Ironman Lake Placid – 20th Anniversary – Race Report

I’ve been MIA for months & months.  Not racing.  Not socializing.  Just training and going thru the motions of life as a busy working parent.  The buildup to Ironman Lake Placid was the longest I’ve ever done without interspersing races to alleviate the boredom.  I usually run 10-12 marathons per year, in addition to racing 3-4 half ironman distance TRIs.  In 2018, I did one marathon prior to Lake Placid.  1 Olympic triathlon.  1 half iron distance triathlon.  Then IMLP on July 22, 2018.

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I trained for 25 weeks.  I had a couple cycles within the training plan, a little time off here and there to manage life. I did the best that I could, on all fronts, with this volume of training.  I hit most of my workouts, not necessarily as prescribed but usually managed the time or distance requirements, with a few exceptions.  I had a coach.  Do I recommend having a coach?  Yes.  Have I ever had a coach before, or felt like I needed one?  No.  However, the added volume required for this distance necessitated a clean buildup without any BS or extra workouts.  I didn’t want to mess this up in case I never had the opportunity to do it again.  As it was, I waited over 9 years to sign up for my first full iron distance race.  I didn’t want to blow it!

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Pre-Race!  Ironman races require packet pick up, pre-race meetings and bike check-in, all before race day.  As a result, this adds to the cost of the trip and the $$ that you’ll spend while visiting the area.  Lake Placid is one of the most expensive venues on the Ironman circuit.  If you are heading to Lake Placid, save your pennies and some dollars too!  We arrived on Thursday for the Sunday race.

Friday – Early morning practice swim & the Bacon Meat & Greet by Lake Mirror. Both were optional.

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Mirror Lake is very clean and clear.  Some of the best water I’ve swam in to date.  There is a famed cable that runs between the buoys.  If you can get on the cable or close to it, there isn’t much need to site on race day.  This makes the Lake Placid swim fast, if you can use the cable!  Beware, the buoys are connected to the cable.  If you are swimming over or “on top” of the cable, then be prepared to swim under the buoys!

Packet pickup & pre-race meeting – Mandatory.  We did both of these things on FRI.  Packet pick up was quick but did have a few extra steps, like weigh in.  Volunteers weighed each athlete & wrote the weight and which scales were used on the back of our bibs.  If there was a medical emergency, like dehydration, they had our pre-race baseline.  Scales used at packet pick-up are then transferred to the medical tent for consistency purposes.  Serious stuff.   Also serious, the pre-race meeting. Don’t miss it.  They have several and each venue is different.  This is where they give new info, tell about changes to the course, or make note of places that are dangerous.  And maybe, just maybe, Mike Reilly will make an appearance to toss out a few words of encouragement and motivation!

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Bike check-in is also mandatory, the day prior to the race.  I’d highly recommend taking the bike for a short spin before checking it in for the night.  Lots can happen in transit.  Make sure you don’t need any last minute adjustments before race day.  Lines for bike check-in were long.  We waited probably 20 minutes to get to the point where they took our bike, put it against a white screen, then photographed it.  Then it was returned to us, we waited another 15-20 minutes to get into transition, where each athlete had a volunteer escort them to their transition spot.  Then we said goodbye to our bikes.  Hung our Bike & Run bags on the hooks.  And walked away.

View of bikes, all racked in the Olympic Oval.  Source:  Ironman Lake Placid Facebook page

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View of my bike, seat sitting on #628.  Not a lot of room for the bikes since we didn’t have a normal transition set up.  Volunteers in T1 would go get the bikes off the rack & bring it to the end of the row for you.  Then there were “bike catchers” after the bike segment who would take your bike back to its transition spot.

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Race day!  The clouds were dark and rain was on the way!   We dropped our nutrition with our bikes.  Pumped tires.  Put our clothes & shoes in the “Morning Bag”, dropped it on the hook below our run/bike bags.  Then headed to the swim start.  It was a wetsuit legal day.  Meaning water temp was 76.1 degrees or below.  Happy Dance!!!  2.4 mile swim, here we come!

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Pro field took off at 6:20am.  Age groupers had a self-seeded, rolling start beginning at 6:40am with the goal of having everyone in the water by 7am.  2 loop swim course.  Between loop 1 and 2, athletes had to exit the water, run across the beach & re-enter the water.  Photo source:  Ironman Lake Placid Facebook Page (I don’t think this is the 2018 start).

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A couple things about the swim.  I don’t want to scare anyone but I think its important to address.  Mirror Lake is possibly the best water I’ve ever swam.  Until race day.  The water was still awesome but the athletes were VERY aggressive. I was at the back of the 1:11-1:20 group.  I thought I’d swim about 1:20.  I swam a 1:16. Maybe I should have been in the middle of this group, instead of at the back, but it shouldn’t have mattered much.  The people around me beat the crap out  of me.  Plus we were constantly passing swimmers who had started ahead of us, and who really wanted to swim the line.  It was total carnage.  I heard of people being punched (purposely), I head of lifeguards threatening to pull swimmers who were being too aggressive.  I saw swimmers hanging onto boats & rafts before we even got a couple buoys into the swim.  I saw a green swim cap on the bottom of the lake and am guessing the poor soul’s goggles were under the water, somewhere near the cap.  It was rough.  I erroneously assumed that if I held my line (which wasn’t even on “the line”) then I’d have clear water on the 2nd loop.  Well, I didn’t.  And it was worse cuz then we were passing the slower swimmers.  I gave up my position and navigated myself out of the way.  I lost 2+ minutes on that 2nd loop, I’m kinda mad about that.  But maybe it was the right thing.  The swim is supposed to be the easy part.  Relaxing.  Fun.  I was just mad and felt like I should have taken boxing classes to prepare.  IF by chance you are  not a strong swimmer, please swim very wide to avoid the crunch.  Apparently the swim gets crazy like this every year due to overcrowding.  My friend said she swam wide and was fine. So take note, swim wide.

Out of the water.  Run maybe 3 blocks to transition.  Grab Bike bag.  Go to changing tent.  Volunteers may be available to help you get changed.  When I was there, the tent was full and the volunteers were busy.  I got ready by myself, then ran out of the tent with my bike bag.  Wrong.  Don’t do that.  Thankfully a kind volunteer outside the tent offered to take it for me!  Run thru transition toward bike.  Yell out bike number.  Volunteer gets your bike & brings it to the end of the rack.  Run bike out of transition.  Mount bike at Bike Mount Line.  Transition 1 – 7:25.

On the bike.  Yikes.  Here come the mountains.  And the rain.  Hello rain.  Pelting rain.  Off for 2 loops – 112 miles total.  According to Ironman, each loop had approximately 4,182 feet of climbing, so total climbing on both loops = 8,364 feet.

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This was my weakest area.  I knew it. I’m a poor climber.  I rode every hill in my area, many, many times.  But nothing can compare.  I suffered.  I didn’t go fast.  I couldn’t go fast.

Downhill out of Lake Placid.  Toward the Olympic Ski Jumps, then the Keene Descent.  The infamous Keene Descent, which consisted of the majority of our descending for the entire loop, was something I was actually looking forward to but the pelting rain, and crazy winds took the fun out of it.  I’m a good downhill rider but I was upright, holding on for dear life, hoping the wind wouldn’t blow my wheels off the road surface.  Upper Jay.  Wilmington.  Out and back on Haselton.  Yay, got to see the family on Haselton because we stayed out that way!  Hello family!  Goodbye family!  Thru Wilmington toward Whiteface Mountain.  Turn on 86.  Detour thru the Whiteface Mountain Ski area.  Back on 86.  Goldilocks “hill”.  Momma Bear hill.  Baby Bear hill.  Papa Bear hill.  Just finished the “3 Bears” which wasn’t near as bad as some of the other “unnamed” hills.  Big hill up Northwood Road, back into Lake Placid.  Pass Lake Placid Lake.  On to loop 2.

Aid stations on the bike were every 10-12 miles.  Water, Gatorade, potties, bananas, oranges, Cliff products.  Medical support was usually in this area too.  Roads & intersections where we had turns were staffed by police or volunteers.  Some spectator support interspersed along the course.

It’s a tough bike course. Also breathtakingly beautiful.  This was one of my favorite areas going toward Keene.  My friend Elina G took this photo.  The entire area is amazing and definitely helped pass the time on the bike.  And I was on the bike forever.  7 hrs & 35 minutes, which was 35 minutes longer than I had even predicted.

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But I finally got my axx over the 3 Bears on the final loop and was headed back toward transition.  I cried a few tears.  It was about a minute of ugly cry.  I was so grateful to be headed toward my run shoes.  I wasn’t unduly chafed.  I wasn’t hurting.  I was just ready to get off the bike.

Rolled up to T2.  Dismounted at the Bike Dismount line.  Volunteers took my bike.  I walked to my Run bag.  Walked to the changing tent.  I was barefoot and there were a lot of rocks.  And I was tired.  Into the changing tent a volunteer helped me with sunscreen and getting ready to run.  She filled my bottle and mixed my Tailwind.  Then I was off & running. Yes, finally!  Lake Placid was my 50th marathon so it was a bit of a celebratory run for me.  T2 – 5:23

Two loop run course.  26.2 miles total.  Out & back course so I got to see all my friends multiple times.  Run out of town was awesome.  Downhill, my favorite!!  Saw Leslie B spectating.  She got this photo!  Thank you!

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Lots of people spectating, drinking and having a huge party along the run course.  Past the crowds, past the Olympic Ski Jump, out toward River Road.   Quiet, peaceful.  Nice views.  Some hills.  Ironman listed elevation as 1,604 per loop.  So that was a total climb of 3,208 ft.  To be honest, it didn’t seem that bad to me.  But then maybe I was just THAT happy to be off the bike.  There were some hills, yes.  Some big ones.  I would run part of the hill, then walk the rest of the way up.  My general strategy was run to the aid station.  Aid stations were every mile.  Walk THRU the aid station and make sure I got enough ice, water, coke, oranges, etc.  I really was in survival mode.  Keep moving. Keep the sugar going in to avoid low blood sugar.  I had a couple twinges in my quads while running.  Each time, I stopped immediately and took some salt capsules.  I was very focused on what my body needed to keep moving.  That was all that mattered.  I knew the finish would eventually present itself IF I just kept moving.

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Run was finally coming to an end.  That 2nd loop was a bit of a celebration for me.  And then once I got back to the big climb to get back into town, I was just happy knowing I was almost done.  I walked up the giant hill.  With all the spectators yelling and cheering.  Turned the corner for more climbing.  All while walking.  Then everything flattened out for a tiny out and back along Mirror Lake Drive.  Then into the Olympic Oval for the finish.  I was really cruising at this point.  I know everyone says to “take it all in” and not go too fast at the finish but I really just wanted to be finished.  I passed a lot of people on the carpet toward the finish.  I did have to slow at the finish because of a lady in front of me.  I knew I could pass her but then I knew she would probably be upset because she might not get her moment.  So I slowed up but then finally was finished.  Done, Done, DONE!!!  Yes!!  That’s me in the back with my hands up as Mike Reilly called my name.

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And just like that I’m an Ironman!  5:00 marathon for #50.  New York was my 30th state too in my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.  I’m an Ironman.  A dream that was 9+ years in the making.  14 hrs & 5 minutes was my official time for the full day.

Lots of SWAG:

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Ironman Lake Placid is a great race.  This was the 20th anniversary and they have a rich tradition with Ironman.  I liked the race a lot.  Its difficult to set up a race of 140.6 miles and have things go pretty smoothly.  And I think overall the process from start to finish was smooth.  There were 2092 finishers and many who were not able to finish for a variety of reasons.  The distance is not something to take lightly.  It takes something more than being fit and a good training cycle to finish something like this.  It takes heart & courage.  And luck.  There are so many things that can go wrong that have nothing to do with the athlete or their preparation.  I’m very thankful that I was able to finish something like this.

The training cycle for the 140.6 distance is long.  And not so fun.  I was very thankful my friend Julie M was going thru this at the same time because she was my sounding board or “complaint department” when I was tired or grumpy or frustrated or just needed to talk.  Thanks, Julie for ALWAYS being there.  So happy that we took this journey together, even if we took different paths to get to the finish line!  Julie M  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!  Congrats, girl!  So proud of you!!!

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And that’s a wrap!  Thanks to hubby for managing the house/dogs while I was training and racing this cycle.  Thanks to mom for coming on the trip with me and managing the kids when Julie & I were out and about doing Ironman things.  Thanks to Julie’s hubby, Joe for all he did for us in Lake Placid:  getting our bikes, entertaining the kids, driving the parents/kids to the finish.  Thanks to my coach Diana S for dealing with my hectic schedule and putting together a plan to get me to the finish without blowing me up before I got to the race.  Thanks to the Masters Swim coaches (Dave & Bill) at Jorgensen YMCA in Ft Wayne IN for making me a decent swimmer who can apparently take a beating.  And lastly, thanks to Ron K from FNA Outdoors in New Lenox IL for keeping me rocking & rolling on the bike for the last 5+ years.  Nobody can be an Ironman without an awesome bike … that also works great!

Thanks to YOU for reading this long report.  And if you made it this far, you might be wondering if I’ll be doing anymore Ironman races.  If you talked to me while I was training, I for sure said “one & done”. Yeah, well, I think I’m going to go to Louisville next year with some friends.  So yeah, I think I’ll do it again.  I have a few months to change my mind but I’ll probably sign up for Ironman Louisville, October 2019.

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Next up:  Dam to Dam Century Ride in Wabash IN (9/9/18) and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (11/3/18).

** Happy Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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