Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Season Finale: Lake Placid 70.3 Pre-Amble & Swim

Late season racing in the Northern Hemisphere is almost always gamble in terms of weather.  I find a lot of it depends on the type of summer that it's been.  This particular summer saw below average temperatures and lot of rain.  We had a lovely last week of August in Toronto so I was hopeful we'd have another last ditch run of summer.   Stalking the Lake Placid weather forecast the week leading up to the race told another story.  There was a lot of rain in the days leading up to the race, which isn't totally abnormal for Lake Placid.  It's in the mountains so rain comes and goes.  But the temperatures were dropping by the day.  Having been to Lake Placid before, I knew that you had to be prepared for any kind of weather.  So I made sure I packed accordingly.   The race day forecast was saying that it was going to be 4 degrees celsius race morning and 6 degrees by the time we were going to be on the bike.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was a little worried about how the cold was going to affect me.  I just made sure I had all the layers, from my leg warmers to my rain jacket and full fingered gloves.   The bases were all covered.

We left Toronto at 5:30 am to start the drive.  It's always nice to be on the road that early.  There isn't a lot of traffic and you get to watch the sun come up.  

We hit a few patches of traffic but nothing too bad and we were making really good time until we got to Cornwall.  The highway was closed for construction and the traffic was being diverted to Highway 2.  This ended up adding an hour to our travel time so we didn't roll into Lake Placid until 12:30.  We drove straight to the townhouse we had rented, unloaded the car and then drove into town to pick up our race kits.  It was chilly and windy out and I was quickly becoming disinterested in the swim I had planned.  

We checked in and picked up our kits fairly quickly.   I ran into Irina and got the best hug as per usual.  Registration seemed a little chaotic but I think it's because it had just opened.  We took our bags back to the car and then went off to the expo.  I had been messaging with Keith, one of my athletes who was racing and we had planned to meet up at the 3:00 pm race briefing.  We knew a bunch of people racing and as we walked towards the athletes village, we ran into half of them.  It was the Toronto Triathlon Crew.  We chatted with them for a bit and then I spied Keith and his wife Grace.  I ran over to them and hugged them both and then we went into the chaos that is the Ironman apparel tent.  My goal was to get another pair of Roka goggles, clear ones for the pool so that's what I did first.  I got the only clear pair left.  We then navigated our way through the crowds and checked out the gear.  There wasn't really anything I liked except for a black hoodie with the race logo on the front and the participants names on the back.  Except that they WEREN'T the participants of THIS particular race.  OOPS.  I still bought the hoodie because the price was actually really good compared to the same hoodie with just the Ironman branding on it.  I don't really care if my name is on the item or not.

After our shopping trip we grabbed a bite to eat and went to the pre-race briefing where we met up with Keith and Grace again.  Post briefing we chatted a bit about how they were feeling and I went over race prep with Keith.  The weather was going to be cold.  Period.  So I wanted to make sure he was prepared.   They went off to meet up with their family and G and I went grocery shopping which ended up causing me to miss out on the TTC group pic but about 10 minutes.  Gah.

We unloaded the groceries, unpacked our bags and got settled.  The place we rented was HUGE.  it had 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  We could have easily had another two couples stay with us.  The place was spacious and comfortable and the hostess left us a beautiful gift basket with pasta, marinara sauce from the local Italian place, 2 packages of pancake mix, maple syrup, olive oil, a couple of nice chocolate covered cookies, tea and some microwave popcorn along with a handwritten card.  It was lovely.  She also stopped by on the Saturday evening to say hello which I thought was a nice touch.  If we go back to Lake Placid, we'll definitely try to stay here again.

Saturday morning it was cool and drizzly so we lounged around inside for a few hours before venturing out on our bikes.  We did a little spin down the run course and up the 3 Bears.  We both got soaked and our bikes got covered in sand and small bits of gravel so we cleaned them off before we went out for a short run.  I felt awesome, other than the cold.   We got ourselves ready, packed up our bikes and walked them up to transition to the bike check in.  After we had done that, we wandered around town, checking out some of the newer shops, grabbing a coffee and then wandering back.  I realized I had forgotten to put my aero bottle on my bike so the plan was to go back and get that and then do a swim.  Then it started raining.  Neither one of us had brought an umbrella so we got totally soaked on the way back to the townhouse.

Lake Placid Transition
At that point, I decided that I wasn't interested in doing a swim and set about packing my bags for the next morning.  Once the rain let up, G drove me up to transition, I ran in and put my bottle on my bike and then he drove me back to the townhouse.  We were staying inside for the rest of the afternoon.  I finished packing my bags and kept stalking various forecasts to see what it was supposed to be like race morning.  Everything I saw wasn't awesome.  But at least it was going to be sunny.

Pasta dinner consumed, I went to bed at around 9:30 pm.  Just like Tremblant, I slept like a log until 1:00 am.  Then I was awake.  G was quasi snoring and someone was blaring Elton John's "Daniel" (seriously?!?!) followed by a series of equally sad songs.  I left the master bedroom and went into one of the other rooms and tried to fall asleep.  I think I dozed off for about 20 minutes.  I woke up again, got out of bed and did some stretching.  Sometimes I find that relaxes me.  I went back into the master bedroom and crawled back into bed.  I could still hear the music but didn't want to fuss with shutting the window so I put a spare pillow over my head.  I started to doze off when G got up to go to the bathroom.  He shut the window on his way back in.  Shortly after that I fell asleep.  I think it was about 2:30 in the morning.  I woke up again shortly before my alarm went off.  I was starting to fall back asleep when the alarm started buzzing and I jumped out of bed.  I was wide awake, despite my less than ideal sleep.  The first thing I did was check the temperature.

Good lord.  I looked outside and saw a dense low laying fog.  Awesome.  NOT.  We wanted to leave the house by 5:25 so we could get body marked, get sorted in transition and get down to the water.   I was feeling surprisingly more nervous than usual, probably because I knew it was going to be a somewhat unpleasant morning, ha ha.  We downed our breakfast and coffee, bundled up and headed out.  I was pretty much power walking to transition I was so nervous.  We were told we had to get body marked first before we could go into transition.  The body marking spot was total chaos.   We eventually found a couple of free volunteers.  The woman who was doing my body marking was a school teacher and she had THE BEST handwriting.  My numbers were SO neat.  I thanked her, found G and we made our way into transition.

My bike was still wet from the day before but I didn't really care.  I realized when I got to my bike that there were two other women in my AG that hadn't shown up because there were two empty spots between myself and the next competitor.  SCORE.  So I had more than a postage stamp size piece of real estate available.   I felt a bit discombobulated for some reason so it took me a bit longer than normal to get myself sorted.  I quickly realized that I should have brought flip flops or something else to put on my feet to wear to the swim.  I thought they'd have a carpet like they did in Ironman but they did not so I was going to have to walk barefoot on the cold pavement and ratty make shift carpet they had laid out, over to the swim start.  Awesome.   It was really cold out but I figured my vest, arm warmers, socks, toe covers and full fingered gloves would be enough.  I finished laying everything out, pulled off my running shoes and started getting my wetsuit on.  2 minutes after standing on the grass my feet hurt they were so cold.  The walk to the swim was going to suck.  I found G and he had two plastic bags over his feet and and old pair of socks on.  He's such a smart man.  Being the gentleman that he is, he gave me the plastic bags and I put them on my feet.  I was surprised at how much they helped.  We walked over to the swim start.  G was starting to shake from the cold.  I was chilly but not too bad.  I figured once I got in the water and then got back out, it would be brutal.

The swim start was a gong show.  This is the one issue I have with rolling starts.  Actually let's make it two issues.  The first being that nobody goes where they are supposed to.  The second is that a rolling start allows the race to have more people in it.  Which ends up making the bike portion absolutely brutal in terms of draft packs.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.   They had the corrals all along mirror road and they funnelled you into the swim start.  The warm up spot was off the right of the swim start.  The only way to get to that was to go all the way around to the bottom of the corral and walk through the park RAMMED with spectators.  And even then, you couldn't get over to the beach to walk in, you had to slide in on the rocky side of the lake.  I smacked my foot into a rock.  I slipped on another rock and then my foot sank into the grossest mud ever.  I started swimming out just to get out of the mess.  G and I swam around for a while and it really was quite beautiful with the sun coming up and the mist over the water.  I could see G near the shore and he was shaking violently.  I went up beside him and put my arms around him as they played the National Anthem.  He wasn't sure he'd actually be able to start swimming.  I told him once he got in the water he'd be ok.  We climbed out onto the beach and had to fight our way back through the crowds only to find that we couldn't get into the corral.  The race had started and swimmers were heading into the water.  We saw athletes climbing over the fencing in their wetsuits.  One guy beside me, offered to boost me up so I got on his hands and he helped me up, I stood on top of the fencing and jumped down onto the pavement in my bare feet.  Not awesome but at least I was in the corral and G was right behind me.  We ran into Irina and Zin and wished them luck and then we made our way over to the entrance.   G kissed me, told me he loved me and wished me luck.  The next thing I knew I was walking into the water.

I waded in and then started my watch, knowing I'd be a few seconds off my official time.  This swim start was much more congested than Tremblant for some reason.  I think they were letting 4 people in at a time vs. 3 like they did in Tremblant.  Those first few hundred meters were not fun.  There were limbs everywhere and I just wanted to get out of the crowd and swim my own swim.  By about 400m in things seemed to spread out a bit more.  My breathing was fine but I felt slow.  I did not feel fluid like I did in Tremblant.  I'm chalking it up to the water temperature, which I heard afterwards was a balmy 16 degrees celsius.  The sunrise was blinding me every time I turned to my right which was unfortunate because turning to my left caused my right shoulder to hurt slightly when I pulled down.  This has happened a couple of times when I'm in my wetsuit so there's something going on in terms of restriction.  So I tried my best to alternate between the two.  The low lying fog also did nothing to help my sighting.  I could not see a damn thing.  I could have avoided having to sight at all if I stuck by the underwater wire but, that's where everyone else was as well so I wanted no part of it.  I was swimming quite wide just to be safe.

My Garmin buzzed which meant that I had hit 500m.  It seemed to take forever.  I kept plugging away, my hands feeling quite cold.  That swim out seems so darn long.  I sighted and finally saw the red turn buoy.   I had to swim in at an angle to get there.  I made my way around with minimal contact and swam over to the next buoy.  I really didn't feel smooth at all.  I got around the next buoy and started the swim back to shore.   Once again, I had a hard time sighting.  The sun was almost up but still fairly low in the sky and the low lying fog made it impossible to see anything.  So I just swam and hoped that I was swimming fairly straight.  Obviously I wasn't because I ended up on the wire for a little while.  I stayed there for a bit, as I managed to find some open space.  I quickly caught some people and had flashbacks to my Ironman where I got stuck in a pack of people going slower than me.  I tried to get out but there were people all around me.  So I put my head back down and kept swimming by the line.  I got caught up in a group and ended up getting kicked in the mouth. That made me stop and try to get out of the group again.  I found an opening and swam around the pack.  I put my head back down and kept swimming.  A few minutes later I had weird feeling so I glanced up and saw a kayak right in front of me.  She looked down at me and I said oh hey, she started laughing and I swam around the back of her kayak and swam back towards the pack.

My watch buzzed again and I figured it had to be 1500m.  I had missed the second buzz.  I was wishing I was done.  My arms were tired.  I felt like I was struggling and my right calf was just starting to get that crampy feeling like it did in Tremblant.  So I stopped kicking with that leg and just pulled for a bit which tired my arms out even more.  So I went back to kicking.  I could see familiar buildings coming into view on my right so I knew I was getting close to shore.  All of a sudden I could see the bottom, the next thing I knew, my hands were scraping the bottom.  I kicked hard and stood up and just as I took that first step, both of my calfs cramped.  I hobbled out of the water and glanced down at my Garmin:

36:47.  Actual time:  36:51.   I wasn't surprised.  I knew about 500m in that it wasn't going to be a pretty swim.

The face you make when your calves are cramping

I pulled my zipper down and started to get out of the top part of my wetsuit as I ran down the makeshift carpet into transition.  I wasn't going to bother with a stripper.  I wanted to stay in my wetsuit as long as possible.  I ran into T1 and quickly found my bike.  There were a few other women getting ready to get out on the bike and we all started chatting about how cold it was as we stood there putting on all the layers.  My hands were frozen so I was having a bit of a tough time getting things on.  I had put on my vest and arm warmers and at the last minute opted to put my rain jacket on over everything.  I was cold and I knew I'd freeze as soon as I started riding.  I grabbed my bike and ran out out of transition to start the bike.

T1:  8:42.  That included the run up along with putting on all the layers.  One of my Strava pals asked me if I was having a coffee in transition.  I wish!  I would have been warmer!

I'll be back tomorrow with the bike and the run!

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