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Ironman Lake Placid Part II – How to Nail the Run


Here’s me, shortly before the swim start.  I’d wager to guess about 15 minutes before the gun went off since I’ve just about drained my powerbar bottle after taking in my last pre-race gel. (Nutrition tip: No need to OD on nutrition ride before the start, 15 minutes out pop one last gel and wash it down with some water and your good to go.  You should be well fueled because of the two previous days and the early morning breakfast you had, what you eat 1 hour before is only going to top you off or if you do it incorrectly put you over the edge and quite possibly into a porta-potty).  This brings up a good point, if you do have to go the bathroom right before the race I would say just pee in the lake somewhere, ya ya gross…whatever…everyone is doing it.  However if you need to take a #2 or just need some quite time if you head back towards transition and from mirror lake on the left end of transition there are a row of porta potties that can be utilized.  Their are a few others around that are closer to the lake but they will be mobbed!  You are better off walking a little further, going into transition and hitting those up.  You will still be close enough to use those 10-15 minutes before the race and still make it back for the start if an emergency hits.

One of the first thing that comes to my mind for the run, even before I talk about the actual course is that you want to be comfortable in the equipment you will be using.   This means running in your race day shorts and shoes before the race.  And when I say running I don’t mean a 45 minute or 1 hour run.  I mean a 2 + hour run before the big dance.  There is a reason that we have dress rehearsals for big events like weddings and graduations, and an Ironman race is no different.  This has made me thought of another point that I should have put in the bike section of the last post and that is to make sure all your gear is ready to go about 1 week prior to the race.  Hopefully you are all friends with your LBS, if your not you need to start being friendly because they can really save your butt.  I know that the guys and gals over at Towpath Bike Shop have helped me out big time on many occasions when something has gone wrong with the bike, or when i decide to try wrenching and totally screw stuff up, or when a race in fast approaching and I need the bike to get looked over.  Anyhow, I would suggest that you let your bike shop know that your doing Lake Placid this summer and set a date about a week to a week and a half before the race where you are going to drop the bike off for a tune up.  During this tune up I would highly suggest new tires (we want to minimize the chance of flatting), new tubes while were at it, have them check the chain to make sure its not stretched and if it is you might as well throw on a new chain (they are only like $20-30 bucks).  Those are the big things that come to mind, sure its more money that you are spending on your IM adventure but it is money well spend and really is small peanuts in the broad scheme of things.  You really must remember that these little things are important to take care of before the race because on race day a popped tube, or a slashed tired could lead to a sad outcome and one that could have been avoided.

“There is no good bike before a bad run”

That is a quote from Endurance Nation coach Patrick McCrann.  He usually gives a pre-race speech on Saturday down by Mirror Lake.  Its a pretty good talk ecspecially for those first time IM athletes, I would highly suggest keeping an eye out for that.  Since its on Saturday I would suggest that this should be your only outdoor activity for the day.  Things brings me to another random point that is not specifically aimed at the run split.  This point however is more important.  The number one thing you can do to screw up your race before it even starts is tiring yourself out by walking around the day before a race instead of getting your feet up off the ground and relaxing.  I know that super Ironman athlete Pat Wheeler, of QT2 Systems usually shoots for about 1.50 hours on his feet the day before a race.  Sure it sounds like you could do it too, but its freaking hard! (But is it worth it, well Pat ran a 3 hr marathon off the bike in Kona for a 9:23 last year…ummm yeah I think he may be onto something)  Real hard!  Just think how much time you spend on your feet to go the bathroom, shower, and make food everyday.  You will really need to have a plan in place to enable yourself to be off your feet as much as possible.  What I would do is wake up fairly early on Saturday and go to your planned breakfast, this is the breakfast of all breakfast’s.  It will probably be the most fun you’ve had all year.  EAT EAT EAT, stuff yourself full in the morning and then taper down from their during the day.   Your should end the day by going to bed a little hungry.  I would suggest that you be lying in bed at 6 or 7 o’clock regardless of if you are actually tired.  In my case I laid in bed all day.  Read some books, watched a little tv.  I only got up to go the bathroom, get water, and to get food from the fridge.  Other than the breakfast in the morning and walking to the speech that was my day!  And it should be yours too.  You’ve trained a lot for this race and you should do your best not to sabotage it by tiring your legs and body out with a lot of useless walking around.

…and the Run:

Here is the route–> IMLP Run Course Map

I left off on Part I at the part of the course where you begin running on River Road.  This portion of the run comes after some significant down hill running.  During the first loop I would advise to take it out easy.  Stay in control of yourself.  One you hit River Road start to really dig in.  Remember to keep eating.  My protocol is to have a clif blok every 2 miles and hit every aid station for some fluid.  Just remember that unless you train with coke on every run (which I seriously hope you don’t) than you should try to hold off on the special sauce until later in the race when the caffeine boost can really be used as a huge benefit.   The section of the run on River Road can be pretty boring and a little lonely.  Luckily during the first loop there is usually a good mix of people, those who biked like Hercules and who are showing the effects, those who are running like scud missiles, and the pro’s who are in various stages of the race.  I know that last year when I was on river road on my first loop I got to see the first place male (Ben Hoffman) fly by me going about 20 mph on foot 🙂  Then when I was back in town at the turn around section along Mirror Lake I was able to see a Tim Snow, professional triathlete part of the QT2 team motor by me.  I had met Tim earlier in the year so it was cool to wish him well and give him a quick “atta boy”.  Then on my second loop going down the big hill by the ski jumps I saw his wife Cait (who would go on to finish second in LP and then 8th in Kona last year) and cheered her on.  Even as she was giving it her all going up the hill she gave a smile and a cheer back to me.  Those are the special moments in our sport.  These were just to occurrences with a couple professionals who were cranking on the course but their were so many other exchanges between friends of mine that I had met either at training camps, or from people I knew from Rochester, etc.. etc.. I can say pretty much that without a doubt you will see someone close to you, someone that you know on course that day cheering you on either as a fan or spectator.  When that happens a shot of adrenaline will run through your veins and all will be good.  If only that feeling could last the whole race everyone would be running sub 3!  I will be on course that day so hopefully I can provide some energy boosts to all you that are reading this and who follow my blog.

Overall, I really don’t have many other tips for the run.  It’s going to be all about how your prepared for the run on race day that is going to make all the difference.  If you rode within yourself, remembered to keep the nutrition steady, and are mentally prepared you should have a great run.  I suppose the thing that sticks out in my mind the most is that the first loop is going to come and go, you will feel fresh and feel good.  Loop 2 is going to hurt at some point…it just will.  Focus on running the downhills hard, work them and bank some extra time, as you go down the hill with the ski jumps to your right you should be flying.  Use that hill as a guide, think about it as you begin your second loop.  Once you’ve worked the downhill successfully then its a pretty flat out and back on river road.  After your run the river road section you will begin to climb the hill by the ski jumps, this will be the longest hill remaining.  Really try and be efficient up this hill.  Now is not the time to give up, your soo close!  Get up the hill and try to fnd a rhythm over the section from the jumps to town.  You can start picking up the pace here becuse your around mile 20-22.  Then when you get into town their is going to be one short and nasty hill that ends with the Sunoco station on your right.  The hill plain sucks!  I was not ready for it last year and I really lost major time on it.  I was not prepared.  But you guys have a chance to know its coming and to deal with it.  Just remember that their is still work to do even when you can see and hear the crowds at the finish line.  If possible motor up the last big hill into town, its going to be the last big effort of the day.  The crowds will begin to grow and you will be able to feed off their energy a bit.  Your still have to make the right onto mirror lake drive and hit the short out and back section but once you do that you will be heading downhill with the lake to your right and the finish line just ahead.  Hopefully your family and friends will be lined up somewhere along that section.  You don’t want to look slow and beaten for them do you?  I didn’t think so.  Hammer as hard as possible.  If I was racing this year I would run as hard as I could from the bottom of the last hill when entering town until the end of the race.  If you blow up their, well its not that long of a death march.  My bet is that you won’t blow up and that you finish the race absolutely exhausted…just the way you should when racing for 9,10, 11+ hours.

As for the actual race that is all I’ve got left for you.  If you have any specific questions please feel free to post a comment or email them directly to me at

Other Random’s to stick in your cap:

  • When preparing for IMLP, if you have the chance to train on the course i would suggest riding the last part of the course in reverse all the way to the out and back section.  It’s about a 2-2.5 hour ride for me in an endurance mode so plan accordingly.  It will give you a good appreciation of just how much climbing you do on the back side of the course.  Riding it in reverse to the out and back section will have you flying, you’ll be easily averaging 20+ mph without doing to much work, this will definetly help your appreciate the effort that is required on these last 10-12 miles.
  • There is no need to charge any hills, I suggest spinning up them and conserving your energy.  Sit in that saddle and cruise, then once you crest hammer the downhills and utilize gravity.  You will be able to exert less energy and go faster on an overall basis.
  • If you look in the above picture you can see some things that I think might help you in your preparation.  Since LP can be chilly in the morning since its in the Adirondacks, I personally there some arm warmers rolled into little donut shaped things on my aero bars just in case it got cold and rainy.  It didn’t and I never put them on but they were on the bike just in case and didn’t do any harm because they were.  Just as an FYI I rode with arm warmers and a bike Jersey in Florida for the IM and was cold beyond belief, but thats for another post.  I also am wearing clear lens glasses since it was a cloudy morning, and I knew it would be for the better part of the bike since I was smart and checked the weather channel.  I know the weather channel is not 100% but its a pretty good bet.  I wore clear lens on the bike and then put on another pair of dark lens for the run, along with a visor.  With sunglasses and a visor you will never have to worry about feeling the pain of squinting through 26.2 miles.



3 thoughts on “Ironman Lake Placid Part II – How to Nail the Run Leave a comment

  1. Great finish to the article and the race. I’ll definitely be taking all of these things into consideration when writing up my race plan.

    My only follow ups are: what could you have done, or what would you do in relatively the same fitness as you had to pick up some extra time? Or do you think you executed your race perfectly? Could you have dropped 15 min off your bike split without hurting your run? And how aggressive were you on the downhills? I like to rip it going downhill to pick up some time (esp bc I’m not great in the flats), but I am also terrified of crashing going 40+mph.

    Lastly, what gearing did you use for IMLP? I’m trying to figure mine out right now (currently riding a 54/42 and 23/11, which I don’t think is the best idea for those climbs).



  2. Matthew, thank you very much for such a great post. I am doing IMLP this year (2012) with my gf and a few other people from my tri team. I am looking forward to it and hope my training has put me in a good state to do well. I definitely found a few things that I think will help me during my race.


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