Ironman Lake Placid Round 2: Train for Life

I’m going to take you all back to 1992 for a minute. Alabama released their hit single, “I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why).” I was 11 and had my entire life ahead of me. Twenty-six years later, while I was trudging up a hill in 78 degree windy and rainy weather at Ironman Lake Placid that song came back to me in a rush. I think I finally got what Alabama was talking about.

Ohh, I hear a voice
That says I’m running behind
I better pick up my pace
It’s a race and there ain’t
No room for someone in second place

I’m in a hurry to get things done
I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why?

Life isn’t about the race. It’s not about rushing from one thing to the next. Life isn’t about just wishing for the next phase of your life to begin. I can’t wait to graduate high school and move out. I want to make more money. I need to move on to a new relationship. When will my kids grow up? Why are they growing up so fast? We need to move into a bigger house. Do any of these sound familiar? You want to push through the growing pains of life or a tough situation just to get on to the next part of your life. But for what? Just to get closer to death? What are we running towards? Why do you want to eliminate a phase of your life? It’s part of the journey! Don’t wish it away. Savor it.

Easier said than done when I was on mile 18. It was brutal. I was in excruciating pain, but I knew that the pain would pass eventually and eventually it did. Just like that I was done the race, crossing the finish line and the past 10 hours and 39 minutes seemed like a blur! Remember, it’s all part of the process.
Now, I didn’t come in first or even second (contrary to what Alabama sings, there IS room for people even if they don’t place in the top five!), but I was really happy with my results for one reason: I laid it all on the line. I held nothing back. I gave this beast of a race everything I had and flawlessly executed the plan my coach, John Spinney from QT2 Systems, had laid out for me. The execution is what mattered and I executed with precision. I actually did pretty well and I improved from 151st place overall from my first Ironman to a 50% increase in position to 74th place overall out of 2,300 people (which included the pro athletes as well). Top 3% at IMLP? I’ll take it!  
Here’s a few things that changed during my second time at Placid:
  1. Confidence. Since Ironman Lake Placid 2017, I have raced nine times, including several half Ironmans, stand-alone half-marathons, Olympics and more. More racing experiences gives you so much more confidence to really understand what your body is capable of. You know how to push your body. This year, I was able to hold a higher threshold during the race because I knew my body would respond. The first Ironman you compete in, you’re just trying to survive and figure it all out. Your second Ironman, you can really test your limits.
  2. Training & Durability. This time around, I had 18 months of training under my belt instead of just nine months. I was more durable and had increased my pain threshold. That has been some of the most fun over the past year. I learned how to increase my pain tolerance during training, which led to my ability to increase my capacity on race day.
  3. Finding Minutes. Racing at the level I’m competing at means that I need to find every minute and every second available to me. For example, by sprinting down the 1/4 mile runway from the lake to Transition 1 (T1), I shaved off a minute from last year’s T1 time. My increased confidence and training allowed me to be more efficient with my time. Your body just starts to flow and knows it’s got to go to work.
Specifically, let me break down the swim, bike, and run for you:
  • SWIM – I improved 11 minutes on my swim time year over year, which is huge. I went from 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 9 minutes. I worked all winter with my swim coach, Emily Mitchell, and built up speed, durability, and efficiency with my technique through consist yards in the pool. I also became obsessed with videos and articles about swim technique and not only practiced swimming, but studied it as well. Swimming is an art and it’s all about the relaxed application of power.
  • BIKE – Every race is different due to the weather. Last year there was zero wind and sunny skies. This year, there were 40 MPH head winds, pouring rain, and hail. Yeah, it was tough. But I loved it. So many people were freaking out because of the weather, but I relished in the challenge and just kept smiling through the downpour. It’s all about mindset, right? IMLP also changed up the course this year, increasing the elevation on the bike from around 7,000 feet of vertical gain to just about 8,400 feet of vertical gain, making the course, in general, about 10 minutes slower.
  • RUN – The wind was still pretty strong. My legs were shot from the vertical gain on the bike. The run was brutal. However, I was able to come out of the gate much faster than last year and just hold that higher heart rate the entire time. I improved my marathon time (on a much tougher course) from last year. One thing is certain, there isn’t a way to explain the pain that you feel the last 6-8 miles of the run. It’s not a winded kind of pain. It’s a deep down, to the core pain where every fiber of you body is telling you to STOP! This is where my emotional fitness kicks in. This is where I say, “fuck it,” and keep going. This is where I turn off my mind (and any Alabama songs) and find a way to take one more step, ten more steps, and just keep going.
  • POST RUN – When I crossed the finish line, I felt fine. My legs hurt, but I had had enough caffeine in me to kill a small rhino. Then, about two minutes later, when my body realized it was done being beat up, I got extremely cold, dizzy, and nauseous. I had to wrap myself in a blank, sit down, and have volunteers talk to me to make sure I was okay. After about 40 minutes, a recovery shake and a shower, I was back at it. But, man, when you put it all on the line, shit gets real! But I earned that pain. And I definitely earned that shower.
Are you always in a hurry? Why? Slow down and enjoy the pain, the progress, the process. That is life!
Now, who’s signing up for an Ironman?


  1. Michael Mergell

    Wow. Gary Keller says you can do anything or be anything in 5 years. You are not only proving it but showing that it can be measured. Great Job, Great Race!

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