The WAP training camp allowed ample time to explore the Lake Placid bike and run course. I wanted to share my first impressions of the course with you and of course ask for any stories of your own experiences at LP. This afternoon I'll be riding with Cliff Scherb of Tri-Star Coaching for some pointers on how to ride the course more efficiently. Cliff posted a smoking bike split of 5:31, good for 8th place in the M 25-29 division in 2007! So I'm sure my ideas about how to tackle the course will change after working with him this afternoon.
Bike - Prior to riding Coach Egg told us the key to riding the bike course was to spin, spin, spin and spin. She warned that anyone who tried to mash the hills in a big gear would see "the Wizard" and be in a world of pain by the end of the first loop. After riding portions of the loop 5 times over the weekend I couldn't agree with this advice more! Lake Placid rewards patience and a smart attack plan - leave your machismo at home.
Unlike most other rollers where a hard climb is rewarding by a refreshing descent most of the LP course's climbs are followed by false flats or flats. The big reward for all the climbing comes in 1 long descent into Keene. The 9+ mile descent is terrifying for those who aren't used to handling a bike going 35+ mph (and really what tirathlete is good at handling a bike anyway!); but the more comfortable you are with a high speed descent the bigger the reward for all the climbing.
With that, the bike course can be broken into 5 portions:
1 - Route 73
2 - Route 9N
3 - First Part of 86
4 - Out & Back
5 - Second Part of 86
Route 73 starts innocently enough with mild climbs and a nice quick down hill. Just after the Iron Bridge is where the real fun begins! For 5 to 10 miles you have a slow steady climb; if you pound this out good luck on the rest of the course. After the long steady climb you're greeted by the very fast downhill section - the road is much smoother than the shoulder, especially by the 2 lakes on the descent.
Route 9N was the fastest part of the course for me. There are 2 hills, neither of which are that steep, and the rest of the route is fast. You're probably going to want to go faster than you should during this section, grinding away will burn your legs for the rest of the loop as there isn't any recovery to be had until you return to the route 73 descent.
First Part of 86 is a long fairly steep climb out of Jay into Wilmington. There is one quick descent but the rest of this leg is either a false flat or a climb; for me this was the toughest part of the course as it is really mentally draining, the scenery isn't as beautiful as the rest of the course and the climb just wears on you.
Out & Back - 7 miles out, 7 miles back, 2 steep hills, lots of flats and one of the most serene stretches I've ever ridden my bike on. While 9N allowed me to ride my back the way I like to, the out & back refreshed my spirit and my mind. For a good stretch you ride right next to the beautiful Ausable River, see several fly fisherman and are essentially alone with your thoughts. However, this gorgeous stretch is sandwiched between 2 climbs so be careful not to let it all out.
Second Part of 86 - Hello last 11 miles! This stretch of the course contains the famous 3 bears and 2 cherries. It also contains 2 unnamed hills and a headwind that will try anything to make you give up. Whiteface Mountain is known as "Iceface" during the winter months, the winds on the mountain blow away the loose snow exposing the ice underneath. Just because the temperatures are warmer doesn't mean that wind disappears. Just past the waterfall you'll begin to feel a breeze in your face. That breeze can reach hurricane like force (at least that's what it felt like) as you pass by the Whiteface parking lot. At this point you need enough left in your legs to battle with Mother Nature. One more unnamed climb after the headwind allows you to relax on a cool, comfortable flat until you face Little Cherry, Big Cherry, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear; on Monday Papa Bear was greeted with a loud FU as I ran over his words; this section is draining, steep and hard. There isn't alot of time to gain too much speed and the smart rider will use a high cadence in the small ring for most of this section.
Run Course - I loved the 13 mile loop! This run course has everything you could ask for, steep hills, fast flats, good downhills and gorgeous scenery. I love running up hill (hate biking up hill, but love running them); perhaps this comes from Pop Warner football when our coach used to make us bear crawl up a steep hill if we were having a bad practice. But the burn in my quads during a good run up hill brings a sadistic smile to my face - this course gave me plenty of time to smile! The course starts off with a steep 1/4 mile run downhill followed by the same stretch to the Iron Bridge as the bike course; you then make a left onto River Rd and are surrounded by farm land, a lazy river and gorgeous trees. If at some point you don't inhale deeply and smile just to have the opportunity to challenge yourself in such a pristine setting you're in the wrong sport.
The outward stretch of the run course is much easier than the return stretch as the 2 steep downhills are turned into monstrous uphill fights. The run course is challenging, those who saved their quads on the bike will be rewarded. With my ass dropped, shoulders high and quads grinding I had a great time running the 2 steep hills, especially the one in the shadow of the ski jumps.
All in all this course is phenomenal and a true test of endurance and the time you spent training. Like a good final exam Lake Placid tests all facets of triathlon training - hills, flats, and descents. The gorgeous scenery kept me smiling and reminded me how lucky I was to be challenging myself in such an amazing environment. That scenery combined with 2,400 competitors and the electricity of amazing spectators is going make July 20th an incredibly special day.