Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lake Placid Ironman 2008

This past weekend was an unforgettable experience.

Lake Placid is absolutely beautiful with lakes, rivers, mountains and waterfalls. This lake is Mirror Lake and it's where the swim part of the Ironman was held. This picture shows what the town looked like when we drove in on Friday night.

It never looked like this again until the morning we left.


Rain. Steady, constant, torrential, soaked-to-your-bones, RAIN. I've never seen anything like it for a race. Usually, you can get rain for part of the day but this rain was relentless, switching from outright downpour to steady, heavy rain. The townspeople said they hadn't seen it rain like that for about 10 years...

My swimteam friends and I went up to volunteer in handing out water, gatorade and sustenance on the run and bike course. Here's the best picture I could find to show you what we looked like volunteering. The only difference is that we wore our wetsuits, swimcaps and goggles as a joke. It worked! We made an awful lot of tired athletes laugh. One said that he wished he had worn his wetsuit on the bike... (I'll show a pic of that when I get one.)

And here's another picture of the athletes on the run...

It was such a shame. Isn't enough to have to swim 2.5 miles, bike 112 miles and run a marathon? Then to have to do it in the pouring rain for 13 hours straight? UGH. They were amazing, honestly. It was truly a triumph-of-the-human-spirit kind of day and the athletes rose to the occasion.

Here are my two friends Maura and Laurie before the race start. Five years ago they were Moms just like you and me who decided to start running. Then they decided to try their first sprint triathlon. Then the rest is history. They ran the entire marathon together and finished in 13 hours and 20 minutes. They are an incredible inspiration. The one on the left has five children (the six year olds are twins.) The one on the right has three.

This is how they were every time I saw them that day. Excited and soaking it all in. There were around 40 of us including family and friends all in bright yellow t-shirts that day to cheer them on.

Here's the swim start. It's a "mass start" where all 2,000 athetes start the swim at the same time. Can you still see them?

How about now?

After the swim start, the rain started and it never let up until about 10:30 pm. That when the athletes who really need support are entering the finish line area and it's after dark. They've been on the course since 7am and they're beyond exhaustion.

Here's what I learned:

  1. No matter how miserable we were as spectators...when we made an effort to make the athletes smile, it made us smile and made the whole day better for everyone. In other words, when life gives you downpours, make sunshine.
  2. Most of the people coming into the finish line after 10pm were in their 40s, some in their 50s and a handful in their 60s. These were my people. They were me. I'm 43. They were my age and they were doing it. The young ones finished early.
  3. I felt each weary bone in their bodies. Those that were limping and stumbling, I screamed and willed with all my might for them to make it across the finish line. They did. Our cheering helped them stand up straighter and put the next foot forward when their will was gone.
  4. I watched worried/excited children waiting for their Mommy or Dad near the finish line so they could run down the last 100 ft holding their hands. The longer they waited, the more worried they got. When they finally saw their Mom and Dad, their joy was indescribable -- both parents and child! Unbelievable. I cried at every one.
  5. I witnessed determination like I've never seen it before. I saw myself reflected in each face and they made me believe in myself through their experience. We are capable of so much more than we think...we just need to take the risk.
Bottom line. I didn't dry out for 24 hours. My eyes were puffy from crying. My voice was gone. I felt like I had birthed 500 babies and I hadn't even done the race!

I'm not sure whether I'll ever do an Ironman but I will never say never. My friends have taught me that.

It was a miserable day that was made glorious through sheer will and determination.

I'm so glad I was there for it.


Allison Ann Aller said...

Wow, what a stirring account!
Thanks for bringing up with you, Susan...

Balwearie said...

THAT is impressive! I know I couldn't even begin to do something even remotely like an Ironman. However, you'll be tickled to know that I did go to Lake Placid about 3 years ago!

Heather J. said...

WOW. How cool! I can't believe I missed these posts - Google Reader is acting up and hasn't updated your feed since July 9. :( I clicked over to see what's up and I found all this stuff I was missing - ugh.

Chris' Greetings from the Shady Grove said...

Awesome post. Thanks for sharing.

Jeff said...

My wife Linda (Chris B's) and I were there as well.

We also served at bike and run stations to assist the athlete's as they made their journey around the course and against their own monkey chatter.

But we did not see one quit. I am sure those who were unable to make the midnight cut were devastated for the inability of their body to carry out its mission, regardless of the reason.

The day was an absolute jolt of pride for the men and women who performed because they wanted to.

Jeff F.

Kristin said...

Thanks for writing about this. My stepbrother Chris and his sister -in-law Laurie participated. We followed them both on the athlete tracker all day, but of course that web tracker said nothing about the rain!!

I am sure nothing can compare to the experience of being there in the rain. You wrote beautifully about it! I am sure that Leslie and the kids are so very proud of daddy!

Kristin J.

Debra said...

Very incredible and moving! (but the rain--aargggh!)

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