Live from Lake Placid: One Day Remaining…

Ironman events remind me a lot of some of the larger multi-day charity rides. Where the event goes, along with it comes a postive can-do vibe dancing above the premise; stories of survival; people reaching for dreams, setting the bar high, higher, and even higher; and an overall feeling-goodness for both athlete and spectator.

On top of that Ironman also affords a world class event, where both Pros and age groupers mix and mingle on the same course, in the events store, and even the same line at Starbucks. Just today I saw Team Timex — most of whom are known Pros — getting coffee. I, of course, didn’t recognize any of them, but if you take the sheer size of their collective calve muscle, you’d believe it to be the same. Then again, I could be standing next to Bjorn Andersson and not know who the hell it was. Even Mike Riley, unless he was wearing his trademark Hawian shirt.

I think the reason for such a worldly event feel here in bumblewood New York is that Lake Placid really is such a tiny town. And once you leave these parts, you’ll in the middle of nowhere New York. But that is what also makes it such an amazing race site and place to host the course. Because we, as Ironman participants and supporters, come into this little town and take it over. We litterally kick the shit out of it. The community, of course, loves us and hates us at the same time. Mostly love, as we bring such energy and enthusiasm, and with the money flowing in, the economy gets its biggest jolt of the year during this event; and the community reaps hundreds of thousands of charity dollars in aid and infrastructure improvement. This year Ironman Community Fund is designating a new outdoor skating rink that will in summer time be converted over to an activity center; other times of year it will be an ice skating rink.

Ironman is unmistable in this part of the Adirondak region these days. The energy add up to a collective vibe of rekindling the Olympic spirit of years gone by. That is what Ironman does to this town.

As for me, last night I went to the Welcome Dinner, which is always followed by the Mandatory Athlete Meeting. The Welcome Dinner, for those of you who have not done an Ironman, is really an inspiring show. Entering the tent is the food line. After you collect your soggy pasta, you filter into the communal tent, complete with stage, professional sound system all around, and over-sized video screen. Shortly after, the show begins, and my oh my, it is quite a show. I have now been to two of those in Madison, Wisconsin in ’07 and Couer d’Alene last year, and this one, even thought I knew what to expect, was still inspiring.

After meeting up with a handful of folks from my local triathlon club (Trifury), we all went in together. At that point I looked for Tithers but, having arrived 15 minutes late, the place was already packed. We assumed seats, ate, chatted up the race, the course, and our family’s support, and then the show began.

Race participant statistics were read off. NY state has the most participants. Canada has a very strong showing as number one country after US. 27% of the field were Female. This is exactly the same percentage of last year. 831 first timers. The biggest difference in demographics actually came in the age groups. Where typically M35-39 (my age group) is the largest age group, this time, the largest is M40-44. Still, my has 430… so even if I have the race of my life, Kona seems very, very far away.

One more stat, and a story: 8 athletes will be doing their 10th Lake Placid. This is special because this is the 10th year anniversary of the race. That means these guys and one girl have done every single Ironman Lake Placid.

Mike Riley had each of these 10-Timers come up on stage. One of them was, much to my surprise, JRoden’s friend Brian from High Peaks Cycling. Brian lives local and owns the cycling shop in town by the same name (HPC). He even shared a few stories with us. One was of a guy coming to town in January, with roads filled with snow and more falling from the sky, this gym rented a bike from Brian at 9 am and asked how long he could keep it. Brian said, “Just get it back before we close. But where are you going to ride?” The guy said he was in town and wanted to ride one loop of the Ironman bike course. Brian couldn’t believe it. It was freak’n snowing out side, and the roads were barely passable… by car! Brian said the guy left his shop with a full snow parka. He returned at 2 pm. Brian had hot cocoa waiting for him. After he discovered that this guy was an MD by trade, Brian ended by saying “He was the dumbest doctor I ever meet.” On Jr’s advice, I actually tried to meet Brian at his shop, but after asking around, finally one young kid said Brian stepped out for a few hours. It’s too crazy now to go back, but I’ll try to meet him (and ask about just how crazy our very own Jr is) after the race.

Next up was the biggest loser competition. I was sure I would see Tithers, but I suppose she lost all her weight before this race — and actually won in IMFL last year — or was at least among the last standing. I was sad not to see her standing anyway, because then I would have at least gone over to say hi and good luck if we didn’t bump paths again. Either way, it’s crazy busy here with so much to do.

This morning I got up and met some of my triathlon club peeps for the Gatorade Swim. We joked, those doing the race swapped race plans (me: weenie the bike, all of it!), and then swam. I only hit the third buoy and came home, good for just over 10 minutes total swim time. I purposely tried to swim close to others to get used to just that for race day. Small fry, but hey, it’s all good.

Next up was a short run around the lake, then to breakfast. Back to the event store (spent zero dollars) to check out the new wears, as they’re always bringing out new stuff not seen the day before. Then back to the hotel room to make use of my recent sponsorship of free Internet complimentary of Comfort Inn next door. Thank you Comfort Inn. Without your support none of this note would be possible.

So now I get ready to put my gear bags together, check over my bike, and then check it all in. Later I will meet up with folks from my triathlon club for a group picture. And then the waiting begins.

Being out here really puts things in perspective. I’m happy to say that my race plan remains intact. The only thing I will do a little more, as if to take more cautiously, is the bike. So from my estimated times, my bike split will probably be slower. I will respect the course and set as a goal to run the marathon. That means I will go very easy on the bike, especially on the first loop, regardless of how slow that may be. Because this is a course that will be the toughest I will do.

Right now the weather forecast has been gradually changing, probably for the better. Sort of. The temperature for race day was originally called to start at 68 in the morning and climb to near 75-76 by midday, complete with isolated but heavy thunder showers. The thunder showers remain, but forecast has gravitated toward race morning of 60F and 68-70 by midday, but now with higher levels of humidity, which was supposed to be high anyway, so I’m guessing these temps will feel a little warmer with the humidity. At this point I have no change in race gear other than that I will likely stick a very lightweight pair of armwarmers deep in my Bento box. Just in case. I’m the type where on the bike I’d rather be warmer than cooler. So this will be just in case. I don’t want another repeat of IMWI ’06, where the rain came, the temps dropped, and it got hypotheria-cold out there.

I’ll try to do another update later, but if not… see you on the other side!

Oh, and I apologize to Tithers. Based on your reaction in the other update, I’m guessing I said something wrong, or perhaps I didn’t articulate my thoughts properly. My intension was none other than good. Good luck, girl. Let’s take it easy, steady and moving forward, and if we do that we’ll kick some ass. I will pick you up when you’re down, you do the same for me. Let’s touch base on the cell later today.

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