Well to just begin things off, I must say that I am EXTREMELY pleased with my performance last week... there were so many things that could have complicated matters or made it difficult to perform at the standards and ability in which I hold myself to, but somehow, some magical way, everything worked out perfectly.
As most of you already know, I am a big numbers guy. I like to be able to plan out what HR I am going to race at for how long, and how many minutes it is going to take me to complete each leg (sometimes even down to the seconds) and I enjoy that guessing and gambling in what I am capable of at a certain point in the year. Its fun to me to try and pinpoint my weaknesses and try to predict a reasonable time to achieve.
2 days before the race, my dad and I were at the expo just walking around and taking in the typical Ironman stuff. (pretty much whatever you wanted to buy with the ironman logo on it for ridiculously expensive prices and anything and everything that you could ever need in case you forgot it at home. We stumbled on a booth that had a "predict your time" contest in which the winner received a pair of Zipp Flashpoint wheels. Previous to this encounter with the booth, I really hadn't planned out just how I thought I would do. The last week I had been sick and was FORCED to take rest. (I was seriously pounding DayQuil on the car ride up to Placid...) and I didn't feel as prepared as I thought I might be (or at least not as prepared as I was for Florida last year) So I marched up to the table and guessed that I would go a 10:32:47. (Anyone who doesn't believe me can ask to see the camera picture in my phone - still don't know how to get those off of the phone...) Just weird to know that after the race, I looked back on that and accurately predicted my time within 5 minutes. (Those 5 minutes are doubly important, I'll explain more later) After 10 hours of racing, that someone could peg it within 5 minutes is just crazy...
Anyway, enough off the blabbing, I'm sure those of you who actually read this blog are wondering what my thoughts are on the certain legs of the race. (probably not really, but I am going to tell it anyway, so in the future I have something to reflect on.) I wanted to wait a little bit before writing this to let everything sink in on how I did and I think I have waited long enough. So without further adieu...
The Swim - 2.4 miles - 58:47
Race day I woke up like a shot. Out of the 7 people that were staying in my suite at the North Country Community College, I was the only one who was racing. I kind of felt like all the eyes were on me, which was weird, but neat at the same time. Dad and I went down to the mirror lake after I had a nice breakfast and dropped off my run special needs bag (decided to go without a bike special needs bag because I had 2 tubes and 2 CO2's already on the bike with tire levers...what else could you need?) We got down to Mirror lake and there was already a buzz, triathletes everywhere and we found a nice little spot to throw on sunscreen and do the usual business. after standing in the portapotty line for a while and chatting with Mary Eggers, I decided to pee in the brush and save myself some time from standing around in line. I had the new Handlebars Cycle Shop uni on and it was looking snazzy. My nose felt stuffed, but I was hoping the cold had cleared out of my head for raceday and it was just general stuffiness.
I got the new Profile Design Metal Cell 2 wetsuit on and thanked my dad for getting up at 4:00am to come to the race start with me. I headed down to the waters edge and looked at the foggy lake for a minute after finishing my bottle of gatorade then got in the water. There were MASSES of athletes and I lined up behind a guy bobbing in the lake with two broken wrists and casts on each hand. I told him I would give him some room and wondered how he was going to make it thru the day. The strength of everyone amazes me. I was about 15 feet to the right of the cannon and about 5 people deep on the line. 7am and the cannon fires signifying the start of the race.
There are legs, arms, fists, and feet flying as everyone transitions from treading water to swimming. The first loop on the swim was VERY physical as everyone wanted the cable lines near the buoy's. Think of 2000+ athletes all swimming towards one buoy and imagine the bottleneck that creates. I thought I would be around 55 minutes in the water and if there wasn't so much congestion, I might have been...who knows. I felt strong on the swim (must have been from raising the training levels this past season from one time a week in the water to twice a week...) I exited the first lap and ran on the beach looking at my watch and seeing the number 28 for the minutes section and thinking I might be able to break 1 hour. I hopped back in and found a female's feet to draft off of for a while but there were so many other men around that people were just fighting for every inch. If you tried to slow down at all you were swam over and I even got an elbow to the face at one point. It happens and it is racing. Oh well.
Exiting the water at the end of the 2nd loop and looking at my split, I noticed I had done a 58, so I knew that I was headed to a good race. You run up the beach, get your wetsuit stripped off and then run 0.25 miles up the carpeted road to transition while EVERYONE is cheering for you and making you feel like a rockstar! It's just magical to hear all of that support and I'm sure you automatically push your HR into zone 4 or 5 during that minute run or so because adrenaline is high and you are feeling great. I ran thru transition, grabbed my bags and headed to the changing tent.
T1 - 4:37
In the tent, the gracious volunteers do everything and anything necessary to get you out of there quickly. I strapped on Excalibur, threw on arm warmers and was heading to run out the tent in my bike shoes when I was hit from the right side, BAM! A guy just running into the change tent must not have seen the super HUGE bullet helmet running in front of him, he apologized, I told him no worries, I was ok and ran off to get my bike.
The bike - 5:41:03 - 19.7mph
Everyone told me to hang out on the bike and let all the other athletes go out too fast and come back to you later in the bike, or on the marathon. I tried my best to do that, but apparently I need to learn better pacing :) I knew about all of the hills on this course from our recon mission over Memorial Day weekend, and I knew that I had significantly different gearing than most. (I was riding an 11/23 instead of a 12/25 or 12/27 - Just found that out too...) But the new prototype race wheels that Jim at Handlebars was letting me use were working GREAT. They were fast, they looked mean and they were lighter than anything I had, which meant that they climbed well too.
The first loop I tried to dial in and focus on nutrition during the bike. I at a clif bar, had gatorade, and had some hits off the gel flask I had on my top tube. I had some GI issues (as normal) but nothing was debilatating. Things flushed out of my stomach in about 30 minutes tops. It was just one of those days where you could eat a lot and get away with it. This was a good thing. We hit the out and back and there was just a pack of guys drafting behind me and I was just disappointed. Just like in Florida, when the draft motorcycles came by, they dispersed quickly, but it was bugging me and I didn't want to get hit with a drafting penalty. So I decided that the only way to avoid them was to haul ass in front of them. I passed the pack of like 15 riders and starting just going fast for about 3 minutes. After then I realized that I couldn't hold that pace for long since this was an IM and not a sprint race, I looked behind me and they were drafting off of me!!!
I pulled up and let them all fly by, I was going to be damned if I was going to pull them all around this course. So I let them go, just like joe meyers had told me to. And that was probably the best decision I made all day. I hit little cherry and big cherry and we had inadvertantly missed those somehow on our Memorial day recon bike course mission so that was new, but at the top of little bear and big bear, Rich Clark from Score-This!!! was cheering his fool head off like a maniac and it was like you were climbing a hill in the Tour de France with everyone lining the hill as you climbed cheering for you. Oh another thing too, during the entire first loop, I was smiling my fool head off and had this ridiculous grin on my face because I was having a BLAST.
The end of the first loop and beginning of the second loop had you go thru town and I couldn't resist the urge to get everyone to cheer for me by pumping my arm in the air and yelling, "I can't hear you!!" to everyone as I whizzed by. It was cool. Everyone explodes in cheers when someone smiles and blows by you on a bike doing what they love. It was great. The second loop was good too, I was joking with people that I was passing and whom were passing me. People who had went out too hard too early were coming back and I was getting compliments from other riders as I was blowing by them on the climbs. Things like, "man, teach me to climb like that!". I was drinking the 1,000 calorie bottle of CarboPro and it was going down smooth and if I felt odd in my stomach, I just waited to eat for like 15 minutes and it usually went away. It was good. The end of the out and back was great, there was a huge Halloween party going on there with people dressed up at the aide station and all. It was just fun.
I even saw John Fish Hunter on the out and back both loops (you really cannot miss him in that yellow and blue bumblebee striped U of R tri kit.) It was just a good day, there was a lot of sun (which I kept grabbing bottles of water to pour over my head and self at the aid stations) and a decent headwind (which may have contributed to the slower speeds on the second loop) but all in all it was going well. I even peed on the bike while going 31mph downhill!
The last ten miles of any IM course are always hard. This one was especially painful with little and big cherry and the 3 bears in those last 10miles. Those are the worst hills on the course. It was good to know that Rich was going to be at the top of papa bear (right where you needed him) and that you were almost done as you rolled thru town. (I still got people to cheer for me though as I came back into town.
T2 - my namsake - blazingly fast at 1:44
Nothing special to report here. Just raw speed as I flew in, gave my bike to a volunteer and hit the change tent and was gone in less than 2 minutes.
The run - 26.2miles - 3:41:41 - 8:27/mile
It always feels really good to know that you are on the run during an Ironman. You know that you are like 4 hours away from being done and really when you are running the only thing that is dragging on you is the desire to walk. If you fight off that desire to walk, you are going to be in good shape. I hit the run and kept up soliciting cheers from everyone (just how I get myself pumped up) I was seeing friends (the whole Train-This!!! crew) and there is no reason to be upset or unfriendly on the run. It was a struggle to keep my HR down and when I went thru 4 miles in 30 minutes, I knew I needed to pace and slow down. I hit the half marathon in 1:39 and I had vowed to not walk any of the Lake Placid hills (those of you who have done the race know what hill on the marathon I am talking about...those of you who don't know - check the elevation profile on www.nasports.com)
The second loop I was still up to my old antics and was beginning to understand that I would do well. At about mile 15, I caught up to Alexis Spilman who was on her first loop and ran with her for a LONG time. (were were going the same pace and it was encouraging to run with a friend) A big Thank you to Alexis for putting up with my babbling for the 10 miles or so we ran together. We were joined by local marathon guru Dan Giblin who took my mind off the pain by just chatting about my old college roommate, Jason Casey, who is also his cousin... Good times. I ran by all the chaos and signage all over. There were Doug Bush heads up near the Marriot and I knew that was his cheering squad. I ran into (almost literally) Darren Vogt in an aid station going the other way and even saw SkiRough at the mile 6 aid station.
Late in the second loop a lot of people kept cheering for Alexis telling her "you can beat him, just do it!" and I knew they were referencing me, but little did they know, I was on my second loop and she was on her first. :) At mile 23, I took in a gel and coke and drank the entire cup of soda. At mile 24 (the large hill) I attacked and left Alexis behind and hit the hill hard. Halfway up I heard Rich Clark screaming, "Travis freaking Earley is on the hill for the second time!!!!! Whoooo hoo!!!!" and that gave me all the extra energy and motivation I needed to just get up it as quickly as possible. At the top I told Rich to cheer for Alexis, because she deserved it by running with me for so long and he did. Also T$ was coming down the hill and I seriously thought he was going to turn around and push me up it he was going nutz when he saw me. It was just cool. No other words to describe it, thank you everyone too.
The last two miles I tried my hardest to pick up the pace and I think I did. At the last turn around (mile 25) I passed Amanda Lovato and gave her a fist bump (a "pound" if you will) and cheered her on. I did a spin move around EACH and every turnaround I am happy to say and I kept a goofy grin on my face the entire time. The last mile into the finish was a blur, and as I was coming down closer to the track, I realized that I could PR in an IM at a significantly harder course. I hit the track and shut off my watch, I ran past a dude who was grabbing a flag from a fan to run across the line with and I hit the line in 10:27:52 while pointing to the logo on my chest (than ks Handlebars!) and flashing the "hang loose" symbol (this will be my trademark until I get to Hawaii...)
This was good for 87th overall and 5th in my age group. Kona slots went to 2nd and 3rd in the age group and I was TOTALLY ok with that. Only because at the award ceremony, I could barely walk correctly and the thought of doing 3 IM races in 12 months time did not really bode well with me. I still have my dream and ambition and that will make me fight harder for it next time. (side note, the 3rd place kid in our age group - also 24, had missed Kona on 2 separate occasions at IMMOO for the past 2 years, so he deserved it. He paid his dues.) Positions 2-5 in my age group were decided by 5 minutes (there it is again) and it still astonishes me to know that after 10 hours of racing, it can come down to minutes. I mean as 2nd place was finishing, 3rd was getting onto the track...and as 3rd finished, 4th was entering the track and as 4th finished, I was about 1:00 away from the track...That's just sick!
I got to get up on the podium for the first time at an Ironman distance race (won my age group at Timberman 70.3 - but that was a half) and I got to raise my award over my head and got on the jumbotron as 2000+ people and their families cheered for me. I have never been that proud of all my hard work. I have pictures that I will add later, but just wanted to get all of my thoughts down on paper. Thank you to everyone who had faith that I would do well, and wants to see me succeed. I'm glad I did not let anyone down and it has still taken a while to sink in, but I now know that I can do better and go farther later on. Thank you all and thank you for all of the kind words. Cheers.