LAKE PLACID -- Saturday was the big day of training camp for the Train This! team. We were riding the Ironman Loop.
The main reason why my coach does a training weekend at Lake Placid is because so many of her athletes are training for Ironman Lake Placid and it gives those people a chance to run through the course. Those of us not doing that event, well, it's just a good, challenging course.
I was the only person not training for an Ironman or half-Ironman distance so on Saturday, I merely had to do one loop of the course -- or 56 miles. I realize that qualifying my workout with "merely" is all wrong. But I had to get to that point on the bike where I understood that enough to live it. Others were doing two loops, or 112 miles, and then running.
I got to finish, go back to the hotel and gather Sherpa for lunch and a trip to the Olympic Ski Jumping Center. I had felt a bit guilty about that.
But that guilt would go away by the end of training camp.
The Lake Placid bike course is hilly. After a short climb, you descend into Keene. Actually, it's a series of descents. And yes, you go fast and yes it is a bit scary for those of us who fear the downhills. But the road is wide and you can see the curves in the road pretty far ahead. Frankly, it was the most confident I had ever felt on the descent.
The ride to Upper Jay and Jay along route 9 is nice. This is where we were told to hold back. If you kill yourself here, you won't have much left. I had a good pace going, but kept it under my hardest effort.
A handful of people from my group passed me during the climb to Wilmington. I wasn't smart about taking in some nutrition before the climb, so I tried to squeeze a gel during a false flat on the climb. It made me lose my rhythm a bit, but I knew I needed some calories to get me over the hump. And I shook off thoughts about not being as good as others on the ride. I am not riding their workout plan nor am I running their race. Focus on yourself. What are you trying to do? I got up the hill and enjoyed some of the rolling hills for the next 14 or so miles of the course.
The last 11 miles are tough. There are a series of hills with names painted on the shoulder: Little Cherry, Big Cherry, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Papa Bear. I used all the gears on my bike to get through it, gaining momentum when I could then gearing into the small chain ring and spinning up the steepest part of the hills.
Of course, once you get to the top and make a right hand turn to finish the course there still is a bit more of a climb left. Oh, and then there still is that hill to get back to the hotel. But that didn't matter. I had confidence. I had skill. I had chocolate milk chilling back in the room.
I made it. All 56 miles with hills in about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Others did a second loop. The half-Ironman people did a run afterward. I went to lunch with Sherpa.
This was my race I was preparing for and my workouts were just fine.
On Sunday, I did 14 miles on the bike before going to breakfast with Sherpa. We decided to do a day hike before heading back home and heard that the hike up to the top of Whiteface Mountain was about 2 1/2 hours. Doable for us, we thought.
Well, that time frame probably gets you to the top of Whiteface from some trail ... just not the one we found.
The first four miles of the trail was pretty flat and easy. Then came the climb. The rocks were a bit slippery in places and the route got steeper. Eventually, it got vertical and we were rock climbing to the top.
Three hours and 45 minutes later we were at the summit.
Honestly, I think I found the home of the wizard.
While I did just fine taking in enough nutrition on the bike ride, I didn't take in enough nutrition on the hike. Near the top I finally stop and pulled out a gel from my backpack and chased it with my water bottle.
Once we got to the top and took in the view we hustled to the tourist gift shop (because you can also drive up to Whiteface Mountain) and ate two Fig Newton bars and washed it down with a regular Coke. Soda-pop never tasted so good.
But I still was a bit out of mental sorts and started to rush the hike back down the rocks. I slipped a few times and cut my hand. (Sherpa was prepared though and had a band-aid for some quick first aid.)
It only took us three hours to get back to the car but facing a six hour drive home, we didn't stretch. Sherpa's legs were on fire and the front of my ankles started to ache.
At a certain point I didn't care anymore.
I was tired and sore and triumphant.
That's what training camp is all about.