Ironman Lake Placid 2011 Race Report

This was such an in incredible experience that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I shouldn’t bore you with the training details that got me here and will just fast forward to race day.  Approximately 2,600 age group amateur athletes and 36 pros started. To avoid the human mosh pit that is synonymous with an Ironman swim start my plan was to wait 60 seconds for the madness to get out in front and then I would start. This race had over 1,000 first timers so many others had the same plan. Gun goes off at 7:00 AM and there are about 100 of us just sitting back and waiting. 30 seconds was all I could take before the adrenaline took over and I took off for the 2.4 mile 2 lap swim.
The first few minutes were great. Open water with not too many people around me allowed me to settle into a groove quickly. Swimming the lake a month prior and the day before the race made me comfortable enough not to freak out like I do at most starts. I caught up to the madness eventually and the fun began. After all the nightmares I heard about being kicked, punched and swam over it actually wasn’t that bad. Until the turn around on the first lap. Everyone is heading for the same orange buoy to turn around and head back and the congestion is intense. That’s where I got the first elbow to the head.
Later on still in the first lap a woman in front of me stopped for a second and with no room to go around her I stopped too. She instantly started swimming again by kicking off against my privates. Ouch! I got out of the first 1.2 mile lap in under 40 minutes and felt great.
In lap 2 I found myself right on the yellow line. It’s a wire holding up the buoys at the lake, which everyone tries to swim by so they don’t need to look up to see if they’re going straight. Big mistake! Super heavy traffic but I decided to deal with it. That was until I got the 2nd elbow to the head and my goggles knocked off a minute later. Back out to the middle for me. Went around the turn buoy a bit wider the 2nd time around with no damage.
The swim back to shore went pretty well until the final 300 yards. Major congestion again and elbow #3 to the head. The swim lived up to everything I’ve read about but I must admit I thought it would be worse. Need to go a bit wider next time and stay out of the mayhem and it won’t cost me much time at all.
My swim split was 1 hour and 22 minutes, which I was very happy with. There were at least 20 wetsuit strippers there. Got help getting out of mine and ran past my incredible support crew (Larisa, Stephanie, Rochelle, Jeff, Angela, Monica, Dana) and several hundred yards into T1. Found my bike bag and ran into the tent to get my helmet, shoes, race bib, sun glasses and sun screen on. Threw my wetsuit into the same bag and tossed the bag to a volunteer. By the time I got to my bike rack another volunteer already had it waiting for me. What service! I’ve never experienced congestion getting out of T1 (before mounting) but the short break was good to get the heart rate down.
The 112 mile bike course is a 56 mile loop done twice. I never did swim / bike bricks and was not used to doing anything but eating after 2.4 miles in the pool. Getting my bike legs took longer than usual. The plan was to go as easy as possible on loop 1 and conserve energy for loop 2 and the marathon. I kept it in the lower chain ring for the climb out of town. The 5-mile decent into Keene was intense especially when getting passed while doing 40 MPH. We were 3 wide for many parts of the decent. Wild.
The flats out to Jay were great and I was over 22 mph most of the time. Should have gone slower because I paid for it on lap 2. Everyone talks about the final 11-mile climb to Whiteface back into town but everyone neglects to mention the 2 mile climb that precedes it which is the longest stretch of steepness on the course. I barely managed 8 mph, which proved too much because I couldn’t even do 6 on loop 2. When I finally got over Papa Bear (the final climb into town) at around noon I was amazed to see 3:20 on the bike computer and had momentary delusions of a 7 hr bike, under 4 marathon and a slightly over 12 hr total. Little did I know how much that first loop took out of me.
The bike special needs stop was a great experience. Special needs is a half way stop during the bike and run where you pack a bag for what ever you may need at the time. The volunteers are so incredibly friendly and helpful. It felt like a real pit stop. As you approach they call out your number and by the time you get to where your bag is there is someone there waiting for you with it. I froze two bottles with EFS and Carbo pro the night before and they were perfectly defrosted and still cold when I got them. I didn’t need the extra tubes or CO2s that I packed, no flats thank god. Also restocked my bento box with more GU. The stop lasted under 30 seconds and I was off for loop 2.
Lap 2 was the hardest bike ride of my life. My legs were on fire and the afternoon heat did not help my overall condition. It was supposed to be in the 70’s but made it to the mid 80’s with almost no clouds. The infamous Lake Placid winds showed up and made it even harder. The head winds were so strong that on one downhill I could barely get over 20 MPH. Someone pulled up to me at about mile 95 and jokingly asked if I’ve had enough of the bike yet. My reply “I will do anything to get off this thing even run a marathon if have to”. The final 11 mile climb and the preceding one was TOUGH to say the least. Papa Bear had me out of the saddle and pushing hard from bottom to top. The crowd support with all the cowbells on that hill was awesome.
During loop 2 is when I saw the first medical condition of the day. I’m riding and I see a guy laying in the shoulder with his bike next to him against a guard rail. I slowed down and yelled out to see if he was OK. He responded that he felt light headed and needed to lay down. This race definitely takes it’s toll. Especially in unseasonably warm temperatures that people haven’t trained for.
I didn’t see any accidents on the bike course but heard of one. One of my training partners was hit by someone passing on the right instead of the left and took a dive off his bike. He bruised his arm up but was able to continue after getting bandages at an aid station. Even bruised up he finished a few minutes ahead of me. The guy that hit him didn’t even stop.
After a bike split of 7 hours and 28 minutes getting off the bike in T2 felt so good! I handed it to a volunteer who whisked it away and I headed to get my run bag and back to the tent. Did I mention the volunteers are amazing? He took my sneakers and run cap out the bag, put my bike shoes and helmet into it and kept asking if I was OK or if I needed anything. The only thing he didn’t do was tie my laces. I wish he did, more on that later.
I come out of transition to my cheering support crew. It was truly amazing having them all there plus all the others that were getting FB updates and offering support. Off to the marathon and I’m done. How hard can that be? The 26.2 mile run is a two loop course that goes past the towering Olympic ski jumps. Awesome site! The run starts with a nice long downhill, which is very welcome after 7 and a half hours on the bike. The first two miles felt great and I averaged 8:45 a mile. Way under my 9:00 plan which would get the run done in 4 hrs.
The good feeling didn’t last too long. By mile 3 I was famished and was losing steam quick. I stopped to tie my left shoelace which came undone and cramped up from stopping and bending over. The cramp went away when I started running again but I was totally on empty and started to feel like I was going to crash. At the next aid station I got a Powerbar Gel and a cup of Perform. It was amazing at how fast it kicked in. I was so empty that the gel must have gone right into my blood stream and I got the boost that I needed. Powerbar gels, bars, cola, perform and ice-cold sponges became my best friends at each aid station, which were 1 mile apart. I finished the first half in exactly 2 hrs and was ecstatic. The euphoria lasted until about mile 20. By then my stomach decided to let me know that it does not like the smorgasbord of crap I’ve been consuming all day. It wasn’t too bad but it was one of those ‘you better stop now’ messages.
I stopped running and walked for about 30 seconds at which point I told myself that the longer I walked the harder it would be to start running again. I’m not sure how but I willed myself to at least jog. Now my left shoelace comes undone and I knew that tying it would bring on the cramp that I’ve been fighting for the last hour. I jogged with it undone for a few minutes and then found something to put my foot up on to tie it. It was the quickest shoe tie ever and I managed to fight off the cramp.
Another thing that kept me motivated through the 2nd loop on the run was the advice from my coach. He told me most people would be hurting by then and for a distraction I should count the ones I pass. This definitely was extra motivation not to start walking and to keep passing folks. I passed 162 people in the last 2.5 hours.
The last 3 miles lasted FOREVER. I was so close but yet still so far away. The worst part of the Lake Placid run is that when you return back into town and you hear the roar of the crowd and feel the excitement of the finish you still have an almost 2 mile out and back by Mirror lake to complete. The crowd along this stretch (and throughout most of the day) was just amazing. So motivating to dig deep and find that last bit of energy to get you through this adventure.
While completing the out and back the sun was setting and it was about to get dark. A perfect setting. The approach into Ironman Village on the Olympic Oval right by the arena where a miracle occurred for the US hockey team in 1980 was simply surreal. I tried to soak it in as much as possible while running down the finishing chute. Then I heard the words that every aspiring triathlete dreams about…. Mike Reilly goes ‘Steven Pivnik from North Brunswick NJ… are an IRONMAN’. My run split was 4 hours and 28 minutes.
I crossed the finish line hands in the air at 8:38 PM finishing in 13:38:01. They have volunteers in the finishing area stopping you because many just keep going and going. After giving me my finishers medal he talked to me for a minute to make sure I was OK and wasn’t going to faint. Many end up in the medical tent to recover. The guy behind me collapsed at the finished line. Another guy I was talking to afterwards lost 10 pounds during the race and needed 3 IVs. I was on cloud 9. After posing for a finishers photo and my ESPN interview (I wish) it was off to find my support crew to celebrate. 
We were out till 11 and then came back to the finish line to see the last minute finishers trying to make the midnight cutoff time. It was great to see several 50 and 60 year olds crossing the line. Stephanie got her Ironman shirt autographed by the male and female winners TJ Tollakson and Heather Wurtele. They were great sports taking part in the excitement of the finishing party and welcoming in the last of the finishers.
Hats off to Ironman and WTC (World Triathlon Corporation)! They put on the most incredible event. 2,600 participants, over 3,000 volunteers and over 30,000 spectators spread across Lake Placid and the neighboring towns. I’ve never seen anything better organized. Amazing job.
And again (I will thank them forever) I would never have made it to the starting line if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement of my incredible family and friends. Especially Larisa who put up with me missing every single morning of the week since Jan 1 and most weekend afternoons for the last two months. Without her support I could not have got in the 2,835 miles of bike training, 478 miles of running and 6,136 laps of swimming that got me ready for this race. Thank you so much! I love you.
Keith Cook at Solis Performance Training – you rock! Perfect weekly training plans and advise. Michelle Cook – thanks so much for your support. My family and friends got me to the starting line, you guys got me to the finish line in one piece. Thank you!
Final stats and ranking….
Swim: 2.4 Miles – 1:22:26
Bike: 112 Miles – 7:28:40
Run: 26.2 Miles – 4:28:17
Total: 140.6 Miles – 13:38:01
Overall placement: 1,526 out of 2,538 starters
Age Group (M40-44) Placement: 325 out of 453 finishers
My next race: Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains on October 2


  1. Steve, you did great! Thanks for pumping me up my man! Rob J from beginnertriathlete

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