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Ironman Lake Placid 2016: A Report of Sorts

The funny thing about racing an Ironman (and part of why it’s such a major decision to even sign up for crazy event) is that generally you have pay for most of the things up front–never mind race registration, but many of the other things too. Some hotels are non-cancel-able, etc.  So when you decide to not race due to injury (as in my case this year), there can be a lot of money down the proverbial toilet.

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Since I wasn’t racing, but had already paid for a flight, a rental car, and a place to stay with some gals, so I made the decision to head on up to spectate. I could see two of my athletes, one semi-coached athlete of mine, and many friends tackle the big day on arguably the hardest course in the continental 48 states.

Sidebar – the difficulty of the course argument:

  • People always ask me: Which course was hardest?  Couer d’Alene? Louisville? Lake Placid? Beach 2 Battleship (now Ironman NC)?
  • ALL Ironmans are hard for their own reasons. Beach 2 Battleship was hard because of the windy, relentless pedaling on the bike – but it was definitely the “easiest” out of the group with it’s down-current swim, flat bike, and flat run–it’s where I posted my best time at sub-15 hours (just barely).
    Out of the remaining three, Lake Placid wins as the toughest in my opinion. I tend to think that Placid might be the hardest course in the continental US—since Tahoe is off the map, and if you can have the time acclimate to altitude in Boulder.  Maybe?
  • Of course, there’s a ranking system that puts Louisville, Wisconsin and Coeur ‘d Alene (in 2012) over Lake Placid in difficulty… but having completed LOU and CDA, I am throwing my hat in the ring and declaring Placid the “worst”.  🙂
  • There ARE exceptions to everything – for example, CDA in 2015 (Coeur d’ FLAME with its 107 degree temps), and LOU in the past when the temps were super hot and humid, and the river (blech!).  Likely, the 2012 ranking of Lou dealt with the hotter temps when the race was earlier in the season, so that bumped it up. CDA also likely hit the map because of the historically freezing water PLUS the mountains — but I don’t mind cold water, so that’s why in my mind, it bumps down. Plus, CDA has a virtually flat run now. Wisconsin, I can’t speak to–and probably never will be able to. So I would say, since I haven’t raced IM MOO, that Placid or Wisconsin wins as most difficult.  For me, I am done with the mountainous Ironmans (for the foreseeable future) having proved that I could accomplish three very climby bike courses.  Fist bump. Whatever. #BeenThereDoneThat #GotALLtheT-Shirts
  • In summary and regardless of which argument wins, Lake Placid is a brutal, ass-kicking course on a good day—and a killer, miserable, terrifying course on a bad day.

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From arriving in Placid on Friday afternoon, I immediately had a form of PTSD. I don’t mean to mock actual PTSD–I am not doing that–but I will tell you that I had a bit of evil deja vu – maybe that is a more appropriate term than PTSD.  Afterall my experience last year on that course was so difficult, so butt-busting, that when I was out and about on parts of the course this year–just spectating–I had several moments of internal shivers, tremors, eerie flashbacks and OMG moments.  Weird stuff, people.  I tell you. But truth.

On Thursday, I popped by the Women for Tri tent and met long-time SBM friend, Monica. So so great hugging her neck after all these years. #AllTheFeels

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Later, I took two of the racing kiddos for a ride in the mountains – to drive the bike course after a dinner at Dancing Bears.

Famous last words from the peanut gallery in the back seat: “This bike course doesn’t look that hard.”

[End of the race, hanging over the fence after the finish, the same mouth said, “That bike course was a b*tch!” 🙂  Ahhhh, yes.]

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They sure looked scared. ^^^ 🙂

Saturday morning was a group meet-up and run with a group from some peeps in Tri-Fecta, and that was fun and sweaty.  I saw one of my favorite people, Lindsay, and we hugged it out and cried like we usually do (okay, so this is only the second time. But tears each time.)

This was her first attempt at Ironman, and at Lake Placid, to boot.

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We ran around Mirror Lake, and I was with some speedy gals who were chatting and talking, and I’m working my 10k pace the entire time.  But almost 4 miles later, we were done and ready to eat.

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After the group run, I headed to the Women For Tri tent to (wo)man the tent, and also to meet up with the “voice of Ironman,” the amazingly wonderful and kind, Mike Reilly.  Who will always remember me for accosting him at the 2015 Lake Placid finish line.

“Of course I remember you,” he said.  [I did, afterall, plant a kiss on him.]

I always say of 2015 Lake Placid: “I have never been so glad to see a man in my life as Mike.”

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Lots of love from Mike with lots of photo ops, including a photobomb from the man himself.

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He really is just the nicest guy.  And everyone who is racing wants to hear him say: “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.”  He’s iconic.

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Lots of love and hugs and conversations with all sorts of peeps.  So fun putting real faces to Facebook profile pictures.

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All the racing kids were checking bikes and getting everything ready for the big day.  I stayed in a condo with four other athletes who were racing, so I tried to make sure to stay out of the way, tiptoe to the bathroom, and not play any loud music.

Before we knew it – race day was upon everyone…  I didn’t need much but cell phone batteries and snacks. Check. Check. And I was ready.  An extra early 4:00am wake-up call, and we were all off to the races.

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Race morning. Ahhhh.  The energy, the fear, all the feels… it’s such a great day.  After the National Anthem, I cried (always do), and waved to all my pals as the cannon sounded, and they began to roll into the water.

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I stood there, alone, in a giant crowd of spectators and prayed for a good day for each of them, but mainly just for safety.  For a safe swim. A safe ride in the mountains.  For a safe run.  For everyone to get their friends and family homes safely.  At the end of the day, triathlon can be so dangerous.  It really can.  Just wanted all my friends to make it through.

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Off to watch the swimmers exit…

I stood around in the jacket I had brought and began to feel the sun creep in.  It feels like it might be hot today.  (Truth)

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First place Female Pro and new course record holder: Heather Jackson

 

After a little over 1:30, all of my friends were out of the water, and headed out on the bike.

A fabulous swim effort by everyone I knew, and super proud of all of them all.

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Found my cheering friends and crew at bike Special Needs, and we cow-belled the riders past, and then headed out to eat… and wait for everyone to come in from the bike.

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One by one, everyone I knew made it into T2… except my girl, Lindsay.

We waited until 5:30, and that was the closing of the bike course.  She was so close, but didn’t quite make it.  Broken-hearted for her… but pleased to announce that she’s not letting all that fitness get away from her—and is tackling Ironman Maryland in a handful of weeks. (Best of love and luck, lady!!)

On to the run course…

We watched everyone head out into the great void that is the Lake Placid and Ironman marathon.
Whoa nelly.  A long day.

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Funny picture of the day goes to Todd —who had a LOT of very enthusiastic stories to tell me in a span of 30 seconds.

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Precious, Julie and I were the running cheer pack, while Michelle and her husband, Chad, were stationed at another place on the course.  We tried to break it up so there were cheers in different places. I thought that would help.

We found some time to rest and put our feet up, too. Which is nice, and pretty rare for Sherpas. 🙂

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Interestingly, all our friends and athletes managed to be pretty close to each other in bike and run times, so we would see everyone in a span of time, and have time to go eat and do things.

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From a spectating standpoint, the racers did great for us! Thank you! LOL!

The sun went down, the race clock was in the 14 hour range, and everyone was nearing the end–the total end being 17 hours.

We caught most of the crew on the last out-and-back, and then headed to the Olympic Oval for the big celebration.

#AllTheLights

 

We cheered and cheered and one-by-one, we saw all the friends do the amazing thing–that is finish an Ironman.  IMG_7819

One by one… they each rounded the corner in the oval to the amazingly magical and bright lights of the Ironman finish. Ahhh!

Very emotional.

And then this happened with my athlete, Sarah, and her now-fiance, Ben.

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[That’s a finish-line engagement, people.  Beautiful!  #AllTheFeels!!!]

An amazing day.

* * *

Time to go home as quickly as I landed.

As I said goodbye to Placid with a stop in Keene at the ADK Cafe for the most amazing molasses cookies and cappuccino, I realized that my “work” in Placid was done.

(After I got a half dozen of the cookies, maple syrup, maple candy, and maple sauce for the family and kids!…. of course!)

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It was good.  The “work,” I mean.

Lake Placid will always be the most magical place for me, in many ways.  I had “raced” it.  I had survived it. I had planned revenge on it–and when that didn’t work out–I still was able to see so many of my athletes and friends make that course proud.

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It’s a hard course. On the course, you see grown, gray-headed men crying.  You see joy.  You see suffering, defeat, anger, grief, sickness, fear, sadness, happiness, and the biggest of elations at the end.

All the emotions are out there on an Ironman course.

And that’s why Ironman is magical.

As insane and as crazy as it really is on paper, I can never go to a race and lose sight of the beauty that is a start, a sufferfest of a day, and a finish.  It’s one of the most beautiful things in the world.

 

On a life scale of amazing…  there are weddings, children being born, natural wonders like waterfalls and canyons… and Ironman.

I stand by that statement, too.  Afterall, why does anyone chase the insane dream?

Because it’s true.

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And if you aren’t someone who wants to, or would consider doing an Ironman, you should choose YOUR Ironman.  Your Ironman is that crazy goal – no matter what it is – something so big, that when you set out to accomplish it, you have no idea how you WILL.  But you focus on it. You work at it, everyday. And then when the time comes, you do it.  EVERYONE should do “their” Ironman.

Congratulations to all of you who conquered the course… and to those of you who left business on the course out there—go on and get it done–however you need to, and in whatever way that means to you.  No matter what the goal: you can, and you will.

<3

Love to you all,
Meredith

#JustKeepMovingForward

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

  • Anna

    July 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I was totally tearing up at this post the whole time I was reading it. I did IMLou last October and this brought back all the feels! My hubby did IMTX in 2013 and a lot of people say that was a hard one because of the heat. My hubby finished and ended up in the med tent getting IVs because he was so dehydrated. I would love to race TX but it’s too flat for me! We go and volunteer at it now. My hubby wants to run Lake Placid but may have to wait a few years for it. Scheduling, money and life have got in the way but I think he will get there someday.

    Reply
  • Heather

    July 28, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    I am so sad that I was so close to you and didn’t get to come meet you!! ? I’m just glad you still got to make it out and be a spectator/supporter, to some that is just as important. Besides, you can always use a “relaxing” day!

    When I was reading your post I thought, I am so glad that there are people out there like me who get emotional at things like the national anthem, the bright lights at the finish line, or even the random hi-5 throughout the course!

    You never stop amazing me with your endeavors and posts. They are so inspirational and raw with emotion and always gives me the reboot of motivation I need! Don’t stop being awesome
    Xo
    Heather

    Reply
  • SoAnyway

    July 29, 2016 at 8:48 am

    I’ve raced Boulder (after training at a maximum of elevation 800′ (minimum of 1′ below sea level)) and I can tell you that’s NOT in the running for hardest course.

    Reply
  • ronni

    July 29, 2016 at 10:05 am

    it was so great to meet you in the “women for tri” tent on saturday! sorry for going all fan-girl on you (though i’m sure you’re used to people gushing when they meet you in person after reading your blog for years). btw, you are taller in person than i expected :). you really are a great writer and a great voice for triathlon. you are truly a multi-talented and amazing women and i’m proud to ‘know’ you. 🙂

    Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      July 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Ahhhh, loved meeting you. It was so fun. I come from some really tall people – and I didn’t even get my mom’s height!

      You killed the race. BTW – I think I saw your peeps at bike in… did they have “In X hours I get my Wife/Mom back” shirts on? With Robinson on the back? Way to go on a difficult day. #youreahero

      Reply
      • ronni

        July 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm

        lol! yep, had that shirt (in 140.6 miles…”) made for my husband, my kids had similar, and they all had robinson on the back. good eye!! thanks, i was happy with how i did. long, rough day!

        Reply
  • cherie

    July 29, 2016 at 11:50 am

    The most difficult IM is the one you just finished… I don’t think I would put IM on the list equal to weddings, graduations, family reunions or that should bearing lunch talk you may some day have with your daughter about the boyfriend she wants to live with half way across the country….IM pales in comparison and is certainly not an important life milestone. A cool and fun thing to do…but no I don’t equate it with top life experiences.

    Reply
  • Dee

    July 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing this post! IMLP 2016 was my first Ironman! My tire popped at mile 18 on the descent into Keene and took a spill. Thank goodness I only had road rash. I thought my day was over, but thanks to the awesome support crew I was back on my back after a 45 minute pit stop. I had to kill it to make the bike cut off and from the footage it looks like I was the last one through with 10 minutes to spare. I too walked the marathon since I couldn’t take anything besides water and chicken broth. I almost gave my family a heart attack multiple times during the day when they thought I might not make, but we just joke that I was shooting for attention with a midnight finish. I got to high five Heather Jackson and come in with everyone cheering me on. It was EPIC. I”m happy to say it was my first Ironman, but it won’t be my last! #justkeepmovingforward. Looking forward to meeting you in person. IM Chattenooga??

    Reply

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