In case you missed out on my Lake Placid preview, Mark and I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid back in August of 2015 with a group of friends that we now call the #LPpartee. Mark, Rob, and I arrived in Lake Placid on Tuesday afternoon after driving through the night and immediately met up with the rest of our group. We weren't 100% complete without Lauren and her boyfriend Matt, who couldn't arrive until Friday morning due to grad school obligations. We unloaded cars, got settled, and went our separate ways after 14+ hours in the car together. Rob napped (he was our night time driver), Mark bummed around, and I took a little dip in Mirror Lake with Jacqui and Ryan. We were all beyond exhausted so we decided a nice relaxing Taco Tuesday at the house was in order. The next day called for no alarms and some exploring!
We spent our Wednesday morning driving the bike course to check out what we had all signed ourselves up for. We also quickly realized how GORGEOUS this place was and stopped a few times to explore the area. Of course the ladies of the group had to keep the boys under control, considering they were all acting like monkeys and insisting on climbing every rock imaginable, only days before race day. Spoiler alert: maybe the kid who won the race ended up falling in the water?
|Self timers on unstable rocks are really fun.|
|Self timers on drop offs next to the highway are even more fun!|
|Because this makes me smile so big.|
|If you look closely you can see ski jumps behind us!|
|This. Was. Hilarious.|
|Dinner out with the group on Wednesday night!|
Thursday morning, Mark, Jacqui, and myself decided we wanted to ride out to the Keene descent and then down the Keene descent. Keene is a little town on the bike course that includes a 7 MILE DESCENT and can be EXTREMELY dangerous if you're not careful. Ryan rode the descent the day before so he could tell us what to expect and hit 53mph at one point. Holy shit. I get some white knuckles once I hit about 35mph. So to say I was nervous is definitely an understatement. But I also needed to ride it before race day so I could get all the jitters out of my system. We made it to the top of the descent and Trina and Brittany joined us for the 7 miles of roller coaster without a seat belt that we were about to embark on. Ryan decided to drive in front of us in case traffic got a little crazy, while Nate and John drove behind us to slow down traffic until we reached the bottom. They definitely pissed off a few cars, but it was well worth it to ensure our safety. Mark took off like a bullet (making me absolutely crazy and not helping my uncontrollable nerves) and I promised myself I'd take the descent nice and easy and just experience it the first time. Less than 14 minutes later, I was at the bottom. (Yup, 7 miles in 14 minutes = to fast) My top speed was just shy of 40mph and I was shocked at how not scary it was. I'm always a ball of nerves on the bike, but I was expecting the descent to put me over the edge. And somehow, I was ready to do it again!
|No turning back now!|
After we finished up our ride for the day we came home to do a quick change and headed over to the Ironman Village for check in! I could tell Mark was starting to get anxious and check in was only about to make that worse. We went through the motions, showed our ID's, signed our lives away, and got weighed in case we needed medical support while on the course. I made sure to keep an eye on the BFG. He stayed calm and collected. Much calmer than I was during my first Ironman experience. He made sure to ask all the questions. "What do I put on this line? Do I need to sign this paper? Why do you have 2 swim caps and I have 1? What if I want to take this bracelet off?" He was an Ironman sponge and was soaking up absolutely everything. And I couldn't have been happier for him.
|We MIGHT have told him how to pronounce our last name..|
In between check in and meeting Rob to grab a quick lunch, Mark and I ran into Mike Reilly walking downtown Lake Placid. For those of you who don't know, Mike Reilly is the voice of Ironman. The one who announces your finish. "Megan Hode, from Crystal Lake Illinois - You are AN IRONMAN!" I've done it 4 times now and it never gets old. He stopped and chatted with us for a short while. He remembered us from the year prior as peelers at Ironman Wisconsin. Mark's smile continued to grow as the day went on and I know for a fact that our 10 minute conversation with Mike Reilly got Mark even more excited for Sunday.
|You know you want a RyBread singlet|
REST DAY. Or so we thought.. Shortly after our morning coffee, Mark and I wandered to the Ironman Village so that I could return a shirt that I had purchased on Thursday. While I was in line, I got a text from Ryan. "You're not gonna want to know what's happening right now." Doesn't he know that texts like that are enough to send me in a tizzy? Long story short, our plumbing in the house was malfunctioning after a pipe had burst at the bottom of our driveway. We were being forced to move houses. 2 days before race day. After we had completely unpacked and filled our fridge full of food. On our REST DAY. We had that house packed and cars were loaded an hour later. We were relocated about 3 miles away (ugh, we were used to being able to walk to EVERYTHING) in a MANSION (Alright, maybe I'm OK with driving everywhere now) complete with a screened in porch and hotub for our muscles. Thankfully Lauren and Matt had JUST arrived so they didn't even unload the car.
|Packing up your life during Ironman week is apart of the taper, right?|
|Cars ready to be loaded|
|The new MANSION!|
|And we're the 11 best friends that anyone could have!|
The house began to rise by 7:30am and soon enough, the whole group was ready to rock the pre-race shake out ride and run in our brand new RyBread Racing kits! It has been such an experience to work with Ryan for as long as I have. And to see everyone sporting the awesome new kits just warmed my heart. Tubes were changed, bikes were double and triple checked, and our legs were ready to go. Next stop, bike and gear check in!
|Hode's ready to race!|
|This picture can be found on the Ironman Lake Placid Facebook page ;)|
|Olympic Oval used as transition|
Sunday - RACE DAY!
Considering my alarm clock struggles for Ironman Texas, I was prepared this time around setting 3 different alarms. I was up and out of bed by 3:15am and had the coffee pot brewing for the house by 3:20am. Slowly but surely the house began to stir and shortly after, the toilets began to flush. 4:40am and we were all headed to transition! This is where we were not so pleased with the new location of our house. Originally, we planned on walking to the race. But now we had to leave a little earlier and somehow snag a parking spot as close to the start as possible. Rob was able to drop off Mark and I at transition and then he fought the 5am traffic for us.
Mark and I immediately got body marked and made our way to our bikes to prep our nutrition and pump our tires. I tried to get done with my prep as quickly as possible so I could run down and check on Mark. But he was done before me! I even asked if he wanted me to double check everything for him. "Nope, I'm good." Damn, this is kid more confident than I am. We said our hellos to some McHenry County natives, Jon Crane, Andrew Killinger, and a few of their friends, and wished them the best of luck. Over the last week, Jon would refer to our house as "Camp RyBread" and even insisted that we host the celebrations on Sunday night if Ryan won. We joked about the very high possibility that we would need to find an available liquor store on a Sunday night in Lake Placid, New York.
About this time, Mark and I ran into Jacqui and Ryan and did our best not to lose them before the race. And if there's one thing I can gurantee about racing with Jacqui, it's that she will have to use the bathroom just before the start of the race. (You know, when the porta potty lines are long enough to ensure you'll miss the start of the race.) But this time, it wasn't just her. All 3 of them were about to burst and the next thing you know, they disappeared into the woods. Meanwhile, I stood patiently waiting for the 3 little bears to make their way back to me so we could head to the starting line and meet up with Rob.
When we found Rob we had more than enough time to relax and get our wet suits on (no need to hop any fences this time around). We also started to find more of our group! John and Brittany! We snagged them up and wouldn't let them out of our site. We were missing the Tomato's and Lauren. Unfortunately, we were about to lose Jacqui too as she made her way back to the porta potty. Soon after, Mark, John, Brittany, Ryan and myself said our goodbyes to Rob and made our way close to the beach and the start line. Starting off all my Ironman races with a kiss from my Spectathlete has a way of putting me at ease and relaxed just before the swim.
|Rob FOUND US!|
As I dove back in for lap 2 I looked to my right and saw my first familiar face since the gun went off: Brittany! I stayed stroke for stroke with her for a few minutes and tried to get her attention by making funny faces at her when we would breath. I later found out she never saw me at all. Just before the turn around and final .6 mile stretch to the finish I saw another familiar face - Jon Crane! He's hard to miss with his gorilla arms and very animated facial expressions when he breaths. I did the best I could to stay with him until the very end but I lost site of him in the crowds of people trying to swim the line. The next thing I knew I was approaching the beach and I could hear the crowds and music playing, this time "Come With Me Now" by Kongos. The beat of the song got me pumped and ready to cruise the decent quarter mile run I had waiting for me to reach transition. I took my first step out of the water and glanced at my watch: 1 hour and 15 minutes on the dot. Damn, spot on. Time to ride.
I found the first available peeler and he had my wet suit off in seconds. As I took off running to transition, I noticed the carpet that was laid out for us was quite narrow and could only fit 1 person wide on it. So that meant running at the mercy of the person in front of you. Yea, no thanks. I took off running on the pavement to left of the carpet and immediately started flying by everyone. At one point I heard someone yell, "HEY!" I turned my head to see Brittany! I snagged my bag from the fancy transition racks that were set up and took the first chair inside the women's change tent. As I was getting my last shoe on and about to place my helmet on my head, Brittany comes in and takes a seat in front of me. I said my hello and goodbye all at once and hit the road. Official transition time: 6 minutes 26 seconds. Considering the quarter mile run out of the water, I'll take it.
Goal: Come off the bike with something left in my legs for the run and as close to 6 hours as possible
The last time I raced a hilly bike course was my first Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin. I finished the bike that day in 7 hours and 11 minutes. I know I've made GREAT improvements since then, but I also knew that managing hills is NOT my strength. A year later I biked the Ironman Maryland bike course in 5 hours and 59 minutes. Extremely flat, but MORE than enough wind to make up for it. So it was hard for me to pick a true "goal" for the bike. I knew a 6 hour bike split wouldn't happen, but I wanted to be as close as possible to that 6 hour mark. And considering the mountains we were about to ride through, it wasn't going to be easy.
As you take off from transition you are immediately greeted by a wicked aggressive downhill that actually has hay bails at the end of it to keep people from flying off the road into the house at the end of the street. Once you make your way out of town you immediately start the climb up to town of Keene. Considering the rest of the course, this wasn't to bad but can be a quick way to kill your legs if you take the climb to aggressively out of the water. I made sure to put my bike in the lowest gear and just pedal. I didn't look at the speed, just get to the top of the hill and then make my way down the descent safely. I found Jon Crane in the middle of the climb and he promised me he'd see me soon. Before I knew it I was flying down the Keene descent and I realized that my bike computer was no longer of use. My sensor slid down the spoke and I was left to bike 100 miles without any sense of speed. I do know that I hit 42 miles an hour on the descent after checking my watch later that night. Sure enough, Jon Crane flew past me and I promised myself that I'd find him on the run.
Once I made it to the bottom I was much more comfortable. I had yet to see any of the group on the bike, but I had my eyes peeled. Surely I would see Mark on the 6 mile out and back section coming up soon in the town of Ausable Forks, whether he was in front of me or behind me. If he exited the swim behind me I knew for a fact he'd catch me on the bike, especially with the descent. His dare devil ways wouldn't allow for anything else.
|Did I mention it was a little warm that day?|
My mind was moving a mile a minute as I made my way up White Face Mountain back into town. Lemme tell ya, that 10ish mile stretch is for the birds. This road is flat. It's definitely flat. Why am I barely moving? Psych. It wasn't flat. It's what you call a "false flat." Essentially, it was a 10 mile climb that appeared to the eye as... not a climb. I finally approached mile 50 and I knew the 3 Bears (3 hills at the end of the loop) were next. There was a lot of hype about the Bears leading up to the race. Most people compared them to the 3 Sisters from Ironman Madison's bike course. And I'll be VERY honest with you, the 3 Bears are speed bumps compared to the Sisters. No, they weren't easy at all, especially after that nice little section through White Face. But Madison wins when it comes to bike course difficulty.
|Yep, I'm done with this bike.|
|Told ya Mark wasn't happy.|
The first 3-4 steps off the bike are always scary for me. And this time around, I was fearful I'd be dead from all the climbing. But.. I wasn't! I had enough life in my legs to actually run to my run gear bag and then B-line it to first porta potty I could see. Once inside the tent, I ripped off my helmet and shoes, grabbed my belt and running shoes and took off. This time, it only took me 3 minutes and 36 seconds to get in and out.
Goal: Just.. run.
I had no idea where to put my goals at for the run. Essentially, it was going to depend on how I felt coming off the bike. And I was definitely feeling better than anticipated. So off I went. I know I'm biased and have been running ALOT longer than I've been swimming or biking. But you have to admit, the run is SO fun, especially on a course like this that allows you to SEE all the competitors. This course offered a 6.5 mile out and back that is done twice, so I was ready to see what the rest of my #LPpartee was up to!
The first few miles of the run take you outside of town and you have 2 pretty decent downhills. So if your quads aren't destroyed already from the bike, they're about to be here. I started to sip on my handheld bottle right away. It was a hot day and I needed to make sure I kept my sodium levels at a non-bonking level. Just about mile 1 and right after the first aide station I heard my name from a familiar face. Jon Crane's wife - Laura! I gave a wave and a smile as I was about to tackle my first hill of the run. Once at the top, you immediately start the 2nd of the 2 big downhills. I was just about to the bottom of the hill I spotted a girl charging up towards me, wearing a green and black EGO Sammy's kit. JACQUI. I couldn't control my excitement. I had yet to see this girl RUN during a triathlon this year, and here she was absolutely DESTROYING this hill! If you remember correctly, I found her on both the Ironman Texas and Grand Rapids run course as she was walking her way to a DNF due to injury. Today she was all smiles as I practically burst my vocal cords while I yelled and screamed at her. I was worried though. She had started both Ironman Texas and Grand Rapids with a decent run and was unable to complete the course. I prayed so hard that the next time I saw her she'd still be running.
I chugged along and around mile 2.5 or so I saw another fast moving individual wearing a green and black EGO Sammy's kit. But this guy had a bike escort. I'll give ya one guess. Ryan was well on his way to yet ANOTHER win for the 2016 season, his 2nd overall Ironman win of the year. I waved and yelled at him and I got nothing in return. Stone cold. At the time I was convinced he was in some serious pain and just needed to get to the finish line. I later found out he never even saw/heard me. The next 8 miles or so the hills continued to roll and I started to see my friends! First, Nate. Then, Jon Crane. He laughed when he saw me and joked about how soon I'd be making the pass. I reached the turn around and about mile 8 I saw Lauren moving at a brisk pace! She was only 4 miles into this marathon and for her first Ironman she had me worried about how much she was going to make me work to find the finish line before her! Not long after Lauren I saw John and the first thing he said to me was, "Hey, eat my turds!" Ah, yes. This time the looks from other athletes was more enjoyable.
|Most of the run was spent making this face.|
|At least he looks happier than when he was biking!|
Making my way out of town I heard my name. Not uncommon considering our bibs have our names on them. But this was different. Someone was yelling, "MEGAN HODE!" My last name was not on my bib. I turned my head to see a spectator standing in the grass waving his arms. I couldn't believe it. One of mine and Mark's gymnastics coaches from PEORIA, IL had spotted me, recognized me, and made a scene to get my attention. The last time I saw Greg Johnson I was maybe 10 years old. And lemme tell ya, the guy looks the EXACT same as I remember him. I later found out he was there watching his wife tackle her first Ironman. I've said it before, but this sport simply AMAZES me. I never would have guessed after 18 years I'd see Greg Johnson on the Ironman Lake Placid run course. I made a mental note to look for him on my way back into town.
A mile or so behind Mark I saw Trina again! And then shortly behind her, Brittany! Each familiar face I saw reminded me of why I was here. This day was truly a party, a celebration of all the hard work we all put in for a year. And let's not forget, somewhere in the mix (my memory fails as to where) I saw Jacqui heading back into town. She had less than 4 miles to go and she was KILLING IT. Little did I know at the time that she was about to WIN her age group obviously snagging a Kona slot as well as take the 2nd place prize for overall females. Talk about a comeback.
By the time I hit mile 16 my body was getting very tired. Nothing specific hurt to badly, my legs were just not moving as quickly as my mind wanted them to. I walked more than my usual at every aid station, more than I'm proud of. But I needed to get over this hump. By mile 17 John had snuck up behind me and made the pass. I tried to keep him close but he was surging and I was slowing. Just before the turn around I saw Jon Crane again and this time he decided to give me what I needed. "What's takin' you so long Hode??" And just like that, my legs came back. I made the turn around and quickly found him. He ran with me for a short while. We saw Mark heading out for his final miles and I said my goodbyes once we hit the big hills heading back into town. Jon took the hills a little easier while I did my best to run them. I was so close and all I wanted to do was find that finish line.
|This feeling NEVER gets old|
Reunions with friends and family post-Ironman are always extremely emotional and bittersweet. No one ever says it out loud, but there's always that chance that something will happen out on the course. I made sure to hug everyone a little longer and a little tighter. The first familiar face I saw after I crossed the finish line was Ryan. He hates tears more than anyone I know, but today he welcomed them. The happy tears he can handle. Jacqui showed up minutes later and the 3 of us had the reunion we'd hoped for in Texas. My heart was bursting with joy for Jacqui. For the 4th year in a row, these 2 were Kona bound.
I made my way out of the athlete area and up the hill to Rob. Like I said, reunions are always so meaningful after an event like this. Tears welled up in my eyes once more when I hugged him. Of course when I found the family it only got worse. We all rehashed part of the day while we waited for Mark. It didn't take to long because the sun was still up when he made his way inside the Oval. He rounded the final corner and my heart soared. As he made the last turn to the finish line, I bolted from my family and took off towards the finish to greet him. I heard Mike Reilly call him an Ironman and I instantly screamed and jumped in the air. People around me saw the medal on my neck and I'm sure they wondered how my legs were able to move the way they were. By the time I made it to Mark (which was less than a minute after he finished) Ryan was already there to meet him. Before I knew it the BFG had me hoisted in the air as we celebrated his victory. It only took him 13 hours and 40 minutes to find that finish line, almost and HOUR faster than my first Ironman.
|The Hode Family now has 2 Ironmans!|
|Ain't she just the best?|
|Ugh, sorry I ruined it|
|Long lost twin|
|RyBread Racing Founder!|
|My Spectathlete - 4 for 4|
|Lauren WILL be an Ironman one day!|
|And that's a wrap.|
It's been a hell of a ride. And I wouldn't wanna do it with any other group than this. #LPpartee out.
Until next time. Cheers.