Thursday, May 3, 2012

Preparing for a race...preparing to share stories...remembering my best day in the sport

Ironman Lake Placid Age Group Women’s Race

There must be something in the water over there in Pittsburgh. There is some serious Iron coming from the city of steel, as triathletes from that city have claimed top spots at many national races this season. Ironman Cozumel's top age group woman Kim Schwabenbauer kept that streak going as she ran away with the top spot again at last Sunday's Ironman Lake Placid. Her 1:07 swim, 5:39 bike and 3:17 marathon gave her an eight minute lead over Maine's Angela Bancroft, who took second place.
"It was fantastic day weather wise and this course was beautiful!" Schwabenbauer said, "I never expected to have the day I did, I'm thankful I had a good experience here & never gave in 2 the issues and demons that we all experience in Ironman racing!"
Until mile 14 of the run Maine's Angela Bancroft led the age group race. This mother of three at her third Ironman (previously competed in IMLP 09 and Kona 09) was surprised to find herself at the front of the age group race.
"I was overwhelmed when I was being told I was in 1st. I mean, SERIOUSLY?" exclaimed Bancroft, "I came to Lake Placid this year ready to race. This was my 3rd Ironman and I felt that I was ready to cover the 140.6 miles faster than I had in previous races. After a successful and smooth training period leading up to the race, I felt more fit than ever in my life and more confident that I had what I needed to accomplish my goals. My race plan was very specific and I was on a mission to execute each part of the race exactly as my Coach and I had decided was best."
For the first time in Ironman Lake Placid's history the swim was wetsuit optional, which meant if you wore a wetsuit you'd become ineligible for age group awards and Kona spots. For stronger swimmers like Bancroft, it worked out to be an advantage, "Initially, I was excited to learn it was a non-wetsuit swim for those of us competing for age group awards and a Kona qualification. As a swimmer, I love swimming without my wetsuit with nice free shoulders. However, I found the start to be quite challenging as I was surrounded by men wearing wetsuits. I had more trouble breaking away from the crowd because of this and therefore got 'trapped' in a big group for a longer period of time."
Leading the age group race, while overwhelming didn't cause Bancroft to lose focus. While she knew Schwabenbauer was on the hunt Bancroft as always used it to inspire her "I made the 1st turn on the run and saw Kim coming and she was looking VERY Sparky!!!!! I knew her legs were flying. I held her off for a while but I felt her on my back. I don't think I could have found 7 more minutes in me….. she ran a fast fast marathon. I dropped nearly 30 min from 2009 so I am absolutely satisfied. But boy, it was close! A total thrill for me."
Mile 20 of the Ironman marathon typically is the point to which many athletes focus. They may anticipate, expect and allow themselves to feel the proverbial wall. But Bancroft chose a different approach, "My run felt solid on Sunday. I was in control the whole time. When I hit mile 20, it was just another mile to push through. I have worked to erase the 'fear of the last 10K' from my mind as I don't' want to "expect" to feel even worse when that point arrives. SO to be honest, I am not sure I remember mile 20 specifically! My quads were on fire from very early on in the run. Each leg took turns with the threat of seizing and giving up on me. I focused very hard on cooling off at each aid station, taking in plenty of fluids and calories, and keeping my stride steady and in control. I knew I was having the race of my life. I had many supporters out on the course who were updating me with my standings. I did a lot of self- talk and fought hard to stay positive and strong. When I get to the end of an Ironman run, I break the runs into familiar pieces. If there's only 6 miles to go, I picture my favorite 6 mile route at home and just convince myself it's just another run to get through. The crowds along the course in Lake Placid absolutely pushed me to the finish. First I saw my parents, then my Coach Kurt Perham, then dozens of friends and 1000s of strangers that were cheering my name. I was energized to push hard to the finish line. The pain was just something that one must fight through to get to the finish line. It's part of the game."
Behind Bancroft and Schwabenbauer was a silent and hard charging Amanda Kourtz who finished as the third women's age grouper, less than two minutes behind Bancroft. Kourtz ran a 3:14 and shaved 44 minutes off her previous Ironman time in just 7 months working with QT2. She will be one to watch in the coming seasons.
As the Kona tickets continue to get punched, and seasons are extending through October, we will see these ladies resting before their builds to Kona begin." A full recovery is critical if I'm going to perform well in Hawaii" Bancroft reminds us.
One thing is for sure regarding Kona…. seven athletes under the age of 35 from that city will be heading to the big island, they train together and are close friends. Hard work meets talent? Friends who commit together go to Kona together? Who knows…. bottle me up some of that Pittsburgh water please!
Mary Eggers is a 37 year old age group triathlete, race announcer, writer, mother, wife, triathlon coach, yoga teacher, and nurse. As the race announcer for the Score This Multisport Series in Upstate New York, she's been in the sport for over 15 years. She's a 6 time Ironman finisher and Kona qualifier, and has raced everything from sprint upward. Mother to 10 year old Luc, wife to Curt, she calls Rochester NY home.


GetBackJoJo said...

Is this memory to get you STOKED to race this weekend? Woot woot! Bring it on! You are going to crush the PB!

Hostpph said...

I didn't know the the top notch triathletes came from Pittsburgh. I bet that they have great races all the year long.