This post is going to be substantially shorter than my usual obnoxiously detailed race reports because my day ended at mile 12 of the bike with a hard crash on the descent into the Town of Keene. For those unfamiliar with Ironman Lake Placid, there is a long fast descent on the front end of the course. You can reach speeds upwards of 50 mph if you really get aero and tuck. With that as the backdrop of my unmitigated disaster, I will get into the race report.
In the days leading up to the race I felt much different than I have before all my other 4 Ironman races. I had a sense of calm I have not had before. I think much of this came from confidence in my training. I know I did everything in my power to position myself to take a legitimate run at a Kona Slot. If it wasn't going to work out I knew it wouldn't be due to gaps in training, lack of effort, or poor execution. I was locked in and ready to perform. I didn't start feeling nervous until Friday and on Saturday I didn't feel as much nervous as scared and respectful of the enormous challenge that laid before me. Placid is a challenging course and typically draws a deep field. I knew I would need my best to achieve my goals.
I have my pre-race routine fairly locked in now. The night before the race I ate most of a large pizza and hung out with my family. I was super fortunate that I had almost all my extended family in Placid to support me. Everyone has been following my Ironman journey and they all made the effort to be there to help me take a shot at Kona. It was great to be surrounded by so much love and support the night before the race. I had 19 family members who came from all over the East Coast to watch me race....truly humbling. I want to thank Brittany, Mom, Dad, Jacko, Bobby W, Lummy, RD, Aunt Bev, Uncle Eddie, Uncle E, Aunt Deb, Brian, Erin, Aidan, Reilly, TJ, Steve, G-man and Jilly Bean for being there for me. I only wish I was able to put on a better performance for everyone.
On race morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. so I could get breakfast down with plenty of time to digest. The normal breakfast consisted of two packages of oatmeal with raisins (330 cals), one cup of almond milk (30 cals), and a cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and honey (450 cals). I washed it all down with a bottle of water and two meta salt tablets. I headed down to transition with dad to double check my bike and run bags and get my bike squared away before heading to the swim start. So far so good. Everything according to plan....in fact even the weather looked promising as the day started out with breaks of sunshine when scattered thunderstorms were in the forecast.
By the time I got my transition straight and headed to the water it was time to get in my wetsuit and get my mind right for the swim. The swim start time was 6:30 and the time snuck up on me quickly. Before I knew it, it was 6:20 and the pros were going off. I got myself in line toward the front of the 50 min to 1 hour group and got ready to rock. A few minutes before the start all of my immediate family was lined up right along the fence at the start. I was even able to sneak a kiss from Britt about 3 minutes before start time. Those last few minutes before the swim start are amazing. The anxiousness/nervousness/excitement is overwhelming. I love being surrounded by my fellow crazy triathletes all with the common goal of suffering for 140.6 miles. Mike Reilly was on the mic and the music was blaring. I was in a good headspace and ready to go.
At 6:30 the gun went off and the top swimmers charged into the water. The first 500 yards were pretty aggressive with lots of contact and jostling amongst the leaders. Things settled down about halfway down the front stretch and we broke into a smaller pack. I was swimming steady and strong. The whole goal was to stay relaxed and throw down a fast swim time with minimal effort. The first half of the swim I typically get tight when wearing a wetsuit and that is what happened on Sunday. I kept calm and knew my triceps would eventually relax somewhere on the back stretch. True to form, my shoulders and arms relaxed on the back stretch and I got into a good rhythm. I was well placed at the end of the first loop with a small group of the top age groupers including my buddy Dan Szajta. The second loop felt effortless. Our lead group stayed pretty tight until the turn when we really started catching the later waves. Fortunately the all world athletes were given white caps which made it easier to sight and keep track of the faster guys. I hit the beach placed within the top 20 of the race and got up the beach to the wetsuit strippers. The wetsuit came off easily and I made the long run up to transition. As I ran I was following my coach's advice....think slowly and act fast. I got up into the change tent and into my bike gear in good time.
One unique thing about Placid is that the volunteers will actually grab your bike from the rack for you if they are available and you call out your number. I shouted my number to every volunteer I could find with the hopes that my bike would be waiting for me at the end of my rack. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be and I lost a little bit of time having to retrieve my own bike. No big deal, but it was a minor hiccup. As I ran through the transition, I noticed that it started to rain. I remember thinking...this could get interesting. I had a bit of trouble clipping in but eventually got out on the course. Britt, Dad, Lum and RD were waiting for me at the bike out and it was a nice boost to hear them as I set out to crush the bike course.
Bike- DNF, 11.75 miles, Crashed on descent into Keene at 32.9 MPH
As soon as I pulled away from transition, the rains became torrential. It also started to thunder and there were flashes of lightning in the sky. I subsequently found out that the race organizers actually cancelled the second loop of the swim and pulled competitors out of the water. In fact, Ironman only counted the first loop of the swim course toward the total race times to level the playing field since everyone did not have the opportunity to finish the swim.
On the way out of transition, there is an immediate steep downhill into a hard left turn which was treacherous in the rain. I knew that I would have to be cautious on course as the weather was really sketchy. As I headed out on course I was feeling relaxed and strong. The plan was to ride conservatively on the first loop with a target wattage of 245 and a cap of 280 on the sustained climbs. Prior to the long descent there is a long grinding climb up toward the ski jumps. I was holding my goal wattage easily and staying amongst the age group leaders. I was feeling relaxed and confident. The rain was ebbing and flowing with periods of heavy and light rain. As I got to the top of the descent the skies really opened up.
The early parts of the descent were fast but manageable. I was tucking in my aero position aggressively but not taking any unnecessary risks on the bends in the road. I was actually able to pass a few guys in the early part of the descent. Shortly thereafter you hit a real steep section and my Garmin had me at 48.5 mph at top speed. I was white knuckling it and locking onto my base bar with all my strength. It was terrifying in the rain. After making it through the really fast section there is a less insane section where my speeds were consistently in the 30's. This is where my day would come to an end.
Large portions of the descent have recently been re-paved but for some reason there are a few sections that were not. As I traveled down the hill I transitioned from a smooth to choppy section. A few moments into the choppy section I hit a bump in the road that was just forceful enough to pop my wet hands off the base bar. In an instant I was off my bike and skidding down the road. It happened so fast that I didn't even have the opportunity to be scared. After hitting the deck, I went through a quick mental check of all my body parts and nothing seemed to be broken. I could see that my skin was in rough shape and I was bleeding from multiple parts of my body. My right forearm looked pretty mangled. As I laid on the pavement trying to gather my wits, a nice gentleman ran from his front yard to help me. Just as he approached an ambulance pulled up. They just happened to be passing by and got to me literally 30 seconds after the crash....you don't get luckier than that. Before I knew it I was in the ambulance and getting checked out. They were dressing my wounds and hooking up an IV. I asked if I could continue the race after they cleaned me up and the lead EMT told me that she couldn't stop me but she wouldn't recommend it. She said it in such a way that I knew going to the hospital was the right decision. Before I knew it I was on the way to the hospital and thinking about what could have been. Kona is not to be for another year.
Hospital and Post Race
The folks at the hospital couldn't have been nicer and they cleaned me up and got me to the x-ray room. I had x-rays of my right elbow, right knee, pelvis, and both hips. Miraculously all the films were negative. I have no idea how I didn't break anything....lucky break number two of the day.
My family got to the hospital about 90 minutes after I arrived, and after sharing tears and hugs we loaded up into the cars to head back to Placid. This was a particularly tough time for me. I am not ashamed to say I broke down. The combination of seeing how I had upset my family with another accident scare combined with my disappointment and pain was too much to bear. I needed a good cry before I could leave. As we traveled home it was hard watching the competitors attacking the course from the passenger side of my dad's car. When I got back to our house my whole family was there and gave me a standing ovation. It was thoughtful, well appreciated but also a little embarrassing. I just didn't feel like I deserved any kudos after dragging everyone up north for 1/10th of an Ironman.
The silver lining was that I got to spend a few hours with my family before they left. I have the greatest family in the world and having everyone there helped to bring perspective to a really shitty day. At the end of the day, I have a family that is unbelievable. I could not be more grateful to be a Royce. As my dad always says...in the end, it is all about family.
Another positive of the day was that I was able to return to the race site and be an Ironman spectator for the first time. I was able to cheer Dan Szajta and Dan Moreno on as they killed the course. It was pretty cool to take on the role of cheerleader for once.
Now the fun part....PICS
I will be taking the next few days to heal and recover. Frankly I am far too sore to work out if I wanted to. Hitting the deck at 30mph leaves a dent and is something that I would care not to experience again. I also plan on an MRI of my right hip. It is really bruised and sore. I was experiencing hip pain prior to the race and I need to make sure that there isn't internal derangement before I start firing up the training for IMCHATT. At the end of the day I am lucky I was not more seriously injured and have another opportunity to display my hard work. I am down but not out. Believe that I am going to get my mind right and crush another training block leading into Chattanooga. My determination has been forged on the pavement of the Keene descent and I will only come back stronger and tougher from this experience. Thank you to my family and friends for all of the love and support. As always I was shocked and humbled by the kindness of everyone that reached out.
I'll see everyone on the roads and in the pool before you know it! Thanks for reading!