Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ironman Lake Placid - Race Report

After drinking one beer and two Smirnoff Ice (from my wife's stock), I have finally managed to completely relax and stop thinking about my first Ironman. I went to sleep around 10:30 PM and I slept like a baby. I actually slept so well that when the alarm clock went on at 4:15 AM I stopped it and I continued to sleep. I finally woke up half an hour later, completely rested and ready for the big day. After I ate a tuna sandwich I headed to the transition area. On my way there I realized that I forgot my wetsuit, so I went back to pick it up. I finally got to the transition area at 5:30. Then I realized that I forgot my water bottles at the hotel. I did not want to spend another 15 minutes going back to the hotel so I just went across the road at a gas station and bought 3 bottles of Gatorade.

The Swim
2.4 miles (3.86 Km) - 1:20:46 hours, 2:08min/100m
Place: 259/355 in my age group, 1671/2611 overall

At 6:20 I put on my wetsuit and I headed to the Mirror Lake to get ready for the race. On my way there I met with Miha and the kids. They were in a good mood and cheered me up.

Being a lousy swimmer, my strategy was to wait at the back of the pack so that I won't be passed by faster swimmers and get kicked as much as if I'd have started in the middle of the pack. So I waited exactly 1:39 minutes until most of the swimmers have crossed the starting line and then I started swimming slowly. Most of the swimmers at the back were slower than me and quite a few were swimming breast stroke, which made it difficult for me to pass them. Each time I saw a gap opening  in front of me I sprinted and passed as many swimmers as I could. For the first 10 minutes I kept sprinting and passing probably close to 900 swimmers. At the first turnaround buoy I got kicked in the face for the first time. It was not too bad, but my goggles fell off and I had to stop to put them back on. For the rest of the swim I managed to find a pair of feet to draft off and keep a steady pace. I also managed to swim most of the time next to the underwater cable so sighting was not an issue this time. As I got out of the water after the first loop I could not believe that my watch showed 40:18 minutes. The second loop was uneventful, I just kept drafting off other swimmers. I finished the swim leg in 1:20. My goal was to finish it in 1:25 so I was really happy when I saw my time.

Transition 1
Time: 8:24 minutes

Once I got out of the water a volunteer helped me to strip off my wetsuit. The guy was really fast and he knew what he was doing. From Mirror Lake to the transition area it was a good 2-300 m walk and run combined. In my bike gear bag I had waiting for me a bottle of Chocolate Muscle Milk, which I slowly drank up. After that I put on my bike equipment, gave the bike gear bag to a volunteer and went to pick up my bike. My time of over 8 minutes was a really slow one. I really need to work on improving it. 

The Bike 
112 miles (180.24 Km) - 5:55:28 hours, 18.9mph (30.4Km/h)
Place: 112/355 in my age group, 548/2611 overall

The moment I got on the bike I felt really strong. I kept passing lots and lots of people. This always happens to me because I am a much better cyclist than swimmer. I guess for more than half of the bike leg I kept passing hundreds of people. I got passed a few times but in total I would say that less than 10 people passed me, while I probably passed close to 8-900 cyclists. 

The weather was again just perfect. 22-23C, cloudy with a few drops here and there. I could not have wished for anything better.

As I passed by my hotel, Miha and kids were there waiting for me and cheering me up. It was so good seeing them.

My fastest speed was 75.8 Km/h, during the long descent into Keene. A year before when I came to Lake Placid for a training session, I was really scared of this descent and I remember that I applied the brakes a lot. 
This time I barely applied the breaks a few times and for the entire descent I felt in control of the bike. I also passed quite a few people, who seemed to be scared and kept applying the brakes.

I finished the first loop of the bike leg at 31.4 Km/h. Just as I finished the first loop I started to feel a little bit tired and I realized that I'll need to slow down in order to have enough energy to climb the 3 downhills, Baby Bear, Mama Bear and Papa Bear, on my way back. Just before I reached the hills I opened my secret drink, a bottle of Red Bull, which gave me enough energy to pass quite a few people on the last 20 Km of the bike leg. 

I got back into town feeling energized by the Red Bull and ready to start the run.

Transition 2
Time: 7:06 minutes

The moment I got back to the transition I was so happy that I was finally able to use the porta potty and pee. I guess that I spent close to 2 minutes in there enjoying the feeling of liberation and relief. Then I went to pick up my Run gear bag and found that the knot got really tight. It took me more than 2 minutes to get it loose enough and untie it. Hence the 7 minutes spent in T2 instead of 3 minutes like the other participants.

The Run 
26.2 miles (42.2 Km) - 4:16:24 hours, 9.48 min/mile (6:02 min/Km)
Place: 126/355 in my age group, 767/2611 overall

I was off to a great start. I felt in very good shape. The first 1Km or so it's mostly downhill running. By the time I reached my hotel I was running really fast and felt good. 

Miha and kids were waiting for me there. Miha said that she knew that I felt really good because I kept smiling while I was passing them.

For the first 5K I kept passing people and felt really well. Then, once I hit the hills my left knee started to hurt. At that point I had to make a decision, should I push through the pain or I should slow down? Then I remembered my first marathon from a year before when I pushed through the pain until my knee just gave up and I finished limping the last 10 Km. So, I decided to slow down. I realized that I have a very good chance to finish in under 12 hours at a slow pace and I said to myself that it is not worth taking any risks. I made a decision to walk any uphill, run on any downhill and run or walk on the flats, depending on how I felt. It was a very good decision. The moment I started walking the pain went away and I actually started to enjoy the run/walk combination. It felt effortless and I still managed to maintain a pretty good pace.

On my way back to town I passed again by the hotel, where my kids were waiting for me to give them high fives. Your family cheering you up never gets old and it kept motivating me to continue running strong.

The second loop of the run leg went well, too. My strategy to walk/run helped to stay in good shape and I just knew that I was going to finish in under 12 hours, which made feel really good. I kept smiling to the spectators and thanked them for cheering us up. All the time I had the feeling that I had the perfect race.

Once I got back into town I realized that if I start running for the last 2 Km I can even break 11:50. At that point I started running fast and kept monitoring my watch. Entering into the oval area was just awesome.

All those people cheering you up made me forget about the pain so I sprinted all the way to the finish line. Once I heard Mike Riley saying:"Doru Sandor, you are an Ironman" I felt so relived and just very, very happy, especially when I realized that I finished in 11:48 hours.

My goal was to finish in under 12:30 hours, hopping that if I have a very good day I might break 12:00 hours. At no point I thought that I'll be able to break 11:50 hours at my first Ironman.

Once I crossed the finish line, a volunteer came to help and guide me. She was a very nice lady, who kept asking me if I felt OK. I told her that I felt more than OK and she should not be worry about me. She joked that is her job to take care of me and she won't get paid if something happens to me.

I met Miha and the kids at the exit and we all went to the hotel. I took a shower, changed my clothes and we went to a restaurant nearby to celebrate. All I remember after that was that the beer never tasted so good. Best way to finish a perfect day!

Official results:


  1. Awesome, awesome and awesome again! Way to go, congratulation on am amazing race and amazing accomplishment! you are an inspiration!

  2. Thanks John! I hardly wait to watch you compete at your first IM in a month from now. Based on your fitness status I know that you will do extremely well in Wisconsin.

  3. D, I just realized you're race report was up. Great report. It sure sounds like you OWNED that race and were in control the entire time. As you know, I can't believe how well you did, regardless if it was your first or 20th ironman. Anytime you're under 12 hours, you had a great day. Great photo's and I love the ones with the kids walking back with you. Again, awesome job and I can see "boston" in your future. I was speaking to Jamie about the beer run and it seems everyone voted you the best running style, "light and natural".


  4. Thanks B! I was indeed very lucky to have such a good race for my first IM. I was thinking about you many time during the race and I have to thank you for reminding me to enjoy it, which I did.

  5. Hey Doru, I just read this again and I have to say great job dude! That is an amazing time for your first Ironman! Congrats!!

    I can't wait to do my IMLP this year! I won't be as quick as you but are certainly an inspiration!

  6. Thank you John!

    With all that training that you are doing I am sure that you are going to be way faster than you think. My biggest speed improvement came less than a month before my IM race, when I was tapering for the Peterborough Half Swim/Bike. Up to that point I was worried about my speed.