The team: Jen + Dave Gatz, Sam Cila, and me!
The Location: Larry Parker’s Fireman Ironman training camp, Lake Placid, NY
The Extras: oh, just some world class athletes, world champions, you know..
One hundred hot sweaty athletes on supercharged TT bikes filled the parking lot at the historic Oval in Lake Placid, strapping on identification bracelets, signing waivers, and after the annual group photo, were OFF to a roaring start. All present to practice the course, learn about hydration and nutrition strategies and connect with other athletes, I could feel the abundant energy in the group. We kept a tight paceline on the road, I drafted happily behind one guy’s broad shoulders, and then took a side trip to conquer Whiteface mountain. Not racing at IMLP, I was delighted to get the chance to climb this great road, to make it the fort at over 4300 feet. Dave, Jen and I took on the challenge with gusto!Coming from the flatlands of Long Island, our local peak is the dump in Montauk, a heady 200 feet above sea level! Dodging the clouds of blackflies, and stopping only seconds to regroup, we kept a slow but solid pace. As my quads and lungs burned, I revisited my competitive cycling memory banks and I tried to imagine racing up this monster. While the official stats read a 5.6% grade over the climb (max 10%), the 11 miles, the 90 degree heat and the biting critters made the challenge even harder. Photo ops with team mates complete, we burned the rubber en route back to the base, thrashing a pair of brake pads but also happily letting it rip on the straights. Woohooooo. Choking down a post-ride pizza, we manned (and wo-manned) the aid stations for the IM athletes on loop #2, filling bottles, advising electrolyes, spraying crotch lube as needed. The things we do for IM campers! We stopped to purchase a carved bear from a lady with no teeth, musing that she might have burned them out in the carving.. then hit the hotel for a feast and the famous Fireman talks.
Jen presented a superb talk on hydration and food for optimal performance, and Sam spoke about motivation, inner dialogue and conquering goals. They were joined by one of my all time heroes in sport, multi-time world champion ironman triathlete Karen Smyers. Karen, self-depricating, hilarious, informative spoke about dealing with adversity, adjusting goals to meet conditions and shared some intimate tips about racing strategies. (Peeing while coasting on the bike, the infamous 3-2-1 beer taper, and more..) We laughed our way to bed, and prepped for day 2 of camp.
All early risers in our house, the coffee was on the hob at 5am and the almond butter/banana sandwiches were being gobbled down. We hit the Oval again, and I had the privilege of leading a run clinic with Karen herself. We had prepped together over breakfast, and took turns in guiding the athletes through a series of dynamic warm ups, run drills to emphasize optimal running form, and insights into improved techniques for distance running. We had a brief Q+A with athletes who are struggling with running issues, and shared contact information for further problem solving. And off we went in the sticky morning, the clouds burned off, and the 12 mile course was hot and humid. Karen, Becky Paige (another Ironman superwoman..Kona bound in November to race with the big girls!) and I ran together. Chatting. So hilarious, one of my favourite ways to control run pace is to run with others, either stepping it up or down for the demand of the workout. No race this year for me, I sat in and let these champions set the pace, glad they were in chatting mode. I often wonder what superstars talk about when they train, and I found out. Pee stops, toilet paper vs leaves, race plans, work, blah blah blah. Basically, the same as the rest of us! We included some of the run drills in our workout to break the pace, to focus on technique, and practice the skills that we had shared with each other. Pounding the hill back to the village, I was glad to not be facing a second loop of the course, content that my cranky Hamstring had allowed me to get in 12 miles at a champion chat pace..
One monster omelet, 2 slices of 1” thick home made bread, and a huge coffee later, we donned swim suits and hit the shores of Mirror Lake. Karen guided the swim clinic, under the rumbling thunderheads pouring over the mountains. The swim was beautiful, even though I had a serious reality check while trying to hang in Karen and Becky’s bubbles. I promised myself to get back in swim form this winter, but in the interim, enjoyed being in the draft of great athletes, in such a serene setting. Snarfing down some BBQ courtesy of Larry at base camp, a final review of some running related and bike fit questions, a long goodbye to all there, and I was back in the car, en route home. What a great weekend. Jayasports, Multisport Soldier and I will be combining forces again over the coming seasons for workshops and camps, and continuing the fun together. Play hard, train hard. Great balance.