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I saw this on Facebook and it’s some great advice on eleven things Ironman athletes will tell you before your first Ironman race:
This weekend, I had the pleasure to get a kitchen pass and being able to go up to Lake Placid and get some on course training time. I am sooo glad I did because I gained a wealth of knowledge. The weather was too cold to swim in Mirror Lake but the modified plan was to ride a loop Friday, two loops on Saturday, and then run a loop or more Sunday. Our weather was 30’s in the morning but bounced up to the upper 60’s by mid day. That said, we had to start off a bit later than we hoped for but it was just gorgeous weather to be outside and train. Serious training.
On Friday, we took a nice and easy 56 mile ride on the IMLP bike course. The goal here was to observe landmarks, turns, distances on the out and backs (since the course was not marked yet). The big thing I noticed was the ride into Keene. The road surface on the descent into Keene is rough. At times very rough. The consistent thing I did notice is that when I saw a truck warning sign “Use Low Gear”, the roads got rougher. Basically, the roads would have ridges across the lane and the asphalt has cracks too with some pot holes that would suck in a 23mm tire. The vibrations were so bad I had to scrub speed just to see. Even as people were whipping by me mid 40+ MPH, I just kept thinking, this is going to be nuts race day with such different rates of speed. I believe there were 3 caution signs total.
Once we made it thru Keene and on the way to Upper Jay, it was a nice flat stretch to take on some nutrition, get aero, and just ride. The scenery was amazing. The out and back past Jay was a bit boring 12 mile stretch. Once back into Jay and turning right towards Wilmington, that 2 mile climb was a bit of a grind but manageable. Just gear down and spin up. Once on the top, it’s a fast stretch into the next out and back which goes quickly. There was no clear marking on how far out but I just waiting for my Garmin to beep off course and then turn around. It was about a mile out. The return into Wilmington is nice rollers coming back into town with a right, small little climb and quick left. Then the asphalt just gets amazing back into Placid and the 3 bears. The steady climbing rollers going up and up I thought were easier than I heard about. Keep in mind, I train on rollers constantly and have putting time on some serious hill/climbing workouts. All the hills are manageable and only Category 4 climbs. I still plan to train on CAT 2 and CAT 3 climbs just to get the leg strength. Once at the top of poppa bear, the right turn on to Northwood, is a short little pop up the hill then it’s nice in easy back into town.
I also switched saddles before we left home to find something a bit more comfortable beyond the half distance. After the ride, I felt I needed a bit more angle since I cannot rotate my hips as much as I should and made that mechanical adjustment. Make sure you bring tools to tweak your setup if your so inclined.
To prep, I made my midpoint sandwich, 6 bottles, and loaded my chamois with butt butter. That way the chamois was nice and saturated. Somebody gave us the tip to do this overnight (which we forgot to do) but figured letting it soak for a couple hours would not hurt either.
My goal for Saturday was to take an easy race pace first loop and then do a slightly negative split on the second. I was warned that people go too hard on the first loop and lose steam on the second. I planned on stopping at the car to simulate a special needs stop to reload. The first loop went well. I remember the signs to make sure I was prepared for the descend. I found that the right tire lane seem to have the better surface (relative). The shoulder was sketchy in spots. I got thru the descend with a bit more confidence into Keene. Once I made the turn to upper Jay, I downed a salt pill, then ate 1/2 cliff bar. I was sipping my HEED mixture along the way with the goal of having 2 bottles downed by the end of the first loop. Once I got to Jay and almost finished the out, I finished the cliff bar allowing for ample time to handle the bears. Plus another salt pill and a block. The temps were in the 60’s but it was winding and I did not want to be behind since I was sweating while climbing. I was pretty steady going back into Wilmington and was on my second bottle by then. Going up the bears, I was going steady and not pushing too hard. After all, I have done centuries before but this was certainly my longest ride to date and not on the freshest of legs. As I was climbing thru this stretch, I noticed that my HEED mixtures were warm and frankly, not too appealing. I knew they do Gatorade race day so I called an audible and figured I would stop in town, get 2 cold Gatorades and use that on the second loop. With my premixed bottles sitting in a warm potentially hot car, it just made my stomach turn thinking about that.
In town, I stopped at the Mobile station, got 2 bottle of water and 2 of Gatorade. Rode back to the car, I ate my sandwich, downed a full water bottle. Put the Gatorade in bike bottles and water in the remaining bottle. I then applied some more butter. I took my time to see if my training partner was close or not. Not wanting to wait too long, I was off and back around the high school to go thru the second loop pass and visualizing people coming out of T1 and that potential ciaos.
Once back on the course, I knew my stomach was full of calories and fluid, so I took it easy on the climbs out past the ski jump. That way I would not spike my HR and get nauseous with so much food. I also popped a salt pill before the descent. This time around, I started to descend jockey style. Basically using my legs to get my butt off the saddle to help absorb the vibration with soft arms and bent legs. Also keeping my weight back to help my center of gravity and flatten out to be more aero. This really helped my vision thus my speed going into Keene. Going out to Upper Jay and Jay, I just focused on taking sips every so often. I typically have to take a tums on the bike because I tend to push to many calories and fluids in. That typically happens around mile 40. This go around, it was about mile 80 so I took that as a sign of dialing things in a bit.
With the out and back finished, I went granny and just climbed out of Jay. My goal here was to save for the bear since my quads were starting to get a bit tired. This climb was bit slower than the first but I would get rewarded soon enough. Another salt pill (4 total this loop), reloaded of my front bottle and some swigs of water, I was happy that I did not have super-hot fluids this time around. Rolling out of Wilmington, the miles were starting to pile up. Plus at this point, I saw very little traffic except people going the other direction. About mile 4 or so into the climb, I got passed. Just what I needed. Somebody a bit quicker than I to chase in and give me a second wind. This time around I gained 1 MPH on this 11 mile stretch with a negative split. That was over 2 minutes gained. I was quite pleased with that. At the end, my legs were tired and spent time stretching them out so I would be able to run in the morning.
With super tired legs, my goal for the Sunday run was to do a loop and if I still had some legs to add mileage. Leaving town is all downhill and pretty steep in sections. You quickly get to the ski jumps. Now the out and back you see a great little river, pines, and rolling curved road. It was so nice. I should provide some ample shade during daylight hours but also be super dark if your still out after dusk. The out and back went by pretty quickly and then the ski jumps just pop into view and that sight never gets old. I figured the first test is the hill in front of the jumps heading back into town. The pace slaked off a bit but I was able to climb them pretty easily. I thought, this is a good sign. I figured I will walk the hills in town race day and most likely today. Before I knew it, I was back near Main St with the hill turning left onto Main St. in sight. I was on the right (with traffic) side of the road thinking that would be the side I would race on, I saw the hill and said to myself, I’m running up that darn hill. I pushed up the hill and noticed my heart rate shoot up. This confirmed that I should not burn that match (those matches maybe) on the first loop to save energy for the second. Once I got onto Main St, I was near the lake before I knew it. Feeling pretty good, I did a lap around the lake. At 14 miles, I shut it down and did my cool down walk. Solid, solid run at my longest distance to date on dead legs.
Riding by myself for 6+ hours was great mental exercise. The rub is that by the second loop, I did not have enough people to help pace/push thru the course. I tend to find people I can pace (run in particular) to something I believe I can hold and simulate race day conditions. It helps me hold a steady pace and my mind drifts. But, not riding with friends chatting it up to break up the time, was priceless unlike other long rides I have done before.
If I had more time to bike I would have done two additional things for certain. First would be descend repeats into Keene. It costs you very little energy since you are going downhill but allows you to get comfortable with your marks on certain sections. Plus you know when you should push (or let go of the brakes). All you would need to do is rotate who’s going to sag and drive you back up the hill. The other thing would to do hill repeats on 86 between Placid and Wilmington. That 10 mile repeat would be super solid workout. Also coming up so early, I wish I could have swam in Mirror Lake but I took what I could get.
All and all a fantastic training weekend.
Amen to that. Alyssa works with my wife and just raced Kona. What an amazing result she had on a very brutal day – even by Kona standards. I love the picture of the 3 bikes being “draft legal” and poor Alyssa gets the dreaded red card when she’s the lead bike. This is a great report because it keeps perspective of why triathletes do what they do. It’s about the lifestyle, training with peeps, amazing volunteer support, and the journey of putting the hard work that takes months to complete. Our families make sacrifices while on long rides, trips to various races, etc. I certainly will also take the suggestion of enjoy the entire trip and experience up in Placid. We are going up Thursday before the race and treating it more as an experience, I have a feeling I will enjoy my first full to the fullest. Especially if I can get Blair to race the Saturday kids race.
Here is here race report!