Athlete Insight - IM Lake Placid with Randall Howard

This race report will take you right along the course and the highs and lows of racing! While we would never recommend racing with a known stress injury, we can never perdict what race day will throw your way. One thing is clear, whatever it is, Randall will be able to tackle it!



I arrived in Lake Placid on the evening of Thursday July 20th just in time for dinner and sunset on Heart Lake at the Adirondack Loj ( Cheap bed and breakfast lodging with complimentary breakfast from $60/night, about 5 miles outside of Lake Placid up route 73 past the Olympic ski jump. It is hard to find cheaper housing in Lake Placid, so this place is a steal!

The following morning I headed into town to the Lake Placid Visitor's Center for athlete check in and then headed out for a 45 minute bike. I ended up riding the out and back section of the run course on River Road and hitting the last small portion of the hard climb from Wilmington back into Lake Placid on to Mirror Drive.   The course at Placid is beautiful and a challenge all in one!

Fast forward to Saturday morning before race day. I did a short practice run consisting of a loop and a half around where the swim would be (Mirror Lake is only about 3 miles around). During the run I experienced a tight, almost debilitating feeling in my right leg which had been bothering me for the past couple of weeks and just figured it was muscle fatigue from my last few weeks of  training volume. I actually thought a nerve was being squeezed real hard/was out of place. I discussed with a few people that I was having some issues and this could definitely ruin my marathon....I actually was thinking this is not far can I get into the marathon, before I start having pain in my right quad? But it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, and I was nervous, but hoping for the best. After my run,  I immediately went down to the expo and got ART Therapy to see if the therapist could loosen it,  he loosened it temporarily for like 30 minutes.  I got the last of my nutrition and headed back to the lodge to get off my feet in preparation for race day, not knowing what the marathon would bring, but ready to get started.

Race morning I headed down to the transition area around 4:45am to get the last of my nutrition on my bike and my transition bags dropped off, then it was off to meet Coach Sam at the body marking area. She asked me how I was feeling and I said I was good, but a little nervous about how my right quad might do on the run. We both agreed 112 miles on the bike to loosen it up would probably do the trick, and it is natural to have some aches and pains headed into race morning. The first age group swim went off at 6:40 with the pros starting at 6:30. It was a self seed swim start, so I placed myself in the 1:00:00 to 1:10:00 group. The good thing about IMLP swim course is the line/cord running 5 feet beneath the surface of the water following the perimeter/buoys of the rectangular two loop swim course, so if you stay on that don't have to really sight. Tough thing about this is survival of the fittest. I stayed directly on top of the line and got the shit beaten out of me for the entirety of the first loop. I was punched in the head twice...knocking my goggles sideways once and having to sit up and tread water until I fixed them and got my bearings back together (jockeying for position with big dudes suck, especially if they are fast too...just let them go and get on their feet for a sec). This was almost 40 seconds or so trying to regroup. I finished up first loop ran up on shore around the dock and headed back in for loop 2 which was very smooth and I found a rhythm. Out of the water in 1:10:00 and change...I guess I was okay with that, so I ran into T1 which was a long run from the water to the changing tents and headed out on the bike.

    The first loop of the bike was a little crowded in the beginning for the first big climb. Once I got to Jay and started the fast screaming descent into Keene Valley I parted ways with the mass of age groupers. I ride a 55 42 chain ring setup and on the IMLP course it is for those that like to crush descents and are fairly strong on hills, otherwise I would not recommend it.  I stayed left and just barreled down the mountain. I don't have an issue with going 47-50 mph as long as I stay to the left and other riders stay away from me. The road on the descent got a little sketchy with bumps and holes filled in...that is the only time I was like...........fuck, when you're moving that fast, it can be scary. I found a fast group who were riding legal, but hard, and just pushed with them for the entire first loop taking turns setting the pace off the front. By the time I got to Wilmington to start the last 13 miles of "HELL" climbing (yes...Hell climbing) before loop two,  it was only me and two others. As I hit the 2nd loop, I was thinking...I maybe rode that a bit hard, but I was okay and continued. The course became sparse...I wasn't in contact with as many riders the second loop, then at about mile comes the nasty headwind ....There is usually a headwind in Placid, and this is what I believe can kill people, if not pushing the first loop too hard. I was alone for a good while pushing into the wind staying aero. My  power meter would have been helpful here, but it was inoperable....I did the entire race on HR. Last 20 miles was a bitch with that Wilmington to Lake Placid 13 mile continuous climb again...this is what ruins people's race and kills their run. I was off the bike in 5:36:00, not to thrilled as the headwind on the second loop killed my bike split. I was hoping to do 5:20ish. But ... on to the run.

I came out of T2 feeling good and was like pain in my legs on the swim or bike and managed high 6's-low  7's heading out on the run.  As soon as I hit mile 2.4 of the run out River Road, I started experiencing severe pain in my right quad....I was like,"no no no...this is too early." So I kept running in  pain and managed to make it to a medical tent at  about mile 4. They are like what's going on and I told them I think I fractured something in my upper leg. They asked if I wanted to call it a day. I just asked them to contact my Mom and have them get a hold of Samantha and see what she wanted me to do....whether it be walk it back in and call it a day or keep going and see if I could just make it back in to town on the first loop, then decide whether or not to take the DNF and call it  ... or get back to town and walk the second loop and finish when it was getting dark. I said fuck it and kept running......I picked up the pace as I was pissed off and running in absolute pain out River Road. Medical caught up with me on an ATV and said stop back at medical after the turnaround and the Medic would let you speak with your mom or Samantha. I was running  fast at that point trying to get back to the tent....I was doing low 7s, high 6s for a while passing people and getting the "nice work", and I'm like I'm injured...just trying to get to medical. I got back to the tent and got a hold of my Mom. She said Sam was heading out on course from town to meet me and see what's going on. And sure enough as I came up one of the 2 significant climbs heading back into town, I saw Samantha and she started helping me mentally. I told her I knew something wasn't right pre-race, but she helped me keep it positive. She asked what I wanted to do. I told her it hurt so bad, but I don't want to take a DNF on my 11th Iron-distance race. I decided I would run it back to town and decide. I had IM 70.3 Worlds Sept 10th and that was my primary concern. All of a sudden, Sam is like, you've dealt with much worse and one of the leaders in your age group is currently running at the same pace or slower than you (a little motivator). The truth was that when I was running, I was running well, the issue was that I was just not running a ton which was hard for me to manage mentally. I doubted myself because at that point, I knew Kona wasn't going to happen, but literally was flustered seeing people pass me on the run as I had to break stride and walk from time to time because of the pain. Running is my strength and this was the first time where I was not able to get to work. What really made the difference and I'll be honest...seeing a few strong athletes on the run go past me. I usually see these guys on the bike which is their forte, and because of my current condition, three of them in a group shuffled passed me as I began a walk/limp in pain. Yup, I got mad, and said not today...I usually am able to ride with these guys at races on the bike, but always pass them later in the day on the run.....and at that point, I wasn't racing my race anymore and that fueled my fire. At this point it was how quickly can I get my ass to the F@#$ing finish line and have the pain be over........and I wasn't finishing when it got dark.... no sir, not doing it (much respect to those that raced all day and into the final hours of the night...true warriors)! I somehow was able to channel my anger and pain and will myself to push on!  I finished the first loop passing Pro athlete, Paul Ambrose (he cakes his face with sunscreen...yeah, that guy) up the big climb on Main Street (he was on his last loop), he was struggling (the placid hills are killers) and I was like, nice work Paul as I hobbled by...he didn't seem to like that too much, or at least showed no emotion. I headed for the turnaround along Mirror Lake Drive and headed back out and for my final loop on the run. This time it was let's see how many people I can pick off running on a messed up leg in shear pain. When I was running with my hobble and limp, I was doing 7:20's to 8's. What killed my overall time was the walking....13,14,15 minute miles and stopping and chatting with the Med guys on the first loop. The pain was so excruciating, I thought I had fractured something which I kept telling myself is better than muscle, tendon, or ligament damage. I saw a really strong runner that was running hard.....what did I have to lose at this point? I skipped several aid stations on the run because my pacing was a lot slower than it should have been, so my HR was very low for me. The runner's  name was Saudi, and she was running really strong...I ran with her for a good while out River Road passing people at a pretty good pace....We talked as we ran and discussed what I had going on. She's like hang with me...I'll get you as far back into town as possible. I stayed with her until about 6 miles left, then I let her go...I couldn't sustain the pounding. (You can read more about her and how cool she is here). I battled my way back into town running, walking , hobbling, and finally running the last big climb on to Main Street. I did not walk other than to quickly kiss my girlfriend, who ran out on course. As I made my last mile or so around Mirror Lake to the final turnaround before heading back in to the finish line in the Olympic Oval...shit got real!!! Talk about the world freezing right before your eyes and you are the only living thing conscious and in super slow mo. That is how the last mile was...both of my legs were done. I was thinking bad things about what the results would be with my legs once I went to see an ortho doc back home, but I tried to soak it all in. I staggered the last mile.. and heard a volunteers on course say, "Holy shit that guy with the possible stress fracture is still going!" I hobbled my way into the Olympic Oval and onto the finish (4:16:00 marathon), only to be greeted with a medal by the man with the plan.....Andy Potts and got a finisher photo with TJ Tollekson (2011 IMLP Winner...the year I volunteered before my first race there in 2012)......this made all the pain worth it. All that for an 11:08:00 day...I'll take it! 

I'm currently on crutches with no weight bearing activities for 12 weeks (hello, time to work on my swim!!!) no IM 70.3 Worlds for me September 10th. The MRI showed a stress injury to my right femur. I learned a ton about myself at IMLP; I learn more and more every time I race. This race taught me to "Make the best possible outcome, out of the worst possible situation.", "Everyone wants to eat, but few are willing to hunt." Take these few things into consideration when you end up in a dark place...whatever it is that you're doing, and you'll come out fighting on top....I promise!!! I want to thank my Mom, Jillian, family and friends, the entire Evolve Team for their love and support. I want to especially thank Coach Samantha for putting up with my shit and believing in me. I'm very stubborn at times and will eat bullets before laying down and rolling over.

2018 IMLP anyone? I'm in!