A Day at the Races, Ironman Lake Placid.
My friend and tri team director, Kristi, raced in Ironman Lake Placid this past weekend so a few of us from Team EnVision went to cheer her on. I had never been to, or even considered going to, a race of this magnitude prior to meeting Kristi. I had no idea what to expect.
Kristi had rented a house – a big house – in Upper Jay, NY, and invited family and friends to give her logistical and moral support for the couple days before, during, and after the big day. Wise decision. She had time to make the 5-hour drive to Lake Placid, settle in, have a couple days to relax (?!) (there was tubing practically right outside the door!), take in the super-charged atmosphere, and deal with the logistics of the race.
And wow, talk about logistics. 2700 athletes, 3000 volunteers, and who knows how many friends and family members, all descending upon a rather small town in upstate NY. Picture 1970s Tyrolean ski chalet-themed kitch and you’ve got Lake Placid. I thought it was kind of cute, but the town has definitely seen better days.
Members of our group had been arriving since Thursday, We (4 of us) got to the Navajo Lodge late Saturday afternoon in time for a nice pre-race dinner with Kristi, her parents, girlfriend, and friends. All of us were ready to cheer her on through the race the next day. All together, there were 11 of us + a very well-behaved baby. By Saturday evening all of the details, big and small, had been attended to. Gear had been dropped off including 2 “special needs” bags full of race-day nutrition and things that might be needed during the race. These bags were available to participants on the course: one bag at the end of the first bike loop and the other at around mile 11 on the run. A far cry from the tris I do where I only need a water bottle and maybe a Gu in addition to my swim/bike/run stuff.
I can’t believe how calm Kristi appeared. Everything was in place. She had done the work – and more work – throughout the previous 9-10 months. Up early to train, eating well, figuring out what worked and didn’t work for multi-hour bike rides and runs, inviting friends to keep her company on all or parts of her workouts. Focus, clarity, dedication. Through all sorts of weather, and personal ups and downs, she put in quality effort and rarely complained. The day was finally here and she was ready. I guess there’s a calm that comes from knowing you’ve done everything you should have and could have, and you just have to see how it will play out on that one day where it all has to come together.
Kristi was up and out by around 4:15am. I was going in a car leaving at 5. Another car of supporters was heading over a little later, say 6:30, and the final part of the entourage left the Lodge by 8 or so. Parking, while not a total nightmare, could have been better marked. We parked on a side street rather than in a specified lot, since there weren’t any signs for the lots… Maybe it was because we were so early. At any rate, the town was already crawling with people. We had our team tent set up where we could hang out and watch the swim (from a little distance), and see the cyclists pass twice and runners pass 4 times. Perfect. Kristi knew where the tent was and could expect to see us at certain times during the race. AND, since the weather was calling for rain, we had shelter.
The pros went off at 6:20am followed by the age-groupers at 6:40. The rolling start was new this year: participants self-seeded based on estimated swim time. I think it made for a much safer, and probably quicker, swim although the purists grumbled about tradition. I don’t know. If fewer swimmers suffer concussions and avoid drowning by toning down the melée, is that a bad thing?
Our day, as spectators, was largely spent hanging out at the tent, napping, estimating the times Kristi would pass by, and cheering everybody on. Cowbells clanging! The Team EnVision tent was one in a long row of team tents so it was a very busy place.
Between Kristi’s bike loops I had time to get in the water and swim the course. The coolest thing about the swim is the permanent cable marking the route. Just follow the golden thread for 1.2 miles. And, if you’re doing the race, do it again. Once was enough for me – I had more cheering to do!
13:34.26 after the event started (official time: 13:27.47), Kristi ran down the chute to hear those very important hard-won words: “Kristi, you are an Ironman!”
We (partner, family, friends, and teammates) couldn’t be more proud of her.