Ironman Lake Placid 2012
up on Thursday afternoon to Lake Placid, NY and went over to the athlete
check-in first thing Friday morning. The
days leading up to the race are filled with a few short swims, bikes or runs
and trying to stay off your feet as much as
possible. Friday and Saturday were no
different. After checking in all my gear
Saturday afternoon I headed back to my hotel for a good nap and then an early
pre race dinner (penne pasta and bread) but not so big as to be " the last
supper" (as Joanna put it). I took
a last walk after dinner and then it was back to the hotel to prepare all my
nutrition for the race. It was now 9 pm
and time for some sleep before the 4am wake up.
of the alarm woke me up and I felt pretty good having gotten close to six hours
of shut eye. I had my usual pre-race
breakfast consisting of a bagel with peanut butter, one banana, small cup of
coffee and a sports drink with an extra 600 calories added to it. I soon headed down to the Olympic oval and
loaded bottles and salts on my bike and the others in a bag I could get at the
half way portion of the bike. I did the
same with the bottles and salts for the run.
I then walked over to the lake, about 400 yards from the transition
area, with cap, goggles and wetsuit in hand.
As I walked, I thought about my race plan which Joanna and I had
discussed. It boiled down to three
phrases which would stick with me for the day: 1. Execute My Strategy 2.
Problem Solve and 3. Never Give In. It
was now 6:20 am.
the other 2900 athletes were now over at the lake and the crowd was starting to
fill the entire shore line. I put on my
wetsuit, cap and goggles, had my first gel of the day and in the water I went
for a little warm up and the anxious ten minutes of treading water. The swim start of Ironman Lake Placid is a
mass start of all 2900 athletes at once.
This is full contact swimming designed to test your nerve and I mentally
got myself ready to get hit, bumped and kicked for 2.4 miles. The swim is a two loop course which has you
exit the water after one loop for a 5 yard run over the timing mat and then
back into the washing machine for lap 2.
I now swim closer to the starting line, better to be the aggressor than
get swam over. The butterflies in my
stomach now feel like birds and then BOOM, the cannon goes off and it is
on. Immediately I am kicked and hit and
after 500 yards my goggles are pushed so hard by someone's heel into my eye
socket I had to stop and pull them out with both hands. I settled back into a good rhythm with modest contact but then after
the turn back to the shore my goggles are off my eyes from another heel. I am now nearing the shore line and exit the
water, check my watch, 30 min and 30 seconds for lap one, back in for the lap
two. The second lap was more of the same
contact. I soon make the turn for the
final leg to shore and exit the water.
2.4 mile swim time: 1:02:49. (almost spot on from my 2009 race)
get my wetsuit off and run the few hundred yards to the transition area. The crowds are awesome and I see many friends
cheering me on as I run to start the bike.
I make quick work of getting my
helmet, glasses and cycling shoes on and then out of the changing tent. I grab my bike, run out of transition, and
start the 112 mile ride. The bike course
is a two loop 56 mile track with over 5000 feet of elevation gain. As I start the ride I am thinking Execute
Your Strategy, don't get caught up in the hammer fest of some riders early on
and be patient! I can hear Joanna
saying, be patient. As I ride the first
group of hills out of town I am getting past by many riders, I keep thinking to
myself, just execute and ride your race.
We soon hit the big 7 mile down hill which drops you down into the
valley. This is one crazy descent with
many S curves where you hit speeds close to 50 mph. I would soon start to pass people but only on
the flats or smaller down hills. I am
riding well and feeling good. I soon
make the turn and start the 12 mile climb back to town. Again, I am getting past by some racers who
are standing and pushing hard up the hills.
Execute, execute, execute. I say over and over again to myself. I hit town after the 2500 feet of climbing
and I grab three more nutrition bottles.
Lap one down in 2:56.
second lap started out the same on the early hills and big descent, but as soon
as I hit the flats I could start to feel the heat as the valley was getting
hot. To make matters worse, a stiff wind had developed which was right in your
face for the better part of the second loop.
I kept thinking, just execute your strategy, don't push harder because
of the wind. I soon found myself passing
many of the early riders who hammered the first loop of the bike. As I hit mile 90 on the bike I could start to
feel the ride in my legs. The winds were really bearing down on me in the hills
but I stayed patient and knew everyone else was facing the same conditions so
the times would begin to slow. As I reached
the top of the last hill, mile 110, I could not wait to get off my bike! I hit town, the crowds were big and the
cheering again really energized me. I
entered the bike finishing shoot. 112
mile bike time: 6:01:06, just about 19 mph. (11 minutes slower than 2009)
grabbed my run gear and put on a new pair of socks, running shoes, visor and
sun glasses. I put my salt bag in my
shirt pocket and had GPS watch in hand.
As I exited the tent I saw some friends cheering me on and it felt
great. I quickly picked up the gps
signal with my watch so I could get good pacing under way. The run course is also a two loop marathon
where the first 2 miles are down hill and then a long out and back along a
river road with a few modest hills thrown in for good measure. I was running fast those first few miles, but
expected to do so to take advantage of the descent. As I approached mile 3, I could feel
something was wrong and I hit the port-a-John.
As a result, I could see I was very dehydrated from the bike and didn't
get enough fluids. I thought about what
Joanna and I had discussed, "when something goes wrong, Problem solve to
fix it, the race is long enough to adjust." I knew I would never rehydrate but I could
maintain my current level with out depleting my body further to early in the
run. I decided to slow my pace by 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds every aid
station to drink plenty of fluids. I
also decided to ramp up my salt in take to 8 capsule an hour from 6 to stop the
loss from sweat.
now 2:30pm and in the mid 80s with some clouds rolling in from time to time but
mostly I was on an exposed road with no shade.
I also decided to increase my gels to 3 an hour as I was feeling low and
needed more calories. At mile 9 I hit
the first of two steep hills back into town and it was painful shuffling up
it. Again, I thought to myself, execute,
running hard up the hills is wasted energy.
I worked the flats and rolling sections to get my average pace
higher. As I approached mile 12 and the
second steep hill of the run, my legs were starting to feel the day, but I was
making good time, my dehydration felt no worse and
I was passing many runners. As I hit
town, the crowds were amazing and it gave me a huge lift. Complete strangers would cheer you on and
push you to keep going. First run loop
time: approximately 1:53.
As I made
the turn to start the second loop, I took a huge breath and thought to myself,
one more time back into the belly of the beast.
The second half of the marathon is where you truly find out what you
got. I had been racing for a little over 9 hours (covered 127 miles) and the
course gets very lonely about 1/2 mile out of town. I stopped to quickly get my extra bag of salt
capsules and off I went. The 2 miles
down hill were good and I was moving well.
I allowed myself to still walk for about 20 seconds at each aid station
but knew I needed to push my pace. My
goal was to now run faster between each aid station, which are about a mile or
so apart. The pain in my body was
getting worse but I just tried to make peace with it and move forward. As I neared mile 20, I was suffering more
than ever before. You reach a point in
the ironman race where your body doesn't want to go and you have to go to those
deep dark corners to keep on pushing.
"Never Give In!" I thought.
I decided it was time to start drinking cola at every aid station and to
push my pace for the final 6 miles. I
hit the first steep hill and shuffled along but then starting running at 7:40
pacing along the flats and pushing harder. Again I walked for 20 or 30 seconds
at the next station but again pushed my pace.
As I approached town the cheering was unbelievable and the crowd was a
huge boost. I had 2 miles left and one
big hill. "Everything you got"
I said to myself and as I neared the top of the last hill I began to push
harder. I would run a 7:35 final
mile. As I made the turn and started
heading toward the Olympic oval I could hear the announcer declaring people
Ironman. My pace quickened and soon I
found myself in the finishing shoot inside the oval with the crowds
roaring. Goose bumps came over me as I
heard the announcer declare "Don Gervais, You Are an Ironman!". As I
crossed the finish line I let out a huge scream. Marathon run time: 3:45:23 (33 minutes faster
finish time for the 140.6 miles: 10:57:05.
21 minutes faster than 2009! My
efforts placed me 152nd out of 2896 (100 places better than 2009) and 31st in
my age group out of 327. I could not
have done it without the great coaching, race prep and rehearsed execution of
Joanna. A great day I will never forget.