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My Lake Placid Half-Marathon experience

June 17, 2015 - Andy Flynn
When Monday morning rolled around — once I was able to walk without the help of a cane — I drove around the Lake Placid Half-Marathon course in my white Ford Focus, just to make sure Sunday’s race wasn’t a dream.

I still can’t believe I shaved off an hour from last year’s time, finishing in 4:52:46 as opposed to 5:52:03 in 2014. That’s an average of 22:20 minutes per mile, quicker than last year’s 26:52 minutes per mile.

By comparison, in 2013, my time was 0:00:00, as I was still sitting around getting fatter.

On my drive-around, I re-lived each encounter around every corner, from the mass start on Main Street to Mirror Lake, Route 73 to the River Road and finally up the McLenathan Avenue hill to the finish line at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. From thanking the police at the detours and the volunteers at the aid stations to the countless words of encouragement, high-fives and handshakes from my fellow racers and the spectators (including Trish Friedlander on a stand-up paddleboard on Mirror Lake), there’s no doubt in my mind that Sunday’s race was not a figment of my imagination. I took that walk in the park and crushed last year’s time.

Damn, it feels good.

Going into the race, I had lowered my expectations and tried to at least finish under 5:30:00. I’m 10 pounds heavier than last year, I missed two weeks of training because of a bad reaction to my new blood pressure medication, and I had a muscle strain on the right side of my back. I knew it would be tough.


Pain, pain, go away

That was before I got an acute attack of gout in my left foot the Wednesday before the race. I could barely walk. Last year, I got a cold the Wednesday before the race, and this year it was gout. Why does a higher power think I need one more challenge to overcome on race day? Isn’t walking 13.1 miles with a morbidly obese body a challenge enough? Apparently not. Most of the pain had subsided by race day, but my foot was still bothering me when I woke up on Sunday. Gout or not, I was going to walk and try to finish. So I took some Ibuprofen and hoped for the best. I even took some during the race.

I’m fascinated with the pain of racing and the physical and mental elements of pain management. How do people keep themselves going when they are in so much pain?

On Sunday evening, as I was hobbling around the living room, my wife asked me, “Why put yourself through that kind of pain just for a race?” She asks me the same question every time, and I have the same answer. I don’t race because I like the pain. I do it because I like the accomplishment of finishing something I never thought I’d be able to finish. The fact is, I have to work through the pain in order to get to the finish line, and it’s worth it.

I interviewed Brian Delaney of High Peaks Cyclery in 2014 about competing in the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon, which he has raced since the event was created in 1999. That’s got to be some kind of crazy pain to finish an Ironman. So I asked him, “Why put yourself through the pain?” His answer was simple.

“Yeah, they’re going to put some pain in for sure,” Delaney said. “It’s always going to be painful, whatever you’re doing, whether you’re baking a cake or making pancakes. You’re going to burn the griddle once in a while. So pain’s inevitable, but that’s OK. You get through it.”

Once you accept the fact that pain will be involved, you’ll be able to prepare for it. What I did this year was get myself into better shape with a 14-week training program. It started indoors and slowly transitioned into outdoor walks. I also worked on my nutrition as a major component of my training program.

The maple sports drink I whipped up for the race — hiding four 20-ounce bottles around the course before the start — was a major component of my success. It kept me hydrated. I also ate four small boxes of raisins at key times during the race. This prevented me from running out of energy, and it put something solid in my system without slowing me down.

I drank some water at a couple of the aid stations, and I took the ice they offered me and put it in my white Lake Placid Marathon & Half racing hat to cool me down. I didn’t want a repeat of last year when I almost passed out from the heat with 2.5 miles to go. Most of the course is in full sun, and it was pretty warm on Sunday. Once I hit the turnaround on the River Road, I replenished the ice in my hat at every aid station until the finish line. The ice saved me.


Support network

As always, my race was a team effort, and everybody on the team deserves a round of applause. I can’t say enough about the support I get from family, friends and Lake Placid Diet readers and from my racing sponsors: Fitness Revolution, The Fallen Arch and Green Goddess Natural Market.

Jason McComber, my trainer at Fitness Revolution, prepared an effective training program at the gym to complement my outdoor walking. Gail Joseph and Bob Tysen at The Fallen Arch set me up with a pair of New Balance running sneakers and gave me valuable racing advice. And Wynde Kate Reese at Green Goddess helped me with some natural nutritional information, including the maple sports drink recipe I used during the race.

I’m also grateful to Brad Konkler and Jeff Edwards, the co-organizers of the Lake Placid Marathon & Half, for giving me the opportunity to participate in the race and achieve some amazing personal goals over the past two years.


Moving on

It is with a heavy heart that I say this will be my last regular Lake Placid Diet column in the Lake Placid News. I will publish updates throughout the rest of the year, but right now I need to move on to other projects.

Looking back at my 18 months on the Lake Placid Diet, I’ve been able to shed about 70 pounds and go from couch potato to half-marathoner. Along the journey, I’ve built a weight-loss foundation for the rest of my life.

I thank you, my readers, for all your support and for sticking by me through the good times and the bad. I’ve always kept you in mind when documenting my story. The number one goal was to be honest with you and with myself. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I’ve used writing as therapy, and I will continue to write about my weight-loss journey, just not as a regular installment in the Lake Placid News. The Lake Placid Diet was just the beginning. I look forward to my next chapter and sharing it with you.

As my journey continues, I hope I’ve been able to inspire others to embark on their own weight-loss journeys.

The Lake Placid Diet gave me one thing I never had before: confidence. Successes such as the Lake Placid Half-Marathon show me that I can truly lose the weight I desire and achieve fitness goals I once thought were impossible.

When I’m at a low point and start to doubt myself, I re-read the Lake Placid Diet stories. I’ve documented many of the reasons why I overeat and given myself a lot of tools to improve my health. I use the Lake Placid Diet as a toolkit, and I encourage you to do the same.

As for the Lake Placid Half-Marathon, people have asked me if I’m going to race in 2016. My answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” But my question to you is, “Will I see you out there walking or running with me?” I hope so. If I can do it, you can do it, too.


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Blog Photos

Andy Flynn begins the Lake Placid Half-Marathon Sunday, June 14 on Main Street, wearing his Lake Placid Diet racing shirt. (News photo — Lou Reuter)