IM Lake Placid Race Report - Russell Parker


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My primary motivations for registering for IMLP were to experience one of the “gold standard” IM races and to face my fears of descending hills on a bike.  I felt if I could descend the Keane Descent, I should be good to race anything in the future. 

The venue is very picturesque but is the hardest race I’ve ever done and it’s not even a contest!   The Adirondack Mountains are just that, mountains and not hills.  Crowd support is unmatched and the whole community seemed to celebrate the race, compared to my current residence where people want to hit you with their cars. 


Swim:  (1:19:03)

The swim takes place in Mirror Lake and is a two-loop swim.  It was a wave start, self-seeded by anticipated swim time.  I seeded myself into the 1:30:00 Group.  I really didn’t like this format, as people are not very honest about their times.  They tend to overestimate their swim abilities and seed into faster waves than they should, which meant I was swimming over lots of people.  It was very physical and I never really stopped passing people throughout both laps.  If I ever get crazy enough to sign up for another IM and it has this format, I’ll seed into a faster group. 

Mirror Lake is very nice and relatively clear.  There is the “famous” underwater cable that you can site the entire swim.  However, everybody wants to site on it, which makes for a crowded swim even when you’re not passing.  There was heavy fog race morning and the buoys couldn’t be seen until they were really close.  I stayed on the cable and it made the fog a non-issue. 

I kept 3 RPE (1-10) and exited the water feeling great.  It was nice swim other than getting punched and kicked throughout.  It was wetsuit legal at 73 F.  I walked the long transition to keep HR controlled.  Changed and prepared for the bike.


Bike:  (7:09:55)

The bike is a two-loop course with almost 7,000 ft of climbing.  I knew going in that it would be a great challenge for me but it was downright sadistic.  The last 17 or so miles of each loop is a constant climb with really big climbs mixed in.  There are 3 climbs referred to as Baby Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear.  Papa Bear is the last and is a true test of determination and endurance.   This course is not for the faint of heart!


Starting the 1st Loop, I intended to maintain a 3 RPE as much as possible.  I added an 11-28 cassette on my bike.   My nutrition plan was to consume about 275 calories/hr with Infinit and drink water from the aid stations.  Everything started as planned and within Mile 5, my left elbow rest broke.  It wasn’t a complete fracture and the elbow rest was functional.  I was leaning to that side but it was manageable. 

Somewhere between Mile 5 and 10, the first significant long climb started.  I could tell this was no joke.  I was in my easiest gear and it was a grind.  HR was elevated but we had a nice descent coming up to let it settle.   I did but that descent was much further off than I realized when I drove the course.  It was going to be a tough day!

There were lots of ups and downs leading to the big Keane Descent, which was my big phobia.  The course leading into the descent was absolutely beautiful, riding between mountains peaks along a mountain stream.

Entering into the Keane Descent, I had made up my mind to sit up and brake as much as needed.  Whatever the method, just stay relaxed and in control.  I did just that and reached 38 mph and that’s fast enough for me.  I was amazed at the number of people that stayed in aero and many had to be exceeding the mid to upper 50’s.  They just screamed past me like I was sitting still.  They can have it.

The meat of the course is the last 17 or so miles of each loop.  Returning to Lake Placid, you first turn toward Wilmington.  From there back to LP, it’s a sustained  ascent with very few descents and the descents are minor.  This is also where the three Bears are.  There was just no way to keep RPE controlled for this entire segment.  To make forward progress, especially on the second loop, RPE was maxed almost this entire segment. 

My nutrition plan worked reasonably well or the first 5 hours.  I had small 175 cal packs of Nutter Butters at Hour 1-1/2and 3-1/2.  I had planned to eat another pack at Hour 5-1/2 but I couldn’t eat it. Infinit worked for the first 5 bottles but I became nauseated and just couldn’t drink final bottle.  I had been drinking water about every 10 min also.  It was hot and I was sweating heavily.  I stopped to pee once on the bike about midway.  For the last hour, I resorted to bananas and water to keep the cramps at bay.  I really didn’t know what else to do.  It was all a gamble. 

My first pass through the last 17 mile segment, I felt my quads starting to cramp and I knew it was about to get real!  I was thinking, I still had one more go at this beast of a bike course and then a marathon.  My mind was going to dark places and I started to doubt if I could even finish the bike course.

Fast forward to my second pass through this area, I had stop three times and get off the bike to let my stomach and/or legs stop cramping.  The last time was at the top of Papa Bear, which is probably about Mile 108 or 109.  It’s truly like a Tour de France-like atmosphere with people all in the road, dressed up, and yelling.  I made it to the top (barely) and both quads seized with cramps.  I managed to unclip and stand over my top tube.  My quads wouldn’t relax and I couldn’t move.  I put my head down on the aero bars and waited it out.  After a few minutes, I could finally lift my leg over my bike and walk it to flatter spot.  After 5-10 minutes more, a Tri Coach came over and gave me a pep talk and encouraged me.  It helped and I got back on the bike to……wait for it, climb more.  Good Lord!   Get me off this bike!  Toughest bike course ever!


Run (5:27:01)

Coming off the bike, I didn’t know if I could run 26.2 feet much less 26.2 miles.  Coach John and I had planned on doing run/walk intervals and that’s where I started.  I ran 2 min. and waked 30 sec.  The first   I brought my own nutrition and wanted to avoid the Gu’s and Gatorade.  However, my first sip of nutrition from my bottles revealed that the stuff was hot.  I can’t do hot but managed to get down one 10 oz bottle.  My stomach immediately became nauseated.  That was that.  I dumped the remaining liquid to lighten my load and was brainstorming for an alternative.  I also dumped the hydration belt at Special Needs to get rid of that annoying thing.  I tried plain water and Gatorade and that resulted in the sloshing stomach.  I also tried bananas but my stomach wasn’t having that either.  This all happened on the first half of the marathon and I didn’t think I should drink coke this early.  I ended up eating a couple of pretzels at the aid stations with ice water.  That paid huge dividends but felt like I needed something more.  I tried a coke and that didn’t sit well.  I tried coke and pretzels together and it was magic but didn’t start until Mile 14 or 15.  Legs weren’t cramping so I thought I could make it at this point. 

Beginning the second half of the marathon, I decided to ditch the 2 min run/30 sec walk and run downhills and flats, walk the uphills.  I also made sure I stopped at least each mile and walked for 1 min or so to settle the HR.  That seemed to work very well for me. 


Returning toward town, you can see the ski jumps and boy is that a sight for sore eyes.  That means you have about 4-5 miles remaining but it’s mostly up big hills.   By this time, I was feeling ok still and ran as much as possible.  The town was out in full force and there were throngs of people everywhere.  It’s hard to imagine a more supportive community.  They are awesome!  Finishing in the Olympic Oval was an epic experience with all those people high fiving you and cheering you on……Nice!  I’m really proud I persevered in the end because it was so tempting to just to throw the towel in on the bike course.  I’ll stick to flatter courses and races I don’t have to train long distances in 110 degree heat index.  That’s for real men.


Finish Time:  14:19:02 ----- One Proud Dude


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