Jen's day is here - after all the work and training, her event has arrived! I'm excited for her, and also am happy to spectate instead of participate. As Francesca said to me before IMCdA, doing the swim would be fun, if you could skip the bike and run. ;) She has been thinking of this event for a long time - last year I ran a July 4th 5K with her, and as I remember, she told me she was planning to sign up for Ironman Lake Placid 2005 when the registration opened up.
My hotel is very close to the transition zone, so I got up comparatively late but still made it in time to find Jen and Duncan near the swim start at Mirror Lake. The water temperature was 76 degrees F, so wetsuits were allowed, but that is getting on the warm side. Jen looked relaxed while suiting up, and left to get in the water. Unlike IMCdA which had a beach start, IMLP was a water start - all the athletes are already in the water when the race begins.
Ready to Rumble!
This event is the pro women's race (the men's pro race was Ironman Coeur D'Alene). Since some age group men are as fast as the pro women, the pros were given a 35 minute head start, so they would be done with their first swim lap and well into their second lap before everyone else took off.
The Swim Field
Duncan spotted Jen at the midpoint of the swim, where the athletes get out and cross a timing mat before swimming a second lap. She was doing well and a bit ahead of her expected finish time. It was difficult to see or get close since the barricade was placed 15 or 20 feet away from the chute, so we split up and I went to wait near her bike in the transition zone. She came by and I yelled and waved, and then went to the bike start. She hit her swim time target perfectly, finishing in 1:29:51.
Starting the Bike Course
The bike start is tricky: a downhill into a hairpin turn, then a 90 degree turn into a sharp descent. The race organizers warned athletes to take a really easy starting out - no use crashing into hay bales less than 5 minutes into the bike!
Jen arrived at bike special needs (just short of halfway through the bike course) about 12:30 pm, looking a little tired but in very good spirits. Duncan and I talked to her while she reloaded nutrition, and she was energetic and having a good time out there. This station was far more crowded than IMAZ or IMCdA, because it wasn't as spread out. Because of this, bikes were stacked up two or three or more deep and I hope there were no collisions.
At Bike Special Needs
I went off to watch the pro women and top age group men finish. Tony Delogne managed to make up the 35 minute head start the pro women received, and finished first. After watching Karen Smeyers finish, I waited by the bike course for Jen to arrive. Duncan called about 4:40 pm and to ask what the cutoff time was and if I had seen her. I said she's still got 45 minutes and I hadn't seen her either, but that I could always check for her bike in the transition zone.
Less than 10 minutes later he called again and said she just went by special needs. She rounded the corner next to the Olympic Center and I took a picture. This is great news, she made the bike cut-off. Privately, I was a bit concerned about that, because the bike course at IMLP is difficult. Making the cutoff is a tradeoff: go "too hard" and making the cutoff might result in no energy left for the run; go "too easy" and not making the cutoff... then your race is over. At least, this is tradeoff for those of us that take nearly all the allowed time on the bike course. ;)
... with the bike course.
I caught her attention at the run start as she started the marathon. She waved, pumped her fists, and then was off down the road. She was on the run course right around 5 pm and thus will have a full 7 hours to finish the marathon.
At 7:30 pm, I went to run special needs to wait for her. As it turns out, she spotted me since I was looking at the wrong side of the road - she had already been through and was heading out for lap 2! Right the Duncan called and I updated him and was able to relay messages between them. After Jen turned the corner and ran off, Duncan and I met and ate dinner, and I calculated that Jen should be back to that spot around 10:15 to 10:30. He left to get Jen's mom, while I milled around the finish chute for a bit before going back to the hotel.
Starting lap 2
At 10:20 pm, I made my way back to the run course and waited. Less than 5 minutes later Jen passed by to the final out and back. She smiled and complained briefly "I want to run but they put all these hills on the course". I moved closer to the finish area and when I spotted Jen again I called Duncan and told him she was on the oval and would be finishing in seconds.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of her in the finish chute. I ran around but couldn't get there in time due to the crowds. Jen looked woozy and headed off to the medical tent, but soon afterwards she was walking back while sipping a drink. I helped pick up her bike and then she took off with her family for some well deserved rest.
Jen finished in 15:48:58 - a great day!
Later, I went back to the finish area to cheer the last 15 minutes of athletes. A small group of us hung around the start of the oval, on the other side of the stands. Here it wasn't as loud and we could call out to the athletes with just a few hundred yards to go. These were the people digging really deep in order to finish. I called out to a woman as she passed and on hearing her name, she looked up with a very startled expression. Then she smiled as I clapped for her. Another guy must have crashed on the bike course - his knee was heavily wrapped and he was limping and clearly hurting big time. He made it with minutes to spare.
Finally, one athlete finished 30 minutes after the cutoff. She had to surrender her timing chip at midnight, and despite the fact people were taking down run course barricades, she turned to do the final out-and-back before entering the finish area. Racer #1915, Jennifer Dennis, officially DNF'ed but finished all 140.6 miles in roughly 17:30. That is gutting it out!