There's really no way to know what to expect during the bike portion of a race, until you are actually on the course...on race day. Karel and I always do our homework before races so we watched lots of Youtube videos and read other links describing the Lake Placid course to better understand how to properly train and race in Lake Placid. Of course, every individual has their own opinion of a course as those of us from Florida will describe the mountains much differently than a local. Many people have asked me how we train for hilly courses since we live in flat Florida and my first response is always that we love to climb. If you don't love climbing, there is no need to seek out challenging, hilly courses for the mind is not going to be on the bodies side during the race when the legs are burning and the mind says "why are you doing this?" But what we do have is wind...lots of it. For every ride that we do, our legs never stop unless we stop the bike and put our foot on the ground. Sure, we can coast but what we do not get are descends or rollers. We have no opportunities for free speed for even if we get tailwind, the body is still working to produce power to move us forward. Gravity is not on our side unless we are on a bridge and we'd rather do intervals which simulate race day conditions instead of doing a bunch of bridge repeaters on the bike.
I always enjoy seeing my Training Peaks file after a race. I choose to hide the other variables that I review on my file so I could show the similarities to the Ironman.com race profile compared to my training file. To the eye, the two course profiles make you believe that are only a few challenging sections of the course (2 loop course) but despite a view like this.....
This course requires more than just a strong heart, muscles and mind. You better have the right climbing cassette, know how to change your gears properly, check your ego at the door to properly pace yourself, have a great fueling strategy (and be comfortable grabbing your nutrition on climbs, descends and bumpy roads) and you have to constantly remind yourself that you have to run a crazy hard marathon after riding 112 miles in the Adirondack mountains.
Here's my condensed version of the course.
You leave the transition area and go down a little hill veering left a little and then make a right turn down a steep hill which you can hardly see the bottom of the hill from the top. You then ignore the hay barrels in front of you which are there for those who overshoot the turn and make a sharp left turn after coming down a steep, short hill. You then go up a little, ride along the streets of down town placid toward the ski jumps and you finally approach mile 1.
You then go down another hill which is the same hill you run up twice across from the ski jumps and then do a little climbing, up and down and anticipate the long descent into Keene which covers a few miles at flying speeds...all before mile 15. You know you are approaching the descend because before you reach the Cascade Mountain trailhead and see the Cascade Lakes you are forced to see a bright colored signs that warns you that the descend is steep enough for trucks to flip. For those of us who would rather be a chicken than a dead duck, you do not have to squeeze on your breaks as the road does level itself out but if you have the need for speed and forget that you are in an Ironman but instead, a competition to clock the fastest time, you can be like Karel down the descend at 49 mph. Karel said he could have gone faster but it was wet out.
After the first 15 miles or so, if you still have all your bottles from the roads that take a beating from the NY winters, you welcome a nice long section of rollers through Keene and Upper Jay/Jay on Route 9N. This is a nice place to wake up your legs but you have to be patient for you are approaching the climbs in less than 20 miles.
The out and back section through Ausable Forks breaks up the course and continues to follow the trend of beautiful sights and views. This section is about 5.6 miles each way so it gives athletes a chance to see competition ahead and behind but also to ease up and gain any free speed if the wind is on your side.
Nearing Route 86 in Jay, your legs wake up by climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing until you reach the top of this never-ending climb. It's not long, just annoying if you don't love to climb.
There are a few more rollers and then you reach Haselton road which is a nice 1 mile out and back to again scope out the competition or take a few breathers before the hard part of the course....as if the course wasn't challenging enough already.
You see a few flags and they are blowing toward you which is not the way that you you'd like it if you could use your magic and control the weather. But, it is what it is and off you go in Wilmington towards Whiteface Mountain.
12 miles of rollers, false flats, climbs and the notorious baby, mama and papa bear climbs. Nothing on this course is impossible, unless your body and mind think otherwise. Despite fabulous signs, spectator/volunteer support and beautiful views, this course presents difficulty between every mile marker and before you know it, you are back at the transition area....to do it all over again.
Karel and I both loved this course. Here are a few of my favorite things from my race.
-My body and mind enjoyed this course so much that by the end of the first loop, I felt like I had only just warmed up for my main set. I choose to purposely take the first loop comfortable, focusing on my IM power zones (upper Z2-low Z3) which I had done many times in training for our intervals and sitting on Karel's wheel. I focused on areas when I would get free speed and I didn't try to beat the wind (I've never won before in training and I didn't want to try again during an IM). My nutrition was spot on, my mind never wandered and my body never hurt.
-My body did fine on the descend but I purposely planned to save my energy for the climbs since I knew that I would be able to use my strength of climbing (primarily out of the saddle).
-There weren't animals on the course for me to say hi to like IMKY and IMWI but the views were amazing....despite the rainy weather on the first loop.
-My favorite sign read "I bet you wish you were off your bike right now" on one of the last climbs of the loop. I then saw another sign on the run with the same handwriting and graphics "I bet you wish you had your bike back right now". I couldn't stop laughing.
-I saw an elderly man around the Keene area sitting in a lawchair ringing a bell for both loops (over 3 hours of me riding). As the Ironman athletes were trying to speed up the day and go as fast as possible to get to the finish line, this man was perfectly content doing nothing and letting minutes turn into hours. It reminded me to really enjoy the day and by the 2nd loop, I didn't want to get off my bike, I was having so much fun.
-Not being passed by Karel until I headed toward Whiteface mountain. I saw Karel on two out and backs and as much as I wanted him to catch me so I could talk to him, I also wanted to show him that all that bike training had paid off thanks to his help. Of course, aafter we exchanged some words about our swim times, I yelled to him "I Love you" as any wife would do while racing 140.6 miles...and off he went with a few guys trying to stay on his wheel...good luck with that.
-I stayed within my own race day box. I remembered Gloria telling me that when she did IMTexas (her first IM) she told herself that if an athlete passed her she would only think positive thoughts that that athlete at that moment was having a good moment. It didn't mean she wasn't having a good moment and it didn't mean that the athlete (or her) wouldn't have a better moment in 5 miles but she told me to just focus on myself and to not waste energy on things out of my control, such as others being faster than me at certain points of the course. I really trusted myself and my skills on the bike and I feel I raced this bike course the best I could have raced (and have ever raced) by finishing the bike feeling hungry to run and so happy with how I felt (mentally and physically).
-I loved seeing my competition on the course as well as other athletes. I receive so much energy when I cheer for others and the same is true when others cheer for me. It is this never-ending wave of energy that comes when you help to pick up others and others do the same for you. I gave a thumbs up and some cheers to my competition infront (Katie T. ) and behind me (Kendra) as well as to the pro women who were looking super strong as well. Despite racing for a Kona slot, I felt like all the ladies in the course around me were loving the day just as much as me and I didn't want to wish a bad race on anyone for at the end of the day, if the girls who are better than me don't have good days, then I am not pushed to a higher limit.
-Both Karel and myself made sure we soaked up this opportunity to ride in the mountains. Because we both love to travel to race and race to travel, we picked this race because of the challenges and being so close to nature. Karel was having so much fun that he contributed to the wheelie count on one of the bear climbs had a group of guys with a sign checking off how many people could/would do a wheelie while climbing. OK, not a Sagan type of wheelie but nonetheless, it counted :)
Here are a few bike stats from the race as well as what my computer looks like when I ride intervals or in races. You can see from my Garmin 500 stats, how I lapped the course, although on the 2nd loop I didn't lap at the exact same points because I forgot. I tried to fuel every 8-12 minutes from my drink, consuming a 350 calorie bottle within the first 75-80 min of each loop and the rest from a 300 calorie bottle + 300 calorie gel flask. I only grabbed water from aid stations for sipping and cooling. I also included Karel's stats from Ironman.com
Marni: 5:45.11 (average 19.41 mph), 3rd division after bike, 184 overall, 17th female
Splits from Ironman.com
distance 30 miles 1:21.5 (22 mph)
distance 26 miles 1:25 (18.17mph)
distance 30 miles 1:23 (21.41 mph)
distance 26 miles 1:34 (16.52 mph)
Garmin 500 splits
40 minutes (14.5 miles): Power 152W, HR 137, cadence 81, 21.46mph
1:05 minutes (22.29 miles): Power 149W, HR 135, cadence 81, 20.45mph
16 minutes (5.4 miles): Power 156W, HR 137, cadence 80, 19.61mph
46 minutes (13.75 miles): Power 177W, HR 144, cadence 80, speed 17.63mph
41 minutes (14.1 miles): Power 149W, HR 132, cadence 74, speed 20.39mph
1:24 (27.7 miles): Power 151W, HR 136, cadence 79, speed 19.75mph
50 min (13.38 miles): Power 160W, HR 140, cadence 78, speed 15.87mph
(max speed 38mph)
Karel: 5:16.26 (average 21.24 mph), 21st division, 91 overall, 85th male
distance 30 miles 1:13.48 (24.39 mph)
distance 26 miles 1:18.53 (19.78mph)
distance 30 miles 1:16.09 (23.64 mph)
distance 26 miles 1:27.36 (17.81 mph)
(max speed 49mph)
And after riding 112 miles, we "get" to run a marathon! As an athlete who has raced 5 Ironman's, I know the hurt, the mental battles and what it feels like to finish an Ironman by running 26.2 miles after swimming 2.4 and biking 112 miles. For most of us, the IM run has nothing to do with how fast you can run a standard marathon or how many miles you ran in your longest run in training (or how fast) but instead, how much you can suffer, dig and want it when the body and mind tell you to stop, sit down and just call it a day, it's not worth it. For myself, I wanted to dig, suffer and show myself that I could do this for the 6th time but for my hubby, this was a new territory for not only was this his first IM but his first marathon and after dismounting the bike, this was the longest he had ever used his body.