Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ironman USA recap

One year ago on July 24, 2007 registration opened for Ironman USA in Lake Placid, NY. I had told my friends, who all did their first Ironman the year before in Brazil, that whichever race they were all doing I would join them. They said Ironman USA was the one. I read about the race, looked good to me! I love New York and the scenery is supposed to be beautiful. Should I sign up? Should I commit to training for an Ironman? My husband said, “You’re nuts, but go for it!” So that morning at 6am the phone rang at my house from one of my friends calling to see if I was going to go through with it and sign up. Peer pressure always works with me. He had already signed up so I got right on it, went to the computer and signed myself up. Within ten minutes of signing up, the race was sold out completely. I can’t believe there are 2000 other people who want to do this that bad- crazy!

So, there I was, knowing what race I would be doing in one year. I have never planned anything in my life that far in advance, not even my wedding. How would I prepare myself? What would I do? What training program would I follow? I started reading every Ironman training book I could get my hands on and figure this out. I was excited to write a year long program for myself, follow it and get my body to the point where I could complete an Ironman. And I had an entire year to do it.

I wrote out my plan starting with a corrective exercise phase, then two Half Ironman’s and a Century Ride. I had my volume build for 3 weeks and then a recovery week. My plan was to taper for 3 weeks so my biggest longest workout was Saturday, 3 weeks out from the race and I followed it very closely. I kept track of everything, my miles, my hours, my weight, calories eaten.

My final week of tapering was here. We flew out on Wednesday and I would be an Ironman on Sunday. I couldn’t believe I had been consumed by this for a full year and now here it was. I was about to be an Ironman. I had done everything right, followed my training program and followed all of the advice in the books and from all of my friends. I had to be ready.

We got to Lake Placid on Wednesday night and I tried to get to bed as early as I could with the time difference to try to get on the time zone. Woke up on Thursday and went for a 40 minute run around the lake. I felt good, legs felt pretty fresh. I was ready to do this. Following my run I joined my husband in the hotel gym while he worked out I stretched and did some range of motion work.

Time to go register! I went and registered Thursday afternoon and it started to rain and get really windy. All day Thursday ended up being torrential rain and wind- Oh No! What if this is what we have on race day? I got my bike and registered and went back to the hotel. My number was 2121- good number! The forecast was for clear skies over the weekend so we’ll see. I know this race has been in this kind of weather in the past and with the way it was coming down it was hard to believe it would clear up by Sunday. I started to think I needed to prepare myself for a windy, rainy day.

Friday I woke up and there was a patch of no rain so I took my bike out for a spin to see how it was working. I was having trouble getting air in one of my tires so stopped by the bike shop where they were very helpful and helped me open the valve on my tire which seemed to be stuck. My bike was riding great, I did about 6 miles. Then I went back to the hotel, put my wetsuit on and headed out for a 20 minute swim in the lake. That was it for workouts, if you even call those workouts. Compared to what I had been doing these didn’t feel like I had worked out. More just mentally getting ready and getting some blood flowing in my muscles. I didn’t do anything that should cause any muscular damage that I will have to recover from. I felt good and was ready to go.

I was amazed at all of the competitors that were training all week and not just an easy run. I’d see people way out from town like they must have ran there up and down the hills 10-15 miles two days before the race. At any moment you could look out at the lake and see at least 50-100 people swimming and most of them seemed to be at least swimming one whole loop of the course. We also saw people cycling way out of town which again is not a flat ride back in to town. Crazy! These poor people didn’t know that they can only do damage at this point, there bodies would not recover from these last minute workouts by Sunday. What were they thinking? I felt bad for them that they thought it would be beneficial to get one last 10 mile run in before the race- it’s too late, go rest! Your poor body has to travel 140.6 miles on Sunday! Give it a break! While everyone else was getting one last swim or bike ride in I went and had a 90 minute massage which felt great and I was done with workouts until Sunday when I would be an IRONMAN. The rain continued to poor all day Friday with no end in sight except that the forecast still said clear over the weekend. I went back to the hotel and put my numbers on everything and taped 12 GU’s onto my bike. I put together my transition bags and special needs bags and everything was ready to go!

Saturday I woke up to blue skies! Yay! I had to drop off my bike and transition bags at transition. This was an exciting moment. Putting my bike on the rack and seeing where everything would be. Everything was ready to go. I relaxed most of the day except for a few hours when my husband and I went to the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex where we watched skiers in a competition fly off of the ski jumps- amazing! This definitely helped take my mind off of what I would be doing tomorrow. These guys were nuts! What a crazy sport! Watching it on TV doesn’t do justice to seeing it in person. Then we watched guys do jumps into a pool of water where they would flip and twist in the air 3-4 times. Amazing! I drank water and Gatorade all day long making sure I was fully hydrated and tried to sit and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Saturday night I ate pasta with grilled chicken around 6pm. I stretched, foam rolled and used the stick on my muscles and climbed in to bed at about 9pm after drinking a Surge to top off my glycogen stores before going to sleep.

My alarm went off at 4am and I was up and ready to go. Today was the Day! I felt so ready for this day that I don’t think I got really nervous. I felt pretty calm and excited to do this. I had planned my race and it was time to race my plan. I ate some oatmeal and a banana and had some coffee. At about 5:15am I headed to transition and my husband came with me. I went in and put my Clif bars in my bento box on my bike, and my drinks in the drink holders after they had been in the fridge all night, nice and cold. I pumped up my tires one more time and I was ready to go. Of course, I went back and double checked it once or twice before heading to the start line. It was time to say goodbye to my bike, I’d see it in a few hours. I was on my way over to the lake where the swim start was but first stop was to get body marked and second stop was to drop off my special needs bags. And third stop was one last bathroom stop before the race started where I waited in a long line and cut it a little too close to the race start for comfort. Everyone was getting in the water so I had my husband get my wetsuit ready and when I came out of the porta potty I put my wetsuit on and ran to the race start.

As I was walking in to the water the National Anthem started. Soon after, I was floating among 2500 people trying to find the best spot. I asked the guy next to me if I was in the middle or if I was up to close with all of the fast people. He said that he thinks all of the animals were up in front of us and that I was in a good spot just behind the animals.

Helicopters were flying over head, thousands of spectators surrounded the lake, the sun was shining, it was very exciting! The gun went off and we started swimming. The day had begun. The swim was definitely crowded and you had to watch out for yourself. Swimming is usually a relaxing sport but this was a contact sport, a very different swim experience. I would be swimming in a nice open space getting into my stroke- “one, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, look up, one, two, three…” and then all the sudden chaos- there would be people on all sides of me kicking, arms flying and so I would look up find another open space close by and move to it and continue moving forward. I got hit once or twice but no biggie. I was nervous about getting kicked hard so whenever I’d see feet in front or on the side of me I steered clear of them. The key was staying calm and keep moving forward. The sun was blinding me when I would breathe on that side I’d see stars for the next couple of breathes so I had to change my talk in my head to- “one, two, three, close eyes, one, two, three, look up.” I only brought clear goggles and wished I had tinted ones. I thought it would be overcast in the morning. After swimming about 900 meters we had to turn left around a buoy, swim 100 meters and make another left at a buoy making a rectangle heading back to the beach. These turns were what you would call a clusterf***. And I don’t usually cuss(I leave that to my husband, he does it better then I do) but this is the best word to describe these turns. Everyone cut in close to the buoys and were on top of each other. This was the worst of the contact sport and I just wanted out of it. I made it out OK and took the next buoy a little wider. Then I was headed back to the beach. First loop in 39 minutes- right on track for my 1:20 swim time I wanted. The second loop I was able to swim out on the rope that held the buoys together using it as a lane line so I didn’t have to sight as often. Sighting is when you look up to see where you are. Before I knew it I was at the buoys to turn again and this time I took them both wide but ended up off course a bit as I was coming back in. It was great because I had nice open water all by myself but I was swimming way outside of the buoys and needed to make my way back in closer which I did. I never did see any scuba divers which they said we would see. They had scuba divers in the water watching us swim over I guess incase anyone gets pulled under or drowns they would see them.

When I got back to the beach, stood up and looked at the clock it said 1:20- yay! I was very happy with that time! And the people cheering- thousands of people were there cheering- it was overwhelming as you came out of the swim. I couldn’t believe all of the people, there was no way I would see my husband. I started feeling emotional with all of these thousands of people cheering for ME as I came out of the water. I couldn’t get emotional all ready, I had a long day ahead of me but it was pretty overwhelming having thousands of people cheering for you. Do you think they were there for someone else? I thought they were all there for me! Volunteers were standing there to help us pull our wetsuits off which was great and then I ran ¼ mile to transition which was actually a lot of fun because of the crowds cheering for me and I did see my husband just before I entered transition. In transition, the volunteers were great helping with everything. In no time I had my helmet and bike shoes on and was heading out to get my bike.

I had a great time on the bike. My legs felt great. I passed 780 people on the bike! I didn’t count, a friend of mine pointed it out to me after the race was over when she looked at the results online. I knew I passed a lot of people but I didn’t realize that many. I did the first loop in 2:56 and was feeling great except that I would need to make a pit stop at a restroom probably on this second loop. I really wanted to wait until I was back at transition but couldn’t wait and had to stop at mile 80 where these kids were volunteering and held my bike for me filling up all of my drinks. It was better than Valet parking- what service! I felt much better and was off for another 32 miles until my marathon! Oh my god I was going to run my first marathon today! Was I insane?

I finished strong on the bike, passing all of the people I had already passed earlier before my pit stop. I came in strong right to the finish, felt great. My nutrition on the bike was a GU every 10 miles, 3 Clif Bars which I ate between mile 20 and mile 80 and 20 ounces of fluid every hour. I also took 2 salt tablets every hour. This seemed to work pretty good. I had no problems with cramping.

I came into transition after 6:09 on my bike. As we came around the final corner the volunteers were all yelling at us to “Slow Down!!!” and “Yellow Line!!!” You felt like you were in trouble the way they were yelling but they just wanted to make sure you dismounted at the yellow line and didn’t crash into transition. A volunteer took my bike from me and I ran into transition to get ready to run my marathon! I made another stop at the porta potties on my way in, then went to the tent, changed my socks and shoes, put my hat on and grabbed my GU’s and salt tabets for the run. I was off to run a marathon!

I couldn’t believe how fresh my legs felt running out of transition. I felt great! I just hoped it would last! I had 10 Gu’s packed into my pockets and 10 salt tablets. It was a lot of stuff in my pockets while running so I started to spread it out and put some Gu’s in my shorts pockets. As I ran out of transition, I heard the announcer say my name- “Here comes Rachel Cosgrove out on the run course!” I saw my husband right when I ran out which made me smile and I was off to run the first 13 mile loop. I had planned to get 4-6 ounces of fluid at very aid station, take a Gu every 30 minutes and 2 salt tablets every hour. That was the plan. So, I ran until I came to the first aid station where I quickly walked through while grabbing a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade chugged them down and picked up my pace again. I was keeping a 10min/mile pace perfectly because when I hit mile 6 it had been exactly an hour so I was right on track. I felt great all the way to the turnaround and then headed back toward town where on your way in you have to run up a steep climb and then down a hill and then another steep climb, two more small climbs and then one last little hill that really hurts. The crowds were great on these hills though cheering for you. I ran up them all and felt pretty strong. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I did my first loop in 2:15 putting me on track for a 4:30 marathon if I could keep that pace. Second loop I still felt good running, I think my aid station walks were probably getting a little slower then they were on the first loop and I am sure my pace had slowed down a little even though it felt like I was holding a pretty good pace. I also had to stop 3-4 times at the porta potties, sometimes false alarms but I didn’t want to risk it. So my overall pace on the second loop I was noticing I was about 15 minutes behind at about mile 18 to hit 4:30. 18 miles was the longest I had every run but I felt fine going into mile 19. I started to grab the chicken broth which seemed to keep me feeling good and I was still eating my Gu’s and taking my salt. So from mile 18 to the end it was water, Gatorade, chicken broth, Gu and salt tabs. I knew those hills were coming up again ahead and my goal with this race had always been to finish strong so as I got to the hills I just kept saying to myself, “Finish Strong” And I ran up all of the hills while the crowds cheered for me, one hill, two hills and then the couple of smaller hills running strong out to the turnaround where I would be heading into the finish line soon.

As I was running into the Olympic Oval where the finish line was I lifted my sunglasses off my eyes but with all of the thousands of people cheering at me and I was about to finish something that I had worked very hard for, I got emotional again and started to get tears welling up. I put my sunglasses back down on my eyes because I didn’t want to start bawling and have my picture crossing the finish line of me bawling.

I ran across the finish line. I think I put my arms up and heard the announcer say, “Rachel Cosgrove, YOU are an Ironman!”

After I crossed the volunteers were there to hold me up, one on each side. I felt fine, really. They asked me how I was. And when I said I was fine they kept saying- “Are you sure? What do you need?” I started to second guess myself, was I really Ok? But yes, I felt good. I just wanted to see my husband and I had no idea how I would find him in the thousands of people. Another volunteer came up to check me out and she said, “Wow, you look like you just got out of the salon! You look great!” With that comment, I went and posed for a professional picture. Soon after I found my husband wearing his Ironmate shirt.

Friday, July 27, 2007


What an Awesome day! It was everything I anticipated and more in a good way. I had a great race and I felt fantastic. I hit all of my numbers close to what I expected and above all felt great and finished strong.

I wanted under 1:30 on the swim, I hit 1:20
I wanted under 6 hours on the bike, I hit 6:09.
I wanted under 5 hours on the run, I hit 5 hours.
For a total time of 12:45!

I am very happy with that time and I was amazed at how good I felt. And I felt fine after I was done. It hasn't even been a week and I have no residual soreness, I didn't get any blisters at all, I can't believe how good I feel. Ready to do it again! I owe that to all of the hours of training I put in!

I'll post my race recap tomorrow.

Thank you for all of your support! I am an Ironman!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Last week before the big race!

It is now the week of my race! How this year has flown by yet I am so ready to do this race. I feel like I have been preparing, training and thinking about it for long enough and am ready. I have been reading everything on what to put in my bags and what the day of and day before will be like. I feel good. Have had an easy week of training and had a massage yesterday. I fly out Wednesday! For those of you who want to follow my race you can log on to and see how I am doing. My predictions are-

Swim under 1:30, hopefully 1:20
Bike under 6 hours, hopefully 5:45
Run under 5 hours, hopefully 4:30
with transitions at a total of 12:00 min

So that is 12:42 on the high end and 11:47 if all goes the best it could which would have put me 14th last year. It's a competitive race and I am in a competitive age group. I would be ecstatic with 11:47 or anything under 12 hours for that matter but I'll be excited with anything under 13 hours and I'll be happy that I finish no matter what! So that was-
Ecstatic- Under 12 hours
Excited- Under 13 hours
Happy and completely satisfied- To Finish!

I have planned my race and will race my plan and will cross that finish line with a smile on my face no matter how the day goes!

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

10 Days until I am an Ironman!

Well, it is almost here. 10 more days until I race in my first Ironman. I have been tapering and it is such a wierd thing because you feel like you should be doing something. My training peaked at about 19-20 hours a week and this week I will do about 12-14 hours of training and next week I'll do about 8-10 hours before the race. I have been making lists of everything- my schedule this week before we get there, what will be in all of my bags- T1,T2, special needs bags, what I will eat the day before and the day of the race.

I dropped my bike off with Tri Transport on Tuesday and that was when reality really hit me that I am doing this next week. I have done everything I can to be ready for this so there is no turning back now, I must be ready.

My goals this week are to start getting to bed early, eat healthy, drink lots of fluids, foam roll and stretch everyday.

Ironman here I come!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lake Placid Training Camp

This picture tells you what Lake Placid is like. Athletes everywhere. The whole town is centered around athletics since the Olympics were there twice, once in 1932 and again 1980. There is an Olympic training center there complete with ski jumps, bobsledding, the hockey rink where the US beat Russia in 1980, ice skating rinks, etc. While we were there the women's hockey team was trying out for the Olympics for next year, we watched ski jumpers practice their jumps into a pool of water and we toured the Olympic training center.

As if all of the Olympic stuff isn't enough athletics, Lake Placid has now hosted Ironman USA for 7 years. There are Ironman athletes everywhere training on the course. I couldn't believe how many people were there training. I was so glad I went. This sign was on the run course making sure cars knew to watch out for us runners- where else do you see a sign like that?

I invited my mom to come with me since she can't come to my actual Ironman. This was great as she got to see the course, see me training on the course and experience Lake Placid and probably spend more time with me than she would have if she came the actual weekend of. She was great support during the weekend- thanks mom!

To start off, my biggest fear is this whole traveling with my bike which I have never done before. And ofcourse my first time traveling with my bike, I got to Lake Placid and my bike didn't. We arrived Thursday night in Albany New York after being delayed and missing our flight to Lake Placid(a whole other story) and my bike did not come off the plane. Ofcourse, the airline employee was less than helpful with no real compassion for someone losing their bike- he looked at me like- "It's a bike, calm down." No, it isn't just a bike!!! I freaked out a little bit, alright a lot. And we ended up renting a car and driving to Lake Placid(about a 2 hour drive) with no bike and checking in to our hotel at about 2am Thursday night. Woke up Friday and immediatley called the airline to find out where my bike was. Long story short, I ended up driving back to Albany to get my bike and by the time I got back to the hotel no bike shops were open so I put it together myself and rode 112 miles on it first thing Saturday morning. I got to know my bike quite well this weekend. Moral of the story- know how to take apart and put together your bike just in case.

I have decided to use Tribike transport for my race and not deal with the headaches of traveling with my bike. Airlines don't really care. Tri bike transport will drive my bike to the race and have it waiting for me when I get there all put together and ready to go. One less thing to worry about.

Anyway, I got everything I could have out of the training weekend.

Saturday- 112 mile bike on the actual course, 4 mile run. So I did the course and it wasn't too bad, definitely challenging with some good climbing but a great downhill too!

Sunday- 2.4 mile swim(the course) in beautiful Mirror Lake, 18 mile run on the race course.
It is so beautiful there! The scenery is amazing!

Monday- 1 loop of bike course- 56 miles and 2 loops of swim course again 2.4 miles. Felt good.

Tuesday- I finished with one last 8 mile run on the run course.

I had a great weekend of training and feel ready to go for the race!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Training for this Ironman has definitely gotten my life out of balance. Everything I do, talk about, read about has to do with the Ironman. It was almost one year ago I signed up for this race and every single day for the last year I have either thought about the race, talked about the race, read about training for the race, planned my training schedule or been training for the race. Every single day for a year and now it is almost here! I am ready and getting anxious! Three weeks of taper first though.

These last two weeks have been my peak volume weeks and are my excuse why I haven't blogged. I have been training a lot. I have been training 20 hours a week. That is training time and then you add in going to the bike shop, buying Gu's, working on my bike, recovery(stretching, foam rolling, massage,ART) and this is definitely a full time job. Sorry guys but I put my blog and newsletters on the back burner:)

I also was lucky enough to go to a training camp in Lake Placid and actually train on the course last week which was awesome. I flew there last Thursday and stayed for the weekend until Tuesday. Tomorrow I will fill you in on the camp and how it went. And how my first experience traveling with my bike went....

Back to balance...When I get involved in something I have a hard time maintaining balance and it has been especially hard with this Ironman. It is all consuming. Triathlon, for me, is a hobby. I enjoy training, I enjoy racing, it pushes me athletically and I do it for fun. My goal is not to become a professional triathlete. My goal is to train, race and improve while having great experiences. I feel like training for this Ironman I have gone beyond just a hobby. It is a full time job.

But, part of it is my own own fault. I can't just finish the Ironman, I have to do the best I am capable of doing. I have done everything I know how to get the best performance out of myself. I expect the same from myself as I would expect out of one of my clients whose goal is to qualify for Kona. If I expect it out of my athletes than why wouldn't I expect it out of myself.

I guess I am my own learning experience because I wrote my training schedule, followed it to a "T" and will see and feel how it works before I give a similar training schedule to one of my athletes. So, I guess training for this Ironman is in essence part of my job and not just a hobby. Now I am justifying spending 30 hours a week on Ironman stuff and only 10-15 hours working. Training for this Ironman IS my job, yeah, that's it....

My career is as a coach and fitness professional. My goal is to coach a professional triathlete, not be one. The thing is, is that, my goal is not to win this race or qualify for Kona. My goal is to finish the race and have a great experience. Yet, I have still let it consume all of my time, my thoughts and my conversations. Like I said, the majority of my time is spent on Ironman stuff and my time spent actually working has shrunk to maybe 10-15 hours a week. I have been able to keep my time with my husband as a priority so the one thing that has suffered in my life is my work. By the way, my husband has been awesome at supporting me through my training and has put up with all of this Ironman stuff for almost a year now without a single complaint.

Because this is my first Ironman, I may be going overboard with my training and have done more than was necessary. I would much rather be over prepared and get to the race and feel like I am more than ready and the actual Ironman it isn't too bad compared to all of the training I have done than be under prepared and wish I had trained harder.

I wonder if it is possible to train for an ironman doing less than I have done and keeping more balance in your life. I don't know if it is. I read articles and books by guys who say- "Ironman in 10 hours a week." I don't see how that is possible when the race will take me at least 12 hours in one day. How could I possibly prepare my body for a 12 hour race in 10 hours a week.

I am sure it is not as consuming when you have already done one because it is not so unknown. Being my first one, it has taken over my thoughts, time, conversations and life.

Many people have asked me if I will do another one and right now my focus is on getting through this one. I am looking forward to having my time free up again to get my life back in balance and make my career and work a priority for awhile. This is probably the wrong time to ask me when I am in the middle of my biggest weeks of training too. The week after the race when I am on a high, ask me and I will most likely say yes!

Gotta go! Back to training...I have a 40 mile ride and 4 mile run today. I plan to update this blog everyday this week now that I am tapering, I have some time to write about the Ironman :)