“Adam Bosley, YOU are an IRONMAN!” Hearing Mike Reilly say those six words at the finish line of Ironman Lake Placid made all the sacrifices, ups, downs, early mornings, late nights, and the several mental, emotional, and physical breakdowns all worth it.
Ironman is more than a race. It’s a journey that you embark on from the day you pay your registration fee. It’s not an easy journey. It takes dedication, commitment, sacrifice, and hard work. It takes months and years of preparation and planning. It forces you to face and overcome doubt, fear, pain, and the unknown. But once you do and you cross that finish line, you have the honor of calling yourself an Ironman.
The year of training flew by. It feels like just yesterday I paid my registration and started planning. What schedule would I follow? What tune up races will I be doing? Week by week, I became fitter, stronger, and faster. Finally, race week was upon me. With thousands of miles logged and hundreds of hours training, the only thing between me and the finish line was 140.6 miles – 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running.
To Lake Placid We Go!
My dad and I left for Lake Placid the Thursday before the race. We loaded up the car with my gear and we were on the road. Leaving a day early, we went half way and stayed overnight outside of Albany. Luckily, they had a “gym” and I was able to get in a 30-minute treadmill run. With a 2-week taper, my legs felt fresh and loose. I did some strides, worked on my cadence, and tried to envision myself on the marathon course. Quick, short strides with light feet at a comfortable pace.
Finishing the quick workout, I made my way to the room to shower and get to bed. After countless episodes of Duck Dynasty and Wipeout, I finally fell asleep. The next morning came quick and we grabbed breakfast and were on the road again by 7:30. The stretch of road from Albany to Lake Placid is beautiful. The mountains come into view, rock walls with water falls are nothing but ordinary, and the air is clean and pure. My heart started to beat a little faster and my mind focused more on the race as we started to pass signs for Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid. By noon, we finally arrived and we made our way to our hotel at Mirror Lake Inn. The town was already bustling with athletes. Signs were everywhere welcoming athletes and the Ironman community. I always wondered how such a small town had the opportunity to host the Olympics twice. As soon as we got to town, I realized how it was possible. Lake Placid 100% supports the athletic community and the people who live here are absolutely amazing.
Pre-Race Check In
All athletes need to be checked in by Friday. I quickly made my way to the Conference Center by the Olympic skating rink. I have never seen such an intense check-in. Prior to picking up your race number, you receive a packet with three forms to sign. I didn’t read them, but I’m pretty sure I signed my life away in one of them and I may have promised not to sue them on another. They collected the two sheets and I was led to a scale. I’m not really self-conscious about my weight, but just to be safe I removed my phone, wallet, keys, and took off my shoes. The volunteer laughed at me. Had she not have been from the very same town as me (very random, she lives right down the street), I would’ve gone to a different volunteer. After seeing my weight and realizing I may have eaten one too many Sunny Day Waffle Platters from Sunny Day Café, I finally received my race number, swim cap, and timing chip. I also received 5 bags for race day: morning clothes, bike, bike special needs, run, and run special needs. This race is legit.
With my life signed away and in the hands of WTC, I made my way to the expo. The expo was insane. I was talked into renting race wheels from Triathlon Bike Transport for 120 bucks. Good deal and glad I’m an easily convincible person. I definitely think they helped me on race day. After giving them my bike to switch out my tires, I walked to the expo on the Olympic oval. I got my free Lake Placid backpack, walked around, and then met up with my mom and sister for lunch, where I saw Andy Potts. He’s really tall. After lunch, I went back to the expo with my sister, pawned some free water bottles and picked up my bike. Finally, we went back to the hotel where some serious napping occurred.
The day before race day was weird. There was a sense of anxiety in town. People were up early to swim in Mirror Lake.
Athletes were biking and running around town and fine-tuning their race plan. Triathlon teams were gathering and getting advice from their coaches. I decided to take my bike, which I had yet to ride, for a spin. I did 2 loops around mirror lake and then managed to get lost riding out of town and some how ended up at Mama bear, Baby bear, and Papa bear. These are the names of the last three hills that you climb during the bike course. All you hear in race reports and from previous competitors is how tough these three hills are. I took advantage of this and rode back into town to see what gears would be best. Honestly, Harford County hills are more difficult. I got back into town and my mom drove me to “the descent” – a 6-mile drop at mile 10 of the bike course where you plunge from 2200 feet to 800 feet (I’ve heard speeds can reach an excess of 50 mph). I got on the course, grew some balls, and went. Again, hills in Harford County have steeper slopes. The only difference is that this descent goes on for much longer than those in HarCo. I managed to dodge the traffic and the potholes and made it down the descent in one piece. The bike fit perfectly, the race wheels I rented felt awesome, and the bike itself was fast. Riding gave me back the confidence I had prior to my crash and I had a feeling it was going to be a good ride on race day.
We packed up my bike and went back into town where I racked my bike at the transition. They took a picture of my bike. I was confused and asked if I could get a copy online. They replied with a “no, this is for insurance purposes”. I racked my bike, turned in my bike and run gear bags and finally went back to the hotel to relax. I drank some HEED, which was part of my pre-race hydration plan (2 bottles of HEED every day for 3 days prior to race week to stay hydrated and keep my electrolytes up – I think it helped). I had a nice BBQ grilled chicken and potato dinner and was in bed by 8:00. Despite the nerves, I managed to get a decent amount of sleep for a race night – a good 3.5 hours.
The day had finally come. I woke up at 4:00 and went to peer out the window. Weather reports had said rain and thunderstorms all day. How kind of mother nature to fool the athletes with 3 gorgeous days, and then give us rain and thunder on race day! Luckily, there was no rain and it was a cool 58 degrees. I got my HR strap and tri suit on and gathered my special needs bags. I grabbed some breakfast, which consisted of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I managed to down a quarter of the bagel and half the banana. After a solid 100-calorie breakfast to fuel my 11+ hour day, I got in the car and drove to the transition area. (Yes, I made my dad drive me a half-mile to transition). I got my body marking, double and triple checked my gear bags, pumped my tires, and then walked along Mirror Lake to drop of my special needs bags. I found my mom, dad, sister, and aunts (my amazing support crew!) and got my wet suit on for the swim. With some hugs, good lucks, and high fives, I walked to the lake for the start of the longest race day to date.
Lake Placid had a heat wave that most of the east coast was experiencing weeks prior to the race. Obsessively following the lake temperature, I feared the swim would not be wet suit legal. I’m a strong swimmer and can easily complete the course without one, but the buoyancy from a wetsuit makes you faster and saves your legs from having to kick as much to keep you afloat. This saved energy helps for the bike and run. Luckily, the nights were pretty cool and dropped into the low 50’s/high 40’s and the race day water temperature was 72 degrees, making it a wet suit legal swim. With the new swim start initiative we seeded ourselves into corrals based on estimated swim times. I lined up in the 1:00 – 1:10 corral, just behind the professionals and the sub-one hour group. At 6:25, the professional men were off, with the women entering the water shortly after. Finally, at 6:33, the cannon went off and the mad dash to the lake ensued. The Lake Placid swim is a notoriously fast two-loop course because of a tiny little cable that runs the entire 1.2 mile swim course. As great as it is, everyone battles for a coveted spot on this small cable. I tried to edge my way in, but lost. I took an elbow to the face and thought I lost some teeth. I stayed off the line, but kept it in my peripheral vision to avoid sighting. After the first two buoys, I found a good group of people to swim with. I stayed on their feet and took it easy and tried to conserve my energy. The out portion went by pretty quickly and then made two consecutive right hand turns to head back to shore to begin my second lap. I came out of the water feeling awesome and looked at the clock: 30 minutes. Holy hell. My goal time was 1:15, but in my head I was thinking 1:10. At this point, I was going to swim an hour for 2.4 miles! Excited, I ran around the dock and ran back into the water for the second loop. Unfortunately, I didn’t have as good of a group to swim with. The water was a bit more crowded as I caught up to the slower swimmers still on their first loop. There were too many people around the cable that I couldn’t even see it anymore. I was kicked, swam over, and pulled. I swam far to the left to avoid the contact around the cable and just sighted buoy to buoy. After the out section and on the way back, the water cleared up a bit and started to move back towards the cable. The last 800 meters I was able to swim with the cable comfortably without too much contact. The swim exit was a glorious sight to see and I looked at the clock. A bit slower than my first loop, but still far under my expected swim finish.
I love volunteers. I can’t say this enough. As soon as I got out of the water, I pulled down my wetsuit to my waist and was called over by a volunteer. I laid down, they pulled off my wet suit, and I was headed to the Olympic oval within seconds. T1 is about a quarter mile to half-mile long run to the changing tent. I got to the tent, grabbed my bike gear bag, and sat down. Immediately, a volunteer ran over, poured out my bag, and asked what I needed. I got my helmet and glasses on as he handed me my bike shoes. I got my shoes on, grabbed my Garmin, and began stuffing my wetsuit in my bag. He stopped me saying he would get it and to grab my bike. I love volunteers. I ran out of the changing tent and made my way around the oval to grab my bike. Magically, I got to my section and there was a volunteer standing with my bike. “Special Delivery!” he told me, and he wished me luck on the bike. Did I mention how much I love volunteers? I ran to the mount line, clipped in, and barreled out onto the bike course.
I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful this bike course is. Mountains, lakes, waterfalls, farms, rivers, and awesome spectators and volunteers line this course. However, the bike course is just as difficult as it is beautiful. According to Mr. Garmin, the course has around 7,000 feet of climbing over the 112 miles, and most of that climbing occurs in the last 26 miles of each loop. The bike course is two loops.
My motto for the bike course was simple. “In heart rate I trust”. I knew from training that my anaerobic threshold was around 167 bpm. I wanted to stay below this zone during the entire race and was hoping to stay around 150. I knew in this zone I would be able to make good time on the bike course and still have the energy to run a strong marathon. In this zone, I’m more efficient at utilizing fat than carbohydrates. I also knew that I would have to have my nutrition nailed down to a T. As stated in my Quassy race report, my nutrition there was perfect. I essentially took what I did at Quassy and doubled it. Each hour, I tried to take in 200 calories from Cliff Shot Blocks and take in 200 calories from gels. I had my Hammer Endurolytes (2 per hour) in my bike bag and also 2 bottles of water with 2 scoops of HEED. These bottles were to last me one loop of the course, where I would get more at special needs. The nutrition, again, was spot on. I didn’t have any major cramping, GI issues, or problems during the bike course and I stayed well hydrated. I know so, because I peed twice on my bike.
The first 3 miles of the bike course are downhill and fast. It takes you out of Lake Placid towards North Elba and passes the horse show grounds and the run out-and-back. As you look out into the distance, you can see the ski jumps. I feathered the breaks since the rain had begun to fall and the course was pretty slick. After the downhill, there’s a pretty nasty 2-mile climb with 300 feet of elevation gain. That climb is followed by 3 rollers and one last climb that takes you to the descent. I managed to cover these 7 miles in about 30 minutes. The rain was coming down and the sky was lined with thunderclouds so I took the descent easy. As I made my way down the descent at a “blistering” 40 mph, I was passed by several brave souls who chose to stay in their aero bars. They had to be going at least 55-60 mph (you know you’re going to go fast when you see “Trucks Use Low Gear” signs). The first part of the descent is relatively mellow and you still have to pedal to get a good pace. After passing a beautiful rock face and lake, you hit the second part of the descent, which is much steeper and a bit more technical. I continued to stay on my breaks and ride cautiously until I hit the town of Keene, where the course makes a hard left onto 9N and you make your way towards the town of Jay and Ausable forks on the flattest section of the course.
9N is flat and fast and parallels the Ausable River. This is a great section that allows you to rehydrate, refuel, and really push the pace. I was able to average around 22 mph on this part of the course and I was a bit worried I may be pushing too hard. I looked down at my watched and saw my HR hovering around 150, but not going above 155. I trusted my heart rate and felt pretty good in terms of my RPE so I continued to push on at that pace. After making it to Ausable Forks, you turn around and come back to Jay, where you make a right hand turn onto 86. These last 20 miles are pure hell.
As soon as you turn onto 86 towards Wilmington, you are faced with the hardest sustained climb of the day – a 2-mile climb that covers a little over 400 feet of elevation gain. Unlike the rollers in the first half of the course, there is no downhill to really push you up the next hill. It really takes it out of your legs, especially on the second loop. I dropped into my lowest gear and spun up the hill, keeping my heart rate around 160 for the entire climb. This climb was a lot worse than the three bears. At mile 40, there is a short mile out and back on Haselton road before making a left onto 86. This road takes you back to Lake Placid. In physics we learned that what goes up must go down. The Lake Placid bike course flipped physics upside down. What goes down must go up. And up and up and up. It’s a good thing there is good scenery, because you’ll be staring at it for a while as you make your way up Whiteface Mountain – a 10 mile stretch that climbs 900 feet. As I did previously, I got into my lowest gear and just spun up the hills. The hills are arranged in a way that resembles stair steps. You go up, and then flat. Then up, and then flat. And again, and again, and again. Finally, after 10 miles, you make it to the three bears that I spoke of earlier. There not hard climbs, but after the previous 20 miles, they’re brutal. Mama bear is steeper and longer than baby bear (which is really just a small bump in the road) and Papa bear is steep, but short. Papa bear is great because it is lined with spectators and it feels like you’re in the lead of the Tour de France. I wasn’t in the Tour de France, nor in the lead, but it sure felt good to feel that way. After you finish the climb up 86, you make a right to head back into town, where you get….more hills to climb. This hill continues until Mirror Lake drive where you get your special needs bag and begin your second loop. I was so happy to come around the corner onto Mirror Lake and see my entire family standing with their cow bells, Ironman shirts, and cameras cheering me on. I gave a fist pump and a smile and tired to pose for my mom and her camera. I managed to finish the last 26 miles in 1:32, which is just under 17mph due to the climbing. Thank God I’m done with that climb. Oh wait, I have to do it again!!
The second lap of the bike course was nothing but brutal. My legs were beginning to tire out, my back was getting sore, and the weather was still shitty. Going back out to the descent, I had to take my glasses off for a bit because the sky was so grey. The rain started coming down again as I made my way down the descent. Again, more brave people whizzing by me at ridiculous speeds. After surviving the descent part deux, I noticed that my time was not too far off my time from the first lap. I was getting a “second wind” so to speak on the bike and was able to hammer out the flat section towards Ausable Fork at a pretty good clip. My heart rate was still in the proper zone, so I figured why not? I managed to finish the first 30 miles of the second loop in 1:28 (just 32 seconds off my first lap split). The last 26 miles of the second loop were a disaster. My legs were hurting. I swear the hills were getting longer and steeper. My heart rate was starting to climb above 160 even in my easiest gear. I was keeping up with my nutrition and my hydration. Everything I had control of I was taking care of. At mile 90, I shifted to my small chain ring to start my climb towards Wilmington. As I shifted, my chain dropped. Damn. I tried to back shift, but it didn’t work. I dismounted my bike and got my chain back on the chain rings. It was at this point I found out how amazing my fellow competitors were. Every single person that passed me asked if I needed a tube, CO2, help, etc. They were willing to stop their race to help me. This is what I love about the sport. It reminded me of the time Chrissie Wellington ran out of CO2 and couldn’t repair her flat at the World Championships. I thanked them and said I was fine and was ready to continue. The Haselton out-and-back gave my legs a short recovery before the climb back to Lake Placid. The weather began to worsen, which paralleled the way my body and legs felt. Even in the easiest gear I had struggled to climb this damn mountain. Every chance I got I drifted to save energy and loosen up my legs. I stood up on the flats to stretch my back. Finally, I made it to Mama bear where…shit…my chain dropped again! I dismounted…again…got my chain back on…again…and amazingly people continued to offer me help and asked if I needed tubes or cartridges. At the time I was upset about the chain. In retrospect, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me a chance to stretch my legs and back and get off my saddle. In the grand scheme of the race, it only cost me a couple of minutes. I made my way back to the transition area where I again saw my parents. My mom somehow made it to the transition area and cheered me on as I climbed the final hill. My family is great at spectating. I looked down at my watch and saw 6:13. Again, holy hell! My goal was to finish in 6:30. I was so glad to be done and off the bike. There was only one thought going through my head – How the hell am I supposed to run a marathon after that?!
The bike course is difficult, but not impossible. It rewards those who are patient, and punishes those who are not. If you go out to hard on that first lap, you will pay during the second loop. I’m glad I had my heart rate monitor to help me know when and when not to push it on the course. Although I was hurting by the end, it could’ve been much worse. There were people walking their bikes up the three bears.
After dismounting my bike, a generous volunteer grabbed my bike and racked it for me. These volunteers are amazing! I took my shoes and helmet off, grabbed my run gear bag, and headed into the changing tent where another volunteer poured out my bag and asked what I needed. I put on my Swiftwik socks and my Brooks racing flats and grabbed my nutrition bag and headed out on the run. My Garmin ran out of battery. Damn.
Without a Garmin to know my pace or my heart rate, I had to change my strategy. I had to go based on RPE. Like the swim and bike course, the run course is a two loop out and back course. It’s not a challenging course itself, but after an extremely difficult bike course, your legs are shot. To make matters worse, the course started off with a 3-mile downhill that over stretches your already destroyed quad muscles. It makes for a good amount of cramping.
With running as my strength, I immediately began passing people left and right. Despite fearing having to walk the marathon after getting off the bike, I felt great and was able to smile for my sisters camera. Only 26.2 miles to go.
The run out of town takes you three miles downhill to the horse show grounds where you make a left onto River Road. River Road is lonely. There is no access for spectators to get there and it’s quiet. Beautiful, but quiet. The road was lined with signs and motivational posters…and port-a-pots. My goal on the run was to run as long as I could at a steady pace. I made my goal mile 18. The out and back is pretty flat and fast until you get to the turn around at mile 6. I stopped by each aid station to take in some Perform, water, and cola. After ingesting 6 packets of Cliff shot blocks and 12 gels on the bike (for a total of 2400 calories) the last thing I wanted to see or eat was a gel. I ended up throwing my nutrition pack away and just using the on course nutrition. After reaching mile 9, you make a right to go back towards town and you are faced with a significant climb that I ended up walking on both loops. It really isn’t worth shooting up your HR or RPE. I made it to the top and continued to run into town until I hit Main Street, where I walked up another significant hill. After making it to the top, you turn right to run a short out-and-back on Mirror Lake. It was nice to see my family again. (The run course passes through town 4 times – very spectator friendly). On Mirror Lake, I stopped to pick up a bottle of HEED out of my special needs bag. I made it to the turn around and back and was off for the second loop. I managed to run the first loop in under 1:30. Great pace.
The second loop was tough. Going down the hill was even harder on your quads. I started to cramp. I couldn’t drink anything because my stomach didn’t want it. I was trying to take in calories, but would just throw them back up. I made it to the out-and-back section on River Road and kept my pace. I was hurting pretty bad. Every time I wanted to stop or slow down, I thought about everyone tracking me online and all the training I had done. It pushed me to get to mile 18. Finally, I hit mile 18 at the turn around and I changed my game plan. Run to each aid station and then walk. Repeat. I asked for the time from someone with a watch at mile 20 and she said it was 4:30. I did the math. I was at 10 hours. I have an hour to run 6 miles and I’ll go under 11 hours. My original goal of 11:30 was out the door. I’m going to finish my first Ironman under 11 hours. Cramping and throwing up, I continued my run/walk strategy. I hit the uphill going back to town and walked. Then I ran. Then I walked up the second hill going into town. Then I ran. I swear there were knives in my quads. I also swear they moved the turn around further back on the second loop. They should start questioning the course marshals. It seemed so much shorter the first time around! I had a mile to go. 8 minutes until the 11-hour mark. I pushed into high gear (which, at this point, was a blistering 7:50). The knives in my quads went deeper and deeper until I was forced to walk right before getting to the Olympic oval where the finish was located. The cheers from the crowd and volunteers lifted me up and I started to run again, pushing the pain out of my mind. I ran down Mirror Lake Drive and entered the Olympic Oval. I was on the very same Oval that American speed skater Eric Heiden won 5 gold medals on during the 1980 Olympics. It was surreal. I took it all in. I ran into the finishing chute after running a 3:33 marathon and finishing with an official time of 10:59:50. I heard Mike Reilly say those 6 words I had dreamed about for years. “Adam Bosley, YOU are an IRONMAN!”. I collapsed into the hands of volunteers as I received my medal and finisher gear.
As I sit here, I still can’t believe it. It hasn’t all sunken in completely. Not only did I finish, but I beat my goal time by 30 minutes. I went under 11 hours. I got 4th overall in my age group out of 39, and placed 246 out of 2536. I just missed qualifying for Kona. The support I received from my friends and family is unbelievable. I returned to my room with too many text messages and Facebook messages with “Congrats” and that they were tracking me all day, and that I’m an inspiration. It seriously means the world to me. I have so many people to thank for making this experience possible. Yes, I do the training and put in the hard work. Yes, I was the one physically pushing through the 140.6 miles. But there is so much more behind it. My family was with me every step of the way. They supported me through the ups, the downs. They understood my training schedule and they had to make so many sacrifices. They gave up their vacation to come see me race and support me. Without the support of my family, this would not have been possible. I also have to thank my training partners and supporters Courtney, Brian, Shana, and Scott. You guys rock. You gave me awesome advice and lifted me up when I needed it. You guys believed in me more than I believed in myself. I also have an amazing group of trainers that I work with at the Arena Club. Nicole has helped me train for my first Half Ironman and now my first Full Ironman. A big thank you to Adam, Kim, Wendy and Alicia for pushing me during training. Finally, a big thank you to everyone who sent me messages and support during training and during race day. I’m sure one day I’ll get around to thanking you all individually.