Ironman Lake Placid 70.3 Race Report, Part 1: Half the Distance, Twice the Fun

I’m so relieved and proud to say that my redemption race was a HUGE success. It was a 70.3, so I’m still not an Ironman. But the months of training paid off in ways I didn’t expect. Here’s part 1 of 2 of my race report!

Day Before:

My Saturday started when our cat got needy and jumped on my chest to lick my face. At 4 AM. Oh well, it would make getting up for race day slightly less terrible. Right? I had to roll out at 5 AM anyways with my teammate Alix. We couldn’t go earlier due to work and family commitments. (Fortunately, my family commitment was vacation. On the beach. Yup, sleeping 10 hours a day and drinking margaritas was the greatest taper I’ve ever had.)

We arrived in the Adirondacks after blasting The Hold Steady, ate brunch at the Noon Mark Diner (yummm), checked in, and picked up our swag at the expo and the merch tent. I put my feet up and relaxed for a couple hours afterwards.

Then I regretted relaxing because I lost my registration packet and had to go on a wild goose chase for it.

Then I really regretted relaxing when my bike chain jammed as I rode it down to the athlete village for the aforementioned wild goose chase.

Okay, it turned out fine. I accidentally set the packet down at the merchandise tent and a volunteer was holding it for me, which we figured out in about 15 minutes. The side adventure fortunately meant that I bumped into my ROI teammates Jeff and Ann while finally checking in my bike!

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Thanks to Lisa and Ann for making this photo happen! 

Diabetes was a real pickle. My BGs were high all day from the pre-race butterflies. Then I corrected for the highs and pre-bolused for our team pasta dinner and wound up low. Thank goodness for our amazing cheer squad/chefs Amanda, Michelle, and Sam, who slipped me some emergency garlic bread. And cooked a delicious dinner for 25 people from scratch to boot! I was too distracted by laughter and baked ziti to feel too crappy.

I laid out my transition stuff while listening to Raleigh Richie to cool my nerves, then turned in with dreams of the start AND finish in mind.

Pre-Race/The Swim

I woke up at 4:30 AM with a BG of 225. One thing that’s working for me is to take my correction bolus separate from my breakfast bolus. Coach Cliff Scherb also suggested to us ROI athletes that we try a carb-loading lunch and a normal dinner to prevent race morning BG issues. (Next time… you don’t get home-cooked dinners for every race!)

All of us in the house were up and cracking poop jokes before dawn. Then we ventured into the Arctic.

A post shared by Tim Crossley (@timcrossley) on

Photo courtesy of cheer squad member Tim


The race morning forecast was nobody’s friend. The air temperature was in the high 30s, and the water was about 63 degrees. I opted for a warm-up swim, which for me was REALLY helpful. I got a wee headache from putting my face in at first, but got acclimated to the water and did some laps while hearing the gun go off and seeing the fastest swimmers start. (And one overenthusiastic chubby guy who might have snuck up there for the glory….) Getting out and finding my place in line for the rolling start was less pleasant, as the air chilled my extremities for another ~25 minutes. I kept warm by dancing to the start line music. Others had the same idea, which was good fun but also probably looked idiotic as we bopped around to Macklemore because #triathlonsowhite.

At the start of IMWI I got U2, and at the start of LP 70.3 I got back-to-back Bruce Springsteen tunes. Others around me were probably annoyed that I was belting out “BORN DOWN IN A DEAD MAN’S TOOOWN” to take my mind off the cold.

Maybe it gave them motivation to swim faster to get away from me?

In any case, “Born in the USA” segued to “Blinded by the Light” as a volunteer gave me the go-ahead to wade in the water from the beach. I’m not sure how I feel about rolling start vs. wave start vs. mass start; it all seems to depend on the people around you and how chaotic it gets.

Talking to other teammates, it seems like I really lucked out for the first half of the swim. It was impossible to see the buoys because of the fog, and my start corral position wound up being closest to the buoy line. I couldn’t drift too far with so many other swimmers to my right. Nobody was too crazy around me. I didn’t get kicked (hard) or punched (that much) or pushed down in the water.

The other advantage at the start is that the swim is my strongest discipline, and I’m good at staying calm and collected in open water. (I wish I could tell you how. I did swim team as a kid and I think it just imprinted itself in my brain. Better than riding a bike, which I learned as a girl and still fell over like a klutz until I finally got it to stick… at age 20.)

I do think it helps to practice thinking rational thoughts while you swim in open water. If I let myself go too far down the path of Ugh, too many people around me! or Help I keep swallowing water and coughing or I can’t see the bottom, what’s under there? …. then it’s too easy to get to the point where I imagine myself having a heart attack while getting eaten by piranhas. In a lake.

Well, as helpful as it is to think lovely thoughts, the good fortune burned off like the morning mist. On the second half of the swim my cap started popping off! I kept pausing to yank it down to no avail. At the same time I pulled off the cap in exasperation, my goggles came undone. To add insult to injury, they were brand new. I bought them two days before the race after noticing my old pair falling apart. I bobbed in the water like a drunk baby seal tying a knot in the brand-new pair, all the while trying to dodge any swimmers coming towards me. Luckily, they held up for the last 500 yards and I emerged from the water exactly 1 minute faster than my Syracuse 70.3 swim.

Swim time: 41:25

Transition 1

Aw man, this one was a bummer. It was too cold to take advantage of the wetsuit strippers, who are their own weird delight on race day. We had to run nearly half a mile down the road from the beach to the bikes, on what appeared to be shoddy reject tiles from Bob’s Wholesale Carpet Emporium. I used the porta-potty and accidentally whacked my watch while taking off the wetsuit, so my timing got messed up. And it took extra time to not only remove the wetsuit myself, but also to dry off as much as possible and put on all the layers needed to go biking in 40-degree temps. Plus, my BG was 201 despite following my nutrition plan. I knew this would be a long T1 but my time was still cringeworthy. At least I spotted my friends coming out of the water.

T1: 20:47

Up next….. the bike and the run, where the real fun begins!


And I Think to Myself, “My God, What Have I Done?!”

It’s June 2017, on some beach in Staten Island at the start of the Flat as a Pancake sprint tri. The water is frigid and smells vaguely of gasoline. My blood sugar is 142 less than an hour after eating a Clif bar– when it should have been about 200.

A friend and I spot each other. “Hey Caroline!” she says with a hug, arms slightly immobile in wetsuits. “How are you?”

“Well, this is my first triathlon in…..1.75 years.”

“Oh, that’s great!”

“Yeah,” I say, perhaps unconvincingly. The whistle blows and the first wave goes off with a cheer. “It’s prep for Lake Placid 70.3. I’m doing that in September.”

“Wow! How are you feeling about that?” my friend asks.



The answer to that question has changed on a weekly, daily, sometimes hourly basis over the past five months.

Oh my gosh, triathlon. Remember biking? Clips?! After riding the war rig a grand total of TWICE in the past year? Hey, this is great. I remember why I enjoyed this. Ugh, running sucks. Whoa, look at my leg muscles! They’re huge now! I hate triathlon. I hate diabetes even more. This sucks. I love this! I’m a freaking beast! Every time I ride my bike I’m riding a DRAGOOOOOOOON!

But for real, the ROI kit plus my bike is all black and red. Like House Targaryen.

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Fire and blood! With diabetes….mostly blood.

I knew I wasn’t done with long-course triathlon after a miserable DNF in Wisconsin in 2015. The variables became, when and how long? “How long” was answered first. In the months after the race– and after frolicking for five hours through Prospect Park at the Brooklyn Marathon in one of the most chilled-out races ever– I waited for the Ironman gleam to return to my eye. It never did. Instead I thought about how much I enjoyed not exercising for two hours every night after work, or having to ride endless circuits of the park or 9W. Ugh! I like my long rides on endless country roads. I like sleep even more. Half Ironman it would be!

I was doing all that sleeping while taking a break from training for an event for the first time in over five years. Forget training plans, and rising before dawn for workouts, and my significant other sighing loudly when I lay on the couch groaning about my IT bands instead of scrubbing the toilet. It was time to RELAX! Until the the spring of 2016, when I decided that my A1C, weight, and sanity had enough relaxing and got back on the workout wagon.

Except…..I relaxed so hard that I slouched my way into a spinal misalignment and nerve impingement that kept me from running for six months. Yes, friends, I didn’t get injured by overtraining. I got injured by NOT EXERCISING ENOUGH.

So the “when” got pushed from 2016 to 2017.  And that’s when the stars aligned: I had the time, the physical ability, AND suddenly a brand-new half Ironman a few hours away from home! That both my local friends and ROI friends were signing up for!

My palms started sweating as soon as I paid up and got the confirmation email.

You have done four triathlons, the devil on my shoulder said, and they’ve all been DISASTERS! Whether it was diabetes, thunderstorms, bad bike luck, or just being in over my head…it was true. Triathlon had gone very poorly for me. Was this large, Ironman-branded dent to my wallet going to be the same?

Which brings us back to the start line of that sprint tri in June. I signed up mostly to get some good transition practice and get back in the tri groove after nearly two years off, but also because I needed to exorcise that demonic spirit telling me that I am a failure at triathlon. It didn’t look too promising at the start. The gasoline smell was definitely ripe during the frigid swim, and my blood sugar drifted high by the end. But after a 400 meter swim, 16 miles of biking, and a 5k run, I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. And no disasters. One for five, baby!

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Smiling even bigger after seeing my ROI buddy Marcia out there!

Though it did cross my mind, at multiple points during the 90 minutes it took to complete the race, that I would be doing quadruple that distance in Lake Placid…..

But that’s what a good training season is for, and many weeks and long rides later, I’m READY. The nagging fear of failure meant that I actively corrected for the mistakes I made and lessons learned from Wisconsin. Here’s what’s better in 2017:

  • Quality people– who are local. I am proud and happy to be a part of team Riding on Insulin. We are a nationwide group participating in races all over. For both fun and accountability, I knew I needed a local group and a local coach. Fortunately, that materialized in the TNT alums and friends of mine who signed up for the race. We created an informal group called Endurance Club Brooklyn. Even better, we got coaching and advice from our multi-Ironman finisher experts Joel and Alix. They gave us hours of coaching and support in exchange for us fundraising $1000 or volunteering 100 hours for the cause of our choice. I’m obviously fundraising for ROI. If you want to donate, go to my personal page!
  • Quality people, part two. The other thing that was fantastic about group training is that people have CARS! This is an unfortunate necessity in NYC for long rides. Being able to drive out with my teammates to locations like Harriman State Park, New Jersey, and even Lake Placid meant far fewer junk miles and more quality hill training. Moreover, the fun and reduced mental burden of group training means that there are quite a few workouts that I nailed with ECBK that I wouldn’t have if I were solo. Because of them, I truly got to fulfill my goal of having more fun while getting ready for race day.

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Wetsuit models during our Lake Placid training weekend. Watch out, Derek Zoolander….

  • Logs, logs, logs. I kept an extensive training log and had stretches of monitoring my diabetes with logs too. While I nearly defenestrated myself when my endocrinologist barely glanced at six pages of meticulously detailed food, blood sugar, and insulin records, I gained a new level of insight about training and diabetes needs. As a result, my A1C is at a record low for adulthood and I can pat myself on the back for the progression I see when I open my Excel sheets and Garmin history.
  • Discipline. I never woke up before 6 when training for IMWI. There were a number of workouts that I shortened or skipped, whether out of necessity or sloth. Obviously, it’s much easier to get ‘er done with a half Ironman instead of a full. Still, I would estimate that it’s about two-thirds the training volume, despite being half the distance. I kicked myself in the ass this year. Not just when rising before dawn, or forcing myself to don my bike shoes when I wanted to just zone out and read Reddit. I also tried harder to maintain equilibrium between training, professional workload, and home life. Marathons, ultras, and long-course tris require hours and hours away from work and family. I didn’t always succeed, but I tried to be more mindful of the stress that others might bear. Having the discipline to be fully present in each activity enhances your performance across the board.


The race is– gulp!– tomorrow, so you may be reading this post-facto. If not, and you want to watch along from the warm, cozy, sensible comfort of your own home, you can use the Ironman tracker. Just enter my bib number, 867, for Lake Placid 70.3.

I’m estimating a 40 minute swim, 15 minute T1, 4:30 bike, 10 minute T2, and a 2:30-2:45 run. So…..super slow! I am working to banish the negative feelings and fear of failure. It might be half the distance this time around, but I’ll do my damndest to make sure it’s 100% the effort. I hope and pray that it leads to actually crossing the finish line. Otherwise, I’m really going to be playing that Talking Heads song about how this is not my beautiful life…..

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