Celebrating 5 years of Ironman participation


Ironman Lake Placid: 2013 Race Report

On Sunday, July 28th, I completed my fourth Ironman race.  I finished the 140.6 miles in 13 hours and 31 minutes – my fastest race yet (17 minutes faster than my IM Wisconsin time in 2009 and 27 minutes faster than my 2008 IMLP race).   Overall, the day was nearly perfect – the weather was cool and overcast, the course was full of friends from coast to coast, and my family & friends were there to support me.  But, it wouldn’t be an Ironman without a few challenges to overcome – and this year presented some unexpected ones. 

The Unexpected Emotional Challenge

The week leading up to an Ironman race is typically spent eating, packing, going over your gear list repeatedly, traveling, and enjoying some short (yet intense) taper workouts, and generally obsessing about all things Ironman.  This year, my pre-race prep week took a different focus due to an illness and death in my family.

My original plan was to meet my brother and his family in NYC and drive up to Lake Placid together.  My brother, his wife and two daughters would also be sharing my rental cottage just a block from Mirror Lake (the race start) and we would go explore the region together for a few days after the race.  They were there for my first race in 2008 – and my niece had one of the best phrases a then two year old could say, “What Aunt Sara doing now?”  I couldn’t wait to see my nieces along the course and splash around in Mirror Lake with them after the race.

Unfortunately, my sister-in-law’s mother had been very ill and when her condition took a turn for the worse in mid-July, we quickly changed the plan.  My sister-in-law and younger niece flew to Florida and I flew in to St. Louis to meet my brother and older niece.

I was definitely anxious about the change in plans:  more flights = more dehydration, fewer chances for workouts, less time for work, and no training buddies.  But, I reminded myself, I’ve done this Ironman thing three times already. I know the drill.  I’ve been to Lake Placid many times.  So, without hesitation, I was off to help out my brother for a few days.

From Sunday until Thursday, everything went smoothly.  I found the time (and facilities) for a few final workouts.  I borrowed my parent’s car in Albany to get up to Lake Placid a little earlier and get settled in (grocery, pick up bike, etc).  It’s amazing how quickly the time goes by once you get to an Ironman race site.   Registration, bike pickup, a few short workouts, an athlete briefing…

Unfortunately, we learned Thursday night that things were really not going well for my sister-in-law’s mother.  On Friday morning, she passed away.  My brother and niece left that afternoon to make the journey to Florida for the funeral.  I stayed in Lake Placid, questioning what I should do.  Should I skip the race?  Should I leave just after the race?  Would I be able to make it in time for the funeral? Would it be ok if I did not attend the funeral? Do my brother and sister-in-law need my help over the next few days?  How do I focus on a race?

From Thursday night through Saturday (pre-race) night, I probably slept a total of 12 hours.

Many of my friends were thinking and talking about their expected times on the course, I was thinking about the time it would take to get to Florida and the time you should spend with your family.

I felt a bit exhausted and distracted going in to Sunday morning, and I was reminded by friends (Thanks Mona!) that I had put the effort in during training and gained the strength to get me through race day.

I Know This Feeling

While the days leading up to the race were full of the unexpected, by the time I hit the run course, I faced a new and familiar challenge.  In my last two Ironman races, during the run I found myself so dehydrated that I felt like I had to pee, but there was nothing there.  I wasted a lot of time stopping at port-a-potties and even more time just walking.  Not only is it an uncomfortable feeling during the race, but it can hurt for a few days after and I even had blood in my urine after Ironman Canada.

When this old familiar feeling hit pretty early into the run, I knew what to do this time.

I ran in between each aid station, and at each aid station, I alternated between a combo of coke/water or water/perform-water mix.  The Ironman Perform drink had wreaked havoc on my stomach during the bike, but I knew I needed to push the electrolytes until I could pick up my Cytomax bottle from my special needs bag at Mile 13.

I told a few friends what was going on, and then just tried to ignore it.  The strategy seemed to work!  I definitely paid the price at the end of day and into the next – there was blood in my urine again and my bladder ached.  I almost dreaded going to the bathroom most of Monday.  But, I felt like I beat that old familiar feeling that wore me out at Ironman Canada!

A few other highlights from Race Day:


  • Loved: The new swim start – we lined up on the beach by estimated finish time, rolling entry into the water.
  • Hated: My sleeveless wetsuit caused some serious chaffing under my right arm.  I started pulling unevenly to compensate…and lost some time.
  • Learned: Swimming 3 days a week is really necessary if I want to ever hit my best time again (1:06)
  • Finish Time: 1:12


  • Loved:  Cool, overcast day.  And seeing my all the cheering stations from DC Tri Club and Team Z!
  • Hated: Ironman Perform caused stomach cramps.
  • Learned: To push water to clear out Ironman Perform!
  • Finish Time: 6:50 (met my goal of breaking 7 hours!)


  • Loved: It was so fun to see so many friends…had the opportunity to run, walk, hug, and high five Matt, Clay, Daphne, Brandon, Sara, Katya, Katie, Angela, Kevin, Kate, and more!
  • Hated: Feeling like I had to pee constantly.  And, spectators trying to get me to run up the hills.
  • Learned: To ignore the pain and the comfort of walking.  Picked myself up and started running again – and followed my plan to walk the hills  and bust out the last mile along Mirror Lake Drive and through the Olympic Oval to the finish.
  • Finish Time: 5:11

Is there another IM in my future?

I just don’t know right now.

I feel happy with my overall performance.  I met some goals I had set: shortened my transition times, broke 7 hours on the bike and finished in 13:31.  I had a great time with friends and family.  It feels like a good note to end on…

On the other hand, it was a tough week leading up to the race.  I was not as focused as I had hoped to be…and I did give up on the run a little bit.   I know I can break 5 hours on the run.  My bladder hurt so badly though – I was considering icing it after the race!   And, there was blood in my urine after the race (just like in Canada).   I’m not sure this dehydration situation is the healthiest and it might not be worth putting my body through that again.

Ironman #5….we will just have to wait and see!


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Swim done, onto the bike!

Sara is doing great! We saw her somewhere between 745-750am smiling as usual. She completed the swim in 1:12:26, and spent 8:41 in transition.

One note – the IronTrac and’s athlete tracker are both (quite a bit) behind. Bear this in mind if you are watching live.

Hoping to catch Sara on the first bike loop in a few hours! Will try to keep you updated with pics if possible.

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They’re off!

Best-friend Mona here serving as your guest blogger for the day! I’ll be trying to update periodically.

First and foremost let’s talk weather. The weather situation is a bit tentative at best. Forecast calls for rain in the afternoon through the evening. This is starting to remind me of spectating at the 2008 IMLP! I’m still hopeful the rain will hold off. This was the view this morning as Sara was getting marked.

Sunrise over Lake Placid

Sunrise over Lake Placid

That’s about all for now. Sara has shared some of her racing goals with you all, and again I’ll be updating as I can. If I can make one recommendation to any of you tracking more than one athlete – you MUST download IronTrac ($0.99) for the iPhone. You can input several bib numbers and track to your heart’s content.

I will leave you with a few pictures for now.

Snow in Lake Placid... always...

Snow in Lake Placid… always…

The bike transition yesterday

The bike transition yesterday

This morning en route to drop off special needs bag

This morning en route to drop off special needs bag

Sara, Sara and Daphne

Sara, Sara and Daphne

Swim Start

Swim Start

Off they go!

Off they go!

See you all in a few hours! Race strong!


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The Art of Being an Ironman Spectator

Guest Post by Miriam Strope!IMLP 2008_Parents

I will be watching my daughter Sara compete in her fourth IM race this July in Lake Placid, NY.  As a seasoned Ironman spectator (IMLP 2008, IM MOO 2009, and IM Canada 2011), and as a principal cheering team member I’d like to share some tips I have learned:

  • Be ready for ANY TYPE of WEATHER, regardless of what tourist information says is average for the host city!
  • Read the Ironman Athlete’s Guide – posted on the race website.
  • Find the “Getting Around on Race Day” information. Each sponsoring community usually publishes a little newspaper with details
  • Plan ahead and pick viewing spots based on maps and your participant’s expectations of the course.
    IMLP Rain Crewabout traffic, parking, and more.

        • You want to see your racer  – and they want to hear and see you! [Yes, that is usually my mom with the cowbell and school bell]
        • See if the host city encourages signs along the route. In Madison, they encouraged spectators to write chalk messages along specific streets. [you might be able to make signs the day or two before the race in the athlete village]
        • Pick the spot where you will meet your “finisher” after the race.

    IMLP Final Crew

    • Have a copy of all of your racer’s important information.
    • Study the host city and scout where you will be parking your car, eating, resting, and sight -seeing or just hanging out while your athlete is on the course. Madison had a great Farmers Market, and so did Penticton. Lake Placid has a vibrant Main Street with lots of shops and restaurants as well as Olympic village museums and sites to see. Who expects ice on the street in front of the Olympic Ice Hockey rink?
    • Why the above is important – Spectators may be spending the same 12 – 14 hour day outside and on your feet.  You won’t have stations along the way for hydration or snacks, so be prepared and bring some water, sun screen, snacks –  or know where you can go to get food, water, snacks or cool off. Remember the race is on Sunday, so check what is usually open and when things usually close. Some merchants extend their hours during the IM race or as in Penticton encouraged us to stay and simply stayed open longer. Sometimes costs are high.
    • Be ready to do a lot of walking. If our support team can, we try to stay within walking distance of the start and finish lines.
    • Be sure that your cameras, Smart phones, battery chargers (yes bring more than one) are working.
    • Ability to text really improved our participation and communication with others, and with those supporters who could not get to the IM race location.


4th of July – Ironman Style

We escaped to Napa/Sonoma for some 4th of July celebrating.  Here’s how to celebrate the 4th like an Ironman in Training!

1. 40 mile bike ride along the Silverado Trail.  90+ degrees.  Paceline for 20 miles, average speed 19-20 mph.



2. Swim in a Lake. New find: Spring Lake Regional Park!  

Spring Lake Park

3. FEAST!  Family style picnic at SpoonBar!, music by Easy Leaves Duo, Fireworks – Healdsburg Plaza.  Done!

Easy Leaves Duo








Fourth of July Menu

1st course
Chilled watermelon + verbena
Chopped salad
Corn bread + smoked honey

2nd course
Slow roasted spare ribs, sesame, BBQ sauce, scallions
Crispy fried chicken, jalapeno mash
Baked Rancho Gordo beans, roasted + picked pigs head, herbs
Roasted corn on the cob, lime, queso fresco, arbol chili
Fingerling potato salad, pickled onions, mustard, aioli

3rd course
A picnic basket of cheese, sour dough, summer fruit preserves
Chilled berries

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Race Report: Monte Rio Triathlon

A quick last minute decision – race the Monte Rio Olympic Distance triathlon on June 2nd.  I signed up about two weeks before the race.  I figured, it would be good to get one race “practice” under my belt this season before Ironman, especially if I want to better at IMLP this year.  Plus, the race was a new addition from the team that runs Vineman – and lots of my friends from Golden Gate Triathlon Club (GGTC) were participating.

The race was sandwiched in between a perfect Northern California weekend.  On Saturday, my friends Ann, Heather, Rachel and I cycled near Monte Rio – tackling most of the Levi’s Grand Fondo Medio Route which includes a stretch of Highway 1 and a climb up Coleman Valley Road.  Post race on Sunday, we spent some time at a pool, then Stonestreet Winery and finished with dinner at Chalkboard – a new restaurant in Healdsburg (fresh crab and tater tots, yum!).

The race was great!  It was a perfect course for my strengths.  Here’s a quick recap.

Olympic Distance – Swim 1.1 miles, Bike 25 miles, and run 6.2 miles

Overall Time/Finish: 2:51/8th in age group

  • Swim – a bit uneventful.  It was longer than it should have been.  I’m glad I wore my wetsuit (it was the one thing I had been debating before the race).  And, I’m pretty sure that I hit my fellow GGTC member Erika several times – sorry Erika!  Time: 30 minutes
  • Bike: What a perfect course for my strengths!  Flat and fast!  From the moment I left the transition area to the time I returned, I felt like my goal of improving the bike was paying off!  Lots of bikes in transition when I left and not many when I returned.  I only recall a couple women passing me.  And yes, I do recall feeling a bit competitive!  Time: 1:17 (19 mph average)
  • Run: First, there was my rookie transition move – I had my shoelaces tied on my new shoes.  Oops.  It took the first mile to get into a groove on the run.  I felt confident running, but I definitely did not push myself.  I only seemed to remember to race when I was coming into the finisher’s chute and there was a woman in front of me struggling up the little steep hill before the finish line – “I’ve got this,” and passed her.  I think I spent most of the run looking for my GGTC teammates to say hi.  I almost feel like I forgot to run. Time: 55 minutes (8:53 pace)

The race definitely reinforced that my training is on track and I am getting stronger.  It helped me think about where to spend the next 5 weeks before IMLP too.  I’m excited to see if I can put a little more rigor into the run like I have on the bike.  The race also reminded me to push myself a little harder – if I’m swimming laps in the hotel pool after the race, I might not have pushed hard enough!