First and foremost, I want to thank Richard and his team at TOUGHMAN for consistently putting on such an excellent race experience. New for 2016 was a complete change of venue, from Croton Park at Croton-on-the-Hudson to Harriman State Park in Stony Point, New York. The entirety of the race now takes place in Harriman State Park, which makes logistics (i.e. parking) a lot more family, spectator & racer friendly.
Second, with the emergence of more and more races, it is important to choose races that will provide the greatest amount of joy – ask yourself, which race will I likely remember 5, 10, 15 years from now? For the past 5-consecutive years, I have raced TOUGHMAN races primarily because of its commitment to quality and the race experience and there’s no ‘M Dot’ involved, but you cannot beat the fun from watching the kids races, the post-race BBQ…and of course, the tough but rewarding race course.
On Saturday, I watched the TOUGHKids and TOUGHTEEN races while providing some bicycle support with Brickwell Cycling. Watching the little ones run through the finish line was really cool but the cutest part of the kids races would be the carnage of bikes in transition. Good thing some bikes had kickstands!
Race Day – Sunday, September 18, 2016
I left the house at 5am and arrived at Lake Welch at 6am. Transition was right next to the enormous parking lot so prepping my transition area was a breeze. For the day, I was seeded race number 5…I was 5th overall last year so maybe it was a lucky coincidence? Nevertheless, I was sandwiched between eventual race winners: 2015 Ironman Lake Placid Women’s Champ Amy Farrell (#4) and Argentinian Professional Andres Darricau (#6). Lucky me!
Swim: By 6:15, I had finished my preparations and went straight to the swim start area to check out the swim course and water conditions. At the start line, I saw that my former Perfect Fuel teammate, Jeremy Howard was racing. I knew he would be first out of the water, so I told him that I’ll see him out on the bike course. The Elite wave started at 6:45am. There was plenty of room to spread out in Lake Welch so I never got elbowed during the swim. Within a few minutes, I found myself swimming alone and that would be the case until I reached the shore 34 to 35 minutes later.
When I got to my bike in transition, I noticed that most of the other bikes were gone, meaning I probably had one of the slowest swim splits compared to the other Elite athletes.
Bike: The game plan on the bike was to ride as conservatively as possible to produce a low normalized power to average power ratio. Since Harriman Park features a good amount of climbing, there weren’t many sections of the bike course that were flat – you were either climbing or descending. Within the first few miles of the bike, I was able to pass a handful of athletes. Then, for the remainder of the ride, I focused on front loading enough nutrition so that I wouldn’t get hungry on the run. After 2 hours and 33 minutes, I dismounted my CEEPO Viper and left T2 in 6th place.
Run: A few minutes into the run, as I was going downhill, I spotted two guys ahead of me, with Jeremy in 5th position. They were at least 4-5 minutes ahead of me because they had just passed the 1-mile marker going back up the hill as I was going down. It wasn’t until the turnaround at 3-4 miles later that I would see them, so for most of the run, I kept telling myself that I would be content with a 6th place finish.
After the turnaround, I kept the pace going (around 6:50 min/mile) and calculated my run deficit to 3rd, 4th, and 5th place. I realized that I had bridged the gap by over 2 minutes in 3 to 4 miles, so I decided that I would focus on catching one guy.
At mile 8.5, I saw Jeremy and he had moved up to 3rd position, with two guys on his heels. This was the same uphill/downhill section in the first mile of the run, so I was able to calculate how far back I was – which was less than two minutes!
Shortly passing the mile 9 marker, we ran pass the transition area and did a quick out and back before heading out on a 5km out and back section. The guy that was in 2nd position the entire race had failed to make the turn around and went from 2nd to 5th. At mile 10, I passed him and the two guys that were behind Jeremy were only 10-15 seconds up the road. My leg turnover increased with each mile and shortly after passing the mile 11 marker, I overtook for 4th place. There was a slight incline towards the final turnaround of the run and that is where I passed for 3rd place.
By then, 1st place had probably already finished the race. The only guy left up the road was Jeremy. At the turn around with 1.5 miles to go, Jeremy was about 30 seconds ahead of me but as I creeped up for the pass, he stopped to stretch out his leg cramp. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Within the last 3 miles of the race, I went from 6th place to 2nd place. With SO MUCH EXCITEMENT in my head, I cruised the last net-downhill mile in 5:45 and finished in 2nd place overall!
So what are the important take-aways of this race?
PATIENCE – from swimming alone, to biking alone, to running alone for the majority of the race, I was biding my time and staying consistent. My power output faded slightly during a short lull, but I managed to pick up the effort in the last 10 miles to set myself up for a strong run. And as for the run, the decision to not go hunting early on saved my legs from burning up, and with enough gas left in the tank, it gave me the extra boost the last 5 kilometers of the run.
NUTRITION – With only a couple of weeks until IRONMAN World Championships, the TOUGHMAN race was a keen opportunity to dial in my race nutrition. Throughout this season, I have learned that intaking just slightly more calories on the bike (and slightly less on the run) is what works best for me.
CADENCE – Yes, leg turnover has proven to be one of the key factors to sets me up for a strong run. (Thanks Derek!)
Thank you Brickwell Cycling for the best bike support in NYC & Long Island. And kudos to all my sponsors.
IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS