Ironman Lake Placid has been on my radar for a decade as a race that I’ve wanted to spectate and participate in. Living in the northeast, it has always had a special place in my heart, especially as it had been the original Ironman in the continental United States. Factor in the magic of the 1980 Winter Olympics and you have a place that, even without ever viewing it, felt like it had to be a place that I went to someday.
As luck would have it, this year would be the year I got to finally head there. Kelly and I headed out bright and early Thursday morning (well, it should’ve been bright and early but I forgot the EZPass and we had to double-back to pick it up). We took a slightly longer route through the southern Berkshires. If you’re ever looking for gorgeous drives in New England, taking Route 8 up into Massachusetts to Lee definitely fits the bill.
After that, it’s a short trip on I-90, complete with flashbacks to childhood driving on the Pike and Thruway to my grandparents in Seneca Falls, before turning onto the Northway, aka I-87. News flash: Lake Placid is up there. It is a long drive. Be prepared to run if you hear banjo music.
We rolled into Keene Valley mid-morning and met Sean Murnane, aka “Kelly’s Fake Adopted Little Brother.” He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Case in point: we unpacked our bikes, and he immediately set to work fixing Kelly’s broken aerobar from Atlantic City and re-cabling my CD0.1. Mind you, he was the one racing on Sunday. No mind, no matter: right to work he went getting (most everything) fixed. Kelly and I walked down the street to a local grocery store and picked up farmer’s cheese, a warm baguette, and cherries for lunch. Be prepared to eat well if you come up here.
As it turned out, the broken aerobar issue had also blown one of Kelly’s shifters, and the outer chainring on the CD0.1 was warped to hell which had stretched the chain; all of these were issues he couldn’t fix on the spot. No matter; it was time to go riding. Kelly and I rode down to Keene proper, and then started riding out to Jay on the bike course. The first thing I realized was just how rolling the terrain was; it never really flattened out. Momentum was going to be the name of the game. Second up: this is fun. We stopped at a scenic pulloff to snag a picture and to rest up, as we would be climbing our way back to Keene Valley.
On the ride back, we realized that we were going to wind up needing to get our bikes worked on more at a shop the following morning. We both had five hour rides to do, and with malfunctioning bikes it was going to prove difficult to get the distance in. However, to thank Sean for his service, we decided to take a trip up to Saranac to go to Tail of the Pup. This meant that we’d roll through Lake Placid for my first time.
As soon as we came into town and onto Mirror Lake Drive, my jaw just about hit the floor. It is positively stunning here. The entire village is surrounded by mountains, and this plateau happens to have a crystal-clear lake in the middle of it. The town is full of athletes and spectators alike, and the entire village seems incredibly grateful of the business the race brings. In sum, I couldn’t imagine a better community for an event like this.
We headed back out of town to Tail of the Pup, which offers both fantastic BBQ and seafood. Unfortunately, they’d just run out of Blue Point oysters (which are fantastic). Alas, the dual lobsters and clams that Kelly and I split was more than enough. Also, their potato salad and cole slaw were delicious. Obviously, if you’re racing, you may want to wait until Sunday or Monday night to get this. But if not: be sure to take a trip out there. I mean, who could deny this?
Kelly and I woke up early as we had #50WomenToKona business to attend to. I woke up feeling a bit queasy, but shrugged it off as no big deal.
We had to make an emergency stop on the uphill from Keene. I immediately felt much, much better, which told me that it was likely motion sickness on an empty stomach. Score: Lake Placid NY73 1, Ryan 0.
Made our way down to Mirror Lake for the handout of #5Q gear, while also meeting Meredith Atwood for the first time. Also chatted with Moira Horan. Between the four of us, we had some really good discussions about Women For Tri, #5Q, and getting ourselves invited to parties left and right during the course of the weekend. I ran out to get us coffee because, well, coffee.
Towards the end, Stacey Miller rolled into town. She was also racing and would be looking to own the swim. During a training camp, Stacey swam a 54:XX for the full 2.4-mile course. She’s a fish! We hung out on the beach, chatted strategy, and got ready to check into our condos along Mirror Lake later that afternoon.
Kelly and I then headed in for a swim. It was “supposed” to be on the easier side. Instead, we followed each other’s feet and swam a 31:00 lap of the course, including a few good pick-ups to 1:20/100m. Speedy we are!
Post-swim, we attempted to run. I say attempted, because we ran on our way out of town towards River Road and decided “noooooooope” 2.5 kilometers in when we both couldn’t take a deep breath. Taking stock, we realized we were both significantly dehydrated and undercaloried. Given that status, we did what every reasonable triathlete should do: proceeded directly to Saranac Sourdough. This little gem on the way out of town towards Saranac features fresh baked breads and delicious sandwiches. We ordered two fantastic sandwiches, loaded up on the free water (bring a pitcher to your table), and enjoyed our leisurely lunch.
We got to then check into the condo, got our bikes repaired by the fantastic folks at High Peaks Cyclery, relaxed for a bit, had a great dinner from Lisa G’s to-go, and then finally headed out for a run along Mirror Lake Drive. We both had gotten ourselves to a point where it was no longer painful to go faster than 10:30/mi, which told us we’d made a much better call earlier in the day.
Time to put those fresh repairs to the test, as we rolled down the Bears and onto loops of River Road bright and early Saturday morning. It was fun to put the hammer down and not have the chain be groaning with every revolution of the crank. There’s one section of River Road where you roll around a corner, and the ski jumps appear. It’s breathtaking to behold.
We headed back to finish setting up for the Sonic Endurance athlete breakfast. There were a ton of athletes, coaches, families, and supporters along for the ride, and the energy that feeds off of everyone is simply contagious. You can’t help but be incredibly excited for everyone.
Post-breakfast, Kelly, Eric and I rolled back on out of town to ride more. Because, when in doubt, ride more. We descended to Wilmington and rode out towards Ausable Forks before turning around and riding the course the “correct” way. One thing I couldn’t quite wrap my head around: the number of people with race bracelets on who were all the way out in Ausable Forks the day before the race; this was putting at least 40-56 miles worth of riding in their legs the day before 140.6.
We climbed back towards Wilmington when I realized that I had less than an hour to make it back to the condo, change, and get to transition to hand out #50WomenToKona tattoos, buttons, and signs. I took off like hell back up Whiteface and The Bears; Kelly and Eric got to get a swim in the waterfalls. Dammit.
I made it back with plenty of time to spare and headed to transition to start handing out goods. We had a lot of good interactions as we chatted about 5Q and the lack of a professional field at Kona. Meanwhile, curiously, I noticed that I had an Ironman staffer (complete with requisite name badge proclaiming them as staff) near me during the entire hour I handed out items. They never talked to me, and it may have been mere coincidence. But it was curious nonetheless.
Later that evening, we met up with Dark Mark and some other TRS Racing crew members at the Lake Placid Brewery. We all had a few drinks, chatted a bunch, and had a good time. This is a fantastic place to hang out and meet with friends. It also helps that they have a fantastic music selection (they were playing Weezer’s Pinkerton in full when we were there) and quality beverages.
Kelly and I then headed out to create #5Q Corner on River Road (with the other side of the signs being callouts to Sonic Endurance athletes and friends racing), as well as turn Mile 50 of the Bike Course into Mile #50WomenToKona. We then clambered down to the river to sit on some rocks and enjoy a bottle of wine.
Made it back to discover that, due to the fire on Main Street, there was a chance that the swim would be cancelled. We talked with all of the racers in the condos for the next day to re-assure them, and then headed to bed.
Woke up to discover the swim was on, which would benefit most of the athletes that were staying in the condos. We offered to sherpa run special needs bags down for people. Ran into many athletes and wished them the best of luck.
The energy on race morning here is electric. You can’t help but feel the buzz run through your system. It’s not quite a cup of coffee’s worth of energy, but it is pretty damn close. There’s also something to be said for the cannon going off, the mad dash into the water, and the steady stream of 2700+ athletes taking to Mirror Lake. If that doesn’t get you excited to race this event, nothing will.
Following about a gallon of coffee consumption, Kelly, Eric and I headed back out for some run mileage. I had the distinct displeasure of running 5 x 1km hard, which we decided to do on the bike course. This was less than awesome. But we got the mileage in nonetheless. As we were climbing the Bears back into town, the first round of bikers started to come through. The crowds on Papa Bear were now 3-4 people deep and escalating as the packs of bikers climbed their way back into town and the second loop of the bike.
At this point, Kelly and I needed to head to transition for our volunteer shift. Although there are questions regarding certain positions and whether volunteers should actually be paid employees, we were volunteering in the change tent, which is really more of a “nice to have” position and one which we were happy to give our time for. Additionally, it meant we would have the opportunity to see all the athletes we were there providing support for in the first place. It’s an incredibly unique way to be able to help out.
Post-shift, Kelly and I headed out on course to cheer for respective athletes. We came across Meredith Atwood, aka Swim Bike Mom, as well as the entire crew of Sonic Endurance athletes. Finally ran into Murnane, who was struggling his way through the day. He’d found a female to run with, who we promptly embarrassed into running away from Sean. Sorry, bud.
Considering we’d since walked an additional six miles, Kelly and I decided to head to Lisa G’s to split a pizza, a couple of glasses of wine, and a fantastic peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwich. Highly recommended in general, but I could also see this being a perfect place for a post-race meal.
After walking around a little more, we both crashed of exhaustion.
Monday AM–Goodbye LP
We woke up early, had some coffee, and decided to get into Mirror Lake for one more lazy swim around. The water tested like a campfire, but the clarity was still pristine. It truly is a special place.
After bantering with some athletes, we loaded up the car and headed back to Connecticut. We got asked numerous times: “so, you volunteered. Are you going to go get in line to register for next year?”
Nope. We were not.
“Well, why not?!?!?!”
The simple answer: we both have decided that we were not going to race WTC events until there is equality at the premier level of the sport. Even though Lake Placid is magical, I can’t in good conscience support a company that opposes equality so vehemently. So, WTC, to wrap this post up: please, get this right. Support equality for your professionals. Because you have something incredible on your hands in Lake Placid, and I want to experience it.