There is nothing more appealing to a triathlete than to finish a race knowing that they are physically stronger. It develops an extraordinary inner excitement for what comes next and creates extra motivation to work harder. For me, Ironman Lake Placid was one of those races, I felt strong throughout the entire triathlon and was able to empty out the tank on the second half of the marathon which has been a while since I managed to do that.
Lets cut to the chase.
Race swim was chaos for me. This is one of the easiest swim courses you can do: beautiful, calm lake with clear and tall buoys, a lane rope underwater along the entire way that you can follow and trees surrounding the lake that block the sun early in the morning so you never get it straight in your face. Two laps, non-wetsuit for pros since the water was 73F. Amateurs could use a wetsuit since their cut off is 76F. I got a terrible start, I just could not get clear of the bumps and elbows, got kicked in the stomach and face a couple of times before I could swing my arms clear. If there is one good thing about the amateur waves is that people try not to hit each other, while on the pro field it really feels like everyone wants to swim that straight and perfect line to the next buoy and everyone is aggressive. Totally fine, it’s way worse at the ITU level. After the bad start, I could not follow those that are in theory about my level of swimmers and it took me about half the first lap to regain my breathe with the groups ahead already long gone. I was somewhat relieved once I got out of the water for good and onto the bike.
If you’ve heard of Lake Placid before Ironman, it’s because it is a very famous ski resort located in the heart of the Adirondacks Mountain massif who hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. Despite being surrounded by high peaks, Lake Placid is not ‘at altitude’ but if you find the time to look to the side during the 112 mile ride, you will be astonished by the beauty of the area. The bike course is not just pretty but very challenging as well, one of the slowest in the North American circuit and actually the second slowest course in the entire Ironman calendar when paired with the run, also quite hilly. Apparently, that didn’t slow the pro field down as I found myself loosing a bit of time on the two-lap bike course all while outputting over 4 watts per kilo. I rode alone for 90% of the time, which allowed me to pace myself on the uphills, focus on nutrition and do my own race. I confess that riding by myself probably made me loose a bit more of time than I would on all the downhill and flat sections of the course, had I had someone ahead of me pacing those section, maybe I would have ridden a bit faster. Maybe I would have over ridden my ability as well so I won’t dwell too much on it. I don’t regret not trying to follow anyone on the bike as it allowed me to run well and spike my power a bit less. I thought I would be able to ride about 240w for the entire thing and looking back at it now maybe that was a little too conservative as I ended up at 247w avg and 258w NP.
- Bike file: https://www.strava.com/activities/2571178597
Back into Lake Placid for the second time, I dismounted the bike in about 13-14th place (?), further back than I had hoped but I knew some of the guys at the front had to be over pacing their bike. Reality is that the sport is becoming very competitive and pro athletes must take risks. Most of us will over pace the race at some point and everyone will bonk, there’s just no way around it, it’s just a matter of how well you manage that “wall” and keep moving forward. I think we would all be slightly faster if we did our own race. I for once didn’t over pace the bike and kept the “yes, I can go faster” for the entire first half of the marathon but probably pushed a bit too hard on the second time out of town. If the ride was hilly, the run is anything but flat, being mostly downhill on the first half of each lap and steady climb back into town. It also got a bit warm – warm, because compared to Arizona, it was just that – and I probably wasn’t using enough of the aid stations to cool down. By the time I realized, I was feeling hot (!!). Not because of my pace or my looks, but due to how much heat I was accumulating without managing to cool off the engine. But I had to keep pushing to catch up with those within reach ahead so I walked along the edge for a few miles until I passed everyone I could for 8th place (about 18miles into the marathon). I guess once I realized that I couldn’t get a good shot at 7th, my body settled, and pace dropped from 6:30s to a little over 7:00/mile. I looked back and there was no one gaining time on me either and as soon as the “not being chased” thought and comfort gets into your head, you can’t really snap out of it.
I finished in 8h54 and the second fastest marathon of the day, on a day that felt very steady and with little to no dark moments. I feel like the dark moments are part of the race and you must have them at each one of your Ironman, or else your physical limit was not breached. It’s not like this for 80% of the age group field, usually a steady race is your fastest race.
Everything, namely equipment, matters, at the pro level. Your race kit matters, your swim skin matters, your bike fit matters, your choice of gearing matters, your drivetrain resistance matters, your tires matter, your nutrition matters, everything. I’ve always been a big “it’s not about the bike, it’s about the engine” enforcer, which is true until a certain point, so I’ve not been the most diligent on seeking for every second I can possibly get out of equipment that I own. I have a fast bike, equipped with fast components but I think I can find a few extra minutes by changing just a few minor set ups and improvement on aerodynamics. I wish I could get into a wind tunnel but there’s still things I can do at home to improve on that field and that’s what I will focus on the next few weeks.
I’m very excited to head to China for the first time! I will take part of the Changsha Wangcheng International Triathlon 2019, an Olympic distance non-draft race held on September 1st. I will have a few tweaks made on the bike already so it will certainly be a good opportunity to test that out. After China, Santa Cruz 70.3, Ironman Chattanooga and (possibly) Ironman Florida are on taps. There was also the possibility to do Ironman Wisconsin but given the short turnaround from Lake Placid and the fact that Quintana Roo is based out of Chattanooga, it makes more sense to focus on the later. I loved the one time I raced Wisconsin (3rd in 2014) but I’m looking forward to experience the heat and hills of Chattanooga after missing out on it in 2015 when I crashed out of the race at mile 108 of the bike course.