Lake Placid Training Camp: Bicycles Over Bonfires

So I went back to camp this weekend…but arts & crafts and theater weren’t on the agenda. This was a different kind of camp…this was Ironman Training Camp. That means three days of constant swim, bike, and run prep to prepare us athletes for our upcoming experience - to complete a race made up of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. So basically, this camp was for the crazies. My kinda people.

The exciting destination was Lake Placid, New York. Home of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games. After our long ride up there, I spotted the ski jumps immediately, sticking out among the thick green landscape and rolling hills. It was an adventure to travel to a new place, to experience the Adirondacks as an adult (the last time I was in that area was for sleep-away camp back in good ‘ol ’99). We checked into the Golden Arrow hotel, which sat right on the beautiful Mirror Lake, which is where Ironman Lake Placid on July 26th will kick off. And that was the whole idea you see…to come up here as a team and experience this beautiful Ironman course, to give us a dose of what most of us would expect on race day. For me, it was just to be a solid training weekend as my Ironman race will take place in Mont Tremblant, Canada on August 16th. 

The fun began at 3:30pm on Friday when about 20 of us (members of Terrier Tri and MMRF’s team for cures) met at Mirror Lake to suit up and get in the water for our first swim of the weekend. Coach Robert gave us some advice about race morning and the execution at swim start. This was super helpful to those that would in fact be racing this course, but like I said, still eye-opening for us training for other races. So after wiggling into our wetsuits we hopped into the glassy lake and swam approximately 1.5 miles, working on our sighting and pacing. Because it was a long travel day, the only other business we had for the day was dinner. Let’s be honest - Ironman training camp has four components - swim, bike, run, and eat. Calories are everything. 

We had a nice team dinner at Generations where we all scarfed down everything in sight, and talked through our meal plans for the next morning. Coach Robert gave us a speech about what we had in store for Saturday - it would be the hardest day of our training plan yet - we would swim, bike, and run for essentially 10 hours straight. Yay. he carefully took us through the bike course and broke it up to explain the terrain and turns. Most importantly, we discussed nutrition, which is probably the most crucial part of an Ironman race. If you eat or hydrate poorly, you will not finish the race. It’s really as simple as that. Did you see my photo of packed snacks? (see below in photo gallery) I was coming prepared to this camp, loaded up with chews, waffles, bars, nuts, powders, you name it. After our meal, we headed to a local grocery store to purchase bulks of water, gatorade and breakfast essentials for Saturday morning. Back at the hotel, I set up my "transition area” so that come the morning, I’d be ready for a big training day and all my gear would be in check. 

Saturday morning was upon us. 6:30am I was shivering under the covers, dreading putting on a wetsuit for a lake swim when it was 45 degrees outside(!!) But was I going to be the only one who backed out? Hell no. Also, Robert yelled at me to suit up; I had no choice. The good news - the water was actually warmer than expected, though still too cold for treading water…so we started to swim. 2,500 meters later I was done and my warm blood and fast strokes made me one happy camper. But the day was just beginning. There was no time for chatting - it was time to ride next. So we all headed up to our rooms and got into our bike gear (dressed warmly for the breezy temps) and brought our bicycles down with us. It was go time. I would ride about 100 miles on this day and I was not looking forward to it. Who actually wants to do that? My fears on the bike come and go, but one thing that’s a constant - I hate riding alone…especially if it’s going to be for 7-8 hours. And based on this group of advanced riders, I knew I was one-of-a-kind, aka slower than most. There were some in my speed range and so we stayed close, but they only had to do one loop of the course (56-miles) because they were training for a half Ironman, but that last loop was mine to tackle alone because I am in fact training for the full enchilada.

Well, the 3200+ feet of elevation gain was something I mentally was prepared for, so as hills approached I wacked them one by one. This would be great training for Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in two weeks which is going to be tougher. The views were phenomenal and that is what I was focused on for the most part. Farms, woods, rapids, wildlife…everything NYC was not. I climbed as slow as 5mph and sped downhill as fast as 40mph, and death was certainly on the table. But my main focus was to mentally break this course down, remember to hydrate, remind myself to eat every so often, and most importantly - tell my soul to enjoy the experience. My butt was not enjoying the experience as I neared the end of the first 56-miles, but what was I to do? 

So I got back to town to find my coach and get my extra set of supplies for the second loop, but we had trouble connecting and after an hour of circling the area, I finally found him, only to realize most of the group had already left for the second loop and now it was getting too late. So after a total of about 65 miles, I was told to just go out and start my run. Deep down, I wasn’t looking forward to more cycling, but knew I needed the experience. Instead, I would lace up and run hard. Which I did…for about 7 miles around town, sans music, just hearing the sounds of my feet hit the brick and the birds chirping around me. It was special. But more importantly, it was exciting to know I was ending one hell of a training day. Definitely the hardest yet. 

Dinner was like the last supper, where we all consumed 2,000+ calories individually…if I were to guess. Get a bunch of triathletes together and it’s a game of who can eat more carbs. I like these people. They work hard, they train hard, they eat like champs and they’re always smiling. I was among all ages of athletes, me being one of the youngest at 29, ranging to about 50 or so. But we all get along like we’ve been friends forever, or like we share the same family. Sure, all we talk about is the sport, the gear, and stomach issues, but we keep each other afloat and we support one another equally no matter who crosses that finish line first. I also think Terrier Tri is just one of those groups where we know how to work hard while goofing off. This is supposed to be fun after all, and what’s the point of taking ourselves so seriously all the time? 

Sunday morning was the last morning. We had what I like to call a “late” start ...8:30am. All of us laced up in our running gear and grabbed our GUs and chews for a long run to end training camp. Just like with the other sports, we ran this on the Ironman Lake Placid course, all breaking up into groups based on pace. With stunning views to help pass the time, I executed 16.5 miles in my dirty-but-does-the-trick Asics. I was beyond tired and I tried a new fuel belt that weighed me down much too much, but nonetheless, I completed my longest training run of the year thus far. When I ended, our coach gave us some final words of advice and applauded us as we wrapped up a successful and fun training camp. I stretched my hammys, racked my bike and packed up my things to leave. Despite all of the bug bites, I was not ready to leave this place. Though I was active for what felt like 48-hours straight, I still felt at peace in Placid. But I made up my mind that I would be back…mainly to knock off the rest of that bike course.

-I have two weeks till my half Ironman in Syracuse and I definitely feel prepared thanks to this camp on top of all the tough training. Will I knock off a PR? Absolutely not with the hills I have in sight, but I will still do great. 
-I have ten weeks till my Ironman 140.6 in Mont Tremblant. I still need to throw a couple more century rides in there to feel totally confident about race day. I’m 75 percent confident now. Gotta work on that.
-Camps are for adults too! I had such a great experience because I was surrounded by like-minded people that enjoy the pain as much as I do. Find your people!
-Challenges make us stronger. Every time I said I can’t, I did. Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation and watch how much you can grow from it.