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July 30, 2000
2.4mile swim, 112mile bike, 26.2mile run
Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid is a beautiful location to hold an Ironman race.   It reminded me a lot of Penticton with it's small town charm and beautiful mountain setting.   The Olympic Speedskating Oval in the centre of town would serve as our transition area as well as the Ironman Village where vendors set up their booths throughout race week.  It was always busy in the village and I'm sure sponsors and vendors got their promotional money's worth this week.

Weather during race week was sketchy at best.  Everyday called for the chance of thunderstorms and we had a couple good afternoon rains.  The day before the race after I had checked in my bike and gear, I thought "I'd better go back and cover my bike with some plastic in case it rains."  And sure enough, as soon as I got to my bike the heavy rain started and I was just able to make it to the medical tent before I got soaked.  Under cover of the tent I managed to completely cover my bike and I returned it to it's numbered spot in transition to sit for the night.  

Race morning dawned without rain but a thick fog had settled over Mirror Lake where the swim was to be held.  And this was really think fog.  At race start we couldn't see the buoy line that marked the course.   Visibility was about 20 feet at best.  I could hear the helicopters over head, but we couldn't see a thing.  As the national anthem was being sung, I noticed the bright glow of the sun behind the fog so I figured it would eventually burn it's way through, which it eventually did.  The swim at Lake Placid is nice in that the course is well defined by 2 buoy lines that serve as lane markers for paddlers who train on the lake.  These buoys are held in place by a long stretch of yellow rope that runs the length of the lake, about 4 feet below the surface of the water.  I knew from training in the lake during race week that if I got close enough to the rope I could use it guide my entire swim.  I'd never have to look up to sight my course. 

The swim start felt very crowded.  Over 1500 athletes were crammed into a very narrow area.  I lined up about 30 feet from the buoy line because I figured it would be too crowded at the start to follow my guide rope.  I planned to swim straight out, blindly in this case because we couldn't see any markers, and then eventually move to my left until I found the rope.  The start went relatively smoothly considering how crowded we were.  We took off on what I thought was a straight line but in no time I looked down and noticed that I had crossed over the yellow rope and and I was in fact swimming inside the buoy line, along with a ton of other swimmers so I just figured we'd sort things out at the first turn. 

The swim is a long rectangle that you do twice, with a short run along the beach between loops.  I finished the first loop in 30 minutes flat and I thought to myself that this is great - the second loop should be even faster so I'll be under an hour for the swim.  That's a big deal for me as I had always hoped to one day do 2.4 miles under an hour.  Well, no such luck on breaking an hour.  The second loop was over 2 minutes slower.   That really bugged me because I couldn't figure out where I had lost so much time.   I swam the entire 2nd loop right along the buoy line, so I swam the shortest possible route, plus I tried to swim harder.  I later noticed that everyone from the pros on down had been 2 minutes slower, so I didn't feel so bad.

Out of the water and straight to a wetsuit stripper who had me out of my suit in a flash.  The run to transition is very long, which accounts for the slow transition times of all the athletes.  I had hoped to see my family somewhere along the run to the Oval, but I missed them.  More importantly, they missed me and after and hour and a half of waiting (and worrying) for me to get out of the water, my wife finally ran to the Ironmates tent to check the results only to find that I was long gone.

Out of the water and off to T1
Click image for full size

I knew from driving the course that the bike was going to be tough.  Lot's of climbing and one scary fast descent that was about 9km long!   Then do it all over again because it's two loops.  Early in the bike I dropped a bottle which contained my main source of food so I had to stop to retrieve it.  At the time I was riding around a small group of people and we were able to stay a comfortable distance apart.  As I picked up my bottle a large pack of riders passed me and I was forced to follow them for the next several miles.  But I had an interesting vantage point as the draft marshals pulled up along the pack and began penalizing riders :)  The end of each loop involves a fair bit of climbing before heading back through town, but once you reach the edge of Mirror lake you forget how hard the climb had been because the crowds that line Lake Placid to cheer on the cyclists are huge!  It's like a stage of the Tour de France as you ride through downtown.  The second loop was uneventful but by the end I was just glad to get off my bike and start running.

The run is out and back and the course is two loops so you get to go through town 4 times which is nice.  I saw my family each time and the crowds really keep you going.  Everyone I had talked to before the race said the run course is easier than Ironman Canada, but I would tend to disagree.  A few very steep hills which have to be negotiated up and down.  I think times tend to be faster here because of the crowd support and cooler temperatures, but the hills will leave you sore for the next few days.  I felt great at the start of the run, which is to be expected because it's mostly downhill or flat on the trip out to the turnaround.  Heading back into town is tough because of the climbing, and then as you approach the Oval which will serve as the finish line you are redirected along the shore of Mirror Lake for a mile-long out and back.  The second loop of the run becomes confusing because it looks like you're passing lot's of people when in reality most of them are people on their first loop.  So it's very hard to tell if you're gaining any ground at all.  But at least it feels fast!  I had been starting to feel like I might not have eaten enough on the bike, so by mile 14 I decided to walk the aid stations and drink coke and water at each stop.  This seemed to work as I never ran out of energy and after a couple stations I started to think a little clearer.  I prefer not to walk the aid stations because it's so hard to start running again, but it proved to be the best strategy on the day.

Starting the run - Click for full size

As I was approaching town in the final miles of the run I started getting some minor cramps in my calves and quads.  I'd taken plenty of salt tablets during the race so I was sure it wasn't from hyponatremia and I figured it was just due to the hills on the run.  I knew that the final push into town would be all uphill which would allow me to stretch out my calves, and I just hoped I'd be able to hold it all together for a little longer.  I had hit the halfway point at 1:45 so I knew in the first half I was running about 8 minute miles.  I checked my watch at 25.1 miles and saw that I was 10:22 into the race.  I figured if I ran well I could run that last mile in 8 minutes and maybe make it under 10:30.  Especially considering that the last half mile was slightly downhill.  So I ran hard and I thought I was motoring right along but as I entered the Oval for my half lap to the finish line I saw that it was already past 10:30.  That last mile, as fast as it felt, took almost 10 minutes to complete!  I couldn't believe that as fast as I felt, I was still just plodding along.  But I finished with an eleven minute PR none the less, so given the challenging terrain I decided to be happy with my day.  Final time - 10:31:56. (Finish line photo)

And my legs did hold out, at least until I went for my massage.  I felt fine but as I tried to lift myself up onto the table I stood on my tip toes and both calves went into spasm.  Well I screamed and scared everyone in the tent, and then proceeded to stretch them out one at a time.  After that, I didn't have any other cramps but I slept in fear of a killer night cramp that never came.   The next day, we woke to the sound of a light rain that fell for the better part of the day.  Our window of nice weather had remained open only long enough to complete the race.  It seemed a fitting ending to a great week, though.

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