Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lake Placid: The Land of Ironmen, Thunderstorms & Mountains

Ironman weekend, the test of my wife's 6 months of training is here.  Unfortunately, I don't like running or it doesn't' like me, since I usually end up with a trip to the chiropractor when I try if for long.  And I think distance swimming is about the most boring sport that could ever be.  Waking up at 5:00 and crawling through cold water looking at nothing for an hour and a half just isn't my idea of a good time.  Don't get me wrong, I like to swim.  Scuba, snorkel, diving of docks, jumping off rocks, playing frisbee in the water...all fun.

But I digress, some people like that sort of thing and my wife is one of those people.  So we loaded 2 bikes and a pile of crap in the back of the car and set out for a long weekend.
Can you spot the 2 bikes?

There's one!
9,999 bottles of beer on the wall, 9,999 bottles of beer; if one of those bottles just happened do fall...
9,998 bottles of beer on the wall. (It is a long drive). 

Entering New York
We left at about 9:00 and got to the check in about 4:00.  From there we got to the campsite to set up the tent where it promptly started to rain.  In the middle of the night I thought all the travel was in vain because the 80MPH winds would surely drop one of the giant pine trees on us and we'd be dead.  Luckily, we lived, which you knew because I'm writing this blog.  They were probably only 35MPH winds but everything is louder in a tent.
Obligatory Photo
 The next day was all about getting our bearings, checking out athlete village, checking in her bike and doing a few shakedown rides (& runs & swims if you are into that kind of thing).  Also picking up a few supplies from the store that we forgot, mostly non-alcoholic fluids.

The bike is safely in slot 1315

Last swim
The goal was to eat and get to sleep by 8:00 since the wake up time was to be 3:30.
The contrast between the healthfulness of this dinner and the garbage food along the ride is mind boggling.
Ironman morning! My plan was to drop my wife off with her gear and then to ride around the course backwards to catch her out there.  I initially thought I might see her start the swim but after milling around the sea of people for 20 minutes I had had enough!.
It is only 4:30 AM
My big day was about to start.  Just because I wasn't becoming an Ironman didn't mean that I wasn't going to put in an Ironman effort!  My plan was to do at least the distance with twice the climbing.  I started by ascending Whiteface Mountain.
The Goal
Not as grueling as Mt Washington but a "HC" (Hors cat├ęgorie) rated climb none the less.  The auto road doesn't open until 8:45 and I was there around 5:45.  I took the advice of somebody we had met and went around the gate, Saved the $8 bike fee too.  The climb was as promised, a steady 8-12% grade for 8 miles. I'm sure I could have climbed it faster but I was very careful to pace myself for a long day.  At about the halfway point you get a good view of the rest of the climb.  once I got to the "Top" I realized that the road stops but the mountain keeps going.  I made the rest of the way on this:
Danny Macaskill could do it on a cross bike. Not me.
I took my bike of course because what would summit pictures be without a bike in them?  My shoulder is still a little bruised.
The highest I have been on a bike.

In the distance you can actually see Mirror Lake churning with Ironmans
 You could actually make out the rectangular swim course in Mirror lake over 10 miles away because it was all choppy an the rest of the lake was smooth.

The view was spectacular
The trip up took 1 hour and 16 minutes; the trip down: 13 minutes and 32 seconds.  It was by far the best bike descent I have ever done.  I was very thankful for my disk brakes. I'm also very happy to have had the road to myself, very cool.  After a quick detour to the campsite to re-fuel, pee, drop off a wind breaker and forget to put on sunscreen I was off again.  At this point I was getting to the part of the course where I could expect to see the first pro racers.  After spotting a few I turned off to climb another hill which turned out to be a dirt path.  I made it most of the way to the top and called it good.  From there I was in the thick of the bike race but going in the opposite direction looking for my Ironman.
Found Her, Looking Good!
OK, on to the next hill labeled "The Never Ending Climb" on Strava.Strava didn't mention that it was a dirt logging road.  The climb was much steeper than Whiteface.  At one point my Garmin said 37% grade, probably not but 25% in spots, maybe.  There was about 8 miles of dirt, at least.  The biggest problem with climbing loose gravel logging roads on a bike with road tires is that the trip down isn't much faster than the trip up.  My average speed dropped to 12.

Loosey Goosey
Once I made it back to civilization I was going to climb another hill but there was a "Bridge Out" sign so my plans started to change. I decided to ride back to the part of the bike course I had already done, then turn around and ride with the course now that it had thinned out and I wouldn't be in anybody's way.  The climb out of Keene in the opposite direction of the course was brutal . The hardest climb of the day for me.  Later I realized that it was a Cat 2 climb.  I'm sure if the course had gone in that direction there would have been a small pile of Iron-wannabees stacked up along the way.  It was about this time that I started salvaging unopened water bottles from the side of the road - I was thirsty and some triathletes are clumsy.  After a second wife spotting I decided to ride backwards to the next water stop and try to score more hydration.  Knowing how much my wife paid to enter, that the drinks are sponsored by Gator-aid and that they THROW OUT all the leftovers after the race, I didn't feel bad about riding past the rest stops and accepting the bottles and food being handed to me.  I was just careful not to get in the way of any participating athletes in the process. 

I was into my ride about 90 miles when I started riding with the racers that had gone about 65.  The rest of the ride was without pics so I'll try to make it brief.  It's interesting riding in about the middle of the pack.  Entertaining, actually.  Some of these people were on bikes that cost $10,000+ with carbon wheels, $500 helmets, all the dorked out triathlete bottles and stuff.  YET, their bike sounds like somebody at WalMart set it up (Click-Click-Click-Clack-Clack-Clack) and they are riding uphill in the aero bars with a cadence of about 27.  Posers. I'm not trying to sound like an asshole here (with a lead-in like that, you know I am going to sound like and actually be; an asshole) but...I passed a shit-ton of people on bikes they don't "deserve".  I also passed a shit-ton of cliff bars still safely sealed in their nearly impenetrable wrappers.  Apparently I'm not the only one having trouble trying to open them with my teeth mid-ride.  At least I didn't drop mine.  I ate enough GU shots and Cliff bars to give a horse diabetes.  I also think my fluid intake topped twenty 20oz bottles.  And I still started to cramp at the end.  Straight salt intake kept it at bay after mile 130.

Brief, right.  I saw my Ironman one more time on an out and back, she was about 8 miles ahead of me.  I stopped at the campsite one more time for more supplies (trying to limit my banditing as much as possible) and I was off to watch the rest of the race where I met up with my son and his wife.  We were busy trying to figure out where she would be when and did pretty good at catching here in the right spots.
That's a big High-Five right there.
We milled around and saw her a few more times before the finish and then headed over to watch her become an Ironman!
I'm so proud of Kelly!  I've never run a marathon, nevermind running it after the swim and biking 112 miles so the accomplishment is significant.  She shattered her goal of 15 hours.

 Way to go! You are a BEAST! :)

It is a pretty powerful thing watching all these people accomplish something that most people can't.  They've trained and sacrificed to show the world what they can do and it shows through the emotions that surround the finish line.

It's getting late and I want to get this posted so.. We left the next day.
This "time saving" ferry ride made out trip about 1 hour longer.
I tried to be a nice guy and let a car in that showed up after us get in line for the ferry before us so he could get out of traffic.  He got the last spot.  Phuck!  I'll bet he wasn't driving 6 hours after an all day endurance event.  We made sandwiches.


  1. You continue to be my hero! Wonderful accounting of a wonderful weekend!

  2. What can I say! You guys just ROCK! I felt like I was right there with you reading this!!! xoxo

  3. I read these and hope that one of these days I will get inspired and motivated enough to pull my shit together.. insert an "LOL" or an emoji with tears streaming down it's face.. I am not sure which.

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  5. Wonderful writing, pulled me right in as if I were there and saw it all in my head. Congrats to both you and Kelly on your amazing accomplishments, you both continue to inspire us all.