Wow! I don’t even know where to start with this story, so
many things happened, I don’t want to leave anything out. So let me start from the beginning.
One year ago I signed up to compete in Ironman Lake
Placid. I know, I said I would never do
another IM after the last one, but my friend Russ talked me into doing it with
him for our 50th Birthdays.
Then our good friend (well, maybe our worst enemy) Bill talked us into
Lake Placid, not telling us that it was the hardest IM course in the U.S.
So I signed up and all went well for about a month, then
my knee went south and I had to have surgery on it. When I finally got off the crutches, I had
less than 5 months to go from doing nothing, to being in shape for an IM
race. I whined constantly, saying how
there was no way I would be ready, but Bill assured me I would. He even gave me an injury recovery training
plan, which I used.
Things got better and my swims were going well, my bike
endurance was good, but the speed wasn’t quite there, my runs were surprisingly
good, I was having no problems keeping up with the group on most of the long
runs, there were a couple that were awful, but that is to be expected.
With the help of many good friends and teammates, my
training went really well, even though I had to ice my knee 2 or 3 times a day
to keep it from blowing up. So many
people joined me for long workouts that it made the training fun and easy.
So now the real story starts, race week in motion. I decided to drive to Lake Placid, it should
have been a 17 hour drive, but for some reason it took me much longer. My daughters, China and Jade had planned to
go with me, but Jade got a new job just before race week and could not make the
trip. So China brought her friend Sydney
instead. We drove to Erie, PA, spent the
night at a Holiday Inn, then drove to Lake Placid the next morning, arriving on
Wednesday. It was a very long trip, but
very beautiful. Oh and we got to see all the road construction across 5 states.
|Drive into Lake Placid|
When we arrived we met Bill and Vicky and they introduced
us to all the other guys Bill races with every year, Eric, Steve and Dave, and
their families. It was almost like a big
party, we were all staying in the same Hotel, well actually a Motor Inn. We were just a block from race transition and
Bill gave me the run down on the schedule for the week,
we would start each morning with swims at Mirror Lake and follow it up by
meeting our families for breakfast.
|Early Morning Swim at Mirror Lake|
We would spend some time driving the bike course, so we
would be prepared for what was coming.
And I have to say, it was a very beautiful course, and on the surface it
didn’t look that bad, but in reality, it was a very tough course.
|Russ and Bill on the Bike Course|
We also planned to bike the course a couple days and running
some of the run course. So the Lake Placid 3 had a plan and we spent our days
jumping through the hoops that would get us across the finish line.
|Bill and Robin on the Bike Course|
|Mirror Lake and the Lake Placid Three|
As the week went on I found that I had many virtual
cheerleaders, my nieces made me good luck cards.
|Good Luck cards|
|How to Card from China|
China and Sydney made me signs to hold up on race day.
|Good Luck signs|
Adam, one of China and Sydney’s teammates at McKendree
University, made me a sign and the entire team took a photo to wish me good
luck, it almost made me cry when I saw it on Facebook. Adam really wanted to come to the race with
China and Sydney, but he had to work so he couldn’t come. So he came up with a plan to cheer me on from
|MCK Cheerleaders wishing me luck|
|MCK Good Luck Sign|
On Thursday we got registered and picked up all our cool
IM gear, that only real Ironmen have, and we checked out Ironman village,
picking up all kinds of cool free stuff.
We then went out for a bike ride and while on our bike
ride, we were pulled over by a reporter who interviewed Bill and Russ, then got
some pictures of us riding off into the sunset.
You have to watch the video, it’s really good and you see me in the red
Cyclery Kit a couple times.
On Friday we checked in our bikes and race day transition
bags and of course that’s when I really started getting nervous.
|Free visors from Timex for Posting cool Timex pictures|
The girls had lots to do also, they went stand up paddle
boarding on Mirror Lake.
They went to the Olympic Bobsled course with Lee, Russ’s
son and they all sledded down the course.
Lee beat the girls though, if I were him, I would never let them live
|China and Sydney|
|Lee, Sydney and China|
Friday night was the pre-race meal night and we all went
to the pasta buffet, it was fantastic, we got made to order pasta, I ate so
much I was sick. Good thing we had a day to rest before race day, my stomach
After dinner the girls went to the movie, while the rest
of us went to the pre-race welcome meeting.
So we are sitting at the meeting and they are going through all the
normal stuff and talking about previous races and racers who have done it many
times. The big screen flickers on and
low and behold there is the Godfather, Bill Peterson being interviewed on the
big screen. I was sitting next to him and just looked over, with this look of
“how could you not have told me about this”. He just smiles, it was a great
interview too. This was Bill’s 31st Ironman race and his 15th
time at Lake Placid, he definitely deserved all the press coverage he was
getting. I had no idea that I had been
training for the IM with royalty, now I just walk about telling everyone that
I’m friends with Bill Peterson. Hey, I
have to get the glory somehow.
Finally race morning rolls around and at 4:45 am, Bill, Russ
and I are in the transition area, getting body marked and checking our bikes. I
even got interviewed while I was being body marked, but I think I said
something really stupid, so I didn’t even look for the news video of it.
|Mike Riley announcing interview with Bill Peterson|
After a last check of everything, we went back to the
Motor Inn and used the bathroom like 12 times, then walked with our families to
the start of the race, by this time the skies were looking grey and there was a
threat of rain.
|Robin being body marked|
We said our goodbyes, and headed to the swim start. The
pro’s went off first and then 10 minutes later the age group racers started
jumping in with the rolling wave start.
I stood in the group that was estimating their swim time at 1:30 because
that was what I had been swimming the distance in, during training. Russ and Steve were there with me, so we
spent some time being nervous together.
|Leaving for the starting line|
The swim is a two loop swim, we come out of the water for
about a 20 yard run across the beach then jump back in. During the first loop the skies opened up and
rain poured down, but I just kept swimming.
The second loop the rain let up a little, but then came down hard
again. I was about ¾ the way through the
second loop when a kayak stopped me, I looked up and was told to swim quickly
to the side of the lake. When I looked over, there were hundreds of people
swimming to three floating docks at the side of the lake. When I got the dock,
I couldn’t get out, so two guys grabbed me and pulled me up, thank you, whoever
you are. As thunder boomed and lightning bolts flew, we were told to run down
the road to transition area and get on our bikes. What really sucks is that I
was swimming a really fast second loop, thinking that I might break my goal for
the swim. It was a long way to run in bare
feet on pavement, but there I was with hundreds of others doing it. I finally made it to transition and saw my gang
yelling for me.
Transition was packed, there were so many people in the
tent and we were standing in water and mud, I just grabbed my bag and got
changed, then ran out to my bike, while the thunder, lightning and pouring rain
continued. Out on my bike I kept pumping
my brakes trying to slow down on the steep downhill out to the road. Once again my awesome girls were there in the
pouring rain, cheering me on. I felt sorry
for them, I knew they had to be so cold just standing there waiting for me. So now I was out on the bike in shorts,
sleeveless shirt, at least I had my arm warmers on, the last minute thought to
throw them in my bag was a really good idea.
I was really cold, but at that time I had no idea just how cold I was
going to be.
As I rode up the mountain, the wind was howling and the
rain was coming down so hard that I couldn’t see very far in front of me. I was getting colder by the minute and was
even happy to be climbing because at least it kept me a little warmer. I made it to the 10 mile mark where the
decent started. As I descended the mountain, I was so cold that my body was
shaking, I was trying to brake, but my bike wasn’t slowing down enough due to
the rain. I just knew I was going to
crash and all kinds of scenarios were running through my head, about where I
should be when I crash, how to crash without killing myself, I was thinking of
every bad thing that could happen and how to deal with it best.
I made it to the bottom of the mountain without crashing,
but I was mentally and physically shot.
This is when I felt like I was going to start crying, I didn’t even
think about quitting, but crying, well the tears were right there on the verge
of overflowing out of my eyes. Of course, then the whole thought of crying
because I was cold, wet, scared and frustrated made me angry with myself, so
then I was mentally screaming in my head, “you better not start crying and be
one of those whiney babies, you paid to do this, buck up”.
I kept riding and by the time I hit the last 20 mile
climb, it had stopped raining, although it was still super windy and the wind
was in my face for the entire 20 miles.
I finally made it to the top of the last hill, “Papa Bear” and there was
my cheering crew, I saw Russ’s family first, then Bill’s family, then mine and
last was Steve’s family. I rode about
300 meters to the cheering “Go Robin/Go Mom”.
This was just what I needed, I started to feel better and knew the
second lap was going to go better.
I started the second lap with the 10 miles of climbing
and then another 10 miles of descending, this time on dry pavement and not
freezing, although the wind was still an issue. At mile 92, as I was making the turn to
climb the last 20 miles, the sky opened up again, this time with rain, sleet
and I think some hail, it could have been really big sleet though. As it hit me it stung really bad, so I just
kept my head down so it didn’t hit me in the face. Now I’m climbing, looking at
the ground and thinking once again, “why in the heck did I sign up for
this”. It only lasted about 15 minutes
then quit, I continued to climb and got to a point where I could hardly turn
the pedals, I couldn’t understand how it could be so hard, then a guy on the
side of the road yelled, “get in your little ring”. I looked down, I had been climbing in my big
ring, “I did a mental head slap”, when the rain started as I turned the corner to start the climb, I was
so caught up in my mental anguish I forgot to drop to my small ring, I had been
riding in my big ring for miles. I know…
I’m an idiot! I could have kissed that
guy who pointed it out to me, but there was no way I was riding back down the
hill to do it.
|Top of Papa Bear|
Side Note: While I was out on the bike China and Sydney
had come across a dog that was the same breed as my Ella, we had been missing
Ella so much since we were gone that China took a photo of the dog to show me,
it was a really cute dog too.
|The hill I rode up in the big ring|
As I rode up Papa Bear for the final time, I knew that
none of the cheer crew would be there because they would be back waiting for me
at transition, so it made the hill a little harder. I saw a State Trooper on
the hill and I asked “can you arrest me”, he said I was too close to being
finished to get arrested now. It was
worth a try though.
|Puppy that reminded us of our Ella|
I made it to transition and an awesome volunteer helped
me, she pulled off my clothes, pulled on my calve sleeves for me, got me
Vaseline and water and sent me on my way.
There are no better volunteers than those at an Ironman race, I can’t
say enough or thank them enough for what they do.
Out of the tent and on to the run, just a block up the
street I stopped to hug China and say hi to everyone cheering for me. Then China shows me the Ironman beach towel
that I wanted, but was too cheap to buy and she says “if you finish, this is
yours”. I knew there was no way I would
not finish the race, I wanted that towel.
I took off running and china ran with me for a mile, she
then turned around and said I will see you at mile 11. I felt good and was running the pace I
wanted, my knee didn’t hurt at all, I was beginning to smile and I knew I was
just 25 miles from being an Ironman for the third time.
At mile 6 things started to go wrong, not what you would
expect, like my body breaking down, I was still feeling good, but for some
reason my bladder started feeling like it was going to explode. I stopped at a bathroom, but I couldn’t pee,
just a couple drops came out. So on I
ran, just 4 miles later I stopped again, still I couldn’t pee. I was getting
frustrated because the stops were killing my run time. So I just kept running thinking, well I could
just pee down my leg, who would know. I
came up the big hill around the corner to find all my friends and family and
all these great messages on the road, which took my mind off having to pee.
China ran with me again for a short time as I headed to
the turnaround to finish the first loop.
I started the second loop and was once again cheered on
as I ran by the Motor Inn. Between miles
13 and 24, I stopped 3 more times to pee, no luck. At mile 19 my knee started to hurt, but not
too bad, at mile 23 it really hurt so now I was doing the run limp thing and
wondering if I was going to pee my pants.
I passed the Motor Inn one last time and was joined by
China and Sydney until we got to the
corner, where I headed for the last 1.5 mile loop and they went to the finish
line. I ran the loop and into the finish
oval, high fiving all these people I didn’t even know, thousands of them
reaching out to high five me.
|China running up the hill with me|
I hear China and Sydney screaming and stop to hug
|Running in the Finish Oval|
I jog slowly to the finish line so that the girl in front
of me can go through and get a good finish picture without me photo bombing it. Then as I start to run
through the finish line two guys, come around on each side of me and ruin my
finish picture. Really, they couldn’t
have waited 3 seconds and let me get a good picture. I couldn’t believe they did it and it messed
up my live feed so people watching me finish at home only saw a glimpse of my
head. Those guys need to learn IM finish
|Just about to cross the finish line, giving my China Doll a hug|
So while this entire race was in process, China, Sydney
and Madison kept posting updates on all of our group, they did a fantastic job
at keeping everyone at home updated. In fact when I got home a friend from work
sent me a picture that he got from his daughter, she saw it online and sent it
to him. This was very cool, and it just
goes to show how much support I had throughout the entire race. I want to thank everyone for their support.
|Headed to the Finish Line|
THE BIG QUESTION: Will I do it again…. Well maybe I will
need to come back on 2016 just to see how I would fare in hopefully better
|Social Media allowed my race to be followed everywhere|
A big thanks to my teammates, Bill and Russ and their
families for all the support, to McKendree University Cheerleaders for the
virtual support, to my family at home for supporting me and believing in me, to
Dr Bicalho for putting up with the worst patient ever, and most of all to my own
cheer team China and Sydney, I couldn’t have done it without you.
Oh and for as long as I have had kids, all our vacations have
revolved around races, so they call them racecations. On the way back to
Illinois, China says “this was the best racecation ever”. That is a Major compliment!
Click here to see all the photos from Lake Placid
|All My Swag|