Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid 2009- Spectator View

I thought I should get a few thoughts down on the seventeen hour day we all spent last Sunday at IMLP.

Spectating an Ironman is no small assignment. First of all, it's not your race, it's the 2400 or so people lined up and waiting to get in the water that are racing so you kind of have to tailor what you do to be focused on them. Note to spectators that use the porta-potties right by the beach 20 minutes before the race starts. I'm talking to you. Cross your legs and hold it until 7:00, would ya ?

We got down to the water about twenty minutes before the start of the race and waited in the rain for it to start. You always kind of get these chills. The music is blasting and then they start the pros- 10 minutes early- before the rest of the the race- the age-groupers- can't we just call them the athletes ?

Steve and I got up next to the wetsuit corral and got to see the majority of the athletes getting out of the water pix here. Except for having to strip down and rescue a scared kid floating on a dock, this was pretty uneventful. I took hundreds of low-quality photos with my iPhone, a few movies I haven't posted, and then we headed back to the room on the opposite side of the lake.

We could hear them bringing in the last swimmers from across the lake.

Then we went out to run, heading out on the run course, which is also the bike course. It was Steve, Margit and I, with me pushing Ian, on the opposite side of the road from the bikes. It amazes me that on race day there are people out riding bikes on the bike course. What are you thinking ? I heard LPPD yell at two of them to get out of the way. The lead guy came through hauling ass and we didn't see anyone else for more than 10 minutes. When the second guy came through (down near the bridge were you turn off to the run course), I yelled 'Five minutes, he's got five minutes on you.' I was trying to to keep up his hope...

We ran the run course until we got to the turn-around, kept going instead of turned back, and then went up 86, Steve and I together, Margit right behind. Because of the hills, I was able to run and talk to the cyclists at the same time, combining banter and cheering with the occasional make-the-pass remarks. It was kind of weird climbing the bears pushing a stroller, chatting with athletes. I saw Mandy and a few other people I knew.

We stopped at the top to cheer people on and regroup, then Steve and I put the hammer down for the finish from the turn-around on the run to our condo.

We watched some more bikes, hit a very quick shower and then lunch at Lake Placid Brewery. Note on Josh's FIre Fish- make it hotter ! It was like, OK hot, but not alan hot. Not close.

Then we watched more cyclists coming in and I snapped many more low-quality iPhontos. Pros were headed out on the run and in on the bike at the same time.

A little later, I was down at the expo when Dave Harju came in.

He was pretty banged up from a crash near the firestation at the end of the bike out and back. He'd finished the ride, gotten some bandages, and then run a loop of the (edited) run course. I have to say, he really refuted the idea that pros maybe don't hesitate to drop out of races when they suffer adversity. He looked like a doctor in a hospital should have been cleaning him up. Someone I know gave me a hard time about not recording his account of the day's events with my 3gs iPhone's movie mode, but I felt like the guy deserved his privacy.

Then we set up by the condo and watched the race go by. People start coming in on the bike and you know these people are still on the race course, but their race is over, they've missed the cut-off and they may or may not know it. This scene repeats on the run. Steve and I were surprised at how long it took for the sweeper truck to come through with the truly forlorn and how many over the limit people they left out there.

After that, it's all about the runners. We were at the hot corner for the ambulance, right past an aid station where several runners collapsed or called for aid.

One of those was Gus Ellison. He was shivering and apparently sick to his stomach- we offered to walk him back but he decided (wisely) to take the ambulance.

It's hard. People are struggling out there and I'm an outgoing person, so I'm always trying to find that right balance- encourage but don't badger. One guy gave me his Red Bull to hold until he came back from the turn around. Others started running again when Steve and I encouraged them to keep going. This is the part that's the most fun because you are in the action in a good, supportive way, but it's clear some people just aren't going to make it.

We never saw Mandy Braverman on the second loop of the run and it was only afterwards that I found out that was because she collapsed at mile 16 and needed CPR. Wow, that's scary- get better soon, Mandy, especially since you are signed up for IM Florida.

About 10 PM Steve and I made it to the venue and got up in the bleachers, spent about an hour, but we were both tired, knew we had to be up early to sign up, and just weren't feeling the excitement.

As we walked away, Mike Reilly headed down off the scaffolding and we heard people start banging on the sponsor placards and we knew we'd missed that moment, where you do feel it, where the 16 hour plus people start to really mean something to you, by about 1 minute.

One minute. Eight minutes. Just time. Just something you have to get over regardless of the numbers. We went back to the condo- Margit was out watching and the three of us cheered on people as they went by- 24.5 miles on the way out. 25.2 or .3 on the way back. Increasingly desperate, increasingly unlikely to make it back under 17 hours.

We went inside right at midnight.

Next year. Now it's about next year, and I'll be there, on the course. So will Steve. I hope Margit finds a way to be there too.


Hannah said...

My dad and step mom are going to do Lake Placid next year... they have done three so this will be their forth Ironman. I get to go with them and watch the race live for the first time. From what you wrote, it sounds like it will be a busy day!

Anonymous said...

Hey are you a professional journalist? This article is very well written, as compared to most other blogs i saw today….
anyhow thanks for the good read!