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Home » Endurance » Triathlons » Ironman » Lake Placid 2011 » Swim & Bike

Ironman Lake Placid — Race Day

Race Morning

Once again multiple alarms rang at 4 a.m. to start race day. I organized everything the night before, so all I had to do that morning was eat breakfast and drive into town. I arrived before five but still did not try to find parking in town, and used the remote lots.

Transition area inside the speed skating oval

In transition the athletes learned the water temperature was 77°, making wetsuits optional. Anyone that wore a neoprene would still receive an official finishing time, but would not be eligible for Kona slots or age group awards. Despite having no shot, I went without a wetsuit. I always dream, but realistically breaking eleven hours would have been a very solid race, which would still have left me well over an hour from a slot. Nevertheless, something in my psyche would not let me take the easier route and don a wetsuit.

On the beach I had an impatient wait for the race’s start, which never seemed to arrive. The athletes were finally cattle prodded into the water, and it was the chilliest 77° water in which I have swum. I was not cold in the water, but it seemed as if I have done wetsuit legal races in warmer water. Oh well, I could not change anything and everyone else was in the same boat…or at least lake. While waiting in the chillier than expected water, I saw the other racers from my home town, which was a nice bonus before the race.

The Swim

The cannon finally fired and the school of fish headed into the lake. The straight away to the first turn was intense, and I received my share of bumps, kicks, and getting swum over. Finding open water where I could extend my stroke was a nice rarity. For the rest of the time I grumpily fought my way through the crowd, reminding myself that by the end of the bike, this swim would not even seem real.

Road construction “Triathlon Race Sunday” sign

The first lap seemed to take a while, but I eventually emerged from the water onto the beach to start my second loop. The clock read 44 minutes, and this unexpectedly large time startled me. I knew swimming without a wetsuit would slow me, but not that much. Shortly into my second lap I realized the clock probably displayed the professional’s time, who had a ten minutes head start. This discovery meant my first lap was really 34 minutes, much closer to my expectations.

I saw the cable for much of the swim, which actually worried me. For my pace, to be so close to the wire meant I was in the thick of the pack. This could explain why I was bumped so much. I survived though and exited the water in 1:11, a very good time for me without a wetsuit. A several hundred yard run brought athletes to transition at the speed skating oval, before we changed into by biking gear for a 112 mile ride through the mountains.

The Bike

First Loop

That ride immediately begin with an extremely sharp drop, and I could have become airborne had I not rode my breaks. The work then began with the climb out of Lake Placid, and I placed myself in the long line of bikes doing the same. Pushing hard would be disastrous, so I settled into a rhythm. I experience mechanical difficulties shifting from the big chain ring into the little one, where the latter’s its teeth would not engage and made two quick stops to fix it.

The drop into Keene was nerve racking, with a very fast descent over winding roads. With the different skill levels, some riders were going all out, while others went much slower. I hung on for dear life and tried to keep my speed somewhat in check. I saw one person on the pavement. Hopefully he was able to finish the race.

Myself on the bike

On occasion when I had chance to look around, the course was beautiful. Mountain lakes were adjacent to the course, with only a guardrail protecting us from another swim. Too bad I was traveling too quickly to enjoy them.

I made it to Keene with the rubber side of my bike still down, and started the mostly flat section to Jay. It went smoothly, and the couple of pelotons only slightly annoyed me, as I could not control what those cheaters did. Although WTC could provide few more officials than the grand total of one I saw the entire day. I did spot about ten reporter bikes though, ensuring their lucrative media coverage would be far and wide. I guess giving too many penalties to your customers (i.e. competitors) would be bad for business, so no need to look to closely.

I saw a lot of bikes ahead of me during the out and back past Jay, but even more were behind. The climb out of Jay (which I expected) seemed the steepest and toughest on the course. I arrived at Wilmington, which included passing locals that brought their goats to watch, and began the long, gradual climb back to Lake Placid. For most of the subtle incline, realizing I was even going uphill was hard, but my speedometer confirmed as much. More great scenery was near the course, with gorges, rapids, and rivers running alongside.

I still felt fine as I covered the three bears, especially with the great crowd support up papa. While circling through town there were more crowds, and the adrenalin boost helped. Main Street was completely closed in front of the old Olympic rink. Barriers and large crowds were on each side of the wide roadway. I happened to be in a gap between other bikers, so it felt like this whole setup was just for me.

Second Loop

I commenced the second bike loop feeling okay, but not as fresh I probably should. I stayed in the small chain ring more than I remembered the first time through. I survived the climb out of Lake Placid again, which seemed longer than before. The descent into Keene was easier though since the bikes were more spread out, resulting in less traffic.

I continued the rest of the loop uneventfully, but by the second time climbing into Lake Placid I felt tired. My legs were sore and I could barely stand being in the aerobars. I passed a few bikes at the beginning of the ascent, but by the end everyone was passing me. I got a little worried, since I still had that that marathon left. For the moment though, I just keep spinning on the bike, not pushing anything.