Friday, July 8, 2011

IMLP Pre Ride Weekend

Oh wow, where do I begin? Hmmm well I made it to Lake Placid and back alive. It feels like I have been gone for a month, and a great 'month' it has been!!

I was going to give you a play by play description of the bike course but I've decided that it would be long and boring and pointless because I've read enough of these course descriptions and compared it to my actual experience of doing the loop and I can tell you one thing is for sure:

They all lied.

I've been humbled by this experience. I thought we took it really really easy on the first loop. By the end of it I was feeling fairly fatigued and wondered if I even wanted to do the second loop. Whatever, we went out for the second loop anyways. That's what we were there for. By 2/3 of the way through the second loop I was on the side of the road curled up Fetal position, rocking back and forth, sucking on my thumb while crying for mommy. Damn - that is one deceiving course.

I don't know why I was so tired. There is no obviously large climbs that you can look and point at with a big 'AHA! Its YOUR FAULT!'. Instead it's a series of false flats, gradual hills and stealthy climbs that suck the will to live out of your legs. I felt robbed of all my energy. I can't imagine doing a Marathon after a couple loops of that course.

Yup, I'm kinda scared actually lol.

I've recall getting a TON of advice all saying 'go easy on the first loop'. They were not kidding. Actually I would take what I would call 'easy' and then back off another 25% on the throttle and then MAYBE you are in the zone you should be in. I was able to keep my heartrate really low on the whole thing, but it's the power output my legs are maintaining. I wish I had a power meter.

Here is a quick course recap for those that asked for it:
Out of T2 you'll hit a short steep desecent heading out of town, immediately followed by several short steep uphills to get to North Elba. I plan on granny gearing the whole darn section, my legs will thank me later. Betweeen North Elba and Keene is a monster sized downhill. I started from a gentle roll at the top, didn't pedal once and held 70km/h for almost the entire thing. Plenty of sweeping corners so pay attention - the scariest part was the road is washboard rough. A few cracks here and there but the pavement has gone 'wavey' like endless speed bumps. This will cause you to lose control on any sudden movements so be careful. The pavement is worse on the right hand side, so with everyone hugging the yellow line I don't expect any passing to be safe. I rode the brakes the first lap, rode the aero bars the second lap. Scary stuff.
The left hand turn at Keene all the way to Jay is a fun flat. This is the only section of the course where you will be able to pedal and maintain a decent pace and HR. This is also the section that if you push too hard, you will have nothing left for the relentless climbs later.

The out-and-back at jay is a steady easy climb out, and a fun fast descent on the way back. Dont hammer the return trip, you'll find out why when you make the right hand turn at Jay onto 86! As soon as you make the turn you go vertical - probably the steepest hill in the course. Granny gear for sure, and it's a big one. Rest assured, once at the top it gets flat again. The out-and-back on Hassleton is short is flat, kind of a silly spot for such a short one but whatever.
Turning left in Wilmington onto 86 is where the real race begins. It starts off with some rollers but then you hit a couple steep grany gear climbs again. By the second big climb you will know whether or not you pushed too hard on the beginning of the course. You are nowhere near finished yet and everything from here on in is an endless uphill. This is about the time you cross in front of Whiteface Mountain. You will get a short chance for a rest on small rollers along the river before the long climbs back to Lake Placid. We've all heard the 'three bears' names for the hills but to be honest - I dont know what they are talking about. The hills are hardly worthy of names, with maybe the exception of the last one because it does get slightly steeper at the top and because of its placement at the end of a long series of climbing. Again, hardly worth naming them as they are not steep but only long. Due to the vast length of these climbs, I just granny geared these too. I have to check but I think I only have 39-23 gearing and was begging for a 27 on the back for the entire ride. I consider myself a strong climber, but here on this course I left my balls in my wife's purse and have decided to wuss out and go with a 27 12-25 cassette. I just stole the cassette off my road bike. Anytime I was in my granny gear, which was often, I was STILL grinding the pedals a fair bit. I need an extra gear to take the strain off my legs.

Lap 1 Beat Down
It also doesn't help that I am still not recovered from 3 weekends in a row of racing and last weekend's half-Iron. I started this ride with already weak legs. It was also a blazing 30+ Celsius with the sun beating down on us. This definitely contributed to my beat down.

Anyways, after the ride we tried to get a brick in. My hip wouldn't let me do it - it's still sore from last weekend's race so I bailed on the short brick run. Steve also bailed as he was having GI issues from thte tap water he drank from the little store / tourist park just before the last major climbs. The tap water was bad, I had a sip and also had trouble. Stick to bottled water!!!
Other things to note - I was honked at, buzzed and yelled at more time during this ride than all my riding of my entire training plan combined. The people of Lake Placid are borderline lunatic. Extremely aggressive driving throughout, it was beyond words. I'll admit there were 100's if not 1000's of riders out this weekend so perhaps it was annoying to drive around but still - unacceptable.

As far as the weekend is concerned, it was an awesome trip! I was a little apprehensive heading to Lake Placid with a bunch of strangers but it turned out that they were all really great guys and we had a blast!
It was a tight squeeze to get my bike on the rack, but luckily Mike is an expert at this stuff and had brought rags and duct tape to protect the frames from rubbing. He took great care!

We drove up in style! Steve has a Hummer H3 which is a big vehicle but I'm not sure where all the space went!? Very little leg room and minimal trunk room, so I'm guessing the majority of the vehicle is all motor? Who cares - it was a fun drive. We crossed over at the very first border crossing. We didn't have a map or anything, this was all done seat-of-the-pants style. Very rare for me to do something like that, nevermind with strangers. I always have a plan and backup plan. We wanted to get over the border as soon as possible because Mike's passport had expired. If he doesn't get across then he could just ride to some friend's place but in the meantime we were all kind of stressed on whether he would be able to join us. The border guard immediately called him out on the expired passport but was interested in hearing about our Ironman stuff.
I had a small tense moment when the border guard said he had done the 'Rangers Challenge' and Steve said he didn't know what that was. The guard immediately barked at him "DON'T YOU WATCH TV!?".  I think he took offence to the fact that we didn't really know what this event was, but I think I've seen it before - its some kind of hardcore Military challenge. Regardless I tried to sound excited and interested that the border guard was just 'oh so cool' as he explained he lugged a 1 Ton backpack around for 1000's of miles or something like that. In the end, he approved of our hardcoreness and let us all into the country, including Mike! W00t! With the border stress behind us, it was party time!

OK wait, going back to the whole 'seat-of-the-pants' planning. Where the heck were we?! We had to take some convoluted backroads to get to Lake Placid. At times we were driving down alleys and driveways of hillbilly central. It was hilarious. It felt good just going with the flow and not sticking to a map or itenerary. With hardly any radio reception, a dead iPod and every CD in the truck scratched we resorted to the ONLY working CD in the truck - Steves Wedding CD. Lots of singing, lots of dancing, lots of sobbing - ok maybe it was just Steve but regardless it made the trip 'interesting' haha! We vowed to buy a CD something, ANYTHING, for the return trip while in town.

We setup camp in the dark, cracked a beer and hit the sleeping bags. Originally we were all going to bring our own tent but we were only allowed one tent per site. That means sharing a tent with 3 strangers! Actually the tent was quite roomy, and nobody spooned me in the middle of the night - or at least none that I remember, so I think it went well. I slept good.

That morning was our big ride. Other than the notable difficulty of the course, I also need to fix my rear bottle cages. I launched my bottles once on the big downhill so I have to rig up some kind of strap or get new bottle holders. The bumps were so bone jarring that even my flat kit slipped off the bike a couple times and its strap in tightly with two velcro straps. I ordered a new pouch for it with beefier straps. I already swapped out the cassette to give me an extra gear with a 25 tooth. I don't want to go 27 tooth, that's just too wussy for my liking. I'm not running compact cranks either so I'm a 39 up front. I may be begging for a smaller gear come race day but I would rather put a tripple ring up front before going 27 on the back.

After the ride we used the free shuttle bus to get to town. We almost got mowed down by the bus too, the driver was just like the other maniacs out on the roads that day. Aggressive, bitchy and dangerous. Poor service was the theme of the night. It took many many places before we found something that would get us a beer in under 30 minutes! I'm glad we held out because the food at this place was wonderful. I grabbed a semi-healthy fruit/cheese platter, and balanced it with a side of hot wings and beer. Well I tried to be somewhat healthy haha! Good food, good friends. We did the touristy thing along the strip checking out the tourist traps.

The next morning we packed up and put in a solid 20km-ish run along the race course. We cut the final outa and back along the lake since we already seen it as part of the bike course. I was surprised at how flat the course is, there is nothing to worry about. There is only 2 major hills and they are both right in town for everybody to see you walking so if your plan is to dog it on the uphills, everybody will know it! :) I'm looking forward to the run, very scenice and on well groomed roads. Although its all dark ashphalt so I can see it being a really hot run if the sun is blazing. Luckily we had overcast.
My hip has been bothering me. Inflamed, big time but is slowly getting better. Now it only bothers me on the uphills which is a big improvement. I am certain I'll be fine by race day. Not worried, yet.

A great lunch at the brewery marked the end of the fun. We did pop in to see the Olympic arena, it even had the game score on the clock. I wanted to get a gift for the wife but it didn't seem right getting something that said 'lake placid' on it when she wasn't there with me. I figured I'll wait to get it until she comes down for the race in a few weeks. I missed her, it's rare we are apart. I hate going away places without her, it's not the same if she's not there to share the experience with. I just want her there with me.

The drive home was more direct. We drove straight to Canada, which was quick but the remainder of the drive not so much. I'm guessing we were on the road for 12hrs. It was painfully long due to long-weekend cottage traffic. It was all worth it though. I'm so glad I got to see the course and have a new found respect for those climbs. I have a much better understanding of how I need to pace myself, it was nothing like how I expected. Nothing could have prepared me more for this than having seen it myself.

Dont Spoon me Bro'!

Roads slammed pouches and bottles
and cages around. We stopped the most for me.


  1. awesome report. wish i was there....not

    elastic bands work wonder to hold down the bottles at the rear

  2. glad i have a power tap

    damn thing might be useful afterall

  3. What a great trip. I'm always amazed how easy it is to talk to people you don't know as long as you have this common interest.

  4. Sounds and looks like a great trip! It's always humbling for me too to ride a tough course before the event. Keeps ya honest!

    Good luck racing - I'll be spectating - hope to see you!

  5. I think I just realized how intense/insane an ironman race is...I am going to stop crying about trainig for a half marathon now lol

  6. Great post, hilarious haha. Glad you got to ride the course, you have a one up on TONS of people now!

    Dude, Americans are assholes to cyclists. No lie. It sucks here.

    great job getting it done. Huge confidence booster man!!!

  7. great trip! excellent report, and fabulous pics....but not im even more freaked


  8. NOW im even more freaked
    not im even more freaked

    thos freakin hills


  9. Nice report! Maybe I am glad I didn't pre-ride, ignorance is bliss :)



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