A great race report from Asher! Thanks for all the information on your experience at IMLP 2009! [Editor’s Note: Asher asked us to edit this to be shorter, but we said, no way, it’s all part of the day!!]
If you’re short on time to read this then … I made it! Thank you!
And for everyone else that should be working but is seeking a temporary diversion read on 🙂
Sunday July 26 2009
I woke up at the brisk hour of 4 a.m. to start my day. Ate a bagel, took some vitamins and started gathering gear for the drive into town. We found a great parking spot close to the transition area and then damn! I forgot my nutrition bottles for the bike (I put them in fridge which I’ve never done before so that’s why i forgot). Luckily Katie drove back to the house while Jess sat in our killer spot in a lawn chair – passerby’s just assumed she picking a very weird place to spectate from. So we racked our bikes, hung our transition bags and headed out for body marking. Saw some other Detroit Iron racers and supporters and chatted, then headed to our tent near the water (this is where we instructed everyone to gather). Saw the whole team and the whole support crew which was cool, and then we sang Happy Birthday to Mike Blackburn at which point even the strangers around started singing too! A few more minutes of standing around and then oh ohh – gotta find a porta potty. Yikes, those lines are really long! Should have planned that better. Oh well. Now the directors start herding us into the water. Next we queue up the national anthem, then the heart rate climbs a little waiting for the cannon to go off.
BOOM! Dive into the water and start swimming. Two strokes into it and I get elbowed in my right eye. Ouch. I keep swimming and make a point not to get caught up in the initial sprint. I’ve made that mistake my past two Ironman races. So I’m swimming nice and steady, concentrating on long, smooth strokes, except when it gets congested then I modify it to short, defensive strokes. But once the crowd clears I get in my groove and start finding feet to follow. Surprisingly I’m seem to be passing most people. Cool. Then the turn comes where all the swimmers bunch up and it looks, and feels, like a mosh pit. More defensive swimming, then the second turn and finally calm waters again. I swim back to shore, exit the water from this first lap and see that my split is 35 minutes. I jump back in the water for lap two. And now I’m feeling confident that I can hang with the good swimmers so I decide to try swimming the buoy line (there is an underwater cable anchoring the buoys that you can see, which is highly desirable because you don’t have to sight yourself). I end up swimming the line for the entire second loop and am stoked about that. I finish the swim, climb on shore and see 1:09:xx on the clock. I can’t believe it! That is easily my best swim time ever. For comparison, my first IM was 1:19 (in wetsuit in salt water), and my second IM was 1:24 (in wetsuit, in a river). So this really made me feel good.
I ran down the mats towards transition and see all the girls and Kyle. Grab my bike bag and sit down in the transition tent (boys and girls have separate tents). As soon as I sit down I see Brian Gabel right behind me. Cool – I see another DI guy! And then Jared sits downs right beside me. Very cool! And then Jason sits down next to him. Awesome! It’s rare to see one another in the transition areas so this was neat. So now we head out on the bike. There is a rolling two or three mile climb out of town. And then it’s a six mile screaming descent. I top out at 47 mph or so – The fastest I’ve ever been on a bicycle. And this descent was a sustained 40+ mph ride. There was a slight mist or rain and the raindrops were stinging against my skin. It got really scary when I had to cross the painted lane dividers as those get slick. So I survive that and start making my around the first loop. After the big downhill it mostly rolling hills to flat grades, It includes a long out and back which is a good chance to see other guys from my team. It seems I’m up towards the front of my group, so that’s cool. I’m trying to delay the point that the others catch me as they’re slightly better riders. So we finish the out and back and start the long, long, long ascent back into town. It’s a 12 mile ascent I think but it feels like forever. I spend almost all of it in my granny gear. It is definitely tough, but I’m discovering it’s doable. My confidence is rising in proportion to my rise in elevation. Also, it’s a alongside a mountain river and the view is beautiful. It’s a great distraction while cranking away. Near town are a couple of hills called Mama Bear and Papa Bear. People are lining the street on Papa Bear just like they do on the Tour de France. This is way cool! I’m mashing and grinding and gritting my teeth to get up this hill, but I have to smile too because of everyone cheering me on.
I ride through town to complete the first of my two laps. I almost completely wipe out directly in front of the announcers stand, but thank the gods I didn’t. I head out for loop number two. About half way through this I realize I’m running out of nutrition. Somehow I didn’t plan this out right. I must have been sucking down more than planned due to the hills. At the last aide station I grab a gatorade bottle (I’m desperate – my legs have been on the verge of complete seizure the last many miles). I hit a bump and the bottle goes flying. I have just six miles left so I figure I can leave it. That was a mistake. Six miles is still a long way, especially when it’s all uphill. Only much later during the run will I realize how big of mistake this was. Eventually I finish the loop but I know I was slower the second time – it’s turn out I was 15 minutes slower. I was expecting an equal or shorter time. Oh well.
I head into the transition tent to get ready for my ‘run’. I go to put on my shoes and discover that I can’t tie my show laces. Each time I bend over my legs seize up immediately and painfully. Well this ain’t so good. But the race gods are generous this day and have placed in the tent certified ART massage therapists. They give me a quick rub down and I’m feeling much better. This may explain my leisurely 15 minute transition time! So head out on the course. I run about one block and then have to start walking. I tried running but couldn’t. My shins were feeling fine (this was my primary concern) but the rest of my revolted. I discovered at mile 5 that I was badly dehydrated. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to rehydrate while you’re still active. In a cruel twist (the gods were having fun at my expense) the dehydration caused my stomach to knot up, which prevented me from taking in fluids. Do you catch my 22 drift? So I kept walking – thirsty, cramping, and not drinking or eating, but still walking. Eventually everyone else on the team pass me by. My close friend Mike that I started this adventure with catches me at mile 18. He’s alternating running and walking, but with my giraffe-like stride we end up at the same pace. So he and I plod along together.
At mile 24 my friend Katie hands me a beer (it’s tradition I have a beer while on the course). As I’m walking along people are cheering me on, saying "you’re looking great Asher" and "keep it up – you’re almost there". These are the standard kinds of chants. But then they notice I’m carrying a beer and they start going nuts. "Oh my god you’re the best ironman ever" was yelled multiple times. This really gets me stoked. So as we get close to the finish area (it’s on the Olympic skating oval) we start running. I’m still carrying my beer (it’s half full at this point, and yes, I was drinking it along the way) and we run down the finishers chute. I stop directly underneath the finish line arch, raise the can above my head and let the beer pour visibly into my mouth! I figured if I can’t finish quickly I might as well finish in style. What I had forgotten about was that the finish line crossing is shown on the large screen video display so the crowd can see, and that it is also broadcast live on a web feed. Several friends back home were watching and promptly texted me about the beer chug. So instead of just having a finish line photo of me chugging, hundreds or maybe thousands, of fans saw me do it. Oops 🙂
The final part of this saga is that I decided to visit the medical tent because although I felt good I knew I was still really dehydrated. They checked me in and the doctor gave me some chicken broth to see if that would help. Well, in my condition it made me feel much, much worse. I became nauseous and delirious. So they hooked me up and gave me three bags of IV fluids. But during the IV I was shaking uncontrollably, even under a space blanket and three wool blankets. They also gave me a drug to settle my stomach. And it turns out over half of my Detroit Iron had been in the med tent too that evening. I spoke with a couple of them while I was there. I knew it was great to stay unified as a team, but this was taking it to another level.
If there was a post race party I missed it. We gathered our stuff and headed home. I had my recovery drinks, some vitamins and promptly passed out.
Woke up after seven hours of sleep and aside from some sore tendons I felt surprisingly good. Very little muscle soreness and I had my appetite back. In fact, it didn’t feel like I had just raced for over 15 hours the day before. I attribute it to good training and my recovery nutrition.
So all in all it was fantastic experience. My shins held up and allowed me to complete the event. The support from my friends was incredible and truly appreciated. And I’ve fallen in love with Lake Placid, both from a race perspective and a normal tourist perspective. It was a very long effort to get here and this week validated that those efforts and sacrifices are worth the experience and memories. That being said, I am quite anxious to get back to a normal life and spend time with my friends and family. Thank you for reading this really, really long winded recap.
Love to All,