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July 30, 2009- Well, we just came back from the 11th annual Ironman Lake Placid (Ironman USA) and I’m proud to say that whether racing or training, I have only missed one. I imagine to some people, spending up to 17 hours watching a race might sound tedious, but to me it’s always exciting - the day goes by surprisingly fast, and being a good spectator is almost as hard as doing the race!
HUGE thanks to Team Pegasus athlete David DeSantis who let us use his RV for the week. What a great experience! No description of this thing could do it justice, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…
We arrived in LP the Wednesday before the race and spent the evening setting up camp. Thursday morning we met Cait and Tim, and several other athletes for a bike ride on the course. After the ride Mike relaxed at the house Cait and Tim rent, while Cait, Tim and I went to the race headquarters where they were shooting a video of Cait. This is one of those stylized videos that they always insert in the race video where they show the top athletes in what is supposed to be an intimidating pose on the edge of a cliff with their hair blowing in the wind and the bike waiting patiently nearby like a trusty steed. Greg McFadden who does all the LP Ironman videos is a very nice guy and does a great job on the videos (quick turn-around and great music) and he was very nice to Cait as he helped her through her first modeling assignment. After the video shoot Mike, Cait and Tim picked up their race packets and it was back to our respective digs for a heavy night of eating and relaxing.
Friday morning we all got up to swim in Mirror Lake (always sublime!) and I went for a run and then met Cait and Mikaela at the Expo where Cait was doing a press conference with the other top pros. Greg Welch led off the press conference with a few questions for the pros and then turned the mike over to the audience for their own very good questions. Cait was the youngest pro (27) and Jason Shortis (40) was the oldest. The pros were from the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and Australia and offered various perspectives on racing and training.
Everyone knows that the Saturday before the race is carbo-load day, and Mike says this was his hardest day of training. It starts with a huge breakfast and ends with a normal-sized, high-carb dinner, and in between it’s all day snacking. Cait, Mikaela and I had our ritual pre-race breakfast, and then Mike met us to start his carbo load. We saw Charles Williams and family at the same restaurant having the same carbo-load ritual, and Paula Newby-Fraser was at the next table with Greg Welch.
Dinner was campfire grilled pizzas (yum!) with a pizza oven constructed by good friend Chuck Buckley. Tim Walsh and Neil and Tucker Withington also joined us around the campfire before heading into town to take advantage of the quiet restaurants and bars.
The alarm went off at 4 a.m. and by 5 a.m. the crew of Mike, Beth, Neil, Tucker, Chuck, Tim, Cait, Tim, Wheeler, Jesse, Chrissie, Pam, et al were heading down to the race start for body marking and last minute bike checks. Bikes are dropped off the night before so you just need to top off the tires and add anything you need to your T1 and T2 bags. We saw Rob Delmonico and our good friends Maggie and Duffy. Next thing we knew it was time for Mike to get into his wetsuit, do a quick warm up and then GO TIME.
The pro’s take off 10 minutes ahead of the age group athletes, so by the time the gun goes off for the age groupers a line of roughly 50 pros is 1/5th of the way into their swim. The age groupers aren’t so lucky. For them 2300 self-seeded athletes go off at the gun for what Mike calls the “Cocoanut Grove” start. There was a great picture of the swim start the next day in the local paper and you could see Charles Williams waiting to begin swimming while right near him is what looks like a swimmer with 2 heads and 6 arms. Mike is actually under that mêlée. I apologize for the lack of actual race pictures, but it’s hard to race all over the course, cheer for several people AND get race photos, but at least I started out with good intentions...
After the above photos were taken, Neil, Tucker, Tim, Chuck and I quickly changed into bike gear and headed down the back side of the course in the opposite direction of the race. So we are going down a very steep hill that the athletes are racing up. In what seemed like no time, the male pros were going past and there was my son-in-law Tim Snow looking good. He shouted something as he rode past and I looked to my group and said, “What did he say?” … “I think he said, ‘Tell Mike to slow down!’”
Mike had gone in the water 10 minutes after Cait and Tim and although he is a very good swimmer, I don’t think they expected him to be – well, 10 minutes behind nearly halfway through the bike course. They had seen him at the out-and-back and he seemed to be keeping pace with them.
Five minutes later I saw Cait, looking great. She shouted, “Tell Mike to slow down!”
Two minutes later Mike rode past with a big smile. “Hi!”, he shouted.
Cait and Tim are crazy about Mike and they didn’t want to see him blow up in his first Ironman after all the training and the great results at the halfs. Of course I didn’t want him to blow up either, but I felt ok about his race and the way he was doing it. He was chatting at other athletes as he rode past, so he likely wasn’t above threshold. Mike has a high athletic IQ and we had talked about how to pace this, so if he was ignoring advice … well, as he says, failure can be a good teacher.
We saw Rob Delmonico looking great on the bike after a very good swim. Charles Williams was climbing the steepest part of the course like he was on a fixed gear bike and I was worried that something was wrong. As it turns out, he WAS on a fixed gear bike. The derailleur of his Cervelo was broken and he only had one gear to work with. As it turns out, he’d have to abandon the race, but luckily he had already signed up for next year.
Sally Walsh and my mother both kept us updated by phone as to what was being said on Ironmanlive.com. Cait got off the bike 35 minutes off the lead and in 7th place among pro females. She showed us what she could do last year with her run and while Tereza Macel was having an outstanding race, I knew Cait would be pleased that she had taken 10 mins off last year’s bike time. Mike was off the bike around the same time as Cait, meaning he had outsplit her on the bike.
The posse and I took a shortcut into town and found a great place to watch the athletes as they began the run. We had missed Tim, but we saw Cait, Mike, and Rob heading out on the run all looking great. My crew deserted me to go find lunch, which was a smart move because we wouldn’t see the athletes for another 13 miles, but I wanted to find Mikaela, and our statistician, Carey Snow ….
Tim’s father always knows where everyone is on the course and what pace they are holding. Knowing is always better than not knowing, so it’s great to be near the man with the stop watch!
For the second half of the race Mikaela and I stood in front of Stewarts so we could see the athletes twice before they headed out to the long stretch of River Road. Cait, Tim and Mike all have distinct running styles, so it’s easy to pick them out from quite a distance. Just in case, though, Uber-cheerleader Mikaela gives a nice loud shout when she sees someone she knows. Because she also is at almost every race, she knows a LOT of athletes …..
Tim came by first, light on his feet and absolutely flying. As it would turn out, he had the fastest run split of the day. Cait came by next and not only was she flying, she had the biggest smile on her face! When she went by us at mile 11.5 she was in 5th place and when she came by again at mile 13.5 she was in 4th place. She knew what she was doing and she was in control.
Mike came by next and just ahead of him was Pat Wheeler and just ahead of Pat, Jesse Kroplenicki. Everyone looked great even running up the hill. When Mike came back down at mile 13.5 he was in 2nd place. I gave him that info and told him to hang tough (my only coaching advice of the day!)
Mikaela and I then headed over to the Olympic Oval/finish line to wait another excruciating hour for our athletes to start coming in. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that this is just like an episode of “24” where the heroes never take a bathroom break. That was us. We are so busy running around that I guess we just forget. Anyway, enough about us.
Neil, Tucker, Tim and Chuck met us in the Oval and headed up to the stands. Mikaela and I had every intention of being inside the fenced off area and right there on the finish line. Mikaela ran off to hunt down Mike Lovato who gave her a VIP pass and at the same time, Heather Fuhr and Paula Newby-Fraser recognized me (as Cait’s mom) and told me to come on in. The couldn’t have been nicer and asked me if I wanted to put Cait’s medal on her. Since Mikaela had done it last year, I happily accepted the honors.
At around 8:15 into the race, Mike Riley (the voice of Ironman) announced that unless Maik Twelsiek and Tereza Macel completely broke down, they would be the winners of the race, but that the fastest two people on the course at the moment were the Snows. Paula Newby-Fraser and Greg Welch had made a bet on Tim’s marathon time. When Tim crossed the finish line at 9:26 into the race, his marathon time was 2:52.
Tereza Macel crossed the finish line next after Tim at 9:29 and it was then that we finally got word that Cait was in 3rd place and closing fast on Sam McGlone. She passed Sam at mile 23 and never looked back. When she entered the Oval there was a huge cheer from the crowd as she is pretty much a local. She saw me standing there with the medal and her big smile got even bigger. She came in at 9:40 into the race and had run a 2:57 marathon and beat the course record that she had set the previous year by 2 minutes! She had the 4th fastest run of men and women, and even better, she had run herself from 7th place into 2nd and got a slot to Kona.
The next 15 minutes are a blur of hugging, interviews, champagne and me being a mother making sure Cait didn’t need to go to the medical tent (she kept telling us she was “tingling”). I had a feeling Mike would be coming in shortly, so I told Mikaela that I was going to go to the finish line. Being Cait’s mom has some privileges, as you aren’t usually allowed to be ON the finish line as a spectator!
As soon as I said that I heard Mike Riley say, “A social worker from Duxbury doing his first Ironman... Mike Lamie, YOU are an Ironman”. Mike crossed the finish line at 9:59 into the race. Sub 10 hours from a man nearly 50 years old doing his first Ironman. Incredible!
So many people to thank: Neil, Tucker, Chuck and Tim for making the drive up just to watch and cheer. Carey Snow for his always accurate always timely stats. Sally Walsh and Jane Montanari (my mother) for keeping us posted long distance. My athletes for putting on an incredible performance. Cait, Mikaela, Mike and Tim for being who they are.
Until next time - Beth Lamie