LAKE PLACID -- There really is something special about walking into the Olympic Center in downtown Lake Placid.
Granted, there's nothing particularly interesting about the rinks. The 1932 rink is tiny and the 1980 rink is minuscule by today's standards with the upper deck seating wooden bleachers. While there is memorabilia on the walls and a small museum in the basement, it's basically still a functioning office space for Olympic development and the home of the U.S. women's national teams.
But there is an aura that's hard to shake. The 1932 rink was were Sonja Hennie won her Olympic medal launching her into stardom. It also was the first winter Olympics to have an indoor facility.
And then there is the 1980 facility which, as signs continuously inform you, is the home of the "Miracle on Ice" -- the greatest sports moment of the century. (Well, that's how the Lake Placid people frame it anyway.) It's the site where the American hockey team, average age 22, upset the Soviet Union then went on to beat Finland to win the gold medal. In a game that had significance both in sports, cultural and political circles the triumph lingers in the building, like a ghost that haunts the hallways.
Just taking in the rink, meandering through the hallways, watching the staff clean the glass, was inspirational. It makes you feel like you can be part of something bigger, even if what you're doing is simply what you've always known.
Sherpa and I took in the Olympic experience in the afternoon when our hiking plans got rained out. I took advantage of a break in the clouds early in the morning to get in my Lake Placid brick workout. I was scheduled to ride for an hour then run for 30 minutes.
The bike ride was to be an out-and-back riding part of the Ironman loop backwards out of town. Going out, I felt fantastic, taking the rolling hills with ease. I soon learned why -- I had the wind at my back and even though I was rolling, I was mostly rolling downhill. The turnaround, well, stunk. I was going against the wind and those rolling hills were steeper coming back. It took me about 15 minutes longer to get back the hotel than I planned (Oh, and that hill coming back into town? Well, that's just cruel!) and I switched into my running shoes.
This was the hardest brick I've done. My legs felt like jelly particularly as I had to run that hill back into town. (Did I mention that it was uphill, both ways, from our hotel into town and back?) I was plodding along rather slowly but I kept going. I ran the whole time and got feeling back in my legs.
Each time my head started thinking "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" I brought myself back to more positive thoughts. Does this stink? At times, yes. Can I do this? Oh yeah. I can do this.
I didn't exactly feel like an Olympian as Sherpa and I took in the stories from the 1932 and 1980 Olympics after I successfully completed that brick. But I did feel like an athlete.
And somehow, I felt a small part of it all.