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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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!

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Healdsburg Half Marathon – Race Report

On a whim, I signed up for the Healdsburg Half Marathon two weeks before the race.  I had been running a few times a week, but not more than 5 miles at any time.  I know that you cannot “cram” for a race, and I dove into a last minute training plan that looked something like this:

October 14: 8 mile run

October 21: 10 mile run (gorgeous day  – run across Golden Gate Bridge and through Presidio)

October 25: Running Errands – After leaving the office late, I figured the best way to get to race packet pick up was to run there!

October 26: Tempo Run to the office – I forgot my laptop at work the night before and ran 3 miles to work to pick it up before leaving for Healdsburg


Race Day – October 27th

The race was a point-to-point course starting in Geyserville and ending in downtown Healdsburg.  My friends and I took the shuttle bus to the start, along with most of the other 2,000 participants.  The number of costumes was incredible – waldos, schoolgirls, sharks, 50 Shades of Grape, Richard Simmons, zombies, and more.

The first mile was all about sorting through the mess of people to find my space and pace.  Just after mile 1, the course turned on Canyon road and we faced a long hill.  I clearly was not very prepared for this race, so I was surprised not only by this hill, but also all the subsequent rolling hills along Dry Creek road.  It’s always amazing what you never notice in a car, that you feel on your bike or on your feet.  I’ve been up and down Dry Creek road wine tasting and cycling, and never noticed those little rollers.

13.1 miles and 2 hours and 2 minutes later, I finished the run.  I felt good the whole way – I didn’t feel like I was racing, but rather I was out for a long training run.  A man dressed as a lobster did beat me.  I finished 85th out of 296 women in my age group.

I’m happy with my results, given the lack of training.  I do feel like I left something on the table though.  I am curious as I map out my 2013 Ironman training plan about what I can do to improve my race mentality.  How can I learn to push myself harder?   What will it take for me to become more competitive in a race?  I had one glimpse of that competitive spirit at the Folsom can I find more of that drive in 2013 and significantly improve my IMLP performance?

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Folsom Sprint Race Report

Saturday morning marked the first event of the August Adventure Weekend – the Folsom Sprint Triathlon.  I have not participated in a sprint distance race since 2007.  After many long, slow, endurance events, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to turn on any speed.  But, it didn’t matter…I just felt pretty certain I needed to race at least once this season to still call myself a triathlete.  And, what better reason to organize a camping, kayaking, and rafting trip than around a race?


My friend Julia and I arrived Nimbus Flat Park in Folsom with some other things on our minds than the race – when we saw how cars were being boxed in, we couldn’t help but worry – “Would we be able to get out in time to get to our kayaking class?”  Our swim starts were slated for 8 am and our kayaking lesson would begin at 10 am.  With an hour and a half race time and 30 minutes of driving, we had just enough time…as long as we could get the car out!

Luckily, the park was small and the race area was set up well.  I have to say USA Productions does a great job with their events.  Everything was clearly marked, Mike’s Bikes was on hand to provide last minute service, Cytomax was giving out water and electrolytes, and there was even free coffee.  The transition area was a little bit of free for all – and I missed the GGTC club rack, but squeezed in elsewhere.

Besides getting out of the race in time, I was only worried about one other thing – getting my wetsuit off!  I have never worn a wetsuit in a sprint.  And, I couldn’t even recall the last time I put my wetsuit on.

The Swim

It was an in-water race start – my favorite!  The water felt great, I had plenty of time to tread water and get the right position.  It was the most gentle swim I’ve had in ages!  I took it easy and just enjoyed the water.  Made it out in about 15 minutes.  A little slower than some of my past swims, but ok.  Of course, the wetsuit got the best of me at transition.  I could not get it over the timing chip for the life of me, my leg even started shaking.  Three minutes later – it was off!  By the run, I realized the wetsuit got the better of me in one other way – a nice bit of chaffing under my arm (a sleeveless suit).

The Bike

This was my kind of bike course!  Flat, fast and just a few rolling hills.  I felt like I was flying!  I was easily clocking speeds of 18-24 mph.  I almost dropped my chain on one little climb, but remembered to be patient and not push through it (I did that last week and twisted the chain into a pretzel…one mile walk to the bike shop and $100 later to be riding again).  And, most exciting, for the first time I can recall, I felt a little of that competitive spirit.  In the last few miles, a woman tried to pass me on a left hand turn.  No way was I letting this lady in her fancy Facebook racing kit take me!  I hammered it out on the last main stretch of road, took the lead, and hogged the little bike lane back into the transition to ensure she could not pass me.  I knew she would likely get me on the run, but the bike was mine!  Time: 48 minutes

The Run

To be honest, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I wanted to push harder and I knew I usually could, but my legs felt heavy and my right hip hurt a little.  I consoled myself by thinking, “you’re just out for a morning jog on Chrissy Field,” enjoy it.  But, the ladies in my age group started passing me and my friend Julia caught me (having started from the wave after me).  I trudged on through, and finally felt like my legs were waking up in the last half mile.  Maybe I am meant for Olympic distance after all?  Time: 27 minutes


It was a great race – nice size, well run.  I’ll definitely do another USA Productions race in the future.  It was great to see my teammates John, Natalie, and Geoff there.  And, I have to say I’m pleased with finishing 10th in my age group and 31st of all 168 women.  My final time was 1:37.  I think I could have gone faster on the swim and run.  I haven’t been training too much (or consistently for that matter), so it’s good to know I’ve got strength and am building my competitive spirit.

Oh, and we got the car out just fine, in case you were wondering.  Made it to kayaking at Current Adventures only about 20 minutes late.  And, I nailed my first roll of the day!