Race Report: Daria Bakina at IRONMAN Lake Placid
Updated: Feb 13
Daria completed her first IRONMAN at Lake Placid on July 23. She works with Coach Liesl Begnaud. Here is her account of her race weekend!
Got to Placid a little later than I wanted, but was able to go to athlete check in right away, got my packet and backpack, walked around the expo a little (and it was good because I was able to grab extra base salt tubes!). I went for a swim (20 min) and quick 15 minute bike. We left after that to go set up camp in Wilmington, about 15 minutes from LP. We were in bed by 10:30 and I didn’t wake up until 7:30/ 8AM on Saturday.
Leisurely morning, with a nice cup of coffee, oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast. Double checked my transition bags and packed them. Headed back into Lake Placid for the athlete meeting, drop off my bike and transition bags. My plan was to get to the 11AM athlete meeting, then drop my bike/ bags off at transition, sit in the Normatec boots, and go back to camp to relax (in my hammock!!). When I got to Placid, it took me about 15 very stressful minutes to find parking, which made me late for the meeting.
As I was driving in, I also saw the bike check-in line down the block and wrapped around the corner, which meant my plans to be off my feet were going to be affected. Once I found a spot, I decided to check my stuff in first, then go to the later meeting, but it actually worked out for the best – I was able to listen to the briefing from transition as I stretched (YAY!) and got everything done as I had planned. I got in the boots, and Christina was two people down from me! We walked around the expo a little bit, then went to lunch.
Christopher went mountain biking while I was doing all of the stuff in Placid and he texted me to come pick him up as I was leaving town, so that worked out well too. Once we got back to the campsite, we hung the hammocks and relaxed for a bit. He went to grab some beer for his hammock and I did my quick 10 minute run, then back to relaxing. My massage therapist Tiffany R. texted and let me know that she could tape my shoulder, so we went back into Lake Placid to get that taken care of. My parents arrived by 6PM and Christopher and I were off back to the campsite to pick up dinner things and met my parents at their house. I had my usual dinner – pasta, red sauce, ground turkey. No veggies!
With the exception of the early stress about bike check-in, my day was relaxed and stress free. I had lots of water throughout the day and a Gatorade with dinner. Once we got back to camp, I double checked my special needs and morning bag, shaved my legs, and painted my nails! This has become a ritual for me, to match my nail polish to my kit. This time, I painted them yellow to match the Team MPI in my visor (gotta look good in the finisher pics!!).
I was finally in bed by 10:30 and was running through things in my brain until I finally fell asleep at 11 or so. I had been getting really good sleep for the week leading up to the race and took Myo-Calm (natural muscle relaxer and calming pills) the two nights before, which I think contributed to good sleep.
I woke up at 3:30 and laid in bed with eyes closed until 3:45 or so. I put on my tri shorts, sports bra, and warm ups for the morning. Put on coffee immediately and pulled my turkey bagel out of the cooler (that I had made the night before because I’m smart!) and ate half of it. I had everything packed and ready to go the night before, so once the coffee was made, we loaded up and headed into Lake Placid. I had planned to park on a side street so that it would be easier to get to the car for Christopher and my parents for things, and we found a spot right away (YAY!!). I got my bike pump, transition bag, and we were off to transition. I had already put on race tats (thanks to Christina B. and Laura H.) the night before, so I didn’t have to get undressed and get cold for body marking!
I walked into transition, put my headphones in to listen to one of my favorite songs (Africa, by Toto in case you were wondering). Loaded my Clif Bars, water, and Gatorade bottle onto my bike, leaving one space open for the first aid station water/ Gatorade. I planned to do this so I didn’t have to throw away my personal bottles and it worked well. I had the other space on the back of my bike with a “flat kit” in another water bottle. As I was lying in bed the morning of the race, I realized that one of the volunteers would be grabbing my bike, so I couldn’t load it up without risking something falling out. Luckily, we had access to our transition bags the morning of the race, so I put my post-swim half turkey sandwich, salt, chapstick, bike tool, and some other things in with my T1 stuff to be able to jam it all in my jersey. In all, transition took me about 10 minutes to pump my tires to 90PSI, load the food and drink in and throw some stuff in the T1 bag.
Once I was out of transition, I found Christopher who was standing next to Kyle Smith (Tiffany Smith’s husband) and shortly after, she appeared. We walked together to drop off special needs and ran into Christina and Lindsay. They took our special needs bags and told us to go to the lake to relax and get ready. We grabbed a quick Team MPI picture and were off to Mirror Lake (and bathrooms!!). The lines weren’t too long for the port-a-potties and with that, I was ready to finish my bagel, coffee, have some more water and Gatorade. Tiffany went to find the other Tiffany to get kinesio taped and I stayed at the lake, listening to music and gathering my thoughts for the race. Around 10 after 6, I got into my wetsuit and tried to keep warm, loosened my arms out and tried to remain calm.
There was a call for athletes to line up about 10 minutes later and I was off to get to the front of the line. I got slightly nervous when the line wasn’t moving because I wanted to make sure that I got to the right pace time, but there was another security check point. I found my way to the 1-1:10 pacing area and focused on the water. National anthem. First cannon. The pros were off. I knew that at that point, I had about 10 minutes left and all I had to do was not panic. Second cannon. The crowd of athletes moved forward and the next thing I knew, I was looking at two orange flags. It literally felt like the crest of a roller coaster, right before the first drop. The flags went up and I was off. My first Ironman officially began at 6:42AM.
The water was perfect, and I tried to get right into a good rhythm. But I felt a slight panic rising in my chest. The first few times coming up for breath, I had water flinging into my face and I couldn’t find the first buoy. I kept swimming, trying to calm myself down (you’re swimming in Mirror Lake, you’ve done this many times, all you have to do is pull and breathe, you’re not in distress.). Once I was able to set a line, I calmed down, the next few strokes leveled my breathing, and I settled into a rhythm.
No one was around me and I repeated the mantra: “Long. Strong. Steady. Breathe.” on every pull. I had come up with this on Friday to, 1. Keep the stroke consistent and 2. In case I felt like I had in the first 3-4 minutes of the swim. “Long. Strong. Steady. Breathe.” Carried me through to the first turn, which was a little washing machiney, but nothing like Syracuse 70.3. I looked at my watch, 15:30. I was making excellent time. “Long. Strong. Steady. Breathe.” Oh look, you’re passing pros… that’s cool. And I had the red buoy in sight. “Swim until your fingers scrape the sand, then get up” out, through the gate, sip of water, into loop two, 32:30. “Long. Strong. Steady. Breathe.” I rounded the turn buoys again, and continued. Here’s where it got hairy again – catching up to the previous waves of slower swimmers, I had to weave between them and around zig-zaggers. Once I cleared them, I got on the line and swam the remaining 4 buoys there. I saw the red one, picked up the pace and made my way to the shore a second time. Got up, ran to the strippers, got my wetsuit off and ran into transition. Picked up my bag and was ready to go. I didn’t pee in the water, so I put my bike stuff on, grabbed a gel, ran to the bathroom, and was on my way to the bike. Mounted up, saw Christopher and my parents, and headed off – downhill to begin 112 miles.
I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to kill my legs on the first 25 miles because I was so hyped up after the swim. I told myself to take it easy up the first hill (it’s a steady ascent, similar to the first ascent at Syr 70.3). Since I had a gel in transition, I decided to save my sandwich as the alternative to the cliff bar. I ate 2 big bites of cliff bar and downed it with water. Since it was cooler in the morning, I made sure to keep hydrating because I wasn’t going to feel it as much. Two bites of sandwich came about 30 minutes later with Gatorade. The next time I ate was when I felt hungry, after the long descent into Keene. I tried to pick up as much free speed there as I could and covered 5 miles in about 10 minutes or so! After making the left turn onto 9N to head into Jay, I had a couple more bites of cliff bar with water and it started to rain steadily. I was thankful that I had gotten through the fast, long descent before the rain came and I settled into a nice cadence, through my second favorite stretch of road.
I alternated with the sandwich and Clif bar until both were gone. I also drank the whole bottle of Gatorade I had prepared. On the way back from Au Sable Forks to Jay, my chain dropped and I had to stop to fix it, it went back on relatively easily, but that was still time that I didn’t want to waste. I was proud that I remained calm and quickly fixed the issue. I climbed one of the tougher climbs from Upper Jay into Wilmington and then made the left turn toward Placid. The stretch between Wilmington and Lake Placid, I think, is the toughest on the course because the road is windy and rolling.
I kept the gearing easy, mostly in the small ring and got to the Three Bears – that’s the last section before getting back into town. The crowd support on Papa Bear was incredible and I channeled their energy into the last few climbs. Getting into town I saw my family, Christopher, and other friends cheering me on. I got to special needs, grabbed a few extra Clif bars, pretzels, and drank my coffee as the volunteer who grabbed my bag for me told me it was supposed to warm up on the second loop and to make sure that I was getting enough hydration and salt. She also told me I was on track for 7 hours, which boosted me even more! I filled water and I was on my way, back down the hill onto loop 2.
Most of loop 2 was relatively uneventful. I took off my arm warmers, stopped at the first bike aid station to put on sunscreen. I stopped at the second aid station to pee. I was eating another cliff bar and sandwich until I pulled out the Clif bar, looked at it, and thought I was going to barf. I forced myself to eat a couple more bites of turkey sandwich (I actually ended up eating about half of it). Then I took about 4 shot blocks (Salted Watermelon flavor) before getting into Jay and then after. On the way back from Au Sable Forks, I decided to switch to pretzels, which tasted good especially with the orange Gatorade I grabbed from an aid station. I ate them leisurely until I got back to Upper Jay and started the climb into Wilmington. I made sure to keep my water topped off. At the Aid Station in Jay I got shot blocks (Spearmint… EW!) and ate two of those, washing them down with water. I made sure to drink lots of Gatorade to compensate for not eating Clif bars for the remainder of the bike. My stomach started feeling weird about half way through loop 2 and I made a plan to take some Pepto in T2.
The climbs got tougher and the last 10 miles on the bike were mentally the toughest. I was ready to be done with it, I started counting down the miles and that’s when I know that I’m over it. Seeing the Team MPI support sign was helpful, but I also thought about what it took for me to get to where I was, and all of the people who hadn’t been able to reach that point in the past and on that day.
I pushed on, climbed the three bears again with the crowd cheering and this time, I started tearing up. I was almost done with the bike and the only thing that remained between me and the Ironman finish line was a run. All I had to do was run. I came into town, saw my support network again, and made my way into transition. At the bike end, I saw another familiar face who told me I was looking strong, and I dropped my bike to a catcher and proceeded to change for the run.
I was still really sandy on my back from the wetsuit stripping and my plan was to completely change into a fresh kit and sports bra. As I stripped off my bike stuff, I used the water bottle I packed to rinse off the sand the best that I could, pulled on my shorts, had the volunteer help me take off/ put on my sports bra, and pulled on my tri top. I sprayed myself down with sunscreen, had the volunteer put body glide on my back, put my socks and shoes on. I then pulled on the flip belt, stuffed my gels, salt, chapstick, and grabbed two Pepto Bismol pills downed them with water and put the baggie with the stomach pills in the flip belt too. I put on the visor, bib, and sunglasses and was off to start the 26.2 mile run toward the finish line.
I wanted to start slower on the run and maintain a consistent 10:15-10:20 pace for as much of it as I could. Running out of town was relatively easy since there’s a lot of downhill. I got to the first uphill, made it through and was at the first aid station. I walked all of the aid stations, taking water, coke, Gatorade, and water again. A few sips of each to keep hydrated and keep fueling with calories. I stopped at the second aid station to use the bathroom (since I hadn’t done it in transition) and then saw my friend Christine at aid station 2! That was great! She told me that one of my friends (Bond) was ahead of me on the run and I made it a point to find her ahead of me and catch up to her (without blowing up). Steady and consistent was my motto for the run. I had a solid swim and bike, and there was no point in blowing the run just to catch up with Bond.
As I started running after the second aid station, my stomach from the bike caught up to me and I had to go to the bathroom. I made it to the third station, stopped again to go and continued. I caught up to Bond and we chatted for a bit, then she took off and I backed off to my 10:20 pace. I took a gel at 45 minutes, then again at 1:30, then at 2:15. I walked the big hill coming back into town and saw Christopher. I stopped to give him a hug/ kiss and continued to special needs. Special needs: I refilled my gels and decided to bypass the long sleeve shirt that I had packed, because I knew that I would be finished before the sun went down. I run walked to the turn around and was on my way onto loop 2. I saw Christopher again and knew that only I had only 13.1 miles left until I became an Ironman. WOAH.
Ok, run loop 2: I think the downhills out of town killed my stomach. I tried everything I knew to do (tighten the core, lean into the hill) to control the jostling that happens on steep downhills, but it didn’t help. Run aid station 2 came and went and as I passed it, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again. Since this had happened to me during my marathon training (so many gastro issues, ask me about that later), I knew what I had to do. I started trying to dig around for my stomach pills in my flip belt, but couldn’t find them and just focused on walk/ running to the next aid station to go. I finally made it and after making sure to take lots of Gatorade (to replace electrolytes) and no Coke at this one, I felt better and was on my way to finish the last 10 miles. One thing I forgot to do was to turn off the autostop on the run function on my Garmin. Which meant that every time I walked the aid stations, it paused (thanks, Garmin for telling me I’m not moving fast enough). So, that meant that even though I was walking, my time AND distance was off. I finally realized that I could look at the real time of day and calculate based on that what my finish time would be. It’s around this time, that I realized that I’d be breaking 14 hours. By how much depended on how quickly I ran the second loop.
I decided that steady was best and continued with my “run at 10:20 pace, walk the aid stations, walk the hills approach.” I consistently took gels every 45 minutes, made sure I took water, coke, Gatorade, water at the aid stations (and snuck a few pretzels for fun). The way back on the second loop, the sun was going down and it was getting cooler. I saw Bond again this time, we passed each other in opposite directions – I was on my way back to town and she was headed to the turn around on the second loop. I shouted some encouragement and continued on. The countdown had begun – 6 miles left, 5 miles left, 4 miles left. A volunteer was handing out glow necklaces and most of the time I’m all about that. However, my goal from the outset was to finish before dark. I bypassed it as proof to myself that I could get it done. I saw Sandi (another familiar face) on her first loop heading back into town, she looked solid and was in great spirits! I wished her a great run and continued to the right turn to the bridge. I walked up the big hill off of River Rd. and ran to the next aid station.
Throughout the run, there were a few times I started feeling side stitches and took extra Base Salt to counteract that. “Fireball” was playing as I made my way down the hill before the last big push into town. I love the beat and I ran/ danced as I passed the Hoka inflatable. I had a huge smile on my face because I was almost done. I couldn’t WAIT to see Christopher on the last out and back before the Oval – I was doing this thing and I was going to come in between 13:30 and 13:40! I had tears welling up in my eyes as I could hear the crowd getting louder, but forced myself to focus on the last 20 minutes. I finally saw him right before the turn onto Mirror Lake Dr. and yelled, “IT’S SO CLOSE” basically crying. As I made my way toward the final turn around on Mirror Lake Dr, I was smiling like an idiot. I was almost done. I was almost an Ironman. I didn’t take anything at the last aid station, and picked up the pace down the hill to the “FINISH” arrow.
As I entered the Oval, I had tears streaming down my face. I was high-fiving the spectators. And then the concrete ended and the red carpet began. I looked up and saw the finish. That’s the point where I lost it – all of my focus on the goal and plan execution was done and all I had to do was make it to hear Mike Reilly say my name and announce me as an Ironman. Head in my hands, I crossed the finish line and it barely registered, “Daria, you are an Ironman!” Christina and Lindsay were ready to catch me at the finish – huge hugs all around and I just broke down ugly crying. So much emotion was wrapped up in that finish. The time it took me was 13:31:08. I broke 14 hours. I finished while it was still light outside. I beat my own expectations. I beat my coach’s expectations. I beat 3 pros on the swim. I trusted my body to know what to do. I adjusted when there were bumps in the road. I was steady. I shined, I didn’t burn. I persisted. I gave myself credit. I am an Ironman.