You've heard of the Ironman triathlons, right? If you have not, they're the perfectly, totally and completely sane triathlons that have a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 (i.e., marathon) run. All in sequence. All in one day. Well, really 17 hours ... you have 17 hours to complete those three legs of the race to be considered an "Ironman." Since I got into triathlon over a year ago, Ironman has seemed a little less crazy ... much like the marathon did when I started running. It was not something I could do right then and there, but a goal -- a tough and yet at the same time, attainable goal. I am training for a half-Ironman distance right now. It's in the beginning of September and is an aggressive race with a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 (i.e., half marathon) run. But the full Ironman ... that's what I dream about.
My friends, Amy and Bill, are also triathletes and distance runners. We've trained together for a bunch of races and they, too, are interested in Ironman. It's hard to write "ironman" - we joked that it is The Race That Shall Not Be Named. We've been talking for months about going for it, and decided that if we did, Ironman Lake Placid seemed like the best fit. Lake Placid is the closest Ironman location to us, at a 6.5 hour drive. It is also in the Adirondack Mountains ... hellloooooo hills. But it seems that Irons are either hilly or hot. We can train on hills. We all hate the heat. Hills it is.
Before we officially committed to register (which is, in itself, an entirely separate, complicated and competitive process -- it is kind of mind blowing that there is a huge market for such a punishing, difficult race, no?), we wanted to do a dry run of the course just to make sure it was (a) attainable and (b) something we actually wanted to do. So, last weekend, we hopped in the car and headed up to Lake Placid for a weekend of training. It was the perfect time to go: the actual Ironman race was the weekend after, so we knew we'd be pretty much alone on the course as the actual Ironman athletes were tapering and the course would be set up. Our plan was to do as follows: early Saturday morning bike one 56 mile loop of the bike course followed immediately by a bit of a run of the marathon course and on Sunday swim one 1.2 mile lap of the swim course in Mirror Lake. We got up there around 6:00 pm and decided to drive the bike course, just so we knew what to expect. This was such a good idea - in fact, we pulled up my blogger friend Maria's blog who recapped the course in painstaking detail, and we literally read out loud her amazingly detailed summary/notes of the course as we drove it. So helpful! We checked into the hotel (Crowne Plaza in town - a hop skip from both Mirror Lake where the swim happens and the Olympic Oval where transition and the finish are) and then went to dinner. We should have researched restaurants because while the place we went to was great, their carb options (for me and Bill) and gluten-free options (for Amy) were a little lacking. We all had steak ... delicious, but not the best choice for a huge workout the next day. We were all checking the forecasts a ton b/c there was a threat of rain all day on Saturday, which would suck the big one for a long, hilly bike ride.
Saturday we woke up and the sky was cloudy but no rain. So at 6:30, we were outside and took off. I was excited, nervous, and ready. I was most nervous of the 6 mile descent into the town of Keene, which happens a few into the bike ride. It is a very long descent and very steep and with traffic on the roads and my fear of downhills, I was really having anxiety about this. You cannot brake the entire descent or you will burn out your brakes. UGH! Here are my notes on the course.
|one of the many descent/climb sections of the course|
1. Climb out of town. The first part of the bike is the climb out of town. It's mostly flat and then about 2-3 miles in, you hit a long hill with no end in sight. It took awhile to get up, and it is pretty tough that early in the ride. Knowing we had 50+ miles ahead of us, we all took it easy. I used my small chain and just went easy and slow. I was prepared for this hill after reading Maria's recap.
2. Descent into Keene. Oy. I prepared for this sucker by watching a ton of You Tube videos on the descent where people strapped video cameras to their handlebars. LOL. You know you're at the descent when you see a sign with a truck going off a cliff and a "TRUCKS USE LOW GEAR" on it. Like this.
So I see the sign and I brace myself. I remind myself that I am in control. I am safe. It is sometimes better to let your bike go than brake. There was a nice headwind on that descent, which slowed us down a little. And there was literally no traffic. The descent was fine and fast. Now that I know what to expect, I will go even faster next time. Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the hill, albeit with hands that were in the shape of claws after death-gripping my handlebars for 6 miles.
|there are three main sections of the descent to Keene, each marked with one or more of these suckers.|
3. Keene to Jay. OMG I loved this part. It is a flat, if a bit downhill, long ride from the town of Keene to the town of Jay. It was just breathtaking. Stunning views of mountains and water and I kept thinking, "I am so thankful to be alive and so so thankful that I can do what I am doing." We also had the benefit of a tailwind, which helped.
4. Out and back from Jay. As much as I liked the Keene to Jay segment, I disliked this one! It wasn't very pretty, and I knew it was just a 5 mile out, 5 mile in way to get a few miles. I also knew that a big section of climbs was a waiting for us, and I just wanted to get to it.
5. Rollers on Route 86. Maria warned about these rolling hills and she was right. She called them "stairstep rollers" and said that no climb is particularly killer, but the cumulative effect of hill after hill after hill starts to hurt. She was spot-on. There were a bunch of descents, and unlike Keene, I let my bike soar down them. It was a nice break. Before I knew it, we were at the next part of the course.
|gorgeous. if I'm going to be on a bike for 112 miles, this is the place I want to be.|
6. Hasleton out and back. This one was easy - just a mile up Hasleton Road and a mile back. This was a nothing part, except for the scary dog that came a little too close to my bike for my liking. It was pretty flat, except the turn-around, which was a hill and challenging.
7. Final Climbs into Town. These are the famous five hills on the last 5 miles of the bike and they are tough. You are essentially climbing from mile 40 until the end, but the last five are concentrated in the last 3 or so miles. First you do Little Cherry which is just a roller, and then Big Cherry, which is longer (they're called Cherries b/c they are before and after the Cherry Patch Pond). Then there are the three Bear climbs: Mama Bear (the worst, IMO), which is a long long long climb. It felt like it took forever to get on top of Mama; then Baby Bear (hardly even a hill - just a little tiny bump) and then Papa, which looks worse than he is - very steep but short. Once you're on top of Papa, you're essentially done! There is a golf course at the top and people were so friendly up there and I was high knowing I did it!
Back to the hotel we went (um, up a ridiculously punishing steep hill from the street to the hotel), racked our bikes, changed into running gear and hit the run. We decided to run for 40 minutes. This is where my lack of fueling on the bike bit me in the butt. Whew. What a hard run. My legs were fine, but I was just beat. And that is because I did not eat nearly 1/4 of what I should have on the bike. My tank was empty. And I know better! You're supposed to treat your bike like a "bike buffet" and basically just eat and drink as much as possible (within reason of course) so your body is ready for your run. I did not do this. And it showed on the run. But I pushed through and managed 10 minute mile pace for 40 minutes. My watch had us hit 4 miles exactly at the Olympic Oval where the IM race ends! Omen! Yeah!! Did I mention there are ski jumps from the 1980 Olympics that are visible from the run and bike course? So cool. And maybe a little creepy.
On Sunday, we woke up early and went down to Mirror Lake, which was literally down the hill from our hotel. It's all set up for Ironman - the buoys are in the water. We got on our wetsuits and did a loop of the course. The water is stunning. STUNNING! Crystal clear, warm ... just beautiful.
Unfortunately, I started way too fast, and between that, my wetsuit (which always makes my heart rate zoom) and just the whole "OMG I AM SWIMMING IN THE IRONMAN LAKE!!!", it took me a while to settle into a good rhythm. I just floated on my back, bobbed up and down, breathed in and out, relaxed and gave myself permission to stop if I wanted to. I did not want to and finally got into it. My second half of the loop was terrific. I finished the 1.2 miles in 45 minutes. If I hadn't freaked out, it easily would have been 40. Lesson learned: slow down in the beginning even when training.
|this is how Mirror Lake looked last weekend|
|this is how Mirror Lake looks on race day|
So, the weekend was a success. We had a blast and walked away feeling great and strong. Registration is on Monday, and you can bet if we are able to get in (and decide to do so), I will let you know.
In the meantime, the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) is on Sunday. I want to wish my coworker Christina and her husband Jerre, my bloggie friends Maria and Brian and my recent acquaintance Carolyn all the best of luck. I've been following their training for months and am completely invested in their races.
See you swoon,