Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ironman lake Placid 2010

Okay people.....This is going to be a long one. For those of you who have no interest in my race reports please don't subject yourself to it and hit delete.  For those of you who care, here it is.

The first thing that I would like to do is to answer the age old question every Ironman Triathlete gets....."Why do you do it?" Over the years I have given the following answer.

So what motivates me to do a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run all in the same day?  Why would ANYBODY want to do this?  It's not just because I can, although that is part of it. I think that anybody without a disability could physically train for and finish an Ironman (and many WITH a disability often do so as well).It's the mental aspect that keeps many people from attempting it. The physical part of the training is one thing. It's the ability to focus so hard on what you are trying to accomplish that you shove past the pain and discomfort when you are cycling alone for a hundred miles until your bike bends beneath you and your knees ache, on crappy roads, fighting cars, in wind and rain and blistering heat on days no one should be out on a bike. Or slamming yourself through the pool swimming lap after endless lap for two miles or more, or fighting waves and currents in Lake Erie, trying not to drown or wind up in someones propeller. Or running 20 miles on your own on the towpath in the middle of August without an aid station in sight or in the frigid days in February when you can hardly breath the air was so cold. That alone is something very few people could do and end up at the start line of the swim.  But it is also so much more than that.

I swore to myself that I would never get a tattoo unless it was something I could look at when I was 80 years old and still be able to say "This means something to me".  I never knew if that "something" would ever occur.  Then I trained for and finished an Ironman and it changed me in ways a cannot really describe in words.. That tattoo is a symbol to me. Not of Triathlon or Ironman or the long hours of pushing myself through the training. But of what it has made me. What it continues to make me. I look at the Hoyts ( I look at John Blaze ( and I realize that it is not a sport. It is a commitment to do something bigger than yourself and to suffer for it and be changed by it in some fundamental way. I understand that it is not about balance or achievement or fitness, but about committing to something all the way. There are no compromises in the Ironman. For me I will either cross the finish line or they will carry me off the course on a stretcher. How many people can truly say that they have done something where no compromise was ever made. Where you would either do something or wake up in an ambulance or hospital room?  That is the essence of the Ironman. It is a lifestyle more than a sport. In the end you are not there to compete against other athletes, you are there to redefine yourself again and again. Every race presents you with something new and life changing. After five Ironman races I am still awed by the magnificence of it all.

So on July 25th 2010 I found myself back in Lake Placid for my 5th Ironman. I don't know that there is a more beautiful place on earth. I have fallen in love with this town and with this race. It is isolated so every single person there (unless they are working there) is there for the Ironman. It becomes a community of athletes and their families. It is almost like being at a fitness model competition.  Coming back to the land of lard is always a shock to me after that.

I truly think that the Weather Channel stays in business because of triathletes. We are glued to it for a week before the event. The weather can mean everything during 112 miles of cycling on wet and slippery roads.  But July 25th dawned cool and cloudy.  3000 athletes walked to the swim start and entered the water. If you have never seen a mass swim start in an Ironman you should google it. It is one of the most amazing things you will ever see.  Being in the middle of it?  Not so much.  3000 people being pummelled in the water is about as scary as it gets. People exit with broken or dislocated fingers, broken noses, concussions, and lost goggles. The water was perfect. So warm in fact that the pros were not allowed to wear wetsuits.  You swim one lap, exit the water, run across the beach, and enter for your second lap.  I survived the first lap by staying about 20 yards out of the main pack.  On the 2nd loop I was able to position myself right over the cable with lots of my own water.  The first loop was so slow that I exited the water about 12 minutes slower than usual.  About halfway through the swim it started raining. Two years ago it did the same thing and continued to rain for 15 straight hours.  OH NO!  Luckily it stopped after about 15 minutes. PHEW!

After a quick change into my cycling gear I grabbed my bike and headed out.  It started raining again. The first 2 miles are up a mountain and the you descend for about 10 miles. Four of those are steep and twisty. Never good in the rain.  So after touching the brakes more than I would have liked I reached the bottom and sped along a long flat stretch.  Unfortunately you eventually have to go back up the mountain and the last 14 miles are a long, sometimes grueling, climb back into town.  The weather had dried up by then so it was more comfortable. The second loop of the bike started well, but a crosswind had kicked up and my second ride down the mountain was pretty scary. No brakes, but I fought the bike the whole way. Even worse, on the way back up it turned into a headwind so I was fighting both the mountain and the wind at the same time. Finally I pulled back into transition, handed off my bike and quickly changed into my running gear. I was only facing the marathon now and I knew I could make it.  My plan was to run 4 minutes and walk one minute. It is surprising how much faster you can go by doing this.  The run course takes you way out into the middle of nowhere before you make the first turnaround and head back into town. You pass the finish line and head out to the second turnaround and do it all over again. You actually pass the finish line three times before you get to cross it.  I HATE that.  I kept a good pace during the run so I was very happy with my plan.  Now here is the thing. It is impossible to describe to someone who has never done an Ironmam the amount of mind numbing pain you go through during the race.  There is nothing that doesn't hurt.  Combine that with the fatigue you face after about 10 hours and the mental pressure of a single minded focus on finishing and you have one very tough, very long day.....BUT.....there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like the finish line of an Ironman. Hundreds of people line the course for the last 200 yards. They are screaming, and clapping, and banging things together.  The announcer is yelling your name...."BEN MIRALIA, FROM CLEVELAND OHIO...YOU...ARE...AN...IRONMAN!!!!!  You cross the finish line. Medical personnel check you to make sure you are all right. Then a volunteer places a medal around your neck, you get a finishers t-shirt, a finishers hat, and a Mylar blanket. You get your picture taken then they lead you to the massage tent (Ahhhhhh), feed you pizza and then send you on your way still flying high.

My time.....15 hours, 21 minutes, and 20 seconds.  A 10 minute PR at the Ironman distance and a 30 minute PR on this course.  A great day. I earned my Ironman shuffle (That's what we call "walking" over the next couple of days).

That's it.  Now I start training for the New York Marathon.  That will be my next amazing race report that maybe 5 people will read. Oh well, I still have fun writing them!


  1. WAY TO GO BEN!!!! That's a huge improvement over 2008! Of course, you had much better weather than 2008...

    You are right... Ironman changes you at the deepest level.

    Congrats on the PR!!! AND, as always, thank you for all you did to get me to the finish in '08.

    Love ya, and can't wait to race with you again!!

  2. Ben, this is terrific. I think everything you say about Ironman and Lake Placid is right on. Congrats on the finish and your PR.

  3. Great race report Ben! I really understand what you mean by the training being a lifestyle. I am so impressed by your commitment and accomplishments!! You are an inspiration!!!


  4. Way to go Ben! Not only did you finish & PR, I bet you just had one of the best spirits out there!

  5. Thanks guys. Jen...Ironman to me will always be defined by what you suffered through to finish that race.

    Matt...It was one of your race reports that made me try Placid. Now I know why you loved it so much.

    Tiff.....6 more weeks and you will know what I mean on a deeply personal level.

    Janet...You just ROCK. I love everything about you.

  6. Great write up Ben. Putting the answer into words is still something that I struggle with. I'm glad you have an answer. I think I'm still searching for mine.

    Keep on writing...I'm reading.