Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 Ironman Lake Placid- Bike

This is Part 2 of my Ironman Lake Placid experience. The race preview can be found here while Part 1 can be found here.

Transitioning from Swim to Bike
When we last left our hero (me), I was running the quarter mile from the beach to the transition area. This can be a little hectic. First, during training, I have not practiced running a good distance on a 24" piece of astroturf. And, since I'm not much of a runner, several people jumped ahead of me during this stretch.  Then, picture a scene where 2900 people have hung a bag on a hook. Now, try to find 1 bag out of the lot that has your stuff in it. It's a little like trying to find a specific shirt in the Wife's closet. Not impossible but just not fast. Luckily, the bags are all numbered and hung in sequential rows. Each row is marked with an identifying number as well (hint to wife). All you have to do is run through the correct row, find your bag in sequence, and head on over to the changing tent.

Inside the tent, it looks like it is set up for an outdoor wedding, minus the bride and groom. Several folding chairs are awaiting along with a score of incredibly helpful volunteers. I found a chair and opened my bike bag. Inside, I find my shirt, helmet, sunglasses, bike gloves, bike shoes, and some nutrition. The volunteer frantically helped me remove these items from the bag (and by helped- he did pretty much all the work). I placed said items on my body parts and started to clean up. "No no," said the volunteer, "I got this. You go now." I love this guy. I headed out the tent's exit while he snatched up my wetsuit, cap, and goggles, placed them in my bike bag, and returned it to the hook. Then, I assume, he repeated this process for hundreds of others.

Upon exiting the tent, I had to find my bike. Glance at the picture on the left and see if you can spot it. It is a black, Giant Trinity triathlon bike with the number 1355 plastered on it several times over. Can't find it? Don't worry, I couldn't find it either. Alas, I didn't need to. As I left the tent, some volunteer with a bullhorn announced my arrival by shouting out my race number. While I race from the white tent (on the left in the pic), I had to make my way towards the blue tent thingies. Then, there is a middle path to run down with bikes racked on both left and right sides. Each row is numbered and labeled. As I approached my row, low and behold, another awesome volunteer is holding my bike. I have found yet another love in this race. I grab my bike, shout a thanks to this lady, and cantor down to the bike mount.

The Bike
Not pictured- Me
The bike mount area starts immediately downhill. In fact, this is one of the steepest downhill starts with several sharp turns on the circuit. It's nice in that you have to do little to no work to get going. It's not-so nice in that it can be a bit dangerous for delirious people with water in their head and delusions of grandeur. There are lots of people vying for similar spaces. One some of the turns, the race organizers had set up bales of hay to serve as a cushion for out of control cyclists. On lap 2, some of those bales were disturbed. <shudder>

After a short descent, the race progresses upwards for about 3 miles until it rolls a bit. I promised myself that I would control this section of the ride, which I did so admirably. One thing I can distinctly remember is a higher-than-normal level of thirst. Strapped to the front of my bike, I have a 20 ounce water bottle which typically lasts for about an hour on even hard rides. During IMLP, it made it only 15 minutes, which was convenient as this was when the first aid station appeared. I replenished my juice but my thirst never subsided. The race kept climbing and people kept passing. I let them go careful not to engage the enemy early in the race on a climb.

You can see the sharp downhill section from mile 8 to mile 14. That is the fly zone. Knowing that this section was approaching, I took advantage of this opportunity to cram a Cliff bar down my gullet and slurp up a larger-than-normal amount of water. Then, I laid down on my aerobars and tucked in for 15 minutes of hair-on-fire speed. Many of the people that passed me on the way up were left in my wake as I whooshed past on the way down. My average speed during this section was over 40 mph while topping out at 45. Don't worry, there's more climbing to be done on the back 9 of this course. These people will have their revenge.

As the hills flattened out, we rode mostly flat, smooth roads for roughly 20 miles.  Imagine yourself, during a race, passing hundreds upon hundreds of people.  Feel the emotion and glory of sailing by a plethora of racers whom you have now put behind you. At one time, these people bested your speed. Ha, no longer. You are now in front. Seems like a great feeling, right? Well, I had the reverse of that. Even though I was averaging 20-22 mph on this stretch, I got passed and passed by some amazing athletes. It seems that the streams of people sailing on past was never ending. I knew that I had beaten thousands of people out of the water. It seems that they were repaying the favor on lap 1 of the bike.  I tried to ignore them and carry on with my race.

After the flats had ended, right around mile 35, we had to go up. See, according to the Law of Gravity, what goes up must come down. IMLP takes that law and twists its words. In a grunt of agony, the law becomes 'what goes down must come up' and I do not have a "biking up" strength. I really need to change that in the future. Regardless of what my future lies, the path lead up and kept at it for roughly the next 20 miles. I grant you that there were some breaks in this venture but they were not nearly long enough to bring a smile.

I had hoped that I could control this section of the ride by monitoring my heart rate. I planned on keeping my HR in Zone 2 for the flats (in the 140s)  and Zone 3 or below for the climbs, which translates to 150-160 beats per minute. For the most part, I was wholly successful. My average HR for the entire 112 miles was 144 bpm and when I look at the hill data, the highest I saw mid-race was 162. This met my race plan.

Before the race had started, the Wife asked me to give her a list of times that I would be riding through downtown Lake Placid. I announced that I would start the ride at about 8:00. I actually started at 8:04.  I postulated that I would be finishing the first lap at 11:00 +/- :10. I made it back to town at 11:01. How's that for superb estimation?!

Lap 2 was more of the same. The same uphill out of town. Only this time, it was a bit harder. The same downhill flying into Keene. Only this time, for some reason, it was a little slower. The same flats on the backside. Only this time, it seemed a little longer. The same climb back into town. Only this time, the legs hurt a little more. Despite what felt like an eternity, one positive I noticed was that the number of people who were passing me dropped steadily. Whereas hundreds (literally) passed me on the first lap, I estimate only 50 or so passed me on the second. Further, I was able to take back a few positions (very few, mind you). From a freshness point-of-view, my legs were tired but not as tired as they had been in the past.

After finally making it, once again, back to downtown Lake Placid, I was met be the scores of screaming fans and volunteers. If you think a Hoot and Holler is motivational, then I highly suggest you experience the IronCrowd as they scream, clap, and chant for your benefit. I bet that the spectators expend as much energy as the competitors. It really didn't matter that none of these people knew me, had seen me before, or will ever see me again. They successfully transferred their spectator energy into me and I was ready to tackle the looming marathon.

I told the Wife that I'd be back on my feet and starting the run at 2:00 pm +/- :20 minutes. This matched my goal time of a 6 hour ride. My official ride time? 6:02. I started the run at 2:06 pm. I love a well executed plan.

In shorter races, I count how many people pass me on the bike versus how many people I pass to gauge my race position. For IMLP, not so much. After analyzing the data, I learned that about 550 people passed me on the bike. That's about 5 people per mile ridden and the number is smaller than I expected. I finished the ride in 642 place with an average speed of 18.6 mph. This is not my fastest Ironman bike split, nor was it the slowest.

With 114.4 miles under my belt, the day was mostly finished. There was only 26.2 miles of a marathon left. Piece of cake. If I manage a 4 hour run, I will be very happy. If I go under a 4:30, I set a personal record. Both of these are withing my mystical capabilities. Did I do it? I know, the suspense in mind-boggling but you'll have to wait until later for the conclusion of this epic tale. Coming soon to a blog post near you, 2011 Ironman Lake Placid- Run.


  1. Oooh! Very excited to read about the run. What an excellent bike! Love those IMLP volunteers and spectators - the best of any race around :)

  2. great write up! looking forward to the next episode! that bike course looks nasty 8-0