Saturday, July 23, 2011

Race Preview- Ironman Lake Placid

I've eluded in the past that I was going to write more. Then one form of chaos happened on top of another. Suddenly I was scrambling for a new place to stay in Lake Placid. We actually found a decent one, at a decent price, which allows us to bring our doggies. The Wife probably wouldn't come without them. Those of you with kids might know what I'm getting at here.

Well, the new place doesn't really have network access or good phone strength. The house next door has access, which I have been given permission to use but I feel like a bit of a stalker. I have calculated the minimum distance I can sit between my place and theirs whilst garnering a reliable signal strength. Seems a bit creepy.

So, without further adieu, here's the nitty and the gritty on IMLP:

On the Swim
The 2.4 mile swim is in Mirror Lake, on the back side of downtown Lake Placid. The lake is not that big. The mass start is expecting 2900 people to be crammed into a space roughly as wide as 2 semi-trucks are long. If you have ever gone to a fish rookery and dropped some of the pellets into the water for young troutlings and remember what they looked like as they swam on top, rolled over each other, smacked each other around a bit... That's a mass swim start. It's crazy with a smidgen of WTF tossed in.

The racers here, myself including, are all abuzz about wetsuit legality. If the water temperature at race time is less than 78º, wetsuits are fully legal. If the temp is over 78º but under 84º, wetsuits are semi-legal (my term). This means that we can wear them but forfeit our right to win a prize or qualify for <gulp> Kona. If we get water +84º, leave your neoprene on the shore.

If the gun went off on Saturday morning, the status would be semi-legal. There are many, many people most uncomfortable with this. Swimming is a challenging discipline and lots depend on the extra buoyancy to turn in a respectable time (or to not drown in the cacophony). However, the overnight low in the greater Adirondack region is slated for the low 50ºs. Since Mirror Lake is not that large, it may be enough to cool it down to the magic mark of 77.999999999º F. Hopefully, they'll take that temp before 2900 people climb in and, umm, bring the temp back up.

I will, with a high level of probability, be wearing a wetsuit. My reasoning is 2 fold. 1. My training does not indicate that I will be winning a prize or qualifying for Kona this year. 2. If the overnight low is in the low 50ºs, it will not be significantly warmer come 6:00. I'll be wearing a neoprene jacket race morning.

On the Bike
There's something about Ironman racing that I have not mastered yet. I probably won't master it this year either, but I'm working towards that goal. The Ironman is not a swim race, a bike race, and then a run race. I have that attitude towards sprint and olympic distance events. I had that attitude in the past for M-Dot races as well. I am not a good 140.6 racer because of that attitude. Granted, I could probably get away with swimming hard. But biking hard? Forget about it.

The 112 bike ride is all about conservation and intelligence. I haven't conserved much in the past. And, wait, what was that second thing again? Well, it probably wasn't important. Therefore, I'm stuck with conservation. I'm capable of finishing the ride in about 5 hours and 40 minutes. That would be a great time if I didn't have another portion of the race still looming. I am planning on monitoring the heart closely, taking in ample fluids and carbs, and coming off the bike feeling only moderately tired. The idea is to turn a 5:40 into a 6 hour ride and feel confident when I pop off. Again, I have not mastered this yet.

The initial part of the ride out of LP takes you to a town called Keene. After a couple of fast descends, you climb for a couple of miles until you reach the summit of your daily elevation. This needs to be done carefully. Your legs are relatively fresh, but there is lots of riding left to be done. After the summit, you plummet for the next 8 miles. It is not unusual to hit speeds of 50+ mph on this stretch of relatively bad roads (see rant below). I plan on eating a drinking plenty before the dive knowing I have about 20 minutes of low heart rate in which to digest. Depending on the wind, I will do this entire drop tucked in aero.

The next 18 miles or so are rather flat with a couple of short rollers tossed in to keep people awake. In the past, this was a place where I raced. The road from Keene out to Jay is a smooth, rider friendly area. Again, I must learn to relax. If people want to pass me, go right ahead. This is my race, not theirs.

Remember those 8 miles of going down, well, you have to go back up. From Jay, you climb your way back up to Wilmington. There are some rather hefty slopes. Turn left at Wilmington and you have a 10 mile climb of varying gradients to get you back to the start.

Insert Rant Here- To add insult to injury, the roads on the biggest ascents and descents are some of the crappiest roads ever to be placed on a race course. They're so bad that the NY Department of Transportation makes all racers sign a separate waiver stating that we won't hold the NYDOT responsible for anything. I do all of my racing (for now) exclusively in New York State and this is the only race in which a separate race waiver is required. Dear NYDOT, please re-invest some of the millions of dollars that the Ironman brings to Lake Placid annually on some asphalt for the course. -I feel better now.

As one man named Tom put it several years ago, its not necessarily the hills themselves, but the placement of the hills. You get relatively no opportunity to recover from the hills before you start the run.

On the Run
The run for the IMLP course is pretty straight forward. Run out of town, turn left at the ski jumps, run 4 miles along a river, turn around and head back. Do that twice. What's the old idiom? Just because something is simple doesn't mean it's easy. That describes the run.

For one, it's a marathon. Twenty six point two miles is not considered easy by anyone except the most badass people on the planet. I am not one of those people. 

For two, there are pretty much no flat areas on the course. You are either going up or going down. The point is that it's tough to find a pace or a rhythm. It's an entire roller coaster's worth  of bobbing and it can wear on you after a while.

For three, there are 2 larger than average hills. One of them is big enough to have a name, Mill Hill. You go down on the way out and up on the way back. This translates that, when your legs are the weakest, your legs are the most tired, your spirit has already been broken, you still have to climb those %$&* hills. Mill Hill adds another layer of deception. From the bottom, it towers over you like a bully ready to steal your triathlon milk money. Except, you are strong and are ready to look that bully in the eye and say, "I'm keeping my quarter, thank you very much." You trudge up and crest the hill. The course turns you to the left. The hill laughs at you again. Your hopes and dreams continue to be stomped as the hill keeps going for another quarter mile. Mill Hill is most unkind.

After all the uphills precariously placed near the end, the race organizers have found a way to end the run on a downhill. The down starts at around mile 25. The last mile pulls you along and you enter a state of euphoria. Thousands of people are clapping and cheering. You can hear the music and the announcer off in the distance. Every step brings you closer as evidenced by the increased volume of the noise. You can run as fast as you want (mostly because your legs fell off below the knees coming up the Mill but you are too tired to notice).

The energy of the day is returned to you for the final 0.2 miles as you enter the stadium and take a half turn around the track. You see your image on the jumbo tron along with your name. There's a finisher's arc, mats, and a tape for you to cross. As you cross the line, a man on the mic shouts out, " ___________ (your name), You are and Ironman!" It's a spectacular finish.

So there you have it. The culmination of 9 months of training, 2 injuries, and some life that got in the way will come to head at 7:00 am on Sunday morning. With any luck, I'll be crying on my rented sofa about the pain, popping anti-inflamatories and shoveling pasta into my mouth at an heroic rate by 7:00 pm. In the words of the immortals Wayne and Garth, "Game On."

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