Friday, August 03, 2007

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Part 3 - Where the rubber meets the road

I felt the heat right off the run. I started moving. Not sure about the pace. Kept the legs moving and the heart rate low.

I was surprised at how good I felt. I wasn't feeling fresh. Afterall, I just finished a long bike ride. However, my quads weren't complaining and I was moving steady.

A lady behind me yelled out 'Race 4 Kids'. That was one of the first emotional moment of the day. Dang right. I am doing this for the kids. Where they are stuck in the hospital, I have the opportunity to race. Keep moving.

My strategy for the run was:

1) First loop, 10 min jog, 1 min walk.
2) Second loop, whatever I have left RUN!!!
3) Drink Infinit Nutrition (bottle in my hand) and take water from the aid station
4) I brought a few gels just in case I need to change my strategy

The heat was getting to me. I took 2-3 sponges at every aid station and stuff them in my jersey. I was moving a steady clipped. I saw my family and I smiled and waved at them.
I look so happy :)

I just humming along. 10 min jog. 8 min left. 4 min till break. Ok. 1 min walk. Break. Repeat.

At this point, I started feeling heartburn. I never had that before. Training or not, I rarely had heartburn. So I kept moving.

We turned off the main street to Riverside Road. The course was a rolling hill. Nothing too taxing on the body. I really enjoyed the scenery here. There were just us, the Ironmans, moving along the road. A section there were a lot of signs spectator put up.

A lot of encouragement. I looked around and absorbed the moment. It was great. DyingBuffalo told me she would be at mile 6. She was at an aid station before the turn around point. I picked water from her. As I turned around, I realized she was DyingBuffalo. So when I went back, I yelled her nickname.

I saw Jenny, the girl I met on the bike again. I gave her some encouragement and moved on. By mile 9 or so, there was a mat where you cross and they flash word of encouragement for you. The word of encouragement could be entered the day before at a booth. As I crossed the mat, to my surprise I saw someone sent me a text. It displayed:

Cliff say, "Spooky says keep moving."

It was a reaction. I just want to keep moving. I thought that was from my sister. Later, she told me she didn't sent it. (If you are the one who sent it and is reading this post...THANKS :))

Heading back to town was tough. By now, the heartburn really got to me. I was fatigued. If I took a step further, my legs were starting to cramp. I want to stop. This was the lowest point of the race.

It occured to me that I could walk the second loop and will make it in time for the cut off. I walked up two hills. Before I approached my special needs bag, I made a decision. I am dumping my water bottle (with Infinit).

Infinit was not working. I had been drinking it for 10+ hours. My stomach was giving me heartburn.

Nutrition and hydration wise, I was pretty good. I had been peeing once an hour (a sign that I am hydrated). I had been eating a lot on the bike. My stomach ain't shutting down. I kept my heart rate low.

My major concern was the heartburn. I never had that before and don't know if it would get worst. I decided to chug out my water bottle and use gels instead. I used gels for my marathon and so I am very confidence with that. At the special needs, I stuffed my backpocket with gels and moved on.

Second loop. I didn't thought about the 21 km (13 miles) I ran already. I didn't thought about the 180 km (112 miles) that I biked. I just had one focus. FOOD. I saw all the spectator eating pizza and junk food.

I felt sorry for myself. The whole season training I gave up a lot of junk food. No alcohol and no chocolate. I want them so bad. The regulation said that I couldn't get help from outside assistance. This meant that I couldn't stop and grab food. Nuts.

I guessed I just had to hurry up, finish this and eat my junk food.

So I went back at it. I changed my strategy from 10:1 to run to the next aid station and walked for 2 minutes.

The aid station had a lot of food. Grapes, banana, cookies, chicken broth, gatorade, gels, water. I want to get real food but afraid the banana and cookies would be hard on my stomach. So I grabbed the grapes (yummy). I took my gel every 30 min. I rotate between the gatorade and chicken broth. I never had chicken broth before and it was great. Warm and easy for the stomach.

So the second strategy was in place. Run to the next aid station, dined and run on. By now, the weather was cooler and I started to feel the chills. There was a long sleeve in my special needs bag. I wished I grabbed that.

Along the way, there was a loud speaker blasting music. They were playing Game of Life by Michelle Branch. As I jogged by, I started singing the song. I even whistled.

At this stage, there were a number of people struggling. Some sat by the side of the road. Some vomitted. Some walked. There was a lady that kept running. She wasn't going fast but she was going.

Even with the change of nutrition strategy, I still getting those heartburn. The 2 min walk helped. Grapes never tasted so good. I stopped counting the miles. I just move on to the next aid station.

With about 10 km left, I decided to just run. There was a sudden surge of emotions. I didn't want to stop. I just want to keep moving. One step at a time. I was tired.

I told my legs, 'you can cramp if you want. We will only walk if you cramp.'

The two hills which I struggled in the first loop, I attacked them. I recalled all the hills I trained on. They were tougher than the ones in Lake Placid. Let's just try running up.

And I was running. I saw people starting their second loop and gave each of them an encouragement.

Looking strong!

I knew I was at the end. But for them, they still had a few hours before finishing. They needed all the help they could get.

The second hill was in the town. I kept at it. Everyone was cheering my name. It was amazing. I saw other walking and taking their time. I didn't want to walk no more. I was full of emotion. Maybe this was part of me putting everything I had left on the field.

I recalled two years ago when I did my first tri. And all the those trainings. In the rain. In the snow. In the heat. Those 5 am morning sessions.

Before we finish, we did a turnaround. It was about a mile and a half. It felt longer than that. In the last km or so before the finish line, I thought a lot about the past few years.

If you are going to do your first Ironman, I would definitely recommend you on the race, to spend a few moment and just glance back and see yourself where you started.

I thought about the myself two years. Who I was? What I was doing? If someone told me in 2005, that I would be doing an Ironman, I would tell him, he is nuts.
I thought about when I had my bike accident. Or when I started to learn to swim again. When my swim coach put me in my own lane simply b/c I was the slowest person there.
I thought about the tough training that I put myself into. And dang, whenever my mind came up with a tough session, I just go do them. I remembered the long bricks (5 hr bike + 1 hr run). And the long run that came the day after. I remembered doing repeats on Hockley Valley. Was those ever tough? Was those ever fun! Ridicoulous.

I thought about the hill repeats. There was one day it was 35*C with humidity. It was brutal. I was sweating all over. And yet my body kept at it.

I thought about being grateful. The fact that as hard as I push myself, the body still give. Not many people had the opportunity to be as active as I do. Let alone, do an Ironman. Life was simply too good.

I thought about my family and my friends (and you guys) supporting me. I could say there was no way I could do this on my own. There is no I in Ironman.

As I become stronger and stronger, I realize how weak and fragile I am. I realize the need to be humble and not take things for granted.Before the finish line. I look more fatigued than I thought :)

I kept running. I saw the finish line. I heard the annoucer saying 'Here is Cliff Tam, from Mississauga. This is his first Ironman."

I saw my family on the side. I gave them high fives and crossed the line.Where's my pizza!!!

I am an Ironman.

I asked my family to come and took a finisher pic. That was my goal from the beginning. I was happy and I was tired. I was cold. I was aching all over (no surprise).
The pic I cherished the most :).

I lined up for the massage. I bumped into Matthew and Ivey. On the massage table, I was tired. It helped a bit. I went out and grabbed my pizza :). I met up with my family, got my bike and my gears and head back to the motel.

Yeah. I am achey and tired. Got a red nose from the sun :)

On the way back, I told Len I did it. I went through the toughest course there simply it was tough. I took a shower. Then grabbed all the junk food I could find. Pringles, chips, nuts, you named it. I passed out quickly and headed to bed.

I could say my hydration was good b/c at 3 am at night I had to wake up and take a leak :D. It was clear!!!

It is hard to recollect every moment in the Ironman. Memories and emotions flows in and out. It is simply so much :). Thanks for reading. I have one more final post. After thoughts.


qcmier said...

Awesome job. It was great reading your report. Loved the fact that you took the time for reflection during the race.

"As I become stronger and stronger, I realize how weak and fragile I am. I realize the need to be humble and not take things for granted."

Well said, Ironman.

E-Speed said...

wow Cliff. What an amazing recap. I felt like I was right there with you. For some reason your thrill in the junk food made me think of the pringles can in water bottles on the bike. I think it's you that did that once. I hope you enjoyed the pizza and chips! You definitely earned it!

Jeremy said...

Congrats, Iron Cliff! It was awesome to meet you before the race and see you during the run. You were flying and looked so strong out there on your second run loop. It was a real pleasure to meet you in Placid. Hope to race with you again in the future.

brendaj said...

I loved your reflections thinking back over the months and the years. The pizza bit made me laugh. I'm sooo impressed by your healthy diet. I've been eating a lot of pizza will soon see why. :)

cdnhollywood said...

You deserve all that kudos, attention and honors that you get. You did what we all need to remember - hard work and determination will get you anywhere.

Great job! And when you're all healed up, c'mon out to Ottawa. I know some great pizza and beer shops!

And if you really want, we can go for a run...for another pizza. :P

Phil said...

Cliff - I've been away from the computer for a while. Your blog was my first stop. Congratulations again on your Ironman journey. It is quite fantastic. Great job on the report... I really gotta stop reading IM reports before I go and do something crazy!

Thomas said...

Congratulations, Ironman. Great race report, and I hope the pizza was as good as you had it in your mind.

Fantastic work, man. Noone can ever take that away from you. You're an Ironman for life.

Brent Buckner said...

Thanks for the report! Great photo with your family.

Recover well!

Heather said...


Thank you SO MUCH for this inspirational read. Congrats on your huge accomplishment! I look forward to the afterthoughts, and finding out what your goals ahead might be.

3iron said...

Hey Cliff - great job on your first IM! It was great meeting you and running with you for a bit - you were in one of my race pictures (part of me is in your top picture). Hopefully I'll get around to posting up my trip report soon. Again - congratulations!

nickt said...

Truly outstanding. To come that far in two short years. What an effort! What a reward!


Unknown said...

good post. and great job out there!!

Donald said...

Fantastic posts, Cliff. I've loved reading them. Congrats again.

Duane said...

Wow, what a race! Great report Cliff and all the photos too! Congrats!!!!!

Fe-lady said...

Hi Cliff-catching up with everyone! Great race report and photos! Congratulations on your Ironman finish! What a great TIME too! You have come SO FAR in a mere two years! Wow!

Steven said...

Hi Cliff...
I wanted to wait to comment until i read your entire race recap and I must say it was worth the wait. You did an outstanding job and you should feel very proud of how far you've come and what you've accomplished it a short time. Amazing.
And to think...I get to say I knew him when...

Congratulations and enyou your well deserved rest time.

Kewl Nitrox said...

That's just fantastic, and humourous too - "guessed I just had to hurry up, finish this and eat my junk food"! Glad to read that you got that pizza, chips and other junk food in. :-)

Tri-Dummy said...

Cliff...this was a very valuable post to me.

With my IM coming up so soon, it was refreshing and educational to read about how you plugged through the run.

I really appreciate it!!!

Mike said...

Cliff- CONGRATS man!! Great race report. Nice that you pushed through the heartburn and the bike mechanicals. I'll never understand how we all can ride tons of miles in training *incident-free* only to have mechanicals during the race!!

It's been really cool following your journey to ironman. Well done, now it's time for some well-deserved R&R brother!

Rae said...

Way to go!! I love all the pics, it was like being there right with you. Congrats on becoming an Ironman!!!

ShirleyPerly said...

A belated CONGRATULATIONS Cliff!!!

I was thinking about you a lot while in Hawaii and wondering how things turned out. How wonderful to read how well your race went. You've overcome so much adversity and still shined so bright. YOU ARE AWESOME!!

Jade Lady said...

Cliff - ESBar just featured you - what an awesome ironman story you have. You have been thru so much and you're not even 30! I applaud your strength and determination.