heading out on the first run i didn’t feel as tight as i often do getting off of the bike, then again 30 miles is a bit shorter than i usually ride and i hadn’t pushed too hard on the bike. i let me legs do a bit of settling and started taking in my surroundings.
the first couple of miles are a steady up, then you come to cardiac hill and after that it flattens out a bit, but the trail also narrows and you have a few more rocks and tree roots to navigate.
pretty soon into the run laura came up along side of me. it was fun to run together, but i made sure to tell her not to slow herself down to stay with me. she told me to do the same. we stopped at the first aid station and i had some water and gatorade. i wasn’t all that thirsty yet, but i knew stopping at each and every aid station was going to be critical. i am used to doing long races with a fuel belt and being able to drink whenever i want. at SOS aid stations only come every 2-4 miles and you really can’t take anything (other than a gu that you can stick in your shorts) with you because there is nowhere to dispose of anything and no water to wash it down with. i have had a lot of stomach issues in the past and i was concerned about downing large quantities all at once which meant in order to get enough fluids it was even more important that i stop each time.
as laura and i ran along i saw a guy coming toward us, i joked “he’s going the wrong way!” not realizing that it actually was a competitor. he had already come out of the first swim and was starting out on the second run. on the first run you pass the “swim out” from the first swim. you’re actually running alongside lake awosting and you run down and around the end of it, up the other side and it’s at that point that you cross back over the lake (by swimming) and then swim along the side of the lake for a mile and get out where you had just been running before. got that?
somewhere after about 3 miles i went a bit ahead of laura. i was feeling really good and wanted to negative split the run (that was my plan for all three). running along the side of the lake i could hear and catch glimpses of people swimming. the lake looked so peaceful.
swim #1: 1.1 mile
if the swim entrance wasn’t manned by a few volunteers you would run right by it. it’s literally a tiny little break between two trees with a steep, narrow opening to a few rocks where you can stand or sit to change your shoes. i did most of my shoe on/offs on my swim time. that first transition took me a loooong time. as i stood there laura showed up, stuck her shoes in her shorts (she had put her swim cap on while running) and plunged in. by the way, she wore shorts not a tri suit, and stuck one shoe down the front and one down the back. each one of us had a different technique.
my first transition to the water was pretty slow, but man oh man was i happy with the swim. the water was cold when i first got in, but it also felt really good after running. as i swam along i thought about all the cramping they had talked about the night before. just before the race started i saw the race director and asked him: “so, what do people do when they get a cramp in the water?” if i was gonna cramp i wanted a plan. he said most people hold on to a kayak and rub it out, but he just focuses on really relaxing the muscles. so as i swam i checked in with my legs. i consciously thought about relaxing the muscles, figured it was a good way to prevent them as well.
as i swam along the side of the lake i really couldn’t tell how far into it i was because there is a bend up ahead, you can’t see around it and i didn’t know how much past it the "swim out” was. but it kind of didn’t matter. i was feeling so strong and good as i swam along. i looked up at the trees each time i took a breath. it was awe inspiring. at one point i got a little chilly. i thought about michelle and what an awesome swimmer she is. i tried to channel her like i had charisa on the bike. i actually made myself laugh because michelle HATES the cold!! as i swam along i noticed someone on my left, i looked over and it was j. we swam together for a few strokes (the water is super clear so we were able to smile at each other in the water just like in the pool) and then he moved ahead just slightly, just enough for me to grab on to his feet. generally holding on to his draft is tough but today i was swimming strong and it was no problem. we exited the water together and got our shoes back on. i noticed a few people sitting off to the side wrapped in mylar blankets. they looked blue and shaken from the water temperature.
run #2: 5.5 miles
as j. and i began to run i knew i had to take it down a notch from what i had been running before the swim. the cold water had cooled my legs off and i could tell that if i pushed an uphill or went too fast my hamstrings would revolt. so i shortened my stride and trusted that they’d warm back up. the first two and half to three miles is pretty much uphill. as i crested the top of a hill where the next aid station was i saw a man ahead yelling out “hey, is that cat coming?” "uhhhh, yeah" (but who the heck was he!?!?) “well you look like you’re doing great and j. says he loves you”. man oh man he’s so good at doing things like that! it totally made me smile and reminded me of all the notes we left each other in our transition and special needs bags during IMLP.
the next few miles wind downhill quite a bit. i tried to let gravity take me and enjoy the break from the hills. i talked briefly with a man in his 50’s who had done ironman lake placid at the end of july, ironman canada a month later and now, just two weeks after that was doing SOS. hijole! he seemed happy to be out there, but also like he was fading a bit as he said “have a good run!” and dropped back.
for the most part i was on my own the rest of the time. i could see a few people ahead of me every now and again and one woman passed me as we were getting close to the second swim. i put my ear plugs in as i was running figuring it was one thing i could do to cut down on the time it took me to get in the water. i was further away from the swim in than i thought and running with the ear plugs in was a strange sensation, it amplified my breathing and cut all the other noise out. it was sort of like what you hear when you are scuba diving. it was meditative. suddenly there was an uphill and it showed me that my lower half was really starting to get tight. i didn’t have quite the push i needed to run it as i’d like. i could hear people shouting and i knew i was close to the next swim.
swim #2: .5 mile (but based on time i'd say .6)
this time i was much faster with my cap donning, shoe removal, etc. i was in the water and off! there is a buoy line that runs across all of lake minnewaska, so as long as i stayed with it on my side i really didn’t need to worry much about sighting.
because we’re all so strung out through the race without a lot of interaction, i felt like i was being kind of aggressive, but then i remembered, it’s a race for chrissake, you do what you need to do (maintaining sportsman like conduct) to get to the finish line first. if this were a mass swim start you wouldn’t think twice about claiming your space.
and so i went. easy peasy i passed them all and kept going. my swimming felt bionic (please note that my swimming and bionic have never been used in the same sentence!). as i neared the end of the second swim i thought about my brother and emily. i knew they were going to be at the swim out and i got all giddy inside. i started wondering if they could see me at that point. i was excited to tell them what a great time i was having.
there was more food and fluid at the swim out and i stopped for a while to fuel up. i knew i had another 8 miles ahead of me and i wanted to be sure i took in enough calories.
other than aid stations you really don’t see anyone out there on the course except the occasional racer or mountain climber, it's actually a beautiful thing, but seeing nick and emily was energizing to say the least!
next up ... run #3, swim #3, run #4 ...