Jennifer Pearce kicked off her multisport season with the Lonetree Sprint Triathlon in Loveland, Colorado on Saturday, July 22, 2023!
Jennifer is a seasoned triathlete, with well over a decade of racing experience in dozens of triathlons. This year, triathlon training has taken a back seat to some very important life happenings she has going on. You know what, folks? This is very okay. There are seasons to all things, and while we love endurance sports, sometimes there are other things going on that are more important to us and/or taking up more of our time. This means that training and racing take a back seat to these other priorities. This can be true and it can also be true that we can still train within our available time and race with different expectations than we might have had in years past.
As she headed into this race with less training than she’s had in previous years, Jennifer’s only goal was to finish and her main expectation was that she would manage her effort so she could finish feeling good. She did finish and she did the best she could with what the day gave her in terms of managing her effort; the heat of the day made the final mile of the run feel especially challenging. Despite this adversity, she crossed the finish line strong.
Well done and congratulations, Jennifer!
IRONMAN Lake Placid
IRONMAN Lake Placid is always a highlight for me and for Full Circle Endurance athletes. Since I am based out of Central New York, IRONMAN Lake Placid is our “hometown” IRONMAN, as it is the closest IRONMAN to us in this region. While it is a convenient race because of its location for us, it’s an incredibly difficult course; this race has some of the highest DNF (Did Not Finish) rates of any race in the country. I’ve been coaching athletes to IRONMAN Lake Placid for a decade now and know what it takes to help athletes successfully prepare to cross this legendary finish line.
Daria Bakina, Christina Barker, Lisa Crockford, Mary Houck, and Mary Lou Plante all were in Lake Placid volunteering and cheering at the race. Three other athletes working with me on Performance Coaching took on this beast of a race:
Kara has raced at IRONMAN Lake Placid before, but it’s been a few years. After some personal heartbreak and loss in 2022, Kara signed up for this year’s IRONMAN Lake Placid to channel her grief and emotions into something positive for herself.
One of the big things Kara told me when she hired me was that she felt overtrained and burnt out at the end of her last IRONMAN training cycle. Her goal (and mine) was to help her incorporate the very real, long demands of IRONMAN training in a way that would keep her engaged and joyful all the way through. I felt honored that she chose me as her coaching partner through this sad season of her life and as she worked toward this big personal goal.
While there were definitely some tough weeks in there (especially during Peak Phase), Kara arrived in Lake Placid injury-free and ready to go. We had talked through her plan for race day and she was feeling good about it.
The swim went great; Kara loves swimming and it’s definitely her best event in triathlon. On the bike, Kara stuck to the Normalized Power (NP) targets and range I had advised and kept up with her hydration and fueling plan. Things felt okay for the first bit of the marathon and she was sticking to the run/walk strategy we had planned, but then (very sadly) the wheels started to fall off. Kara felt nauseous and wasn’t able to take in fuel. The thought of 15+ more miles feeling like this was very, very daunting to her.
Despite this, Kara adapted. She didn’t throw the plan out; she kept modifying it based on how she was feeling and what was working in the moment for her. She discovered that she was able to walk pretty quickly and felt okay doing that, so she kept up a solid walk for the final miles of the marathon. She entered the Olympic Oval and crossed the finish line feeling proud and accomplished.
Upon reviewing Kara’s data after the race, we were able to identify some things that might have snowballed to cause her to feel the way she did. Most importantly: The data confirmed that the modifications that Kara made on her own and on the fly during the race as she was experiencing adversity were the appropriate ones for her. Her ability to successfully navigate and manage this adversity is what led her to have a successful IRONMAN Lake Placid finish. Both Kara and I feel that this race finish is even more prized because of how hard she had to work to earn it, and I am so proud of her for all that went into her achieving it.
Congratulations, Kara! You are a TWO-TIME IRONMAN Lake Placid finisher!
Like Kara, Rebecca has raced at the IRONMAN distance before. She became an IRONMAN at IRONMAN Maryland in 2021 and this was her first IRONMAN Lake Placid. Rebecca is mom of three energetic young boys and also works as a Nurse Practitioner in an Emergency Room. To say that she is busy is an understatement.
I wrote her plan around her rotating shift schedule, which included doing her key workouts on “non-traditional” days of the week. Throughout her training, Rebecca really focused on doing the specific skill work that was going to help her succeed at IRONMAN Lake Placid. This included doing hill work on the bike and run that initially scared her. However, with exposure, time, and practice, Rebecca’s skills and confidence increased. She arrived in Lake Placid feeling strong and in a better place than she had the first time she trained for IRONMAN.
Her swim went great and was a personal best time for her at this distance. Her bike was steady, strong, and controlled. The first part of her run was going to plan, and then unfortunately, the wheels started to come off for her like they did for Kara. However, also like Kara, Rebecca was prepared to modify her plan and handle adversity as it came her way in the race. She broke the run course down into digestible segments, modified her nutrition plan, and kept going. She ended up with a marathon time only slightly longer than her first IRONMAN marathon - and on a much more difficult course at that.
I’ve had the honor of coaching Rebecca for nearly four years now, and this might have been Rebecca’s most challenging race to date. To be honest, I think it makes her finish all the sweeter. She overcame some dark moments and true adversity to earn this finish. I am so proud of everything that Rebecca did both in training and on race day to get to this finish line.
Congratulations, Rebecca! You are a TWO-TIME IRONMAN!
Paul Elm told me a year ago that he was considering IRONMAN Lake Placid for his first-ever IRONMAN. We talked it through, and I warned him how difficult this particular race is. I think the challenge was definitely part of the appeal for him; Paul thrives on pushing himself and testing his limits. He signed up for the race and we got to training.
Though he is relatively new to triathlon (this is his third season in the sport), Paul has proven to be a fast learner and is extremely diligent about ALL of the things that are needed to be successful in this sport. He trusted the plan I wrote for him, did the work in training, and also leaned in heavily on the “extras” that are necessary to truly be successful at this distance of triathlon racing. He took heat training seriously for the last month and a half and then even reset his sleep cycle more than a week before the race so he could be rested on race day when the early wake-up came. When I say he’s committed and diligent, I mean it.
The swim went fantastic for him. On the bike, he was consistent and controlled for all 112 miles. He started the marathon with a ton of joy and excitement (he ran first half mile in three minutes!). I saw him early in the run and told him to reign in his efforts and slow it down so he could stay steady for all 26.2 miles. He did so, and stuck to the plan we had come up with, which was based on heart rate and included run/walk intervals. He managed to execute an extremely consistent marathon on a very difficult course and crossed the finish line with spring in his step and a smile you couldn’t wipe off of his face.
On race day in Lake Placid, Paul had about as close to a perfect day as you can get in this sport. This is rare in endurance sports and especially in IRONMAN racing. It didn’t happen by accident, though; it was the culmination of many months of consistent, thoughtful, and hard work on Paul’s part and a willingness to stick to his race day plan to a T.
Paul is Onondaga and lives in the Onondaga Nation, which is a sovereign nation south of Syracuse, New York. As far as we know, he is the first Native American from this region and possibly in this country to become an IRONMAN. He also started the first-ever Native American Tri Club in the United States this year to help even more people come into the sport.
I’m thrilled that Paul had such a wonderful day in Lake Placid and I’m so proud of all of the work he put in to reach his goal. But I am more proud of the person he is, the example he is setting for his community, and what he is doing for the sport at-large. It’s been my honor to be alongside him as his coach for this amazing journey.
Congratulations, Paul! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.