Tag Archives: Lake Placid

Ironman Lake Placid 2014: Tales of a Sherpa and Emotional Guardian

Where should I begin with this post? Let’s go alllll the way back.

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This trip north for Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) has been one year in the making. As you may remember, I went last year to train, volunteer, and spectate, and after the 2013 race, one of my teammates signed up to take on this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. And with her registration, I committed to returning in 2014 as a full-fledged Sherpa—and I was pumped! Placid epitomizes paradise, and I wanted to go back in any capacity.

It’s tough not to compare this year’s experience to what happened last year, but overall, they varied—a lot.

Let’s start with the Sherpa-ing.

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I absolutely love training and racing, but sometimes it’s refreshing to be in a race environment and not actually race. Crazy concept, right? As a type-A person who does triathlon, I’ve discovered being a Sherpa utilizes my skill set. Not only do I have the logistics under control—planning our day to be the most efficient, knowing where to drop off special needs bags, etc.—but I can also talk the talk. And knowledgeably too. During race weekend, one of my goals included memorizing course maps and the athlete guide so I could answer every question my teammates asked me.

In addition to knowing everything about IMLP, I also took on the role of emotional guardian. I needed to be positive, reassuring, and flexible at all times. Moods swing easily in the days leading up to the race, especially when certain factors come into play: someone’s doing their first Ironman, someone’s shooting for a specific finish time, etc. Needless to say, everything became more intense, and when the crankiness and anxiousness kicked in, I wanted to be there to listen, calm them down, and provide support.

One main difference between 2013 and this year centered on training. I did some final tune-up sessions with teammates—a few race-pace efforts on the bike and some open-water swimming—but logging workouts was not my number one priority. Case in point: My Slice saw only 15 miles, tops. But I knew this would be the case, and I’m totally OK with it. My main goal was to be there for my teammates in every way possible.

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Being there wasn’t exclusive to race day. This was the first time I watched people go through Ironman training. Each of my five teammates approached the distance differently—not to mention they came from various backgrounds, had different goals, etc.—and I learned a lot in terms of how I will navigate long-course training. (We’re talking at least 10 years from now, by the way. And that’s another post entirely.)

More importantly, this was the first time I trained with people who were tackling this distance. During the week, we’d do similar swim and bike workouts, and when Saturday and Sunday rolled around, they’d go long. Very long. Sometimes, I’d tag along and bike 40-50 miles while they did twice the distance. Or if they had a cutback week, then we’d ride together.

Bottom line, when you train together–for six months, at least five days a week, and for nearly three hours everyday–you become invested in their race. And when they have an Ironman on the horizon, it’s impossible to remain unaffected. When dull aches surfaced during long runs, I sympathized. When brick workouts got crushed, I felt invincible. When tune-up races approached, I experienced sympathy taper crazies. Basically, Placid became a pseudo race for me.

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During the race itself, I wanted to be there during all three disciplines, so I volunteered as a wetsuit stripper. At Syracuse 70.3 in 2012, I worked in the same capacity and had a blast. So not only would it be fun, but this position would also grant me access to athlete-only areas—which meant I could be with my teammates right up until they charged into Mirror Lake. Plus, I’d have a front row seat: I’d be able to pinpoint each person when they finished their each loop, and if I played my cards right, then I’d be able to help everyone take off their wetsuits. Four of my five teammates logged both loops of the swim, and I was able to see everyone during the wetsuit stripping process. (Due to thunder and lightning, the swim was cut to one loop or 1.2 miles. Some athletes swam both loops, but others were pulled from the water.)

After the swim, I camped out in front of our hotel—which was conveniently located on both the bike and run courses—rang my industrial-sized cowbell, and cheered until my voice grew hoarse. (And obsessively checked IronTrac, obviously.)

As the day progressed, my mental involvement intensified, which I didn’t think was possible. Waiting for the team colors seemed like an eternity: ‘They should be off the bike now. Why aren’t they here yet? Did something happen? What’s going on?’ Soon enough, the red and black kits appeared: ‘Yes! They look so strong and dialed in!’ And when not-so-great stuff happened, all I could do was run with them briefly, remind them they’re strong, and tell them they’ve overcome this before. But I couldn’t really do anything. I felt helpless. And it was the worst feeling. I had to trust their training and have faith they would work through the tough spells.

Sure enough, they pulled through.

And when they entered the oval, running strong and passing people and accomplishing their goal … being able to see the culmination of their dedication and their training and their hard work was incredible.

Clearly, it was an emotionally charged weekend. And I’m so grateful I was able to be a part of it.

Ironman Lake Placid 2013 – The Volunteering

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday’s post discussed the workouts I did in Lake Placid, and today’s post details the volunteer experience.

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As you may remember, I volunteered at the Ironman Syracuse 70.3 last year and loved it, so when my teammate told me she goes to Placid every year to volunteer, I jumped at the chance to make the trip.  We spent five days in the area, and it was my first time visiting in six years.  Back during high school basketball, my team played in a tournament there.  I hadn’t heard of triathlon at the time, and we didn’t get a chance to truly explore and experience the village.  I blame the chaperones—ha!

Anyway, it took 4,000 volunteers to help the race run as smoothly as possible.  Believe it or not, the volunteers actually outnumbered the athletes! (Three thousand triathletes registered, and close to 2,700 raced.)

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Serious bike envy.

A few months ago, my teammate signed us up for “gear bags out,” a shorter shift that lasted slightly less than an hour and a half.

Here’s how it worked:  After the triathletes exited the water and jogged to transition, they grabbed their bike gear bags, entered the changing tent, and made necessary clothing changes for their 112-mile ride.  Then, volunteers working inside the tents slid the bags (now filled with swim gear) back outside.

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From there, 30 or so volunteers organized the bags in numerical order and then placed them back on their respective racks.

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Even though our shift was short—we finished in a little less than an hour and a half—I loved being in transition; a true hot spot and high-traffic area, this location lets you see everyone coming in from the water and heading out on the bike.  Not only do you get a front-row seat of the actions, but you also get to help the triathletes—you can beat it!

Plus, completing a shorter volunteer shift gave us plenty of time to spectate!

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More on that in a bit!

Have you volunteered for a race?

Ironman Lake Placid 2013 – The Workouts

Hiya, friends!  As promised, here’s the first of a few recaps from my trip to Lake Placid this past weekend.

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One of my teammates completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run, and another volunteered and spectated with me.  The three of us made the five-hour drive from New York City to Lake Placid Thursday morning, and we agreed heading up earlier would be better; this was confirmed when my soon-to-be Ironman teammate whizzed through paperwork, packet pick up, weigh in, etc. once we arrived.  More on that in a later post.  Here’s what my workouts looked like:

Thursday – Rest/pack/assemble bike rack.  My teammate who wasn’t racing and I must’ve been quite the sight: two girls sprawled out on a side street trying to put together a bike rack.  We eventually figured it out, though!

Friday – One loop of the swim course (1.2 miles) in Mirror Lake and 50 minutes on the run course.

Oh my gosh.  Words cannot begin to describe how much I loved these workouts.

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Want to know why it’s called Mirror Lake?  Because you can always see the bottom.  This swim was the farthest one I’ve officially completed in open water, and I soaked it all in; the calm water, the shining sun, and the breathtaking scenery when I sighted (which wasn’t that often because the buoys are attached to a silver wire that lines the bottom of the lake, so as long as you follow the wire, you’ll stay on course).

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Prior to this trip, I knew Lake Placid would be my first Ironman (in about 10 years maybe, ha!), and after the swim, there was no question.

Afterward, I headed out for a 50-minute run on part of the marathon course.  Again, oh my gosh:  running with mountains in the distance and under a clear blue sky—can you ask for anything better?  I probably looked like the biggest goon ever because I couldn’t stop smiling!  Like the swim, it was incredibly therapeutic and reconfirmed my desire to do this race.

Saturday – One loop of the bike course (~56 miles).

This Lake Placid long weekend resulted in two personal distance records:  my longest OWS and my farthest bike ride yet—about 56 miles thanks to one loop of the Ironman bike course. (There are a few lollypop turns, but my teammate and I didn’t do all of them; we guessed our total mileage was in the 50-54 ballpark.)

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Going into this ride, my teammate and I decided to do it for fun, so we wouldn’t push the pace, we’d take breaks when needed, etc.

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Ride fueled by PowerBar, ha!

We also planned to chalk the course, so we knew we’d be stopping at least four times.

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My teammate’s nickname is “Double D” or “DD” for short.

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Goofing off, ha!

Although the swim and run tempted me to sign up for the 2014 race, the bike proved to be a reality check.  Overall, it’s the discipline where I have the most room for improvement, and this course cannot be taken lightly—it’s tough, it’s hilly, and the wind can play a huge factor.  For any Ironman race, if you don’t respect the course and the distance, you’ll pay for it, and if you don’t pace the Lake Placid bike portion the right way, then you’ll definitely blow up later.  Even though I enjoyed the ride, it’s safe to say at this point, I’m not ready mentally or physically to make the jump to long-course events, which is totally OK.

Sunday – Rest/volunteer/spectate.

Detailed post to come, but wow, what an incredibly inspiring day!  My teammate finished in 12 hours and 11 minutes, which is an impressive time for his first Ironman and for this course.

Monday – One loop of the swim course with some easy/solid intervals.

I had to get back in the water one last time.  Even though I enjoyed Friday’s swim, this outing meant so much more after seeing the race.  Yeah, Ironman Lake Placid will definitely happen one day.

After watching or volunteering for a race, have you been tempted to sign up?

Packing for Lake Placid

Hey, friends—happy Thursday!  Is the week flying by for anyone else?  Although maybe it’s because I leave for Lake Placid today—woohoo!

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Even though I signed up for body marking and wetsuit stripping at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse last July, Ironman Lake Placid will be my first time volunteering this year. (Side note:  how did Syracuse take place more than one year ago?!) I’m traveling with one of my teammates who’s volunteered at Placid before (five times to be exact, so she has the weekend down to a science!), plus another friend who’s tackling the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run.  And being supportive triathletes, we made signs and t-shirts last night.

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Shhh, it’s a surprise.

Anyway, I finally got down to packing for the long weekend, and unsurprisingly, I’m bringing more workout clothes than “real” ones.

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Here’s what I’m packing:

For swimming – swim suit, wetsuit, BodyGlide, flip flops, three pairs of goggles (really), plus way too many swim caps.

For biking – my too heavy road bike, helmet, cleats, water bottles, biking shorts and jerseys.

For running – shorts, tank tops, Garmin, only one pair of sneakers. (I know—I’m proud of me too!)

Miscellaneous – sunglasses, sunscreen, lots of socks, etc.  Oh, plus a bag filled with snacks and nutrition.

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Hey, it’s going to be a long drive!

And like I said, I will have some “real” clothes, but I’m crossing my fingers that t-shirts, sweat pants, and running shorts will be the unofficial dress code.

Talk to you in Placid—and have a great weekend, everyone!