maybe because I was bloated?!?!?!?!?!  Oh well, I forced it down.  I settled into my steady zone 2 pace and enjoyed the scenery immensely.  I was however having an inner conflict as I watched rider after rider pass me.   I kept referring to my mantra “zone 2 zone 2 zone 2″…. that’s what Marty says!  Good thing I had my heart rate monitor on because I would never have stayed in zone 2 without it!  By the time I got to Jay I was desperate for a port-a-potty.  I had seen a couple but not until I had passed them and it seemed dangerous to stop and turn around.  Luckily I did see one at the beginning of the out and back and decided to stop on my way back out.  That out and back took forever!!!!!  After dangerous weaving through several other riders I stopped and got off.  There was a sweet little old lady there to hold my bike and we exchanged pleasantries.  Back on my bike and I felt sooooo much better and ready to eat and drink!  I have had quite a bit of difficulty transitioning to long distance training after years of short explosive fast twitch training.  This is why I turned to a coach (Marty Gaal) in January to help me transition over.  I have also discovered that I am not mentally made for distance training.  I find it quite boring and I lose focus very easily.  During the race I found myself slowing down at times and sight seeing:  “ooh, that would be a great place to eat; those trees are beautiful; oh, i like her bike; Oli would love North Pole we should check it out; I cannot believe people ski off that jump!”…perhaps I have a bit of ADD?!  In any case, it’s a beautiful course with lots to see.  On the way back into town I noticed the wind really picking up.  This is also where the most climbing comes in.  The biggest of the climbs, Papa Bear, was fantastic because you could get a small sense of what the Tour riders must feel as it was lined with spectators cheering the entire way up.  Then it was back into town to find my special needs bag containing my own drink mixes and snacks.  It was a bit hairy to find the guy who had my bag.   I could have had a cocktail at this point with amount of time I spent setting myself up…I think the guy holding my special needs bag was beginning to get impatient with me!  Ok, downed a couple of Cosmo’s and off I went to start another loop!  This meant 2 things:  the good was that i was able to see my wonderful family again but the very very very bad was that I had to do the descents again!  This time it was dry BUT the wind had really picked up….I feared for my life and again I screamed the entire way down!  The second loop was fun because I found myself passing a few people especially on the flat out and backs.  I was experiencing some significant discomfort in both knees by mile 70 … not good!  I tried to recruit more hamstring through the pedal stroke to help reduce the pain.  However, I worried a bit that this might come to bite me in the you know what later during the run.  About 15-20 miles away from town I hit a small hole and heard a strange noise from the rear of my bike, oh no!  The biggest fear for me on the bike (besides the crazy descents!) was getting a flat on my tubulars.  So I stopped to check the tire…a bit soft but not flat.  Got back on and hoped for the best, which turned out to be good enough as I made it to transition with just enough air in the tire to keep me off the rim.

This part is a bit fuzzy but I think I remember giving my bike to someone and then went to get my transition bag.  I was out of there quickly with some help from a fantastic lady, thank you!  Stopped at the port-a-potty on the way out and walked a bit to stretch out my achilles, and don my watch and belt.  After a few minutes I was on my way.  Stopped half a mile out to kiss and hug my family.  The 10 mile section out of town was a bit lonely because there were few spectators.  On the way back into town I finally caught up to Blake and walked up the first big hill back into town.  I had met my goal on the run and that was to run the first 8 miles without stopping, yippee!  The run section in town was fantastic!  The spectators made it the most fun I have ever had running!  I love that our names are on our bibs so spectators can call out your name and make it more personal.  Reading my name, some of the French Canadians assumed I was French and would encourage me in french, awesome!!!  I skipped my special needs bag for the run and went back out for the second loop.  I stopped to hug and kiss my family and get in a little stretch!   I wasn’t looking forward to heading back out for another lonely loop; however, I was excited with the thought that I was almost done (in the grand scheme of things).  The second loop I planned to stop at all or every other aid station to hydrate.  At one of the first aid stations going out I decided I would try the cola.  I normally do not like the taste but at this point I was sick of sports drinks!  I have to say that it was yummy but it did not sit well in by belly.  Hmmm, I think I’ll wait for the last few miles to try that again!  Back to water, sports drink and Gu, blah!  I was surprised at how well my injured achilles was holding up.  What worried me was that the one on the other side was starting to get a bit angry. I shifted the timing chip and guess what…relief!  In the later miles my muscles were getting incredibly sore and tender (even to the touch) with my hips really fatiguing.  I was indeed doing the marathon shuffle!  I was amazed that this run was feeling soooooo much better than the marathon I had completed earlier in the year.  The entire way back I was trying to calculate what i needed to run to finish before the 12 hour mark…I felt confident I could make it assuming I could keep up the pace.  Coming back into town was incredible…I had a smile plastered to my face despite the enormous amount of pain I was feeling.  I had underestimated how the hills would feel the second time around and I was forced to walk them all, which set me off my goal for under 12 hours!  At mile 23-24 there was a young guy, maybe a coach, running along side a racer up ahead of me, cheering him on to pick up the pace slightly to make that 12 hour mark.  So, I decided to go with him!  Boy did that hurt but I managed to pick it up slightly until I reached the entrance to the speed skating oval at which point i ran as fast as my legs could go to get there before 12 hours….my time was 11:59:10!  Only 2 or 3 competitors behind me made it in under the 12 hour mark

I’m an Ironman and it hurts!  When I stopped running I could barely stand and every single muscle and those I didn’t know I had hurt!  I have to say that I seriously doubted I could complete this race while I was training for it.  My physical make-up is not made for distance racing (parts of which are paying for it now) and I lack the attention span for some of those long workouts (perhaps  a small case of ADD???).  Before July 25th, I was quite certain that I would never attempt another Ironman again. However, I will eat my words and say that I would love to do another when the timing is right and when my body is healthy going into it!

One of the main reasons for writing this is to give a very special thank you for everyone who help make a dream come true!  Thank you to my wonderful boys, Scott and Oliver, who have been so patient and supportive during the long hours spent training, I could never have done it without you!  Thank you to my wonderful family who came to support me during the race.  Thank you to a fantastic coach, Marty Gaal.  And of course a special thanks to the best training buddies: Blake, Nas, Mike, John, Sarah and Stephanie

  1. Roger Lias says:

    Great write-up Sophie. Thanks and congrats on your achievement!

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