The plan for this race was to keep it low key. Just, me my husband Harold, our rusty van, my Trek Speed Concept and a tent. Why the rusty van when we have a perfectly good SUV? I guess it completed the picture of a true triathlete because the bike is definitely worth more than the van and we have a CAA membership that does not get a lot of use.
Things got off to a somewhat rocky start. I had everything done at work on schedule but when I jumped in the car to go home it would not start because I had left the lights on and the battery was dead. The good news is that we have CAA. The bad news is that it’s in Harold’s name and he was 35 km away in a meeting at work. Lucky for me a friendly Bushtukah bike tech had booster cables.
We got home and packed up the van. Drove off to Lake Placid hoping to make it to the KOA before dark. About half way there Harold said where are the sleeping bags? It was an odd thought but sure enough when we pulled off the road and checked we had forgotten the sleeping bags. We really could not face driving back to Ottawa so we drove back to the nearest Walmart and went shopping. We decided to buy bedding rather than sleeping bags as we have really nice sleeping bags at home, in our house, where we can’t use them. We bought a bed in a bag which included a comforter, sheets and six pillow cases! Along with a blanket. It also turned out that Harold had forgotten all his toiletries so we bought a bright yellow towel on sale for $2.99, a tooth brush and deodorant (because girl deodorant and boy deodorant are just not the same). We made it to the KOA by 10:00 pm and put up our tent in the dark. Thank goodness the tent is easy to put up!
I always said I would never sleep in a tent before a race but we were only just camping. To be honest it was more like glamping. We bought a huge Marmot Orbit 6 tent for the two of us. You could seriously park the SUV in the vestibule. We had an electric site so we brought a kettle, a toaster and a table to put them on in the vestibule. We had an air mattress and with the trip to Walmart we even had colour coordinated bedding and three sets of pillow cases. We brought food, pots and pans too but we forgot the stove!
This is only the third year for the 70.3 in Lake Placid but they have had Ironman USA here for 21 years so they know what they are doing. The course for the full Ironman is two loops. The 70.3 uses the same course you just do one loop. Having done the full a couple of times I liked the idea of only doing one loop of each part of the course. How bad could that be?
For reasons no one can explain the temperature has plummeted to well below seasonal for the weekend every time they have had the 70.3 here. The cold snap does not last but all three years it has been cold. This year looked the same. A low of 4 and a high of 11 with rain on race day. The forecast highs for the whole week after the race were in the 20’s!
I don’t do well in the cold. I get cold, I stay cold and I can’t warm up. If you are not familiar with the course: the swim is flat, the bike course is not. The 90 km course includes 860m of climbing with a rapid decent of 400m down the Keene hill. My race day game plan was to focus on staying warm going down Keene in a wet tri suit.
Race day started at 4:15 am with coffee and toasted bagels inside the tent. We then drove to Lake Placid. Parking in town race day is challenging but there are three parking areas with shuttles to the race start. If you can, use the big dirt lot on Wayvalley Drive. It’s not obvious but it actually walking distance to the race start if you don’t mind walking up the hill.
As this was a 70.3 we had to check our bikes on Saturday and bring all our other gear in on Sunday. We were given a morning clothes bag which we were able to drop quite close to the swim start. We had to get body marked on the way into transition and they were actually checking to make sure it was done. It seemed a bit pointless as most people wore long sleeved jackets or arm warmers on the bike.
Race morning actually turned out a bit warmer than expected. It was 7 or 8 at the swim start and the water temperature was fine. They had warming tents set-up at the swim start for swimmers waiting to go in. I wore an old pair of socks and sandals to keep my feet warm right up the start line and left them behind.
The swim start is a rolling start. The race guide said it would take an hour to get everyone in the water and they were rolling the start so slowly that it really did take that long. The Lake Placid swim course actually has a cable underwater which you can follow. It’s great for practice swims but I have never been able to get near it on race day. I was actually able to follow the cable for part of the swim. This was easily the least body contact I have ever had in any triathlon.
I started near the front and was in the water by 7:03 am. It was very strange to be getting out of the water after finishing the swim and seeing hundreds of people waiting to start the swim! I made up for the smooth swim by getting my arm stuck in my wetsuit via an odd interlocking of my Ironman athlete band and my road ID! I eventually managed to escape with the help of the wetsuit peelers.
The T-zone had heated change tents but I was ok so I skipped them. I had long fingered gloves, a hat, a LIFA crewneck, a long sleeved cycling jacket and a light Gore jacket to wear on the bike. Plus I put full booties on my bike shoes. I also had surgical gloves and a plastic shower cap in a pocket just in case. It was probably overkill but I was determined not to get cold. Hiccup number two occurred when I instinctively put my Aero helmet on first (in ITU you are not allowed to move your bike unless you have you helmet on with the chin strap done up). It turns out that getting a crew neck shirt over an Aero helmet is basically impossible. Hiccup number three was at the bike out where my booties had slipped and I could not clip in.
I did not get too cold going down the Keene hill and I was probably a bit over dressed but that’s OK. I did see other riders (mainly men) riding down with just a wet trisuit. Some of them made it, some of them did not. As always there were crashes on Keene hill. I did not see any but the road was damp and there was a cross wind which was pulling the front wheel sideways even with the Bontrager Aeolus 5‘s I was using (and really like). So I slowed it down a bit because I am getting too old to crash! One of the more telling sights in Lake Placid is the field full of ambulances at the bottom of the Keene hill waiting for customers.
I did see one rider sprawled out in the middle of the road on a smaller hill. I hope is was better than he looked. When you go down Keene you know you will have to pay the price by going up later. The last 25 Km of this course is basically one long climb and as it often does the wind picked up and we rode straight into it. I had my slowest bike split in a long time but everyone had to ride in the same conditions. The bike course in Lake Placid is really scenic even if I don’t always appreciate it on race day!
T2 was more successful than T1 as I only had to take things off and the run temperature was actually great. As always there were plenty of aid stations with lots of enthusiastic volunteers. Harold was working as a medical volunteer so he met me with my dry clothes in the finish area. He also had my down jacket. So I took my chocolate milk and warmed up in the heated change tent.
I was pleasantly surprised that I won my age group. I knew I was first out of the water but with the huge gap in start times I knew someone who had been behind me all day could have won. For reasons I can not explain this is the 5th consecutive Ironman event where my place coming out of the water in my age group has been exactly the same as my final finishing place ( I always lose some places on the bike and make the same number up on the run). I am thinking of emailing Ironman to see if I can just do the swim and skip the rest as I know what place I will be in at the end. Not sure they will go for it.
Overall despite the un-cooperative weather I would highly recommend this race. The volunteers are amazing, the course is beautiful and the athletes are extremely well looked after. A big congratulations to my friend Kanako who finished even after getting two flats! And a big thank you to all the volunteers particularly my Iron Sherpa husband Harold.